Archive for September, 2016

Netgalley is a site to join where readers who review can go to find new books and recommend them to their friends, followers, and the world at large through Amazon reviews, blogs, Twitter, and whatever the new app-of-the-day is today. It is free and easy to join. And among its thousands of offerings by traditional and independent publishers, you can find The Invisible City.

Reviews are the lifeblood of book-selling. The way things are today, it’s not enough to go down to Barnes & Noble or your local independent bookseller (yeah, right) and scan the shelves. This is particularly true of independent publishers whose works aren’t on the shelves. Nowadays, many people find the best way to choose books is to hunt down reviews on Amazon. And without reviews, authors (especially new ones) can’t get traction.

So if you didn’t know about Netgalley, give it a try. You don’t have to look at my book (although you can at least vote on the new cover), but there are thousands of authors in dozens of categories who are begging for your attention.

Read and review. It’s the thing to do!





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Like 81 million of my fellows, I watched the debate last night, and like some sub-set of that audience (let us hope a large sub-set, but whatever) it got me to thinking. Not about the candidates (this is not that kind of a post), but about how popular culture and the election seem to be running hand-in-hand this year. Specifically, let’s look at the movie industry, which, as it’s become highly dependent on SF and comic book movies, makes me just as well-qualified to speak to the state of the world as anyone.

It is well-discussed that the movie industry is really depressed this year, because so many of the sequels and reboots and “sure-thing” franchises have simply not delivered. Yes, Captain America did his patriotic bit to perk up the economy, but he was an outlier. (Okay, he’s always been an outlier, but that’s another post.) For the greater part, and it’s most obvious with sequels, people have just not shown up at the movieplex. Sure, there are more ways than ever to enjoy even first-run movies, but nothing’s changed drastically on that front since last summer. So what has?

The mood of the country, that’s what. This election is a battle between the old and new. Do we want (and I am not taking sides here) Clinton-Obama policies filtered through yet another Clinton? (After all, electing a second Bush didn’t pan out so well.) Or do we want a clean slate, as typified by the politically-virginal, commercially-successful Trump? A large part of the electorate is leaning toward the latter, and I wonder if that “I’m tired of the same old fare,” attitude extends to the box office?

Or is all of this merely another iteration of the tired “franchise fatigue” argument? Is it not the theme we’re weary of, but simply this installment in the series? Is it a general disappointment, or simply specific dissatisfaction? And is there any connection between entertainment and politics at all? (In this sense! I’m fully aware of the connotations of that question, thank you.)

Perhaps next summer we will be able to look back and draw a correlation between November’s results and the current sales figures. But even if we can, we probably won’t be able to agree on what it is.


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Just received in the mail, my latest anthology appearance.


As if I didn’t already have enough books…




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Having been to my share of “Writing 101” panels at conventions over the years, I have noticed an odd trend, a question from (I assume) aspiring writers that runs something like this: “What are your writing habits?” In other words, how many words a day, do you write longhand first and then transcribe, do you listen to music while you write, do you write in the morning or at night…? I used to be interested in the answer myself, until I finally asked myself, after some repetitions: “Why? What difference does it make?”

Were this asked in general interviews, or autograph sessions, or like situations (which it is), I would understand. For all that there is nothing special about writing–it’s just somebody working at that which he does well, just like teaching math or prosecuting a lawsuit–there is still that air of mystery which pervades all of the arts: Those whose talents do not lie in that direction are in awe of those whose talents do, and who succeed thereat, are treated with respect and sometimes reverence by those who appreciate those talents, i.e., their fans.

That being said, I don’t understand why this question keeps coming from other writers, or even would-be writers. Because how Stephen King keeps his desk,* or when John Scalzi writes, or how many words George RR Martin puts down in a day,** has no effect at all on how successful I am as a writer. No matter how much I know about these people, it’s not going to make me better; the only way to get better is to write. And that’s true if you’re a neopro or pre-published (or Stephen King).

