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Archive for the ‘Promotion’ Category

It’s been a bit busy around here, ever since I discovered a Facebook group that lets publishers and editors post opportunities for writers to submit stories. Part of that is due to me having quite a few stories lying around, in need of a good home. I have nothing against self-publishing them, but someone’s magazine is a much better placement if I can get it.

So it was the best of both worlds when I was able to place one of my existing stories with a new magazine. The pay wasn’t great, but the story was already there, and the magazine posted a number of stories by some fairly heavy hitters in the SF field, like Harry Harrison and Clifford Simak. Hopefully my story will be considered worthy of that company.

Black Infinity is a magazine harking back the good old days, when every alien wasn’t a beautiful humanoid female bent on seducing the captain. New planets were dangerous places, and explorers were risking everything to test them out. My story, ‘Noisemaker’, is about an agent for the Solar System’s de facto government, sent to a newly-discovered world, where all the animal life makes no sound, to find out why the research station there has suddenly gone as silent as everything else. The hero of this story, and others in this vein, is Robert Marquand, son of Joseph, which makes this series a sequel of sorts to my novel St. Martin’s Moon, which also has a creepy, outer-space-is-out-to-get-us vibe.

Dreamtime Dragons is a product of another Facebook group, called the Dreamtime Dragons. We decided to put together an anthology of our own work, almost all stories about dragons in some way or another. Rather than try to divide the sale price several different ways, all proceeds go to charity. My contribution to the work is an excerpt from my latest as-yet-unpublished novel, the third book in my Flame in the Bowl trilogy. The book is called Tales of Uncle, the story is called ‘A Soft Spot for Dragons’. Tarkas’ nephew Jasec has become the local teller of tales, and when his sister gets sick he tells her the tale of their heroic uncle’s adventure against the mightiest of monsters, the dirkins!

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For many years now I’ve been out there, selling books to people, through a little bookselling operation called Author Guy.

I started selling shortly after my first novel was published and i found out the hard way that no bookstores were interested in carrying it. It was a small press title. I wasn’t already famous. It was POD. Bookstores, like a lot of businesses, are trying to make money, which means they have to sell things. My book, in spite of being the best thing since sliced bread, was unlikely to sell with so many strikes against it. Large presses have a number of faults, but one of their benefits is their number of different parts, and connections to other companies’ moving parts. This is where the fabled ‘buzz’ comes from, as people in the industry start talking up this book or that.

There was a nice little publishing movie called ‘If You Believe’, about a woman who slips on ice at Thanksgiving and starts seeing a version of herself when she was younger, berating her for having gotten so dull and boring as she grew up. The woman worked for a publisher, and as she was helping her latest author edit his magnificent novel ‘Phooey’ she starts to get in touch with her former self. It’s a nice little movie, not great but I like it. Anyway, at the end of the movie, she’s presenting her book to the meeting and no one on her list has read it and she has to defend it as an acquisition, when suddenly someone she didn’t like speaks up from down the table, going on about how everyone in the copy room was raving and he bootlegged a copy for himself. He gets the others on the board interested, and before the meeting’s over, the chairman is saying “I can’t wait to read your new guy.” That’s buzz, or the beginnings of it.

A small press has no or few connections. No buzz. My book came out to a whimper, not even a whimper. Even worse, it was POD, which meant, to the bookstores, that it couldn’t be returned. Unfortunately, as my publisher discovered, they could indeed be returned. There’s nothing about POD that says it can’t be returned, that’s really a bookstore excuse for not buying POD. What POD really means to a bookstore is that individual copies of the book are expensive, which means they don’t make as much of a profit as they want. Large presses can print up large quantities, at low cost to them and maximal profit to the store. A paperback costs about a buck and a half to print, the publisher sells it for five and the bookstore sells it for fifteen.

So, to make a long story less long, I ended up creating my own bookstore. I started selling my books at craft and gift fairs, but I eventually turned it into a genuine business, a portable bookstore called Author Guy. (I originally wanted Books and Beasties, but the lady in the office where I was registering didn’t like ‘Beasties’ as a word, so I chose Author Guy instead, after a character in a story I’d just written, named Author Guy. Other characters were Fearless Hero and Evil Enchantress. The only one with a regular name was the Damsel in Distress, named Loretta, but I digress.) Author Guy exists to sell books, mostly my own but I carry all the books my publisher makes so a lot of others as well. Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts don’t need me, but these other guys are as unknown as I am, so I gave them a chance too. It helps that my publisher has the same taste in books that I do, strongly character-driven stories, so I could read all these books in genres I don’t usually read and enjoy them. More important, I could talk about them to customers, since none of the titles or authors were known to them. One of our slogans is “If you’ve heard of it, it’s not here.”

