Turning dreams into gold, one jot & scribble at a time.

Posts tagged “Cold Iron

Self-Publishing Self-Critique

Simmering on the back burner is something I’ve been working on for over a year. It’s relatively complete. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and (in my opinion) a pretty cracking end. I’ve gotten people to look it over and agree it’s at least decent. And yet it sits there. It simmers. It waits.

Because it isn’t ready yet.

Cold Streets is going to be my second self-published novella. And as veteran self-publisher Chuck Wendig will tell you, there’s nothing second tier or ‘minor leagues’ about it. While you don’t have to go through the rigors and the wait and the hoops of the traditional publishing model, part of the trade-off is that the onus of the actual publication process is on you, the writer. You have to be your own PR. You have to be your own editor. And you have to be your own critic.

Despite the good words from my test readers, regardless of what polish and improvements I plan on making, the fact of the matter is, I am the sole arbiter of quality when it comes to what I write. And if something I’ve written isn’t good enough, it won’t see the light of day. That’s why I shut down Godslayer, and it’s why Cold Streets continues to simmer. I want to publish it, sure – it’s decent enough to warrant that – but I don’t feel it’s quite good enough yet.

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. With Cold Iron, I held back on lining up the cover and arranging publication until I felt it was ready. And even as I fired it off, I felt there were things I could change about it. But it was prepared, and worked over, and good enough for other eyes. It may not be perfect – most of my work may never be perfect – but it worked well enough to earn some decent sales and good reviews. Cold Streets needs to be better. It will be, but it isn’t yet.

That’s the price we pay for publishing ourselves.

Well, that, and paying for talented folks to help us with our covers and whatnot.


Writer Report: Hard Part’s Over

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

Cold Streets is done.

Well, the first draft is done, anyway. The sequel to Cold Iron (which, as a friendly reminder, you can buy here or here) was born out of a desire to lay a foundation for future, full-length projects. Once I take up the editing hat and really get down to business, it’s my hope to have a workable draft that’s ready for prime time near the end of the year. Then it’s a matter of lining up another breathtaking photo and some fantastic design work for a cover, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll be on the virtual shelves in time for a lovely holiday gift.

That’s kind of a tight deadline, and I need to line up the backing capital for the cover & design work, but we’ll see what happens. I won’t make petty demands of talented people. I know how that goes when I’m on the receiving end of it.

Once I get test readers tearing Cold Streets apart, it’ll be time to try something new. Godslayer has been rather neglected recently because of the demands of my schedule and everything else going on, and it’s past time I put together an outline for that, and perhaps a character/world-building bible. I’ve thought about picking up Scrivener to make organizing and reorganizing things easier, but we’ll have to see if the budget can accommodate that. And then there’s the matter of Morgan and Seth. I’m not done with them and their near-future slightly-screwy Philadelphia just yet. I have one more novella planned, Cold Light, to round out what I’ll be calling the Lighthouse Foundation trilogy. And as I said, from there it’s on to longer, more substantial works in that world.


Writer Report: Brief Respite

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

This is my week between travel in August. Otakon is behind me, and PAX Prime is ahead. The trip to Seattle will be much longer than the one to Baltimore, and I’ll have a bit more Internet access while I’m there. Reluctant as I am to check a bag, I think it’s going to be necessary. I can’t travel as light as I did for a long weekend, since I’ll be in Seattle for entire week and change. Thankfully, most of the people I’m staying with will have laundry they’re willing to let me use. I love having an adventure on the horizon.

Cold Streets is inching towards the first draft finish line. I wrote a scene on the train last week, and I’m closing the gap towards it. I’m excited. It’s the last big confrontation, and while I’m pretty much done with action for the novella, there will still be tension and drama, and hopefully a few more character revelations. I hope I’m doing this one better than I did Cold Iron. Proud as I am of my first published literary child, I know it’s got some flaws and rough spots. This is a good way to iron them out, I feel, and get feedback and even a little cash flow going.

I’m going to keep at it, keep carving out writing time in raw, bloody chunks, keep looking to a future that has more and more good aspects to it the closer I get.


Writer Report: Back On Track

Train

I’m still not writing as much as I would like in a sitting, but I’m writing more and it’s consistent in that it’s happening every day, now. Cold Streets is back on the front burner and bubbling away nicely. I know I will have to go back and do a bunch of editing and rewriting. But I need to at least get the concepts, scenes, and beats out of my head and on to paper before I can properly mess around with them. And there’s only one way to do that!

In the hopes of keeping people interested in my work and with an eye towards better promotion, I’m happy to announce the following: for the rest of 2012, until January 2 2013, Cold Iron is on sale at Amazon for $0.99. If you haven’t already, you can get it for your Kindle right here. If you have already downloaded and read Cold Iron, tell a friend, leave a review, send me a comment, something along those lines.

I’ve gone back and forth about how to approach the former fantasy novel, and whether or not it will be a trilogy. Looking over the story, the complexities, and the things I want to discuss through and with the characters, I think that yes, breaking it up is probably the way to go. It is my hope that, as winter goes on, I can put together more notes, form more thoughts coherently, and finally take the red pen, scalpel, darling-slaying shotgun, and all-important flamethrower to my original manuscript to craft the first novel of the Godslayer trilogy.

