Tag Archives: Daedalus Incident

That pesky, uncontrollable muse

Note: The muse almost never shows up this way.

Note: The muse almost never shows up this way.

With MJ-12: Shadows in the hands of my capable editor, I thought I would start the new year by tinkering with a new project — one that wasn’t under deadline. I’m truly fortunate to have deadlines for books, and I still have the third MAJESTIC-12 book on the horizon. But at least for a while, I wanted to go back to some pressure-free creativity because, as I’ve mentioned before, MJ-12: Shadows kicked my ass.

I actually have several ideas in various stages of development — some straight-up science fiction, a clockwork fantasy, all kinds of stuff. But the one I chose to work on was new to the idea files, something overtly political in nature with a near-future setting and all kinds of social commentary. Gee, wonder how that popped up on my radar since November. Hmm.

I told my agent about it — I actually tell her most of the stuff I’m noodling on — and I got excited about it. I did my usual worldbuilding notes, my character snippets, my Excel plotting. I started in and focused on the voice, which would be very different from my previous work.

And then I hit a wall.

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Fantastic independent bookstores for all your holiday gift-giving needs

Found by a friend at Powell's up in Oregon. One of many reasons indie bookstores rock.

Found by a friend at Powell’s up in Oregon. One of many reasons indie bookstores rock.

Let me start by saying that I realize Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the two big choices for book buying, and honestly, I have a lot of respect for both of them. Both companies have been good to me and my work, and I deeply appreciate that. I’m glad they’re there.

But you know what’s awesome? Independent bookstores. I love indie bookstores, man. They are an absolute labor of love for the people that own and run them, and they are vibrant and, dare I say, critical pieces of community life around the country. So this holiday season, I would encourage you to check out independent bookstores in your area for all your gift-giving needs.

Or maybe check out the ones I have listed here if you don’t have a local indie close to you. These are the independent bookstores that I’ve enjoyed visiting around the country, and if you’re in the market for books this holiday season — whether it’s my books or just any books — I would strongly encourage you to check them out. The vast majority of these offer online sales and shipping, and many offer ebook sales via Kobo, too.

I totally get that indie books are more expensive — they’re generally full list-price, plus shipping. And sure, Kobo is a little more expensive than Kindle or Nook. Given the huge impact a good bookstore has on its community, I would urge you to shop indie anyway, if you’re able to do so. It’s fantastic karma.

Finally, I’m highlighting the stores that are offering the Geeky Giving charity anthology, which I was proud to be a part of this year. There are some great stories in there, and proceeds go to the Barrow Neurological Institute. Buying it is a win all around, y’all.   Continue reading

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Thinking about how to define authorial success

What makes a book successful? What makes an author successful? What makes some books and/or authors more successful than others? All fair questions. I saw some discussion of this among my colleagues and friends on Twitter this past week, prompted by these thoughts from the amazingly talented Delilah S. Dawson. and it gave me some things to think about.

My first novel came out in 2013 — just three short years ago! I started writing it in 2010, got my agent in 2011, and nabbed a book deal in 2012. So I’ve been at it for six years now, and a published author for just half that time. My fourth book comes out Sept. 6 in hardcover.

Have I been successful? Abso-freakin-lutely. But that’s in terms of my vision of success. And I think it’s important to define your own measures for success going in — and to keep them realistic.

(This is a long-ish post. Get comfy. Go grab a beverage if you like. I’ll be here.)

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The secret to improving writing: Just write

I was asked by a colleague today about advice for improving one’s writing, which is lovely even though it makes me feel a tad old. (That latter bit could be because I just got a haircut and all the gray is standing out now. All. The. Gray.) Anyway, the person doing the asking had a rough time with writing in college, thanks to a horribly demeaning professor, but really wanted to improve her writing regardless.

First off, props to her for taking another stab at it. It’s not easy.

I keep a binder in my office with the very first draft of The Daedalus Incident inside it, the text covered in red-pen edits. This draft, as seen here, represents maybe 60% of the concepts that ultimately became the finished product, but perhaps only 20% of the words, tops.

Why? Because that first draft was bad, man. So very not good. It had all the hubris that pushed me to write a novel, but very little of the craft that I developed over the course of multiple revisions, and none of the lessons learned from my agent and editor.

I keep it on the shelf to remind me that I’ve come a long way as a novelist, and also to keep me humble and striving to do better with each successive work. And I showed it to my colleague as a case study in how one can suck at first, and improve.

The key to improvement? Write. Write more. Then write a bunch more. Revise. Write again. And write some more. Go get some coffee. Then finally, write another thing. And revise it.

Yes, of course, classes and workshopping and reading all can contribute to improvement. But all that learning still has to be applied. And you do that by writing.

That said, I did recommend that my colleague go get her Master’s degree from her mother’s house, frame it, and keep it handy to remind her that, yes, she’s already written something truly worthy of accolade. (Heck, I don’t have a Master’s degree! That takes work!) It’s good to remember the good with the bad. Many of us tend to emphasize the criticism and minimize the success — try really hard not to do that if you can.

It’s hard if you’ve been told that your writing stinks. Getting over something like that takes guts. And even when you’ve had success, your writing will still have its critics. But the only way through that is…straight through it. Sit down, open a Word file, and go to town.

You totally got this.

#SFWApro

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The Venusian Gambit launches today in mass market paperback!

As is now tradition, I went to a bookstore — this time, the Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in Manhattan — to sign a new release: The Venusian Gambit, officially out today in mass-market paperback! Never really gets old to see one’s books in a store.

