Works in Progress

Appearances, Book Talk

January is almost over, and while I have gotten to a point where I loath writing for the blog, the last entry was the one where I noted that my cat died. It’s probably time for us all to move on past that, especially since New Cat has already adopted a movement pattern in the house that presages me heading for the writing couch. He always gets there first and is flopped RIGHT where I’m going to sit.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I did my third Clarion West One-Day Workshop for a gaggle of attentive folks. They listened, they asked questions, and I didn’t spend too long making them watch the opening to John Boorman’s Point Blank. I’ll be back for another workshop in May. This time around, Greg Bear will be co-teaching with me. It’s called “Equine and Canine Paradoxes: Publishing and Collaborating in the Modern Age. Details are here

It will be the Dog and Pony Show of Writing Workshops, I promise you.

The next writing book is coming out in March, whether I’m finished tweaking it or not. Here’s the cover.

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It’s a continuation from Jumpstart Your Novel, and digs into the what and how of making a book after you’ve got your sexy outline.

About that same time, Night Shade Books is re-releasing Lightbreaker in a sexy trade edition.

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AND, a month later, the print version of The Potemkin Mosaic will be coming out.

Which is why I’m invisible online. My to-do list is very long.

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A Hint of Moon

Appearances, Book Talk

There’s a stretch of road that always makes my brain churn out content. I don’t really know why. It’s not a very interesting stretch of road, and at any given time, it can be terribly snarled with traffic. But, for some reason, along that ten mile ribbon of road, my mind gets to writing, and it always sounds fabulous in my head.

But the next morning, I can barely remember any of it (other than it sounding fabulous). I should learn to dictate to my phone, but the few times I’ve tried that, I become terribly self-conscious about the pauses and hiccups in my speech. Again: fabulous in the brain; not so fabulous when it materializes.

Perhaps there is just some sort of weather subduction zone along that stretch. Where the air pressure is different enough on the outside that my brain swells a little bit on the inside, and my perceptions of the world are a little skewed.

Illustration by Jerry Minor.

Illustration by Jerry Minor.

I was at the Starships and Sorcery Book Club meeting last night at the U Bookstore in Bellevue. They had read my collection The Court of Lies, and I was asked to come sit in on the discussion. I didn’t really have any idea how having the author sit in would play, and was delighted to spent almost two hours with the group chatting about all sorts of things. The lovely thing about reading a collection in a book club is that everyone can have a favorite (or not) and it doesn’t create divisions within the group. If you’re reading a novel and you don’t like it, you’re sort of stuck for the evening’s discussion, and probably more prone to sitting the session out entirely. Props to Olivia, Danny, and Jerry for pushing the collection on the group.

Plus there were waffles and Bloody Marys with bacon skewers. What’s not to like about a book club meeting with breakfast food?

A reader pointed out to me that I use the term ‘cat herder’ in my header, and as someone knew to reading my work, they didn’t know the history of that word in regards to the past few years. They were disappointed there were no cat pictures to be found on the website. Here now, rectifying that problem, is a picture of Enkidu. I realize there is only one cat, and implicit in the phrase ‘cat herder’ is the suggestion that there are enough cats to herd, but in the case of this ghostly orange cat, one is enough.

Cat in a box, properly herded.

Cat in a box, properly herded.

Earlier this week, I read at the Quarterly SFWA Reading Series event along with Scott James Magner and Randy Henderson. We were all celebrating the release of Randy’s first novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, which is a delightfully charming take on loving the dead—in this case the ’80s. Which, as Randy adroitly notes, haven’t truly died; they’re still shuffling along. Zombified Zeitgeist.

I read Chapter 4 from VERTIGO, and was pleased at the reaction I got from the audience. I think I’ve finally managed to sort out the issues with the name of the city, which has been one of those lingering world-building issues that have been dogging me for what? A decade now? Silly writer. Anyway, EMPIRE CITY -> the SPRAWL -> VERDIGRIS CITY -> VERTIGO. I think that’s settled finally.

