Saturday, December 27, 2014

CLASH! Dawn of Steam arrives

 Just  got my copy yesterday of this strategic card game. The world book includes the stories I wrote for the Kickstarter campaign for the four characters included in this set. Along with a lot of full-color, gorgeous artwork. There's also a card included in the box with the beautiful art from World Beyond Art for Spire City. Hopefully that brings in even more readers for the series, from the game backers. And if any of them stop by here and are having problems using the coupon code, please let me know, and I'll try to sort it out. On the flip side of that postcard ad is an ad for Mad Ape Games' next title, an SF tile-laying game that looks pretty cool. There'll be a Kickstarter campaign for that in the New Year.

If you didn't get a chance to pre-order a copy of CLASH! during the Kickstarter and are interested, it looks like the Mad Ape website will have a store coming soon, once all the Kickstarter games are shipped out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Release day for episode 2, plus a fun guest appearance

Today is the release day for episode 2, "Williver's Mistake." In this episode, a childhood book inspires Williver to lead a prank against the wealthy neighborhood where he grew up. Little goes according to plan...

I'm also happy to be featured on the blog of Devorah Fox today, with a fun interview. This time it's not me being interviewed (nor doing the interview) but two of the characters from Spire City: Chels and the journalist Kyner Bantosh. I haven't done these kind of character interviews before, though I know some writers really like doing them. Often it's the author interviewing the character, but I decided to keep it in-world. Those who've read Season One will recognize that this interview actually happens in the series (in episode 9), though this isn't a word-for-word copy of how it's written in the episode.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Guest Post: Devorah Fox

Today I'm hosting writer Devorah Fox, who is having a special December deal, this week only. Check it out, and visit her website for character interviews and more specials this week:
Happy birthday, King Bewilliam, officially “born” on Dec. 14, 2011 with the publication of the high fantasyThe Lost King.

The story was inspired by a friend's real life crisis, a complete personal and professional derailment. I wanted to see if I couldn't craft a happy ending.

That turned out to be harder than I thought. Even the strongest among us doesn't bounce right back from such stunning losses. While he scored some successes, King Bewilliam continued to struggle to reclaim his life which led to The King's Ransom and The King's Redress.

King Bewilliam may regain his throne but his life will never be what it once was. His only choice? To redefine himself, find new motivations, new passions, new validations. He continues to rediscover himself. Last month I began The Redoubt, Book Four, in which he dares to contemplate happiness he thought was lost to him.

To celebrate and give you a chance to enjoy the series at a bargain price, today the Kindle edition of Book Three, The King’s Redress,is available for a bargain price from Dec. 14 through Dec. 17 on Kindle US and Kindle UK.

The king's subjects will be making merry all week throughout the kingdom so check back to see what else we have in store to commemorate this anniversary.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spire City: Contagion free today!

Today only, as part of Musa's thirteen days of December free giveaways, the bundle of season 1, episodes 1-6 is free, directly from Musa. Can't beat free!

So grab a copy, if you haven't already, and let a friend know so they can check out the series, as well. It only gives you a few days to get caught up on both season one bundles plus episode 1 of season 2 before episode 2 comes out this Friday. But you can do it, I believe in you :)

While you're browsing the Musa catalog, be sure to check out the other daily deals. A different set of free books every day for thirteen days.

Monday, December 15, 2014

An interview at The Geekiary

This weekend an interview with me went live at The Geekiary. It touches on things that haven't come up in other interviews, and even where it overlaps, I tried to give a different perspective on some of it. It also includes the first public mention of the famous exploring duo Clewis and Lark...

Friday, December 05, 2014

Another guest post

Slight delay on my posting this, but be sure to check out my guest post over on Rachael Acks's blog, about steampunk and privilege and telling the stories from all levels of society. One of my big complaints about much of fantasy, even books that I greatly enjoy otherwise, is the emphasis on bloodlines and people being born to the right families. Even when it's not stated outright, this sense often gets accepted too blindly for my liking. So this post goes into a bit more of how I see that playing out in steampunk especially.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A pair of interviews

Last week, two interviews appeared on their respective blogs.

First, fellow Darkside Codex writer Andrew Leon Hudson offered me the first call-back interview, after his rapid-fire, strict-word-count interview a month ago.

And second, Serenity Sheilds interviewed me at her Lovely Reads blog, with some questions that haven't come up in other interviews (and some that have).

Friday, November 28, 2014

Season Two: Pursued is here!

And so it begins, season two. Months have passed since the confrontation with the sleepless Mint, and now Orgood is becoming more aggressive again in infecting the people on the streets and pursuing those who have already been infected. Can those in the Weave answer in kind, or will his targeting of them wipe them all out? Find out in Season Two: Pursued.

Episode 1, Lady Janshi's Acolyte is available now, from the publisher, and should eventually show up at all major online bookstores. And as a reminder, Musa now offers new titles for a discount during their first week for sale, if you buy directly from them. So jump on it to get the discounted price!

Spire City: Season Two, Pursued

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Amazing art!

I just saw these doodles over on Bored Panda, after someone shared it on Facebook. I don't feel I should post even a thumbnail of them on my blog, so you'll have to check out the link. A steampunked lion, a panda driven mad by monsters, a polar bear formed from/angered by factory smokestacks and advanced weapons and the skeletons of pollution-killed fish. And so much more.

All of them are very cool, but today I especially like Leopardville and the Nausicäa one. On this US Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for amazing creativity, wherever it can be found.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Everyone's invited!

In just two days, we'll be holding a pre-release Facebook event, where people can pre-order episode 1 directly from Musa and can win copies of the first season bundles (as well as gift cards).

I've always been somewhat leery of the blind, unsolicited invitations sent out scatter-shot among Facebook friends, so I'm avoiding that. Instead, I'm casting out the invitation here to everyone who wants it. We'll be chatting there on Facebook from 6pm-8pm EST on Friday, with steampunk and fantasy discussions and pictures and other cool stuff.

Joining me will be several of the other Darkside Codex writers as well as other fans, friends, etc. It should be a good time.

Come on by, anytime in there, and add your comments. And you'll be entered in a chance to win.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest blog giveaway: The Exile of Elindel by Carol Browne

A few weeks ago, Carol Browne was kind enough to host me on her blog, and now I have the chance to welcome her to Twigs & Brambles. Her fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel is published by Musa. You can learn more about it below, and comment to win your own free copy of the book! You have until Monday, November 17 at midnight, MST.

Carol Browne – The Exile of Elindel (Elwardain Chronicles I)

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

Buy Links
Musa Publishing -
Barnes & Noble -

Author Bio
Carol Browne first appeared on the planet in 1954. She regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky, when she’s not writing fiction, Carol spends her time as a housekeeper, proofreader, and ghost writer in order to pay the bills. Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Guest post: Milo James Fowler

Today I welcome Milo James Fowler to tell us something about his Musa-published novella Yakuza Territory, which comes out tomorrow.

So tell us about Yakuza Territory...and you may be tired of saying (or copy-and-pasting) the exact same answer to that question, so feel free to give the basic blurb, but tell us something different as well. What's unique about this novella that wouldn't be obvious from the blurb?

It's an action-packed story-within-a-story. If you can imagine Die Hard meets Assault on Precinct 13 but with gangsters and a killer robot, you're on the right track. Yakuza Territory delves into detective Charlie Madison's backstory and explains his ties to the Japanese mafia who've shown up in the previous two installments, Girl of Great Price and Immaterial Evidence.

Here's the official blurb:

A detective with no way out. A telepath with something to prove...

