Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nano redux

Just after midnight last night, I typed out my first words for Nanowrimo this year. Technically I'm doing what I call "Cheatowrimo". In the strictest interpretation of the rules, your project only "counts" if you lay down the first words on November first. I started with around 19,000 words on my current novel; I'll be using Nano to add to, and hopefully finish, this draft.

Maybe I don't have the same stake in it as someone who's starting from scratch. But whatever gets me writing, right?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Contest winner

Thanks to the contest contributors. This was a tough one to judge. The creepy secrets of clowndom vs. the untold adventures of PeeWee Herman...I am overwhelmed.

While hoyty's tale provided some much-needed levity, I've decided to award the free copy of All Hope Lost to Jaleta Clegg. The tale of a father passing on the unknown secrets of clowns freaked me right the hell out. Shoot me an email (remove the x) to let me know whether you'd prefer AHL in Kindle or Nook format.

And again, thanks to both of you for participating!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's in the box? Tell me and win a book

This contest is now closed! I'll announce the winner tomorrow afternoon.

We're four days out from Halloween, the moment of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. In honor of this dark and contemplative holiday, I thought it would be fun to poke around at that edge. Take a stab at exploring the unseen. And win a free creepy read in the process.

I want you to tell me a story. It's simple. In the comments below, in 250 words or fewer, let me know what's inside this box:

Photo by Clay Larsen

I'll pick my favorite this Monday, October 31st. The winner will receive a free copy of my horror P.I. novella All Hope Lost for either the Kindle or Nook. You'll also get bragging rights for telling the best damned story around.

All entries must be received by Sunday, October 30th, at 11:59pm. So get writing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All Hope Lost is now available!

You can now purchase my horror novella All Hope Lost for your Kindle, PC, or device with a Kindle app. Head over to this Amazon link. AHL will also be available for the Nook very soon. I'll post again to let you know as soon as it is.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A twofer!

I got a little behind in my updating, so here are two guest posts that have gone live:

Genre blending at the Literary Handyman
Working with a small epublisher at the Locoblog

Also, my publisher has revamped its website. Isn't it all pretty?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oh Brother! Clarion blog

My post at the Clarion Blog is up today. I'm over there talking about how sibling relationships can deepen fiction. Please stop by and say hi.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"All Hope Lost" Blog tour

Update 10/01/11: New appearance announced!

Throughout the month of October, I'll be blog touring to talk about my upcoming novelette, All Hope Lost. For those unfamiliar, a "blog tour" is the electronic version of a book tour. Instead of dressing up and driving to a bookstore to illuminate the fawning masses, I get to do it from home in my unmentionables (I know, too much sharing). Here are some of the places you'll be able to find me:

October 3rd: Clarion Writers Craft Blog
October 5th: The Literary Handyman
October 11th: Tracy S. Morris
October 19th: Immortyl Revolution

Thanks to all these wonderful writers for hosting me. Please stop by their blogs and say hello.

More sites to be announced. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"All Hope Lost" cover

Here it is, the cover for my upcoming novelette, All Hope Lost:


Isn't it beautiful? You can buy it on October 10th from Escape Collective Publishing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Novelette release

I'm finally ready to announce the news I've been sitting on for (what feels like) forever:

My novelette, All Hope Lost, will be published next month by Escape Collective. The release date is October 10th. I should have cover art to post soon. If you or any of your friends are into Lovecraft, horror, and/or detective stories, check it out!

Woo!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Context

This weekend I'll be attending Context 24. This will be a laid-back con for me; all I'm committed to is the Broad Universe Reading on Sunday at 1:00. If you're around and you enjoy Lovecraftian detective stories, stop by for a listen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Booklamp vs. Novelist

I was just reading about a "new" idea in matching readers with books. It's called Booklamp, and the developers describe it as "Pandora for books". (FYI, I'm familiar with Pandora but haven't used it myself.) The idea is, Booklamp takes data from the books you love, analyzes such data as plot, characters, etc., and based on those analyses provides you with some other titles you might enjoy. It's a great idea. That's why Novelist has been doing it for years.

As far as I can tell, the difference between Booklamp and Novelist is that you need a public library card to access Novelist. And since I'm a public librarian, I'm going to plug Novelist right now for those library users who aren't familiar with their libraries' wonderful database collections. If you've got a public library card, visit your library website. You'll probably see a button on the main page that says something like "Premium Resources" or "Databases". For example, on Columbus Metro's Page you'll see it in the dropdown menu under "Reference".

When you click that tab you should see a number of resources. Scroll down until you see Novelist. (Disclaimer: of course not every library webpage is arranged the same way, so the process at your library may be a bit different.) When you click it, you'll probably be prompted to enter your library card number and possibly your pin, so have those handy. Now go to town. If you're lucky enough to accessing Novelist from your library, the friendly librarian there will help you with any questions, but you should be able to navigate it pretty easily.

And if your library doesn't have Novelist, call them up and ask them what the deal is.

Seriously, Novelist is pretty cool. I just used it to discover Algernon Blackwood based on my preference for H.P. Lovecraft. I'll be checking him out soon.

