Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas Story

Two years ago I wrote a little Christmas tale for Analog's December issue.  Kate Baker, a good friend of mine, was sufficiently taken with it that she recorded/narrated it as a present.  This was accepted very quickly by Analog's standards.

So here, I pass Kate's wonderful gift to you.  May all your holidays be merry and bright.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Slogging Toward Spontaneity

In my optimistic youthful days I imagined writing to be an alloyed joy; envisioning hours spent flowing golden words onto page after page of a compelling tale, and having writ, hardly pausing my moving fingers to erase or revise a line of it.  I imaginged swimming in the clouds of creativity, grasping truth and raining delightful insights on my (mostly imaginary) fans.  I threw my stories about with great abandon, waiting for the adulation that would surely follow.

And waiting.  

As rejections amassed to a startling number, I began to intuit that perhaps my masturbatory tales were not so brilliant as I imagined and that my words had been more base metal than golden.

Thats when I realized that the writing game involved more than dreaming fantastic stories and vomiting words onto pages upon pages. Not only was laying out the story line properly important but writing also involved honing descriptive and narrative words into something meaningful to editors and readers instead of being random reflections of my own not-so-deep thoughts. I realized that there is craft involved that must be mastered.

My discovery that writing is an iterative process that never really begins to take shape until I have the rudiments* of a rough draft or a sketch plan/plot.  My first drafts are more often than not, sloppy messes of awkward phrasing, poor to horrible word choices, and a jumble of rambling chunks that are poorly organized relative to each other.  My second or third draft will see actual scenes being formed, which allows me to arrange them in the order that best tells the tale.  Another pass-through lets me filter each paragraph to contain but one strong thought as it advances the plot.

Once I've done these simple fixes I embark upon the long, slow slog of polishing each sentence, selecting the best way of phrasing an idea using the most effective words.  I've discovered that, as I slog along, my paragraphs become clearer and better serve to propel the plot.  I also often sense the emergence of rhythm or melody in the scenes.  I sometimes play these against the bass line to create novelty, heighten tension, or convey more emotion than mere sentences can achieve.

These are the actions that take me through consecutive versions until I reach the point where I am finally ready to present it for the judgement of others.

Then there are the revisions...

*Character(s), settings, chronology, and tone 


Friday, November 2, 2018


I was recently congraduated for my productivity when I announced that my three (3!) of my novels would be completed within a rather short period.  The truth is that this is more a confluence of circumstance and editorial processes than a reflection on my less than rapid drafting.  All will be available in trade paperback, eBook, and audio formats.

SHATTERED DREAMS is a mil-scify novel about encountering a deadly and intracable alien force and the eithical/moral choices that humanity must consider when faced with certain eradication.  This novel illustrates how various levels of commmand act through the eyes of a disgruntled marine who grows into his ultimate destiny.

This novel is a compilation of several short stories and other material from several anthologies and magazines. It is the result of two years of effort to compile and write the major portions of the story's arc.

Can now be ordered as pre-release.

DREAMS OF EARTH is the culmination of a five-year effort to imagine what space-faring humanity would become over a  long time span. In this I deal with what facets of we humans posess, which will be retained as we continue to become into a star-spanning civilization , those which may emerge as we continue to evolve, and which aspects might shrivel through disuse.

Throw in genetic modification, the impact of environmental effects, and social pressures as gaps begin to grow to produce a diverse and varigated "human' race.

Oh yeah, I threw a few aliens into the mix as well.

MAGICIAN is a reissue of an expansion of my Nebula finalist novella MAGIC'S PRICE (Analog, March 2001.)

Unsatisfied that I left my young protagonist being carried away from friends, family, and certain death in the novella, I decided to follow him as he tried to discover the magicians' secrets.

But first he must master the sklls of surviving the wilds of this partially terraformed planet from the three who accompany him.  As he learns his own limitations and struggles to adapt to the magicians' society he uncovers far more about his past and what the future promises than he ever thought possible.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Productivity - NOT!

I am sitting here performing one-handed typing and looking forward to at least  seven or more weeks before escaping my sling.*  After that I have to have therapy to get muscles back in shape and restore mobility.

Typing w/one hand sucks.  Worse, I discovered that dictation results in short sentences and poor word choices which leads to a LOT of post-draft editing, and not in a good way!
So my productivity is in the toilet and with my wife dressing me, cutting my food, and keeping me clean I am starting to feel like a damn invalid - a foretaste of what is to come no doubt as I approach my dotage.

The understandable depression that now assails me due to my limitations makes me wonder if it isn't time to bank the forge fires, lay aside my literary hammer, and put this fussy wordmaking aside so I can once more become an uncritical reader who cares not one whit about the inevitable errors that infest our published works.

It will be a while before this becomes obvious:  I have a backlog of sold shorts, a couple of novels in the pipeline, and a few drafts to finish before I disappear.

Or maybe I'll feel different down the line.

