New Fiction: Self-Sustaining

Theo is a monk–or as near to it as makes no difference–but don’t worry about it if he invites you to dinner. You won’t be left with bread and water. Although he may deny himself the pleasures of the flesh, he is generous with his hospitality–and his money.

Tonight, he hosts dinner with his chief researcher who’s just made one of the biggest applied biology breakthroughs in history; the culmination of a lifelong dream, and a grand occasion for the greatest hospitality he’s ever shown.

Being a kindly soul, it has never occurred to Theo that there can be too much of a good thing. His guest, however, may have ideas of his own…

Now available for your Kindle, Nook, and all other readers.

—Story Sample Below the Cut—
Continue reading New Fiction: Self-Sustaining

Failing the Wikipedia Test

Writing fiction in the age of the Internet can be fraught for the author who values authenticity–particularly if you write historical or technical fiction. Since the glorious thing about writing fiction is that you essentially make shit up to entertain other people, there are a range of opinions about the technical rigor to which writers should aspire.

I’m one of those poor tortured souls who is a stickler for detail, to the point where I’m rarely able to meet my own standards when I write–but, let’s face it. If anyone wrote like that, they’d either write only in their area of historical specialty or after years of research. The trick with writing is to create a successful illusion, not a master’s thesis. Besides, the vast majority of readers aren’t the kind of obsessive compulsive pain in the ass that I am–a lucky thing!–so there’s a certain amount we authors can count on getting away with.

Still, I can’t help but think there’s some level of rigor that one ought to aspire to. Some minimal standard–particularly since the stories we professional liars tell often form people’s view of the past long after their high school and college history classes are long-forgotten–must surely be in order. Something that we can at least hold up to keep ourselves from being embarrassed at conventions when a fan calls us out on an obvious boneheaded anachronism?

There might just be one. Let’s call it “The Wikipedia Test.” Continue reading Failing the Wikipedia Test

Released: We Create Worlds

Rick is a scurrilous, irascible scoundrel, with a heart of gold—not because he’s warm and fuzzy underneath, but because his heart is totally devoted to money. His favorite goldmine is his shop, where he vends virtual reality and manufactured novels. He keeps his customers happy, and he always knows the right party to hit to find a pliable college girl with more cocaine than sense. Life is good. But life has a way of doing unexpected things, and the world has a way of changing around the most adaptable people.

Step into Rick’s parlor. Don’t mind the bell on the door or the old fashioned cash register. Buy a manufactured novel, fresh from the computer—a first edition. Sit in the easy chair or lay out on the sofa. Strap on a helmet and a skinsuit and take a swim on Europa. He can be trusted. Really. It says so on the door. In ten foot high letters, right above the shop front, he tells you exactly what they do:

“We Create Worlds”

And they do it on the cheap.

You can find the story at Amazon and Smashwords.

—Story Sample Below the Cut—
Continue reading Released: We Create Worlds

Released: Train Time

Have you ever seen that well-dressed man at the airport, or the station, who stands patiently by as if he has all the time in the world? Have you wondered who he was waiting for, and how long he’d stay? Have you ever been that man, stuck in the hours between delay and disappointment, with no way to know if the person you’re waiting for will show? Let fancy take you to the mountains of Northern Italy at the dawn of the 22nd century for the story of a woman and a train–and of a walking stick and the man who owns it, as he waits for Train Time.

You can find the story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Below, you can find a sample.


—Story Sample Below The Cut—
Continue reading Released: Train Time

The Fonthead (An Epic, of sorts)

Even if I’m lucky enough to be in that generation that gets to live past a hundred and twenty, I doubt I will ever reconcile myself to fonts. I love fonts–I’ve been doing graphic design now for the better part of a decade. Titles, book covers, book layouts, pamphlets, movie posters–you can’t get away from fonts for defining the look and feel of something with words on it.

So, fonts are cool.


Well, fonts are weird. I laid out a cover for a short story earlier this week, and this particular story needed a different font-ish approach than I normally take with the covers for my short stories. Finding the right font involved typing the relevant text at the appropriate sizes, and then cycling through my font database.

