March 2020

Book Talk, Status Update

March 2020

In the Mansion of Madness came out a few weeks ago. I’ve been doing a few readings here and there, introducing people to the idea of training for the Night Office. So far, it seems like a core decision choice comes down to which path has more kissing and which path has more ass-kicking. There are some who think there should be both, and it is the writer’s job to find that sweet balance.

In the Mansion of Madness: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

And speaking of writer brain, Harry Bryant has stopped by. There’s that second Butch Bliss novel that needs a final editorial pass. I’m deep in the weeds on it. Expect to see ordering information on it by the end of the month.

It starts with Butch heading across the border in a cherry red Mercedes, along with four drunk co-eds and a tree python. Naturally, things get complicated from there.

Reading/Watching: I read James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes a few years ago, and enjoyed the hell out of it. For some reason, I didn’t get back to The Expanse after that. I have no good excuse other than there are a lot of books lying around. However, I did pick up Caliban’s War recently, and yep, Franck and Abraham certainly know how to plot a book. I’ve got Nemesis Games on deck, and I’m about halfway through the second season of the TV show. It’s been interesting to watch how the narrative has been restructured for TV.

Playing: I stumbled upon a copy of Anachrony the other day, which has been on my watch list for over a year. I’m looking forward to digging into that. We’ve also been enjoying Flotilla and Bunny Kingdom. I’m still looking for something that’ll fill that need for a really deep strategy game, but that desire is constantly in opposition to the chunk of time such a game will require.

Story Time

Book Talk, Friends, Making Things Up

A little while ago, three writer pals and I put together an ad-hoc reading series. We showed up at Belmont Books in PDX, read some stories, and then went and had drinks around the corner. It was fun. Books were sold. We’re going to do it again in September. What did we read? Bits from Space Cocaine, of course.

Space Cocaine cover

Space Cocaine: | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo |

My bit was from “The Vacation Not Taken,” which is the first section of The Cosmic Game, a serial that I’ll be working on throughout this year. In fact, another section of that book can be found in An Interpretation of Moles, which is out now. It’s a collection of stories about moles, and we were given a Venn Diagram visual aid to help us. I went for all quadrants (like I do).

An Interpretation of Moles cover

An Interpretation of Moles: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo |

Meanwhile, I’ve just about finished up the relaunch of Underland Press, and I’m still reading for XVIII, the next volume in the Underland Tarot project. Yes, it’s actually got a project name now instead of that vague “tarot-thingie that I’m doing.”

Submission Guidelines for XVIII are here.

Get on the Space Cocaine mailing list here. We’re only using it to inform folks of new readings and publications, so it’ll be very low traffic.

Listening: Bill Laswell is dumping a lot of content to Bandcamp these days, which is making it easy for me to find groovy new stuff to listen to.

Reading: Lisa Lutz’s The Swallows is fantastic, as is David Koepp’s Cold Storage. Both are out in September, which means y’all will have to wait. Sorry. Perks of being a bookseller. However, Mick Herron’s Joe Country is out, and you are all reading his Slough House novels already, aren’t you?

Playing: I’ve discovered Dinosaur Island, Wingspan, and Gizmos, which are making me think about game design again. Also, the clever folks at Gearbox have put out a new pack for Borderlands 2 which leads into Borderlands 3. Naturally, I need to be up on the narrative, right?


Book Talk

A long, long time ago, there was a character named Mistral, who was a private detective in an unnamed city. The first story with him was something called “The Air in the Jar,” and it revolved around a killer who was trying to destroy the concept of Plato’s Cave by whacking philosophy professors.

What? I was in college at the time. You should see what my thesis ended up being.

Anyway, he was an interesting character, and there was a secondary character named Clio, and the whole thing became this quintessential noir set-up, and I eventually wrote a novella called “Instrument,” which featured Mistral. At that time, the novella market was a wasteland. You did not write novellas. I tried to expand it into a novel a couple of times, which lead to writing a prequel novel, which led to other things, and oh good lord, look at the time!

Over the years, bits and pieces of this city and its characters cropped up in some of my short stories. Some of them got published. But never Instrument.

Until now.

I’m re-launching these stories (under the umbrella of “Stories from the SPRAWL”). Instrument is the first, and since it is new content, I’ve gone and made it available in print and ebook because I have that sort of mercenary relationship with your wallets. Other stories in the SPRAWL will be released over the coming year.

If you’re on my Mailing List, not only will you get notified when they come out, but you’ll also get a dose of free content now and then.

You can get your copy of Instrument at all the normal outlets. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Finish Your Novel!

Book Talk

Once upon a time, I wrote a writing book. It was a book that came out of a lecture, and it was all about starting a book. There were questions and exercises and hoops to jump through, but when all the wailing and gnashing of teeth was done, you had an outline. I smiled, waved, and left the room, leaving behind all those questions about what happens next.

Well, what happens next is a lot of fussing and procrastinating and figuring out how to get your butt in the chair and write. The heavy lifting, as it were. And, as I’ve been having a bout of “how the heck do I do this writing thing again?” myself this summer, I figured it was time to finish the follow-on to Jumpstart Your Novel.

This one is called Finish Your Novel!, and as Kristene Perron (co-author of Warpworld) says: “Leave your excuses at the door because Teppo has heard (or used) them all and he’s not going to let you quit until The End.

It’s available at all your favorite retail locations, both on and off the Intertubes. If you enjoyed Jumpstart Your Novel, this is similar in blunt talk and hyperbolic asides. Plus it has charts and coupons.

[ Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo ]

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.