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 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.

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.


Feb 2 2010

First sale of the decade!

Yeah, yeah, the decade starts in 2011, blah, blah.  It sounds better this way.

“Mayfly,” a SF story of mine will be appearing in the Warrior Wisewoman anthology.  Out sometime later this year.  I think.  I’ll let you know.

So you can buy, buy, buy!

It’s not for me.  It’s for the economy.  And because those trees had it coming.

Jan 5 2010

Out with the old, in with the new

So 2009 has been shoved out the door, disheveled and stammering, and we won’t see it again until someone combines a time machine with an unholy craving for Transformer sequels.  So here’s my writing year in review–yeah, other crap happened, but I’m trying to focus here.

Two stories sold- Adam, Unwilling and The Blood of Dead Gods will Mark the Score.

Two stories published- Adam, Unwilling and The Farthest Born.

One award ceremony/workshop attended- Writers of the Future 25.

A few agents poked, with little reaction.

One book mostly finished.

Joined SFWA.

Summation- progress made, but improvement’s needed.  Time to buckle down.

So the goals for 2010, just so I have something to feel guilty about next year…

Novels- Finish ‘Little Dutch Girl’ by the end of January (currently at 75K), then start its rewrite after I’ve let some readers tear it apart.  Do a rewrite lite on ‘Chosen Wings’, polishing it up.  Start 2010 novel–currently lacking a title (and plot)–toward the end of the year.  Get serious about badgering agents, editors, and whatever hapless civilians that get in the way about Chosen and Dutch.

Shorts- Keep shopping around what’s done.  When done with the current book, plow through the ideas I have for new stories and get a new batch out there.

Work-1000 words a day, 20000 a month (I’m not that bad at math, I’m building in flexibility).  At least.

Other- More publish, more awards, more money, more minions.

Dec 16 2009

And then there were three…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything.  Short synopsis of life– diaper changes.  Keeping the baby from killing herself.  Doing as little housework as possible without giving older daughter cause to call social services.  Same old, same old.

Writing has been squeezing in there.  I started a new novel in September, hoping to have it done by the end of the year.  That seems pretty unlikely now, as I just hit sixty thousand words, but January should be doable.

Because of the book, I haven’t let myself mess around with short stories.  Much.  I did revise the twenty four hour story that I did at the WOTF workshop.  Got it critiqued a few times, polished up, and then I sent it off to Fantasy Magazine.

And they bought it.

My third sale.  Now, this means something more to me than just another check.  First of all, at this stage of my pitiful, crawling blob of a career, any success is a major milestone.  But three is special because of a somewhat arbitrary goal I set for myself.  I wanted to be able to join SFWA (Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of America–like a writers union, but it’s not, go read the web site if you really care).  To join, you need to have sold one novel or published 3 short stories in professional markets.  This makes three, so now, according to their by-laws, I’m considered a pro writer and can join.  Well, once I pay the membership fee, of course.

A pro!  I should have a t-shirt made, with PRO written across it.

Or might that be misunderstood?

Aug 22 2009

What the WOTF?

So what is Writers of the Future? Aka WOTF? Easy answer is to head to their page or wiki it.

But here’s my short response. It’s a writing contest, for speculative fiction works. And it’s cool. Why? Because it’s been around for twenty-five years, it pays well, and it involves some of the best names in sci-fi and fantasy as judges and workshop instructors. And speaking of workshops…

That’s probably been my biggest interest in the contest. The money is nice, the pro sale is nice, and getting your story into an anthology that’s sold world-wide is fantastic. But on top of all that, you get to go to the workshop.

The week before the award ceremony (yeah, they have a fancy ceremony where you get dressed up and people clap and you get treated way better than you probably ever will be again as a writer) you spend a week at a workshop. Provided by the contest, usually with some cool pro like Tim Powers. And that kicks all sorts of ass.

Plus, you do it with all the other winners for the year. Like summer camp. But with laptops instead of S’mores.