A few posts back I said I was choosing between a space opera SF novel called Cherry Red Rocket Ship and a more literary, end of the world tale tentatively called Shooting Star. Having mulled these ideas over at length, I've decided to write: Neither.
My next book, in fact my next few books, will instead be sequels to Cut Up Girl, a series of books with the overarching title Accidental Gods. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that over the Memorial Day weekend, I did a hundred mile bike ride split up over the three days. This was roughly 18+ hours out peddling in the hot sun wearing a helmet, not listening to music or reading stuff on my phone, just being alone with my thoughts except for the breaks when I could talk to Cheryl. I had time for my mind to wander. And, where it wandered was back to Cut Up Girl, and the potential for telling more stories in her world.
I mentioned a few posts back that my agent was deciding whether or not he could represent Cut Up Girl. I thought it was a long shot, and this week he passed on it. Superhero novels are tough sells, and Cut Up Girl is a tougher sell still. If a publisher was going to put out a superhero book, they'd probably want a character with the appeal of a Superman or Batman. I've basically written a book about Arm Fall Off Boy from the Legion of Superhero Rejects. Because, let's face it, there are thousands of writers who want to tell Batman and Superman stories. What there is to say about this type of character has been said, a dozen times over, with the caveat that anything you say can always be unsaid, since popular characters must always reset to the status quo. To write a story about a real person, someone who can grow and fail and triumph and die, you have to write about a character that's not already precious to the rest of the world.
The thing is, even before he passed on the novel, I'd pretty much decided on this path. When Cheryl and I had dinner on Monday following our bike ride, I explained the whole series to her. If my agent had contacted me the following morning and said he wanted to send it to an editor, I think I would have been a little disappointed. I have a vision, and I have the skills and experience to execute the vision. At this point, a traditional publisher would only slow me down.
Now that I've decided firmly that Cut Up Girl will be self published, I'm going all in. To date, my independently published novels have only been sequels to my traditionally published novels. Cut Up Girl will be my first completely independent novel unconnected to a traditional publisher. The market realities of publishing are that series sell better than stand alones, and, from the start, I saw the Cut Up Girl novel as an introduction to a larger world. Now, I'm planning to seriously devote myself to exploring that world. During my bike ride, I thought up the broad plots of not one, but three follow up novels. I had said the second book would likely be called Adventures of a Big Ape. While Harry will still play a starring role in the novel, the second book in the series will likely be called Echo, and it will follow the story of Cut Up Girl after she's been shot three times in the heart. She spends the entire book in a coma. Which, I admit, doesn't sound like a great premise for a novel. But, Cut Up Girl is probably the one character in the world capable of investigating the mystery while still in a coma. Sorry if this is cryptic; I really can't explain the premise in greater detail until the Cut Up Girl novel is published without introducing spoilers.
The second book will end with the core characters of Echo and Harry in deeper trouble than they started. The third book will track their efforts to fight back against the forces hunting them, with the help of a mysterious ally. The final book in the series will be a fight for the destiny of all mankind, or something like that. I do know that a masked woman in underwear will beat the snot out of the world's most respected superhero.
In addition, to help ensure that Cut Up Girl has the best possible company for superhero fiction, I'm also going to soon be announcing plans for my own small press devoted to publishing other writer's costumed heroic adventures. I was telling a friend via email earlier today that I couldn't think of a book published in the last decade that was on my list of top fifty favorite books. I want to change that by actively searching for authors and helping them develop outstanding books that are completely unlike anything else being published today.
Moving forward with a future of superhero novels isn't an easy choice. It basically means turning my back on traditional publishing for the next few years and devoting myself full time to being an indy author and indy publisher. It could be a path to increasing obscurity, and it could be a big money loser, as I funnel dollar into covers and promotions without a guarantee of anyone buying a single book. And, it means that, for the next few years, I'm not likely to go into a Barnes and Noble and find a copy of one of my books there. I'm going to have to deal with the possible stigma that people think I'm self publishing because my books aren't good enough to make it into stores.
But, honestly, I want to write books that are better than what you're likely to find in stores. I want to write books that aren't easy to describe or explain, books that satisfy on every level, full of action and humor but also filled with meaning and heart.
In the end, both my head and my heart have signed on to this decision. My heart loves the books I plan to write. It's not just excitement when I think about them. I'm seriously in love, devoted to seeing them though poverty and illness, to have faith in them when they've lost their way. And my head thinks this is my smartest path forward. It might not be the best choice financially, but it's not like I've gotten rich writing for traditional publishers. Pursuing this series of books gives me total control over my writing and publishing life. I no longer have to play by the hurry up and wait rules of dealing with mainstream publisher, or have to swallow unfair contract terms in order to see my books in stores. And I definitely won't have to suck it up and live with a cover I don't like at all, like the one on Greatshadow.
Speaking of Greatshadow, when the rights to that series revert to me, I plan to reissue them my way. I've always thought of them as superhero novels with a fantasy setting. I want future covers to reflect this, and future marketing to emphasis these elements instead of hiding them.
So, my long term plan: Indy career, superhero novels, both my own and other authors who want to work with me. I'll still have room to pursue other ideas that appeal to me; I could see fitting Cherry Red Rocket Ship into my indy line up fairly easily.
Immediate plans: Outline. Shocking, I know, since I don't normally outline. But, I really want to nail down the big events for all the books in my Accidental Gods series, so I can know if there are future events I need to foreshadow in the first book. I plan to dedicate June and July to outlining and prewriting, then launch into the books full throttle in August, with a goal of having all three books drafted by the end of the year. Then, in early 2015, I'll release Cut Up Girl, and arrange for the other books to come out about every three month or four months.
Once these four books fill up 2015, hopefully I'll have the rights back to the Dragon Apocalypse. I can then write Soulless, and put out an authoritative edition of the Dragon Apocalypse through 2016.
I've picked my road. I don't know what's at the end of it. But it's time to put my creative drive into gear. Forward!
Welcome to my worlds!
I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!