Patronage Is The New Model

Books, What's Been Going On?

I have started a Patreon, what with three novels in the can and who knows how many more planned. Patreon is the vehicle by which you, my darling readers, get early access to work and contribute to my continued efforts at making shit up.

Tell your friends. Come and see what the fun is about. Drop a buck or more in the patreon jar, and watch me dance. For you. That’s how this model works, after all.

Patreon Link


(Patrons got an early glimpse of the new Hidden Palms cover this morning, in fact. See what you’re missing already?)

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.


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.

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.

Eulogy for Enkidu


File Nov 19, 4 59 29 PM

The trouble with giving your pet a name that has significant symbolic and mythological relevance is that you get everything that comes with the name—good and bad. And while you can be clever and ha ha ha! laugh some of it off for awhile, eventually, everything comes full circle.

Let’s start at the end, and work our way back around. Last night, Enkidu—Ghost Cat, Ole Squinty, Hook Fang, or any of the dozen other names I’ve saddled him with over the years—wandered out into the yard, flopped down on the wet grass, and spent his last hour breathing the night air and listening to the river and the wind. The cat years had caught up with him in the last month or two, and the recent move disrupted him more than either of us thought it would. Over the last few days, he stopped eating, and yesterday, when we got home, he was very wobbly and gaunt. He didn’t want any company, and so we let him find his own spot in the yard. Soon after, he quietly passed on.


Two years ago, I spent a weekend in the woods at a personal retreat that I quietly dubbed “occult camp,” and the experience was, well, transformative. I came out of the woods with the idea for XIII, the anthology of transformative stories that Resurrection House did last year, as well as a relationship with Ereshkigal. Make of that what you will, but during the next year as I was charting a new course both personally and professionally, it was comforting to have some manner of spiritual guide to interact with. Someone who would offer me signs that I was making the right decisions. Ultimately, regardless of all that, the experience in the woods and with the number ’XIII’ gave me strength and focus.

I’m going into the woods again this weekend for another round of occult camp. This year, the theme is “Stories at the End of the World,” and the basis is XVI—the Tower, the impossibly tall one which has been struck by lightning. The blast throws the magician, the king, and the fool into the void. If there is a shitty card to get in the Major Arcana, this is it. Symbolically—always keeping things positive, right?—this is the cataclysmic opportunity to find yourself.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is so wracked by despair at the death of Enkidu that he sets off on a quest that will consume the rest of his life—the quest for immortality. Is because he can’t bear the idea of losing someone else? Because he is afraid of dying, now having suffered the loss of someone he cared so much for? Or was it because he became aware of the fleeting futility of existence and wanted something more—something more permanent. Something that, ultimately, he realized he could never find.

How much of the later portion of his life was merely spent trying not to think about the absence of his best friend?

I’m trying to not think about any of this as I pack my bags for a weekend in the woods. I think I’m failing. That’s the downside of giving symbolic representations power over you.


In the tarot, XIII is Death, and Death is transformation. Today, I realize that the transformation that occurs upon death is mostly in the mind of those who remain living. The cat version of Enkidu is no longer here with me. He’s not going to jump onto the back of the couch and lick my head or shadow box the plant. He’s not going to give me the stink eye about sitting on my lap before coming over and flopping heavily against my leg while I watch a movie. He’s not going to poop in the garage next to my exercise bike to let me know that I was gone too long today. What’s left is a memory—a fleeting shadow of a presence. He’s been transformed into the best parts of who he was (including the garage pooping, because, frankly, he never did it when I was out of town; he always waited until I returned).

It sounds like maudlin bullshit, and probably is. But he was a good cat and a good companion, and I am going to miss him. Because, every day, I stopped and paid attention to him until he started to make the cat noise. And nothing else mattered for those precious minutes. That’s what friends do for each other, right? We stop time. We cover eyes and soothe savaged spirits. We smile and make eye contact and say I believe in you.

