My eldest son was in Portland, Oregon over the weekend and passed on this video. Apparently author Donald Miller attends the Portland congregation, and seeing as I’m a fan of Blue like Jazz and Searching for God knows what, I figured I’d pass it on as well.
(I know Blackwater is “Xi” now)
News reports today highlighted the withdrawal of America’s last combat brigade from Iraq, although nearly 50K troops will remain in “non-combat” roles until 2011. The name of the operation has also been changed from “Iraqi Freedom” to “New Dawn” , as if the garnish of a new title would make the situation any less volatile, the country any less fragile. Close your eyes and call it something else… we’ll see how that global strategy works. A news footnote mentions that the size of private security forces will be doubled. (Won’t be near enough)
For more on that precarious decision, I suggest Peter Singer’s “Corporate Warriors” or Robert Pelton’s “Licensed to Kill”. Or read Ralph Peter’s articles in his recent compilation “Endless War”.
Back to the fiction…
Set in the near future, “Running Black” centers on a small team of former soldiers, an indentured corporate hacker, and illegal combat clones who’ve formed a “private security” outfit doing dirty work for tomorrow’s massive financial entities. Think it’s far-fetched? Think again. Private security is a rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar industry, and with politics, budget cuts, the constant need to maintain strategic interests, the opportunities are only going to increase. As global markets expand, corporations are going to need real security in the face of terrorists, pirates, and constant internecine war in Africa, Asia, and the ME as they compete for consumers and resources.
The bottom rung, sketchy transactions of a shadowy outfit like Eshu International are more a matter of time than plausibility. Nations and corporations will always need dirty work done and there will always be people willing to do it for cold cash. Like Jace says in the novel, they’re ‘deniable, deletable, and disposable.’ The perfect tool for ruthless pragmatism.
It was a tough decision. Seriously.
Perhaps I was premature. Perhaps RB isn’t up to professional standards yet, or -as a first novel – never will be. Perhaps I took the easy way out. Last thing I want to be is prima-donna deluded (or is that prima uomo?) and come across as sniveled and sanctimonious. But after 18 months of queries, waiting, lack of communication, editing, wondering, I decided it was time to stop scratching at the door of the traditional gatekeepers and move on.
To be clear, I’m not lifting my leg on agents and publishers. They’re professionals with a tough job, and they don’t owe me a thing. I’ve received very gracious responses from several who took the time to read and comment on my manuscript. Their feedback was invaluable to this first time author.
It’s just that between the slogging and waiting, and the exploding opportunities for self-publishing, I opted to change my course. From Smashwords free services (free ISBN for ebooks… how cool is that?) to Lulu, xLibris, iUniverse, CreateSpace, etc, the field is wide open and I’m sensing the readers are becoming the new gatekeepers. The material, distribution and access is at your fingertips.
Yes, there’s loads of trash to wade through. I’ve winced my way through the opening pages of many stories. (Get an editor, guys) Some will toss “Running Black” on the garbage heap, but that’s not the point. The game has changed, and I think in the midst of all that verbiage, there’s genuine talent that will rise to the surface and be appreciated.
And, I bet dollars to doughnuts if a self-pubbed book starts selling well, a publishing house will overlook their qualms and work something out.
I’d love to tell you I had a plan, but it really started as a scene in my head that wouldn’t go away, so I wrote it down. And then wrote another scene, and another, and another, and soon enough I realized a story was spooling out in my head. I completed the first draft almost a year later on Christmas morning, and then the real work began.
I was so stunned that I’d actually completed a novel, I didn’t realize a good book isn’t so much written as it is rewritten. (Thank you, Marc Giller) Queries to agents generated requests for partials and fulls, but at the end of the day, I’d let it out several drafts too early and garnered a (well deserved) collection of nice rejection letters. Now, several revisions later, it was time to kick it out the door and start writing a second novel in earnest.
Two impulses drove the story: one was the conviction that only a spiritual ethic that upholds life as sacred will restrain humanity from becoming inhumane. Lose the preciousness of life and you open the door to contempt and cruelty; commodify people and you’ll end up committing atrocities. Second was the struggle write a standard sci-fi action novel and present genuine Christian themes in an organic way.
I don’t know if I succeeded. The content is certainly ‘mixed” and definitely not for the usual Christian audience. Some will condemn the novel for it’s violence and profanity, others dismiss it as proselytizing garbage. I made an effort to portray the characters in a realistic manner. They are what they are and it is what it is. I hope my intent and themes come through regardless. More on “Mixed” content later.
All for now. Thanks for reading.
With “Running Black” going to print, and plans for more novels, I decided to hang a shingle to interact with readers. I’ll endeavor to answer questions, post thoughts, and respond as best I can. Thank you for visiting. Let’s keep this intelligent, civil, and creative.