Next week is Writing Time in the Woods. I hope to get another chunk of either FERAL or VERTIGO down, as well as some bits on BLACK MOON, a new project that takes its name from our current cycle of two new moons in January and March of this year, making February the month without a new moon. Good time to be in the woods, I suspect.

I’ve become somewhat curmudgeonly about projects, in that I have a preference these days to not want to talk about them until they are far enough along that they might actually be finished in the near future. The downside of this attitude is that I can very easily NOT say anything at all, which makes it easy to disappear as a creative. Which, in turn, does little to keep up a relationship with one’s audience.

“Hey, writer guy, whatcha working on?”

“Stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“New stuff.”

. . .

It’s not a very fulfilling conversation. For anyone.

I’ll leave you with a sliver of BLACK MOON. You know, the new stuff.

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Thinking about Harry Potemkin

Book Talk

I’ve turned in another draft of Eternal Queen materials for Worldspinner. This was an interesting project, with opportunities to flex my brain in new ways. The world of the Eternal Queen was reduced to a title card of “Pirates and Sea Monsters!” and I was asked to produce a short story, a dozen points of interest, and a dozen plot starters. The short story was easy. The points of interest were a bit more complicated in that they couldn’t necessarily reflect any given terrain or location as the Worldspinner engine will drop them randomly on the RPG maps when it generates them. And the plots were . . . well, it’s somewhat problematic to tell a writer to generate teasers for plots in less than 500 words. Writers tend to create situations for characters and then we want to spin them up and see what happens. Once spun up, there is a part of my brain that starts squawking, “And then what happened?”

The plots took a little while.

But the value of the whole experience is that I just spent a month or so doing a bunch of world-building for the Eternal Queen, which is going to help me immensely when I get to writing that book. My vision of that world takes place a hundred years after the material generated for Worldspinner. All of the major players will still be around, but a lot of the smaller plots I built will have little impact on the events of the book. I like that the Eternal Queen world will be out there on RPG maps and that people will be playing in it before the books come out. It’s pre-building an audience, if you will. Shamelessly so.

That’s done, and I’m getting back to FERAL in a few days, but I’m spending some of this week mulling over POTEMKIN again. It can still be read in its sprawling entirety at Farrago’s Wainscot, where it ran as part of the inaugural year. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to recreate this experience in a printed book, and the last pass resulted in us realizing that it should be a two-color book, which immediately made it expensive. And then we thought it should be a series of smaller books, nestled inside a box, which also made it expensive. And then we realized there was no real easy way to do hypertext or footnoting in an ebook, and we gave up.

But it gnaws at me still. I want to make a physical version of THE POTEMKIN MOSAIC, but I just don’t know if a) anyone will care, and b) if they do, will it be affordable? We’ve talked about Kickstarter and Patreon as options, but both have their pluses and minuses. And so on and so forth. But what really needs to be settled first is a vision. In a perfect world, what do I want it to look like?

First off, let’s start with the idea that the best approximation of hypertext in a printed format is multiple volumes. POTEMKIN needs to be consumed in a way that allows you to be distracted from where you started, yet still allows you to find your way back to where you were. Choose Your Own Adventure books always move you forward. You don’t worry about where you’ve been, and so “flip to page 38” is a perfectly functional way to explore a book. You don’t run the adventure again until you finish; at which point, it’s a new adventure. With POTEMKIN, what sends you back is your own desire to return to familiar narrative ground. To that end, separating the material into several blocks of text and presenting them as isolated objects allows for the reader to start in one book, reference another as necessary, and even pick up a third or fourth if the notes suggest as much. All without losing track of your place in the first book.

