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Hello. I’ve been off-page for the past couple of weeks due to circumstances beyond my control, but they appear to have been resolved and now I’m back. Time will tell if this is a good thing. Moving on…

I’ve started a new novel. Not the new novel I was starting the last time I said I was starting a new novel, this is a new new novel. On the other hand, it’s going back to an old idea. So it’s kind of a hybrid, a new novel with old characters. In TV terms, it’s a spin-off.

I’m returning to the world of the Stolen Future trilogy, but this book takes place between the first and second volumes of that series, and the lead character there, Keryl Clee, doesn’t appear at all. (If you’ve read The Invisible City, you know why; otherwise, I don’t believe in spoilers.) This book is about Keryl’s best friend, Timash, who happens to be a gorilla, and therein lies the “new experiment” part of this endeavor.

You see, I’ve never written a book before with a non-human viewpoint character. Timash  is a gorilla from a time when at least some apes have been gifted with human-level intelligence, but he’s still a gorilla, and they’re not common. In fact, most are hidden. So people treat him differently. Those differences haven’t been explored much in the prior books because it wasn’t Timash’s story, but this is.

How is he going to be treated? How will he react to it? Am I going to be able to write a non-human hero who comes across as a non-human? I have no idea the answers to any of these questions. To be honest, I’m only starting to think about them. I do know that Timash has an arc; one of the advantages of working within a prescribed framework established by previous books is that I know where the character is headed.

It’s always a challenge to try to create something new, while preserving enough continuity that you carry your audience with you. And I doubt it will be easy.

But it should be fun, and that’s what counts!

#SFWApro

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Starting today and running all weekend, the first book in the Nemesis series, The Choking Rain, is available for free on Amazon. This is your chance to live in the days of the Great Depression–but not as they were, as they should have been, with all of the excitement, danger, and suspense of the pulp era that featured greats like The Shadow and Doc Savage, and led directly to The Batman, Superman, James Bond, and all the rest.

The Choking Rain finds Los Angeles in terror after a mysterious epidemic of stranglings occurs on city streets in broad daylight and in front of witnesses–but no murderer can be seen. When an ex-fighter pilot breaks up an attempt to kill his own sister, he finds himself entangled in an international plot to sabotage the 1932 Olympic Games–a plot that is only preparation for a scheme that will leave the entire world cowering in fear of invisible assassins with their hands wrapped around every man’s throat…

The Choking Rain is the first book to feature Nemesis, a mysterious and relentless enemy of crime, a man who shows the world a thousand faces, none of them his own. In The Scent of Death, he must travel to the exotic East to find a missing diplomat, and in The Killing Scar, his past returns to haunt him in the form of a fanatical scientist bent on claiming victory in a war that has yet to begin.

Nemesis has vowed that he will fight against the strong on the part of the oppressed for so long as he draws breath…and he is not about to allow being dead to stand in his way.

 

 

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Once, I tried to write a book. How hard could it be? I thought. After all, there are thousands written every year… Oh, the lessons I was to learn. This was how it all went down (and by “down,” I mean careened downhill without brakes).

I started by setting up a writing schedule on my calendar, but I learned my days were numbered.

I tried to outline a plot, but I couldn’t get it write.

So I tried to finish the story in one go but I kept getting a draft.

When I finally finished, I contacted my editor by radio, but he couldn’t read me.

I put my idea to an agent, but she said the concept was too novel.

Then I tried to self-publish, but I wouldn’t make book on my chances.

Every time I tried to format them, the pages took a header.

I thought to publish a custom hard-bound copy so I started to learn bookbinding, but I didn’t have the spine.

And when it was time to hire an artist, I didn’t have enough to cover.

Maybe I should have gone into graphic novels. I could picture that.

#SFWApro

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Hello, my name is Brian, and I’m a writeaholic.