World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison's past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he's outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

Sounds like a lot of fun. Yakuza Territory is the third novella in this future noir setting. Is it important for readers to start with the first one, or do each stand alone as an entry point? And how do you get the balance between welcoming new readers and rewarding those who've already read the others so it doesn't feel like they're just reading the same thing again and again?

It's a balancing act, to be sure. Each story stands on its own. Girl of Great Price was actually published after Immaterial Evidence and worked as a prequel of sorts. Yakuza Territory picks up where Immaterial Evidence left off, but there's enough in Yakuza Territory for new readers to catch up. It's like any detective series that's episodic in nature. Each installment is a single case, but there's also an overarching mystery involving suprahumans with incredible abilities.

Your biography says you're a teacher by day. How does being a teacher affect your approach to writing? Do your students know about your writing, or is it a secret, second life?

My classroom is all about my students' writing. They know I'm a writer, but I don't often share my work with them. Teaching makes me a better writer; writing makes me a better teacher. I can tell my students straight out what editors expect to see, and I can share with them, from experience, the value of the revision process. Many of my former students are writers as well, and it's great to see them pursuing their dreams as I continue to pursue my own--during evenings, weekends, and summers off. Working only 9 months of the year is a great day job for any writer.

In several interviews I've seen you speak of Ray Bradbury as a hero and model for your writing. I can see his touch in the storytelling and prose, but the future noir setting doesn't necessarily call him to mind. Are there other writers or works that helped influence that aspect of the story?

The works of Philip K. Dick, Alastair Reynolds, Franz Kafka, and China Mieville have inspired my future noir stories. So have the old radio dramas Box 13 and Night Beat, not to mention the classic Philip Marlowe tales.

You've also mentioned Write 1 Sub 1 as a big part of your writing life, where you write a new story every week and submit something every week as well. How has that affected your writing approach? What advice do you have for other writers who might want to tackle something like that?

I've learned to write fast and edit slow, to churn words out and clean them up later. I've been on the monthly Write1Sub1 plan for the past three years; but back in 2011 when I wrote the first Charlie Madison novella, Girl of Great Price, I was turning out some of my best work. That year, while I was writing and submitting a new story every week, I penned the short stories that would eventually qualify me for SFWA membership. I think every writer should take a year and try it: 52 stories in 52 weeks. It's definitely doable.

And what's next for you?

I'm currently outlining the follow-up to Yakuza Territory, which will be called The Gifted Ones. It'll delve into the origin of the suprahumans who have appeared in the first three novellas. Judging by my pages of notes so far, it may stretch into novel-length territory, and it will include most of the characters from the first three installments. I can't wait to dive in and start drafting.

Bio: Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and theWastelands 2 anthology.

Visit and join The Crew for updates about new releases as well as exclusive promotions.

Thanks, Milo. You can order Yakuza Territory from Musa and other online stores. Also be sure to visit the novella's Goodreads page.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

When a new idea strikes

Sometimes I think of new books or other projects as these huge peaks looming up in front of me for a long time, coming closer at the speed of a prairie schooner crossing eastern Colorado. I'll see it coming, ask myself if I'm ready to tackle it, make whatever preparations I need to do. I might draw a map. I might fill up notecards with character information. I might spend weeks or months brainstorming how these things fit together. I might make an outline (sometimes I do, sometimes not, but in the big spectrum of how much planning a story gets, I do tend to be more of a planner, at least enough to have an idea of the shape of the story I'm telling).

For awhile now, I've had a couple of ideas for stories that my son especially would like. Middle grade sort of books as I've paged through the books he races through. (And read some of them at the same time myself--we like to race each other with certain books, most recently with Lemony Snicket's Shouldn't You Be in School? He always wins. Maybe because he takes the book to bed with him and leaves it in his bed once he falls asleep...)

One of those two ideas was getting some of the usual planning treatment, and I was thinking of tackling it during NaNo this year. My thinking was that it would be the first in a longer series (since series are pretty much all he reads), with at least an idea for a handful of short-ish books. I really like the concept and some of the ideas I have for developing it as it goes, more SF than his usual fantasy, but I think he'd still enjoy it, and it'd be all set for my daughter in a couple of years as well. The other vague idea was just way in the back of my mind. For a writing exercise I once wrote the opening few hundred words of what could be a short story connected with that vague idea, but I wasn't enamored of that story start and didn't ever go back and finish it, and otherwise I had no plans for the idea.

Then suddenly about two months ago, the voice of the narrator popped into my head. The boy from the short story start I'd made, though most of the details were different. It was a scene with his dad and a younger sister, and I could hear him so perfectly. Did I really want to work on that then, though? Two months to NaNo, and I could use the daily word count posting to spur me to write it in a single month. Or even a couple of weeks, as Middle Grade books are often shorter. But I had that voice then. If I waited, I wasn't sure I would still have a good grasp of who he was and how he would tell it. So with very little planning, I started writing.

I finished the rough draft just before November. It's short for a novel (I had a lot of other commitments, including a lot of Spire City-related things), but feels a good length for the reading level. My son is anxious to be my first reader for it. So in another month or so, I'll give a quick read-through/light revision and see what he says. It could well be too easy for him. Or too advanced, even as good a reader as he is. I didn't let myself worry too much about that as I wrote.

The main thing, though, is that I just had to run with the idea while it was hot. If I had waited, could I have written the book? I'm sure I could have. It would have been different. Maybe better, but maybe worse. There are still going to be times for me when I wait on an idea, let it gather steam in my mind for months or years, plan and brainstorm and imagine for a long time before I ever write the first word. But with this one, it felt right to get it down now.

(And NaNo? There was no way I was ready to tackle another novel right away. So my focus this month is on writing short stories, something I love but recently don't do as much of as I'd prefer. Already wrote one flash piece, finished another story that was almost done, wrote a poem, and began a new short story. I'm not thinking I'll get 50k words written, as I have a lot of other commitments this month as well, but I'm hoping for at least several solid short stories and a few more good flash pieces as well.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poem sale to Strange Horizons!

I'm super excited to have sold a poem to Strange Horizons. I've long been a fan of the ezine--it was the first one I can remember reading regularly, starting almost ten years ago (when it was already a well established part of the genre). I've supported its fund drive in past years, even sponsoring a poem one year, and it frequently showed up as a recommended read, back when I used to do a mini-review/signal boost for my favorite short fiction of the week (and, hmm, maybe I should try to get back into that...). So naturally I'm thrilled to have one of my poems accepted by them. I've gotten close on a number of occasions, both with poems and short's great to finally break through. No info yet on when the poem will be coming out.

Speaking of the yearly Strange Horizons fund drive, it's going on right now. As always, it has great prizes you might win. I've donated, have you? If all goes correctly you should see the fund progress image down at the bottom of this post (it's not showing up in my preview window, so...I guess I'll hit publish and see):

Friday, October 17, 2014

Spire City: Epidemic is out today!

And here it is, the bundle of the second half of season one. Once again, I love the color we settled on for this cover. It's very striking. Now that both bundles are available, you can get the full season one without buying each individual episode separately. And after that, you have a little over a month to get caught up on all the events of season one before season two begins!

So, if you've enjoyed some of the interviews and guest blog posts I've had lately or if you're intrigued by the idea of this project, please buy yourself a copy and give it a try. And then buy a copy for a friend ;)

"Targeted by a mad scientist's deadly serum, these outcasts band together to uncover the truth and to fight back."

Buy it from Musa, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or any number of other online outlets.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Anthology cover

And now for something that's not directly Spire City related*:

This is the cover art for an anthology that'll be coming out soon(ish?). Looking very cool, I must say. It includes my story "Apprentice in the Steam Library" along with many other secondary world steampunk stories, broadening the types of places where steampunk stories can be set.

(*OK, somewhat Spire City related, as the story does take place in...Spire City. But it isn't directly connected with the Infected characters or the series itself. Except for one little easter-egg sort of reference that will bring a smile for Spire City fans.)

And two more blog appearances

These both went up yesterday:

Serial Writer at the blog of Milo James Fowler. Milo has a serialized novel forthcoming from Every Day Novels, so he asked me to write a bit about how I see serialization. This distills various things I've mentioned in other interviews and guest blog posts, but doesn't simply rehash them. So even if you've been stalking every Spire City appearance I've had, give this one a read too :)

And an interview at the blog of fantasy writer Carol Browne. Despite doing three interviews in the past week, this one gets at different aspects of Spire City and my writing, so don't just assume you've seen it all! Also, if you comment there, you'll be entered into a chance to win your choice of Spire City bundles. Deadline is Monday. So go check it out!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A pair of blog appearances elsewhere

I've been busy arranging a bunch of different guest appearances and interviews (both of me being elsewhere and others swinging by here). Two of those went live over the past two days.

"Always Striving" is my guest post at Eric Juneau's blog. It's a post especially for writers, digging into some of how I approached Spire City and how I approach writing in general. It also gets into a bit of detail about my background in experiential education. As one co-worker liked to say, you gotta stretch your box.

Don't forget to check out Eric's guest post here from last week and his SF mermaid novel, Merm-8.

And secondly, I endured a rapid-fire interview where I wasn't allowed to ramble as much as I tend to (...) over at Andrew Leon Hudson's blog. We'll be doing another more in-depth interview in about a month, to go live around the time Season 2 begins serialization.

Andrew is another of the Darkside Codex writers, so be sure to check out his novel The Glass Sealing. I described it on Facebook as Occupy-Steampunk, which he thought was funny...and I thought was me being serious.

Stay tuned for more. I do try to make sure these posts aren't just bland repetitions of each other, so each one is only a single facet of what's going on in Spire City and in my writing in general. So read them all to get a full(ish) view.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Interview with me up at Chris Pavesic's blog

Today I am interviewed over at Chris Pavesic's blog. Chris is one of the writers for the Darkside Codex, with a novel scheduled to come out in January. So expect to see Chris back here sometime around then. For now, head on over there and see what crazy things I have to say.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Guest post: Eric Juneau

Today I have the chance to welcome Eric Juneau, whose SF novel Merm-8 was released by Musa a couple of weeks ago. To learn more about him, check out his blog (above) and follow him on Twitter: @theWallflower00.

Learning From Your Mistakes

Every time you write something, you get a little better (as long as you're trying hard). Word by word, page by page, until a million bad words get out of your system and you start writing good ones. If you aren't learning from your past works, then you're doing it wrong.

When I started Merm-8, I had finished my first serious novel -- Black Hole Son. And like most serious first novels, it failed to find a publisher or agent after fifty or so queries. And rightly so. It was a novel with a lot of mistakes. It was about two boys who explore a dystopian city of the future. Their journey was the "lens" to see the "wrongs" of our society -- over-medication, corrupt law enforcement, controversy over women's rights, people who cheat their way to success and suffer no punishment. I don't know where the story ended and the preachiness began.

Which was, of course, the problem. If you start with a message, you tailor the story to the message. The characters start violating their common sense to bring the narration to the set piece you want. Coincidences, random scenes, and lots of "reflecting" has to happen in order to bring these points to light. And don't forget the ever-popular "dream sequence". Eughh...

It was also too long. I did my damnedest to cut and cut and cut, and managed to get it to 120,000 words. I still have no idea if it's true, but from what I've read, that is the maximum book length you should query an agent with. The reason being, no one wants to take a chance on a long novel from a first time author. The nature of my problem was that it was really two stories that came together at the end. I was being too ambitious. There's nothing wrong with a "boy meets girl" novel or a hopping, light-hearted adventure. Not everything needs to be an epic.

That's what I resolved for Merm-8. Keep it basic and structured. Have fun with it. Make characters that are funny and clever. Give them outlandish features. Make one a robot, another a mafioso. Give them witty repartee and personal problems. The more charming they are, the worse off they are, the more the audience will want to be with them.

In my notes for Merm-8, I set down some ground rules: "No thinking!" I had just read a lot of J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, two authors known for overwriting -- a lot of ruminating and "feeling" and passages where nothing happens except a character's analysis of the situation or mental state. This is a bad habit I picked up and needed to resolve. All it did was increase word count.

I also made a resolution to make it dialogue-heavy. No one skips dialogue. Readers skip long paragraphs of text. Write fewer descriptions -- give the reader only what he/she needs to know and let imagination fill in the rest. Same for infodumping. The only parts of it that matter are what's relevant to the story. Find an avenue to describe your world-building, like Hermione or Watson or Doc Brown. Mine was an artificial intelligence, which, as I brainstormed, became a major plot point. If you find yourself saying "As you know", that's a red flag. If he already knows it, there's no reason to tell him.

Of course, none of this makes much difference if you can't think of anything. I'm still trying to wrap my head around "write what you know". It's one of the oldest pieces of advice, but it's also somewhat paradoxical. If you only wrote what you know, nothing would be new and exciting. If Stephen King only wrote what he knew, we wouldn't have The Shawshank Redemptionor IT. He told us, in his book On Writing, "write what you want to read" although it's been said by other authors. There has to be a limit though. I'm a midwestern straight white male and right out of the gate, I'm writing about runaway youth, corrupt police, murder, underground drug rings, uber-corporations, and strippers. I've still never been inside a strip club. So make sure you rein it back. "Write what you're comfortable with" might be a good corollary. But it's also important to know if you don't stretch your limits, you won't get better.

One final thing. I picked this up from Jim C. Hines. At the top of my first draft, I wrote, and still do write, in bold letters: "I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO WRITE BADLY". This is a necessary axiom to keep the words flowing. Too often, you get bogged down in sentences or scenes, thinking "this isn't what I want to say" or "I realize now this negates something I wrote earlier". Just make a note of it (I have a very long list of "things to fix" by the end of my first draft) and keep moving, like a shark. There can't be a novel unless there are words on the page.

And most of all: have fun. There ain't no one making you do this. It is work, but it's supposed to be fun work. If the writing's fun, then you're doing it right.


Eric J. Juneau is one of America's most prominent up-and-coming writers. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, two daughters, and a dog that's either very smart or very dumb. He writes science fiction and fantasy and received an honorable mention in the 2010 "Writers of the Future" contest.

Be sure to check out Merm-8 and his various haunts online. Thanks for the post, Eric!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Contagion is out today

Release day at last! This is the bundle for episodes 1-6 of season one. I believe I mentioned way back last spring when episode 6 was released that there is a definite narrative arc to these first six episodes. So while it's half of the season, and I generally think of each season as its own unit, this is not some randomly cut-off portion of the story. It doesn't have much big resolution (but then even the full season doesn't), but it definitely has its own climax that propels the story on toward the remaining episodes (and seasons).

As always, this is available from most online bookstores and directly from Musa. It sometimes takes longer for some of the stores to add them, but I'll put up links as I find them: Musa, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iBooks US, UK, Australia.

And please consider leaving a review or at least a star rating (or however it's set up at that store). Reviews and ratings can be a big boost for small press books, so each one is much appreciated!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cover for episodes 1-6

Tomorrow is the release day for this bundle of episodes 1-6. There's something very elegant about how this cover turned out. I love how it continues the basic image and format of the individual episodes and yet be clearly not just another episode, because of the color scheme.

Stay tuned for purchase links and the like. I can't wait!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ten Books (well, it rounds off to ten, anyway)

I keep putting off answering this meme. I like seeing the lists others post, but my impulse is to turn the list into a story. So I've avoided thinking too hard about this, as per the instructions, but I still wanted the space to make some comment at least about each, and Facebook didn't seem ideal for that. I'm aiming for something loosely chronological here, though that may mean adding a little more thought to this, since I don't want to already hit my ten by the time I'm up to my college years... So here are ten thirteen books that affected me at the time I read them:

1) Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett & Ron Barrett. Seriously. I write stories about giant beetles, implausibly huge trees, and uncannily massive playground equipment. I have no doubt that those resonate with me in part because of how much I liked this book as a child.

2) Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. There's no denying how massively influential this was on me from the time I read it at age 12 through college (and beyond). Its direct influence on my writing is less than you might think, but its indirect influence is huge, both on my desire to write and on my imagination.

3) Language of the Night by Ursula K. LeGuin. A nonfiction book examining what fantasy and science fiction are and how they work. Not exactly what you'd think would grab a 16-year-old. Especially since at the time I read this, I'd read one of her novels and hated it (to my embarrassment today, since I've loved most everything else she's written), but as this was a paperback about fantasy and SF, the small-town librarians shelved it with the other fantasy/SF paperbacks, and I grabbed it. And it forever changed how I looked at imaginative fiction.

4) The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip. It's hard to even single this one out, as I actually don't remember a lot of details of the story. But...I found this on a bargain books table and bought it for my younger brother as a Christmas present, which was the start of many years of buying him McKillp books for Christmas (and reading them myself, once he'd finished). McKillip has been a favorite ever since.

5) Silence by Shusaku Endo. Now we're into books I read in college. This was for a world lit class, historical fiction about a devout Catholic missionary to Japan at a time when it was closing to European influences, including religion. The title refers to the apparent silence from the missionary's God to the people's suffering.

6) San Manuel Bueno, Mártir by Miguel de Unamuno. I read this one in Spain. It's the story of a priest, seen as a saint by his parishioners, but who can't bring himself to believe in everything he preaches. His martyrdom, then, is in feigning that belief.

7) The Brothers K by David James Duncan. A coming-of-age novel about a family of four brothers (and much younger twin sisters), against‚the backdrop of baseball and the Vietnam War. Duncan is a very funny writer, and this book weaves together the voices of the brothers wonderfully (I'm guessing the fact that I am one of four brothers might have drawn me into this even more), and deals with faith and doubt and war and anti-war and family dynamics in an impressive way.

8) Gormenghast books by Mervyn Peake. The shear architectural imagination of these books, the absurd characters, the whimsy and the weight of traditions, and a claustrophobically vast castle, in decay. Originally I read this for my undergrad honors thesis (and I've re-read it since then).

9) Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Not for a college class, but based on my advisor's suggestion for my own interest...for which I am very grateful. Calvino is my favorite writer, and this was my first introduction to his writing (and remains my second favorite, close behind If On A Winter's Night a Traveler).

10) The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. Now we're into the post-college time frame (yeah, there's no way I can limit this to ten...let's make it thirteen). The subtitle for this nonfiction book is "A Plants-eye View of the World," and I don't think I can say it any better. Seeing how these four plant species have changed and interacted with human history was one of those mind-twisting things that changes how you see the world.

11) Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. I've always pointed to this book as a paradigm-shifting book, where I finally realized just how wide open the field of fantasy can be. I find Mieville's imagination in books like these Bas-Lang books and Railsea to resonate so closely to my own.

12) City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer. At almost the exact same time I read PSS, I read this book (for the first of...4 times, I think). VanderMeer has long been a favorite writer (I'm currently reading his latest, Acceptance), and this book would have been even more paradigm shifting if I hadn't already read PSS. The city of Ambergris with its fungal infestations has stayed with me like few other imaginary places.

13) The Orphan Tales by Catherynne Valente. Difficult to say anything about these books except that they are pure storytelling magic, full of nested stories that feel like fairy tales in all their original power and resonance.

There are easily a dozen more books I'm sure I could pick out, if I were to think about this for any length of time. But these are all definitely a part of my reading DNA.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Unburied Treasures book trailer

Now this gives a good look at a bunch of the artwork in the Unburied Treasures anthology. You get a view of the drawing associated with each of the stories, along with a quote from the story. Very well done, Lydia!

The anthology is still available from all the usual online bookstores, so check it out if you haven't had a chance yet. And if you have...consider leaving us a review on whichever site you bought it from. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A new word!

I learned a new word today: Thomasson. Always exciting to learn a new word regardless, but in this case especially cool because it fits in so much of my writing. A Thomasson is the vestigial remnant of earlier buildings or architecture that no longer serves a purpose, but is still being maintained. Like a stairway that goes up to a blank wall, or a gate that doesn't fully cross an opening. (I love how carefully shined and polished that gate at the top of the article is.)

Those kinds of things are all over Spire City. I reference orphan alleys in at least one episode, and the tunnels and secret ways the characters use to cross the city are full of these kinds of no-longer-used features. And, too, the Boskrea stories take place in a city full of old ramps and ladders and stairways that no longer serve their original purpose. I wasn't familiar with Piranesi's Dark Prisons series of etchings when I first started writing the stories set there, but as soon as I discovered them, I saw how perfectly they matched the mood of the setting. And those pictures, to my eye, look full of Thomassons. (Though obviously they predate the term significantly...)

And what it brings to mind even more, is Gormenghast, that great sprawling castle of Mervyn Peake's architectural imagination. I will gladly admit that both Spire City and Boskrea are deeply influenced by his books (though not much by the writing style). Reading that article, I saw a perfect image of Dr. Prunesquallor, hands flapping as he climbed up a pointless staircase and back down the other side while Flay strode purposefully past. Steerpike would have paused to examine it and come up with a way to fit its presence into his vaguely ambitious plans. And Swelter, drunk, might have climbed up them, his weight threatening even the stones of the stairs, as he called on his kitchen workers to celebrate.

Now to keep an eye out for Thomassons around here...which may be much more difficult to find in a city that's not yet 150 years old...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New artwork, new artwork...yay!

Check out this awesome scene from Spire City, drawn by Worlds Beyond Art! Be sure to zoom in for the details, if it shows up small for you at first. Especially check out the ominous steampunk-dart gun in Mint's hand. Not aimed, not yet... I've loved working with Lydia and Isaia for these pictures. They really bring Spire City to life in a different way than words do. So cool. (I've been posting the sepia versions here on the blog, but I do have black-and-white versions as well. I will be making use of those too, at some point...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A rather different sort of interview, with Nyki Blatchely

Yesterday, Nyki hosted me on his blog with an interview. And today I return the favor, but instead of asking the typical interview questions, I decided to take a different approach, based in part on his story in the anthology Unburied Treasure. His answers are delightfully absurd:

What are you listening to right now?

A heavy rock morris dance tune.

Porcupine or raccoon: choose one for a companion.

Difficult to say, as I've never actually met either, so I'm only going on reputation which could, of course, be slanderous. It's said, though, that porcupines get notoriously prickly if you forget their birthday, whereas raccoons just use it as an excuse to have a second birthday. So I suppose it really depends on whether they're planning on having a birthday any time during the quest.

Your story in Unburied Treasure involves a human seeking to undermine his dragon overlords. Is it dangerous to write such a political work? Have the dragons caused you any difficulties since it was revealed that you wrote such a seditious work?

Well, of course we radical activists have to take our chances. Did Hobbits for Justice get the anti-sizeism legislation passed in the Reunited Kingdom by playing it safe? Without the dedication of countless vampire campaigners, staking would still not be recognised as murder.

So… um, I sent anonymous letters to each of the dragons alleging that one of the others was about to steal their hoard. That'll have them fighting each for some years to come, and then they'll need a decade or so napping to recover. By the time they wake up, they'll have forgotten all about me. I hope.

Have you been hoarding gold? Where?

Me? Hoarding gold? Certainly not. The very idea that I'd be… er, where did that gold piece come from? What a coincidence.

If a dragon leaves London at 1:00 am and flies due west and second dragon leaves an hour later and flies straight toward your house, how much time will you have to flee? What books will you be sure to carry with you?

Well, I won't have to worry about the first dragon, as it'll be going in completely the wrong direction. The second will be a problem, though. It's difficult to gauge its speed without knowing whether it's a European or African dragon, and whether or not it's laden. But probably between two and five minutes.

I have around a thousand books, and I'll need absolutely all of them, so I'll need to get hold of a large lorry and load it within that time. If I really have to travel light, though, I'll just take a dictionary and thesaurus. And the Complete Works of Shakespeare. And a copy of each of the world's great religious texts. And all the major classical Greek authors. And all the major English poets since the fourteenth century. And all my favourite fantasy authors. And the ones that aren't fantasy, as well. That should keep me going for a while. Till I get to a bookshop, at least.

What pseudonym will you give your captors to keep them from learning your true identity? What nickname will you have the other prisoners call you?

I'll tell the dragons my name's Dan Ausema, of course. That'll have them confused.

And I'll tell the other prisoners I'm Bard the Bowman, which should get me respect in jail.

Do dragon prisons serve coffee? Tea? Cold drinks?

If they don't serve coffee, I won't be patronising their prisons. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, if this is the way the dragons treat their prisoners, they don't deserve to have any.

And last, on a more serious note, what do you have coming up? What projects are you working on at the moment or hoping to do soon?

I have a "flintpunk" story coming out later in the year in Plasma Frequency, who have already published two of my stories. It's called The Petrologic Engine, and can be best described as a serious, dystopian equivalent of The Flintstones.

I still have to do some fairly heavy revision on the second and third volumes of my trilogy The Winter Legend, while the first is doing its grand tour of agents, but at the moment I'm writing the first draft of a novel that's a sequel to At An Uncertain Hour and a prequel to The Winter Legend. Its working title is "The Empire of Nandesh", but there's virtually no chance that will be its final title. I'm writing it in four 1st person POVs, one of which is the Traveller, the main character of At An Uncertain Hour. I'll be revealing a fact about him that I've hitherto kept strictly secret.

After that, I have a loosely connected trilogy to write, followed by the final book in the whole ennealogy. So that should keep me out of mischief for a while.

I'm also self-publishing some of my stories that are now out of print. I'm a little ambivalent about self-publishing, which seems often to be an excuse to put out unpolished first drafts, but these are stories that have already been professionally edited. I've so far republished At An Uncertain Hour, after the original publisher closed down, and a short piece called Steal Away. I have a couple more lined up, when I can organise good covers for them.

Another project I've started is writing children's stories. It started with a story I really wrote to amuse my own inner child, and it's grown from there. The stories are aimed at around the 8-10 age-range and involve a sorceress and a young girl who's her apprentice — if I manage to get them published in book-form, which is the aim, I might called it The Sorceress's Apprentice. It wasn't really intended to make a point, but the feedback I've had is that there's a shortage of children's adventure stories with female protagonists.

Then again, as I'm sure you know, unexpected ideas are always just around the corner. You never know where this writing lark is going to lead you.

Many thanks for allowing me on your blog and giving me some… er, different questions from the usual ones.

Thanks for playing along!

Be sure to check out Nyki's website for more of his deep knowledge and excellent writing, including links to all his available works.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An interview with me on Nyki Blatchely's blog

Today, Nyki is hosting me at his blog with this interview. We chat about the Unburied Treasure anthology, Spire City, and the future, among other things. Check it out, and stay tuned here tomorrow (probably) for a rather different interview I conducted with him...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Podcast of "Planet Jumpers"

Even though I knew this was coming out around now and had been watching for it to appear at the EDF website (and in my email), somehow this slipped through without me noticing a few days ago. But here it is now, "Planet Jumpers" as read by Alexander Jones. It's really fun to hear someone else reading something I've written.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Episode 13, the season finale!

Here it is, the confrontation we've been building toward between Mint and Chels. As always, available directly from Musa and also from all the usual online bookstores (and likely some unusual ones as well), once it gets added, which can sometimes be immediate and sometimes take a few days, depending on the store. After this episode, life in the Weave will never be the same. And you'll have to wait until the end of November to see how that plays out...

So take this opportunity to get caught up on this first book/season. Or finally take the plunge and get started, if you hadn't earlier. And please, spread the word with me. If you've got a cousin or a coworker who would just love this story, let them know. And we'll see what kind of momentum we can get building for Season Two: Pursued!

(I've also added the trailer I posted the other day to YouTube now, so feel free to give it some views, votes, shares, etc.)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A time travel story published in this anthology

There was some communication confusion last month when this was published, so I'm finally now getting around to posting about this story. I was approached about sending in a story for a contest. I didn't have any time travel stories on hand, so I wrote one that would fit with my Italo Calvino-esque Yahm Railroad stories in terms of style, "Village of the Time Travelers." The story is now included in this anthology of 16 time travel stories.

It's a twisty, whimsical story of a village that exists (existed? will exist) in many locations, perhaps every location, but only in a single moment in time.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Sneak Peek preview of the season one trailer

I've been playing around a bit with Animoto to create a brief book trailer for season one of Spire City. Animoto limits free users to 30 seconds, and there aren't a lot of ways to customize it, but it's a fun exercise, nonetheless, and I like how this one has come out. I'm still experimenting with other options on the site and may look into one or more other sites as well, and possibly try out some other layouts, too. Now if I only had the cover art for season 2, I could get started on creating one for that as well...

Give it a look, and feel free to share the link to anyone you think might be interested!

Spire City, Season One: Infected

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Spire City art!

Look at that. Very cool image. I actually received this one over a week ago, so if you're on Facebook you may have seen it then. Lydia and Isaia also posted on their blog about the design process for this picture, which was very fun to see how it all came together. The carriage, the beetle, the people dashing away in fear. There's so much to like about this one. One of my favorite parts is actually the hint of the spires that makes the skyline. It's the perfect finishing touch to all the other details in this.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Episode 12, "In Claw's Catacombs"

So, in case I haven't convinced you to immerse yourself in the idea of serial fiction, in case my arguments about how the built-in periods of reading and waiting, reading and waiting haven't sold you on the idea, no worries!

Episode 12 is out today, the penultimate episode of season 1. And since season 1 is roughly a book length (about 65k-70k words, I believe, though that was adding everything up before the final round of edits, which probably added slightly to the total), this gives you exactly three weeks to read most of the book and get to the final episode at the same time as those who've been reading it all along.

So thank you, faithful readers of the series, and binge away new and/or skeptical ones. This episode again introduces some big changes to Marrel's band in the Weave, and completely overturns their assumptions about life deep beneath the streets.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Season Three is a go!