But back to the original topic: Booklamp. Has anyone used it? (I understand it's still in beta.) Anyone used both Booklamp and Novelist and have a preference?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inboxitis

I'm deep in the grips of inboxitis. That's where I obsessively check my inbox several times a day, holding my breath, waiting to see if I've gotten a response on a submission yet. I never do. Then I experience "the wave", the second-long period of unfulfilled anticipation, mixed with relief that I haven't been rejected yet.

I think I've got it because I'm in a funky transitional phase right now. I have two projects circulating that I haven't heard back on, no upcoming publications, and am in a sketchy place on my new project. I'm antsy. So I hold my breath, check my inbox, and wait.

Anyone else get this?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts from a first-time slush reader

Working as blog editor for Loconeal Publishing has been a pleasure. I've gotten to talk to some great writers who have shared their insights on the writing process.

Recently, I've also gotten the chance to read through the slush pile for Loconeal's upcoming anthology. I encountered some well-written, thought-provoking work that I can't wait to see in print. I also saw some stories that were almost there. With just a little tweaking, they could have gone from good to great.

Over at the Locoblog I go into detail about some common errors I ran across, and how they can be fixed. Please head on over and check it out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Marcon schedule

Once again, I'll be a panelist at Marcon, which is going on this weekend. Here's my schedule:

Friday 5:30pm Are You Bi-Speculative? Science Fiction vs. Fantasy
Saturday 10:00am Broad Universe reading (I'll be reading from my horror novelette, All Hope Lost
Saturday 2:30pm Reading (I'll be reading from my urban fantasy novel Southpaw Junction)
Saturday 7:00pm How to be Edited
Sunday 10:00am Young Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy

See you then.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vacation reading

Over vacation I read Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon, his most recent book. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in sampling his style who doesn't have the fortitude to wade through Gravity's Rainbow (I haven't tried that one yet; I hear it's a challenge). IV is accessible, fun, and hilarious in the way that only Pynchon can manage. Here's the trailer:



Upon reading more about it online, I discovered that a movie of the book is in the developmental stages. At first the news made me nervous. None of Pynchon's books have been portrayed on film before. Was this going to be a Michael Bay summer blockbuster attempt? But three pieces of news set me at ease:

1. The film's director is P.T. Anderson, one of my favorite directors (Magnolia is right at the top of my favorite films list);

2. Pynchon is working closely with Anderson on the script. Considering Pynchon's reluctance to put himself anywhere near a public spotlight, this is big news; and

3. Robert Downey Jr. will likely play the lead.

So now I'm psyched to see this film. I'll have to wait a while, though; Anderson won't start filming until the fall. I also wonder if the film will introduce more casual readers to Pynchon's books, which are generally aimed mostly at the literary fiction set.

Who knows, maybe it'll even inspire me to pick up Gravity's Rainbow.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Motivation

This week has been a trial in motivation. I'm in the first stages of a new project, the sequel to the urban fantasy novel I finished early this year. I've created a mini-outline with new characters who interest me, and a fun adventure story that will take my world in new directions. Now it's simply a matter of sitting down and letting the words flow. Right?

I wish.

This past week I started writing the first draft, with enough character and plot exploration to shine a dim light at least a few pages ahead of me. In past projects, the first week has been a word explosion: fresh territory to explore, a blush of optimism enough to carry me through to the tangles of the early-middle muddle. No worries; once I wrote through the first few pages, the light would shine brighter, showing me new pathways I hadn't seen before I arrived.

But not this project. This time, I found myself floundering through the first scene, unsure in my narration, struggling with sentence structure, unable to break free of my inner editor's strangling grip. What gives?

Allow me to engage in some melodrama. In the film The Neverending Story, Atreyu and his horse must face the Swamps of Sadness, through which he must trudge to reach his destination. If he stops for even a moment and reflects on the sorrow of the place, he will sink into it. He must trudge through, immune to the weight of negativity in his surroundings. While Atreyu makes it, his horse is not so disciplined.

I'm not saying that the writing life is a bog of sorrow, though sometimes it can feel like it. I currently have two projects in limbo: the first book in this series, and a novella I'm waiting to hear back on. I believe I'm struggling in my current work because I've allowed myself to be weighted down by dark uncertainty. I glanced below and behind me, succumbing to the sorrow of the unknown, the fear of rejection. And failing to see the path ahead of me, I began to sink.

But I'm over that now. Seeing the cause of my weak-kneed dawdling, I must now power through it. I will not be consumed by the unforgiving bog of writer's depression. I will fight through with words, sentences, and scenes, until I break through to the far shores of completion and victory.

Fellow writers in the grips of flagging fluency: don't give up. Find the strength to power through your own Swamp of Sadness. I'll meet you on the far shore, and we can stare back and spite the darkness behind us.

Pardon me now, I have a novel to write.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why I use Open Office

Last week I finished the switch from Microsoft Office to Open Office on both of my computers.

