Life and death is about as high concept as a story can get. The Walking Dead has been one of the most-watched series of the past few years. I think that’s because the best parts are not humans vs. zombies, but humans vs. humans. Last night, in the series finale of Fear The Walking Dead, I got to the point I was rooting for the zombies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I saw it, our hardy brave of heroes and heroines (and I use that term with great irony) unleashed an arena full of zombies on a military outpost/hospital in order to try to save three people who they were related to? They caused the death of hundreds of people in their quest. They also left the gate open to their previously secure neighborhood as they drove off on their quest. Yes, the zombies would have gotten out of that arena eventually, but the military was in the process of evacuating that hospital. The band caused the place to fall earlier than it would leading to nail gun doctor. And by the way, if she had the ability to nail gun all the wounded and sick and injured, the ability to make such an incredibly accurate and quick assessment and decision, she seems the type of person that would go with the band and escape, not sit there, head hung. Seemed inconsistent for character and doctors are really valuable people in the apocalypse.
All that aside, rather than focusing on zombies and the dead, my wife and I chose to focus on the much more immediate danger of the living and the essence of life itself in Burners, which comes out tomorrow. Set in a post-Chaos future, with a closed society set in Puget Sound, we wondered what it would be like if the classic science fiction question of what would people do if they knew the day they died (there’s a great short story about the guy who invents such a machine– think of the paradox he faced, and how insurance companies felt about that invention). We broke society into four classes: People, Evermore, Middlemore and burner. How that happened, how the Chaos happened, etc. etc. will be unveiled as the series progresses (we’re releasing a book every 80 days apart in the series). Burners introduces this world and the main characters, twins Grace and Millay, and Ryker, a wild card. And some others, but that would be spoilers. And then there’s Dealer, the quantum computer running everything; which is also more than it appears to be.
I’ll do a blog in the coming weeks about how we have so much more to fear from our fellow humans, even if there was a zombie apocalypse. I believe that is the thing to focus on in series like Walking Dead, Fear those same dudes, and more.
Meanwhile, grab a copy and read about how a society that has a .1% owning something the rest of the people don’t have; wait that sounds familiar! Don’t we have a .1%? But instead if the inequality being money, it’s something much, much, more valuable. TIME.
Links to all versions of burners!
Nothing but good times and the Walking Living ahead.
And if you sign up for our newsletter (to the left), you’ll get an invite to a private Facebook group, the A-Team and free previews of future books.
What if you knew your Deathday? And if you were part of 98.7% majority of humans, where it’s at a median age of 25?
These are burners. They do the work to sustain society in the Sound, the last vestige of mankind after the release of phage initiated the Chaos and destroyed most of the world.
The inequality in the system is obvious; but “it is what it is” is the mantra of burners, because the phage changed life-spans by corrupting human DNA, the very essence of life. At the top .1% of society are People, who have no Deathday. “It is what it is”
Dealer, a powerful computer, saved humans during the Chaos, by coming up with a way for this society to function.
Except there’s a problem. The system is breaking down.
And now there’s something that hasn’t happened since before the Chaos: there are twins: Grace and MIllay. And one was determined on Dealing Day to be a burner and the other a People. But if Deathday is determined by DNA, then . . .
Maybe it isn’t what it is.
You can read the opening of burners for free here.
If you know where that comes from, you get a Cool Gus commemorative puppy picture (download at right) , and were probably reading in 1973.
And, yes, right now Gus is giving me a dirty look, no, wait, he’s snoring, head buried in his dog bed.
Our new series launches next week on Tuesday with burners, yes, not capitalized. Because you have to count to be capitalized. burners are 98.7 of the population of the Sound, where the only survivors of the Chaos, which wiped out almost all of civilization over three centuries ago, live. burners have a median Deathday of 25 years. They exist to do the work and, outside of that, to live every second as deeply as they can, burning the candle at both ends. Sort of like Gus. Not.
At the top of society are the People. .1%. They have no Deathday. You know; them; that top .1%. Those people. Yeah, they’re still around, except instead of wealth, they get time.
Overseeing all is Dealer, a computer that restructured society to survive the phage, which changed lifespans and initiated the Chaos.
Okay, my wife and I wrote this, and inventing an entirely new society is quite the feat. BTW, the Sound is Puget Sound. I’m kind of thinking Dealer is an Amazon computer, like THE computer. Since lots of people, especially the NY Times, thinks Amazon is the evil empire, it seems fitting for a book where most of the sales will be on Amazon (buy it here, or we shoot the dog—we just watched a documentary on National Lampoon and if you don’t remember that, well, you’re younger than us, which is most of you, sigh). And really it was fascinating to see how many people from National Lampoon went on to start Saturday Night Live, Animal House, Caddyshack, and much, much more in the world of comedy. Oh yeah, you can also get it on iBooks, Nook, Kobo and wherever fine literature is sold.
Where was I? So Amazon’s computer is ruling—no, wait. It’s Dealer.
Which deals the cards to everyone when they are six on Dealing Day according to each person’s DNA as affected by the phage. Get a white one, you’re People. A blank one. No Deathday. Get red, well, you’re a burner. There are two small groups in between, but you get the picture?
You think such a society can last? Is stable?
Nothing but good times ahead. Such as prime, centre and chaos. At the very least. All out in the next nine months.
And Cool Gus is fine.
By Elliott Garber
I wrote the final words of my first full-length novel just over one year ago, closing my laptop with a dramatic flourish and breathing a deep sigh of relief. It was done. A major life goal complete.