Which gives us:

THE DREAMS. The twelve dream entries in Harry’s dream journal.
THE LEXICON. The alphabetical listing of the various words and phrases that have intent within Harry’s oneiromantic journey.
TH3iR. The marketing material related to the experimental drug Bleak Zero.
THE AMAZON JOURNAL. The fragmented journal of Dr. Ehirllimbal, who ventured into the Oneiroi during a trip to the Amazon.
SAFIQ’S NOTEBOOK. The cryptic pieces from the Book of Dreams, written by the Persian mystic, Safiq Al-Kahir.
TALKING WITH NORA. The material that is mental transcriptions of conversations with Nora, the patient who disappeared into the Oneiroi under Harry’s care.
THE MAILING LIST. The collection of transcripts from the alt.oneirology.entheogens mailing list.

40K for the Dreams. 52K for the Lexicon. 8K for Ehirllimbal’s journal. 18K for the mailing list. And a couple thousand for the rest. All told, it’s about 120K, or 400 pages in a normal sized book.

As a single volume, this costs me about $5.00 a copy to make. A print run of 3,000 costs me $15K. I price it at $20, which nets me around $10, and I have to sell 1,500 of them to break even. And the question that I keep coming back to is: are there 1,500 people who want to disappear down this rabbit hole? And if so, are they going to be happy with flipping back and forth in a single volume, or would they really prefer spreading a bunch of books out on a desk and getting lost?

I looked at Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves the other day. For all his permutations and crawling into the margins, House of Leaves is still a forward moving narrative. POTEMKIN is not. It can be, but it’s not meant to be. Therein lies the crux of the head-scratching.

Anyway, more ruminating will happen. I’d be delighted to hear comments, thoughts, suggestions from anyone who has a reaction to the idea of experiencing POTEMKIN as a print volume. How would you like to see it presented? Would you prefer a halfway solution (a single volume) or would you prefer to embrace the experience fully (multiple volumes)? Would the full experience be something that you’d prefer to be limited, and possibly of higher production value (and cost)? Would you contribute to a Kickstarter for this? A Patreon? Would you like me to get back to you in a few weeks when you’ve extricated yourself from the madness that is Harry’s dreams?

This’ll keep. Or not. Because, as I mentioned, it’s gnawing at me.

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Get Your Reindeer

Book Talk

I’ve been remiss to talk up Rudolph! because I’ve been waiting for all the various format releases to get lined up, and that’s taken much longer than I ever anticipated. Now that we’re actually within spitting distance of Christmas, it’s probably time to start that machinery. So, yes, Rudolph! is out. You should go buy a couple of copies because it’s the best damn Christmas present you can get for those in your extended circle of friends.

In fact, it’s available as part of the Holiday Storybundle. Kevin J. Anderson has this great little platform where he offers bundles of ebook content in a very “pay what you will” manner. In this case, you get ten ebooks for around $20, which should be enough Christmas cheer for anyone. I was delighted to be asked to participate in this bundle, more so because, you know, Rudolph!. And it tickles me to no end that one of the other participants in this bundle is Dean Wesley Smith, who actually bought the original version of the opening section of Rudolph! many years ago.

If you prefer to keep your Christmas reading to a manageable level, you can get copies of Rudolph! at just about any retailer you like, physical or virtual. Everyone has copies, so don’t be shy.

If you’re the type who really prefers an audio book, well, you’re on hold. Sorry. ACX has been taking their sweet sweet time. It’s been uploaded and in the channel for nearly two months now, and we’re assured it is “headed to retail,” but that’s nearly as nebulous as “waiting for QA.” I’ll be sure to blast out a note when it is actually available, but trust me, we’re just as frustrated about the delay as you are. Especially since Emil Nicholas Gallina utterly rocked the reading.

Here’s a sample of his work on Rudolph, in fact.

Rudolph! is the first book to be released under my own banner at my own publishing company. This is the first step in the creation of a sustainable revenue stream that is distinct from all the travails and headaches of the traditional publishing models. It’s also an important part of how I get to keep writing as a career option. When folks ask how they can help, this is the answer. Buy an author’s books, especially the ones that generate real revenue for them.

Liking and retweeting and all that social media stuff is great to get the word out, and I love every bit of it that my own extended circle of friends does for me, but likes and tweets don’t pay my mortgage. People buying, reading, and sharing my books does. I appreciate all of your support, and I hope that Rudolph!–as quirky as it may seem–brings you some joy this holiday season.

