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?


Making Things Up

I have done my time in the basements of friends’ houses, playing endless variants of Dungeons and Dragons. We were White Box kids, and I remember saving my allowance for many many weeks to finally get my own copy. Our copies fell apart from use in a couple of years, and by that time, we had moved on Judges Guild supplements (City Sate of the Invincible Overlord!) and Iron Crown Enterprise’s Arms Law. By the time D&D revved to the 3rd edition, we had all moved on to our in-house variants.

But throughout all this time, maps were always in short supply. We used the CSotIO many, many times. Turning it upside down. Turning it ninety degrees one direction or the other. Penciling things in, erasing them three months later and writing new names. Maps of the terrain outside the city? Crude, at best.

Which is why I’m excited about what Worldspinner is doing with their Kickstarter. They’re building an online tool that creates a fabulously sexy map. And it comes as pre-populated with as many or as few fun things to do as you like. Cities. Points of Interest. Narrative arcs.

“What sort of narrative arcs?” you ask. Well, that’s where themes come in. Themes are premium content that you can layer onto your map. As their Kickstarter progresses through its stretch goals, these themes get pretty extensive. Mur Lafferty is offering Tales for the Stealing, Bill Webb gives us Dragons!, and Lisa Smedman adds Arcane Portals. Those are the goals that have been unlocked already. Goals still to come include, well, me.

If Worldspinner hits $50K, then I’m going to give you pirates and sea monsters. I’m going to turn the world of the Eternal Queen into a place you can visit. Renaissance-style High Fantasy with big nasty things that live in the corners of the map that say “Here Be Monsters” because, well, why shouldn’t there be monsters there?

And as we’re still shopping the Eternal Queen Cycle, this little bump in interest won’t hurt my feelings at all.

Coffee Talk, Sorkin-style

Making Things Up

Some days, you simply need to take a break and do something lighter. As I’ve been trawling through the old Sports Night scripts recently, blowing up something to Aaron Sorkin levels of inanity seemed light enough.

SCENE: Starbucks. Emmett and Griff are seated in the comfy chairs at the back. A single beverage sits on the end table between them.

Emmett: When your barista asks for your name for the cup and then puts an exclamation point after it, it’s not because the next person in line is supposed to make it extra hot. Right?

Griff: An exclamation point?

Emmett: [shows him the cup, which has “Emmett!” written on it]

Griff: I’ve never seen that. I’ve seen actual degrees listed before but never a bang.

Emmett: She put an exclamation point after my name.

Griff: A bang.

Emmett: Right. A bang!

Griff: After your name.

Emmett: That’s what it says.

Griff: Why would she do that?

Emmett: That’s what I’m asking.

Griff: An exclamation point is a bang. So I wouldn’t say ‘bang’ twice.

Griff: Both “!” and “bang.”

Emmett: Why wouldn’t you say bang twice? Is that “!!” then?

Griff: No

Emmett: It’s right there. After my name!

Griff: I see it. But I wouldn’t say it twice.

Emmett: Of course, you wouldn’t. You’d say it once.

Griff: Maybe it’s a factorial . . .

Emmett: But why would you say it all when you’re writing someone’s name on a cup?

Griff: . . . and not a bang.

Emmett: It’s not a factorial.

Geoff: It could be a factorial.

Emmett: She’s not inviting me to do math with her.

Griff: She could be. If it is a factorial, then you wouldn’t have to say it twice.

Emmett: I wouldn’t have to say it twice anyway. Besides, I used my Gold Card, because I don’t want to do math.

Griff: “Bang!” There. I said it twice.

Emmett: And I didn’t ask for a receipt either.  Because I’m the type of guy who says, “Not only do I not want you to to do math; I’m not bothered by the math either.” And then she put an exclamation point after my name. Bang! (beat) Shit. Bang. No “!”

Griff: Because you don’t like math, or because it was a factorial?

Emmett: There’s no math involved

Griff: If you say so. There could be.

Emmett: There wasn’t.

Griff: So . . . how was it?

Emmett: What?

Griff: The coffee? Was it hot?

Emmett: Too hot. It needs to cool.

Griff: You shouldn’t have asked for it extra hot.

Emmett: I didn’t.

Griff: Why else would she put the bang on it then?

[Hat tip to old pal G. for playing the comic foil in the genesis of this.]

The Foolscap Reading Series recap

Making Things Up

Sunday was the first of the Foolscap Summer Reading Series, wherein I rambled on for nearly three hours to a room of attentive and interactive listeners. It was more of a rolling discussion than a Watch The Monkey Dance! sort of show, but scarlettina was kind enough to tweet the proceedings and make it seem like all the bon mots were coming from me. For the sake of posterity, here’s the highlights of the afternoon (in a somewhat edited version from the flatstuff twitter stream).

