Mar 1 2012

Monkey Shines

My story “From Their Paws, We Shall Inherit,” is going up on Clarkesworld today.

First off, Yay Clarkesworld! They’ve published such amazing things, like Peter Watts’ “The Things” and Kij Johnsons “Spar“. And now they’ve published this story of mine, which is both incredibly cool and weird for me. I’m having one of those lovely impostor syndrome moments.

Anyway, it’s my second take on an alien invasion. In the first, “Sympathy of a Gun,” the aliens kill everyone on earth except for the pregnant women with poisonous nanotech wasps. In this one, there are monkeys.

May 12 2011

Method 1- Plans are overated

Let’s start in 2005.

There I was, living on twenty acres of prime central Minnesota swamp land, ten miles outside of a town of twenty-five hundred people. I’d moved there two years before because my wife had always wanted to do the Dr. Quinn medicine woman thing and be a small town family practice doc. Which meant that she was working a good sixty to eighty hours a week. Which left me at home alone with our two-year old daughter, in a very nice house, in it’s very nice swamp.

I was going insane.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my daughter, but two year olds are not the most intellectually stimulating companions. I needed something to do besides making grilled cheese, reading Dora books, and changing diapers. Something I could do during nap time. Something besides laundry and housecleaning.

So I started writing.

I hadn’t seriously written since high school. Hell, I wouldn’t describe what I did in high school as serious either, but I did write some then. But I needed something to do.

I tried a few short stories. Started, stopped, revised, gave up. The same problem that had stopped me writing in high school still deviled me- it’s so much easier to think of a story than writing one. But I stuck with it, and kept poking at ideas.

Then one of those ideas went out of control on me.

It was a dumb little short story. A girl meets a guy with a dark secret. Seriously, it was that original. But it changed on me. What if the girl had a secret too, one that she didn’t even know? Sure, not real original either, but it started to make a character in my head, and she wouldn’t go away. Not without a good story.

So I tried to write one for her. I wrote a few, actually, building up new plots around her, tearing them down, trying new things, never having any idea how it would end. Eventually, the story started moving in a way that I liked, kind of, but by then I had a word count of over twenty thousand words and growing. This wasn’t a short story in more, it was the start of a book.

A book. That was slightly panic inducing. On the other hand, who cared? I was just filling up nap times, trying not to go crazy, and it was working. So maybe I would write a book.

Writing a story that long meant I needed to change things again. More characters. More conflict. A bad guy! Yeah, the original story didn’t really have a bad guy. Told you I was new at this. So more writing, more building up, more tearing down.

Most of my writing at this time was guided by three things- the personalities of my characters, the very vague plot outline that I had in my head, and kick-ass scenes.

Kick ass scenes. Every story has them. There what you remember after you put the book down. The chorus from your favorite song. The explosions in an action film, the sex in a porno, the monster in a horror movie, the sword fight in, well, anything. The stuff that would come get you if you tried to skim it. The kick ass stuff. I had scenes like that in my head, clear as day from the story. So I wrote out a narrative that strung them together and let my characters run from one to the next.

In the end, after five months, I had a book. 83000 words, though I probably wrote close to twice that with all the false starts and redos.

So is it a good book? Sort of. The characters are good. The plot has good potential. There are some really kick ass scenes. But it’s a first book, and it needs work. It’s getting that now. I’m running it through my critique group, getting ideas on how to make tighter and faster. Also, having stepped away from it for a few years and written a bunch of short stories and a couple of other books, I think I have a better handel on just plain old writing. So it’s a book that’s getting better.

Getting it in shape is the plan for this summer.

Well, that and writing an ass-load of short stories. Damn things are clogging up my brain.


May 8 2011

How to write a book, in three contradictory lessons

It’s the beginning of May, and I’ve hit the final stretch of my third book. By the end of this month, the first draft should be done.

It better be done.

Anyway, when I tell people that I’m working on a  book, I tend to get a lot of questions about my process. Am I an outliner or a pantser*? How long does it take? Which comes first, characters or plot? So I thought I would go through how I approached each of the books I’ve written so far, detailing my process (such as it is) and how its changed from one book to another.

Along with the basic mechanics, I’ll talk about what I’m doing to try to get them published. Because while it’s kind of cute to think of these books as my sweet, beautiful babies, it’s time for baby to get sent off to the sweat shop. These kids have spent enough time being coddled. It’s time for them to grow up and start earning their keep.

*Pantser-someone who writes by the seat of their pants. No plan, no plot, no problem.

Jan 9 2011


Ah, a new year.  Again.

Not that many posts ago, I mapped out my plans for 2010.  Let’s see how I did.

Novels-  I wanted to finish Little Dutch Girl, and I did.  And polished it up.  Now it’s looking for an agent, and at least getting some nibbles.  So we’ll count that.

Cleaning up Chosen Wings is more of a wash–It still needs a lot of work, but with the new writing group tearing into it I have a much better handle on what I need to do with it.  Still, I at least feel somewhat positive about its direction.

The new novel–Meh.  I’ve got the outline and its started.  But just barely.  I’d hoped to be well into it by the start of this year.

Shorts-  Sold two more, Mayfly and Sympathy of a Gun.  Also sold Blood of Dead Gods as a reprint to PodCastle. Churned out a few new ones, revised some old ones, and they’re circulating.  Still getting bounced, but I tend to get the nice bounces now at least.