I could already picture hardcover stacks of The Chimera Sequence—a bioterrorism thriller that one reader described as Michael Crichton meets Tom Clancy—lining front tables of Barnes & Noble bookstores around the country. Who knows, maybe my name would even make an appearance among the lower ranks of a coveted New York Times bestseller list?
That was the dream, at least, even though I already had a very realistic understanding of the rapidly evolving publishing industry. Alongside my novel writing, I had spent the previous couple of years reading everything I could find about the publishing process.
I even conducted a little experiment of my own with a short story. Much to my surprise, No Dog Left Behind has already earned me a few thousand dollars in its two years of life on Amazon. That represents a lot more money and readers than I ever would have found through almost any traditional route for a short story.
So I began the post-book writing phase with my eyes wide open, knowing all along that I would be okay doing things on my own if I didn’t find the right traditional publisher to work with through the process.
After going through several rounds of editing with the help of a diverse group of friends and family members, I was ready to begin. I sent out query letters to about 20 well-known agents, gleaning their names from the Acknowledgement pages of recent bestselling thrillers. Simple Google searches led me to their submission guidelines, and I personalized each e-mailed message based on the other authors represented and any shared personal interests I could discover.
I was fortunate to hear back from about half of these agents within a few days, and almost all of them requested that I send the full manuscript for their review. Woohoo! First hurdle, complete. I attribute this initial success to the fact that I developed a catchy blurb, but probably even more to my own online platform and unique professional background. The agents were intrigued enough to find out if I could actually write.
Within a few days, I received a phone call from one of my top choices. It was actually a voicemail—due to the secure environment of my workplace I’m not able to use a personal cellphone inside. The message was short and sweet: “Loved the book. Give me a call when you can.”
Needless to say, I called the agent right back and received my first offer of representation. The agent had recently helped a couple of other former military guys launch their own successful careers in the thriller genre, and he was convinced that he could do the same for me. No guarantees, of course, but he was fairly certain that we could be looking at a six-figure offer for an initial two-book contract.
It was tough not to say yes right away, but I did want to give the other agents a chance to at least finish reading my book before making a final decision on whom to partner with. As it turns out, the decision was made for me. Although a couple of the other agents expressed a tentative interest, none of them felt strongly enough about my manuscript to offer representation without further modifications first.
The next step was submission of the manuscript to editors at all the big traditional publishers. This was tough for me, as I was really at the complete mercy of my agent’s previous relationships and professional connections. I was expecting to get responses from these editors within a week or two, but instead it stretched into a month, then two months.
I felt as though the whole process had lost momentum. I knew in my head that this was normal—that the traditional publishing process takes time—but in my heart, I still wanted to be one of those lucky few authors who get so much immediate interest that a competitive auction is held within days. Sadly, it was not to be.
The rejections slowly began trickling in. “Sorry, loved the story, but just don’t see where it would fit in today’s market.” Huh?
“If I had gotten this book last year we totally would have gone for it, but the virus threat has been done too often already.” Not what I wanted to hear.
“Unique plot and captivating characters, but the action simply builds too slowly for a modern thriller.” At least this one contained feedback I could use for the next time around.
We finally got some bites after moving on to the next tier of editors just outside the “Big 5” publishing houses. At this point, I was already disappointed in myself, the book, and the process, but I wasn’t ready to close the door on a traditional option yet.
After several weeks of negotiating, my agent was able to present two final offers. Two books for $25,000—take it or leave it. This works out to $12.5k for each book, of course, and those payments would be split and stretched out over about three years. The contracts were pretty much boilerplate for a new midlister like me, with no special provisions that would make them more author-friendly in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment.
The publishers could not guarantee anything in the way of initial print run numbers or marketing budget, and my first book would not be released until sometime in 2016. Not exactly a proposal to get very excited about.
But I would be a REAL author, right? Wasn’t that worth it? I might get to see those stacks (of one? maybe two?) of my books at Barnes & Noble! I could be one of the select few who successfully made it past the proverbial gate-keepers and begin turning up my nose at all the independently-published authors I had learned so much from over the last few years.
No, thank you. Based on everything I had learned, I knew that this level of advance did not represent a very significant investment on the part of the publishers. I was confident that I could do almost everything they could with the book, on a tighter schedule and with more long-term potential for success.
It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I decided to walk away from these $25,000 offers and continue with the back-up plan to publish my thriller independently.
Fast forward six months, and here I am! The Chimera Sequence has been on the market for almost a month already, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to have some affirmation of my choice. No New York Times bestseller lists yet, but I’ve already sold a few thousand copies of the book. More importantly, I’m steadily gaining readers and fans who are asking about my next book.
Was it easy? No, as my wife will tell you, neither of us could have imagined how difficult the whole publishing process would be. But I did it, all while working full-time and enjoying life with two young children at home. It was difficult, yes, but not impossible.
It’s too early to know for sure if I made the right decision. Who knows, maybe my book would have taken off in print, and I would have seen many more thousands of dollars in royalties than that initial five-figure advance represented. It’s possible, but unlikely. Especially in light of this week’s new report from Author Earnings, it’s clear that indie publishing is a better choice for many authors who desire ongoing financial success.
I’m grateful to all my fellow authors and readers who have helped me through this process so far, and I’m excited for the opportunity to continue sharing my stories with the world.
Here are some of the best resources I’ve found for other authors interested in learning more publishing in the 21st century:
Bio Page: Elliott Garber is a veterinarian and military officer currently assigned on active duty with a special operations command. He has lived in India, Egypt, Mozambique, and Italy and traveled to over 50 other countries around the world, including a recent deployment to Iraq. You can often find him under the water, up in the air, or out in the woods. Elliott lives with his wife and two young children in Coronado, California.
Elliott blogs and produces a podcast at: