Friday, November 20, 2015

Obstacle Course

The leaves are off the trees. The cold wind whistles outside. First flurries of snow are expected soon. Must be deep fall. Welcome to the eastern edge of the west.

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James Young, some writer, Suzanne Dome, A.R. Crebs and Todd Hunter
at Wichita's very excellent Air Capitol Comicon. Photo by Trevor C. Welch.

I was on a writer's panel at Air Capital Comicon and one of the questions was typical of such things:

What's the biggest obstacle to getting published?

My immediate response was "finishing your stuff". I guess I was channeling Chuck Wendig but it doesn't change the truth of the statement. These days you can publish easily through the Internet so the only thing that really is holding you back is your own fear or ignorance of how to do it.

But the key is to publish well. Do everything that needs to be done to make your story as good as it can possibly be. That means:

  • Beta readers to tell you how the story goes for them. You don't have to take their advice but you do have to consider it.
  • Your own time editing the piece as best you can. But realize that you will not catch everything. You're WAY too close to it. And you've read it already a thousand times or more.
  • Professional editing. This means paying someone to give it another read for the things you've used beta readers and your own time for. Don't skip this step.
  • A good cover. Yes, you have to pay for that too.
  • Formatting and design. Do you know how to set up your book to go live on the Internet? You can learn if you choose to invest the time. Are you familiar with the concept of book design? Do you know someone who is? Because this stuff matters.
So I'm here to tell you that writing is hard. There's a lot of work that goes into it. A lot of time beyond just slinging words on the digital page. All the stuff publishers do still needs to be done by you, the independent publisher.

But what's the biggest obstacle? Finishing. Don't give up. Keep going. Get the work done. All that stuff in the list is easier when you've got something to show for it.

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I've been turned on to a couple of podcasts this week that I want you to know about. The first comes from my friend Rob who listens to a wide variety of stuff and he tends to point me at things he knows I'll like. So far he's never been wrong.

So in turn I recommend to you that you check out The Message podcast. It's got elements of X-Files, Warren Ellis science fiction, War of the Worlds and NPR's Serial. Here's the pitch:

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in starting with Episode 1.
The Message is a co-production between Panoply and GE Podcast Theater, unlocking the secrets of healing with sound technology.

If you're like me then you might cast a doubtful eye at GE producing a podcast. There's a long history of corporations putting together art for the sake of art in the early days of radio and television. They of course are recognized for being involved and not all of them embedded commercials in the stories but many did.

This podcast doesn't. It does connect to GE through the disclaimer that they're working on science similar to what's used in the show. That's all the background stuff.

As for the story itself, it's put together in short installments that have dropped weekly. The last episode comes out Saturday and I'm excited for it. This isn't a huge investment of your time and I think it's a worthwhile way to spend about an hour in a cool story.

The other show I'm joining already in progress is The Black Tapes Podcast. Creepy stuff that taps into   primal fears, then twists them around bony fingers. It starts out rocky, like most podcasts do, but seems to find its legs pretty quickly. I'm digging deeper into it because the beginning of it captured my attention and imagination.

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It's a good time for entertainment in general, isn't it? I mean there are maturing and mature means to tell stories. Black Mirror. Marvel's TV series. The CW's DC adaptations. HBO. AMC. The above mentioned podcasts. Welcome to Nightvale.

Then there are authors like Richard Kadrey, Robert Reed, Nnedi Okorafor, Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Liu Cixin, Ann Leckie. Comic creators like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, Mike Carey, Gabriel Hardman.

Look, even SyFy is re-rebranding. They're moving through into the realms of science fiction again, and not just silly stuff. Hell, CBS has a superhero show on in primetime. We nerds have it good. The future sure looks bright for genre.

We owe a debt of thanks to George Reeves, Nicholas Hammond, Lynda Carter, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno for stoking the fires all those years ago. And to Glen Larson, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Gene and Sylvia Anderson, the team at BBC, Jack Webb, Steven Spielberg.