And now Author Guy is on the web, too. AuthorGuy.biz is live online, with all the books and deals we’re known for, but now available to people who don’t happen to be standing right in front of me. I even have my own little icon, a piece of art that I commissioned years ago and never used before.

MarcVunKannon_colorJust don’t expect me to wear this costume at Comic Con. Tights are so not my thing.

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A lot of authors feel daunted by the first blank page of a new story, putting down that first sentence that will anchor the first paragraph that anchors the first chapter. I know that right now I have one last chapter to write for the current episode of my fanfic series nine2five, and I am feeling a bit daunted because I haven’t got a strong idea where to begin it.

This is where story layering comes in. Basically, it means start with one element of your story, it doesn’t matter which one. It could be your strongest story element (mine is dialog) or a hook from the previous story/chapter, anything that you feel most comfortable with, to just write something down. You can’t edit what ain’t there.

In my case I often start with a great swatch of dialog, two characters having a great time advancing the plot with witty banter and repartee. (The below examples are from St. Martin’s Moon.)

“How would you have felt about a ‘small vacation’, or a ‘leave of absence’?”

Like this one.

“You would have spent the whole time laying about, nothing to do, dreading the day you had to come back, obsessing about the very thing you were supposed to be getting over, through, and past. You resign, the future is open-ended. You need a new job, something to pay the bills, like but unlike the job you’re best suited for.”

“Watching a friend turn into ice crystals.”

“That’s not the job.”

“Oh, it’s a perk?”.

“It’s a hazard! Bing-Bang knew it and accepted it. So did you, once. Do you think she’d want to see you like this?”

“Better than me seeing her like that.”

Then, three pages later, I’ll look back at what I just wrote an see that it has no action at all, not even dialog tags. This is probably where I learned my dislike of dialog tags. Rather than write ‘he said’ all the time, I just fill in the missing action around the dialog, making sure the reader knows who is doing the talking by also showing what he is doing. The only time I’d ever use a dialog tag is when I couldn’t use the action do it.

How would you have felt about a ‘small vacation’, or a ‘leave of absence’?”

Like this one.

The colonel’s face was stone, intent stone, but stone. “You would have spent the whole time laying about, nothing to do, dreading the day you had to come back, obsessing about the very thing you were supposed to be getting over, through, and past,” he declared flatly. “You resign, the future is open-ended. You need a new job, something to pay the bills, like but unlike the job you’re best suited for.”

“Watching a friend turn into ice crystals.” Marquand could barely be heard by anyone but the cooling tea in his hands.

“That’s not the job,” said Pierce quickly, his voice full of the bitterness lacking in the other man’s.

“Oh, it’s a perk?” Ah, there’s the passion.

“It’s a hazard!” Pierce managed, just barely, to keep from shouting. “Bing-Bang knew it and accepted it. So did you, once. Do you think she’d want to see you like this?”

“Better than me seeing her like that,” Marquand countered.

So that’s my second layer. A third layer might be the reactive text, showing what character A is thinking or feeling about what character B has just said or done. Or it could be character A thinking about what he himself is doing. My least favorite layer is the part where I have to put something down as the author that no character is saying/thinking/doing.

How would you have felt about a ‘small vacation’, or a ‘leave of absence’?”

Like this one. Marquand shook his head mutely. The thought of such a suggestion, today, such a… trivialization of what had…he couldn’t speak through the anger. Impossible to imagine what his reaction would have been then. They wouldn’t be trying to get him back now, for sure.

The colonel’s face was stone, intent stone, but stone. “You would have spent the whole time laying about, nothing to do, dreading the day you had to come back, obsessing about the very thing you were supposed to be getting over, through, and past,” he declared flatly. “You resign, the future is open-ended. You need a new job, something to pay the bills, like but unlike the job you’re best suited for.”

“Watching a friend turn into ice crystals.” Marquand could barely be heard by anyone but the cooling tea in his hands.

“That’s not the job,” said Pierce quickly, his voice full of the bitterness lacking in the other man’s.

“Oh, it’s a perk?” Ah, there’s the passion.

“It’s a hazard!” Pierce managed, just barely, to keep from shouting. “Bing-Bang knew it and accepted it. So did you, once. Do you think she’d want to see you like this?”

