Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Wish

A New Year's wish: may you have a year filled with miracles, and may you stop, on occasion, to appreciate that they are there. I now turn you over to Mr. Walt Whitman.



WHY, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

5 Ways to Help Authors Without Spending a Dime

That's right, not one thin dime!

Let me start with a confession: this is a self-serving post. I readily admit that and hope all my readers take the following action to help me. But you can do these things for any writer whose work you like, and I encourage you to do so. Every little bit helps.

1. Tags - This refers to Amazon listings. If you view a book on Amazon you can scroll down past the reviews and find a section called "Tags Customers Associate with This Product." Books with lots of "agreement" on a tag will show up higher in search results for that term. Unless the term is "rubbish," "tripe," or "infantile," this is generally a good thing. There should already be several tags there as most authors will tag their own books. The way you can help is by agreeing with those tags. To the left of each tag is a box. Simply click inside that box and your "agreement" will be registered. But you're not done! There may be more tags hidden. On the example below, you can see the words "See all 15 tags." Click on this to reveal the rest of them (your page will refresh). You can also, if you like, add tags of your own. I would only recommend doing this if you've read the book, however, and are sure the tags are appropriate.

2. Likes - The next thing you can do while at a book's Amazon page is "like" the book. As with tagging, you do not have to have bought the book to like it. The Like button in next to the book's rating. Just click on it and you're done. It will change from a blue "Like" button to a orange "Liked" button (as seen below). This, as far as I can tell, doesn't help with search algorithms or anything like that but if a potential buyer sees that a lot of people "like" a book and it has a few good reviews, they may be more "likely" to buy it.

3. Facebook Shares - Attention-starved writers like me will post stuff about their books on Facebook. I know, weird, right? If you're a true blue friend or fan, you can share their posts to your Facebook friends. You don't even have to comment on it, just share it and it'll get more eyeballs on the book.

4. Twitter RTs - This is another easy one. Writers tend to Tweet about their books as well. I know! Just click that little Retweet button and your Followers will all get to see how weird your literary tastes really are:

5. Buy Free Books - Writers, being attention whores, will occasionally give their books away for free. Why would they do such a preposterous thing? Because it's not about the money but the art, and as long as people are reading our work, we could care less about turning a profit. No, wait... that's not it. It is about the money! And the best way to sell books is to give them away. If people read one book and like it, they'll hopefully buy more. It also gets our books on those Amazon Free charts and despite what that cop in Provo told me, exposure is a good thing. So when you see an author announce that their book is free, whether permanently or only for a day or two, go buy it. You'll help them out and, who knows, you might get something out of it, too: you might actually like the book! Part two of this is to review that book you got for free! It was free, it's the least you can do, right? Personally, I don't leave negative reviews. This game is hard enough. But whatever you do write, make sure it is honest and reflects your true feelings about the work. Review readers are notoriously harsh toward works that seem to have "fake" reviews attached to them.

So, I hope this has encouraged you to go support your favorite writer. Leave a comment with other tips that you know of for supporting writers for free!


Also read 5 MORE Ways to Help Authors without Spending a Dime.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Three Short Story Recommendations

I've been a little busy and haven't been keeping up with my usual speculative fiction magazines. This means my reviews/recommendations have been lacking as of late. However, there are three speculative fiction short stories that I've bought for my Kindle that I would like to recommend. Two of them can be had for 99 cents apiece and the third is free! I have rated them all 5 stars at Amazon.

1. Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster
My Amazon Review: Wow... Shocking, disturbing, stunning, brilliant. This is a story that cannot be described in words other than its own. You must read it to understand.