Last but not least, I still believe that science fiction stories do not need to be constrained to a single type within their own narratives. There’s no reason a good character-driven story can’t begin life as one thing and slowly become another. The Fellowship of the Ring has a whimsical, homey start in the Shire, but by the end, darkness and peril are all around and it’s hard to imagine how things can get worse. It is that grounding in whimsy that makes the end, and the next two books, so powerful and resonant. It has been done in fantasy many times; why not in science fiction?

I’m not comparing myself to Tolkien by any means, I just think that it might be an experiment worth trying.


Writer Report: The Inevitable Grind

Gears

As we recover from the recent stress of moving, the dayjob workload ramps up, and everything else competes for what attention I have left, it can be difficult to keep in mind that writing can and should be the foremost area of my interests. I don’t attend university for 4 years to design advertisements, after all. I did it, at first, to teach others about stories, and then decided I’d be happier telling stories myself. And some of the stories I’ve told since then have gone over pretty well.

Sales of Cold Iron have been very slow. I feel I need to do more promotional work, as nobody else is going to do it for me, and that means getting more people to review it, sending out more tweets, talking it up in person to people, and so on. I guess my reluctance to do so comes from the fact that I hate annoying people. I know how it feels to me when I get annoyed by someone talking at length about something of interest to them to the exclusion of all other subjects, and the last thing I want to do is inflict that on others. But I guess I need to suck it up and deal with it if I want to move copies of the book.

Progress on Cold Streets is, unfortunately, also slow. I’ve tried to unstick myself a couple of times in the last few weeks with moderate success. I’m not writing in the huge chunks I need to meet my end-of-year deadline, at least not yet. Time is running out for me and I really want to get another novella out there. I can’t get this thing to pick up if I don’t write, dammit!

Between some historical insights and inspiration from the likes of Martin and Kay, ideas keep rolling around in the back of my mind for attention regarding Godslayer. As much as good chunks of the plot are unlikely to change in their basic structure, so much of Acradea will be different in this new story that these ideas (which tend to crop up after I go to bed and the lights are out) will need to be laid out and sorted so I don’t get tripped up when I start writing the damn thing in earnest next year. Maybe it’s time to buy Scrivener and start cork-boarding things? The jury is out on that one.

More on this as things develop. And if you get annoyed when I start tweeting every day about Cold Iron and its sequels, I apologize.


Writer Report: Back in the Saddle

Deadline Clock, courtesy monkeyc

The last couple weeks have been brutal.

Burning midnight oil. Working on the weekends. Generally busting my ass. And none of it while working on Cold Streets. It’s been all about the dayjob.

On one level, I don’t mind so much. I’ve been there a year, and it remains a vital and worthwhile place to work. I have fantastic co-workers, a good and supportive boss, great pay and benefits, and work that’s up my alley as a developer. I’m problem-solving every bit as much as I’m tweaking and doing back-and-forth with a project manager or a client. It’s a pretty solid gig.

On the other hand, I know I’m behind in meeting my writing goals. I wanted to finish Cold Streets by the end of this year, and to do that I now have to really kick into a higher gear. I think part of the reason I’ve been held up is a touch of reluctance towards approaching it, knowing that as the world within the story expands, the more supernatural elements will come into play, and I don’t want them to overwhelm the tight pacing and balanced character dynamics I strove to maintain in Cold Iron.

I just need to write through it, I think. Time is running out, and there’s still a story to tell. The increase in supernatural aspects comes with a raising of the stakes. Our heroes need to meet and interact with the new villain, and peripheral players from the first story need to be fleshed out. None of it is going to write itself, and the only way to write is to write.

So tonight & Sunday, writing is most assuredly happening. Saturday is a day off for Magic. Because Return to Ravnica is stupid amounts of fun.


Writer Report: Bring On The Bad Guy

Courtesy DEG

I’m a sucker for a good villain.

By ‘good’ I don’t just mean extravagant malevolence. Ming the Merciless is a fun character, but he doesn’t have a lot of depth to him. Remember, villains are people too. They have backgrounds, motivations, allegiances, and secrets just like anybody else does. Leave that out of your story and you risk losing audience members to disbelief.

It’s one of the things I didn’t get quite right in Cold Iron. The ultimate villain did not get a great deal of time. His motivations are somewhat shallow and his villainy is, for the most part, superficial. Being a mystery on one level, I did try to keep the identity of the villain somewhat ambiguous, but the trade-off meant I couldn’t spend too much time expanding upon him. I don’t think the story necessarily suffers because of this, but it is a criticism I agree with.

Approaching Cold Streets, I knew a new villain would be appearing, and I am taking the time to draw him out as a character before he engages in truly villainous behavior. I think people need to understand his mindset and motivation in order for me to illustrate why he, and others like him, are dangerous. But I also want to ensure he’s fleshed out as a person. He has specific reasons for doing what he does, and his own way of approaching his challenges, things he will and will not do to get what he wants, and so on. He’s not solely motivated “for the evulz”… he’s a person, and I need to convey that.

I hope to get a bit further with the draft over the weekend, but I will have dayjob work to do so we’ll have to see how things shake out.


