Monthly Archives: June 2014

I don’t even know

I didn’t think I’d have anything to write about today (still trying to get back on track after vacation), but then I got some good news.  And then some awful news.  Seems like the universe always delivers these things in pairs.

Universe: “Here, have a rainbow.”
Me: “Why, thank you so much!”
Universe: “You’re welcome!  Now I’m going to punch you in the gut.”
Me: “What? Why?!”
Universe: “Dunno.  You just seemed too happy.”

And so it goes.

I can’t talk about the awful news, but the good news is it looks like I’m going to be set loose on another book tour for THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY this fall.  Dates and details are still being discussed (watch my website for updates), but for now, look out, west coast.  I’m headed back your way.

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Streets of Shadows

I had no idea what I was going to blog about this week, as I’ve spent most of my time lately cleaning my damn house. Is attic lung a real disease? Because I might have it.

But I was saved from having to think of something by an email I got this afternoon. My story, “Shooting Aphrodite”, is going to be appearing in Streets of Shadows, a noir urban fantasy anthology edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, the guys behind Dark Faith. So now I can just do a self-promo thread, woot!

The full TOC will be released July 1, and don’t worry, I’ll plug the book when it comes out.


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More Kitten Videos

I recently read the post “The End Goal Of Increased Productivity Should Not Be More Time For Kitten Videos“.

That title is, of course, completely wrong. The whole point of productivity is more time for kitten videos. Where “kitten videos” is a stand-in for whatever you want.

Sure, you can be more productive so that you have time to exercise, meditate, take up a new hobby, learn French, volunteer at the soup kitchen. But here’s a secret: you can also be more productive–getting your work done in less time–to take more naps, read a so-called trashy novel, or even to watch kitten videos.

So here you go: the top 10 best cat videos, according to someone who is not me. Feel free to watch it guilt-free. Or take a nap. Whichever.


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Control Issues

While I’m mostly caught up in the traditional publishing world right now, I keep poking at the idea of doing some self-publishing. It’s the punk rock thing to do these days– except, well, no, it’s gotten to be pretty common. So maybe it’s more just the college-rock-alternative thing. Anyway…

I hesitate in trying it, though, because of the work involved. Self-publishing means not only do you have to write, you also have to be your own editor, copy-editor, publicist, publisher, and cover artist. Or you have to contract those things out. It’s either a lot of work, money, or some combination of both. That’s all a bit intimidating. Something happened recently though that might have edged me a little further toward trying it.

The publisher Angry Robot put up a post Friday, in which they announced today that they’re closing two of their imprints, Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A. I happened to know a few people (hey guys! Sorry…) who had sent books in to Strange Chemistry’s open call. So their work just came bouncing back after a long wait.

That announcement’s a reminder that there is so much about this industry that an author has no control over. You can write a great book, get an agent, get a publisher and then– your imprint is dropped. Your editor transfers/quits/explodes, and the new editor hates your book. Your publisher is bought out by another publisher, and they want to move in a different direction, i.e. they hate your book and aren’t going to do jack to promote it. These are all things I’ve seen happen to people. Well, technically not the one about the editor exploding. But it wouldn’t surprise me.

These are all things that were beyond the authors control. Self publishing, meanwhile, dangles this carrot of control out there. Yes, it’s more work, yes, there are upfront costs, but it’s you, not some corporation, in control of things.

Self-determination is tempting.

Thing is, that concept of self-determination is also some what illusionary. There are still plenty of things that can happen when you self-publish that can yank that control right back out of your hands. You’re still dealing with corporations– Amazon, mostly, and Amazon…

Well, Amazon seems to have its own control issues.

I guess this means that I’m still on the edge of that cliff, staring down at the drop. Considering. In the mean time, write, write, write.

‘Cause no matter which way I go, the words are the only thing I have to take with me.

Well, the words and my dreadful feeling of indecisiveness.


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A Post in Two Parts

First off, I need to get the obligatory promotion whore business out of the way. The Heroes! kickstarter is funded, so now the fun begins: stretch goals! Check it out, and if you like what you see, consider throwing some money into the proverbial hat.

Ahem. Now that that’s out of the way …

Remember last year when I said I was going to break my own rule and write the second book in a series even though I hadn’t sold the first? So I’ve been working on that project for … well, a long time. Since last November. I’m having trouble keeping my momentum going. I know where the story is headed. My alpha readers have good things to say about it. I’m floudering, though, most likely because I haven’t sold the first novel. I’ve been pondering it for awhile and I’ve decided to work on another project. I hate to leave a project unfinished, but since this is the first time I’ve ever done that, well … I’m cutting myself some slack. A new project with a whole new world and characters is just what I need to get the writerly blood flowing. Plus, this time I’m going to tackle an adult novel, and I’m looking forward to using curse words and sex.



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Pacing Impressions

The past couple nights I’ve stayed up late reading The Virgin of Small Plains, a book I first heard mentioned in Writing the Breakout Novel. The other week I was writing at the library, near the mystery section as usual (it’s right next to the SF section), and I thought I’d pick up a mystery along with the Hugo nominees I was planning to get. I looked up some award lists and The Virgin of Small Plains jumped out at me.