With two episodes remaining in season one, "Infection," it may seem odd to be signing contracts already for season three, but we're getting close to starting work on season two ("Pursued") right now, and some aspects of that season were going to be affected by whether or not season three would follow. So...all contracts are now signed and plans laid for season three, "Unwoven." The title of the final episode of season three? "All Things Must Complete." For those who've been following the series...a rather ominous title for Chels and company.

Just this past week I've also begun going through a round of self edits on the first episode of season three, and I'm feeling quite thrilled with how it's fitting together. Inevitably there will be times when I question (life, the universe, and) everything, so I'm doing my best to make use of this excitement and get the early episodes of season three looking smooth and intense. Very cool things in store for all Spire City readers!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New art for Spire City

I commissioned World Beyond Art to do a few drawings for Spire City and just got back the first one. I have to say I love what they've done with the vague ideas I sent them. This is a Spire Singer--could be Derran but not necessarily--chained to the top of a spire, in full Byronic mode. Amazing work, and can't wait to see the next one.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Episode 11 "The Stranger" plus two interviews

I just got back from a good vacation in the mountains. While we were traveling, episode 11, "The Stranger," was released. I've talked before about status quo episodes and change episodes. This is definitely a change episode, as are the rest of the remaining episodes for season 1. In the middle of a snowstorm, a stranger sits outside the Weave, raving. Is he merely drunk? Feverish with the plague? Mad? regardless, his presence brings them the one thing they want to avoid, notice.

Also while we were traveling, I had two interviews I'd done earlier posted. The first interview was with Lydia Kurnia, who coordinated the artwork for the anthology Unburied Treasures. Always a pleasure to work with Lydia. The interview covers not just the story in the anthology, but Spire City, CLASH! Dawn of Steam, short fiction in general...and drugged out jellyfish. Of course.

The second interview appeared on the Musa blog. These were three questions I'd answered a while back to be filler for whenever Sloane Taylor needed a last-minute post. It gives a good feel for how I came up with the setting for the Spire City stories and how the characters developed as I wrote them. As one commenter responded there, it can be hard to kill off characters...and yet sometimes a writer must be ruthless...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CLASH! Dawn of Steam returns!

This game returns for a new Kickstarter campaign with a scaled back launch of only a single 2-played box set instead of two (and some other tweaks and changes to bring down the goal). Still looks like a very fun game, and some of the tiers include the full 80-page world book, which includes all my stories for the game as well as concept art and other cool things. So give it a look. The art is great, and the gameplay looks like a good balance of easy to learn but with a lot of potential for more advanced strategizing.

After just a single day, it's already closing in on $4k and 100 backers. So hopefully this time it can maintain that momentum and get full funding.

Speaking of my stories, the final one, which never came out during the last campaign, is online now: Braetak Xao is an Edenite, a sort of half-lion, half-human being who has recently inherited the throne of his island home. He leads an army against the dwarves who are stealing his people's trees and destroying their land in the process.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My favorite dad memory for Fathers Day

My dad is not a runner. He was always (and continues to be) active. He would go swimming every week and take long walks and the occasional bike ride, but running always seemed somehow too undignified for him. It wasn't that he imposed this view on others--two of my brothers and I all did some sort of running for high school sports (and college for two of us), and he never acted as if there was anything wrong with that, but it wasn't for him.

There were two times I can remember him running. One was to cross a busy Washington DC street when we were there on vacation (notably the only vacation I can recall when we went to a large city rather than a national park or other outdoorsy, scenic beauty sort of place). The other was when I was about 10 or 11 years old.

My grade school every year had a running club where we'd keep track of how many miles we ran in the spring and try to reach either 25 or 50 miles, depending on which club we joined. I decided one day to knock off three miles, the longest run I'd attempted at the time. We'd figured out the exact places on our county roads to turn around for different distances, and I was just doing the one-mile route three times in a run. That meant running down to the highway, jogging in place until I could cross, and running up the gradual hill to a particularly large clump of bushes next to a field. Then I'd run back, past our house and the neighboring cemetery, and turn around at the far side of the next neighbor's property, ending back at my driveway.

On the second time through, two boys were walking along the road where I turned around, and they asked me some questions. What was I doing? Was I tired? How many times was I going to be doing this? Where did I live? Why? Did I often run that far? One was about my age, maybe a bit younger. The other was older by a couple years.

My parents were out walking at the time, and as I passed the house to begin my third mile, they were just coming back. I must have said, "Hi," but I don't really remember.

When I came back up the hill for the third time, I passed the two kids, turned around at the bush, and saw them standing in the middle of the country road, cutting me off. The older one grabbed the hood of my sweatshirt when I tried to run past. "I'm going to let my little brother punch you."

Even growing up in a family of four boys, I was not a fighter. I'd certainly never been in a fistfight, so I had no idea what to do. They tried to egg me into throwing the first punch, but I wouldn't. No one was around. No cars were out to make us get off the road. No one was out in the yard sof any of the few houses on that stretch. When I told them (begged them, probably) to let me by, they said, "Yeah, who's going to make us?"

At that moment I looked up and saw someone else on the road. Running toward us. I didn't recognize him at first, in my fear, but I simply pointed and said, "Him." They took one look, and ran the other way. It was only when I got closer that I realized it was my dad. He made sure I was OK, and then as I continued home he chased the kids on up the road to figure out who they were. They ended up losing him when they went ran off into the property of an old abandoned house that we always said ought to be haunted.

When I tried to figure out what made him realize I was in trouble, all he'd say is that I'd seemed worried when I passed them earlier. I don't remember feeling worried yet then, but it was the only explanation I ever had. That image of looking up and seeing him running toward me to rescue me is one that I'll never forget.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spire City episode 10 released

A couple days late here (kids' summer slowing down pretty much anything I might like to get done at the computer...), but episode 10 "Lady Janshi's Treasure" was released last Friday. In this one Chels and friends discover strange things, both beneath the city and in the church of their friend Priestess Chemille. One of those discovers could well solve many of the Weave's money difficulties, if they stoop to stealing from a friend. Available directly from Musa as well as from all the usual online bookstores.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Planet Jumpers" published in Every Day Fiction

I received my subscriber email from EDF yesterday with my story, "Planet Jumpers," in it. It appears it went up on the website the day before.

This was one of the many stories I've written that began as a one-hour challenge. Two major inspirations are at play in it. One is Italo Calvino's story about how the moon used to be much closer to the earth and how the people (of some sort) in those days used to go back and forth from one to the other. It's one of the t-zero or Cosmicomics stories narrated by Qfwfq. Scientifically it makes no sense, but it's such a lovely and rich story that the science doesn't matter. The other source is a detail from Gene Wolfe's Book of the Short Sun. In that series, there are two planets, and the alien natives of one of them are able to jump between planets (or claim they are able to, or the narrator believes they are able to--one always has to be cautious about this kind of thing in Wolfe's books, and especially when it was a series I read only once and that was years ago). There are reasons to question this ability, not just the science of it, but within the story. But the image was a fun one. So those two ideas came together as I wrote this. Where the alien species came from and the idea of their intense breeding programs, well, I don't recall any specific inspiration for that, just the whimsy of my mind.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Episode 9, Calling in the Press

Episode 9 is live today! In this one, Chels decides on a bold move to make the people of Spire City realize what Orgood's infection is doing and where it comes from. Will her plan make things better for those who are infected, or will it backfire?

