Thursday, April 30, 2015

Guest post for Sam Knight

This actually went up a couple of weeks ago, and I neglected to mention it here... I had a guest post at the blog of Sam Knight, who is the editor for the Steampunk: The Other Worlds anthology. It's about the story in that anthology, Spire City...and Mario Vargas Llosa. Am I above mentioning my own writing in the same breath as a Nobel Prize winner's? Not at all, not at all...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spire City pre-orders

If you prefer to order your Spire City episodes from Amazon, you can now pre-order all of episodes 1-6 at one time. That way as soon as the episode is published, each Monday, it will immediately be ready for you on your device.

The rest of Season One: Infected should be ready for pre-order within the next week or so. There is a deliberate arc to these first six episodes, though, so they form a sort of unit. Each episode stands alone, but they move toward a climax here (and then an even bigger climax at the end of season 1), with a big change for some characters that propels them along into the rest of the overarching story.

I will continue to be open for subscriptions as well, but if you prefer to deal with Amazon, then now's a great time to pre-order these first six episodes.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Behind the story "Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos"

On Monday my short story "Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos" went live on Strange Horizons (also in podcast form, wonderfully read by Anaea Lay). Obviously I'm proud of the story and thrilled to have it in Strange Horizons. When I first started reading short fiction, SH and the shortly lived Lennox Avenue were the two that I focused on, reading not just to see if I had stories that might fit, but to learn from the stories that they published. Now almost ten years later to see my name in that long-familiar format is very cool.

So where in the world did this story come from? I mentioned when it was accepted that the title of the story comes from a line of a poem by Rubén Darío, "Era un aire suave." I was playing around with translating the poem, and the last line of the first stanza translates literally as "among the sobs of the cellos" (violoncello is an older English word for the instrument, now rarely used but still around, I guess: Spanish retains the full word, violoncelo). I liked the flow of the line better with "sighs" and went with the older English term.

That's about as far as I got with the translation, but I really liked the line itself and thought it should be the title to a short story. So I created a file in Google docs, gave it that title...and then sat there. I had no story. Sometimes having a title, I can trick myself into writing even without knowing the story, but it didn't work that time.

The file sat empty for days. Weeks. Months. Periodically I'd look at it sitting there in my Google docs and think I should just delete the file, since it wasn't even a draft I should keep in case it proved useful at some point. But I never did.

The problem was, Darío's poem centers on a garden party of high society and the flirtatious, sometimes cruel marquesa who presides over the party. But...high society rarely inspires my stories. Given the time period of the original poem, a steampunk story could have fit great, and there's definitely a tradition in steampunk for the parties of society. And while I have nothing against reading such stories, it's one part of steampunk that I've never been tempted to write about. My stories (steampunk or otherwise) almost always focus on the down and out people, people struggling to get by. Every time I thought of trying to set a story in a fancy garden party, I lost interest before I'd written a single sentence.

Certainly, the title didn't demand the same setting as the poem. But it was so strong in my mind, that I couldn't pry it free to do something completely different.

Then finally last summer, I was thinking about Darío and the modernist movement in Spanish poetry. For them, the perfect symbol of ideal beauty was the swan. And without thinking ahead, I starting writing about a perfect swan, made of clockwork, and realized that its perfection would drive away any real swans. There! I had my entry into the story at last. The playful whimsy of wish-tails and prophetic flowers and a fairy-tale tree just accrued, all with the undercurrent of these never-quite-identified workers (servants? slaves? captive duende creatures?) who narrate the story--it was the perfect balance to keep me invested in the story.

The only thing that's left to mention is that I nearly deleted it before submitting it. After I finished, I became wrapped up in some other things--a middle grade novel I wrote for my son, then the bundle releases for Spire City season one and the beginning of season two (back when Musa was still publishing the series), and a surge of short story writing that I dove into near the end of the year. When I came up from that, I'd half forgotten that I'd written the story. Looking around my Google docs files, I again had that thought I'd had periodically earlier: should I still keep this empty file, or just delete it? It was only the briefest question, before I remembered that it wasn't an empty file at all... So I took it back out, revised it and polished it and sent it in to Strange Horizons as soon as they opened for subs for the new year.

And that was that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spire City returns!

Well, ever since Musa's sudden closure, I've taken my time weighing options and planning what best to do about the Spire City series. More than half of season two and all of season three were still unpublished, but rather than plowing on ahead with those, I've decided to start over from the beginning. Starting on May 4, Season One: Infected returns!

This time around, though, I'm fixing the two things that seemed most frustrating for readers: first, no more waiting three weeks between episodes. This time through, a new episode will come out every single Monday, until the end of July. Thirteen weeks, thirteen short-story-length episodes.

Second, I'm offering a subscription option, something that logistically never panned out with Musa. I've got everything set up now to take a simple Paypal payment (to danielausema [at] Then every Monday I'll send you the latest episode, in whichever file format you prefer.

And because this has already been released, I'm offering this season to new readers at a very low price of $5.00 US. For that you get thirteen episodes plus the single-file, book-length bundle at the end of season one's run (and possibly other deals along the way).

You can still, if you choose, buy the episodes directly from Amazon or B&N. In fact, on Amazon, the pre-order page is already live, and I'm hoping to have pre-order pages for at least the first handful of episodes within the next week. Whichever works better for you is fine with me.

So check out the Spire City tab above for more information about the series and to answer any questions you have. And get ready for a New Weird-influenced, steampunk fantasy about outcasts fighting the powers that be.