What’s my indie publishing plan? Go all in.

not sure meme

Either way is a good move, Fry.

The publisher who signed me last week is a demanding asshole. He not only wants perfect manuscripts for my series Tales From A Warming Planet, he wants me to manage production and marketing for the entire project. I’m the guy who has to make everything happen, from hiring the cover artist to creating content for the social media accounts.

“Remember what that architect Daniel Burnham said back in 1907: ‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.'”

Okay, boss.

Who is this heartless overlord? Me.

What’s the first thing he demanded? A strategic plan.

Here it is, in truncated form to avoid boring you with too much detail. The list is in launch order, first book to last.

The Mother Earth Insurgency – I wrote this 16,000 word novella for submission to magazines and contests to gain visibility for myself and my three novels in the Tales series. I’m still hoping for traditional publication, but it might be a great vanguard for the rest of the series. The story concerns Nick Sorrows, a near-future investigator with the Bureau of Environmental Security, who infiltrates a terrorist cell bent on destroying wind farms and other green energy facilities. The cell’s real target hits Sorrows close to home. I think it’s a good introduction to my imaginary future Earth, which is ravaged by climate change.

What was the first thing demanded by my asshat boss? A strategic plan.

Carbon Run – The first full-length novel in the series is the first novel I completed, and I think it’s the strongest of the three. In the 22nd century, Bill Penn and his daughter Anne run afoul of the BES when an accidental fire at their ranch destroys an endangered species. Bill, now a fugitive accused of a capital crime, is pursued by BES Deputy Inspector Janine Kilel, who takes Anne halfway across the world as bait to draw out her father from hiding.

City of Ice and Dreams – Next in the series is City of Ice and Dreams. Sento, a beautiful, intelligent, tormented young woman with a fragmentary memory of her past, is obsessed by Isorropia, a city in Antarctica half-myth, half-legend, believing it is the key to her identity. Surviving a shipwreck on Antarctica’s shore, Sento resolves to trek south with a group of immigrants on a suicidal one-way journey across the desert left by the melting of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet. Is Isorropia real? Or an illusion? And who is trying to stop her?

Restoration – The final novel in the series is Restoration. Urbane young Junie Wye faces adjustment to rural life in a divided small town as her father, Ed Wye, demolishes the last great dam on the Columbia River. Junie falls in love with the son of a man who opposes the dam’s deconstruction, but a greater, deadly opposition emerges that threatens everything Junie loves.

The Mother Earth Insurgency: More Tales From A Warming Planet – In the final volume of the series, The Mother Earth Insurgency makes another appearance, but as one of a collection of short stories set in the world of Carbon Run and the other novels. Like the novella, I wrote these stories for submission to magazines, and one, Zillah Harmonia, will appear in the January 2018 edition of Bards and Sages Quarterly.

After the ebooks and print volumes are published, I’ll add audiobook versions. More about that later.

At the end of this process, I’ll have fourteen products in inventory: four print books, five ebooks, and five audiobooks. That doesn’t count potential for box sets of each type. With any luck, one or two of these products will perform well and perhaps bring the others along in terms of sales.

Or it could all flop. At least my jerk of a boss can’t accuse me of being timid.

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Just signed a four-book publishing deal. With myself.

publishing meme

Batman set me straight on the whole legacy publishing thing.

I’ve made a decision. Screw traditional publishing. I’ll sink or swim on my own.

I feel I’m pretty good with quick decision-making, but this one took a while, more than three years. That’s how long I’ve been pitching my climate-themed science fiction novel Carbon Run to agents and publishers, starting in December 2013 and ending in August 2016. I’ve sent 163 queries, and got back 72 rejections. The balance of my pitch letters disappeared into the publishing world ether.

That’s just Carbon Run. My two other novels in the series, City of Ice and Dreams, and Restoration, had pretty much the same fate.

A few agents and publishers asked for excerpts of Carbon Run. A few asked for full manuscripts. One agent asked for rewrites after a professional editor—whom I hired—suggested improvements. The agent still rejected the manuscript. (I’m forever grateful to the editor, John Paine, for his work. It was worth every penny. My experience with agents and publishers had nothing to do with him.)

I don’t have enough years left in my life to wait for the publishing industry to say Yes to me.

This week, after having Carbon Run in its hands for nearly eight months, the final publisher on my list of “possibles” sent its rejection. Then it sent a second rejection for City of Ice and Dreams two minutes—and I mean 120 seconds—later. I have never felt so small and dissed as a writer.

I had decided many months ago that if I could not land a traditional book publishing contract by July 1, I would self-publish the whole series. I picked that date partly to get the book into the marketplace by the Christmas buying season, and partly because I don’t have enough years left in my life to wait for the publishing industry to say Yes to me.

I admit I’m worried about the investment I have to make in time and money. I’m a full-time, career-change student, and I’ll likely dip into my retirement savings to make this indie publishing project happen. If I don’t do this, however, Carbon Run and the other novels may never see the light of day.

So today I signed a four-book publishing deal with myself: Carbon Run, City of Ice and Dreams, Restoration, and a book of short stories I’ve been pitching to magazines. (At least I got some good news on the shorts front; Bards and Sages Quarterly will publish one of my shorts early next year.)

Congratulations. To me.

What is the role of a writer as climate change creeps up on us?

Conference

People in suits gather in Paris to decide the fate of a climate-change world.

It’s a ripe scene for satire. Twenty-five thousand bureaucrats and another 25,000 hangers-on are gathered in Paris at COP21 to exchange climate change jargon over sustainable wine and cheese. It’s hard, however, to ignore the seriousness of their effort, especially as a pall lingers over the city three weeks after the November 13 terror attacks. The spectacle of so many people in sensible shoes working as one reminds me that most problems are solvable with elbow grease and cooperation. Best to leave them alone to do their jobs.

Maybe I’m a little jealous. It must be exciting to be part of an effort that could save the planet while exchanging tips on the best places in France for glamping. Instead, my head is buried in my laptop as I try to tell stories about survival in a future that no one can predict with any certainty. Even if COP21 is wildly successful, the planet will still warm by a couple of degrees, and millions of mostly poor people will have to cope with the changes. Continue reading

Restoring the environment is a good thing. Or maybe not?

Glines Canyon Dam Removal

The Glines Canyon Dam in Washington State undergoing removal. Image courtesy Real Science.

One of the great things about speculative fiction is the power to challenge strongly held values in the safety of a society that exists only in the writer’s imagination. In the Pacific Northwest, at least on the wet side of the Cascade Mountains, we’re all “green,” that is, we believe in letting trees grow unmolested, planting salmon in urban creeks, and giving orcas lots of space to swim. Environmentalism is a sacred value, and therefore, a target, as far as I’m concerned.

We assume conservation is a good thing, and by the same token, restoration. We are redeemed if we restore a forest, a lake, a mountain, or a stream to the way it was before civilization altered it. For my money, the most dramatic example of this in recent years is the 2012 removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River in northwest Washington State. Removal is intended to reestablish one of the most productive salmon runs in the Lower 48, and by early accounts, the project has bright prospects for success. Continue reading