Upcoming anthology appearances, with an awkward note

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Let’s start with the good news. I’m going to be in two anthologies coming out this summer, both of them funded via Kickstarter: Help Fund My Robot Army & Other Improbably Kickstarters, and the shared world Walk The Fire, Vol 2. Don’t worry, no one is asking you to back a campaign, I promise. These projects were closed months ago.

Again, the books will be available some time this summer, and believe me I’ll post links to buy them when they’re out.

The complicated part is this: I’m glad both books are coming out and I’m pleased with the stories I sold them, even though both rejected my initial submissions.

The WALK THE FIRE antho is a shared-world deal, centering on a future where people can travel via special fires. That’s right, fire. You step into the flames in one place and emerge in another. It’s teleportation with a few complications added in.

Anyway, the first story I wrote, “A No Without A Thank You”, was basically a slam on Doctor Who, because I thought the fires allowed people to travel through time and space. The anthology bible even said “time and space” in one spot. Feedback from the editor insisted that I hadn’t followed the guidelines correctly, and I had to read the bible several times before I worked out that it was supposed to be “time and space” only. The guidelines as a whole only made sense if they were space-only. Oops.

At that point, with a rejected story, I could have withdrawn; I do have a shitload of work to do to fulfill my own Kickstarter. But! I’d also promoted the campaign to my readers and thought it would be unfair to them if I back out of the project now. So I set everything aside and wrote a second story, called “Sterile Oceans”, which was accepted. And I’m proud of that story. Plus, “A No Without…” is ready to go into the short fiction collection I listed as a stretch goal for my Kickstarter backers. So that’s all good.

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY… brought up a similar situation, although the reasons behind it were different. That anthology is a collection of stories told in the format of a Kickstarter campaign–with a sales pitch, stretch goals, comments, the whole deal–and my original submission was a parody of the “Above the Game” campaign, (which I won’t link) that PUA manual that supposedly advocated sexual assault. My story was about a PUA who planned to sell (short-acting) love potions, and who insisted they were completely different from roofies.

It was dark, yeah, but the editor decided it was too dark and bounced it. Once again, I had a choice of disappointing backers or writing a second attempt. The followup story was accepted, and it’s fun (but deliberately slight) and technically, this also frees up the PUA/love potion story for my own story collection.

Except, now that this loser in UCSB (I’m not posting his name online) has had his rampage, I’m tempted to yank it all together. The original story was supposed to be darkly funny, but I’m not feeling it anymore.

Anyway, two new anthologies mean four new stories from me this summer (or maybe just three, who knows.) I’m also thinking I need to take a break from Kickstarter anthologies.

Vacation (with pics)

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Last week, we hopped a train down to San Jose to visit my wife’s uncle and visit him and his home city, Santa Cruz. It wasn’t long enough, and sleeping in coach on a train may be better than sleeping on a plane, but still: sleeping in a chair. (The train ride from Seattle to SJC was 24 hours, 20 minutes.)

So, it was not long enough. Few vacations ever are. However, my uncle has a beautiful little house with a pretty little garden (filled with drought-resistant plants, because California) and the beach was only literally a ten-minute walk away.

Pics behind the cut: Continue reading

AUDIOBOOKS!

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Hey, guys. Child of Fire is listed as Audible’s “Hidden Gem of the Week” and is available for only $4 right now. If you’re an audiobook fan (or know one) this is your chance to pick up a copy.

Also, there’s an audio copy of King Khan available. I’m listening to the free sample right now, and I’m flummoxed that more people haven’t tried this book.

Anyway, normal internetting will resume, now that I’m back from VACATION! Pics to come.

Cutting back on internet

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I have a whole bunch of work ahead of me and last night my roommate got mad at me when I referred to her as “my roommate” instead of “my wife.” Anyway, it seems that this would be a good time to cut back on my internetting. It’s not going to be a full fast, as I sometimes do, but I will be cutting way back. As usual, I’ll be checking my email at least once a day.

Wish my luck for my book productivity, and if anyone remembers my roommate’s name, please drop me a line.

More on Veronica Mars

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I watched the movie again, mainly because I really like mysteries. Last night, the family finished watching season 2 (It’s slow going getting individual discs from Netflix on a one-at-a-time plan) and I have to say S2 was better than I remember it. Obviously, Lilly Kane was the heart and driving force behind season 1; Amanda Seyfried’s performance was so incredibly charismatic that the school bus explosion–with its numerous but mostly faceless victims, plus Meg–couldn’t touch. Every ep of S1 showed Lilly in some kind of flashback or dream sequence, if I remember correctly; how could sweet, honest Meg lying in a coma compete with that?

Still, watching both seasons all in a rush was very interesting. In season 1, knowing that some viewers would miss episodes, several of the clues and story beats were hit in several different episodes. How many times did they “reveal” that Weevil was having a secret relationship with Lilly, and that he loved her more than she loved him?