I've been thinking again recently about how I structured these episodes when I wrote them. There's a balance between moving the season-long and series-long arcs forward and a sort of return-to-status-quo, in the style of many sitcoms and other TV shows. Firefly was definitely forefront in my mind as I worked through this part of the series, so even if no one else sees the influence, I can see how certain aspects of the stories drew from that show.

Some episodes fall quite cleanly within one of those camps, and especially at this point of the first season, more of them are return-to-status-quo stories. Think of them as those fun episodes like "Jaynestown," full of adventure and conflict, but not adding much toward the big arc of the show, especially the mystery of River and the agents who are pursuing them.

Other episodes have a much more obvious connection to the series arc. We're working on the final tweaks of the last few episodes of season 1, and there's a definite ramping up of the confrontation with Orgood coming. My recollection is that season 2 has much more of a long-arc focus (though I haven't looked too closely at those stories in a while). And season 3 has its own twists on that balance.

I won't say here whether "Calling in the Press" is more status-quo or arc-focused. But I will say that this one has some major consequences for events in season 2 and beyond.

Available from all the usual suspects.

Friday, May 09, 2014

"Apprentice in the Steam Library" sold to Villainous Press

I've sold a steampunk short story to a new anthology coming out from Villainous Press. I'll give more details when I know more about the release and other information, but the idea behind the anthology is that these are all steampunk stories not directly tied to London or New York or other places in the real world. My story is actually set in Spire City, though the name is never used. Readers of Spire City: Infected will even find one little reference to the characters of the serial, which should be fun for them.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Alas for CLASH! Dawn of Steam...but not the end!

The Kickstarter campaign for CLASH! Dawn of Steam ended today. It earned 230 backers and over $12,600 toward its goal, which is a most respectable campaign in many ways...but not quite enough to meet its goal. All is not lost, though. Mad Ape Games is already working on a scaled-back campaign with only one 2-player boxed set and some other adjustments to lower the costs. So there will be more, and I'll be sure to post a link when that happens.

In the meantime, two more of my stories did appear (one as I was frantically getting ready for a road trip to Iowa, and one while we were there, which is my excuse for not posting the links at the time).

Kaira Haedes is a bat-riding, blood-magic-casting Herald of Fear. Rather than brute force, she uses magic and trickery to bring down a city.

Arandor Lantheiin is as much a staple of typical epic fantasy as anything I've likely written in years, an elven king with great knowledge of ancient magic. The story is pure epic fantasy, the heroes besieged in an impregnable fortress--or so they hope--and a powerful force camped outside their walls, trying to break through. But you should know by now that the story won't end up as predictable as that might sound.

So give them a read, and let them whet your appetite for the new, revised campaign for the game in a few weeks or so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flash fiction sale to Every Day Fiction

I got an email last night telling me I'd sold a flash fiction story to Every Day Fiction. This one had an earlier rewrite request, and their comments helped make the story considerably stronger. It will be classified as science fiction, though as far as that, the story owes more to Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics tales than to any real science. The story should be out in the next month or two.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Some more CLASH! Dawn of Steam stories up

The Kickstarter for the game is going very well, over halfway to full funding at the moment, with many of the limited slots already claimed and closing in on 200 backers.

Two more stories have been published on Scribd over the past few days. Raven Stormshroud is a gunslinging, steampunk sky pirate. She is stuck on a flying city, besieged and not liking it. Every attempt she makes to break free only leads to disaster. Saeria Ilythia is a young elf (perhaps the first elf I've written about since high school...) who is bringing new, high tech to her people. Something strange is happening to the trees, though. This time, defending the tree city may have to begin in the lab she's created beneath the roots of a massive tree.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Mint, the Sleepless One (Episode 7)

Episode 7 is out today! This marks a significant shift in the narrative and has always been one of those episodes I've pointed to as showing what makes serial fiction so interesting. Mint, as you may know from the last couple of episodes, is an associate of the mad scientist Orgood. Chels and company realize that there's something odd about him, but only here as we switch to his perspective do readers discover just how and why he seems that way. There's a noir-ish feel to his voice here, which I hope readers will enjoy.

If this had been a traditional novel, I suspect some readers would react poorly to such a shift at this midpoint in the story, but as an episode in a serial fiction, it works to create a different view of events and will hopefully add an extra dimension of tension in the rest of the episodes, as they return to the more typical narration from the perspectives of the members of the Weave.

As always, the episode is available directly from the publisher. You can also purchase it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online bookstores (though some are less prompt in uploading the new books than others).

Thursday, April 03, 2014

CLASH! Dawn of Steam Kickstarter

I haven't had a chance for a couple of days to sit down at the computer, but be sure to go visit the Kickstarter for CLASH! Dawn of Steam. I'm impressed with how quickly the game is getting backers (over 100 before day 2 was up), and pleased with the reception my stories have been getting.

Throughout the month the stories will be used to help create buzz for the game. The first three have gone up already. Panstrom Swiftra is a dark and brooding sort of character, yet he's a champion of hope in the game. Zaraza Haedes is an ancient character who long ago sought out a magical weapon to save his people. He succeeded, but at a high cost to himself, because the weapon has corrupted him. He spent an age in exile and is returning now to create chaos. And Eve of Eden is a sky pirate. When her beloved island of Eden was threatened by the airships of the rest of the world, she took to the skies to defend it. Eve is quickly becoming a favorite character in the comments on the Kickstarter page.

I have to say that the game itself looks great. They've done a lot of testing to give it balance and plenty of opportunities for strategy, and the various characters give the game a lot of variety as you replay it. One of the limited levels has already been filled, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the others fill up soon, too. So be sure to check it out soon if strategy games and card interest you at all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing with Children (post up on the Musa blog)

And I was right about my next guest post going up today. Writing with Children is about finding the time to write, even when it seems like there's no time. I'd love to hear some more tips from others for what's worked for you, not only parents but everyone who's managed to squeeze in some writing time in and around a busy schedule. So give it a read and add your own comment at the end. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent blog posts elsewhere

Yesterday I had a blog post on the Darkside Codex blog, How Addiction Came to Southwatch. This explores a bit how I came up with The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame out of the raw material of the Darkside Codex bible.

And last week I also had a post up on the Penumbra blog, this one full of bad poetry. Or cheap parody? Something like that. It's called Beyond Heaven is part of a month-long series of posts by Penumbra writers answering the question of what a heaven designed for writers would look like. Hint: it begins with coffee.

One more guest blog post is coming up later this week. Maybe even tomorrow...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Episode 6: Completing the Map

Those who've been reading these episodes as they come out should feel a small frisson as they read that title: "completing" is a fraught word in Spire City, among the infecteds...

These first six episodes of season 1 form a unit of sorts, with their own arc within the longer arcs of the season as a whole and the series. So for anyone who hasn't been reading these all along, this is a great time to start. Are you more of a binge reader than a wait-patiently-between-episodes reader? Then grab these six episodes now and binge your way through them.

And if you have been reading them already, then take this time to recommend them to another avid reader you know.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First story for CLASH! Dawn of Steam is online

The first of the eight stories I'm writing for CLASH! Dawn of Steam has now been added to Scribd. Panstrom Swiftra, despite his gloomy appearance, fights as a Champion of Hope in the card game.

I'm currently writing the rough draft for the fifth story, and I think readers of many kinds will find these to be fun stories.

