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COULDA SHOULDA WOULDA–NOT

Posted by on July 24, 2018
Every creator has a project they believe could be a success, should be a success and would be a success if only (fill-in- the-blank) happened. I’ve had several like that, but here’s the tale of the one I think really coulda-shoulda-woulda.

In 2004, I created a new novel series for Gold Eagle called OFFWORLD OPS. 

The main reason I did so was to ameliorate some of the problems endemic to Gold Eagle’s revolving door contract writer system on most of their series. Continuity errors had reached ridiculous levels, particularly with Deathlands and The Destroyer.

Deathlands was by the far the worst offender,  with some characters who didn’t seem to remember what had happened two books before or what kind of weapons they used or even how old they were. One Deathlands scribe dismissed criticism about the major breaches of continuity by responding, “Gold Eagle pays me to write Deathlands books, not read them.”
Granted, he had a point but in lieu of anyone in editorial acting in the capacity of a continuity cop, I felt it behooved the writers to keep themselves abreast of developments as best they could.

OUTLANDERS was fortunate in there had been only a couple of fill-in writers, one of whom I worked with closely. As for the other fill-in writer…well,  his books drew a lot of harsh criticism. The reactions his novels garnered were almost uniformly negative, some of them downright hostile.

The guy was by no means a bad writer but he was certainly turning out bad OUTLANDERS books, due to majorly off-model characterization, a fundamental misunderstanding of the series itself and glaring continuity issues–most of which should have been caught by the editors. Regardless, his books had a serious impact on overall sales…which in turn impacted my livelihood.

There were other problems with this writer–one of which was his intent to use OUTLANDERS to launch a series of his own–but the primary bone of contention lay in his apparent disinclination to maintain continuity with what had been established for years.

It reached the point where there were two different continuities within the series…the primary one, created by myself, and this other guy’s, which was like some alternate world version.  Readers did not like his version, nor did I but I understood it was chafing for a writer with his own ideas to work within the parameters as laid down by another creator.
Still, rather than complain about it (which I did, I admit) I decided to do something.
I spoke to the then-senior editor of Gold Eagle about developing another action-adventure series specifically designed to accommodate the revolving door writer system. He responded with interest and suggested I put something together.
So I crafted a premise for a new series titled OFFWORLD OPS. It was about a military and scientific expedition made up of United Nations personnel dispatched in a prototype spaceship ( Aimstar One) to deflect the asteroid “Nemesis”, set to collide with Earth in the far-flung future of 2012. 
 

Except, Nemesis wasn’t an asteroid but the legendary 10th planet, Nibiru. The world was inhabited by colonies of the lost civilizations of Earth—Atlantis, Lemuria, the Toltecs, the Rama Empire, Sumeria and several others.

The ship crashed on Nibiru but the mission of the expedition remained—to keep the planet from colliding with Earth.

Although I intended to write the first book–Nemesis–the umbrella concept was for other writers to choose characters from the proposal or create their own from the 50-member crew of military and science specialists.

The books would feature the crew exploring the various ancient Earth cultures on Nibiru and trying to solve the mystery of how they got there. Each novel would be a stand-alone so no one writer would tread on the toes of another as long someone in editorial kept track of the lost civilizations that were visited (in retrospect, that might have been a utopian expectation  ).
The framework of OFFWORLD OPS was one of exploration and action-adventure, featuring my trademark combo of monsters, exotic lands and beautiful women.
There would be no locked-in rules. The writers would have a great deal of freedom in how they worked with the premise. I thought it would be fun and encourage writers to extend themselves beyond the usual Gold Eagle A to B story-telling formula.

I sent the complete, very detailed (with pichurs, some which you can see here!) proposal package to the editor who received it enthusiastically and promised to get back to me ASAP. I figured since I had created Gold Eagle’s only successful series since 1986, I could take him at his word.

The next thing I heard about a new Gold Eagle series was a year or so later…only it wasn’t OFFWORLD OPS but a Witchblade knock-off called Rogue Angel. I didn’t exactly hear about it ASAP, either.  No one at Gold Eagle ever spoke to me about OFFWORLD OPS again…which really didn’t help to lessen the strain our relationship.

Although Rogue Angel was well-received in the beginning–with the unprecedented amount of promotion money Harlequin threw behind it, that’s no surprise– complaints about the inevitable lack of continuity between the books written by different writers began cropping up in short order.  Whether those complaints hurt sales, I don’t know… but I imagine they didn’t help, just like they didn’t help the sales of OUTLANDERS.

Regardless, after HarperCollins bought Harlequin in 2014 and killed the Gold Eagle imprint, the issue was rendered stupendously moot. Obviously, I think OFFWORLD OPS would have made a better series…but after all of this time and the Gold Eagle imprint only a memory, I’ve relegated it to the Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda Department.

All for now! More later.