Novel #10

The next novel took a while to write. I really wanted to make it a good one after what I felt was the success of Brothers In Arms. And, indeed, the story that emerged in 1998 was one I am probably proudest of. Some Other People clocked in at 87200 words.

Once I finished it, and editted it, and then editted it again, I sent it off. Over the course of the next 4 years it reached 8 publishers and 4 agents. The responses that were not form responses were encouraging. One agent asked me for $500 to represent me; by then I had a slightly better understanding of the publishing world and so rejected this request (agents should not be paid upfront, apparently). But the best were from Tor Books in the USA and Random House in Australia. If I’d had my druthers, I would have gone for Tor, but they wanted a face-to-face meeting… in the USA. No money, so no go. And so it was Random House.

Under the guidance of an editor, I rewrote the bits they wanted me to rewrite (about 20%), and changed the format of the ending. A second rewrite followed. And then… the fiction editor left and the new fiction editor said she hated the work. Bang, gone, just like that, on the whim of one editor.

I then sent the newly revised version out to a few more publishers (my records indicate 3), but nothing. I entered it in a first time novellist competition, was short-listed, but nothing else. Shame, as I think it is one of the very best long tales I have written.

The story involves a narrator who is essentially unnamed (though he is James). He is involved in a car acident, and awakens in a hospital where he is the only patient and where he never sees the staff. He eventually escapes and finds himself in an outback Australian town. He decides to look for the people who cared for him, and finds himslef at an Aboriginal township. There he meets Mother Makura who takes him to the strange cat-like people. There he meets and falls in love with the leader’s daughter. But he also unwittingly leads the humans to them, and a battle ensues in which many die. And out of this the narrator loses…

There’s other subplots – saving his lover from a cellar, dealing with authorities, etc – but that’s the tale in essence. A tale of outcasts finding one another and love lost. A sad story, but I still like it. Okay, there’s still a few cliches – the accent I gave the cat-people was a little odd, and the narrator is a little self-obsessed… as well as the ever-present love affair with the ellipsis – but there’s also some good bits. The scene the morning after the narrator and his lover first have sex, and he wakes up in her cave is one I can’t believe I wrote, and the description of itching under bandages still makes me scratch my arms. More good than bad.

Excerpt

I did not realise that we were in a village. The buildings were not at all what I had expected after seeing and being inside their hospital. In fact, buildings was entirely the wrong term; dwellings was closer to the mark. For that was all they could have been. The ones which I actually could make out (what few of those there were… most seemed to be completely invisible) were carved in simple design out of the trunks of trees, appearing as no more than scars caused by some ancient bush-fire, leading to what I assumed were large, underground complexes, similar to the one beneath the spirit tree. But these were few and far between; generally, all that I could see were trees, plain and simple…

However, I was not taken into any of these; Mother Makura and I were led – Peter holding her hand, the girl I had loved keeping a firm grip upon mine, her head resting upon my upper arm – down a road between the trees, a path which I would not have otherwise have even noticed had I happened to stumble into this part of…

Of where?

Of the forest, that was where… The huge, enormous wooded area in this part of the country… Huge, enormous, wild, uncharted…

I had to force that from my mind. All my grandiose plans of working out where this place was had evaporated with that numbing trek to get here; almost three hours of walking at a pace I thought faster than possible for some-one who had not made competing at the Olympic Games their life’s ambition. All that really mattered was that I was here now… Here with her. And we were walking through the village she called home…

And which I had called a prison not so long ago…

Again, memories – unpleasant, uncomfortable memories – that had to be forced from my consciousness…

Then we veered to the left and I was taken down another track, a narrower one, to what looked like a clearing, but with a huge, over-hanging canopy of branches from the nearby trees, carefully cultivated to cover the entire area like a natural roof. It was an incredible sight, especially in the very dull light that was available to my eyes. And all I could do was look around at the surrounding trees in awe-struck wonder…

And through the thick trunks, and in what little light was afforded by the almost completely hidden moon I thought I saw a glimpse of something else. Something out of place. I slowed… and kept my eyes as well on it as I could without letting on what I was doing exactly.

I sudden flash told me all I needed to know. The glint of the moon on glass. It was a building. A building set well back into the trees.

Rejection total: 30 + 15 = 45

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