I had several reasons, the first of which was practical. I just replaced my desktop computer after the last one bluescreened its way to its final meltdown. The new machine is a refurbished model from Red Rabbitt, which included a free trial of Microsoft Office. This means that every time I opened Word I got an annoying pop-up message telling me how many more times I could use it without paying. When I clicked “OK”, it would urge me on to the Microsoft page to spend an ungodly amount of cash on a software program no person should spend money on if it's not included with the new computer they buy (and unless you're buying a Mac or know where to find a computer preloaded with Linux, you get Microsoft Office).

And why didn't I shell out $150 for a program I use every day? Because there's a better one available at only the cost of a five minute download.

Open Office includes a full suite of programs comparable to Microsoft Office, but because it's open source, you can use and share it freely without the risk of criminal charges. Since I really only use a Word Processing program, OO Writer serves essentially all my needs. It has the added bonus of converting and opening Word documents, and the ability to save Open Office text files in Word (an ability that my last machine, running Microsoft Works, lacked. What a pain.).

I recently bought a Netbook that included the Microsoft 7 “Starter” pack. The only word processing capacity on it was Notepad, which I have never liked. Initially I tried installing Ubuntu on the Netbook, which includes Open Office, but the installation failed (still working on that). In the meantime, I transferred Open Office from my desktop to my Netbook on a USB stick. No piracy violations, no licensing key to enter, just a quick painless download. Plus, now that I'm using the same software on both my machines, I don't have to worry about converting files.

In addition to practicality, I'm a big supporter of the Open Source movement. When you license proprietary software, you're bogged down with restrictions: you can't transfer the program to another machine without violating copyright, and you don't have access to the source code. That means that, if you're a programmer type, you don't have the ability to alter the way your program works. (I'm not, but it's an important point for programmers.)

Open Source programs, on the other hand, can be downloaded freely, used by anyone, and altered by anyone. That means if you want to change the way the program works and share that change with others, you're free to do so.

Open Source (related to the free software movement) also builds community. The programs are free, but you're encouraged to contribute to their creation, distribution, and promotion. When I installed Open Office, I was thanked for using the software, and asked to help. Since I'm not a programmer, I chose to help by spreading the word about Open Source software. So, here I am spreading it, and happily so.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Accidental Alchemy

[This post also appears on the Locoblog.]

Sometimes stories don’t go where we tell them to.

We can set up a neat outline, with beginning, middle and end firmly in place. We could have solid story and character arcs set up. But when we lay the words out on the page, they just don’t work. The characters wouldn’t do that, or the conflict is sludgy. There’s no way this story is going to end up the way we intended. Naturally, plotters are more likely to run into this than pantsers, but anyone can end up dead on the page at any point.

When I find myself staring dumbly at an obstinate story, I like to think of the Zildjian Cymbal Company.

14/366 Zildjian
Photo by Hillarie

If you’ve seen a drum set with cymbals, you’ve likely seen the Zildjian name in flowing script atop a high hat. But Zildjian cymbals were never meant to be.

The company’s story goes back to the seventeenth century,* when an Armenian alchemist set about experimenting with his craft. The proto-science of alchemy sought dual goals: 1) transmuting base metals into gold; and 2) the acquisition of the ‘elixir of longevity’, which would grant the alchemist life far beyond the natural span.

Our alchemist accomplished neither of these. He combined a mess of tin and other metals into thin discs which were, frustratingly, not gold. However, the discs did produce an unparalleled clarity of sound. So unparalleled that Sultan Osman II named the man Zildjian (literally 'cymbal maker') and hired him to create cymbals for his Janissary bands. The bands used the cymbals as noisemakers to frighten enemies in battle.

Zildjian's heirs continued the company business, eventually shifting to producing musical instruments. This led to an international company of cymbal makers, all bearing the Zildjian name.

When our secret-seeking hero set out to combine those metals, he failed in his original goal: no transmuted gold, no life-extending potion. However, he gained massive amounts of gold working for the sultan, and even today, the man’s name and story are known worldwide. His metal craft has served millions of musicians. I would argue that he achieved alchemy’s goals through unexpected means.

'Unexpected means' are a key to story development. I have never written a story from beginning to end where I knew every move it would take along the way. Connections always happen in the process, new approaches that make the tale fresh and interesting. I can't know what shape those connections will take beforehand; I have to work through the unknown, tolerate the less-than-expected or -stellar, and let the work create its own shape.

So when faced with a story that’s failed to produce intended gold, don’t despair. Keep writing. Trust your craft. You may end up with a tinny mess; or maybe, you’ll find transmuted glory in a twisting path of words you could never have planned.

*The history of the Zildjian company is fascinating; you can view a time line of it here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gary Wedlund's thoughts on writing

Over at the Locoblog, Gary Wedlund tells us what he's learned about the craft of writing, and why it's important that we teach one another. Check it out and share your thoughts.

Friday, February 18, 2011

New editing gig

I'm proud to announce that I'm the new blog editor for Loconeal Publishing. Loconeal publishes and promotes the work of Ohio authors, and has plans to expand in the coming year. I'm excited for the opportunity to work with this awesome small press, and looking forward to start a dialogue there with readers, writers, and fans. Please stop by and say hi.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Story!

Recondite Curiosa will appear in the inaugural online issue of Title Goes Here later this week (hopefully). I'll provide a link as soon as it's up.