Further Thoughts: This is a story that stayed with me for several days after reading it. It is all of the things I wrote in my Amazon review and so much more. I still cannot come up with sufficient words to explain or describe it; it simply must be read. I had read a few of Eugie Foster's stories before this and felt that she could easily become one of my favorite short story authors. This work made it happen. It is no surprise that this story won the  2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

2. Cryoskip's Footprints by Jason G. Anderson
My Amazon Review: Action-Packed and Gritty Tale This is the second story I've read from Mr. Anderson's Atomic Wasteland Tales (the other being The Outsider). I have to say, I really enjoyed The Outsider but I was completely absorbed by Cryoskip's Footprints. It has everything one could want in a story: action, mystery, suspense, sorrow and an ending that is hopeful but uncertain (laying the groundwork for a sequel which I would read in a heartbeat).

I've downloaded his novel, Gears of Wonderland, and am interested to see how he writes in a different genre but as far as post-apocalyptic science fiction goes, Mr. Anderson is a master. I look forward to further installments in this series.

Further Thoughts: I have since read Gears of Wonderland and it is fantastic. Mr. Anderson only has a handful of works currently available but he is a writer to watch! He has a new science fiction novel in the works called On Ice which I will definitely be buying as soon as it's available.

3. Island Ghosts: A Will Castleton Adventure by David Bain
My Amazon Review: A Quick, Thrilling Read  I'd read one story by David Bain previously and enjoyed it so when I saw that this was free I grabbed it. Despite being a very short story, this quick and thrilling read manages to flesh out the characters quite nicely, something that is often lacking in shorter fiction. It's also a great introduction to Will Castleton. He's a character that intrigues me; after such a brief glimpse I want to know more about him. I'll definitely be picking up the other stories in the series. 5 Stars.

Further Thoughts: David Bain is just a fun writer, plain and simple: irreverent, unpredictable, occasionally offensive, and one who makes me laugh out loud while reading. He has a smart, casual style that makes it easy to keep the pages turning.

I hope you choose to check out some or all of these stories. If you have any short story recommendations, I'd love to hear about them. Leave a comment below!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Regarding the Classic Science Fiction Series

So, I suppose that technically three can be considered a "series" but my Classic Science Fiction (CSF) series of articles has been left lacking. As you can tell by my other recent updates on the blog I've been busy writing rather than reading. However, I really enjoy writing the CSF articles and will endeavor to write another installment before the month of December is out. In the mean time, here are the first three CSF articles:

01: "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes
02: "The Moon Moth" by Jack Vance
03: "Arena" by Fredric Brown

If you have not seen them before, I hope you enjoy!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

December Writing Update

Well, here I am, about a month and a half since I first published Inner Lives: Three Short Stories. I am still very fond of that collection but the breakout hit has been my short SciFi/Horror story Sleep. I think I hit a ground rule double with the cover and description. And the reviews have absolutely blown me away! Such high praise is definitely not what I was expecting for a short story that made the rounds of the fiction magazines and was rejected by them all without so much as a "how do you do." Now I only hope that my future work is received as warmly.

About that future work. My last post introduced you to Sullivan's War. This series will span four books of varying length. The prologue, Sergeant Riley's Account, will be out this coming week. It is a novelette at about 10,000 words. Part I of the main story line, All Good Men Serve the Devil, is currently sitting at around 30,000 words (a novella) but there are some scenes I need to expand (not to pad, but because it is needed). Parts II (A City Without Walls) and III (Edaline's Dawn) have yet to be written. Part II  has been outlined and looks like it will come in as a novella as well.

So, since each part will probably be less than novel-length, I am going to hold off on producing print versions of each title. Near the end of 2012, when the series has been completed, I will then compile them all and release the whole story arc in print.

In short fiction, I have recently completed a story called "Main & Church." It is a quiet, literary story like the ones in Inner Lives and I am quite happy with it. I will be revising and editing it before too long and will then submit it to a few markets. If it doesn't sell I'll then think about releasing it as a stand-alone ebook. I also have a collection in the works called Visitors. I have three stories about alien visitation that I am still tweaking and if I get to a point where I am happy with them Visitors will probably be out sometime next year.

