Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Obligatory Holiday Decorating and Gift Guide for Writers


People do strange things during the holidays. Drink eggnog. Listen to that infernal barking dogs Christmas song. Willingly sit through long elaborate meals with Uncle Eggbert, who won't drink tap water or eat anything cooked with it because that's how the secret Communists deliver the mind-control drugs.

But among the more inexplicable habits of Christmas is, to me, the urge to wrap seemingly random objects in tinsel and plastic simulated fir tree needles.

Streetlights? Wrapped and lit, because apparently they weren't already sufficiently lit. Storefronts, business signs, random shrubs, the Courthouse clock. All of it festooned with decor I assume to be festive.Some of it does indeed seem festive. Some of it, not so much.

A wreath of the front grille of a fire truck? Okay. That way, when panicked drivers look up from their texting and realize a fire truck is two inches off their bumper, they get a little holiday cheer along with enough adrenaline to induce a myocardial infarction. But that's important, because it's Christmas.

But where do you draw the line? Do we add wreaths to the gun cameras of our F-18s? Should we rush the launch of an orbit-ready Christmas tree to the ISS?

To provoke thought and discussion around this topic, let's play a little game I call "Festive or Not?"

FESTIVE or NOT?
Holly and ornaments strung along police tape at an active crime scene. Antlers added to chalk outline of decedent on pavement.

FESTIVE or NOT?
Tinsel and garlands strung from motion detector to motion detector around Area 51. Black wreaths on the front of the unmarked security vehicles that appear from nowhere to whisk you away to a place decidedly less jolly than the North Pole. Sprigs of mistletoe sent anonymously to your next of kin.

FESTIVE or NOT?
Elaborate lighting displays around each settling pool at all municipal sewage treatment plants.

It's a lot more nuanced that it looks, folks.

What to Buy a Writer, or, Look, There's a Liquor Store


Is there a writer in your life? Are you struggling to come up with that perfect Christmas gift for him or her?

If so, my condolences, because I'm a writer and I know full well what a morose bunch of budding alcoholics we writers usually are.  I'm constantly staring off into space, oblivious to the world around me until the front bumper strikes something solid and the air bags deploy.

Every year, it's the same dilemma.  What to give for Christmas?  What will make your writer's eyes light up, or at least open halfway?

As usual, I'm here to help.  My list of suggestions follows, in order of descending utility.

1) BOOZE.  HOOCH. ROTGUT.  That's right, kids, the Demon Rum himself.  Why?  Simple.

A writer's job is to plumb the depths of the human condition, or at least convince a harried editor that he or she is plumbing said depths long enough for the ink to dry on a contract.  And the first thing you'll learn when you start taking a really close look at the much-vaunted human condition is that doing so induces a sudden, powerful urge to have a drink.  Or three.  Or maybe just leave the whole bottle and start running a tab, because right after the urge to drink comes the realization that it's going to be a long bad night.

2) A THESAURUS. Because nothing works better as a coaster for the drinks mentioned above than a really thick book.  I'd counsel against actually using a thesaurus for writing, because no one wants to read sentences in which characters advance, meander, promenade, traipse, or wend one's way across the room.

3) A CAT.  Hemingway had a cat, right?  He had a cat because a cat is the only creature on Earth more vain and self-centered than the average author.  While other more social animals might feel neglected or ignored by an author, who is probably staring off into space or rummaging in the cabinets for more liquor, a cat is perfectly comfortable being ignored because it doesn't know anyone else is in the room anyway.  The cat's 'I don't care if you exist or not' attitude is perfectly suited to the author's mindset of 'What? Huh? Who?'

4) AN ELEGANT LEATHER-BOUND JOURNAL.  We all know that writers, and I mean serious professional writers with book contracts and everything, are always prepared to whip out a convincing character or a heart-wrenching plot at the drop of a dangling participle. So give your author the most expensive, ornate leather journal you can find, wait a year, drag it out from under the whiskey-stained thesaurus, and give it to the writer again.  They won't ever know, because each and every page will be as blank as it was the day you bought it.  Seriously, people.  I tried the whole notebook by the bed schtick for years, and I recorded exactly two notes in it, which read:

"Char. A sees the thing, intro. other scene w/char B, str. exc. Plot hole & 9 days."
"Why G. not cld/not E?"

Which explains why Hemingway's cat had six toes, for all I know.  But leatherbound notebooks make pretty good coasters too, and if the glasses sweat on them, you can tell people the stains are from a solo hike through Guatemala which you took to 'reconnect to your muse.'

