Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thought for Today

"Fiction about kings and queens is not necessarily royalist fiction any more than fiction about anarchists is likely to be libertarian fiction. As a writer I have produced a good many fantastic romances in which kings and queens, lords and ladies, figure largely -- yet I am an avowed anti-monarchist. Catch 22 never seemed to me to be in favour of militarism. And just because many of Heinlein's characters are soldiers or ex-soldiers I don't automatically assume he must therefore be in favour of war. It depends what use you make of such characters in a story and what, in the final analysis, you are saying." from "Starship Stormtroopers" by Michael Moorcock

Monday, October 25, 2010

The End

There is a book on my shelf I can throw away now. I bought it in 1999. I won't tell you its title or author, but you know what kind of book it is. It's the kind you read, start to throw across the room, and then say, "I can't believe this crap got published. I can write better than this." And then you think, "So why don't I?"

I've written for the stage, with several plays performed in Chicago in the early 90s. I have written several screenplays (a few of which were optioned by Hollywood production companies though none were ever produced). I had a standing invitation to pitch Star Trek: Voyager in the late 90s due to the quality of my Deep Space Nine spec scripts. I've written a nonfiction book (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact), and I've published well over 500 articles in magazines as diverse as The Believer, Publishers Weekly, free inquiry, Dreamwatch, and Babylon 5 Magazine, as well as various nonfiction anthologies. I've got a half dozen published short stories in various magazines and anthologies. I made a living off just my writing for five years in Los Angeles.

But I have never written a novel.

And mindful of how much easier it is to criticize than to do yourself, I've kept this godawful book on my shelf for 11 years, because while its mediocrity offended me greatly, and shelf space is at a premium, once I allowed it to set the challenge, I didn't feel like I could ethically throw it out until I'd responded.

And last night I wrote "The End" on a 96,000 word young adult urban fantasy.

I started it last year on November 1st (thank you NaNoWriMo), and I finished the first 50,000 words at 2am Friday night in my hotel room during an Editor Guest of Honor stint at Orycon 31. Then I set it aside for a few months. Then, sometime in the spring, I picked it back up. At first I started working on select weekends, taking a Saturday to sit in a coffeeshop and type. But there was too much downtime in between writing sessions. I found I was spending more time rereading what had come before than writing new material. Enter my incredible wife, who told me I should write after the kids were in bed, every weekday, Monday through Thursday (and sometimes Sunday), for two hours plus a night. And then made me do it.

I can't tell you the times she walked past me where I sat at the bar in the den, glanced over my shoulder to see me surfing the web or answering email, and said, "Stop that. You are supposed to be writing." Or how many nights I tried to beg off working to watch television or turn in early. I don't think there is anyway this book would exist at all if she hadn't chained me to the keyboard. (She is amazing.)

So last night around 10:15pm I wrote the words "The End" on the longest piece of fiction I've ever produced.

There is still a lot of work to do. I'm going to take a few weeks off, then start in on the first rewrite. It needs to be tightened, elements I discovered at the end need to be foreshadowed at the start, and it needs to be trimmed by about 10,000 words. Then it's going out to test readers, and then it gets another rewrite. So it won't be "done done" for many moons. But I've reached the end of something that was started a year ago. And now I can finally throw that book on my shelf, the piece of garbage I've had taking up space since 1999, away.

Only thing is, I may not want to anymore. It's become too important to me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rest in Peace, My Friend

The picture was taken off the coast of California, in the mid-90s. It captured my friend at his best, and is how I will remember him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Why I Love Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The other day a good friend and fellow anthologist asked me if I had a home or new of one for a good, literary heroic fantasy. From the description, the story in question sounded like exactly my cup of tea, but, alas, I'm not currently editing any short story anthologies. I recommended that the writer-in-question check out the online zine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

"Isn't that just a minor, second tier website?" my friend replied.

I quickly set him straight. Not only does Beneath Ceaseless Skies pay pro rates, and not only is it an SFWA-qualifying market, but work from it has been favorably reviewed in Locus magazine, and several of its authors have gone on to have novel sales (most recently Erin Hoffman to me and Saladin Ahmed to DAW).

I've been a fan of Beneath Ceaseless Skies for some time. Although my pleasure reading time is severely curtailed (anytime I read something that isn't a manuscript for Pyr I am essentially either taking my company's money to not work or taking time away from my family), I do make a point of reading BCS when I can. And I have yet to read a bad story there.

Now, I am an old school sword and sorcery fan. But I'm not interested in Conan pastiche, and I do have an appetite for elegant prose. Enter Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which offers "the best in literary adventure fantasy." Hey, look at those two adjectives: "literary" and "adventure." Not two words that are often strung together, and yet exactly what I'm looking for.

I'm also a great fan of the way that Scott H. Andrews runs the magazine, making every issue available not only on the site itself, but also as a free PDF, Mobi prc, and ePub file and a $.99 Kindle file. It's the ePub format that's particularly of use to me, since I can click the link and have it load directly into Stanza on my iPad. It's getting ridiculously easy to generate quality ePub files these days, with even more conversion options coming (Scrivener 2.0 and, I believe, the next generation of Microsoft Word will both do this). Some of the older, more established magazines could benefit by being up in ePub like this themselves, and I have used it as an example of what to do write in conversations with other new magazines.

They also have an e-only anthology out, The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Year One, which I bought in the iBook store the minute it was released. It's up in all these formats (and only costs $2.99):, in five ebook & computer formats
Amazon Kindle Store, in Kindle/Stanza format, in EPUB format
Apple's iBookstore, for iPad users

I highly recommend checking out the website, supporting them by buying the ebook anthology, and the downloading the latest issue. Plus, they are celebrating their 2nd Anniversary. BCS has published 45 podcasts and over a hundred stories in just two years.  This Thursday will see the release of their Anniversary Double-Issue, with stories from featuring Richard Parks and Tony Pi. I'll be there!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Masked Superteam Answers Your Questions

Nine authors & I in participate this morning in a Q&A on Joseph Mallozzi's blog, discussing our superhero prose anthology Masked. It's a mammoth post, with responses from Yours Truly, Matthew Sturges, James Maxey, Paul Cornell, Daryl Gregory, Gail Simone, Mark Chadbourn, Joe himself, and Marjorie M. Liu!

What's more, Joe labels us a Superteam and reveals which hero he feels we each correspond to. Surprisingly, I'm not Professor Xavier. Check out the post, "The Masked Superteam answers your questions."