And then there is Chrysopteron, my epic, generations-spanning saga chronicling the triumphs and failures of the human race. This is my baby, I've been hand-holding it for a long time (it's been in the works about two years) and I feel so strongly about it that I want to be absolutely sure that it is as perfect as I can make it before releasing it out into the world. It may or may not be released in 2012. It will depend on how long Sullivan's War takes to complete. But have no fear, Sullivan's War will be completed by this time next year. That is my major goal for 2012.

I have one other SciFi novel (and, as always, many short stories) that I want to work on sometime within the next few years as well as a non-speculative fiction novel called Disreputable. If you have read Henry James's The Aspern Papers think of an updated version of that with some very important differences.

Watch for the release of Sergeant Riley's Account this coming week. I hope you find the description engaging and that you'll take a chance on it. As always, thank you to all who have bought my ebooks, reviewed them, mentioned and RTed me on Twitter or even just browsed my blog. Without all of you I am nothing as a writer.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Coming Soon: Sullivan's War

In about a week's time I will be releasing the prologue to a series called Sullivan's War. Sergeant Riley's Account will introduce the planet of Edaline and provide some back story for the following trilogy of books. Those books will follow Rick Sullivan as he battles to free his home planet from tyranny. Below are the prospective covers and titles for each book in the series. I'd love to know what you think!


Edit: I have now standardized the font on all the covers to reinforce the fact that they are part of a series. I think they now look much stronger as a whole.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Setting the Tone

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a lesson in tone. As writers, we may have great dialogue, action, what-have-you, but sometimes a scene just doesn't feel right. This could be an issue of tone. A story's tone builds from the first sentence onward. Everything you write effects what comes after it, for good or bad. So, it is important to view a scene as part of the whole.

For this example we'll say you're writing a dramatic scene. If a reader has just read, say, a humorous scene, then has to jump into the dramatic scene, the tone might not yet be properly established for them to feel the weight of the drama. Even if the scene itself is perfectly executed, the reader has to be eased into it. A good way to do this is with a segue, perhaps a bit of description to set the tone. If you describe an ominous or foreboding scene, the reader will be ready to accept that tone. You are mentally preparing the reader for what is about to happen.

From the world of television, here is a good example.
Watch the intro to the show Diff'rent Strokes:
Now look at the same video with diff'rent music:

So, this is an example of tone. Exact same video, but the effect on the viewer is completely changed by the tone set by the music. The very first notes of the second video set an ominous, disturbing tone and what the viewer sees is colored by that music, which continues on through the piece. Think about this the next time you sit down to write. Humorous asides are fine to alleviate tense situations but make sure they don't have the effect that adding a funky back beat in the middle of the second video would have. Keep your tone consistent throughout the scene. The humor, if you have it, has to be countered quickly with drama. This keeps the tone consistent and also helps to heighten tension.

Now, you may decide to keep the reader on a rollercoaster ride of funny and tense. This is fine if done intentionally, many writers do it. But be sure it is intentional. If your scene is meant to be sad and dramatic, meant to elicit the single tear in the corner of the eye, you don't want the reader to expect your hero to crack wise while his partner, just ten days from retirement, lies dying in his arms while the man's wife and two small children look on.

Do any of you have good ideas on setting the tone? I'd love to hear about them!


Monday, December 5, 2011

"I Sit and Look Out" by Walt Whitman

At this time of year when celebration is in the air and the buying of material goods reaches a nearly religious level of obsession, I think it is important to stop, sit and think about the state of the world and the unending plight of those less fortunate. This poem by Walt Whitman always helps me remember to do that.


I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves,
     remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband--I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid--
     I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny--I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea--I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill'd,
     to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor,
     and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some Quotes

Here are a few quotes that I love and find profound or inspiring. I'd like to see your favorite quotes as well. Share them in the comments section below!

"What is the value of any political freedom, but as a means to moral freedom?"
Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle

"I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself."
Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

"I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware, I sit content."
Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

"It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy;
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough."
Walt Whitman, "The Sleepers"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Guide to Attending the Symphony or Opera, Part I

Well, I know this is a bit off-topic but as I was sitting in my regular seat at the symphony last night and looking at all the empty seats (granted, it was Black Friday) I realized that a lot of people may want to attend the symphony--the more ambitious the opera--but may feel intimidated about it or feel that it is a stuffy, formal affair. They may be afraid of committing some breach of etiquette. So, I've put together this guide in the hope that those who read it will get out there and support the high arts!

