Catch up on Act II here!
Act III: Collaborations
Naturally, being an author (a nobody indie author, but an author nonetheless), the concept of writing a novel with David Weber had crossed my mind. David is, after all, not only a prolific author, but a prolific collaborator as well.
I had given David some of my books at that first lunch, more out of courtesy than anything else, fully expecting them not to ever be read.
But he did read them.
Between those reads and our general discussions about writing, sci-fi, and science in general, David must have been impressed by something—because one day he asked me if I’d like to write a short story in an upcoming anthology set in one of his universes.
Ultimately, that anthology never came to fruition, but I still wrote the story, and in the process worked closely with David on both the details of the setting and how to improve my own writing. It was a very short piece, but David is an author who gets into granular detail both in the content and the execution, and the lessons about craft that I learned from this short piece and short interaction alone were priceless.
But, in retrospect, the experience also showed David what I was like to work with on a writing project, which ended up being more relevant than I ever expected.
As mentioned before, the first thing you learn about David when you meet him is that he’s intensely personable—he loves to talk and interact with people, whether they’re fans or not, and he likes to pay his tremendous success forward when he can. One way he does this is to find promising new authors to take under his wing—to teach them the intricacies of the writing craft that one can only get from someone who’s been writing for over thirty years. Part of the reason for this is practical—it brings new blood into sci-fi publishing and gives those authors a valuable chance to refine their skills—but most of the reason is that David enjoys doing it. Moreover, he enjoys playing to his co-authors’ strengths, too; he chooses co-authors who bring something to the project that he can’t (or at the very least, is less qualified than the co-author to do).
I occasionally see it said that David’s just slapping his name on new authors’ work to help it sell, and while that’s definitely true for some authors, it couldn’t be further from the truth for David. For new authors, writing with David is akin to an apprenticeship, and David’s fingerprints are all over those books whether it’s obvious or not.
All this to say, when David worked with me on that one short story, whether either of us were conscious of it at the time or not, certain mental seeds had been planted.
These seeds would not come to fruition until 2016. Around that time, I’d submitted a manuscript to Baen Books (the same one I’d been working on back when H.P. was recovering from cancer). It had been well-received, but was rejected with a list of fixes that would make it more appealing upon re-submission.
One night, all four of us went out for H.P.’s birthday, and I asked David if he’d mind reading my manuscript and providing more detailed feedback than what I’d received from the publisher.
David considered the idea … but then his eyes gleamed with what I could only think of at the time as gleeful mischief.
That’s when he hit me with it: “Why don’t we write a book together?”
I skipped dessert that night, in part because I was so excited I thought I might throw up.
David also had a specific story in mind for our collaboration. You see, fairly early in his writing career, David had submitted ten series proposals to Baen Books. Among these was Honor Harrington—the one Jim Baen selected—but down the list was an alternate history time travel story with a heavy amount of moral complexity. As time went on, other books and series took precedent, but that concept still lurked in the back of his mind, waiting for just the right circumstances.
Never mind that I once promised myself I’d never—ever—write a time travel novel. Good time travel is hard to write, and there’s endless potential for messiness and inadvertent plot holes.
But when David Weber asked me to design multiple 30th century societies along with their time travel tech, I decided to … reevaluate my earlier “promise” to myself.
The concept that eventually became The Gordian Protocol appealed to David as a collaboration because he’d wanted the novel to be not only alternate history, but for the worldbuilding to have a distinct feel from his other series. David could—and did—handle the historical elements effortlessly. The engineering challenges of the setting, he left almost entirely in my court.
And speaking of history, the rest is history. The Gordian Protocol came out in 2019, and its sequel, The Valkyrie Protocol, followed in 2020. And we have an exciting future planned for the series, including another four books under contract (three collaborations and one solo novel from yours truly).
The Janus File (coming later this year from Baen Books) takes the Gordian multiverse in a less … universe-exploding direction. (David decided that I’d blown up too many universes over the first two books and recommended we tone it down a bit.) Instead, we start off with a good, old fashioned murder mystery.
The exact release date is still TBA, but until then, you can enjoy the cover art, which has already been produced by the amazing Kurt Miller.
All this to say, I never expected a chance encounter at a small convention book signing to have such wild and exciting results—and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
I’m also enormously grateful to David himself for taking a chance on a little no-name indie author. And I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say: I’m truly thankful to my lovely wife, for brightening my life in so many ways.
Even if I still don’t understand the whole cabin fever thing.
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