Writer Report: Moving Forward

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

Cold Streets is a slow burner. By that, I mean it’s taking me a while to really get set on fire over it. I’m working on it, and I like what’s happening so far, I just haven’t carved out a great deal of time lately to put more words in sequence. I have a move coming up in the near future, and that’s going to eat in to my writing time. I have books and clothes to donate, old geegaws to bequeath to others, and the current place needs some sprucing.

My mind hasn’t been idle, though. What was once going to be a multi-novel fantasy series will, I believe, get compressed into one epic volume. After reading some other stories and watching a couple old favorite films, it occurs to me that not everything needs to be a serial. Not ever story needs a sequel. So Asherian and his world of Acradea will appear in a single novel. And, based on the timbre and themes of the rewrite, and how much more of the story I will be including from the very beginning, it’s getting yet another title change. For the time being, I’m calling it Godslayer.

Somewhere between the novellas of Morgan & Seth’s escapades and this fantasy epic, I want to work on a smaller novel, or perhaps novels, with a sci-fi bent. The arrival of the new version of Netrunner on my back step combined with classics like Blade Runner remind me that the future doesn’t necessarily have to be chrome-plated and shiny, or at least if it is, it need not necessarily be that way for everybody. What I like about futures with an even slightly dystopian bent is that super-advanced technologies, be they androids so life-like they act and feel like humans or faster-than-light travel or interstellar colonization, feel matter-of-fact, an aspect of everyday life that you don’t have to spend pages upon pages describing. And I’ve already written a couple of well-received short stories with this sort of bent, and I’m interested in seeing how I could expand the idea. Alien races, perhaps? Maybe a distant but superficially benevolent overlord whose dictates are at least partially responsible for the crapsack world our characters find themselves in? This bears further investigation.

More on these ideas to come. Also to come, more reviews of Cold Iron as well as some other surprises! Stay tuned.


Writer Report: Swamped

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

I’d like to say I’ve made a lot more progress on Cold Streets than I have. The fact of the matter is, this week has been pretty disastrous in terms of time management in general and working around the dayjob in particular. Thankfully, there’s a long weekend ahead and I plan on taking advantage of the time to get more work done on Cold Streets.

The good news there is that I do have an outline for it, and sketches in my head of the new characters, along with expansions on the established ones. I need to keep up the quick pace of the story and maintain the noir feel of things while increasing the scope and raising the stakes. I’m pretty sure I have ways to do that, and I am looking forward to writing more of it.

Time, unfortunately, is always in motion, and it can be difficult to carve out chunks of it for yourself when the target keeps moving. I’ll get it, though. This week was just bad.

Hopefully it will be better soon.


Writer Report: Prizes & Perseverence

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

Today, the Cold Iron giveaway comes to an end. Ye Olde D6 of Fate has determined the following winners:

Nenad Ristic
M
Raine Barnes
Blair Turberfield
Mia

Congratulations! I will be contacting you individually to find out in what format you’d like your free copy of Cold Iron.

If you missed out on the giveaway, or didn’t realize I was even having one, don’t fret! The good news in the world of urban fantasy detective yarns doesn’t stop there.

For the next week, the price of Cold Iron is dropping to 99 cents.

This sale is happening on all three platforms: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. It may take a bit for the big boys to catch up, but trust me, the price will stay there all week long. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, now’s a great time!

Meanwhile this week has been very busy. Between the load at work, trying to maintain something resembling a workout routine, and looking for our next home, I’ve been struggling to carve out the time to work on Cold Streets. It’s like trying to get a cut of beef from a cow that’s still moving. Not that I would try to render an animal that’s still alive, that’s just mean and cruel. Anyway, I’ve been through patches like this before, and I’ll persevere. I have a goal in sight, and I’m going to reach it. Somehow.


Cold Iron Giveaway!

Let’s keep it simple, folks:

I am giving away five copies of Cold Iron.

Cold Iron Cover

While the buzz of the book has been positive overall, it’s also been relatively quiet. I need to amp up the signal, get more people interested, ensure that the work I’m putting out is, in fact, worth the asking price. I need reviews! Even if they’re bad ones, at least it’d be something worth reporting. It’d be preferable to this silence.

So here’s what we’re going to do.

If you’re reading this, and you’d like to help me out, leave a comment telling me your favorite detective OR favorite vampire story, and why. Next week, I will select five comments and contact the winners, who will receive Cold Iron in a format of their choosing. It’s my hope that, after reading it, the lucky quintet would be willing to throw a review up on Amazon, Smashwords, their blog, or maybe the side of a 7-11 somewhere. No rules beyond that other than the obligatory one entry per person, and be sure to fill out the comment form with a proper e-mail address so I know how to contact you when you win.

Learn more about Cold Iron by clicking thataway.

So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment and start telling folks about gumshoes and the undead!


Writer Report: Writer At Work

Cold Iron Cover

When you publish your own work, you have a lot of balls to keep in the air. You have to keep writing, first and foremost, but you also have to keep up the sales work, illicit opinions and reviews, get a feel for how the work is being received, so on and so forth. As much as I like to travel, seeing new places and reconnecting with acquaintances, this can eat in to those other tasks.