Part One - The Dos

1. Do buy your ticket in advance. Often you can buy a ticket at the box office the night of the performance but then you'd have to leave your date standing in the cold while you scan the seating chart and select your seats. You also risk not being able to find a seat or, perhaps worse, finding that only the expensive seats are left.

2. Do arrive early. At least half an hour before the start time. This, of course, gives you a buffer if there is bad traffic or an accident. But, it is very bad form to walk in after a performance has started it. Many venues will let you in but some will make you wait until there is a pause in the music. Again, not a good way to impress your date.

3. Do dress up. No, I don't expect white tie and top hats and yes, many places you will see people arriving in t-shirts and jeans but... don't be one of those people. Slacks and a button down is perfectly acceptable for the men, a skirt/dress or nice slacks and blouse for the women. In most cities you will see very few people dressed formally and if you go in "business casual" (even though I hate that term) you'll fit right in. A sport coat and tie for the men will kick it up another notch. Also, if you don't own a matching suit, don't try to match an odd pair of pants to a sport coat. Contrast the coat with a lighter or darker trouser.

4. Do try to listen to the piece beforehand. Part of the enjoyment of the symphony for me is comparing how the live performance differs from my favorite recordings. Most programs will also give you a bit of history about the composer and piece (you did arrive a half hour early so you could read it, right?). Sometimes this information will enrich your appreciation of a piece. Knowing the circumstances of the composer's life or what was going on when he wrote the piece can add another level of understanding and enjoyment to your experience.

5. Do have fun. Don't think that you can't smile if a particular passage comes across as humorous--the composer may have actually intended it to be so! (see Haydn). Don't be afraid to tap your foot during a rousing finale (just be sure not to disturb your neighbor). This music is meant to be enjoyed, not coldly studied and analysed (although you can do that, too!)

Part Two - The Don'ts

1. Don't, for any reason, make unnecessary noise during the performance. There is no reason to talk to your partner, unwrap hard candy (do it beforehand and keep a few pieces in your pocket), flip noisily through your program or yell at the performers. Women (and men, for that matter) should think twice before wearing loud accessories, such as bangles that'll clink together or purses with chain straps.

2. Don't answer your phone or text. Phones should be silenced. If you have a job or situation that requires you to be constantly on call, try to get an aisle seat near the back so you can take the call in the lobby. And texting is a no-no. The bright light in a darkened hall is very distracting to the people behind you.

3. Don't wear any strong perfumes or colognes. I don't think I need to explain this one.

4. Don't clap between movements. Many pieces are comprised of several movements and it is standard to wait until the piece is finished before applauding. There are two exceptions: during the opera it is appropriate to applaud a performer after an aria and during a piece with a solo performer (such as a concerto) it is rarely appropriate to applaud him or her between movements after a particularly impressive performance. Hint: this is another reason you listen to the piece beforehand. Now, if someone does begin a clap at an inappropriate time, herd mentality means that several others will follow along. Don't do it. The fewer people that clap, the sooner the music can continue and they might get the hint and not do it after the end of the next movement. If you are unsure that the piece has ended, wait for the majority of the hall to being applauding before you join in. Also watch the conductor. He will indicate the ending by lowering his arms and turning around.

5. Don't leave before the applause has ended and the lights have come up. This is just inconsiderate to the performers (and yes, they can see you walking down the aisle while they're taking their bows). Aside: a standing ovation is common for great performances. If everyone else stands, do so as well. If only a few stand, stand as well if you want to. No one will look down on you for a solo/sporadic standing O. I've done it several times when I thought the performance deserved it.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. I'd also love to hear of your own tips for attending the opera or symphony.