Even Andy Griffith for Salvage-1. I fully embrace the full range of genre, good and bad. It's formed me into who I am.

Yeah, it's a good time for genre. But it always has been. It's easier to find now. That's the only difference.

I've rambled a bit too long maybe. More next time. 'Til then, be good to each other.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cold Distance

Rainy and cool here on the eastern edge of the west. The leaves are composting in the yard, everyone around us is preparing for a festive holiday of shopping and trampling one another. For my own part, I will stay home, drink whisky and watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.


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NOT the actual cover.

I've begun planning things for next year. That means I had to pick a date for releasing the novel out into the wild.

July 26th, 2016. It'll be available for you to read.

More to come.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

A World of Words

Hello there. Today has been a gorgeous fall day that allowed me to take a long walk, do some work in the yard and have the house open. A warm trend is on tap for the eastern edge of the West and we're ready for it.

Welcome to the world of words.


Baseball season is over. For the last month or so we've been in postseason playoffs and the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series. They've been magnificent all year and this run against the New York Mets is full of devil magic and miraculous comebacks.

My Twitter feed and Facebook are filled with memes and photos and hair pulling during the games. It's exciting. It reminds me of my youth when baseball meant a lot because of my grandfather. I listen to Denny Matthews on the radio as much as I watch games on TV. Every time I listen I can feel my grandfather's presence around me. On fishing trips we listened to games on whatever AM station was close.

The last three years of Kansas City baseball have been exceedingly special in that way that only your home team being good can be. All my friends who aren't into sportsball have been very tolerant of my posting about how great the Royals have been. I'm appreciative. It's almost over. Maybe tonight but certainly by Tuesday.

Hang in there. The postseason won't go on too much longer. It's been a wild ride that promises a fantastic finish.


I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. A group of writers who I love dearly are doing it again this year, hosting the local events as they always do. I feel like I've done it for seven or eight years and I've gotten an awful lot out of it. I have learned how to write fast, how to slap the story down on the page and then go back and hammer it into shape.

I've learned how to make room for new ideas by throwing words out. I've learned how to pace myself, to work steadily every day no matter what. (Well mostly.)

What I haven't learned is how to write a solid First Draft. NaNo is great for the Zero Draft. Really great. But it doesn't teach me how to organize my ideas coherently. It doesn't teach me how to write a good novel. Rather it teaches how to write a passable story or a treatment. Which is much more its purpose.

So I'm not doing NaNo for the second year in a row. Doesn't mean I won't do it again but I feel like I've learned as much as I can from it. That said, I am going to try to get out to the write ins because the energy there is aMAZing. It won't hurt me to soak up a little of that.


This past week I turned in the third Evolver book called, for now, Acceleration. It's cool to have completed a trilogy of stories that appeal to young readers. Like any good writer I left plenty of room - PLENTY of room - for more stories but essentially the origin is complete.

In this story, Jackson must face off against the man who murdered his father. Meanwhile, the reason for the power behind him is revealed. It's full of twists and turns and it's got a bit of Dr. Moreau in it.

Here's hoping it finds some traction somewhere. If it doesn't, I'm glad for the experience. It was really too much fun.

Also I'm working in earnest on a short story that will be published next year. Stay tuned for information on that one. It's very cool.


Finally, I'm nearly ready to send this novel I've been tinkering with out to beta readers. This will be an extensive revision of the NaNoWriMo novel from 2011 so a couple will have read it before. I'm so close to being ready to put it out into the world I can taste it. I can't wait for everyone to read it. I hope it's as good as I think it is.

We'll find out. Watch for announcements here.

In the meantime, I'll be at Air Capital Comicon on November 14. I'll have the first two Evolver books, the first Agent of DANGER book, and I'll be writing Velocity Stories for you too. Come find me in Artists' Alley, will you? There are a lot of us who love to talk to people.

