In lieu of a ramble, have a free book!

If you’re following along with my daily and weekly goals, you’ll know I set myself a whopper this week. SO, since I kicked off the week by oversleeping, I haven’t got the time to blog about my process.

Luckily Parvus Press has me covered for exciting content. I dare say they may have something a lot better than my usual artistic moaning. I’m going to have to talk to them about this whole oneupmanship thing.

But! Usurpers of excitement though they may be, Parvus is giving away VICK’S VULTURES by the incredibly talented Scott Warren to anyone who signs up for the Parvus Press reader list. The link is here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/buz7lsjkye

Or click the beautiful cover by Tom Edwards! Go on, touch it!

Vick's Vultures by Scott Warren

Vick’s Vultures is one of three books published last year that made it onto my shelf of love. I pushed it on my friends at full price, I pushed it when it got a BookBub deal and was $2.99, and if you don’t go get it now that it’s FREE, I will show up at your house and eat all your bacon. You have been warned.

 

Sparkler at a festival

Snippet: Parade of the Innocents

[Author’s warning: Before you start reading this, know that I do not come to any sort of satisfying conclusion in this snippet. It’s the plottiest flash fiction I’ve written to date, less introspective than my usual, so it’s harder to just bring together with a single sentence when my writing time is up. Sorry ’bout that. ]

 

I hold no illusions. I am far from innocent. This day—this festival—isn’t meant for me.

As I look around, though, I see far more adults here than children. The occasional girl or boy, mascots of the day, sits on shoulders in the crowd, but the attendance for this parade is made up of far more people wishing to recall their innocence than of the children who are the beacons of it.

Burned-down sparklers litter the ground and crunch under my feet as I slip through the crowd, navigating the distracted onlookers. My nose stings from the pervasive clouds of spent potash and saltpeter.

A break from the usual routine, a visual spectacle. These always make for cheap, easy distractions. Plus, it’s a bank holiday.

There are still guards securing the bank, of course, but less bodies to keep track of once the fun begins.

A silhouette moves on the rooftop, crouched. You’d have to be looking for Sophie to know she’s up there. She’s pulled the hood of her soft cotton poncho up to cover the dyed streaks in her hair, colors to rival the light show. A burst of fireworks light the sky and illuminate her face in blue for a moment. I can see her eager grin from here.

We’re all hungry tonight, and it’s got nothing to do with the fried duck, fruit cakes, or spun sugar being peddled on every street cart on every corner along the parade avenue.

The shadows ease around me as I move away from the crowd. The financial block is two streets removed from the festivities, and the buildings between me and the revelry dull the sounds of wind instruments and cheers, and block the light from the fireworks show, though the air-shattering pops are no quieter.

I walk casually. There is light traffic here, and I can’t look like I’m headed away from the parade for any mischief. The approved sort of mischief-seekers would be headed to the opposite end of the parade, where the bars await the next stage of celebrations. Dug and I might hit those later, if things go off without a wrinkle.

I keep my eye on the glow over the island’s edge beyond the city. I’ve got a clear view of the horizon down the street which runs across the island from cliff to cliff, with only a slight curve. The smoke from the fireworks is in the air overhead, but beneath that I have a clear view of the starry open skies, and the glow of the pumpkins in the distance. I mark their color and use it to gauge our timing.

Yeah, festivals are great for distracting the city officials, the crowds, and the eyes and ears. The problem with festivals is the celebrities they attract. It’s early yet, but eventually Silus Cutter is going to come along that parade route, and our plan is to be back in the crowd, innocent as the rest of the filthy rabble, before anyone—especially our god—can sense that anything has happened.

Normally I’d tug my prayerlocks to ask for Silus Cutter’s blessing, but tonight we’re going to leave him out of it.

We’ve no way of timing things, but when Tisker blows the lock on the bank’s main door, we’re fortunate to have the cover of a fresh batch of fireworks to crackle and scream over the sound. I nod, and he grins at me with his boyish enthusiasm. He’s young, but he’s no more innocent than me. Way he grew up, he’s probably got a lead on me for coins lifted.