Some time ago, I sadly announced that, due to extrinsic factors beyond my apparent control, I was discontinuing my planned series of neo-pulp adventure novels starring my mysterious hero, Nemesis. Some time later, I announced that I had been having some difficulty commencing a new project, but that I was feeling optimistic. I was going to overcome my own self-doubt and write as good a story as I could. Self-publishing was out, magazine stories were in.

I am not only a writeaholic, I am quite naive.

Contrary to writing novels to the exclusion of short stories for magazines, or short stories to the exclusion of novels, I am now doing both simultaneously. You have to understand, that’s not how I work. I don’t do simultaneous projects. I am not one of those writers who has six different ideas in play at once. I work on one thing, then another.

And yet here I am. I am writing a short story for the money and fame. (Ha! That’s a good one, son!) And I am writing another Nemesis novel, Marauders from the Moon, simply because that is what I want to do. And I am writing both at the same time.

Setting myself a short schedule taught me that I could write a novel very quickly. How I learned to do this thing I’m doing now is an open question. Whether I have learned to do this thing I’m doing now is likewise a question.

I feel like a newly-minted superhero exploring his own powers. I’ll try not to destroy the world.

#SFWApro

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I was discussing modern art with someone the other day, and she mentioned that she felt the problem with modern art was that, “There are no standards.” In previous times, when there were recognized art academies, they “regulated” art by their favor or disapproval. While this equated to a definite conservative approach, it also maintained a level of quality (insofar as the members could agree on what that meant). They acted as gatekeepers. (Eventually, the academies fell out of favor, and the laissez-faire “whatever moves you” concept took over. Hence, we have “art installations” which stretch the concept of Art. There are far too many to number, but we all know of examples.*)

I, of course, immediately said: “Like self-publishing.” Because the same argument exists there: While traditional publishers had a chokehold on the industry (and you can argue about their taste, political leanings, economic policies, etc.), they did act as gatekeepers to ensure (in most cases) that a certain minimum level of quality was maintained. Now that gate has been torn open.

No one knows how this is going to play out; self-publishing as a popular phenomenon is only about 10 years old. But some trends are already evident, primarily the flood of new works, many of which would never have appeared anywhere under the old, gatekeeper-controlled system.

Like modern art, many embrace these new works. Others still distrust this open system, and with some support. It is more difficult to judge whether a new author is worth your time because no one has done the grunt work of weeding out the incompetent and unreadable. There are new gatekeepers in place, the rating and review systems available on Amazon and Goodreads, for example, but these depend on volunteer labor and are vulnerable to tampering. (Ask 20 of your friends to review your book favorably and suddenly you look like a star.)

So again we are left without standards. Anyone can now publish a book. And while if fiction is bad, you can toss a novel away and no one is harmed, if you get bad advice from a self-published non-fiction “expert,” you could be hurt.

There are arguments on both sides: free expression versus limited outlets. The ability to seek one’s entertainment widely rather than from a limited set of corporate-approved (but likely more professional) options. I like the self-publishing revolution; I’ve taken advantage of it. But that doesn’t mean that all self-published novels are good; it doesn’t even mean that my self-published novels are as good as they could be. What it does mean is that there are no longer any standards…and whether we ever again agree on what constitutes Art remains to be seen.

*Discussing the relative artistic merits of these efforts, or whether such merits even exist, would occupy far more time than I have to spend.

#SFWApro

 

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I am excited to announce not one, but two recent short story sales! The first, “Junior Partner,” went to StoryHack Action & Adventure. “Junior Partner” is a little tale about Blacklight, a superhero’s sidekick who can’t get any respect–until his partner goes down and the world is teetering on the brink. Blacklight’s going to have to reach inside himself to see if he has what makes a hero. But even with courage and determination, what can a mere sidekick do…?

“How to Murder a Corpse,” is the second in a series of stories involving a nameless mid-century private eye–who raises the dead on the side. He recently raised a pal killed in an accident so he could say good-bye, but zombies don’t last long, so why would somebody bother to kill him again? And why did he have a vampire’s bite on his neck and a bullet hole in his forehead? Find out in an upcoming episode of the Gallery of Curiosities podcast.