And sometimes it is just: I waited a long time for you and I crapped on the cold garage floor to show you displeasure at your absence, and I’d really like you to crack open one of those cans of tasty chicken and tuna right fucking now or I will trip you and eat your brains after you bash your head in on the edge of the counter as you fall. And other times, it’s merely: Go away; I’m napping.

Friends, you know? It can be hard to show affection all the time. I get it.

But there was always the sudden arrival, the querulous throat noise, the flop, and the presence. And now that’s all gone.


Last night, the kids’ new cat—Eli—came up to my room and made himself comfortable on my bed. Eli is a bit like a puffer fish shoved into a cat suit, and unlike Enkidu, he wasn’t terribly bothered by the fact that he was right where I wanted to put my legs when I got into bed. I was polite for a bit, and then I picked him up and moved him over. As I got settled, I figured all the movement would disturb him and he would wander off to find some other place to sleep. This was not the case. He just turned and crawled toward the head of the bed so that he could look at me with his big dopey eyes, as if to say, “I’m going to stay right here tonight. I’m going to watch over you.”

I didn’t let Enkidu sleep with me because he had a tendency to walk across my head three or four times a night before he left the room. And when he did stay, he wanted to sleep in the exact center of the bed.

Eli stayed until after I was asleep, and then he wandered off. I didn’t hear or feel him go, but I didn’t need to. I knew he had stayed.

Cats are funny creatures.


The dedication to XIII reads: “To E, who resides in the woods and in our hearts.” At the time, I thought the “E” stood for Ereshkigal, but now, I’m not so sure.

The Sunday Morning Post


My pal Adam Rakunas has just moved, bought a house, laments the lack of time to write, and still manages to kick out an entertaining and educational newsletter. I am not jealous of my friends’ ability to get shit done, but if I were, Adam would be at the top of the list right now. And no, I’m not writing this because I’m feeling guilty on this even more lazy than normal rainy first of November post-Daylight Savings Time time change Sunday morning. Not at all.

But you can thank Adam, regardless. And go buy a copy of his first novel Windswept, which I said nice things about but they weren’t nice enough to make it on the Amazon product page and which I can’t be bothered to go track down and cut-and-paste here. Remember when I said “more lazy than normal yada yada yada Sunday morning”? Still applicable here.

Regardless of all that, it is the first of November, which means it’s Nanowrimo time again. I should probably figure out how to write once more and actually produce some fiction this month, as well as finalize the contents of those two books I have coming out next spring. But, mostly I’m here to shill for the Storybundle Nano bundle, which is one of those “pay what you like, but if you pay more, we’ll give you more” bundle opportunities.

This one starts with thirteen books on writing, including Albert Zuckerman’s Writing the Blockbuster Novel (which I’ve read more than once myself), Stant Litore’s Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Discoverability. Those are all in the first tier. If you pay a little more, you get the second tier, which is anchored by my Jumpstart Your Novel. A good way to start Nanowrimo, yes?

But it gets even better! There’s a second tier of goodies that includes ALL of the Nanowrimo bundle from LAST year. It’s twenty-five books for twenty-five bucks! All of which will help you leap over all of the hurdles that Nanowrimo is going to throw at you. Like a gazelle. A mighty word-slinging, hurdle-jumping gazelle.

[Mostly unrelated to the above, but following a curious line of thinking in regards to gazelles is George Saunders’ article in the New Yorker from last week about his writing education. It’s worth a read, especially for the bits of writing advice that he hides in the parts where he’s poking fun at himself.]

So, let’s call this an update. I’m becoming more and more inclined to vanish from the Internets on a day-to-day basis and spend all of that newly reclaimed free time writing, which will make none of you sad. In fact, you’re probably all wondering why it has taken me this long to get around to doing that. My apologies. It’s these lazy, rainy, time-shifted Sunday mornings that have been keeping me down.

June Metrics


Let’s get right to the numbers for June.

Total words: 41,250
Average per day: 1,331
Completed: one short story, one non-fiction book

“All for One,” one of the stories I wrote last month, has officially sold. It’ll be in Ragnarok Publishing’s MECH anthology later this year. They’ll be Kickstarting it in the fall, and I’m delighted to be part of one of their anthologies. They make massive tomes with lots of extra goodies.