There’s a big emphasis on high tension and fast pacing these days, and I don’t argue with that, but…

I sometimes feel, reading popular books, that I’m on vacation in a new city, trying to hit all the must-see points in one day. A tour guide is grabbing my hand and tugging me from museum to cathedral to monument with hardly a break for lunch or even to admire the sites I’ve come to see. At the end, I can say that yes, I’ve visited the city, but my feet hurt and I don’t have any solid lasting impressions of it.

The Virgin of Small Plains is not like that. The book has a mystery at its heart that pulls me through the story–but not in the annoying way that thrillers and suspense books often do. The tour guide isn’t pulling me along while I crane my neck backwards. They’re driving a bus that stops at all the sites, giving me time to take it in, and then speeds off to the next one. It’s still fast, but more comfortable, and I get to enjoy the city along the way.

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Yay!  Starting Friday, husband and I will be mostly off the grid for a little over a week, which is the longest vacation (meaning no work or writing commitments) we’ve taken together since…hmmm….wow, possibly since we went to Ireland back in 2011.

So yeah, we kinda need this.

We’re sticking a lot closer to home this time around, but I haven’t given up on the notion of pulling off an Italy trip sometime in the next couple years.  If for no other reason than I need to see Venice.  Whenever I read anything about that city, ideas for stories just crowd my brain.  Take this bookstore.  There are books stacked in gondolas.  Encyclopedia staircases. Yeah.  And it would be interesting to see if the Venice that I’ve created in my mind bears any resemblance to the actual city.

There probably won’t be dragons swimming in the canals, but a girl can dream.



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The Scrambler

Have you ever ridden the Scrambler? It’s that ride at the county fair where you spin and spin and spin, and end up either crushing the person who is stuck in the car with you or being crushed, depending on which side you sat in. That’s what I was doing last week– instead of posting here.

Well, I wasn’t just riding the Scrambler. I was being a chaperone for my daughter’s girl scout troop. To celebrate finishing 5th grade they went to Six Flags and then the City Museum in St. Louis (which is awesome). So how was that? Well, the kids had a great time, and I mostly did too, even though I think I’ve lost some of my higher range hearing. High speed drills have nothing on an eleven year old screaming on a roller coaster.

That’s what I was doing instead of blogging. Also instead of writing. Well, I managed to crank out a short story at the beginning of the week, but so far summer has been a, well, scramble. Like it always is. The kids aren’t in school, my wife has a lot of time off, and we end up doing things like vacations (yay!), and house cleaning (not so yay, but it does significantly reduce the chance that any of us will be crushed to death by a misbalanced pile of accumulated crap, so useful).

So is this just another I-have-no-time-to-write sob posts? A little. But not entirely! The thing is, I’ve figured out that while I might not have great word counts over the summer, it’s usually when I tend to get a lot of my thinking/plotting/outlining done. Mowing the lawn is great for world building, and cleaning the attic seems to help solve annoying plot problems. I still need to make sure to plop my butt into a chair for awhile occasionally, but I can get things done while chasing the kids around.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself as I scramble after them.

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Back to Ba–Wait, Hang On…

I used to be good about keeping a content calendar for my personal blog and this blog. Then I cut back on my blogging and stopped rotating through a regular list of topics.

Yesterday, while writing a post for my personal blog, I started making a list of some of the posts I’d made here. At first I thought I’d accidentally posted twice last week. Nope. I posted the same thing two weeks in a row. Not the exact same post, but last week’s was pretty much the same as the week before. I had completely forgotten that I’d already written about that topic.

I’d better start keeping a content calendar again.

So what is a a content (or editorial) calendar? Basically it’s…a calendar of content. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.) At its simplest, you get a calendar and you write what you’re going to post/tweet/facebook each day. Or week. This way you can plan things around holidays or events (like publications), or, if you’re a doofus like me, just keep yourself from posting the same thing twice in a row.

My previous calendar was a list in a Word doc, but I’m setting up the new one in Trello, which I’m already using to track writing goals. (For a couple examples of how to set up a calendar in Trello, see this post at Markerly or this other post at Drowning in Multimedia.)

The other disturbing thing I learned while looking at my recent posts here was just how boring my recent posts have been. I want to start writing good ones again. I could use a time turner, if anyone has one handy. If not, I’ve already added one nifty idea to my calendar.

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This week in reading

Continuing my summer reading posts, I’ve got two books to recommend this week.

The first is Mary Robinette Kowal’s Without a Summer, which is book 3 in her Glamourist Histories series.  The easiest way to describe these books is Jane Austen + magic, but really they’re so much more than that.  The attention to detail and history Kowal displays is truly remarkable.  And if you read and enjoyed the first two books in the series, there’s plenty to love here as Kowal continues to develop and deepen her character relationships.  Jane and Vincent are the highlight, of course.  One of the things I appreciate about this series is that it explores what happens after a couple falls in love and gets married.

After I finished Without a Summer, I moved on to New Orleans Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City, by Andrei Codrescu.  It’s a collection of funny and often poignant essays, a love letter to New Orleans.  I’m still in the middle of the book, but I’m finding each essay is like a little slice of a dream, the line between fantasy and reality blurred as Codrescu describes his adopted home.  As enjoyable as the book is, I’m glad that I picked it up after I’d visited the city, as the cultural and geographical references mean a lot more to me having walked some of those same streets.

So there you go.  Two very different books, but an equally satisfying reading experience.

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