I don't have a Number 5.  You should probably stop at Number 1, because gift-wrapping a cat is nearly impossible and writers can spot a gift wrapped thesaurus from across a crowded room anyway.

Mug and Meralda News

The print version of the new book, All the Turns of Light, is done, cover and all. Amazon is reviewing it now, and I expect the print version sales page to go live early next week (if I had to bet money, I'd say Tuesday). The printed book will go for $12 in the US, and the equivalent amount everywhere else. 


Speaking of the new book, another wonderful gift for an author is that of the Amazon reader review. Reviews tell potential buyers that the book is being read. Of course, good reviews are the very best kind, but honest ones are always welcome. If you've read it, and you liked it, posting a review will only take a moment. Thanks!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Doctor Will Fee You Now

This won't hurt a bit.
I'm not a big fan of doctors.

I didn't phrase that sentiment well. I have nothing against physicians as people. I'm sure some of them perform a service of some sort to society as a whole, if only by dint of not being street mimes. I don't cross the street to avoid doctors. I'll talk to them at parties. I even know better than to try to wheedle free medical advice out of them, when we meet socially.

It's going to their offices and sitting on that ridiculous paper-covered bench and having the inevitable conversation about weight and exercise that don't like.

But, despite my efforts to avoid the six-hour wait in a tiny room filled with coughing derelicts and shrieking, mucous-covered infants, I am forced to visit a doctor occasionally. Last week saw one of those days.

As I sat in a corner and inhaled the kind of bacteria-rich air one normally associates with Europe during the Black Plague, I made certain stern resolutions concerning my future relationships with doctors and the medical profession in general.

  • I will NEVER wait more than two hours to see a doctor, ever again. This includes situations in which the transaxle assembly from a Peugot is protruding from my chest cavity. I will crawl to the door and leave via Hearse, if necessary, but I am done with the long waits. Here's some medical advice for you, doc -- don't schedule 25 appointments for the same half-hour. Or do, I don't care, I won't stick around. My time is no less valuable than yours.
  • I don't want to be be in your office. You certainly don't want me there.  Let's stick to the matter at hand. Stitch up whatever is bleeding and present me the bill. If I want a lecture on wellness - wait, there's no point in completing that sentence because I do not and never will want a lecture on wellness. Next.
  • If I had to sit behind the receptionist's desk and listen to the Great Unwashed hack and snort and moan and whine all day every day I would quickly grow to hate them, just as your receptionist Cruella de Satanica does. I don't expect a hug and a pat, but I didn't come here to engage in a snarling contest, either. 
  • Just give me the freaking pills. That's what this whole rant boils down to. You aren't Marcus Welby, caring, concerned comic-strip MD, and I'm not going to experience some life-changing epiphany on this paper-covered bench and run out and become a granola-gobbling, marathon-running, heart-rate aware athlete. Just scribble on the pad and let's both get on with our lives, because oh by the way you've got 175 more people lined up to see before lunch and it sounds like Cruella just bit someone.
Rant Mode off.

Mug and Meralda News


The new book (All the Turns of Light) is enjoying good reviews and brisk sales. Work on Book 3 is underway!

Also in the works is the print edition of All the Turns of Light. I hope to announce completion on that project this week. The print version of the first book in the series, All the Paths of Shadow, is already available (click here for the print version).

Markhat News

The second round of edits on the new Markhat book, The Darker Carnival, is complete! The release date is April, which is getting close.


And that's it for this week. Remember, kids, take your medicine, look both ways before crossing the street, and never fire off an incendiary round while inside the gasbag of a hydrogen-filled dirigible. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Spaceship for Meralda

© Unholyvault | Dreamstime.com - Spaceship Steering Wheel Photo
From time to time, I let you, my favorite readers, slip behind the curtain and take a peek backstage as a book is put together. Today is one of those days, and if the title 'A Spaceship for Meralda' didn't tip you off, I'll make it official -- we're going to talk about the science underpinning the Ovis Flying Coil, which is the dingus that gave the airship Intrepid flight in All the Turns of Light.

If you've read either Saving the Sammi or All the Turns of Light, you've already been introduced to the flying coil. I didn't spend a lot of time babbling about flying coils in All the Turns of Light because that simply wasn't relevant to the story. We know Meralda invented them, and that they can make things fly, so let's get flying, right?

But there's a whole arcane science behind the coils. Just in case you're ever trapped in a fantasy world and you need to construct a magical apparatus to escape some evil wizard's tower, here's how they work, and how to build one. 