 *Long story short: grip slipped, extended left arm took 
the entire weight of heavy box resulting in four rotator 
cuff  tears, shredded bicept, and two detached  tendons.  


Monday, September 10, 2018

Teflon Eyes

I just finished correcting the galleys of my latest novel after compiling a seven page list of mistakes that had somehow evaded the eagle eyes of beta readers, copyeditors, editors and, regrettably, my own pair.  People who write novels, someone recently observed, should be forced to re-read them dozens of times*.

First, there's multiple drafts which you write, then rewrite, and too often delete passages until you have a semblance of a scene, which you then must stitch to other scenes to form a plot, all the while creating characters, backgrounds, activities, and any other idea that occurs whether or not they make sense.  When this is done you finally have an incomplete mess of ideas which you then edit/redraft/arrange into a "first" draft and send to your beta readers.

Beta readers who are too often horrid persons who niggle over every detail you've omitted, gotten wrong, or which doesn't, in their mind, fit. They take delight in gently suggesting changes to "clarify a few things," "improve the flow," or "heighten the drama" which means that you not only have to read the damn thing again, but rewrite/correct huge portions and everything you suddenly notice to have evaded your careful review.  "Why," you scream in the darkness of your writing lair, "Why can't they just admire the genius of the story and praise my work?

Nevertheless, your tired eyes once more read through your much abused draft to correct all the things the beta readers have noted.  By this time your eyeballs are coated with teflon and slide over the most obvious of mistakes.  But you soldier on rereading the piece, patching mistakes, rewriting entire sections, and hopefully correcting everything identified as well as a few things that you thankfully caught on the umpty-ninth read through.

* As if that wasn't already the case


Saturday, August 25, 2018


I have yet to start a story whose breadth and depth I fully understood before the first word was drafted. Nor have I ever been aware of the personalities, beliefs, and activities of all the characters the story would embrace.  Instead I start the process with only a vague idea of the general background and details that may be added later as I navigate the path to the epiphany, punchline, or conclusion (altho occasionally said conclusion follows the epiphany.)

Instead, I embark on a path of discovery, bumbling from one scene to the next, jumping to a different idea, haring down paths less than fruitful, and striking whole volumes of narrative exposition for their  mind-numbing detail.  Sometimes the story's path ahead seems clear but more often the steps it takes to reach that is an indeterminate fuzz whose clarity most often comes at a cost of plot or pace.

Unless you are extremely organized and have the ability to stick to a predetermined outline you will record your journey of discovery with a jumble of assorted notes that beg to be assembled into something that resembles a story.  I usually arrange my scenes/sketches on a time line. This usually  reveals temporal gaps that will need to be filled with some indication of time's passing.  Another approach is to arrange the scenes emotionally through the use of flashback or prolepsis (e.g. flashforward).  Playing with viewpoint might yield another series of scenes.  Eventually, through successive experiments* I find an arrangement that seems to look like a story e.g. with the pieces that feel like the right** order.

From there it is merely a matter of enforcing consistency, grinding the scenes' edges to fit, and pounding whatever words it takes to made the story flow properly.

But then, isn't that what writing is all about?

* I use Scrivener to make rearranging easier.

** This is largely a matter or personal taste 


Monday, August 20, 2018

WorldCon 2018

WorldCon is underway on the left edge of the country and I am not there. This will be the second WorldCon I have missed in the last ten years.

WorldCons have always been a mixed bag, partly due to my SFWA office which consumed much time with meetings scheduled and otherwise, and the eternal problem of too many panels conflicting with each other, random encounters initiating fascinating conversations, running into acquaintances and fellow writers, missing meals, and drinking far more than usual.  Sleep, when it comes, is usually from exhaustion of the adrenal glands as they dribble out their last dose of mania.

The reason most professional writers attend WorldCon is to promote their books, be visible to their fans, and hopefully conduct a little business with agents and publishers. Rubbing professional elbows in the SFWA suite or Green Room is a huge bonus and well worth the time consumed on panels.  Of course, speaking on favorite subjects is a lot of fun and hopefully entertaining* to the audience as well as educational. For short story writers it is an opportunity to give fans, who otherwise would not encounter your work, a taste  of what you  do.

But WorldCons are a multi-ring circus with something for everyone. In this tent we have the elephants, those prolific authors who routinely churn out doorstop sized  novels.  In another we have the booksellers and merchants enticing all with tempting offerings too numerous and weighty to carry home on the plane. Oh look, over there we have the parade of readers mumbling snippets of their work to attentive groups who, for once, are not relatives. Then there's the crowd; a delicious  feast of people dressed in fannish fanny pack and denim garb, seasoned by a plethora of fairy wings, a dash of red velour tees, and innumerable ears of spock, or perhaps elfen provenance.

And, sadly, I am not among their wonderful number.

*Yes, this is how conventions "pay" the guests.  We're 
the clowns in the little car, the trained monkeys,  and 
the ringmasters of the performance.                          .