That said, did I mention Cold Iron is still available for sale? Because it totally still is.

I’ve made some progress on Cold Streets, and I have a fairly good notion on when I’m going to wrap the first draft. It’s important to set deadlines: you always want to have a goal to shoot for, and in my case, it provides a timeline to which I feel I must adhere. It can be difficult for me to manage my time properly, and establishing deadlines helps with that. I’m at the stage where I’m picturing certain key scenes in my head, and just need to fill in the blanks between them on paper.

Having made Cold Streets my primary writerly focus for the time being, other projects have been put aside but are still fairly important to me. I’ve been thinking about the serial nature of old-school pulp sci-fi, and since my idea for that genre hews closely to those sensibilities, I’m toying with the idea of posting the project serially here, or perhaps in a separate webspace, in lieu of these writer reports.

Leave a comment to tell me what you think of this idea. Would you be interested to read some slightly old-school pulp science fiction instead of this somewhat dry blow-by-blow of my writing progress every week? Or is it a bad idea to split my focus? I need your thoughts, Internet.


Cold Streets: Sneak Preview

Courtesy Rolls Royce

In lieu of the usual flash fiction challenge, as Chuck is setting up a rather interesting one for next week, here’s a sneak preview at the opening to Cold Streets, sequel to the novella Cold Iron which is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the e-reader of your preference. Enjoy.


He probably thought he was going to get lucky. What he got was bitten.

Bethany savored the taste of him as she sat beside him in the back of her limo, her hands on his shoulders and her fangs in his neck. He offered no resistance, made no discernible noise. As much as Bethany enjoyed the occasional meal being fully conscious of the razor’s edge between pleasure and pain provided by her bite, she didn’t have the time to make this hapless businessman acquainted with the benefits of her friendship. A little special secretion dulled his senses better than a whole bottle of the cheap whiskey he’d been pounding at the bar. She could taste it in his blood, and as much as she detested bottom shelf swill, there was something deliciously decadent about a bit of sleaze like this.

She didn’t want to kill him. Not that she had any sort of sympathy for this type of corporate human, it would simply be too much of a mess. She slowly drew her fangs out of his skin, flexed her tongue to coax a little more of the sour-tasting saliva into her mouth, and licked his wounds. They closed slowly, leaving him disheveled and disoriented, but physically unharmed. His dizziness and hard-on would fade, but he’d have no specific memory of what she did to him.

She kicked open the slightly ajar door of the limo and pushed him onto the sidewalk. His unfocused eyes tried to fix on her. She blew him a kiss and slammed the door.

“Drive.”

The limo took off into the street. Bethany leaned back and sighed. The feeling of warm, live blood moving through her veins never got old. Humans had a saying about sex being like pizza, in that it was very rare for it to be truly bad, and in her mind, Bethany equated feeding to both things. She could eat pizza, even if she got nothing from it, and sex still had some benefits, but neither of them did what fresh blood could for her. Her eyes closed and she languished in the feeling, the vitality, letting it electrify her limbs and invigorate her senses. She loved how the blood made her feel, how it compelled her to fight and fuck and feed even more, how even a sleazy lowlife like that one could make her come alive.

“You have a little on you.”

Her eyes opened and she looked towards the front of the limo. The divider was down between her and the driver, and he’d adjusted the rear view mirror to look at her. She saw his hazel eyes gazing at her, and caught a glimpse of herself. The businessman meal had clumsily unbuttoned most of her blouse, her long red hair was a little disheveled, and splotches of red were showing on her chin and collarbone. She reached for a towel near the miniature bar on one side of the limo, dabbing at the blood until it was gone. She sat back and fixed up her blouse and hair.

“Thank you, Alex.”


Writer Report: One Week

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

I’ve never really considered myself a salesman. Yet, that is one of the many hats one has to wear when publishing one’s own work. It’s probably part of what deters some folks from taking that step: not only do you have to write the thing, revise it until it’s decent, and get some lovely volunteers to test read and copyedit the work, you have to take care of the marketing, publication, and sales of the book. Nobody’s going to do it for you.

That said, how did the first week of Cold Iron‘s sales go? Pretty decently, I must say.

It’s my first published work ever so I didn’t expect things to be big or brisk in the sales department. But the initial trends seem relatively promising. I’m certain there will be more reviews coming in, and good or bad, I’ll be sure to tweet them. I think the most important thing I can do, other than the occasional reminder that the book’s on sale, is keep writing the next one.

My goal is to have Cold Streets done, if not available for sale, by the end of the year. I have most of it plotted out, though I still need to work out some of the more granular logistics of certain things. I’m expanding the PoV characters to four, one of whom is a direct antagonist, and my hope is that changing up the dynamic in this way will keep things fresh and exciting for my readers.

I have some ideas on how to rewrite Cities of Light (yes, again) to even further divorce it from extant young adult fantasy novels. I’m going to keep jotting down notes and outline points until I get a coherent structure together. It’s pretty much a side project to the novellas, which appear to be more straightforward affairs.