Yes, I drew the diagram below, and yes, in fact I do know why I never became a graphic artist, thank you very much.



While puttering around in the Royal Laboratory one day, Meralda pondered electromagnets. They work in her world just as they do here -- run an electrical current through a coil of wire, and bang, instant magnet. 

In Meralda's world, electricity works just as it does here. She uses copper wire and batteries and generators and motors, many of which she either invented or improved. 

What Meralda has that we don't, though, is magic. The magic she works with is similar to electricity. It can be stored in magical batteries called 'holdstones.' It can be directed, modulated, latched to physical objects or even itself. 

But that fateful day in the Royal Laboratory, Meralda was waiting for a fresh cup of coffee to brew and it struck her, out of the blue -- an electrical current moving through a coil generates magnetism. What would happen, she wondered, if I pushed a magical current through the same coil?

You put a new crack in the Laboratory's granite ceiling, that's what happens. The entire assembly -- coil, holdstone, all of it -- simply leaped up and smashed against the ceiling as though thrown.

Meralda forgot all about her coffee. 

The flying coil creates gravity, much as an electromagnet creates magnetism. Properly driven, a flying coil can generate a gravity field sufficient to pull the whole apparatus along, as though it were falling. But you can orient the field and the coil any way you wish, which allows for level flight, hovering, whatever the operator desires.

Meralda learned to further improve the coils by latching the magical current flow to a simple electrical flow. That allows the operator to select the intensity and even the direction of the field with a bank of basic controls. She can even generate negative gravity fields, all with the same coil, by supplying different electrical voltages and rates of oscillation.

That's how Mug flies about. His birdcage has a pair of tiny hand-wound flying coils affixed to the bottom of the cage. Add a battery, a holdstone, and a few tiny controls, and Mug can fly about for hours.

The airship Intrepid, the setting for most of All the Turns of Light, used both flying coils and lifting gas. The lifting gas provided lift, and the coils pushed the airship ahead at speeds no set of electric fans could ever hope to match.

Simple and elegant, it also provided a compelling reason for Meralda to be aboard the Intrepid on its perilous maiden voyage.

Airships and their lifting gas envelopes are commonplace in Meralda's world. Of course, in the aftermath of her flying coil, the bright silver fans that have driven airships for years will quickly give way to coils. One day, someone is going to decide they don't need lifting gas either. Progress happens in her world just as it does in ours.

Sooner or later, Meralda is going to be waiting for another cup of coffee to brew, and it may occur to her -- why must flight stop with the atmosphere?

Why not just keep going up?

Thus the title of this entry, A Spaceship for Meralda. When Meralda invented the flying coil, she unknowingly touched off Tirlin's very own space program.

I know, space travel isn't normally a staple of fantasy books. I promise you that if I do include it in the next book, it will be space travel like you've never seen, and it will be wicked cool fun. 

Just in case I venture off that way, I've started designing the kind of craft I believe Meralda would create. 

Let's look at what she has available to her:
  • Propulsion, via the Ovis Flying Coils. She doesn't need rockets. She doesn't need to worry about thundering up to escape velocity. All she needs to do is set the coils for a gentle upward acceleration, and watch the ground fall quietly away.
  • Basic chemical decomposition. She replaced the Intrepid's lifting gas as it leaked through her gas bags by splitting seawater into lifting gas (hydrogen) and oxygen. With a little tweaking, she can decompose the carbon dioxide exhaled by a spaceship crew and wind up with carbon and oxygen, which can be breathed over again.
So, she has the means to fly about, and clean the air. So far, so good.

But what about a pressure vessel? I've established their technological prowess as roughly Victorian. That's great for gas-lamps and steam locomotives, not so good for assembling large, air-tight structures that don't weigh a million tons. There are limits as to what even large flying coils will drive.

But Meralda is brilliant, and I foresee the introduction of a thin, nearly-impervious bubble of carbon atoms given enhanced strength by a sustained magical field -- yes. Call it Ovinium. Perfect for a nice spherical spaceship hull, isn't it?

Okay, so now we have a hull. What about gravity?

That's simple. You hang a few short fat flying coils under whatever you want to call the floor, and set them for a wide, weak field. Everything inside that field gets pulled to the coil. Instant deck gravity, so the crew doesn't spend the entire voyage trying not to vomit.

I think this could actually work. I'll go through several ship designs, but here's the first, and yes, I'm quite aware I cannot draw.


The faint lines are steel rigging, used to stabilize the coils. The sphere in the middle is the main body of the ship. It has air, gravity, corridors and beds and kitchens and bunks. The four huge main flight flying coils are housed in nacelles away from the central hull. The four smaller coils set just below the pressure hull provide deck gravity and also augment the main coils during landing and ascent. 