The short story I finished this month is out as well. I just squeaked it in by the deadline. I doubt I’ll hear anything for several months. You write them, and then forget them: that’s the way it is with short fiction.

The big project for June was writing Jumpstart Your Novel, the non-fiction book that is the print version of the talk I’ve been giving off and on for the last few years. One of the take-home lessons from the last convention is that if you’re going to show up and talk process, you might as well have something interested parties can purchase. And I wanted to see how much stress I could put on both myself and my publishing infrastructure to get something out quickly. The book isn’t all that long, really, though it has more formatting quirks than your normal fiction book. I started writing at the beginning of June, and this afternoon I’ll be finishing up the layout. Darin Bradley knocked out the cover, like he does, and Neal Von Flue was gracious about finding room in his schedule to do the illustrations. All in all, I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished in thirty days. I’ll put up another post in a few days when all the various buying links are active.


I also did the layout myself, and will probably be doing the ebook conversion as well. I like knowing how to do things, and as these are part of the publishing chain, I think it’s important to understand the pluses and minuses of the technical work. I tell folks that self-publishing is mostly you taking the whole dollar for yourself and then deciding how much of that dollar you want to pay to other people. Sure, I can do the cover, layout, and conversions myself, but is that time well spent or is it more economical for me to simply pay someone else to do it, freeing up more of my time to actually write? If it costs me a couple hundred bucks, but takes three weeks, is that worth the delay versus me taking an afternoon and doing it myself?

Anyway, useful tools. It’s all about figuring out which tools you want to rent and which ones you want to own, right?

Getting this out of the way means that July can be spent working on a book. My new goal is to create something that people can buy every month. I’m still in that odd space of not having a book contract in hand, and Resurrection House is covering itself, but it’ll be another year or more before it becomes something that can provide beyond its own needs. So, I need to build some revenue streams.

Yes, I could go find a part-time job, I suppose, but that puts me in the position of writing, publishing, and working somewhere. That’s three things. I’ve done that before, and I can attest that one of the three suffers. If either publishing or writing are put in that position, then eh . . . what’s the point? A career that you’re not even attempting to do well yourself isn’t going to magically take off on its own now, is it?

So, I write. A lot. And I figure out new ways to find new audiences. It’s part of the job, right? I didn’t win the fiction lottery with my first book, so now it becomes a profession I have to work at. Fortunately, I like this sort of work, so there’s hope.

And speaking of writing, Clarion West is in session right now, which means the Clarion West Write-a-thon is going on. I went ahead and put myself up there this year, mainly for the sake of keeping someone on task with finishing SNAKE EYES in a timely fashion. I don’t expect anyone to pony up their pennies on my behalf, but if you are so inclined, Clarion West is where the next generation loses their innocence and gets hardened for the particularly character-building life that is being a creative.

Yeah, building character. That’s what it is all about. That’s what I tell my kids, anyway.

May Metrics


I spent Memorial Day weekend in Missoula, MT, attending MisCon, one of my favorite writer-friendly conventions. I did the Jumpstart Your Novel presentation again, and was harangued by the audience about the fact that I hadn’t turned that presentation into an actual self-help book yet. And so, I’ll be working on that this week, among other things.

Now that Resurrection House has gotten itself good and launched, I can spend more time working on my own writing again. The fingers are a bit stiff still, and the brain is a little dusty, but things are starting to sort themselves out in that regard. I’ve got some goals set, and am cranking away at them. Here are some metrics for those who are interested in those sorts of things.

May total words: 62,000
Average/day: 2,000
Completed: 3 short stories, one novelette, 30K on SNAKE EYES

The shorter pieces are off to various outlets. More news as their status changes. I got to 62K on SNAKE EYES and finally admitted to myself what the characters have been telling me for some time: it’s overly complicated and unnecessarily so. Back to the basics for me, and over the weekend, I managed to finally let go of some old story elements that were getting in the way of writing a crackling tale.

Sometimes I make this extra hard on myself, I know.