Dug pushes through the door from behind us. First inside, first to fight. “Alive,” I hiss, to remind him in case he forgot.

Two guards are laying on the floor by the time we catch up with him. In the glow from gas torches along the walls, I see their chests rise and fall, and nod in approval. It’s a big night and Dug knows better than to let himself get carried away.

“How d’you imagine they felt, seeing Dug come at them?” Tisker asks, imagining the scene with a grin.

The guards aren’t much. Muscular, sure, and they look fit, but Dug, a Bone man, would have towered over them, and his taut muscles would shame these men into a hundred push-ups if they’d only been matching machismo. How would they remember the dark devil that came for them out of the night?

I chuckle. “When they tell their story later, no doubt Dug will be twice as fast, and three meters high. Come on.”

And that was it. Two guards to guard the main entrance. What more would the bank need, when Silus Cutter himself would be around?

While Tisker bends over the tumblers in the vault door, I keep an ear out for Sophie’s shrill falcon whistle, but all that filters in from outside are the pop and crackle of the sky show. Beside the window I lean against the wall, keeping my silhouette from outside view but able to keep an eye on the skies outside.

Dug paces slow and catlike along the inside wall. Not enough fight in those guards for him. Once we’ve cleared away from the bank and made the drop, we’ll hit the bars and there’ll be enough drunk Cutter bastards eager to start a brawl with him. If I let Dug get arrested tonight, it’ll be for drunk and disorderly conduct.

[Sorry, that’s it! Leave a comment if you want to hear the rest.]

Mixing Table

Flotsam’s Release Sounds Better Every Day

If you follow me across the internet, you’ll already know this, but I’m recording it here for posterity as Social Media posts are notoriously hard to rewind. (Not kidding. Saw a photo of the perfect haircut on Twitter last week and for the life of me I cannot find it again.)

Last week was a big announce-y week for Flotsam! Parvus Press tweeted, blogged, and press-released their gilded hearts out, to announce my Pub Siblings Scott Warren and Mareth Griffith’s upcoming October releases: TO FALL AMONG VULTURES (Union Earth Privateers Book 2) and Court of Twilight (available for pre-order now).

Oh, and also to announce that Flotsam has a narrator for the audio book.

Oh, and also that the voice actor who will be performing said narration is none other than Mary Robinette Kowal. (!!!!!)

Now, of course I’ve been privy to this plan for a while now, but that doesn’t make me any less excited that it’s official and queued up for production. When Flotsam releases on January 30, 2018, it will be in digital, print, and audio formats.

It’s really a fantastic feeling to have the faith of my publisher behind my series, so much so that they would pursue such wonderful opportunities to make this the best book it can be, from the thoroughness of the copyeditor to the pedigrees of the cover artist and narrator.

I’m going to make a bigger post about the cover of the book another day, but suffice it to say that the typography was also far from an afterthought (there were many 10pm text messages and emails agonizing over font treatments and accent color choices).

I’ll tell you a secret. You all know that Flotsam was originally intended for self-publication, and it’s on my list to someday write a post about why I made a drastic 180º from that original plan. Simplest explanation is that where once I was convinced there was no one out there that would give Flotsam the love and enthusiasm to match mine, I am happy that Parvus has proven me wrong from day one. I am very happy to house the Peridot Shift series of novels in their stable.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of getting a text from my publisher to let me know that Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes Flotsam as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

I look at where this book started, and I look at where it is now, and where it will be at launch. I hear the anticipation and enthusiasm of everyone who engages with me about it, and I feel buoyed up by an ineffable joy. It’s truly a remarkable thing.

So thank you to the Parvus team, to John Adamus (who deserves a second acknowledgement outside the Parvus umbrella because this book wouldn’t be what it is today without him shaking me free of an earlier megalith of a draft), to Mary Robinette Kowal, to Cat Rambo, and to everyone who’s given me a hand up along the way. I cannot express how much I appreciate each and every one of you.