(In fact, there are signed copies of Gambit as well as The Daedalus Incident at that very store now, if you happen to be around midtown!)

The Venusian Gambit wraps up the Daedalus trilogy with an epic clash between the forces of the Martian warlord Althotas (and his dupe, Napoleon) and the combined efforts of now-Admiral Thomas Weatherby and Commander Shaila Jain. Plus, as you might discern from the cover, there are aliens and zombies and a mech.

You might also take note of the snippet of the starred review from Publishers Weekly, which was really very wonderful. It’s available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million,Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play.

In addition to getting Gambit in a less expensive and cumbersome format, you’ll also get a brand-new excerpt from MJ-12: Inception in the back. This one deals with a young woman named Maggie Dubinsky, a former schoolteacher whose sudden Enhancement became far too burdensome to bear. Yet despite her fears and scars, the agents of MAJESTIC-12 have nonetheless sought her out for recruitment….

Very excited to see Gambit out in the wilds again, and doubly so for everyone to read just a bit more about MJ-12: Inception. The new paranormal Cold War spy series kicks off Sept. 6 in hardcover; you can pre-order it at  from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Mysterious GalaxyBorderlands Books, Apple iBookstore and/or through your local bookstore via Indie Bound.

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Yes, I actually read the reviews

TDI-mmpb-coverWhile on a panel with other authors at Phoenix Comicon, an audience member asked us whether we read the reviews of our works. At least half of the authors there said no. And I totally get that — kindness and constructive criticism is in short supply on the Internet. It can be hard to read how all your hard work resulted in someone despising the book.

I piped up and said yes, I do read reviews. I don’t really seek them out, but when they’re brought to my attention via Twitter or Google alerts, I’ll give ’em a read. I’ll also occasionally look at what folks are saying when I link to Goodreads or Amazon.

Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe. But then, I’ve been writing professionally for 23 years now, in one form or another. I used to be a journalist, and I’ve been taken to task not only by editors, but by the people I wrote about. I’ve had to defend my work repeatedly. It tends to give one a thick skin.

Yes, I’ve received negative reviews. I’ve had my ability to form coherent sentences called into question. I’ve been accused of crimes against the English language. There have been a few folks who considered the publication of my fiction yet another indication of the death knell of my publisher, or even the entire publishing industry. There have been screeds.

And you know what? All right then. I hope the screed made the reviewer feel better. Catharsis is good.

I’m really, really fortunate that my works have been generally well received — 4 stars or better on Amazon, at least 3.5 or better on Goodreads, with 4- and 5-star ratings well outnumbering the 1- and 2-star reviews. I got a couple starred reviews from major publishing sites. At this point, I’m reasonably confident that I can write enjoyable fiction.

That said, I certainly notice common threads in reviews, and there have been some dings that I’ve no doubt earned. And that’s actually helpful — that’s something I can take away and learn from, and I have. That could be one of the reasons that The Venusian Gambit was the best reviewed book in the Daedalus trilogy, and that early word on MJ-12: Inception has been really positive. I want to get better as a writer, and feedback helps.

I would never fault a fellow scribe for avoiding reviews. Folks aren’t kind sometimes, and having one’s parentage or even existence called into question ain’t a walk in the park. And some of those reviews are by no means reasonable or warranted — fellow beard-o Chuck Wendig was heartily thrashed in some quarters for Star Wars: Aftermath because folks were furious that the old Expanded Universe novels were consigned to non-canon status. It’s not like Chuck forced Disney to do that, y’all. (I shudder to think of what he would actually do with that kind of power.)

He was also ripped into for introducing a gay character into Star Wars, which the worst sort of mean-spirited, specious criticism. It’s 2016, people. Honestly, it’s about time we saw LGBTQ+ folks represented in popular fiction, and I’m proud to call the guy who brought the rainbow to a Galaxy Far Far Away a friend.

Anyway, I digress. I read the reviews, good or bad. The good ones are a nice little ego boost, and give me a nice hit of writer fuel to tackle the next book. The bad ones? Eh. I’ve had Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, rant at me over something or other — and he was six inches from my face. And he was eating at the time. If I could stand my ground then — and I did — I’m pretty OK with someone not liking my books.

And speaking of reviews: I saw a couple that were pretty nifty keen. Rob Bedford reviewed The Enceladus Crisis over at SFFWorld and had some really nice things to say about it. And a fine person named Magilla Gurilla (how awesome is that nom du plume?) over at The Veteran Gamer “absolutely recommended” The Daedalus Incident. Glad you folks liked the books. And I’m glad I read your reviews!

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Interrogate your worldbuilding

roomSounds kinda cool, doesn’t it?

SCENE: The precinct downtown. A gray room with bare walls, a metal table, two uncomfortable chairs, a single bulb dangling from the ceiling. A detective paces the room in a suit stained with coffee and despair. He suddenly wheels on your worldbuilding and slams his hands on the table. “TALK! Or it’s the chair for you!”

Actually, I’d read the heck out of that. *makes note to self*

Sadly, this isn’t what I mean by “interrogate your worldbuilding.” I was on a couple of worldbuilding panels last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, and I briefly touched on this concept. So I want to sit down and work through it a bit better.

No interrogation room, though. Go sit on the couch and grab some tea or wine or something. This should be mostly painless. Ready? Let’s go. (Warning: There are mild spoilers ahead for MJ-12: Inception.)

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