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!