 

dried lemons

Snippet: Lemonade

Backhanded comments notwithstanding, the new neighbors seemed like very nice people.

It took them four years from the day they moved in to introduce themselves. It seemed appropriate that the lemonade I serve them be the stuff that I made a few weeks ago for a barbecue which had been aging to full maturity in the back of the refrigerator.

Naturally they could have had it fresh. Might have been invited to the barbecue, if we hadn’t still been under the impression that they were silently judging us through the picture window of their raised ranch.

They had never put up curtains in that window. There were no frames hanging on the walls visible within their home. There was a floor lamp that would turn on in the evenings, too small for the space and put in the corner as though it were to the side of some large couch that was not there.

For four years, it appeared as though they had just moved in. Or were just about to move out.

I didn’t drink the lemonade I offered them. I brought out enough glasses as though I might pour for my wife and me, but left them on the tray when the drinks offered to Mr. and Mrs. Abbot took most of what remained in the pitcher.

We sat on the patio, because our dog would just about bark his head off should we invite the pair inside. My wife and I had been in the middle of our weekend chores, and so were wearing denim shorts and tank tops, no bras, and only scuffed into flip flops to go outside to sit with our company.

Mrs. Abbot was wearing a stiff, floral sundress which was as modest as a sleeveless dress could make itself. I don’t think she realized the department store tag still hung from the underarm on one side.

Mr. Abbot wore a polo shirt and a pair of front-pleated khaki pants. I have always considered front pleats to be a crime against humanity.

They sat primly on our deck chairs, while we leaned back and put our feet up on the cross-bars that reinforced the anodized table legs.

We talked about the Abbots as though they had not moved in four years ago, but as though their moving truck had just beeped its way back down the driveway and rumbled off. As though they had so much packing ahead of them that the conversation might remain polite and tight-lipped so they could choose any moment to excuse themselves and return to unpacking.

We asked them the obvious questions, and learned they had moved from Tennessee because Mr. Abbot’s mother, who lives in the area, has taken ill and needs family nearby for help and perhaps for her final goodbyes. Mrs. Abbot made a comment about Mr. Abbot’s brother, who lived near enough that he could move to the area and still commute to his job with greater ease than Mr. Abbot could open a new hardware store and establish his business all over again.

Mrs. Abbot is allergic to cats.

Mr. Abbot needs the name of a repair shop that might fix his lawn mower that week, before it was time to mow again.

They did not ask us the obvious question, and seemed embarrassed when we talked about our wedding, as an expression of sympathy for difficult family members.

The mosquitos finally chased us from the yard, and the Abbots crossed back to their side of the street, waving at the air around their heads and slapping at their necks and arms.

“They seem nice,” my wife said noncommittally as we poured out the rest of the pitcher into the sink and put it in the dishwasher.

We still had laundry to do.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

Firefighters, pexels CC0 license.

Fighting too hard, or not hard enough.

Well, for reasons, Camp NaNoWriMo was a bust for July.

But for good reasons.

Well, mostly.

Two weeks ago, I took a week off to focus on a final review of FLOTSAM. That’s a good thing, because there’s a schedule to keep.

The following week (last week), I took a week off to try and get a load of work done for an event I’m involved with that’s happening the first week of September. Again, there’s a schedule to keep.

However, there was a large difference between the two efforts. Reading FLOTSAM and catching typos and flopped grammar is a finite assignment. 482 pages, start to finish. No one shows up to drop a previously unknown chapter in my lap to extend the project.

The trade show support work, on the other hand, is not finite. That has a list of tasks that multiply by three every time I finish one. It’s got to get done, and it will, but the workload will expand to fill whatever time I allot to it.

What’s worse, my morning ritual was interrupted, and my mind was reprogrammed to consider that morning time, at that computer, as time up for grabs. Time that can be rerouted to high priority projects.

I have realized (not for the first time) that I must shore up the defenses of my writing time. I must make it my priority, because I am the only one who can or will.