But, it’s June now. I’m pretty pleased with my progress for May. I’m not quite at my daily goal state, but 2K a day (on average) is a good start. I’d like to finish SNAKE EYES, the Jumpstart book, and get a few proposals and other stories done. This is life in the word mines. You just keeping plugging away.

[Picture taken by one of the three authors whose books are in that picture; I don’t recall who, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.]

Miscon, Out in Big Sky Country


One of the presentations I did at the Creative Ink Festival was a new iteration on the Jumpstart Your Novel dog and pony show that I’ve been doing off and on for a few years now. Since CIF, I’ve done it a handful more times for a number of 8th grade classrooms. In each instance, I’ve had about an hour to pitch this new method of approaching story, and have had a chance to refine it down to a near-science. Or at least an entertaining hour discussion.

I’ll be doing it again at Miscon this year, out in Missoula next week. Though, we’ll be returning to the two-hour format where audience members are actually going to be plotting and outlining their new novels in the room with me. It’ll be fun. Really.

Miscon is turning 29 this year, and it’s my second time attending. It’s a great con, and Montana is—usually—done with all its cold weather by this time, and so it’s quite pleasant. The Miscon staff has paneled me up pretty well, and so if you’re in the area, here’s where you can find me.

Friday 4:00pm Creating the Brands of Tomorrow (Thunderdome Left) with John Picacio and Shawn Speakman. Three leading sf/f creatives will share why they created their own publishing houses, what they’re producing, what’s next, and where the next frontiers are.

Saturday 3:00pm Writing to Prompts (Upstairs Programming 3) with Brenda Carre, David Keck, and J. A. Pitts. Prompts are a great way to build and hone your craft, not to mention get published and win contests. In this panel we’ll learn how to write original, unique stories based on those prompts. We’ll also discuss how to know if you’ve strayed too far from the original concept.

Saturday 4:00pm First Page—Make or Break (Thunderdome Right) with Anne Groell, Andrea Howe, Shawn Speakman, and Patrick Swenson. Wherein the panelists will do live critiques of manuscript first pages to give the audience unparalleled insight into what can make or break a story before it even gets rolling.

Sunday 10:00am Author Signing (Thunderdome Right). Like it sounds. Not just me, but dozens of other authors too. Signing damn near anything shoved in front of us, though we prefer books with our names on them.

Sunday 12:00pm Elevator Pitches, Queries & Synopses (Thunderdome Right) with Anne Groell and Laurey Patten. Now, the official description is: “Panels on these subjects may be ubiquitous, but they’re important. Selling your book through one of these means is hard. In this panel, we’ll learn from authors and editors about how to craft the best pitch possible for your book or short story.” But I dislike writing synopses, so my superpower here will be turning everything into an elevator pitch, which I’ve gotten pretty good at. So, it’ll be entertaining.

Monday 10:00am Jumpstart Your Novel (Upstairs Programming 2). Yep. Two hour session. Bring something to write on/with. We’ll be busy.

Monday 1:00pm Organizing Story Ideas (Thunderdome Right) with Andrea Howe, S. A. Bolich, and Eldon Thompson. Writers usually have a tornado of ideas swirling in their heads at any one time. What do you do with all these ideas? How do you organize them? You might get them onto the page, but sometimes they don’t live up to what’s in your mind. What do you do then? What do you do when your ideas run wild? It’s easy to feel defeated. In this panel we’ll discuss how to organize those ideas into a coherent story and juggling expectation with reality.

Otherwise, I’ll be in the dealer’s area in the bookroom. Resurrection House and Fairwood Press will have tables along with all the other books that A Good Book Cafe will be bringing out to the con. I hear there are going to be some pretty cool books for sale this year. Definitely worth your time, and we don’t mind selling you some new reads.

Creative Ink Festival 2015


Over the weekend, I had the privilege of being the Guest of Honor at Sandra Wickham’s inaugural Creative Ink Festival. Held up in Burnaby, BC, the Festival was a day-long event, packed with panels and presentations for writers, artists, and readers. I like doing panels at conventions and usually tell programming folks that I don’t mind being heavily scheduled. Most of the time, convention programming doesn’t think I mean it, but Sandra? Oh, yes, Sandra definitely took me at my word.

