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Pro-Motion

Yeah, I know, promotion has no hyphen in it. It’s early, I’m pre-coffee, so bear with me. Pro, or for, and motion. Or perhaps it’s ‘in favor of’ and motion. Either way, there’s energy in that. We’re going places! And we’re asking you to come along with us, dear readers.

Here’s the thing. Mad Genius Club is a conglomerate (another fun mashup word) of authors and professionals who donate their time in an effort to give back to the community that has supported them. This is very much a work of love. But you know how we also love our coffee, and that costs money. Cold hard cash, in lieu of pretty words. I’ve yet to find a market that would accept a well-turned phrase or bit of trenchant humor in exchange for the brown beans of life.

Really, we’re not asking much. Since the store won’t take our words, perhaps you will. And thus, capitalism and the free market wins again! And I get my morning brew of warmth and caffeine. Buy two, and we could have mocha…

sword of arelionSword of Arelion 

by Amanda S Green

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

 

 

shadow handsShadow Hands 

By David Pascoe

Melody Devreux sees things that shouldn’t be there. Shadows cast by the setting sun reach out for her with abyssal claws. She sleeps with the lights on and never goes out after dark. When the monsters she sees come for her, she must harness the light inside her to prevail.

There are now six short stories in this series, collect them all!

 

here be dragons completeHere Be Dragons

by Sarah Hoyt

A wonderful collection of work that shows the true breadth of Hoyt’s imagination. Here you will find tales of humanity, monsters who are all-too human, and some who claim human while showing their true colors. From cute kittens that aren’t what they seem, to vampires, this is a selection of stories that will pull you in and onward. If you’re already a fan of her Darkship world, you will find stories that hold the keys to some of her characters and their motivations in those novels. If you likewry humor, then you will find it in the story of Heart’s Fire, where the young heroine is reading a paperback novel, the key to her downfall. Sarah and I share a love of reading, and furthermore, reading stuff that everyone tells us is trashy and why aren’t you reading works with great and lofty messages?

Because sometimes it’s not about the message that blinks and flashes like a giant neon light tearing the quiet night apart. Sometimes it’s about the little stories, the lives of people who work and love and live quietly, never thinking they could make a difference until they have no choice. Because that is a message in itself. Stories give us hope, which enables us to continue. Stories show us how heroism really works, and romance, and all the big things that make us human and keeps us going onward into the future which might hold magic in the form of technology. Or maybe not, it could be things we haven’t even dreamed of yet, writers nor readers.

 

Racers of the NightRacers of the Night

by Brad Torgersen

Flying at the Speed of Night . . . Following in the successful footsteps of his previous short fiction collection (“Lights in the Deep”) award-winning and award-nominated Science Fiction author Brad R. Torgersen is back with twelve new tales. From the edges of explored space, to the depths of the artificial soul. At once breaking the limits of human endurance, while also treading the tender landscapes of the human heart. Originally appearing in the pages of Analog magazine, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show magazine, Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge magazine, and elsewhere, these stories are collected here for the first time; with commentary and anecdotes from the author. Introductions by bestsellers L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Kevin J. Anderson, and Dave Wolverton (Farland.)

 

Bolg and beautifulBolg PI: The Bolg and the Beautiful

by Dave Freer

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: This time it’s a retired Fertility Goddess, and her daughter, who’ve been robbed by a con-man from their friendly neighborhood bank. They want a Norse berserker, with a two-handed axe loose in the banking hall. Instead they get Bolg trying to recover their money. The bank might prefer the berserker too.

 

 

 

forge a new blade cover for blog post v2Forge a New Blade 

By Peter Grant

The Laredo Resistance fought the Bactrian invaders to a standstill, but shattered itself in the process. Through battle, bloodshed and murder, Dave Carson became President of Laredo’s Government-in-Exile. Now he must dodge assassination attempts by his enemies while fighting the war on new fronts – with a little unorthodox help from Steve Maxwell of the Lancastrian Commonwealth Fleet.

Gloria Aldred, former head of the Resistance, has plans that run counter to everything Dave’s trying to achieve – and she’s not about to ask his permission to pursue them.

Satrap Rostam is trying to cut Bactria’s losses and rebuild his exhausted planet, but his generals and nobles have lots of guilty secrets to hide – and they don’t mind burying him right along with them if necessary.

 

conventConVent

by Kate Paulk

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Noir

The new book!

Dragon Noir 

by Cedar Sanderson

The pixie with the gun has come home to see his princess crowned a queen and live in peace. But nothing is ever easy for Lom. A gruesome discovery on his doorstep interrupts their plans and sends Lom off on a mission to save not one, but two worlds. It’s personal this time and the stakes are higher than ever before. With friends falling and the enemy gathering, Bella and Lom must conquer the worst fears and monsters Underhill can conjure. Failure is not on the agenda.

 

Earth gateEarth Gate

by Pam Uphoff

*17th* book in the Wine of the Gods Universe.
Dimensional travel had brought the Earth immense wealth, but also a cross-dimensional war with the Empire of the One.
Jaime Felis had been recruited by the United Earth Central Intelligence Agency and emplaced in the Army unit crossing the dimensions to a world that claimed to have magic. Magic created through genetic engineering, very like the genetic engineering of the One—and of Jaime’s home planet. They hoped that his faint abilities would give them some insights into the magic of both this low tech Comet Fall and the high tech Empire.
He hadn’t expected to be marooned. Nor for rescue to be so fraught with problems.