And then there’s the pulp science fiction thing. I’m wondering if there’s a way I can get myself started on that in such a way that it captures that episodic feeling of old movie serials but conveys my interest in good characters and new takes on old themes. I’ll be pondering this over the weekend while working on Cold Streets.

Always be writing, folks. Always be writing.


Cold Iron: Now Available

Cold Iron Cover

They found him wandering around Mount Grace Cemetery at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Detective Morgan Everson has gotten pretty acquainted with death. She sees it all the time, especially working the Special Homicide division in Philadelphia. But this case is new. In this case, the victim of the murder is also a potential eye-witness. His name is Seth, and he was dead for thirty-five years before they found him wandering around a cemetery.

A detective himself in the 1980s, Seth sets about putting together the pieces of the former life he can barely remember. In his wake, however, people who knew him start dying, and in particularly violent ways that put them squarely in Morgan’s lap. She must discover the connection between Seth and the murders, even as Seth works to understand the whys and wherefores of his resurrection. The connection between the two may be the bullet found among Seth’s belongings. It is not jacketed in steel or made with silver, but instead has a core of cold iron. What it means, and the intent behind its creation, will change the lives of both detectives forever.

What is the secret of Seth’s resurrection?

Why are his old friends and acquaintances getting killed?

And what is Morgan not telling him about this new world into which he’s awakened?

To find out, consider one of these fine options:

Amazon (US): Buy Here

Amazon (UK): Buy Here

Barnes & Noble: Buy Here

Smashwords: Buy Here

Author’s Notes

Here it is, my first published work of fiction. I hope you all enjoy it!

I’ve conceived Cold Iron as the first in a series. I didn’t want to mention that, though, in the actual novella. Given that this is my first work for sale ever, I feared coming across as pretentious. “Of COURSE this will sell! It will sell a million copies! And when the next one comes out, it will sell TEN million!” Just felt… wrong, somehow. Maybe I’m wrong.

I did, however, include a preview of the next novella, Cold Streets. It should be out before the end of the year.

The third one, Cold Light, will likely wrap up early in 2013. Provided these things actually sell.

Inspiration for this series has come from a variety of places. Thematically it most closely resembles Law & Order set in the World of Darkness. I wasn’t sure about the length of it until I started reading novellas on my Kindle. The writing is succinct and punchy, the overall story tight due to length restrictions, and I was almost always left wanting more. If you’ve read Shotgun Gravy you probably know what I’m talking about.

The cover came from one of a slew of fantastic photos taken by the inimitable J.R. Blackwell. Not wanting to mess things up by using my own meager Photoshop skills, I asked J.R. for a designer she trusted. That’s how I met Nicola Black, who graciously and enthusiastically turned some already breathtaking photos into truly awesome cover concepts. As great as it was to work with such talented ladies, I’m not sure if future covers will also be photograph-based or if they’ll be illustrated. I wanted Cold Iron to have a sense of weight, a touch of realism, right off the bat. I felt a photograph would do that better than an illustration. Again, could be wrong.

So here’s me crossing fingers and gritting teeth. Thanks in advance if you decide Cold Iron‘s worth your time to read, and if you’d like to tell your friends or leave a review, I’d be deeply grateful. It’s my hope this is the first of many such announcements you’ll see in this space.


Writer Report: Have A Plan

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

So while I continue to come to grips with the pulp science fiction yarn I want to spin, I may have started on a sequel to Cold Iron. On the one hand, it may be a bit presumptuous to already be writing a second story in a series when the first hasn’t been printed yet; on the other hand, Cold Iron ends in such a way that, if it works, people will definitely want to read more, and I know I definitely want to write more about these characters.

I know that writing isn’t always about the fun stuff. There’s hard work ahead. I do have stories I want to tell that may take some elbow grease to communicate properly. And yet, sitting down with a blank document in front of me, words for the sci-fi come in drips and drabs while the urban fantasy just flows out of me. I know it isn’t all good stuff, and there will be edits and cuts in the future, but I still have an easier time with that than I do with other stories.

Maybe I can use this. Reward myself with ‘breaks’ of the urban fantasy after getting myself through a bit of other work. As long as I’m always writing, I’ll get where I’m going eventually. I just have to be patient. I’m not waiting for the muse to strike or anything, but I do have to keep the words flowing in general, even if specific ones haven’t hit their stride yet.

Not sure what else there is to say on the situation at present. I think the cover of Cold Iron is ready. Means big things in very near future. Stay tuned.


Writer Report: Various Burners

Courtesy Fanboy.com

So, the wait is over. I heard back from the fine folks at Angry Robot about my submission for their Open Door. The response is that Cities of Light just isn’t ready for prime time yet.

Upon reflection, I can see why. There’s just something that’s too standard about it. Even changing the names and natures of the races that emerge in the middle of the narrative, it still boils down to a hero’s journey through a fantasy land with elves and dwarves in it. I still think the themes of xenophobia, propaganda, and the potential of the individual to overcome both can be explored quite well in this genre, but a shift in focus and setting may be required. I do have some ideas for a rewrite that could make it more interesting, less generic, and worth the time to read, but I don’t want to keep circling back to the same idea all the time.