It’s not a crime, of course, to want to emulate your heroes, but you’d get more value emulating the qualities that contribute to their greatness. And even then, everyone is different. Even a common requirement like daily word count varies tremendously among writers.

So in the end, it all comes down to the same thing: Be yourself. Blaze your own trail. Let others ask you your habits if they think it’ll help them.

*Actually, I’ve read King’s On Writing, and I recommend it.

**Yes, I know, the answer is “not enough.” ETA: However, Scalzi just published this column in the LA Times, addressing that same question.


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I am a fan of bad old SF movies, the kind they made in the 1950s-1960s with giant grasshoppers, and big-headed aliens stalking amorous teenagers, and animated rugs chasing people at 2 MPH (and catching them). You know, the kind of movies Mystery Science Theater made famous again. (And yes, I am looking forward to the new MS3T.)

I love these poor things so much that I once, many years ago, helped compile a list of 50 of the worst, with annotations. I have tried very hard to find that list and repeat parts of it here, but alas… (Perhaps I shall try at some point to re-create some portion of it from memory, but like I said, this was written down many years ago and if I can remember more than a half-dozen, I’ll be doing well. Besides, it didn’t include Manos, Hands of Fate, which would now be #1.*)

But the point of this meandering is to ask: Why are so-bad-they’re-good movies popular? If you tried to do a staged MS3T with short stories and novels, you’d get past “The Eye of Argon” and find yourself completely out of material. Sure, there are loads of lousy books out there, but their shortcomings are seen as pathetic or boring, not amusing. Why, then, movies?

As with so many of life’s mysteries, I have no answer. I would theorize it has something to do with movies being more passive than reading, or perhaps the added visual dimension gives them an edge. I just know it’s so.

There have, of course, been many bad movies since our original list, but no so many enjoyable ones. (Granted, one tends to be less charitable when one is actually paying for the privilege of viewing.) Perhaps some of these newcomers could still make the list–I’m looking at you, Godzilla…

*For the love of heaven, if you must watch Manos, watch the MS3T version. The original has probably been outlawed by the U.N. anyway. The fact that the last three digits of its IMDb URL are “666” should tell you something.




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I’ve been watching some of those Sunday-night British mystery series on PBS for the past few months, and although I am in no way asserting that I have conducted any kind of in-depth survey, I have noticed a difference between British and American mysteries. (Aside from the fact that our cops carry guns.)

In American mysteries, the genesis of the plot, the motive behind the crime, is typically found in the present or the immediate past: someone is having an affair, or a crime has gone wrong, or someone is trying to secure an object that has recently come into his sphere. In British mysteries, the story seems to go back to something that went badly years ago, like an abandoned child, or a schoolyard prank gone horribly awry that haunts the participants in adulthood, or a love affair two generations ago that would rend the families apart even today.

As I say, this is hardly a scientific observation, so please don’t bombard me with examples that I’ve missed. But it has happened enough (at least in the ones I see on TV) that I’ve noticed it. And my wife, who is much more widely-read in the field than I, agrees, so there must be something to it. (Note: Suggest panel idea to next mystery con I attend.)

So why? Are the Brits just that much more in their history? Is it because they have more history? (True story: We were in Wales, hunting down some ruins we’d heard of. A woman comes out of her house and asks: “Are you looking for the castle? It’s around the back.” And sure enough, we rounded her house and there were the ruins. In her backyard. That’s British history.)

Maybe we’re so rushed in this country we can’t be bothered to dig into the past even in our mysteries? Could be, but those “cold case” shows seem pretty popular. I have no idea.

It’s a mystery…


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I am happy to report that I have sold audio reprints of “Founding Principals” and “Paying the Tab” to Manawaker Studios’ Flash Fiction Podcast. Podcasts always add an extra (and extra-entertaining) dimension to stories because of the narrators’ interpretations are always fascinating, and I am looking forward to hearing these. When they go live, you’ll be the first to know.

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