There's a glass-domed flight bridge on the top of the spherical hull, and another bridge (the descent bridge) on the bottom of the ship, because you need to see the bottoms of the coils as you set the ship down. 

We're talking exposed steel beams and rigging for everything outside the pressure hull, giving the whole works a very Jules Verne look. If you look closely at the horrible drawing above, you can see the little scale dots labelled 'people' just above the words MAIN FLIGHT COILS. That's how big this thing is, because I want the movie version to look cool.

Also note the very smallest of the tiny people dots. That's Mug, furious in his flying birdcage, pointing out that airships are dangerous enough but at least they have the good sense to stay inside the atmosphere.

Maybe next week I'll post a drawing of the alternate craft, the Progress. 

If you're reading this and you're wondering just what the heck I'm talking about, well, they're books.

The second book in the series is called All the Turns of Light, and it just came out a couple of weeks ago. Here's the cover, and a link.


Book #2, All the Turns of Light

The first book in the series is also available, cover and link below.


Book #1, All the Paths of Shadow

Have a good week, people! Back to designing spaceships for a bit...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

First Week Away


A week ago today, All the Turns of Light went live.

It's had a very good week. My Amazon sales have been steady, and since Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, this is good news for Mug and Meralda. 

Why? 

Because this guarantees Book 3 in the series. And it won't be three years coming, either. The outline is already taking shape. The new Intrepid is being designed. By the way, I need eleven million cubic feet of lifting gas, and six hundred and seventy-four miles of bare Number 3 copper wire. Just in case you have quantities of either lying around.

I'm even building a solar system just for this next book, because yes things are moving out of the storm-tossed skies above Hang and the Realms and the Great Sea, and our heroine will setting out for the vast dark spaces of the heavens in Book 3.

Yeah, Mug isn't thrilled with that idea at all. But he'll go anyway, because I'll finally get to use the tagline below:

In space, no one can hear Mug complain.

And what will the title of this new Mug and Meralda adventure be?

Look at the titles of books 1 and 2 first:

All the Paths of Shadow,
All the Turns of Light

The two lines above almost read as though they form a fragment of a poem, do they not?

That's because they do. This is a 4 book series, and by the time the final book is published, you'll be able to stand the books side by side in order and read the entire poem.

So what is the title of Book 3?

Well, I'm torn between two titles, actually. Because I'm deep-down an awful person, I'll give you only one of my choices for the title of Book 3. If I go with this one, the still-incomplete poem will read:

All the Paths of Shadow,
All the Turns of Light,
Every Wind of Change,
Blankety Blank Blank Blank.

No way am I spilling the 4th and final line this early.





Markhat fans, please don't think I'm giving up on him and Darla, because I'm not! Remember, the new Markhat book, The Darker Carnival, comes out in April. And you'll be happy to know I've started a new Markhat book, entitled Way Out West. 

Which means I'll be working on two books at once, thus running the risk of accidentally dropping Mama Hog in on Meralda, or featuring a scene in which Mug and Darla exchange barbs over her choice of summer hats. Which will never happen. Although it might be funny, just as an exercise...




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Release Day News: All The Turns of Light on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble!


No more delays, no more vague promises of 'coming soon' or 'any day now!'

All The Turns of Light is now loose in the wild. Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble have the book, and it is making its way to market via each bookseller. I set a publishing date of November 19, which is Tuesday, but I'm sure the book will go live for purchase on each site well before the 19th.

A few basic facts about All the Turns of Light:
  • An unusually articulate marmot served as consultant for most of Chapter 5.
  • Two brave copy editors suffered minor injuries in the unfortunate gerund skirmish of October 2nd.
  • The airship Intrepid was constructed to scale and actually flown to enhance the book's realism. I now owe Mastercard 138 million dollars. The Kickstarter funding campaign will commence soon.
  • Film rights for the book have already been secured by Paramount. They haven't, but if enough people spread the rumor Universal might get jealous and snap up the rights, so let's all head to Twitter and stir the pot.
  • At no point in the book does the word syzygy appear, because man, I hate that word. 

BREAKING NEWS -- All the Turns of Light is live on Amazon and Kobo.

Amazon is the first to display a product page for All the Turns of Light!  It popped up while I was writing this. The link is below. 


Grab thyself a copy, if the Kindle is your format of choice. 

Prefer a Kobo version? They too prove swift on the draw. The link to the book at the Kobo store is below!