The day started with an hour long presentation on “Jumpstarting Your Novel.” I usually do this as a two hour interactive presentation (and have done it as a full-day workshop as well), and so I was a little concerned that compressing this to an hour would turn it into sixty minutes of me blathering as fast as I could. However, as I’m in the process of restructuring this presentation into a more compartmentalized model, this hour was a chance to try out the new format. It seemed like it went well, and the Q & A with the audience gave me some useful feedback. Next step is to start laying out these ideas in a short how-to book format.

photo of the publisher, reading by Patrick Swenson

[photo by Patrick Swenson]

Next was an hour of improv storytelling with Colleen Anderson, Jennifer Lott, and Danika Dinsmore. The audience provided prompts that were either nouns or verbs, and the panelists were to perpetuate a story started by one of the panelists using whatever prompt was on the slip of paper they were given. It took a story or two for us to warm up to the format, but by the end, we were telling complicated narratives and inventing things like the “trans-dimensional information rodeo.”

This sort of panel can expose just how much of a liar a writer is. Er, well, maybe it was just me. Writing is not like public speaking in that you get a few tries to get a sentence right, and if you can’t recall the right word for something, you can take a few minutes and look it up. When you’re in front of a room full of people who are all staring at you? Yeah, there’s no time to wander off and check your vocabulary. Me? I double down. “Listen, lizards are just like toads. Only drier.”

“Uh-huh,” says another panelist. “So they’re just dry amphibians, right?”

“Absolutely,” I say. “You got your dry amphibians. You got your moist amphibians. You got your window-licking big-eye amphibians. You got your fuzzy hat wearing amphibians. They’re all amphibians, really.”

During lunch, we had a fantastic keynote speech from Devon Boorman, who is the Maestro of Academie Duello, the largest European sword fighting school in the world. I tapped out a few aphorisms he offered, which will fail to encompass the breadth of his keynote, but they’re chewy little nuggets nonetheless. My apologies to Devon if I’m misremembering anything he said.

• “Systems and rhythms are much more important than goals.”
• “Break out of the interia between nothing and something.”
• “You get what you want no matter what you get.”
• “What is the difference between nourishment and numbness, and which are you embracing?”

Later in the afternoon, I went into my long stretch of programming, ping-ponging back and forth between the two ballrooms. Action GOH! First, there was “Growing up a Reader,” with Cathy Ace, Randy McCharles, Andrea Westaway, Dani Duck, and Jennifer Lott. Six was one more than the table could easily fit, so I sat in the front row of the audience and grilled the panelists for a while. The group offered up a lot of engaging discussion about their experiences with books at an early age and their perceptions of how people engage with books now. Great stuff, and I learned a few things about the modern fascination with YA that have been eluding me.

Next up was my second presentation of the day: “Everything from Nothing: Giving Yourself Permission to be Creative.” Somewhat facetiously, I had imagined this being a very short presentation. I stand in front of a room full of people and assume the attitude of the kindly old fart. “You all have my permission to suck,” I would say. “And you all have it in you to finish the book you are working.” Followed by a moment of silence, and then: “Okay, thanks for coming this afternoon.” Mic drop; exit stage left.

Yeah, it was the other 48 minutes that were going to be a bit trickier to fill. Fortunately, the structure I’ve been using for the Jumpstart presentation also works for the Permission model. Again, a little bit of guinea pig testing with the audience, but the hour went by quickly and there were a lot of good questions and discussion with audience. I’m calling that one a win.

Then, an hour of insider talking about self-publishing with Randy McCharles, Katrina Archer, Jo-Anne McLean, and Sabina Khan. All of whom wrote their books, did their research, and then self-published their books directly. Me? I wrote some books and then went off and started a publishing company. I’m not sure I’m doing it right. But I had some insight into indie publishing at that level somewhere between publishing one title a year and the massive juggernaut of traditional publishing.