So Cities of Light goes on the very back burner. The back back burner if you will. On the back burner ahead of it is Captain Pendragon and the Planet of Doom. I have most of my characters nailed down and the outline has taken shape. I plan on beginning to write this thing within a week, because I still think it’s been a while since a new raygun gothic story and setting have come along to offset all the gritty realism that has seeped into sci-fi. Don’t misunderstand, I love the aesthetic of Blade Runner and Firefly and the new Battlestar Galactica, but I love the look, feel, and energy of Flash Gordon and John Carter just as much. And I think it’s entirely possible to tackle big ideas and themes while having whiz-bang zapping fun.

With those back burners filled, you may be wondering, what’s on the front burner? That would be Cold Iron. I’ve retained the services of a graphic designer for the cover, and feedback on the test read continues to be positive. In the meantime, I want to look into what Amazon, B&N, and other vendors do to their offerings in terms of DRM and other shenanigans. I don’t want to saddle anybody interested in my work with stuff they don’t want. As a consumer, my experience with Amazon has been overwhelmingly positive so far, but what I don’t know could be bad for potential readers.


Writer Report: Metaphors for Progress

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

Feedback continues to filter in for Cold Iron. It seems to be pretty positive, and I think I’m mostly at the ‘fussing’ stage of editing. Instead of worrying about big chunks of narrative or major character turns, I’m ensuring that spacing, spelling, grammar, and other tiny things are all in order. The time is fast approaching when it will be ready for public consumption.

To that end I’ve retained the services of a graphic designer. Now, I do have access to things like Photoshop. I can do some photo editing and image manipulation that produces passable to decent results. But there is no way I’m going to make my first true commercial fiction endeavor come off like amateur night. A professional photo shoot (which turned out extremely well, thanks to the talents of J.R. Blackwell) deserves professional design. I have a few tips on how to proceed after that process is complete, and I will admit to feeling a little nervous about the whole thing.

In the meantime, three major characters have been interviewed, an outline has taken shape, and soon actual prose for some science-fiction pulp-inspired adventure is going to start hitting paper. I may also start putting together elements for a Cold Iron follow-up (depending on how the rest of the test read process goes) and of course I’m waiting to hear back from Angry Robot on Cities of Light, which may get another round of edits & test reads regardless of what is said. So there are a lot of irons in the fire, as they say. Some loose ends to tie up. A few fingers in several pies.

I’m going to stop before I start mixing those metaphors.


Flash Fiction: Aisle Nine

Courtesy Samm Bennet of Flickriver.com
Courtesy Samm Bennet

For this week’s Terribleminds flash fiction, I thought I’d tease you all with a bit of Cold Iron prequel action.


I know I shouldn’t.

Morgan frowned as she contemplated the bottle of pop in her hand. She had enough bad habits between the coffee, the take-out, and the relatively nocturnal sleeping schedule. On the other hand, a cool glass of Coke reminded her of summer days with her father. She wanted to hold on to pleasant memories like that while she could. It kept some of the darker things in the night at bay.

Maybe a bottle of the Mexican stuff on my way out.

She replaced the large bottle on the shelf and pushed her cart towards the pet section. While she tried to feed Nike decent and fresh food often, the cat was less picky about her litter. Morgan grabbed a container of what was on sale. She was wrestling it into the cart when she caught a particular movement out of the corner of her eye.

It wasn’t anything major. Just a guy walking down the dairy aisle towards the milk products, but his movements were a little too deliberate, a touch too fast. It set off alarms in Morgan’s head. She pushed her cart to the end of the pet care aisle, turned, and moved towards the milk, where the man was speaking to a young woman.

“I’m almost certain we’ve met,” he was saying to her.

“Oh, I don’t think so. I’d probably remember.”

“Maybe I could refresh your memory?”

It was on the corny side, but she seemed to be falling for it. Even as she approached, Morgan could feel a change in the air. It was something warmer and sharper than she should be feeling this close to so many cold products. She had to test her hunch. She gave her cart a hard shove and it banged into the man’s backside, causing him to spin on her.

“Oh, I’m sorry! It got away from me.”

For a moment, the man’s eyes flashed red. Morgan didn’t smile. She didn’t want to give away the fact the man’d just been made.

“That’s all right. Happens all the time.” He stepped away from them. “I was just inviting my friend to a party. Maybe you’d like to join us?”

Morgan shook her head. “No, thank you. I really don’t think I’d be into your scene.”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “And what scene would that be?”

Morgan said nothing, simply holding his gaze. It was like staring down a panther, or a velociraptor. The woman backed away, grabbed her cart, and moved on. The man sighed a bit without looking.

“Humans can be such fickle creatures. They tend to spook easily.”

“Yeah. Major bummer. Speaking as someone who’s still human, as opposed to simply being a former one, I’d appreciate it if you moved along.”

“I don’t know who you think you are…”

“Morgan Everson, Special Homicide.” She even showed him her badge.

“Ah. That explains it. In that case, excuse me.”

He brushed past her as he walked towards the exit. Morgan took a deep breath, then fished out her phone and called her partner. Allan Bowman wasn’t too far away, and while neither of them were technically on duty yet, Morgan considered it good policy to keep him informed of whenever she saw one of those things.

“I guess he got bored of the stereotypical nightclubs,” Allan said after Morgan described the perp.