Both versions are $2.99.

If you missed the first book, All the Paths of Shadow, wait until tomorrow and you'll be able to get it free for the next few days. I'll be adding a Kobo edition of this book to the Kobo collection soon, so if don't read Kindle e-books don't despair.

EVEN MORE BREAKING NEWS -- All the Turns of Light is live on Barnes & Noble!

And the circle of life is complete. The Nook edition of All the Turns of Light just went live. The link is below:


Now What?

The release of a new book is followed by fourteen seconds of rest and relaxation. But no more than fourteen seconds, because after seeing a book go public, every writer I know claws their way to a monitor, pulls up their title, and watches the rankings like some sort of demented, unhygienic hawk.

Will the book sell? Will it get any reviews? Will it get any good reviews? Oh my God, what's my position on the Oxford comma? Did I remember to change the bellboy's name from Jim to Tim at the end of Chapter 12? What am I doing? Really, what am I doing, is it too late to yank the book and take up yak herding? The Amazon ranking just fell by 0.002 percent? People hate it!  People hate ME!

The author reflects calmly upon his work.
The book is out. I thank my readers for their patience and grace, my editors and beta readers and technical support geniuses for their help, and my friends for not quietly blocking me on social media when I blathered about the thing.

And now, if you'll pardon me, I must hunch over a flickering display and click REFRESH until the mouse fails or my finger does...

(image of Mad Man courtesy of Cerenzio of Dreamstime.com)



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Rant Deluxe Redux

A biped similar in biomorphic construction to that of the author prepares to dispense a face-punch.

Rant the First

I have a new answer to the question "What do you write?"

From now on, I shall reply with three words -- "Japanese tentacle porn." I shall speak them loud and proud, and take a step toward the questioner, daring them to offer further comment.

I do this for two reasons. 

First, because I am sick of replying honestly that I write fantasy, only to be met with the furrowed brows and lifted nose which suggests I just offered the questioner a dirty plate of day-old trout. 

Second, because I am nearly moved to murder when I am told "Oh, I don't read that, I only read real books."

Thirdly, because yes I said two reasons but I am vexed and this is not time for numerical precision, because if people are going to express disdain for my genre and walk away I figure my new reply will send them fleeing my presence immediately, without the by-now familiar lecture concerning the error of my literary ways.

You know, I run into a lot of people who prefer sports-oriented reads, for instance. I never say to them 'Why, that's just people handling each other's balls." I don't denounce the aficionados of Westerns by saying 'Why don't you just rent old episodes of Gunsmoke?"

I don't do these things because I make some small effort, at least part of the time, to eschew being a clueless jerk. Too, I realize that there are great stories and great books being written in each and every genre, sports and Westerns and fantasy alike.

I've noticed that as I age, my level of forbearance for rudeness and dismissive behavior by strangers declines at an ever-accelerating rate. So if you're around me at a book-related event -- a signing, a reading, a class, whatever -- and you hear someone dismiss my choice of fantasy as a genre, you might want to lean in closer, because there's a good chance my response is going to be a caffeine-fueled rant aimed squarely at the inadvisability of insulting someone who juggles words professionally. 

There. I feel better. Thank you for your patience.

Rant the Second

Last week, I blogged about the now-famous video in which a woman walked the streets of New York and secretly filmed the abuse hurled her way. I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to comment and email; I learned a lot from you all, and I hope it will help me create more believable characters.

One of the specific questions I asked was this -- would my female readers want to see the inclusion of such a harsh reality in my books? I.e, would a scene featuring Meralda, for instance, being cat-called as she walked to the Laboratory be a positive contribution to my books?

The answer, and I mean it was unanimous, was a resounding NO. Including such scenes would do nothing but remind readers of the awful things they face in the real world, and there is no good purpose to be served by that.

So. Tirlin will remain free of cat-calling idlers. Even Rannit's streets won't see such a thing, and we're talking about a city which starts each day when the dead wagons haul corpse after corpse out of the blood-stained alleys. So Darla won't be confronted by aggressive idlers either, although Darla would just shoot them in the face the instant they opened their mouths. Darla doesn't suffer fools gladly, and neither does she miss.

Meralda and Mug News!




Latest update: The final edit pass is DONE. The book is complete. The cover is ready (has been for months -- another Kanaxa!). What remains to be done?

Conversion to e-book format(s). Acquisition of ISBN number. Submission to the various sales outlets.

So when will All the Turns of Light be on sale?

Today is November the 9th. My plan is to have the book up by Monday, November 17, at least on Amazon. I will keep you posted with a few very short blog updates throughout the week.