* I start off by reading the two pieces I wrote for Omnivoracious, the Amazon blog, related to the Codex of Souls series. [NOTE: those would be “On the Nature of Magick” and “On The Existence of Monsters]

* Mark Teppo is fascinating: In twenty minutes, he’s invoked Alistair Crowley, Jesus, and Descartes.

* Teppo says: “We just wanna get naked with things that we shouldn’t.”

* Teppo says: As I wrote Lightbreaker, I repeated the words, “Men and mantras, shotguns and sigils.”

* On writing fantasy & making stuff up: Teppo says he actually did more research for his fantasy book than he did for his science fiction story.

* Teppo says: The trouble with doing research is the more you get into it the more interesting things you find.

* Teppo says: There are elements of abstract esoteric thought that, when applied to scientific thought, start adding sense to the universe.

* Teppo says: Faith is reliance on the external to deliver to you. Crowley says there is no faith, only will. Faith is reactive; will is active.

* This is more than a reading; it’s practically a class on esoteric thought. Fascinating stuff!

* First scene of Lightbreaker, what was the inspiration? Teppo says: “It was . . . kinda cool.” First scene was the only thing saved from first draft. [NOTE: Alas, Twitter doesn’t really afford the means to capture the three minute off-the-cuff grad school style breakdown I did of the first scene and why it was the way it was; but at the same time, I can admit that I made it all up on the spot. Also, I should note that the VERY first scene–with the deer–isn’t actually in the first draft. The early version references the deer, but it starts as he boards the ferry; I hadn’t remembered this until I was reading it aloud yesterday.]

* Beautiful image in the first scene of Lightbreaker: a deer glowing with human soul energy in the dark of night. Magic afoot!

* Book is set in the Seattle; Teppo invokes the mystery of the woods, the mundane experience of a ferry ride with an acute perception.

* Teppo says: “What’s the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance? Paranormal romance has happy endings; urban fantasy really doesn’t.” [NOTE: I’m not the first to say this.]

* Teppo recommends Mark Henry’s series about Amanda Feral, a zombie, in the hip, happening capital of the undead, Seattle.

* Q: What makes a story horror? A: An awareness of dread. [NOTE: The longer version of is a rambling discussion about the difference between Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Thing Are and what we thought the Welsh translation’s title was: In The Land Of Wild Things. (Don’t ask; that’s an even longer digression.) The point is that the Welsh title is a fantasy title, in the sense that it is the story of a magical land over there; Sendak’s original is a horror story, because you don’t know where the Wild Things are, and they’re probably right here.]

* And then, we launch into discussion of The Mongoliad. I do a demo. We talk about how it is going to drop on all the major mobile platforms. [NOTE: I explicitly point out that it will also be available via the web, but as that’s not nearly as exciting as the mobile devices, it’s not been a major talking point in the press releases so far.]

* I detour into a discussion of the evolution of publishing, complete w/drawing of the internet as a cloud–not to scale. Somewhere in there I posit that, in five years, the mass market paperback is going to be an e-book.

* Teppo defines the distribution mechanism for The Mongoliad. PULP. Personal Ubiquitous Literature Platform.

* Q: What is The Mongoliad about? A: In 1241 the Mongols raided Europe; in 1242, they went back. The story tells the secret history of why.

* The Mongoliad will be told as a weekly serial online by a group of authors including Teppo, Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland, and others. Contributors to Mongoliad may be musicians, artists–there are more ways to tell a story than only writing.

* Q: If I invest in a Mongoliad subscription I want to know it has a beginning middle & end. Will it? A: Yes. We want that. But. . . it will have seasons, like a TV show, and shorelines will intertwine.

* Discussion about piracy, and Subutai’s solution: build a interactive, entertaining site with low overhead to join, and people will do what is easier. Piracy may increase readership; it definitely improves sales. The trick is to make it effortless to participate honestly.

The How Book Publishing Works diagram. Notice the Internet cloud down there in the lower left, along with the top three distractions that plague a writer (“snacks,” “cat vacuuming,” and “WoW”). Later, I redraft it for the Internet Age and how it is relevant to the Mongoliad model.

The map of Europe. On the far right (you can see the edge of it) is another cloud that is the Mongol horde, not the Internet. Though, at first glance, you could mistake one for the other.

Finally, there were some questions about the status of The Codex Of Souls, and I re-iterated that I had scoped ten books, Night Shade had bought (and published) two, and things were in wait and see mode. They’re still in wait and see mode, but I can tell you that the wait and see hold-up is on MY END now. Night Shade has re-expressed their interest in more books, and I’m looking at my schedule and giving it some honest thought.