Sometimes I get a little tired of having to learn this lesson.

Flostam Review Binder

Anticipation on page 126.

I’m happily ensconced in the middle of reviewing my editor’s latest copy of FLOTSAM, thinking about things like cover typography and character illustrations. Of future Wiki projects and of audio books.

I am more than a little overwhelmed with work this week, but I am so excited and joyful to be waist-deep in this process. I truly cannot wait to share this book with the world.

And another side story has occurred to me, of course, almost 90% fleshed out and ready to go. Silly thing, I have sequels to write!

Dawn Dusk Environment Eruption

Archive Snippet: Caldera

The girl absentmindedly toed at the dust on her boots. Whatever color they were meant to be was lost to time beyond memory.

She understood the concept of color but in her experience there was only ever a slight variation to the one hue. For decades, the sky had been a dingy yellow filter over the sun. Everything, even when she and the other squatters described them otherwise, was a sulfuric tawny gray. Only the northern horizon, a seething red line slashed across the edge of the world, interrupted an otherwise infinite canvas of that sallow, poisonous yellow.

Inaudibly, the ground shook with the rumbling threat of the distant volcano that had not said its whole part. She retained a memory from years ago, when the first rumblings began. It was not her own memory, for she was born beneath the ash. It was one described to her, which she kept safe after its original owner succumbed to his cough. A blue sky filled with birds. Flocks of them had lifted from their perches in alarm, and had not been seen since. She made the memory her own.

In the time before, some had promised that the cockroaches would survive anything, but they did not have the benefit of gas masks. The squatters ventured out from the ruins only after securing the bulky, ancient air filters across their faces. The food and water they hunted was not gathered with pails or weapons, but with crow bars and carts. But the enormous warehouses were nearly empty. The circle warned that the squatters would have to become raiders soon.

Caldera traced patterns in the ash on the ground, smoothing her footsteps away and scuffing swirling designs as best she could with all the grace she could manage in her heavy boots.

From your perspective, you might observe that she was drawing round, friendly clouds or angels. But Caldera had never known either in her life. The sky above her was always dark, always filled with the ever-present ash and dust. Even her precious memory of blue and silver could not hold back its weight. Angels needed a sky from which to descend with their golden instruments and snowy wings, but this was no sky.

It was the rough underbelly of a coffin lid.

This was a short piece I originally wrote in 2006. I have dusted it off and touched it up a bit before sharing it here.

bench empty pavement rain wet

Declaration of Reclamation

It’s been my tradition for the past few years to take the week around Independence Day off from work. We have a little barbecue, and we get a bunch of stuff done around the house (usually clearing out things that have ended up semi-permanent residents of enormous plastic tubs in the basement).

This year I took the week off. We had the barbecue. But there was no ‘big plan’ otherwise.

And it broke me.

Every night we ended up staying up later than usual (and I slept on the couch until I finally trudged to bed). Then I overslept, totally unmoved by my morning alarm. So I got up late. I started my Asimov Hours late. I procrastinated and pittered around before even starting to work on my writing. Then I’d end a four-hour session at the computer with an aching back but little else to show for it.

Then I’d go downstairs, do a couple little things, and suddenly it would be dinner time. Rinse, repeat.

I have never felt so unsatisfied by a week off from the daily grind.

And of course, only as I compose this post does it occur to me what project I might have assigned myself to add some sense of haste to my morning. Figures.

Add to that, my carpal tunnel is flaring with some RSI and the week away from the cause of it did not seem to help alleviate it. I’ll be writing to my chiropractor today for some stretches. It’s been so long since I had RSI in my wrist that I don’t even remember the stretches I used to do. I’ve been sleeping with a wrist brace on and wearing my copper bracelet and supports, but something’s gotta change.

Yes, I’m planning to take another look at Dragon Dictation soon.

It’s day two of back to reality, and I’m still struggling to get going in the morning. I am optimistic that by week’s end I will have recovered and returned to my routine, but in the here and this moment I am quite discontent.