But the long, long wait is nearly over. I do hope it has been worth it!

And on that note, back to work!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

On a Serious Note

For the most part, I make a conscious effort to steer away from politically-charged or potentially controversial subjects in my blog.

Today, I'm going to make a rare exception, and talk about something that I saw last week that really bothered me.

I'm talking about the short video a young woman made. It's a simple film, less than two minutes long. She never speaks. She does nothing, in fact, but walk down the street.

Now, let me showcase my social ignorance for a moment. If asked to predict the content of a film in which a young woman wearing jeans and a crew-neck tee shirt just walks around, I'd have predicted she'd receive a couple of random smiles and a hello or two. Because yes, I'm the social equivalent of a hermit crab, and I foolishly assumed that in 2014 people of any gender can just walk around unmolested in North America.

If you haven't seen the video yet, I urge you to give it a look. Less than 2 minutes, but very illuminating. The link is below.


In the space of the film, she is harassed and accosted more times that I could count. One idiot even follows her, side by side, for four whole minutes just because she wouldn't respond to his clumsy come-ons.

What the Hell, people? Every single male portrayed in this video needs what we in the Deep South call a Class II Ass Kicking (Class II because not only must the offending male be beaten, so must at least one other male blood relative, just to get the point across to the whole wretched backward clan).

Let me back up for a minute.

I'm not the most traveled guy around, but I have been a few places. Montana. Arizona. Memphis. Austin. I work on a college campus in Mississippi.

I've never seen behavior like this, and I'm a careful people-watcher because I'm always on the lookout for fiction fodder.

I'm not saying that what happens in the film doesn't happen. It obviously does. I'm not saying the film was edited, or the incidents exaggerated. Neither is the case.

I'm just saying I should get out more, but I'd better retain the services of a competent criminal trial lawyer first, because it is time we men who are NOT dishonorable cretins knock the ones who are back into the gutter from whence they crawled.

Am I advocating violence?

Yes. Quite frankly, I am, because I don't think a carefully-crafted debate on the proper behavior towards ladies is going to carry the same weight with Mr. Hey Sexy Baby that a well-placed face-punch will.

I suppose I've been sheltered. I don't see this lewd behavior here in Oxford. I do know that if someone addressed my wife in that fashion, well, my newly-retained lawyer and his good friend the bail bondsman would soon be very busy, and I would be contemplating the dubious merits of jailhouse cuisine (protip: never eat the meat loaf).

And it would be worth it. There's a scene, alas deleted before the final version saw print, in which my detective Markhat and his vampire friend Evis are discussing an incident in which Markhat broke a stranger's jaw because he insulted Darla, Markhat's then-fiancee. Markhat spends a long weekend in the Old Ruth, a notorious jail with a less-than-100-percent survival rate among even brief detainees. Evis admonishes Markhat to show a modicum of restraint next time, to stay out of jail, and Markhat responds thusly -- "Any husband not ready to spend a night in the Old Ruth on behalf of his wife isn't ready to be handing out engagement rings."

I still believe that. It's not up to the ladies to weigh themselves down with pistols and pepper spray because some men can't mind their manners. I believe it's up to the men to police our brethren, and make it crystal clear that an insult or attempted intimidation to a random woman on the street is an insult to my wife, my sister, my daughter, my mother.

And some of us don't take kindly to such things. Not kindly at all.

None of you men should. It's one thing to smile and say hello to a woman in singles club (do such things even exist anymore?). It's another to shout down a lady on the street. She isn't there to meet you, or make your day. She's going to work or going home, like the rest of us poor slobs.

To the woman in the video, I can only offer my most profound apologies on behalf of my gender, a large percentage of which is obviously unacquainted with the concept gentlemanly behavior.

And to the morons in that video, you should be two things -- first and foremost, ashamed of your inexcusable behavior. Second, you should be bleeding from a broken nose.

To the guys who saw the catcalls and the intimidation happen, you should be ashamed of yourselves too, for not standing up and speaking out.

I'm not stating or implying that women are fainting daisies incapable of taking care of themselves. Far from it.

I am saying women shouldn't have to teach strange men not to be raging arseholes. Women shouldn't be tasked with conveying that sad message one hundred times a day.

No, this kind of verbal assault and intimidation is a man problem. Each of us dudes is either a part of the solution, or an enabler.

So cut that crap out, you idiots. You might just say something around the wrong wild-eyed southern boy. Maybe I'd win, maybe I'd lose, but that's not the point -- there would be a reckoning.