“Better than me seeing her like that,” Marquand countered. His voice sank into a mutter. “We were going to ask to be partnered next rotation.”

Story layering is clearly a form of story editing, and for those who prefer to write fist and edit later may not be of much help. My own writing style is to start from the beginning, and then every so often reread what I just wrote to come up with ideas for what I should write next. During this reread I will often have thoughts about text that should be in there that I forgot to include the first time, quite often flavoring pieces that don’t have much impact on the plot but enhance the presentation of the character. My personal favorite one of these occurred to me when writing St. Martin’s Moon. As my hero was being chased by one werewolf into the arms of another, the two monsters start threatening each other, rather than pay attention to him. I was on my fourth round of edits when I reread this scene and the thought popped into my head:

They weren’t social creatures. Nice to know, but it sucked to be the one to find out.

Which not only suited the character perfectly, it was an important plot point later on. The best part about this is that it’s often cyclic, as new layers inspire you to add yet more layers. It’s important to not get so lost enhancing what you’ve already got that you lose track of where you want to go. The important layers will feed into each other and propel the story. Others are just lily-painting and should be left for the end.

Unless they’re really, really good.

My fourth novel, Ghostkiller, is completed at long last. It is the fastest novel I’ve written to date. The earliest copy of the file that I can find is dated January 2011, which means this story wrote itself in considerably less than two years. Which I think is pretty cool, my fastest time ever. My previous fastest time was two years exactly, for A Warrior Made, which was also a somewhat longer book.

I described the first and only origin story of this novel here, although I have a vague feeling that I may have had some other ideas which were shapeless and allowed themselves to be taken over by this one. But that origin only got me the first line, and the rest, as usual, spun out from there. I know some of my usual tricks came into play early on. With a first line like “Aren’t you a bit young to be raising the dead?” the obvious follow-up is that the guy is as old as they come.

My first tag line for this thing, back when I had no idea what it was going to be about was, “It’s about a man who kills ghosts for a living”, which I would tell to anyone who asked and then watch their brains explode trying to figure out how to kill something that was already dead. Now that I actually almost a little bit maybe know what the story’s about, I have no idea what the tagline should be.

One brilliant idea later…

How about, “Stealing from the dead is no way to get a life”?

Not This Time Chapter 5, a chuck fanfic – FanFiction.Net.

I didn’t really plan for this to happen, but the series morphed itself, as my stories often do. It’s become the backstory behind the Sarah vs. Sarah conflict in my other story, Chuck vs. The Epilog. It adds a bit to the challenge, trying to come up with an ending that is triumphant and ambiguous at the same time. (Hopefully I’ll do a better job than George Lucas did with the Prequel trilogy.) I’ve had a bunch of ideas, actually, lots of good stuff that I hope I can do justice to.

Wish me luck.

Then maybe I can get back to Ghostkiller for a while.

It’s kind of a funny thing about tracking statistics. On the one hand they give you a sense of achievement, when you can see how many people have looked at your stories, how many reviewed them, how many saved them on their favorites list or created an alert for the next one. It’s all very gratifying, especially considering the lack of such statistics in the real publishing world. But (and you knew there had to be a ‘but’ coming) at the same time they also put a certain pressure to write the next story, when you see the rather sharp dropoff in the number of people reading. As other people post stories your latest moves down the page and then off the first page entirely and you feel like you have to post something new to get back in front again.

I have to fight this feeling. I was plugging away at Ghostkiller mainly to get it done by Lunacon, which I didn’t. After Lunacon I sort of took a break from that effort and wrote other stories instead. Chuck fanfics are good practice in alternative writing styles, and lots of fun. But now it’s time to get back to work.

Book Title: St. Martin’s Moon

Heroine Name: Candace (and Bing-Bang, via Miss Miho Tanaka)

What were you like before the story began? (Tanaka) My client was dead then, and is still dead. I’m a medium, appearing in the novel Ghostkiller, but I’m taking a break now. (Candace) I was the Communications Officer for Coventry Base, which sounds like a big deal except we didn’t talk to anybody.

Who are you in love with and why? (Candace) Nobody, until I met (sigh) Joseph. (Tanaka) That’s ‘Joey’, my client says.

Possessive, aren’t we? (Tanaka) He’s mine! I mean, he’s hers. Bing-Bang’s, that is. (Candace) You’d never think she’s been dead four years already, would you?