It’s forecast to rain all week. We had a week of almost perfect weather and I did zero walking (aside from bustling about the house on the 4th). I definitely wanted to add walking back in, but I think I will take advantage of the rain to spend my lunch hours in a coffee shop and get some momentum back for my current revision. Ironic that, with thoughts of dictating and transcribing again, the rain is back and there’ll be no walking for that. I need to mooooove.

I do think Salvage is much improved, so far, on this pass-through. I plan to have a session with John in August to take another pass at it.

Yesterday I heard someone described as being ‘hell-bent’ on one thing or another, and decided I would like for people to describe me as Hell-Bent. I am going to be hell-bent on getting my stress and physical health under control. And hell-bent on being in control of my writing time.

Normally I would say I have already achieved those things, but lately something’s been slipping.

No more. Time to wrap up and hit hard.

Image chosen for Lookout snipper

Snippet: Lookout

I am going to have to wake her soon.

We could both be hanged if we are discovered, and not only because we each took vows of celibacy. Hers to the order of sisters. Mine to the watch that guards them.

If I wasn’t a conscripted soldier, it might not have happened. If it was a sense of duty that compelled me, and not the lash, I might have turned her away the first time she came to me, with her offerings of hot mead and warm flesh to relieve the chill of the early winter mornings.

She told me she had been watching me, though I had never noticed her before she appeared that night, with shoulders bared beneath a layer of furs. With her hair framing the long shape of her neck. Boldly standing at the door to my watch tower, as if she knew me. Knew my secrets.

But I did not turn her away, and every night since she has returned. The torch light and the stars, and when the moon was full then that light, too, played our shadows across the cold stone walls.

Each time we escaped discovery it became easier to allow it to continue, until I began to anticipate my time at watch. As my shifts begin, I watch the terrain beyond the wall for threats to the holy sisters, but my keen ears were tuned only to the soft padding of her leather-soled slippers.

Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Summer Camp

Last Tuesday, I finished the revised manuscript of Flotsam and sent it off to Parvus. That gave me the right sort of mental break to get pumped up for Camp NaNoWriMo and another revision pass of Salvage.

Salvage is due to Parvus in November, but my personal goal is to get it to them sooner so I can prep for Book Three and draft that during November’s NaNoWriMo.

So Saturday morning, I woke aboard a sailboat, made coffee in a percolator and sat on deck with my laptop to begin Camp NaNoWriMo’s July Session.

On my last read-through, I still felt the story was solid, but I wasn’t able to really pinpoint what it was about the story that was bothering me. So I let my mother talk me into sending it to her to allow me to gather her notes.

Armed with those (she’s not done yet, because of how many notes she’s been making), and a fresh review of Flotsam, plus some ideas that occurred to me to go forward, I began Salvaging Salvage.

The points I knew I needed to work on:

  • All dat backstory. Even though I cut out a ton on my last revision pass, the read-through made me face-palm at how many times I restated well-established information.
  • Tension. Sometimes things just go too smoothly for my characters. They might appreciate that, but readers won’t.
  • Technology & Magic. Boosted this in Flotsam revs so there’s room to boost it in Salvage and keep it going.
  • A little front-loading. I’ve been churning up more solid ideas for book 3 so I can look for opportunities to open problems and questions that will lead the reader into the third book of the trilogy.

Sunrise

At 4:38 a.m. on Saturday morning, I woke up on a sailboat and got to work. As the day turned hazy and rain threatened, we didn’t sail anywhere and I spent the entire day revising (save for a quick trip to the grocery store). It was a great start to the Camp session.

My progress report so far:

Saturday, 7/1: ended @ 6827 words revised

Sunday, 7/2: ended @ 10767 words revised

Monday, 7/3: ended @ 15638 words revised

Tuesday, 7/4: ended @ 16627 words revised (this was a tough scene, and I have party prep to do!)

View of Writing Area

Bar Graph So Far