See Also:
A Guide to Attending the Symphony or Opera, Part II

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!

Hello, friends! I have an idea that I think all you writers out there will enjoy. I propose a Secret Santa Ebook Exchange! Yes, the exclamation point is necessary when talking about the Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!

Here's the idea. In exchange for sending your ebook out to a randomly chosen individual, you'll receive an ebook from someone else. This is a great way for you to a. introduce your writing to a potential new fan and b. have a good read of a book you might otherwise never have known about. Win-win!

So, between now and December 20, send me the following information (to email address with "Secret Santa Ebook Exchange!" in the subject line) and you'll automatically be entered:

1. Your name
2. Your email address. This will only be sent to the person who will send you their ebook. It will not be used for any other purposes.
3. The name of the ebook you'd like to exchange (a link would be helpful, too!)
4. Ebook format you would like to receive (mobi or epub). Note: if your ebook is not available in one of these formats, let me know so I can find an appropriate recipient for you.
5. Whether or not you'd like your name and book link to be on the master list which will be shared with all entrants - if yes, this'll be a good way for everyone who takes part to see your name and book title and, if it interests them, they can click the link. (Note: if you don't provide a link in step 3, I'll use the Amazon US page for your ebook. So, if you'd like something different be sure to include it.)

Easy, right? Then, on Dec. 21-24, you'll receive an email from me with the name, email address and preferred format of someone else. Send them a copy of your ebook (at least 99 cents in value, please, don't "gift" someone a free ebook) and eagerly await your own gift!

I want to keep this fun and friendly so other than the above there are no "rules." Any ebook priced 99 cents or more at Amazon/B&N/etc. is eligible. Also, if you neglect to send your ebook to your recipient Santa will drink himself to death on eggnog. You don't want that on your head, do you?

Granted, the "secret" part of the Secret Santa Ebook Exchange! will be blown once you send out your ebook, but let's not quibble over details. I look forward to receiving your emails!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on Ebook Pricing

   Since I've started uploading my fiction to Amazon and Barnes & Noble I've been thinking a lot about pricing. There are some that say "offer it free to get exposure." Others say "no more than 99 cents." Still others say "Don't charge 99 cents or give it away free. Readers will devalue your work in their minds."

   Well, I kind of agree with that last point. Free is a good option to get your work downloaded, yes. But are all those downloaders actually reading your book? Also, will they then go on the buy other books you have for sale? However, I don't agree that 99 cents is a price point that "cheapens" readers' opinion of your work. It is a great price for some works.

   So here is a pricing model that I have developed. Since I mainly write science fiction I have based the different categories on the Nebula awards categories:

Short story (up to 7,500 words) - .99
Novelette (7,500-17,500) - 1.49
Novella (17,500-40,000) - 1.99
Novel (40,000+ words) - 2.99

   Based on that model my current releases Sleep (2,500 words) and Inner Lives (12,000 words) are priced at .99 and 1.49, respectively. I'm still toying with the idea of starting books at a lower price upon release, then upping the price to fit the model.

   What do you all think of this pricing model? Would you buy (or have you bought) a short story for .99? Does anyone else have a model that they use? Feel free to comment below!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: "Tomorrow's Dawn"
by Milo James Fowler

     I really must say that I am in awe of the stories coming out of Daily Science Fiction.  They've done it again with "Tomorrow's Dawn," by Milo James Fowler.  Read it here.

     SPOILERS FOLLOW, read the story first!

     To me, this story feels like a Golden-Age science fiction tale, '50s or '60s era, but with a definite modern twist.  It has that cold-war era sensibility but the alien is not cast as a Soviet spy, as it would have been at that time, but as a potential suicide bomber.  If you've read any number of my other blog posts you know that this is exactly the type of story I love: one in which a failure of one group to treat another group with dignity and respect results in death and misery.  Retaliations are made and the animosity escalates until one group can only see the other cast in that negative light.