“Could be. I didn’t think to ask. Anyway, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for him.”

“Do you want me to swing by, boss? Just in case?”

She thought about it for a moment. “You know what? Yeah. Just in case. You can even help haul my groceries into my place if you want.”

“Oh, no. I know how that works. First it’s hauling groceries, next thing I know you’re asking me if you’re trying to seduce me.”

Morgan chuckled. “You know me better than that, Bowman. Just get down here.”

“Right, boss.”

Courtesy Ipernity

She finished up her shopping, grabbing a wooden mixing spoon along with the rest of her items. She paid for everything and headed out towards her car. She got the first round of bags into her trunk before he attacked her.

He grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her away from the car. The bags that had been in her hand came open, spilling their contents on the pavement. She went for her sidearm but he was fast, incredibly fast, grabbing her wrist and pulling it out of her jacket in spite of her struggles. In the shadows of the early evening parking lot, she could clearly see the red in his eyes.

“I think we’ll be partying after all, Detective.”

“Shall we dance, then?” Her teeth were grinding together against the pain in her wrist. “I know a few steps.”

She brought her knees up and drove both of her heels into the attacker’s groin. The sensation was sudden for him, and either on instinct or due to the actual pain, he released her and backed off. One of the bags she’d been holding had contained the spoon, which she grabbed as she scrambled to her feet. As he recovered, she broke it over her knee.

For a moment, they stood staring at each other, crouched, tensed, each ready to strike the other. He moved first, hands extended, fangs bared. The inhuman hiss made Morgan’s skin crawl, but she stood her ground. At the last possible second, she dipped under him, grabbing one of his arms in her free hand. He slammed into her car and, as he turned, she plunged the splintered end of the broken spoon into his chest with a sickening crunch.

His eyes went wide in shock. He opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a gush of blood. His nostrils, ears and eyes soon bled as well, and he slumped to the pavement, unmoving. Morgan felt her legs go rubbery and she sat, facing him.

When Allan arrived, she was still sitting there, drinking a bottle of Coke.


Writer Report: Decisions, Decisions

The Thinker

Since I’m now done with rewriting, and will hopefully just be editing, it didn’t seem right to continue to call this “Rewrite Report.” I’ve started getting feedback on Cold Iron and it’s nominally positive. I know I need to always be writing, and as much as I look forward to starting a new project, some thoughts I’ve had give me pause.

I worry about Cities of Light being too stereotypically fantastical in some elements. I worry about Cold Iron‘s take on the modern supernatural. I worry about tackling sci-fi in a way that’s too soft, too camp. I find myself longing to see, cheer for, and write more pulpy, adventure-flavored, generally optimistic sci-fi, but the question I’ve been asking myself is “Why?” and I can’t seem to nail down the answer.

I guess I’m a little pissed at Star Wars and Mass Effect and other such tales that present a very interesting and in-depth universe with all sorts of story potential and hamstring themselves in one way or another. I think my motivation comes from wanting to do that sort of story “right”, but I’m wondering if there’s a broader reason why those stories consistently fail. I want to see John Carter to find out if the majority of critics are right in their rather negative assessment of it. I need to refine the universe I’m creating and, more importantly, ensure I have interesting characters and a good story to tell in it. I guess I could work on a sequel to Cities of Light or Cold Iron instead, but I’m leery to do that since I don’t know how the originals will do yet.

Summer is proving to be a busy time, and I can’t do everything I want. A family reunion is on the horizon, requiring a certain investment, and I plan on moving before September. In order to save money, I won’t be attending the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference this year. I was really looking forward to it, but practical matters need to come before others. I remain in the unfortunate position of needing to balance my need to write with my responsibilities as a nominal adult.

I’ll get there, but I’ll need to keep making decisions like these along the way.


Rewrite Report: Next Steps

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

Weighing in at 39,574 words, the rewrite of Cold Iron is complete.

I’m going to be inviting test readers to take another crack at the work. Invites will go out over the next day or two. The goal is to only have some minor tweaks to make here and there throughout the story, provided it actually works and is not terrible. Once any edits that arise from the test reads are complete, it’s on to severely untested waters: preparing for publication.

I have some cover photography from the inimitable J.R. Blackwell, and a graphic designer interested in actually making the cover look presentable. I don’t trust my own rudimentary Photoshop skills and untrained eye to put together a cover that’s professional, appealing, and in line with the story’s mood and themes. If I’m going to do this e-publication thing, I’m not going to be a scrub about it.

I’m also going to ask some people I know (or kind of know at least) to do review reads. I’d like to get a couple snippets of impressions, hopefully good ones, which can then be used for promotional purposes. Thinking your story is great is one thing; having someone who actually knows what they’re doing say it’s worth reading is quite another.

This is uncharted territory for me. A part of me wants to just call the whole thing done and start up new and exciting projects, even if it’s just fan fiction or game character backstories or running around the house naked covered in marshmellow fluff. But I need to reign that shit in. The writing may be (mostly) done, but the project’s not near finished. Not yet. And by God, I will finish what I start.

Good wishes, offers to test/review read Cold Iron, and general shenanigans are quite welcome.