Monday, March 10, 2014

An interview with me about the Darkside Codex

The Darkside Codex blog had been relatively dormant for a while, but there's been a lot more activity lately. Some of that have been posts digging more into the shared world setting. And then there's an interview with me about "The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame" which went up last week (and which I only noticed this morning that it had already gone live). Fun stuff all throughout.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Skin Stealer published

My story "The Skin Stealer" is in the latest issue of Penumbra. This is my third time to have a story in Penumbra (fourth if you include the story reprinted in the best of year 1 issue), which is great. It was a story I wrote specifically for the theme, which is "A Night at the Villa Diodati." The reference is to the writing prompt that led John Polidori to write the first English-language vampire novel, Vampyre, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to write Frankenstein (as well as never-finished horror stories by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron).

The first thought for this story came awhile back, when my kids were in a zombie phase (inspired by Plants vs. Zombies or Zombie Farm or something like that). And I thought, there's vampires that drink blood and zombies that eat brains. I'm not interested in writing about either of them, so what else could a horror monster steal? Maybe some other day I'll write about a breath-breather, but for now at least you can read about the skin stealer.

Check it out!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Diversity in our writing, interview with Nicholas Mena

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to an interview Nicholas Mena did with me about diversity in fantasy. Now he's asked me to interview him as well. We focused on his novel (series) Glass City.

Tell us a bit about Glass City. How did the story develop for you?
Glass City is actually a very old idea for me. When I was a teenager, I was very into being game master for about a dozen RPG worlds I invented (I still have most of them in those old, black and white marble exterior composition notebooks). Glass City was an urban world I invented where my friends could play as an echidna (a vampire), a lycanthrope (werewolf), a homunculus, warlock, rei, or undine. I had tried writing this world as a short story and a novel unsuccessfully in the past, but this time, I finally had more direction and a clearer path to follow. Having all of the support at FWO was a big help to finishing the first draft. I owe a lot of folks a steak dinner if the book ever sells.

You rotate among four different narrators for this story. What challenges did that give you? What did you do to make each of them distinct?
It took several tries to get the distinction between the four point of view people right. Since my people are very real for me in my head, hence the fact that I don’t use the word “characters”, it took some venturing into splitting my own personality and giving each persona a very distinct voice. June was determined but questioning. David was a self-depreciating nerd. Maya was seductive but emotionally damaged, and Carlos was prideful and a bit co-dependent. I then made the chapter headings connected to each of the four main people, but I wanted a twist there, so I used the food that each creature race ate: blood, skin, breath, and flesh.

You use some traditional elements, like vampires and werewolves, as well as others that are (I believe) your own creations. Are there specific traditions you looked to for those established creatures/beings? And are there any folk tale or legendary/mythological sources for the ones you've invented? Did you have any difficulty making the various creatures mesh in a single story?

Even though all the creature names existed in literature, I wanted to make them all specifically mine. One trait I added was that they were all mongrel creatures in that they were essentially human but with demon blood mixed into them in very specific ways to create each creature. I also had each mongrel race have a patron or matron demon who originated each creature. One of these demons is introduced in this story, and he makes another appearance in the sequel wherein the origin of the first warlock is revealed. While all of the creature races have varying origins, I embedded a purpose for their being brought together in Glass City. Part of the back story was that when the persecution of their kind was at its zenith, several of the race leaders agreed to move to this secluded city and live peacefully there. They made arrangements with certain human groups to ensure the peace held and to switch their diets from humans to animals, which were shipped in large quantities to the city. The current state of Glass City is that the established peace has fallen and each group is on the verge of all-out war when these four individuals are introduced to the drastic changes in their lives.

You're from the U.S. Virgin Islands and live there now, though you spent some time living elsewhere. In what ways does St. Croix itself and the culture you grew up in play into Glass City? And what about the time you spent away from there? Does June's homecoming in the first chapter at all reflect your own return home?

Does June’s homecoming reflect my own... yeah, I guess it does, now that you mention it. My island home always has a way of popping up in my prose. Most of my settings in my stories are islands in some form. I drew on a trip I took to Manhattan when I was the director of photography of a documentary I was making with some friends there. It served as inspiration for most of the urban elements and themes of bright lights and glass exteriors hiding the true darkness of a place in plain sight. Above all else, my Crucian background lends itself to the diverse cultural makeup I tend to have in my stories. St. Croix was a place that after the transfer from the Danish to the US, and in subsequent eras, there were financial upturns and job opportunities that were largely filled by immigrants. You’d actually have a hard time finding someone on St. Croix whose family goes back several generations since so many of us, myself included, are second and third generation immigrants. My mother’s side came from Vieques, Puerto Rico and my father’s side is from the Dominican Republic. Often, when I’m in the need for a richly cultural fantasy name, I’ll open up my high school yearbook and find gems like Kishma, Sunil, Jacob-el, or Chichester.

You also have some background in film-making and have used those skills in your non-profit work with children. How do you see that work affecting your writing? What skills carry over from one medium to the other, and what's completely different?

When it comes to teaching kids about video production, photography, and writing skills, it’s like getting a fresh perspective on everything. I would compare it to folks with young children who talk about experiencing things with their kids and seeing the world like it’s the first time all over again. I also love the fact that I am passing on something useful into the world.

An interesting thing about screenplay writing is that it forces you to funnel your senses. When you are writing for the screen, you only have two senses through which everything can be experienced: sight and sound. You can’t smell the movie or taste or touch it. But this limitation, in turn, teaches you to pay attention to your senses and how you perceive the world since you have to make the other senses evident through sight and sound. You can’t sell the taste of the steak, but you can sell the sizzle.

The downside to this screen-writers’ perspective is that it can make your writing very tell-y. We often forget that we have access to those other senses in prose writing so our descriptions can often end up telling rather than showing. For me, that lends itself to filtered descriptions where I tell how a person felt or smelled something rather than just saying what was touched or showing the aroma, but I’m getting better at catching those every day.

You're currently working on the second Glass City book. How is that going? What's next for it and for you?

The second book is drafted and I’m actually a few pages into the third. It still needs a complete overhaul, though. What I’d really like to see is the series becoming popular enough so that I don’t have to keep doing my soul-sucking night job and can just stick to my nonprofit work. To be frank, I’d love to see it coming out similar to your Spire City series. I always thought the multiple perspectives would lend well to episodic publication like that.

Although, my aspiration is to have my other novella, Cayuyé, be published as that is my dream story and the most fitting tale for my brand. My Spanish-speaking relatives and friends have said that they would love to see that one as a telenovela.

I've enjoyed following your month of interviews related to diversity in fantasy. Are there any things that especially struck you during those interviews—things that are excellent or things that are lacking? What would you hope to see other people take from this and apply to their own writing and reading?

Another writer friend I interviewed asked me a similar question where she kind of turned the tables on me and asked what I was looking for when it came to second world fantasy. I think it’s the same when it comes to all literature writing in general. Diversifying your writing isn’t about forced perspectives or having to change what you want to write to satisfy some new politically correct norm. I think it’s more about what makes people want to keep reading a crusty-old genre like ours, the fact that we are always delving into unexplored territory. We’re fantasy writers. We all have the power within us to take the mundane and make it into something fantastic. There’s no excuse for sticking to the old tried and true methods. We’re not Hollywood executives regurgitating the same tripe we know will sell easily. It’s like what Dorothy Zbornak from The Golden Girls said about motherhood. “If it was easy, fathers would do it.” We write it because it’s hard, because it tests us and takes us to new places and new experiences and explores territory we sometimes didn’t know we had inside of us. I think that is the main lesson of diversity in fantasy writing: above all else, don’t be boring!

My thanks to Nick. And don't forget to read the other interviews over at Sancocho Pot.