[This article first appeared in the Legion Bulletin, the essential Legionary journal.]
I hit 51 years of age earlier this week. I’ve learned a few things over those years. Not many, admittedly, but a few. One of them is that life rarely gives you second chances. And on those rare occasions when it does, your best response is to seize this precious opportunity with all six limbs (as the Jotuns are wont to say).
The scarcity of second chances is particularly true in the world of creative arts and entertainment.
We’ve all seen TV shows cancelled just as they’re getting interesting, the book trilogies that never made it past Book 1 because the publisher pulled the plug, the game that never came out because its producer folded.
For the vast majority, there are no second chances.
Happily, there have always been a few exceptions. Star Trek came back in the 80s, but only after a successful run of movies. More recently, several TV shows that my wife and I enjoyed were axed but then taken up by another studio: Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Last Kingdom.
I’ve seen this from both sides of the fence. For the last decade, other than earning a little from book design and editing, my sole income has come from publishing and writing. It’s why I tend to write books in series, and why I have to be ruthless in letting go of book projects I would dearly love to continue writing but aren’t bringing in the income I need to put food on the table.
I had to do that with Revenge Squad. I had big plans. I think Revenge Squad: Second Strike is the best novel I’ve written. I keep playing with plans to rework the series, but then I look at my bank statement and decide I need to work on something that’s more likely to pay the bills. (For any Revenge Squad fans, I fully intend to write one more book when I get a chance, but that’s finishing something off, not giving it a second chance.)
Or take the Repository of Information, a concept I developed with the dearly missed Gill Shutt. It started as a young adult anthology series, tied together by the Repository concept. This was surfaced in the overbearing and unreliable alien editor, Crustias Scattermush, who would often comment wryly on the stories he had collected for his human readers.
There were several books out and more on the way. To help get the Repository started, I wrote two (short) books in just a matter of weeks. That’s very fast for me, a sign that my writing muscles were on fire.
Then Gill passed away suddenly.
It was a tragedy that affected a great many people, of whom I was one of the least significant. What should I do with the project? In the short term I put everything on hold I wasn’t already committed to and cancelled the anthology Gill was managing.
One of the greatest frustrations for me was that Gill was an excellent writer who was improving at an incredible rate. The novel she would never finish was shaping up to be phenomenal, a candidate for a breakout book into the big time.
There will be no second chance for that book, but the following year I did look into restarting the Repository anthology concept.
I chose not to.
There are many reasons, the absence of Gill’s drive one of the major ones, but the Repository had never taken off commercially, and it had lost what momentum it had built despite some great releases from Colin R Parsons. It had also become obvious that to make it a commercial success we would have been in direct competition with the big beasts of publishing.
One of the reasons so many indie authors and publishers have been successful in carving out successful careers is because the traditional publishers have blindspots with audiences that they don’t understand, and they don’t value. Military science fiction and science fiction romance are two obvious examples.
But that would not be true with the YA and middle grade books we would be competing against with the Repository. Publishing was peak YA at that time.
The books we published are still available, and the website is still there, but it’s not going to move forward.
There would be no second chance for the Repository of Imagination.
Second chances abound in Chimera Company story, however.
We have the Militia officer who was busted to the ranks for exposing the corruption of her superiors.
There’s the rogue pilot, who was scapegoated for the failings of a better-connected comrade and kicked out of Legion Naval Intelligence.
And we have Militia troopers given a second chance to serve the Federation in return for commuting their prison sentences.
At its heart, that’s what these books are about. The members of Chimera Company were dealt a busted flush, but now they’re offered a re-deal. And for the Far Reach Federation in which the stories are set, if Chimera Company succeed in their missions, it will give the Federation a second chance to fix its many problems before it’s too late.
So it feels entirely fitting that Theogony Books are giving the Chimera Company book series a second chance, relaunching the series as novels, kicking off February 5, 2021.
I first published Chimera Company in 2019 as weekly serials. Seventeen “issues” over two seasons.
Several kind readers wrote to me as the issues were being released to tell me how exciting they found the weekly release idea.
I had a rather more also kind readers contact me to say they were not interested in the serial idea, but they would get the collection at the end of the season.
And I had even more readers who let me know what they thought of the weekly serial idea by not buying the books!
It had always been a contingency plan to relaunch Chimera Company as novels if the serials didn’t work out.
Now with the weight of Theogony Books behind me, the series stands a better chance of breaking out. And unlike Revenge Squad, I still have massive confidence that this is a series that can succeed.
The Chimera Company characters and myself are alike in that we all recognize how precious this second chance is for us all, and you can be sure we are seizing this opportunity with all six limbs.
The first Chimera Company novel, The Fall of Rho-Torkis, is out now.
The second, Operation Redeal is released Mar 13th, 2021.
Three more will be out by the summer.
Find free prequel stories and more about Chimera Company on humanlegion.com here.