Let me tell you, if you want to have a transcendental experience, there’s not a lot you could do that would be more effective than testing fonts.
Continue reading The Fonthead (An Epic, of sorts)

Fans Making A Difference

Most people why buy a book or pick it up from the library just want to read it–that’s an excellent thing! Sometimes, though, us authors get email from fans who, for whatever reason, what to know what extra they can do. If you’re in that camp, this is for you. If that doesn’t describe you, you’re gonna be bored or annoyed by much of what follows 😉

Let’s say you’ve found an author you love with a series you adore (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t?). If you’ve been a reader long enough, you’ve experienced the frustration of an orphaned series–where the publisher just drops things mid story, and the next book is never written. You might even have gotten very annoyed with the author for it, and confronted them at a convention or a signing, only to be told it’s out of their hands.

Unfortunate though it might be, the truth is that the success of a series lies in your hands. You may be just one of thousands of readers, but it only takes a handful out of every thousand readers to make a huge difference in how a book does on the open market.

Seanan McGuire a.k.a. Mira Grant and Gail Carriger have both recently chimed in recently on how you can help an author out, and it caused a bit of a shitstorm on twitter–I suspect that storm is a by-product of the interesting times we live in in publishing.
Continue reading Fans Making A Difference

Literary Studies, Anyone?

Disclaimer: What follows is a rant about something that can screw up the creative process. This post is more esoteric than is normal for this blog. It contains a lot of jargon, and talks a lot about academic politics and social history, and it won’t interest everybody. Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t signal a change of direction for the blog. I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff about contracts, stories, podcasting, and my general flavor of nutiness.

Last night on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog I made a snarky comment about the deleterious effect of a Literary Studies degree (or, in my case, 90% of a Lit degree) on creativity. The comment went something like this:

A Literary Studies course is the worst thing you can do for your creativity, other than bashing your skull in with a mallet while reciting the lyrics to “The Song That Never Ends”

Needless to say, this caused a minor row in the twitterverse among my fellow literati, and I received a few demands to justify myself (which is not easy to do on the best of days, let alone in 140 characters or less), so, in the name of entertainment, here goes, in no particular order:

Continue reading Literary Studies, Anyone?

Who’s an Outlier, Again?

A funny thing happens during times of great industrial upheaval: Everyone wants a piece of the new deal, but nobody wants to take what they perceive to be a risk. Most established players retrench, hold on to what’s familiar, and try to shout down anyone with a contravening opinion. It’s human nature to get defensive when one perceives a threat to one’s view of the universe.

In the midst of the upheaval in the publishing industry, I’m seeing this a lot. As agents are conning their clients into unethical business arrangements (and kudos to Peter Cox and Kristen Nelson for going on record about the danger this represents to writers), editors with excellent reputations are getting kicked off writing forums for providing data on the change, publishers are defrauding their authors and engaging in massive rights grabs, breaking the rules can earn you some pretty serious grief from other writers who are following the rules and hoping they’ll get reputation points for it.

Trouble is, this isn’t first grade. There are no gold stars for following the rules. And a lot of people are breaking the rules.
And they’re winning.
Continue reading Who’s an Outlier, Again?

Unsuitable for Children?

So, Megan Cox Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal is concerned about the darkness in YA literature. It seems that such stories (written, as they are, for teenagers) might introduce unnecessary dreariness and misery into the otherwise sunny time of adolescence.

It raises the obvious question: At what age does an adult undergo a mandatory brain wipe and forget about what it’s like to be a teenager? Even teenagers with nothing evil happening in their lives directly know friends who have awful things going on. More than that, teenagers are coming to grips with mortality and sex in two important respects: in both cases, they are confronting both the knowledge that they can make decisions that will give them power over the death and over the sexuality of other people, and with the equally uncomfortable realization that other people can have that kind of power over them (and that, at least with death, there will eventually be nothing they can do to stop it). This is to say nothing about their own desire both for sexual gratification and for some (safe) experience of violence and danger. Sex and death, folks. It don’t get more real, or dark, than that.
Continue reading Unsuitable for Children?