So how did you meet? (Candace) Two of our guys were found on the surface of the moon, looking for all the world like they’d been slaughtered by a werewolf, and we were a little upset by this. We couldn’t see how it could happen, and we really, really needed to, so we asked the System authorities, and they sent him. (Tanaka) My client met him at work, they were partners. I like Candace’s story better.

What was your immediate reaction to Joseph? What did you first think of him? (Tanaka) He was my client’s teacher. Naturally she was terrified of him. She got over it. (Candace) I thought he smelled nice. And he looked nice. And he sounded nice…

Surely it wasn’t that easy? (Candace) Well, no, remember I was head of Communications, a certain professional, um, decorum… (Tanaka) I think she means she didn’t drool. My client, of course, did not drool either. It messes up the space suit. (Candace) Not to mention that I had to keep secrets right and left, it got so I forgot what lies I was telling to whom!

So you had some little bumps on your road to romance? (Candace) Well, it didn’t help that all sorts of people were spying on him. One of them activated a bug in our systems, and I thought it was him, and well…And of course there was the sex. (Tanaka) What about the sex? (Candace) We couldn’t have any. You know, throes of passion, love bites…

So it was hopeless? (Tanaka) My client took an asteroid to the chest, and is currently incorporeal, so I’d say yes, it’s hopeless. (Candace) I’d hoped it wasn’t, but the station started to come apart and they were going to throw him out no matter what. I never thought I’d say this but thank God for Dr. Ron, and even Bertrand.

I interviewed him earlier. Isn’t he a psychopath? (Candace) Betrand is, yes. The important part is that only Joseph could attack them from the rear, and he did. Our savior. (Tanaka) Your idiot, you mean, going up against a werewolf in a locked room. Didn’t take him long before he went my client’s way. (Candace) Yes, well, it all came right in the end.

Any regrets? (Candace) No, none at all, not even the vat-grown whiting in tofu sauce over rice. (Tanaka) I’m sorry, my client is howling in my ear. I don’t think she has anything more to say.

No, this blog is not about my latest short story, you can tell, because all the words aren’t capitalized. My story is the jumping off point for this post, though, so it seemed appropriate. Nor am I doing yet another tedious post about all the myriad places one can get the inspiration for a story from, although those will become clear in the course of it.

A story is composed of many parts, you see, and just because you the author have an inspiration for a story doesn’t mean that it covers all the parts. I write slowly, and as I write my few words a day, that gives real-life a chance to subtly screw with my text, by giving me ideas that I would never have had, if I’d written this thing at a blazing run, tucked away in a home-office somewhere.

This post is something in the way of a shout-out, to those in general who supply such inspirations, and two people in particular. The first is Esther Friesner, editor of a series of comic anthologies with a series title of Chicks in Chain Mail. Titles include Chicks in ChainmailChicks Ahoy!, Mathemagics, Chicks N’ Chained Males, and lots of others. When I was writing Struck By Inspiration (see the caps?) I found myself introducing a buxom lass in a chainmail bikini. Why? Because it was funny. More to the point, this was a story about a story with two heroes, and a third almost-hero, who was the hero. (You’re confused? I had to write the damned thing!) In the first story in the series I had introduced an archetypes union called the FHA, or Fearless Heroes Association. Obviously I had to have another such union for the female heroes, because we authors know you have to take conflict where you can find it. I called it the CCM. Not because either of the stories in question had anything to do with Ms. Friesner’s series, or referenced any of the characters or storylines in any of the books. Simply because the phrase ‘Chicks in Chain Mail’ was funny, and it worked. So my thanks to Ms. Friesner for coming up with the phrase.

The other person I wanted to thank is W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, but he’s dead so I won’t. He wrote a comic opera (without Sullivan) about an author writing something called ‘sensation novels’, who had contracted with an occult entity to supply him with the inspiration to churn out one such novel a week. The characters were condemned souls, punished by being forced to appear as characters of the exact opposite temper they really possessed.

One such character was called the Yellow-Haired Panther, who was usually allied with a Wicked Baronet, whose job it was to seduce and ruin the Virtuous Hero while the Baronet did the same to the Innocent Maiden. Or some such. I forget the actual terms used but you get the idea. When I introduced my CCM-affiliated female hero, she was eventually given the name Yellow-Haired Panther, although of the good sort.

I kept the words (since sometimes they’re just the right ones), but changed the meanings. Because that’s what authors do.


Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Ghostkiller

Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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