NOTE: To my regular readers, today I am pleased to bring you a guest post from Harding McFadden. I hope you enjoy his piece about his writer's journey! -SB
Can We Chat for a While?
by Harding McFadden
I wrote my first “book” when I was about eight years old: a twelve-page beast of a thing with knights, evil kings, elves, robots, and a large red self-destruct button inspired by some old Iron Maiden album cover and watching the first Terminator at too young an age. I was so proud of the thing. I even begged my oldest sister to take it to school with her to type it up and print it out, so that I could proudly give copies over to everyone I knew, which amounted to family too polite to turn me down. I look back on it now and cringe. It’s terrible.
By the time I was seventeen I was submitting short stories to magazines. This synced up perfectly with the worst bout of insomnia that I’ve ever had to deal with. One, maybe two, hours of sleep a night, for weeks on end with one terrible weekend-long crash. At the end of one of these, with the crash in sight and the room spinning, I decided to sit down in front of my typewriter and kick out a little story. At two or three in the morning, as my folks later informed me. The end result was a short story (less than a thousand pages) that I titled “Mr. Peabody and the Headless Boy,” which, I will test until the day I die, is the single best thing I’ve ever written.
Very proud of this little gem, I submitted it. Much to my chagrin, no one was interested. Fantasy and Science Fiction? Nope. Analog? Nada. Weird Tales? My personal favorite: “Bleak, incoherent, and hard to follow.” I still have that rejection letter in a box in my attic.
Long story short: it hasn’t seen the light of day, unless you happen to be a good friend, or relative. Until later this year, but more on that later.
Like so many folks, I guess, I’ve dreamed of writing a novel since first putting pen to paper. There’ve been plenty of false starts. A crime novel that let me know inside of the first chapter just how little I know about law enforcement. A horror western that I wrote a detailed outline for, along with the first two-fifths of, amounting to about 120 pages, and which I fully intend to finish one day. But the novel, as a form of artistic expression, has forever eluded me.
I think it was Koontz who said that agents dislike working with short story writers, as they see them as amateurs, unable to give them the 100,000 words that they are looking for. So, that’s me: the perpetual amateur, with delusions of grandeur. However, I will always defend those delusions, as what in the name of God are the good of delusions of mediocrity?
So, two hundred short stories, twelve sales, later, I am looking at the author’s proof of my second book. How did I get here?
About ten years back I decided to attempt an intellectual exercise: to outline a long story, with a defined beginning, middle, and end. A science fiction epic for readers of all ages, full of action, adventure, heroes, villains, and concepts on a grand scale. Much to my shock I spent the following decade doing just that: outlining. The result? A long story, told over many smaller volumes and related short stories, that in my head is called The Last War.
When my friend Chester Haas—cowriter on the first volume of this long story—finished up our little book, we were proud of the finished product. When those beta readers that we dropped it on went through the roof for it, our pride grew by leaps and bounds. When I read it to my two awe inspiring daughters and they told me they liked it, I was through the roof. But, as the old saying goes: pride goeth before the fall.
No agent wanted to touch the thing. “Too short,” and “too offensive” were phrases that were thrown our way. I still don’t understand this last, but then again it takes a lot to offend me.
In my youth I was prone to depression and anxiety, at least in small bursts. These feelings reared their ugly heads once again when it started to look like our work would amount to nothing, with family and close friends being the only folks to read something that I’d had a hand in writing, yet again.
Enter Sarah A. Hoyt.
A well-established and talented writer in her own right, Mrs. Hoyt did me the honor a few months back of accepting my friend request on Facebook (let this be a lesson to you folks out there: yes, writers are just people, but some are fine examples of humanity, and Mrs. Hoyt is one such). Full disclosure: upon friending her, I’d yet to read one of her many works of fiction, having only been exposed to her articles in places like L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise. Yet, those articles were so incredible that I found, and still find, myself sneaking them out with each and every new issue published. So she’s a good writer, but here’s what’s made me a fan for life: when I sent her a message, she answered.
I asked her, very selfishly I admit, if she had any advice for someone trying to get started, and in no time flat she got back to me offering many sage words of advice, arguably the most important of which were: “Go indie, young writer, go indie.”
Such a simple thing, words given by a stranger that meant more than those given by most folks that I’ve known in the flesh much longer, and they changed the way I was looking at this. Sure, it would be nice to be walking through a brick and mortar book store and see something that I’ve written up on the shelves, but that’s just ago. The fine folks at my local library have taken pity on my need to feed the green-eyes monster and have everything that I’ve every had published up on their shelves, listed, not by editor, but by my name, so that I can drive down the M-rack whenever I want and bask in those few slim volumes whenever I’m feeling down. So, brick and mortar be damned.
And so, last November my first book, The Children’s War, was published on Amazon Kindle, with an absolutely incredible cover by Mrs. Katherine Derstein.
When I first held it in my ready little hands, I could have cried. As has been pointed out to me endlessly: yes, it was self-published. I am no less proud. Couldn’t care less. It’s out there, for the reading public to enjoy or hate to their heart’s content, as I’d always imagined it being.
Coming up in late-February or mid-March will be the second book, The Great First Impressions Trip, again with an incredible cover, this one put together by the great Dr. Victor Koman, out of the kindness of his heart, and another great writer who happens also to be a good fella. Coming soon (another three or four months) will be The Judas Hymn, a collection of my published short stories, along with a dozen others (including the previously mentioned “Mr. Peabody and the Headless Boy”) featuring a downright off-putting cover by Xander Van Hawley. After that? Lord, lots more.
You see, I’ve got a big story to tell, and it is my sincere wish to tell it well.
I guess it’s getting past time to wrap this up. I’ve pimped the books to annoyance. I’ve thanked those folks that’ve helped me, when I in no way deserved their help (add to that list Samantha Bryant who, when I asked if I could write a guest blog for her said “Yes.”) All that is left is to thank you, whoever took a few minutes out of your busy day to read these ramblings from a poor beggar, asking for your business. I hope that you enjoyed our time together.
Check out The Children's War here!