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Updating the Wiring Cabinet

Book Talk

Shhh. I updated the backend of this site earlier today and then shoved most of the content back on. Yeah for modern technology that allows for such rapid redeployment of things. And now that we’re modern, I can start tweaking things to reflect some of that fancy new social media silliness. Because there are books coming out and all, and I need to keep abreast with keeping you abreast.  Especially ramtower, which was very distressed to learn that Court of Lies is out and I didn’t tell him.

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It’s out, by the way. Click on the image to see where you can find it. You can also read the *STARRED* review from Publishers Weekly. Which was very lovely to receive as PW has never cared overmuch for my fiction in the past.

Katabasis Release Day

Book Talk

It’s new Foreworld book day around here. This is Katabasis, the fourth volume in The Mongoliad Cycle, and the one that I will look back upon as being one of my favorites. The three volumes of The Mongoliad were a thrilling rollercoaster ride, but Katabasis holds a special place in my heart because it’s the book where there’s a lot of payoff. Not just for those who have been following The Mongoliad, but there are a number of little rewards for those who have been reading the SideQuests as well. Everything comes together—for me, at least—in Katabasis.

There’s one more to follow. Siege Perilous, written by our favorite stand-in, E. D. deBirmingham. There are a few loose ends regarding the Church and a mysterious cup that need resolving . . .

While we’ve been tumbling toward this date, I’ve been quietly getting things done on the Resurrection House front. The latest news post takes about getting distribution taken care of (PGW, for those who are following along), as well as news of a few acquisitions: two books by Darin Bradley and one by Forrest Aguirre. Fall 2014 is starting to shape up nicely. Now, to do editorial letters, source cover art and design, get the books into the system, and start the marketing machinery. Ah, there’s nothing like the “can do!” entrepreneurial spirit.

Clean Slate

Book Talk

I’m in the weird post-project stage. I’ve turned in Katabasis, which is the next volume in the Medieval Cycle of the Foreworld Saga, and the Foreworld SideQuests are ticking along without my direct involvement (read I’m not the one doing all the writing). The Skyhorse/Start asset acquisition of Night Shade Books has closed, which means the CODEX books and Earth Thirst will stay in print (yeah!), but I’m waiting for the dust to settle over there before we start talking about the next books in either of those series.

[Oh, yeah, NSB sold their assets. The pertinent details can be read at io9.com. If you wish to get a glimpse of how that sale went down, check out the related articles at io9. Given my personal relationship with the folks at Night Shade, I have no further comment about the deal.]

Over the weekend, I mailed off a pitch for a new project, and so I’m in wait mode there. Foreworld TV/movie negotiations continue at a pace that is near glacial (more waiting). I’m working on putting together a collection of short stories. Yes, I was surprised to find that I had more than 100,000 words worth of short stories that have published. They add up after awhile. I’ve got an interested publisher and we’re looking at doing something a little different with that release. Beyond that, I’m still mulling over how to make a print edition of The Potemkin Mosaic. That may be my first Kickstarter project.

Yeah, Kickstarter. After CLANG last summer, I became a bit of a Kickstarter junkie. It feeds my desire to be around creatives. It’s really fun to get updates from all these projects and to be a part (albeit a fly on the wall more often than not) of the process. I n fact, one of the ones that I hope will reach its goal is the Radio Free Albemuth theatrical release project. I’ve missed two opportunities to see this edition of Philip K. Dick’s book. Help me out, would you? I figure if it actually gets theatrical release, I might be able to get my act together enough to go.

The Crest of the Content Tsunami

Book Talk

I’ve been a delinquent blogger but a dutiful writer and at the end of the day the latter is more important. That isn’t to say that posting the occasional note to the world isn’t useful; otherwise how else does everyone know what I’ve been up to? Time management is a bitch, and I lose track of time more often than I would like. But it’s all relative, isn’t it? You get done what you can, and keep working.