     Fowler does a good job of making the situation presented in the story feel tense and immediate.  And he doesn't tip his hand one bit, making the ending a genuine surprise.  It is also a hopeful ending and it, along with Fowler's story of how the idea developed, keeps me hoping and believing that people, independent of societal, religious or ethnic pressures, would choose to live in harmony.  We have transcended our primitive, animalistic nature in so many other ways.  Why not in this way as well?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Classic Science Fiction 03: “Arena” by Fredric Brown

     We’ve all seen the episode: Kirk must use the tools provided to him by a super-intelligent alien to defeat the evil Gorn.  “Arena” is one of the most-recognized episodes of the original Star Trek series.  It was based on a story of the same name by science fiction writer Fredric Brown.  That story was first published in June of 1944 in Astounding magazine and has become a classic of the genre.

     The premise is this: a highly-advance alien entity observes humans and another species--called the Outsiders by the humans-- on the brink of a war that would devastate both civilizations.  The entity’s solution is to pit one human against one Outsider and whoever kills the other will ensure the safety of their own people and the complete annihilation of their foes.  Carson is the man who is chosen for this battle and he wakes up in a dome-shaped enclosure with a force field separating him from an Outsider.  He must find a way through that force field and kill his enemy before the Outsider finds a way to dispatch him.

     There are some flaws in the story.  For one, the entity doesn’t seem to have exhausted all options before deciding to kill off an entire species.  “It is in my power to stop the war, to send the Outsiders back to their galaxy,” it claims.  “But,” it continues, “they would return, or your race would sooner or later follow them there.  Only by remaining in this space and time to intervene constantly could I prevent them from destroying one another, and I cannot remain.”

     And is a to-the-death match between two randomly chosen individuals really fair?  Carter may be a fine pilot but his hand-to-hand training may be non-existent.  He could be abnormally weak--or strong--for a human.  The same goes for the Outsider.

     Another flaw is the mechanism by which Carson is able to pass through the force field.  It hardly seems logical or reasonable for the smarter of the combatants, the one who figured out how to get through, to have to brain himself with a rock and be exposed to attack in order to have a chance at winning.  One would think that the entity would reward the more intelligent/resourceful combatant by ensuring him victory rather than making it, in the end, a physical struggle between the two.

     But these are quibbles.  The main strength lies in the story-telling and the wonderful alienness of the Outsider.  This is no man-in-a-rubber-suit type of alien.  This is a spherical organism that utilizes rotating locomotion.  Carter calls it a “Roller.”

     Still, as much as I like this story, that issue of killing off an entire intelligent species keeps me from loving it.  For Carter, the choice is obvious: he wants to win and preserve his own species.  But suppose the entity decided to choose one to preserve and one to destroy based on criteria less arbitrary than a one-on-one cage match?  Do we humans really have much going for us, from a Universal perspective?  Are we any better or any worse than the other intelligent species that are out there?  We haven't encountered anyone else, so who knows?

     True, in Brown’s story the Outsiders are the aggressors and, based on Carter’s experience, we learn that they lack any recognizable form of compassion.  But we know from history that it doesn't take much for humans to take this same hateful, uncompassionate attitude.  So, would we be the best species to save?  Maybe we’d be better off letting a champion decide our fate after all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: "Ten Speeds at the End of the World"
by Guinevere Robin Rowell

     Daily Science Fiction continues to publish great writing (delivered free to your inbox! Go subscribe.). Most recently I have been taken with "Ten Speeds at the End of the World" by Guinevere Robin Rowell. This is a fairly short story that speaks for itself so I won't comment on it too much. I will just say the idea that it's never too late to do the right thing really grabbed me. And the world doesn't have to be ending for us to come to this realization. When you stop and think of how soon each of us might die--today, tomorrow, even fifty years from now will be too soon for a lot of people--is it really too much to ask that if we don't go out of our way to help others like the characters in this story, can't we at least go out of our way to try to not hurt each other? Every moment a person spends in pain or sorrow is a moment that is lost forever. Every second of life is precious, irreplaceable. If you want make your own life miserable, it is sad but it is your choice. But no one has the right to make that choice for anyone else.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Some Thoughts on Science Fiction

