• Al Hess

RETIRING TRAVELERS: LOOKING BACK WHILE MOVING FORWARD

Updated: Jul 21





Travelers, the first book in the eponymous series, is my most read book to date. It kickstarted a seven book series, gained me diehard fans, my closest friends, and it saved my life. That isn’t an exaggeration. Travelers was written out of desperation when I was at the lowest point of my life. I was in an abusive relationship, my mental health was barely hanging on, and I needed somewhere to go, even if it was only a new world I was escaping to in my head.


When I first started writing, I had no idea the story would become a book. I hadn’t written anything for a good thirteen years and had long given up my dream of becoming an author. But the idea that spurned the story–a woman falls down a hill and is rescued by a strange and intriguing man–wouldn’t leave me alone. Writing Owl and Trav’s story gave me a bit of serotonin and a safe space to go when I had nowhere else.


While writing Travelers, I fell in love with side character, Sasha, and moved on to his story next. At the same time, my life got infinitely worse. Most of Sasha’s book, Chromeheart, was written on my tablet as I walked across town with holes in my shoes and an empty stomach. If I didn’t have Sasha, I don’t think I would have made it.


I knew next to nothing about publishing when I first started. I didn’t even know if beta readers were necessary before self-publishing a book, and I almost didn’t use any. Thank god I did, not only for my books’ sake, but because some of those betas became critique partners that I’ve learned and grown with going on five years now.


Despite making the very wise decision to use beta readers (I even unpublished Travelers two years after its release and rewrote the entire thing from scratch in three weeks because I knew it wasn’t good enough), I made other mistakes. My prose and storytelling ability has certainly improved since the first Travelers books, but so has my perspective and awareness. There are things I wrote, that no matter how good my intention for sensitivity, were either not up to par due to my lack of lived experience or simply subject matter that I wouldn’t attempt to write about now.


No one has ever gotten angry at me for these things or told me I was writing outside my lane, but I no longer feel comfortable with these elements being in the series when there’s the possibility that it could hurt someone or be harmful representation. World Running Down, my first traditionally published book, is coming out Valentine’s Day 2023, and the much bigger reach of a trad published book means I’m going to gain many more readers and fans, and it’s likely they’ll go on to read the self-published books in my backlist. With these two elements in play, I made the decision to unpublish the entire Travelers Series.


Could I fix the issues that are troubling me and republish the books? Possibly. Some of them would require sensitivity readers, such as for Trav’s albinism or Dewbell’s deafness, to make sure I haven’t portrayed them in harmful manner (I don’t think I have, but that’s why sensitivity readers are so important. They can see things you don’t.) Other elements, like Dusty’s history with sex work as a teen, I would likely cut out entirely. I worry about other things too, though I won’t go into all of them here. And even though many of the issues are limited to the first three books, I simply don’t have the bandwidth right now to go through all seven books and edit things.


If you loved Travelers, I hope you’re ready to go on a wasteland road trip with my snarky, big-hearted salvager, Valentine, and my hunky and sweet A.I., Osric, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, because I’m certain you’ll love this new post-apocalyptic adventure just as much.


If you need something of mine to read in the meantime, Reed, Mazarin, Jax, and Em are still there for you in my queer and jazzy sci-fi series, Hep Cats of Boise. (and I would still very much like to write a third book, much to Reed’s chagrin.)


I also have a very tired angelic A.I. named Metatron who’s forced enthusiasm is hanging on by a thread as purgatory starts to unravel, in Seraph Ex Machina. (I would like to expand this novella into a book eventually.)


Right now, my blunt and autistic pie blogger, Denver, needs to save xyr tiny town from an alien crumpling the fabric of reality, and I’ve got two eccentric queer artists arguing over which one of them is the dead one. They need me more than Sasha and Co. do.


The Travelers Series and its characters will always have a special place in my heart, and I think it will for many readers too, but for me, it’s done what it needed to do. It kept me alive during the worst years of my life, and it gave me much practice for the books I wrote later on.


It’s hard to look back when I have so much to look forward to. I’m so appreciative of everyone who has followed along and supported me on my author journey, and we have plenty of road to travel still.



gif




72 views