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  • Joshua J. Harding

My Journey - Taking Risks

Let’s face it: my book is a risk. Which is part of the reason I chose to self-publish.

My debut science fiction novel, “Red Lakes,” is a dystopia that takes place in a fictional Soviet Russia after a nuclear holocaust. This new Soviet Union has modeled itself after a major fast food chain. Everybody eats burgers and the savior of the state-approved religion has red hair, white skin, and enormous feet. We’re introduced to Sergei Terninko, a meat farmer in the Ukraine, who learns that he is actually a clone of the State’s founder and destined to become its Premier.

It’s been compared to George Orwell’s “1984” but with Ronald McDonald as Big Brother. And it’s well documented that McDonald’s is ruthless about protecting its brand. They will go after someone, no matter how small, and do everything in their power to destroy them.

Breaking into the traditional publishing industry has always been tough for first time authors. But it’s even more so now because publishing houses can ignore new authors and either stick with their well-known bestsellers or watch how self-published books perform, then pluck them up if they’re doing well. And it’s safe to assume publishers don’t want to take on the risk of putting out a novel by an unknown author only to be sued by a multi-billion dollar corporation.

But “Red Lakes” doesn’t just poke fun at McDonald’s and the Soviet Union—that’s just on the surface. Underneath the narrative is a critique of post-9/11, Bush-era America. There’s also the religious aspect, the obesity epidemic, reproductive rights, GMOs, and vegetarianism. So, really, publishing “Red Lakes” was a risk on multiple fronts.

My advice for other first-time, self-published authors (apart from writing every single day) is to get used to the Hustle. You have to do a huge amount of marketing and promoting of your own work. (You actually have to do that whether you’re with a traditional publishing house or not—it’s something you have to get used to in the current environment.) Whether it’s a blog or your website, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook—you have a ton of media outlets that writers a generation ago just didn’t have. Get out there and sell your work—you’re better at doing it than anyone else.

Another great thing about being indie is I have total artistic control over my work. I carefully selected my editor, instead of being assigned one. I was able to collaborate with my daughter on the cover art for “Red Lakes” and I can create my own “Red Lakes” swag, like an original decal (perfect for your car or local drive-thru window). And I can bundle it all with my short fiction, which is out there for people to enjoy, either linked to its respective e-Zine or YouTube reading, or featured for free on my website. Of course, I’m always writing more.

Joshua Harding is an award-winning novelist, short story author, and poet. His fiction is currently featured on Writer’s Digest, QuarterReads, and Acidic Fiction. He’s a member of the Antioch Writers’ Group and the Online Writing Workshop. He’s worked as a nuclear missile mechanic, an environmental lobbyist, a cemetery restorer, freelance artist, puppet master, set designer, actor, carpenter, mortuary officer, and garbage man. The only thing he’s done longer than any of them is write. He lives in a four-person artists’ colony in the woods north of Chicago. “Red Lakes,” is available for Kindle or paperback on Amazon. You can follow Joshua on his website:

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