Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Well, that was different. Every author waits for that email response to his submission that says an editor or publisher is interested, and even more exciting is the idea of a telephone call. I mean, if someone is willing to take the time to talk to you, that has to be a sign of real commitment, right?

As with so much in life, it depends.

The call this time was from an outfit called Readers Magnet. (I’m not linking to them on purpose.) We weren’t home; they left a message. The woman on the other end said her company had seen my book, The Choking Rain, on line and was so impressed with its four-star rating that they wanted to “work with me.” The fleeting excitement that accompanies someone calling about your book quickly evaporated when I heard this: With all of the hundreds of thousands of titles out there, thousands of which sport five-star ratings, why call about this one? (I mean, The Invisible City has a five-star rating, and more reviews. Why didn’t you call about that?)

There are a few things about the 21st century I appreciate, and one of them is the ability to Google companies like this in about half a second. And I did. I was not surprised at what I found.

Readers Magnet is a book packager. It claims to help you publish and distribute your novel, and for this it is pleased to charge you far more than 90% of the self-published books out there will make in the author’s lifetime. They list several books on their web site; only one had any reviews, one I couldn’t even find on Amazon, and none of them had sales that would–well, let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. They do include testimonials, and for all I know those authors are very pleased with what they got–but I wouldn’t want it.

Self-publishing is tough to do by yourself, no question. But the problem with self-publishing is not publishing–heck, I’ve published eight books. It’s not rocket science any more. The problem isn’t even distribution: You’re on Amazon! You’re distributed to the entire known universe! The problem is discoverability. If you want to hire someone to help you with that, don’t look at how many books they’ve published, look at how the books they’re publishing are doing in the marketplace.

Better yet, go to the Kindle Boards, or track down some well-known self-published authors and ask them. They’re not hard to find, and I’ve yet to meet one who isn’t pleased to talk about how it all works and how he/she made it. Believe me, this is something you only do if you love it.

And above all, think about screening your calls.




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It has been a while since I posted, but it’s been a busy few weeks, and something had to give. There have been out-of-town guests, and Worldcon, and preparing for out-of-town guests, and recovering from Worldcon, and just trying to get back on track with my writing projects. And now it’s football season and there are all those games to watch…


So, Brian, you went to Worldcon. How was that?

So glad you asked. I am happy to report that, unlike Comic-con, there were no dessert-related disasters. In fact, there were no disasters at all. I wouldn’t say this was the best Worldcon I’ve ever attended, but it was by far not the worst.

The main problem I had was that (like Comic-con) you couldn’t get into any panels. The rooms chosen for most events were just too darn small. Even when we could get a seat, the room was SRO, and often we couldn’t get in at all. Please concoms, I know this is a tough deal (I’ve done it), but it doesn’t do any good to present exciting programming if people can’t get into the room to see it!

The other problem was simply one inherent in large cons: I couldn’t see the people I wanted to see. Specifically, I had hoped to connect with GOH Spider Robinson, because he was GOH at a con I chaired a looooong time ago. But due to circumstances, some beyond my control, that didn’t happen. Ah, well.

On the other hand, I did connect with several old friends from Northern California I rarely see, and that was special. One friend, attending her first Worldcon, even volunteered and may have discovered an inner geek that she (or at least I) never knew existed. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

I also found the dealer’s room quite intriguing, with quite enough booksellers to satisfy even one such as I–and by waiting to the last day, I scored several books I’d been looking for at a bargain price! (Then I had to ship them home, which was another matter…)

The high point, though, had to be the exhibit and programming surrounding Ghost of Honor Bob Wilkins, the legendary host of Creature Features, which formed so much of my youth. Seeing clips of Bob from the old days brought back happy memories, and maybe I even shed a nostalgic tear.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, if exhausting, experience. It may have to last me a while, since the next two Worldcons are overseas, and absent a Hugo nomination, I may not be able to attend. (Note to self: Write a Hugo-worthy story tonight.)

Speaking of writing, I am roughly 15% of the way into my latest book, and plowing ahead. I also have a story awaiting first-round editing, so that’s exciting. (That’s the word I want, right, “exciting”? Because “terrifying” also suggests itself…)

Oh, and I almost forgot: The Stolen Future and Nemesis novels are still on sale for $.99 for a limited time! Early Christmas shopping, anyone?

Busy as a bee, that’s me. I can’t wait for the distant day I can retire and write full-time. Then I’ll have time to relax, right?


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To celebrate the end of summer (wait, does anyone ever celebrate the end of summer?), I’ve put all of my Stolen Future and Nemesis books on sale at $.99 each. That means The Invisible City, The Secret City, and The Cosmic City, as well as The Choking Rain, The Scent of Death, and The Killing Scar. Each one $.99! That’s three books for the price of one!

Whether you’re looking for classic science fiction adventure or two-fisted pulp action from the 1930s, this is your chance to pick up some great reading at a really great price! I mean, would you rather read this or that Shakespeare guy your English teacher assigned?


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If you’re in the mood for something (really) short and funny, check out my story, “Life is a String of Cherries,” in the Martian magazine. It’s a tale of devious scheming, pet care, and poetic justice–all in 100 words!


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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!


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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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In an ideal world, a story would come to one all at once, beginning to end, and all one would have to do is transcribe it. Of course, in an ideal world, there would be no conflict, so what would you write about? Unless it was the ideal writer’s world, which would have lots of juicy conflicts…but that gets into the idea that everyone’s view of Paradise is a little different, which is a different column for a different day.

Suffice it to say that stories do not come all at once, fully realized. (Well, maybe some people’s do, but we hate them.) Personally, I have an annoying habit of starting to write a story that hits close to home, and I get into all the little personal bits that make a story really sing, but when it comes to the ending the whole thing just stalls. It’s like knowing the question to ask, but not the answer. And since no one else is going to supply the answer, I’m stuck.

It seems that the solution (as opposed to the “answer”) lies in this rule of thumb: If you find yourself trying to graft an ending onto your story, you’ve written the wrong story.

While that ideal world doesn’t exist (for most of us, anyway), an ending must grow organically from what went before. That’s a rule.* So if you’re trying to write to a particular ending, and it’s not working–or if you can’t find an ending at all–don’t mangle some words to make them fit. You’ll end up with a Rube Goldberg contraption that looks like a vacuum cleaner made love to a model train set, and still won’t make toast–or worse. Instead, back up–and keep backing up, to the point where the story went wrong, even if that point is the line right after the title.

They say, “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.” I say, “There’s never enough time to write, but if you don’t get to the end, it’ll never be over.”

*Yes, I know there are no rules. Except this one.


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