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"