Went to WisCon and World Fantasy, got to meet a lot of cool people.

Ended up in a new writers group.

And about those word count goals.  What was that, a thousand a day, 20000 a month?  Yeah, not even close.

However!  I cleaned and prepped and sold our old house, did an interstate move, helped the GW find a fun new job, bought a new house, and settled in with the kids.  Excuses, but at least they’re good ones.

So what have I learned?  Don’t list easily verifiable goals in public, for one thing.  So the goal this year– more than last.

I think I can hit it.

Nov 30 2010

Mmmm, Pod

So the 24 hour story I wrote at Writers of the Future is getting some more mileage.  After its run in Fantasy, I sent it on to the fantasy podcast, PodCastle.  They liked it, so now I have my first reprint and podcast all wrapped up in one.

It’s kind of strange to listen to.  Normally, I only hear my stories read aloud by me, when I’m trying to keep myself awake while proofreading them for the fiftieth time.  Got to tell you, they have better voices then mine at PodCastle, which is a good thing.

So go over and download it.  It’s free!  Except you should then give them some money, so that the fine proprietors of this site can not only keep doing this, but also keep both kidneys.

Nov 10 2010

World Fantasy~ Columbus Edition

So at the end of October I tossed the kids into a U-Store and headed off to Ohio.

Okay, yes, I lie.  The kids hung out with the Grandmas.  But I did go to Ohio.

Because there was World Fantasy- a convention!  About fantastic type things.  Written down.

So I’m told that World Fantasy is different then most cons, in that it has more of a business meeting type vibe.  Which apparently means that you sit around in the hotel bar and talk business.  Occasionally, amongst all the other things.  So I did that, and had a lovely time.  I met up with old friends, made some new ones, and played the internet match game.  Y’know, hanging a real, live, squishy face over that boney bundle of comments that you read on various newsgroups.

Did I actually get any business accomplished?  Yeah, sorta, maybe.  At least it’s inspired me to get on with my next two big projects.  First, hashing out my third book, a Lovecrafian pastiche workingly-titled “The Color Out of Lizards.”  Or maybe “My Sucky Endless Summer.”  I don’t think either of those is going to stick.

Second, selling my second book, Little Dutch Girl.  Which means it’s time to bust out a new query letter and synopsis.

Oh, how I hate them.

Oct 26 2010

Beautiful Butterflys

“Shut up, shiny new idea! I *need* to finish the older project first.”

That was a facebook status by Michael Thomas, one of my writing friends. It nicely sums up one of the basic problems of writing, at least for me. The beautiful butterfly problem.

See, when a new idea shows up, it is a beautiful butterfly. It hovers there, just out of reach, shiny, amazing, perfect. Whatever piece of crap I’m working on at the moment immediately pales in comparison. This new thing is so much better- it will win awards, bring fame and fortune, and editors will battle with rusty spoons to buy it. So even though I know I should ignore it, know I should finish what I’m currently in the middle of, I sometimes just have to reach out for it…

Reach, and it dances away. Reach again, and again it moves. Lunge this time, and my fingers brush against it, and there goes one of the antennae, snapped off, but that’s okay, I can fix that. If I can just grab the damn thing. So grab I do, and now I’ve snatched it from the air, and the wings are crumpling, but I’ve got it.

Got it tight between my fingers, where it’s fluttering, struggling, and the color is dashing off against my fingers, and I slam it down desperately onto the page to pin it into place with a few pithy phrases. Which of course just squishes the thing, and now it’s bleeding ichor everywhere, and I can’t see why the hell I thought it was beautiful to begin with. It’s stupid and ugly and no one will like it or buy it, and I hate it and… and… what’s that? In the air? Something so bright. A new idea, clean and shiny and perfect. Like a beautiful butterfly…

Writing is so easy, up until you actually start to write.

Aug 9 2010

On the air, everywhere…

Blood of Dead Gods went live today, at Fantasy.

Go ahead, check it out.  I’ll wait.

It’s my first online pub that’s on an open site, so I can flog the link around and people might actually check it out.  Very cool.  Unfortunately for me, it’s being posted while I’m in the middle of an interstate move, surrounded by cardboard and chaos, with only spotty internet capability.

Which is why my picture looks so goofy.


Jun 7 2010

Oh yeah, progress…

Of a sort.  Amongst all the moving, I did manage to finish Little Dutch Girl.

Well, the first draft.  That’s the hard part for me though, grinding out those words on the page.  The revision/polishing up part is much more enjoyable, mostly.  So it should be all buffed and shiny by the end of the summer, in time for its fall cotillion at World Fantasy.

Wish it the best.

Anyway, it took 8 months instead of the hoped for four.  I’ll give myself a mulligan of a couple of months for the move, but that still leaves a couple of months of laziness in there.  Must-write-more!

Where there’s a whip, there’s a way, the orcs sing softly in the background.

Jun 4 2010

So what’s the latest excuse?


I.E. why haven’t I paid any attention to this site, and why has the writing been slow. The Genius Wife got sick of her job eating her life, so time for a new one, in a new state. Back to Illinois for us, land of corn, tornadoes and grandparents. (Grandparents only available in limited quantities)

Between the job stuff, selling one house, packing, buying another, etc., a large hole got knocked in my writing schedule. But I’m slowly clawing my way back onto the horse. At least a thousand words a day! Every day!