Rewrite Report: The Home Stretch

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

I haven’t taken an exact word count of Cold Iron, but I know I’m near the end.

I’m currently working on the last ‘new’ bit of material. It smooths over one of the truly clunky transitions in the story and allows more character growth and interaction. From there, a couple scenes get rearranged and the ending will be tightened up. That will be the easy part.

I will once again ask for volunteers to do a quick read-through, mostly looking for stilted dialog or gaping plot-holes. After that, I’m going to look into getting some quick reviews from people. Established authors, editors I know, and so on. I don’t feel right simply posting the novella on various markets with just my pithy blurb to support it.

I also don’t feel right doctoring up the cover. The photography work is absolutely phenomenal, and I don’t want to fuck that up. I’m familiar with Photoshop and Illustrator but my eye is rather untrained, and I don’t trust it to produce something both appealing and balanced to work as a novella cover, even if it’s only in electronic form. That means hiring a designer. I’m comfortable with this but I may have to put off the initial deposit for a bit. I’m trying to be a bit more responsible in my spending, and as much as this is a serious investment in my future, bills gots to be paid.

With things looming the way they are I’m trying to hold off some feelings of anxiety and nervousness. I remind myself I have to trust in my talent, my work, and my characters. If it were crap, people would tell me. Just because some similar thematic elements exist in it doesn’t mean the work is without merit. I don’t think it’s going to set the world on fire, but we all have to start somewhere.

Thoughts of encouragement or offers to volunteer are much appreciated.


Rewrite Report: Word By Word

Courtesy askthebuilder.com

Like any craftsperson, a writer creates a work in a gradual way. Houses are built one brick at a time, paintings come to life one brush stroke at a time, and stories and articles come together one word at a time.

Again, this past week, I’ve been cramming words into the spaces I can manage. Progress is happening slowly but surely. One article did get finished and has been pitched to the first outlet. I wanted to finish the other but the week at work kind of exploded. And Cold Iron progresses. As few words as I’ve been able to weave into that rewrite, I’m not disappointed in the work that’s been done. I know what I’m doing is an improvement, and the overall result will be much better than it was.

I used to think, in my hubris, that it was only poets who agonized over single words while writing. Not so. A misplaced or misused word in the middle of an otherwise immaculate sentence can cause the whole affair to fall apart. It’s not just grammar, either. When writing, the words must be chosen carefully so the scene being constructed in the reader’s head makes sense, at least to a degree. You can be obscurist or gonzo if you really want, but even then some coherence is required to convey an idea.

Remember, you’re not going to please everyone. It’s impossible. Our disparate points of view inform our opinions and we are each allowed to have those opinions. You may think a particular storyline, character, or conclusion is brilliant, but someone else may be poking holes in it. Just remember to respect one another in your discussions, listen to what’s actually being said, and craft your responses one word at a time. You may not be able to persuade the other side, but it’s still a positive experience if you can walk away from it instead of running.


Rewrite Report: Submission Edition

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

The fantasy novel sits at roughly 100,100 words.

As the time approached for Angry Robot to open its doors, I knew I had to make some decisions. The first one was to convince myself that this is not a young adult book. While two of the three main protagonists are in their late teens, a hundred thousand words is an intimidating number with which to start off a story. I also couldn’t convince myself that kids in their teens could get behind a protagonist who has a tendency to think and talk his way out of situations instead of relying on physical or supernatural prowess. Maybe I’ve just been too burned out lately to find the right angle to exploit, but what it boils down to is that Asherian, while pro-active in his words and deeds, doesn’t start out as the initiator of the story. Events happen to him and he reacts. It takes a few chapters for him to shake off the complacency he’s been taught. Once the scales fall from his eyes, so to speak, he begins taking more initiative. But I think a young adult protagonist takes the reigns almost immediately, at least when written well. Case in point would be Katniss volunteering in The Hunger Games.

In any event, I went over the first five chapters again to make sure the flow and setup are as good as I can make them, put together the two-page synopsis, and sent the whole shebang to Angry Robot. I also renamed it Cities of Light. Fingers and toes crossed.

While waiting for that to at least return with something resembling feedback, my attentions turn back to Cold Iron. This is a rewrite that still requires a bit of spit and polish, as timing of events within the story and some character beats have changed. It was hard for me to decide a decent scene between the lady detective and the murderer, set in the interrogation room, had to be cut. But I simply could not work the timeline properly to make it work without padding the story, and more importantly, making sure to empower said lady detective was far more important.

Cold Iron is, to me, the lean and energetic kitten to Cities‘ cozy but somewhat massive tomcat. It’s a novella and I want to keep it short. The cover is coming together extremely well, and once that is in place and I finish this particular rewrite, I’ll be sending some review copies of the draft to folks I know with platforms to shout from. I may propose said review drafts in the same manner as a pitch – brief synopsis, what makes this story worth the time to read, etc.

Anthologies may happen. Timeless Tales for the old myths made new thing, maybe a flash fiction collection. Not certain of that yet.

I also am brewing an idea I’m pretty excited about. I think there’s an itch out there not getting the particular scratch it needs.

But that’ll come later. Gotta finish what I’ve started already first.