In season 2, they talked about the clues they’d discovered previously, but didn’t play them like story beats. What’s weird is that S2 almost completely drops the bus story line for several episodes in a row. The season gets caught up in a bunch of mini-mysteries that are either tangential to the bomb story (At no point did I believe Terence Cook was a serious suspect) or completely separate from it, like the murder of Felix Tooms. Then there’s the whole plot line that takes Wallace to Chicago, or the Casablancas family business troubles…

In fact, there’s a lot going on but much of it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the supposed Big Mystery of the Season. It feels fractured, leaving Veronica to act without the same wrenching need to Solve Everything she had in S1. The driving forces that should have been there–her guilt over surviving and over Meg’s condition, plus her name being written on Curly’s hand making her think the bomb was meant for her–just don’t feel immediate enough.

Another choice that felt weaker was the decision to lose the family lives of Duncan and Logan and replace those characters with Kendall Casablancas and the “Fighting Fitzpatricks”. Yeah, it’s a fine thing to widen the scope so we see more of Neptune, but Irish gangsters aren’t anywhere near as compelling as a fucked up family. Papa Casablancas is only in the first few episodes, Wallace’s mom goes up in a puff of smoke when she breaks up with Keith, and Aaron Echolls mostly turns up in his jail cell. Keith and Terrence Cook are pretty much the only parents on the show, and the Cooks are not nearly as fucked up as they should be for a long form mystery.

Still, the episodic mysteries were as strong as every, and Bell is still amazing as Veronica. I like Logan as a character but I’ve always had zero interest in their supposedly epic love. Seriously. If S1 didn’t exist, S2 would have been one of the best shows ever.

S3 is up next, and I remember it being more soap opera/relationship-focused than previous seasons. I was also Team Piz back in the day and I was even more firmly Team Piz after the movie. Still.

Anyway, the movie: I was sure the show would not work once the characters were adults. There was something incredibly effective about addressing class issues through teenage characters. They’re screwed up by the system but not really to blame for it, either. Plus, school forces everyone to be in everyone else’s spaces; you can’t avoid your enemies if you’re stuck going to school.

It worked anyway, which gives me hope for a sequel. Supposedly Warner has a dollar figure they want to see from the movie before they sign off on a sequel and no, I wouldn’t back another Kickstarter. Whatever annoyance I felt at the Flixster thing has been washed away by the movie itself. Still, Veronica with a cleaned-up Logan, back to work at her father’s PI office? I’d love to see a resurgence of PI stories.

Anyway, the show and the movie are buzzing away in my head, making work on my own stuff seem dreary and unpleasant. Must break through and get back to good things.

I am writing rpg gaming stuff now and it is hard

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I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.

While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.

What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.

In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?

Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.

What the hell was I thinking?

Using Scrivener, once again

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There comes a point when you’re (I’m) typing a long comment somewhere and a simple thought suddenly springs up: I should be posting this to my own blog!

Well, I’ll link to it instead. Author Sherwood Smith is working on a switch from her old word processing program to Scrivener, and I thought I would share the (rather simplistic) way that I use it. It’s not exactly in-depth, but it’s what I’ve managed to kludge together from all the bells and whistles the program contains.

Anyway, check it out. If you use Scrivener or are thinking of switching to it, there might be something useful there.

Also, if you haven’t read Sherwood’s work, I liked Inda but she has newer stuff, too.

This is how it happens

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I took my son downtown to see a movie and we missed the start. So, to kill some time, we wandered into the Barnes & Noble to browse around and pick up some books. This is what we came back with:

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EX-HEROES was for my kid; I’ve been pretty upfront about my distaste for zombies in all forms. The others were for me. You know what I didn’t realize until later that night when I took them out of the bag? They were all books by dudes.

It’s just too easy to stay in a comfort zone. It’s easy to stick with habits that we don’t even recognize as habits. I don’t talk about it much, but some time ago I decided that I was going to be more mindful about my book purchases; it’s super-easy to just buy books by all men. It’s pretty much the path of least resistance. Oops.

So I’m going to pull Dark Places off the shelf next. And I’m not doing it because it’s the right thing to do (although it is) or that it’s what other people think I should do (they don’t actually care). I’m doing it because carelessly limiting myself will weaken me when I need to make my writing stronger.

If you’re someone who only reads one type of writer, you should try new things, too.

You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

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In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

In which I am interviewed.

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Yes, that’s right, I was interviewed for the podcast Tell Me Another. You can listen here on their site or in iTunes for the low low price of nothing at all.

Tell Me Another is about stories and storytellers, and I talked about that, I guess? Actually, I pretty much forgot everything I said except: I recommended a book I read recently, I recommended a noirish movie on Netflix Streaming that I loved, and I went into my rant about vampires and vampire lore at some point. Presumably, I said other things, too.

Also, if you go the the podcast site, you’ll see a picture of me. Go ahead if you want. I’m not ashamed. (Much.)