And that's all from the rolling hills atop the prairie, where a little baseball team can make a big noise and the plains can generate fantastic visions. Glad you stopped by.

OH! Here's a little thing. Just a bit of fun.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Hello there from the plains of the fantastic. The hills here are alive with something that's not music. The godamned mites are chewing us up and asking for more when we work outside.

Whew, it's been a while, hasn't it? Only a few weeks but it seems like a lifetime. I've got a glass of Jameson here and some things to mention.

I finished a manuscript that's been languishing on my desktop far too long. Months, really. I began working on the revisions about three weeks ago and it took two weeks longer to get them done than I thought. A couple reasons for that: 1) I've developed some bad habits while I wasn't writing every day and 2) I couldn't stop tinkering with the damn thing.

While this year has been tough for me personally, I could have been writing more. Perhaps it would have helped. The bits of writing I did accomplish in the spring and summer I was proud of. But along the way I've gotten off track, let my focus dissipate. I'm much more easily distracted by social media and TV than I was before say, February. I will open a story and do a couple of things then flip over to Facebook or Twitter and stick my beak in where it shouldn't be. The net result is that I wasn't writing and I was making myself crazy. Over the last few weeks I've tried to do that less. Some days it works.

So when I finally turned off the static I printed a copy of the story and got out my red pen. The manuscript looked like someone spilled a gallon of blood on it. Red everywhere. Everywhere. On all the pages. It wasn't going to be a revision so much as a rewrite. This reenforced that I can get a story down fairly quick but then I have to go back and beat it into shape. And likely more than once. I wish I was a better writer and could produce a more polished manuscript on the first go but I'm not. Maybe I will be someday. Until then, I need to build that revision time into my work.

At the beginning of October I ventured off to St. Louis with a couple of friends to attend Archon. At which we hoped to meet Harlan Ellison. It was a great road trip with two good mates. We all love Harlan for different reasons that are the same when you get down to it: the words. Great writers make it look easy. Harlan makes it look effortless. The way he explores an idea makes his work inspirational. 

The panel he was on about the future of science fiction was enlightening. It made me want to go back to the hotel and write. Immediately following the panel we were at the front of burgeoning line to meet him. I thanked him for the stories and told him I did my live-writing Velocity Stories because of him. He showed me how Leo and Diane Dillon worked his face into the covers for Paingod and other paperbacks in the same series. 

And I did write back at the hotel. I wrote some interesting things. Some which you may have seen, the rest is part of three pages of handwritten notes.

Writing for the future because of Harlan Ellison. Well, partly anyway. Thank you again, Harlan. You're always an inspiration.

I became aware of Connie Willis because Harlan mentioned her in an interview ten years ago. I've read some short stories but this week I started reading Passage. It's about Near Death Experiences and as I get deeper into the story I marvel at her world building. It's the kind of thing that gets taken for granted when a story is rooted in the nominal present day. In the first couple of chapters Willis takes the reader into a hospital to see how it works, how the people interact. It's brilliant. I'm enthralled and lose myself in the pages. The writing is so good that the average reader won't notice it. I recommend you find a copy for yourself. 

And that's all I've got, though I've been tinkering with other things too. I've got some thoughts on things that are divisive and of course the election is swinging like a pendulum over the electorate strapped to a concrete slab. But that's for another time. 

All is well on the eastern front of the west. Looking forward to see you in Wichita at AirCap Comicon. Do the right things. The world is a happier place when you do.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I wish for more books and the time to read them.

I wish cancer was gone. Completely and forever.

I wish the stories could leap from my head onto the page.

I wish my daily stress level was lower.

I wish my health was better.

I wish I could see all my friends every day. I miss you all.

I wish I was rich in things that mattered to the world and not only in the things that matter to me.

I wish I was better.

I wish I could travel freely. My wife would like that too.

All these things are possible with the application of time and determination.

All these things are possible.

I wish it were so.