Okay. Deep breaths. I'm putting my soapbox away, because I do have a follow-up question to all this, that I hope one or two of my female readers might be willing to answer.

I write several female characters. Darla, for one. Gertriss and Mama Hog. And then there's Meralda, Tirlin's lady Mage, about whom I have based two novels and a novella. But seeing the video, and then reading about 'gamergate' and the many instances of outright physical assaults against female cosplayers at cons, I have to wonder if I'm portraying my female characters with any degree of realism at all.

Meralda walks around Tirlin all the time, and aside from traffic cops doffing their hats to her and her apartment doorman saying hello, she never gets cat-called. Darla, Markhat's wife, has faced down vampires and murderous witches, but never endured a mob of idlers on a park bench commenting upon her anatomy.

Honest, such things never occurred to me, because, I assume, I'm a clueless male.

Which gives me pause. I want very much to make Meralda and Darla and all the rest as whole and as believable as I possibly can. I want readers, especially female readers, to feel as if they see some of themselves reflected in my portrayals.

So -- by omitting this aspect of being a woman in 21st century America, have I damaged my fictional people?

Conversely, do you women even WANT to see such things pop up, especially since I write fantasy, or would you rather fiction be a safer place, a bastion of reason, if you will?

I am genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts.

So that's it for this week. Next week I'll try to get back to ghost hunting and funny stuff.

But sometimes even hermit crabs should speak out.

Peace out, fellow babies!











Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Costumes for Writers

© Embe2006 | Dreamstime.com - Halloween Background Photo

Halloween is nearly upon us. I'm too old to trick-or-treat, according to at least one judge and the content of a sternly-worded restraining order, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the holiday.

Maybe you're an author, or married to one, or keeping one chained up in your basement in the hope that she'll finally finish that final book of the trilogy that you've been waiting for since 1998. If so, here are some Halloween costumes you might consider trying, because each is designed to strike fear into the heart of an author (note: if the author lacks a heart, as is so often the case, these costumes will also impact liver function, or what little remains of it). 

Enjoy!

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES TO SCARE HELL OUT OF WRITERS

Conan the Grammarian -- The Grammarian can spot dangling participles, split infinitives, comma misuse, or tense shifts in your manuscripts even after they have been corrected. The Grammarian will ring your doorbell, present his treat bag, and then deliver a scathing appraisal of your writing skills so virulent and brutal you will later be found unconscious, bleeding from your ears, unable to speak or distinguish between its and it's for weeks.. 

The Wicked Slush Reader of the West -- The Wicked Reader will appear on your steps holding your most recently submitted manuscript in her green clawed hands. Before you can comment upon the inaccuracy of the published response times, she will read aloud the first paragraph of your work, cackling with insane glee as you realize how hackneyed and trite that hook you were so proud of sounds now. She will then order her Flying Red-Ink Monkeys to storm your house, marking up any works-in-progress with the classic 'We regret that this work does not suit our needs at this time' kiss-off. 

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White -- The authors of the legendary writing reference book The Elements of Style simply stand in your doorway, shaking their heads in silent yet profound disappointment.

Ebook Pirates of the Caribbean -- This clown ain't Captain Jack Sparrow. And he's not here for treats -- instead, he steals your ebooks, distributes them through shady 'subscription' ebook sites, and cuts your legitimate sales in half while claiming to do you a favor. "Arr, it's free advertisin' for ya, mate," he cries, as he speeds away as fast as his thrift-store rubber dinghy can take him. "Information just wants to be free."

Count Genre Snob -- It doesn't matter what you write. Somebody you know hates that genre, and this collective disdain is personified by Count Genre Snob, who reveals his face with a flourish of his cape before remarking '"Ven are you going to write a real book? No vun vants to read that <insert genre here> vut you write, blah!" The only way to dispel the Count is to confront him with royalty statements cut into the shape of the New York Times masthead. 

AmaZombies -- You've seen them. We all have -- they roam the Amazon ebookstore by the tens of thousands, and more appear daily. You know them by the awful Microsoft Paint do-it-yourself covers, the complete lack of any editing, the haphazard formatting, and the instant and furious response to even constructive criticism. Alone, each AmaZombie self-published upload is harmless -- but if your book is surrounded by thirty thousand of them, they are a terror indeed. Barricade your house and begin immediate rationing of your Halloween candy.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe, and keep reading!





Sunday, October 19, 2014

Big Mug and Meralda News!

The author, upon being served decaff.

Here we are, slap-dab in the middle of October, and I haven't posted a single 'Things That Go Bump' blog entry yet.

