Friday, March 27, 2015

Finally in Print!

Over a fourteen year period I wrote a five hard SF novelettes and novellas about sailing on various planets (Earth, Jupiter, and Mars.) Most were published in magazines, collections, and  as reprints and e-pubs. One story (Primrose and Thorn) became a Nebula finalist and later appeared in Gardner Dozois' Years Best.

Six months ago Ian Strock of  Fantastic Books asked me to publish a trade paperback collection where I could bring all my sailing tales together in a single volume.  Since all the stories were in the same universe and featured the same characters turning the stories into a novel was easy.  The completed work is mostly about the sheer joy of sailing as seen through the eyes of two principal characters and a few peripheral players.

Fantastic Books: $13.99 trade paper (216p)
 ISBN 978-1-62755-633-0
After considerable editing and proof-reading we corrected the most egregious errors in the original stories, cleaned up the flow a bit, rearranged a few scenes, and commissioned a beautiful cover by George Krauter that conveys the sense of wonder the stories were intended to generate.

During the editing process I was surprised to discover that the science used in the stories had withstood the test of time, as does the seamanship, which is not so surprising since we've been sailing boats for thousands of years and the songs of sailors, wind, and water have not changed.

You can find  Distant Seas on Amazon and at the  Fantastic Books  table at various conventions up and down the east coast. It will soon be available in eBook format.  

Glowing reviews of the  novel have already appeared in Publishers Weekly (a one-star review!), LibraryThing, and Goodreads.

The book launch will be at Ravencon in Richmond on April 24-27, 2014. Stop by and I'll sign a copy for you.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

What's a Meta For?

All writers have in the back of their minds a metaphor they use to describe the process of story making.

Many writers start with a basic concept and meticulously outline every part of their story before beginning to write a single word. Some put their ideas on post-its and measle their walls with notes that mark the progress of the story. Others might use different media to essentially serve the same purpose of visualizing the sweep of the story.

Others think of their story as an unrolling ribbon of thought, each sentence evoking the next as the tale evolves through some mysterious subconscious process as their muse somehow drives them ever forward, navigating the twists and turns of plot, although they may occasionally take a more deliberate control by stepping in occasionally to steer the sentences towards a vaguely perceived conclusion. Jamie Todd Rubin calls this process "Pantsing."

A more deliberative approach likens development to architecture.  An architect designs a project with an eye first to function, and only then determines the form that best unifies the overall structure.  In this the basic building blocks are scenes compacted from characters, settings, time, and events.  Once scenes have been built one can stack them into towering edifices, bridges, or even passageways.  A scene can be placed in its chronological sequence or used as foreshadowing or flashback, all depending on the writer/architect's choice.

In truth, no writer strictly adheres to either process, but uses them as arrows in their quiver, pulling one process or another into action as needed.  Of course, all of these have only to deal with the arrangements and not the plot itself.

Which might be another subject.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Source of the Nile

A much younger me daydreamed dramas endlessly, usually with myself as the principal actor and occasional hero, these usually spurred by a recent story.  But as I grew older such hyperactive self-aggrandizing seemed less interesting and, when I finally started writing, embarrassing.  I began looking for ideas that had deeper resonance, of issues that needed to be illustrated, and of things, people, situations that I thought had a bit of humor.

My first attempts were pathetic; sophomoric philosophizing or filled with the social concerns of the day.  Later I tried reprising some favorite tales or picking up an idea here, hearing something at a con, or just reading an interesting article. Each of these can be the seed that will blossom into narrative flowers.

  •  For example, the first Sam Boone story arose from a comment Stan Schmidt made at a convention and that led to four more sales featuring that character. 
  •  A David Nordley science article spun off a novelette and two novellas, one of which was a Nebula finalist. 
  •  A summer week's attendance at LunchPad in Wyoming produced three short stories. 

 Before I became an older me, I maintained a long list of story ideas.  I abandoned the list after a year or two when it grew too long and unwieldy, because most were never worth being fertilized to full flower.  Ideas are cheap and plentiful, you need only to open your eyes and mind.

An older me now recognizes that if a story idea is worth pursuing it will not go away.  Once it finds fertile ground in your mind it will establish itself forever, even though it may be momentarily forgotten.  Time and again this pesky weed will force itself into your consciousness, harrying you until you finally have no choice but to sit down and pound it into submission.

Or maybe that's just me.