Remember the execution scene in Return of the Jedi, when Luke and Han are forced to walk the plank over the Sarlacc Pit? Classic pulp sci-fi stuff. I mean there’s no way they can get out of that mess, right? R2?
Well, that scene gave me nightmares as a kid. The appalling odds (shut up, 3PO) of escape. Han’s blindness. The tentacles reaching up, dragging Boba Fett and others in for a gratuitous thousand-year digestion. Um, thanks for that one, George.
Cut to me as a thirty-year-old SF author inching my way along that same plank, about to submit my latest manuscript for publication. In my mind, the odds of doom are equally appalling—I trusted in Sparks in Cosmic Dust as I was writing it, but as soon as I let it go…I could practically hear the Sarlacc’s burp.
Nervous isn’t the word. All those months of outlining, worldbuilding, writing, editing and heeding Angela James’s sage ‘Before You Hit Send’ advice are now Bantha fodder because:
a) the story sucks
b) the title sucks
c) I suck
d) I should have concentrated more on the Romance & eased off on the SF
e) I should have concentrated more on the SF & eased off on the Romance
f) my writing style has gotten more juvenile than an Ewok
g) my writing style has gotten more cryptic than Yoda on peyote
h) Carina’s contemporary romances are selling HUGE
i) Carina’s straight SF (without the romance label) is selling…hey, there aren’t any yet!*
*in late 2010
After twenty published books, you’d think I’d have this confidence thing licked by now. Maybe if I stuck to one genre or conformed more to the mainstream, hitting send might get easier. In a way it has—I have a track record behind me, so if nothing else, I know my writing itself is ready for prime time. But these offbeat stories…man, they lead me out over the Sarlacc every goddamn time.
It’s exhilarating when the acceptance call or email comes in—in the case of Sparks, it was a double acceptance email (with SF novella Alien Velocity, March 2012)—but I’m telling you, any confidence I had while writing this novel, my longest at 87K, evaporated as soon as I’d finished polishing the synopsis. Doubt is an ever-present entity for an author. But so is faith is one’s creative abilities, deep down, the way the Force is for Luke Skywalker. It has to be. As desperate as things seem, he can ultimately find that calm centre telling him everything will work out fine if he believes in his ability to make it so. Sometimes that means taking hits, revising strategies, and growing a thicker skin in the process.
It also means taking chances and following them through no matter what. More than anything else, that’s what Sparks in Cosmic Dust means to me. No half measures. No compromises.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
As it turned out, the Force was strong with me. Alissa Davis, my steampunk editor at Carina, isn’t keen on straight SF so she passed it on to Deb Nemeth, who loved it. Consequently, I now have two of the best editors I’ve ever worked with, in my two favourite genres.
Eat that, Sarlacc!
The final frontier is shrinking. Interstellar Planetary Administration sanctions are forcing the border colonies of deep space into extinction. Kappa Max is one of the last major cutthroat outposts, home to the lawless and the lonely…
Varinia Wilcox, the star attraction of a lucrative bordello gambling house.
Solomon Bodine, spurned by his lover and looking for distraction.
Clayton Barry, AWOL and a few drinks away from having to live in the gutter.
Lyssa Foaloak, a double-crossing criminal who’ll kill anyone for a few credits.
Four strangers, each with secrets that could cost them their freedom, are desperate to get off-planet. They meet Grace Peters, a cynical ex-doctor with an intriguing offer: a six-month trip to a faraway moon where she claims a stunning fortune awaits.
But this adventure is no easy escape. Danger, passion, secrets and madness await. Can they survive the mission, and each other, to make it out alive?
To celebrate the release of Sparks in Cosmic Dust, I’ve written a five-part look at the book’s development, from initial concept to publication. I’m also giving away one SF title from my back catalogue with each segment, ending with this special Sparks giveaway. The contests are all still live, and the winners will be announced on September 30th on my own blog: https://robertbappleton.blogspot.com
Here’s where you can find the other installments:
Part 1: Concept (Aug 31)—Contact: Infinite Futures Blog
Part 2: Character (Sep 13)—Mercurial Times (my blog)
Part 3: Worldbuilding (Sep 23)—Shawn Kupfer’s Blog
Part 4: The Writing Process (Sep 26)—Cathy Pegau’s Blog
With this final installment, I’m giving away an ebook copy of Sparks in Cosmic Dust. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post. Also, anyone who enters all five contests will automatically win an ebook of their choice (except Sparks) from my SF backlist.
Thanks and good luck!