Publishing is, in my opinion, still in a lot of flux. The tools to publish your own books get easier and easier to use, which makes the reality of self-publishing more affordable and more available all the time. The flip side of that is books are being published at an astonishing rate, which makes discovery much more difficult. And it’s not just for indie publishers. Big publishers have the same problem as well, and while they have name recognition and presence in the marketplace, they’ll still caught in the same flood of content.

Our discussion boiled down to: “Write. And keep writing.” More and more, this is becoming the only truism worth holding on to.

Finally, we had an hour of Live Action Subs. Audience members submit the first page of a story or novel. Our esteemed reader—the always delightful Ian Alexander Martin of Atomic Fez—performs a cold reading, and the panel of grumpy editors and publishers indicate when they would stop reading. Discussion ensues with the intent of providing insight into why a story might get rejected beyond the frustratingly oblique form rejection one normally gets.

For instance: One of the first times, I did this panel, we had a story that kicked all of the panelists out before the reader finished the first line. Why? “Girlfriend in the fridge,” one panelist said. “If this was supposed to get my attention and shock me, where are you going to go from here?” another said. Which led to a discussion about bad story tropes and pacing, all of which was more detail than is ever detailed in “thanks for sending this story, but it didn’t work for me” form rejection response.

This iteration of the Live Action Subs Hour included Patrick Swenson, Claude Lalumière, Alex C Renwick, Jennifer Landels, and myself. I was the youngster of the group in regards the number of manuscript pages that had passed across my desk over the years, and it was fascinating to learn the various quirks of each experienced editor. Proving, yet again, how much of publishing is a matter of personal taste. As both Claude and Alex were keen to remind our audience: a rejection of a story is merely a disconnect between that story and that editor. The writer should always hold fast to their belief in the value of their work. Never stop submitting.

At the afterparty of this year’s event, even though we were all worn out after a long day of hard work, I could tell that Sandra was already refining her vision of the Festival. She’s got plans to build CIF into a world-class weekend for writers, artists, and readers, and as this first year ably demonstrates, she’s well on her way.

The Creative Ink Festival will be back next year when the Guests of Honor will be Carrie Vaughn and Galen Dara. I’m trying to convince Sandra that I should get a sash that says “Old GOH” (or maybe just “Old Goat”), and my job will be to sit in a comfy chair in the lobby and direct traffic with a stick. But I suspect that she’s going to put me on a bunch of panels instead. Which will be fine too.

As long as I get that sash.

Dodging Work


I still read a few newsletters, mostly from folks who are very diligent about posting regularly, and whose missives are always a delight to read. They usually offer at least one interesting thing to go read/look at/listen to. I like receiving these missives because they let me know that other people are busy thinking/dreaming/creating. I tell myself I should do something similiar, but then other things intrude and weeks go by.

Warren Ellis recently mentioned buying himself a countdown timer with thirty days on it, and I like that idea. Time management becomes critical when you have too many things to do and not enough hours to do them all. Rather, when you THINK you have not enough hours to do all the things you THINK you should do. Let’s face it: there are many ways we get in our way when it comes to be being productive. I’ve got one of those right here on the desk next to me. My iPad. Meant to allow me to read and write while not at my desk. More often than not, it’s next to my desk, distracting me from reading and writing.

I have a stack of Field Notes notebooks. I’m getting better about using them to keep track of the daily thoughts and lists, but my desk is still awash with scraps of paper that I don’t really need to keep. I have trouble putting things away–throwing them away, in fact–because I haven’t allowed myself the mental space to decide that this scrap is no longer needed. Eventually, I do throw them away, but only after they’ve been covered time and again with bits of math, scrawled URLs I never get back to, and line items from lists that are never finished.

Am I really this busy, or am I using all this as an excuse to dodge work that needs to be done? If things never get finished, then they can never suck, you know? It’s always better in your head–that unrealized dream. Once it is down on paper or on the screen, then, well, it dies a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s easy to second guess and fret about the Thing Done. We should be better about moving on to Thing Next instead of staring at Thing Done. Or, rather, the shape of Thing Not Quite Done.

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?”


“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.