Next week is the big finale of a year’s worth of work. I have three books being released on Tuesday. One’s a story reprint, but I’m happy to see the story get wider recognition, the second is one of the Foreworld SideQuests, and the third is the last volume of The Mongoliad—a book that is nearly as big as the first two volumes put together. Lots of reading material for folks to enjoy. Between the three volumes of The Mongoliad, the half dozen SideQuests that I either wrote or assisted with, Earth Thirst, and the cyberpunk story reprint, there’s more than 2000 pages worth of content that have come out in the last twelve months.

Oh, and we’ve launched foreworld.com, the official Foreworld churn. Expect a regular stream of talking points to come from there as we expand Foreworld into new eras.

It’s no wonder updates to the blog have been few and far between, and because I am behind on my latest deadline, I’m going to leave you with links to the last few releases.

Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Evolution and Revolution. Edited by Victoria Blake, it’s a collection of classic cyberpunk stories. I’m thrilled that my story, “The Lost Technique of Blackmail,” is included alongside some of the luminaries in the SF field.

Seer. The last of the “prequel” SideQuests. 47North is getting away from the term “prequel” as it suggests you need to read these before you read The Mongoliad, but unlike some of the other SideQuests, Seer leads directly into The Mongoliad: Book One as it tells the story of what Andreas was doing shortly before the events of 1241.

The Mongoliad: Book Three. Yeah, that thing.

The Beast of Calatrava. One of my favorite SideQuests to date, and yes, it could have been a full novel. It really wanted to be.

Earth Thirst. My vampire eco-thriller. Reviews are saying that it is more of a thriller than a vampire novel; frankly, how could a vampire novel not be a thriller? Oh, well, yes, if it’s all about mopey vampires, but I don’t have the time for mopey vampires. Do you?

Alternate Earth

Book Talk

Cody Tilson did the cover for Earth Thirst, and to say that I’m thrilled with that cover is to understate how much jumping up and down I’ve been doing. We had a conversation about the art that went a little like this: “We could do X. No, let’s do Y. How about X crossed with a bit of Y? Why don’t you give us a bunch of photo references for the characters. But don’t overdo it as Cody may throw it all out the window and go a different direction entirely.”

He did. I’m pleased.

Poking around the internet the other day, I stumbled upon an earlier iteration that he posted over on Gorilla Artfare. I’m a bit of a process nerd, so I like to see these sorts of iterations. I dig the lettering he did, but I think the decision to go with the block of black letters on red make quite a difference. Plus the fanged T’s make all the difference.

It’s going to be a trend, I fear. The next one will have to have a similarly scripted second word. This is the headache writers have to endure. Not only do you have to come up with snappy titles, but they also have to use the right letters.

Sinner, a Foreworld novella, is out

Book Talk

The first Foreworld novella, Sinner, is out today via 47North.

This is a story that takes place a half dozen or so years before The Mongoliad, and explores a meeting between Andreas and Raphael, two members of the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae who didn’t meet during The Mongoliad. There’s a reference to Andreas early in the first book, when the hunting party that is going east is being selected. It was the sort of passing reference that is there as part of world-building; at the time, none of us expected we were going to need this character.

“But do you suppose we ought to wait a few days until some of our other Brothers can arrive?” one of the characters says. “Brother Andreas, for example. His spear would be a fine companion on a Khan-hunting journey. Plus he knows how to cook and he doesn’t snore like Brother Eleázar.”

But once we started developing the storyline of those who stayed behind at Legnica, we needed a good strong character. We went back to this scene, scooped up the name and the tiny bit we knew about him, and dropped Andreas on the page, and he turned into quite a handful. He was one of those characters who had their own idea about their presence in a book, and the Legnica storyline was the better for it.

When it came time to do the first batch of Side Quest novellas, we wanted to explore the back story of some of the characters, and I leaped at the chance of telling a story about Andreas and Raphael, two of my favorites.

Click here to buy a copy of this story.