As if that weren’t enough, my flash story “The Deadline” is coming out in the debut issue of Factor Four Magazine on April 1. A long marriage can hide many secrets, but not many of them are quite this … cosmic.

And of course, if you like my short fiction, you can check out my novel series The Stolen Future and Nemesis, by reading their respective introductory volumes, The Invisible City, and The Choking Rain, for free.

I tell you, I am the gift that keeps on giving.

 

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Last time, class, we considered the question of the classic advice, “Write what you want to read.” We concluded that it was good advice, so long as one is prepared to accept that one may be the only person in the world who wants to read it. (Or one of a relatively small handful.) This leads us to wonder, however, what other timeless bits of advice have only limited benefits? And how are they limited?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that no one writer’s career path is the same. (Honestly, if we acknowledge that, we can dispense with the rest of this post, but that would be kind of pointless. So let’s simply accept it as an underlying theme.) Just as no writer is going to reach success by the same route as any other, no one set of “rules” is going to apply to every writer. But as one who has been haunting the edges of this business since submissions were made on paper, through the mail, I’ve seen a great many truisms float by my eyes, and I’ve come up with some opinions:

Write what you know. This is good advice. Indispensable, actually. As classic as “Write what you like to read,” but more philosophically obtuse. The question always comes up: “What do I know about spaceships/dragons/zombies?” The answer is that this is not what the advisor is talking about. Fiction of every kind is about people. Write what you know about Life. Then dress it up with zombies.

All authors need a web presence. Well, yes and no. You should have some kind of web page, because readers like to know about their favorite authors, at least listing a basic biography and bibliography. But you don’t need a blog, unless you want one. In fact, if you’re not into the Internet at all, don’t create a page. A neglected web site is worse that none. Same goes for other on-line experiences.

Don’t pay to be published. This is absolutely true. You don’t pay a publisher, and you don’t pay an agent. Ever.

Don’t quit. If you persist long enough, you will be published. Again, yes and no. The only guarantee is that if you do quit, you won’t ever make it. But there’s no guarantee that persistence will always win–although it is an odds-on favorite.

You can break the rules when you’re successful. Well, yes, sometimes, but you may need to break the rules to be successful.* The question is not whether people will let you break the rules, but whether you can break them well enough that people allow it. You may do that first time out; you may never do it. If the story demands it, do it, and let the chips fall where they may.

Self-publishing is the only way to go. You keep all the control, and you reap much more money. This is highly questionable.  No one really knows how self-publishing works. There are a thousand ways to succeed, and a million ways to fail. People who say that self-publishing is the One True Path are as bad as those who swear it is the wide road to Hell. It may be for you, and it may not.

Writers should refrain from taking political stances on social media. Gauge your audience. Are your views such that they will disagree with you? Strenuously? Then you should probably keep your thoughts to yourself–at least by that name. On the other hand, if you think it will help, go for it. Activists like to write; why shouldn’t writers…activate? Just be prepared to take what comes.

Show, don’t tell. We finish with another classic, one of the few real “rules.” Pretend you are the reader, experiencing the story through your protagonist’s eyes. Instead of writing that, “He came upon a village,” tell us what he saw: “A collection of one-story huts, built of ill-fitted timbers plugged with dried mud that would have washed away in the first rain, were such a thing ever seen in this parched land.”

Writing is a lot like life: The only good rules are those which are so infuriatingly vague that you can spend decades trying to figure out what they mean. Try not to think of it as “vagueness” so much as “wiggle room.” Write a story you’d like to read, and make it entertaining. Just don’t get so caught up in following someone else’s rules that you don’t define your own. (Except no. 3. Always follow no. 3.)

*Please don’t ask me to define success. You have to define it for yourself.

#SFWApro

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