     In my series of articles on classic science fiction stories as well as the contemporary stories that I recommend I am hoping to make it clear that the genre, which is so often dismissed as escapist garbage, is actually a genre filled with deep ideas. Through a lens of the future or alien-ness or artificial intelligence or any of the other common or not-so-common science fiction tropes readers are allowed to view themselves, their culture, from a distance. How people react to completely fanciful situations often mirrors how they react to all-too-real situations in their everyday lives. This goes toward solving a problem that I think is prevalent in our society. It is the problem of self-centeredness. If one thinks only in terms of “me,” of “here,” of “now,” then one’s perception is greatly limited.

Monday, September 19, 2011

September Writing Update

     I am still working on my novel, Chrysopteron. It is developing well but the last few times I sat down and worked on it I couldn't really get things to click. I wrote some short stories instead to try and "prime the pump," if you will. For this reason I don't think Chrysopteron will be done by the end of September as I originally intended but I am looking to finish it sometime in October. Once it is completed I’ll let it marinate for a while before going back for revision.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: "Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo"
by Eugie Foster

     Over at Daily Science Fiction "Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo" by Eugie Foster can now be read. Daily Science Fiction sends a free story to your inbox every day. A week after that the story is available on the website. So, I have waited until now to review "Requiem Duet...."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: "The Day the Pod Landed" by Jeff Cross

     What does our increasingly-consumerist society have in store (pun intended)? A future in which corporations have their own armies and invade villages and other corporations to expand their brand, according to "The Day the Pod Landed" by Jeff Cross, which can be read over at Redstone Science Fiction. (Spoilers follow, so go read it first.) These corporations dazzle the vanquished with shopping malls and well-paying jobs, they give them products the likes of which the villagers have never before seen. It's an appealing prospect for Sofia, a villager who has always had higher aspirations.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Classic Science Fiction 02: "The Moon Moth"

     With a fund of racial energy and a great deal of leisure time, the population occupies itself with intricacy. …[I]ntricate symbolism, as exemplified in the masks worn by everyone; the intricate half-musical language which admirably expresses subtle moods and emotions; and above all the fantastic intricacy of interpersonal relationships. Prestige, face, mana, repute, glory: the Sirenese word is strakh. Every man has his characteristic strakh….
     -- from "The Moon Moth" 
     One of the most rewarding aspects of speculative fiction is being able to get lost in new and unique realities. Speculative fiction writers refer to the process of creating these realities as “world building.” Whether it be describing a world in which magic and mythical creatures are commonplace, exploring the planets and cultures of alien races or even just predicting what human culture will be like a hundred, a thousand, a millions years from now, world building is a process many writers relish.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Classic Science Fiction 01: "Flowers for Algernon"

     I felt sick inside as I looked at his dull, vacuous smile, the wide, bright eyes of a child, uncertain but eager to please. They were laughing at him because he was mentally retarded.
     And I had been laughing at him too.
     Suddenly, I was furious at myself and all those who were smirking at him. I jumped up and shouted, "Shut up! Leave him alone! It's not his fault he can't understand! He can't help what he is! But for God's sake... he's still a human being!"
     The room grew silent. I cursed myself for losing control and creating a scene. I tried not to look at the boy as I paid my check and walked out without touching my food. I felt ashamed for both of us.
     --  from "Flowers for Algernon"
     What is the point of art? What is its purpose, what does it hope to accomplish? This question has been debated for centuries but for me the answer is simple: art should make you think or it should make you feel and the best art does both.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Reboot

     Well, anyone who's visited my blog in the past (all three or four of you) will notice that all previous content has been removed. This is because I am rebooting the blog and returning to a focus on speculative fiction (meaning science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.) I mostly write science fiction but have written a few stories in the other genres.

     In this blog I will discuss my writing, writing in general, great stories and books that I read as well as the business of publishing fiction (or difficulty that lies therein).