Archive for December, 2016

As we wave good-bye to the tragi-comedy that has been 2016, I present you with the summation of my writing year, for whatever it might be worth. (Probably more to me than you.)

Submissions: 96. Trust me, this is a lot more than I thought. I credit the dozens of markets available today; when I started, there were three. Twelve of these subs are still outstanding.

Sales: 9. This is a record. Four original stories, five reprints. One of the original stories, moreover, was solicited by an editor. That was a first. (Woohoo!) The most-rejected of the original stories, “Hoskins’ War”  (appearing in Cirsova), had been rejected five times. Of the reprints, “Grinpa” (appearing in an upcoming volume of Digital Quick Fiction) had been rejected eight times before it first sold; this will be the first time it is reprinted.

Words written: 72,433. This is not in and out itself an impressive number, but in my own defense it only counts original works, not the extensive re-writing of older stories (some of which I sold). I would guess the true number to be closer to 90,000. The bulk of these words (66,000) are contained in The Cosmic City, which will be done very soon. I promise!

I also appeared on a panel, for the first time in, oh, let’s just say since I began selling, at Loscon. It was on what life would have been like without Star Trek. I was the guy who half-seriously pointed out how Star Trek had delayed some technical innovation. Nobody threw any tomatoes.

So that’s how I spent my free time. This is the first time I’ve added up these numbers; there are some surprises. Next year, I want to write more original fiction (easier when you’re not concentrating on a novel), and of course I want to sell more. With any luck, those things will go hand-in-hand.

I guess it’s up to me.

Happy New Year!



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Please check out this glowing review of The Invisible City at the Seagull Rising blog!



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I spent the Christmas break catching up on my laziness. Work has been more than usually busy lately, the ebb and flow having gained flow quite noticeably as the year ebbed.* And one evening, as I flipped through the 4000 channels in search of something to watch, I found a gold mine: a Thin Man movie marathon. I think Nick Charles (as played by the iconic William Powell) is the paragon of Thirties’ suavity, urbane, witty, cool under fire, a genius detective…I want to dress like him, talk like him… yes, I want to be him. But not because of any of those qualities I just described. Oh no. I want to be Nick Charles because he’s married to Nora.

Nora Charles. Brought to life by the incomparable Myrna Loy, Nora is unflappable, game for adventure, and fiercely loyal to her Nicky. What man could want more? The first time I saw The Thin Man, I fell in love with Nora Charles and Myrna Loy. I still love them today. (It’s okay, the wife knows.)

Now, I have all the movies on DVD already, and the only reason I haven’t watched them all is because I don’t want to finish the series: I always want to have at least one to look forward to. So the fact that they were now on TV should not have meant much, but we all know the joy of that serendipitous discovery is greater than that of knowing you could just pull the movies off the shelve and watch them any old time.

And then–disaster. Idly scanning the channel guide during a commercial, I discovered that at the same time there was playing on another network a Godzilla marathon. Great Scott! What to do? There are a lot more Godzilla movies than Thin Man movies, and I don’t have most of them on DVD.

Have you ever channel-flipped between the most charming crime-fighting marriage of the 1930s and the greatest man-in-a-rubber-suit monster of the 20th century? I have–now.

And let me tell you, it ain’t Heaven. First, you miss a lot. No matter which one you favor, you’re going to miss pieces while you’re watching the other. Second, there can be too much of a good thing, even with your favorite shows. I could probably watch two or three Thin Man movies in a row before my eyes started to fall out, but it was late that night and I was getting sleepy, so I stopped after 1 1/2 when I realized I’d seen the next one anyway.

But at the point, I didn’t know what “too much of a good thing” meant. It turned out the Godzilla marathon ran for three days. And for three days, I spent all of my free time in front of the TV sucking down the movie equivalent of empty calories. Big calories, but empty. And I started to appreciate what I had known for years: Although all Godzilla movies are not the same, but they might as well be. Honestly, it’s hard to get invested in the Japanese army with its super-weapons when, even if they manage to hit Godzilla (how do they ever miss?), they can’t stop him. It’s one thing to watch such an exercise in futility once in a while, but for three days straight?

So yes, it is possible to get too much of a good thing, no matter how much you love it. At least, it is as far as television is concerned. At the end of the day, I realized something else, something far more important: The person with whom I spend my life doesn’t watch Godzilla movies, but she left me alone that whole weekend to do as I pleased. So I went back to her. Some things that you love, you never get enough of.


*A tortured metaphor, I know, but indulge me.

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Being a writer doesn’t often feel like Christmas. It’s more like a Charlie Brown Halloween, where you keep trying to kick that football and somebody snatches it away at the last second. And even when we finally kick that ball, we have a way (like Charlie Brown) of leaching the fun out of the best moments. Instead of moping about commercialism, and how the holidays have lost their way, we persuade ourselves that we have lost our way, that the ball will never be in that position, waiting to be kicked, again.

(Sometimes, instead of kicking the football, we need somebody to give us a kick. Ironically, it’s usually another writer.)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how hard it’s been for some of us to write after the events of the past several weeks. We worry about how the world is going to survive our change in government. We worry about wars and the environment and the economy and race relations. And we can’t write. We feel paralyzed.

I know the feeling. I’m still trying to get The Cosmic City done before the end of the year, and it’s been slow lately, even though I generally speed up as I approach the last act. If I didn’t have that deadline, I might not be able to write at all. But if we look at the situation realistically, we’re writers. We’re always depressed by something. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

I can’t sit here and tell you everything’s going to be okay, because I don’t know. I don’t know if the next four years will be good or bad. But then, I didn’t know that about the last four, either, or the fifty-odd before that. “Life’s uncertain; eat dessert first.”

The only thing I can do is carry on. I’ll go on writing because it is who I am, and nobody can take that away from me. If I protest, it’ll be in writing. If I fight, it’ll be in writing. And when it’s all over, I’ll write up as fiction–a football that I can run at again and again.

Someday I’ll kick that football. And when I do, it will feel like Christmas, Charlie Brown.

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From now until Christmas Day, The Invisible City is on sale at Amazon and Smashwords for $.99. This is a great chance to grab a last-minute (virtual) stocking-stuffer–and gives plenty of time to read the first book in the series, and The Secret Citybefore The Cosmic City comes out in 2017!



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We’ve all heard about writers poring over their work in freezing garrets, but I never thought to be one. First, I live in California, where the sun is always shining, it never rains till after sunset, by eight the morning fog must disappear…oh, wait, that’s Camelot. Sorry. And second, I make enough money from my day job to pay the heating bill.

Which is a good thing, because I can’t write when it’s cold. It turns my mind to a slushy mess (as opposed to a general mess), and I get all hunched up and the words don’t flow like they should. Which is how I was tonight. I’d gotten up over 500 words (and miles to go before I sleep), but they felt slow and hard-packed. So imagine my surprise (not) when I walked by the thermostat to discover that I had never reset it from last night when I went to bed. No wonder my brain felt cold! I was cold! (No, I’m not going to say how cold. I will admit, however, that outside of California people would be laughing at me. Except for the Hawaiians. They know how to spend the winter: surfing.)

I can already feel my joints loosening as the temperature rises. Soon I will bask in the pleasure of freely-flowing sentences and long, effortless paragraphs. The words will slide easily from my brain through my fingers to the screen. My language will climb the heights of sublime exaltation. Hugos and Nebulas will be mine.

Some day. For now, I have another thousand words to write. Then I have to freeze my gifted fingers off taking out the garbage, after which I’ll try to warm up again.

Maybe I should just write in bed. If it was good enough for Mark Twain and George Orwell, I’m willing to give it a try.


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