Truth is, it's been an extremely busy October. I've barely had time to deal with the living, much less the dead. My Tesla radio sits inactive. My new parabolic mic hasn't been used since that hot day in August when we drew curious looks from the Oxford Police Department. And I'm still not done with the new ghost hunting device, which I hope will measure truly minute changes in local magnetic fields.

But I have accomplished one thing, in the last few weeks.

Drumroll, please....

The last re-write of the new Mug and Meralda book, All the Turns of Light, is DONE.

I have an ending I'm happy with. And a beginning, and yes, a middle. The book is complete. The tale is told. 

Of course there is still proofreading to be done, and the mechanical process of turning a manuscript into a book is yet to be complete. But these tasks are small compared to the Herculean task wrestling this book into shape turned out to be.

So, for all of you who have waited so patiently for the continued adventures of Mug and Meralda, your wait is nearly over.

There was another decision to be made, when the book was finished. Should I shop it around? Try to get an agent?

After much internal debate, I've decided to remain a so-called hybrid author, and publish this one myself. Hey, if Samhain (the house which publishes The Markhat Files series, and does a darned fine job of it) handled light fantasy, I'd send Turns their way in an instant -- but that's not really their cup of proverbial tea. 

So I'll handle this one myself. 

I've paid to have it edited, by seasoned professionals, who by the way were literally invaluable in shaping the book's final form. I also commissioned an original cover, one created by the same fabulously talented artist who created the covers for Brown River Queen, The Five Faces, and now The Darker Carnival. You haven't seen Kanaxa's cover for All the Turns of Light yet, but I'm looking at it now, and it's beautiful. 

Why am I going the self-published route with this new book?

Time. Let's say I decided to start shopping Turns around -- heck, I believe it would sell, but I also believe the back-and-forth demanded by the markets would add eight months or a year to the process of getting the book out there for sale.

Now, if I was a complete and utter unknown -- just for the record, I rate myself as 'mostly unknown' -- I'd take the year, and like it, because a publisher brings with them marketing and placement and promotion I simply cannot achieve on my own.

But All the Paths of Shadow has had a pretty good run, sales-wise, and that means there's a small but eager audience out there already. 

Thus my decision to go it alone, this time.

So get ready. I plan to maintain my hard push, and get this book out in a month, no more. I'll be pricing it at $2.99, which I think is still a bargain.

Turns isn't a novella, either. Final word count is 85,000 words, give or take a dozen. 

As soon as Turns is out, I will be diving back into a new Markhat. It's tentatively entitled Way Out West, and it sees Markhat, Darla, and Cornbread hopping Rannit's new steam locomotive for a trip out to the western frontier.

Does Markhat strap on a six-shooter and don a Stetson?

<Insert John Wayne drawl>

You better believe it, pilgrim.

So, wish me luck and speed as I try to make up for lost time and get this book out there at last!


Oh, and happy October to you all!






Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Darker Carnival cover reveal!

Few things are as much fun for a writer as seeing a new book cover, and realizing it is the perfect cover for the book..

So we're both in for a treat today, because the cover for the upcoming Markhat book THE DARKER CARNIVAL is done. The book goes on sale next April, but I don't see any reason to make you wait. So, here it is -- another Kanaxa masterpiece!



I don't know how she (Kanaxa) does it. She captured the essence of the book perfectly, she gave Markhat the perfect vampire-built revolver, and Darla has the perfect expression of elegant self-assurance. Even the shadow over Markhat's eyes embodies one of the book's more subtle themes.

I don't think I'm engaging in the forbidden art of spoilery by suggesting The Darker Carnival might be set in a carnival and that the carnival might be evil. Might be. Of course, like a magician's stage show, what you perceive and you actually happens could be two very different things.

Like so much of life, experience is often a matter of perspective. The wondrous acts of the magician are revealed as mere sleight-of-hand trickery if one steps out of the audience and observes from behind the stage.

And, on rare occasions, the mundane, rote day-today routines of life give way briefly to miracles.

You just have to be looking at the right place from the right spot to understand the true significance of either.

I hope Markhat fans will enjoy this new entry in the series. It was fun to write. Who doesn't love a traveling carnival, evil or not?

All our old friends are back, and a new face might even wind up added to the cast. But I'm getting carried away, so just scroll back up and have another look at that gorgeous cover.

April really isn't that far away.

If you haven't gotten around to reading The Five Faces, the latest book in the series which is now on sale everywhere, now is a good time! And check out that cover too. Amazing!