 

 

dead babylonThe Dead Of Babylon

by Jason Cordova

Campbell Award nominated author takes on zombies in this short tale.

 

 

Which reminds me, don´t forget to cast your ballot today in the Hugo Awards, this is the last day of voting! 

pour l´encourager, here´s a picture of a large part of the ELOE. Hear the evil laughter, and despair!  giggle along with us!

Science Fiction Authors

A large part of the ELOE at LibertyCon 28. Left to right is Kate Paulk, John C Wright (seated), Sarah Hoyt, Michael Z Williamson, and Cedar Sanderson

 

 

 

Kate the Impaler and the Convention of Liberty

Part the Fifth

Kate the Impaler has survived the first day of LibertyCon. But the con isn’t over…

It came to pass that as the night did give way unto the day, the warrior maiden Kate the Impaler did awaken and roundly curse the miscreant who had – so she swore – crept in to her room while she slept and implanted a razor blade in her throat. Said miscreant must remain unpunished, alas, for there was much to do ere the first session of the day.

The parlous programming of the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and her beloved Dread Mathematician ensured that Kate the Impaler would be busy the entire day, assisting her dear friends through this torture – for torture indeed it was, and the Lady Sarah was not the only one desiring the head (or other suitable appendage) of the Master of Programming in payment for his sins.

The programming did fall thusly:

Saturday

10 AM Alien Minds: Portrayal in Science Fiction

11 AM The Hoyt Collective Reading (Sarah, Dan, and Robert)

12 PM How to Write Workshop (a two hour session)

2 PM The Baen Travelling Slideshow and Prize Patrol (another 2 hour session)

4 PM Indie: Is your book ready for prime time

5 PM Autograph Session

Lest it be thought they might rest after this, be it known the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess was required by Empress of Baen to attend an intimate dinner of some seventy close friends upon the finish of her autographing session, and as such, she would be working without break from ten of the morning until late that night – though at least the Empress of Baen would indeed ensure that her dear friend the Lady Sarah would not go without sustenance.

Thus did Kate the Impaler sip of hot water and lemon to ease her throat while breaking her fast, upon completion of which necessity she did locate the nearest merchant of medicinal goods and purchase a quantity of throat lozenges to ward herself against further soreness of throat (though in truth, the pain did not desist, merely reduced to a level at which the warrior maiden might endure it without complaint).

And so, she did assist by guiding the Lady Sarah from place to place, that the Mathematician might worry only about ensuring that all materials needed be present and not concern himself with his lady’s… unique grasp of navigation.

The workshop, Kate the Impaler had wished to attend that she might observe the workings of the Redheads of Doom, but alas! Matters beyond the control of mere mortals had prevented the Lady Amanda, the Redhead of Doom (or the Other Redhead of Doom) from journeying to the land of Choo Choo. And so it came to pass that Kate the Impaler did get dragged unto the presenting table wherein the most un-workshoppy workshop did take place – for one cannot work, much less shop, in a room bereft of tables upon which to work (and shop), with no places where posters or other such helpful items might be displayed, and too many attendees to suggest the more limber be seated upon the floor and use their chairs as impromptu tables.

Thus, the workshop became a discussion with all offering suggestions and comments and much enjoyment had by all.

It must be said that by the autographing session, Kate the Impaler did be in worse state than the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess, and with far less reason, so though she had greatly enjoyed all the panels she had attended and wished she were able to continue the evening, she was thankful the Empress of Baen did not require her presence. Such a mighty personage was far beyond a mere warrior maiden’s notice, and the warrior did make her weary way first to the Convention Place of Repast, wherein she did satisfy her hunger, and thence to her suite, where she was soon once more asleep, with hopes that the Dread Con Crud would be less severe come the morning.

To be continued (almost there…)

Why Give Indie a Try

I didn’t forget my post day. I forgot what day today is.  This is partly because I’m still feeling like “every day is Sunday” after we finished the heavy part of the house, and partly because today is a wee bit crazy.  We just took a load of hazardous waste (paint, mostly) to the local facility, and we’re now getting ready to go to the eye doctor (which is actually a good thing.  I think we’ll all agree it will be better if I can write without squinting at the screen and confusing os and es.) Also, I have the Hugo voting to do, I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.

So, what can I do that is useful to you on short notice?

Well, recently I had the opportunity to discuss indie versus traditional with someone I hope is becoming a friend.  So i sort of know the questions on your mind, and will try to answer them.  If I don’t cover them, ping me in comments and I’ll try to answer.

Things you wanted to know about indie publishing, but were afraid to ask:

1- Isn’t it a danger to do indie publishing?  Won’t it wreck my career?  I mean, publishers won’t take me seriously after that.

A- No.  No.  And also forget about it.  Not only Larry Correia, but a lot of other people whom I can’t be bothered to look up right now, start out indie, do well, then get picked up by a house.

2- Won’t having published indie first set off alarm bells at a traditional house?

Um… maybe.  But there’s alarm bells and alarm bells.  For ten years I’ve watched this kind of pick-up do better than traditionally submitted books.  From a business point of view, it makes sense: this person has proven that they can publish and sell, so if you give them a little push, who knows where they’ll end up?  But maybe it’s not a bad idea that a publisher also knows you have other options.  As Laurell K. Hamilton once told me “publishers are like men.  If you only have one, they’ll abuse the privilege.”  Now I’m not sure what that means about her relationships, but I know she’s right about publishers (except possibly Baen.)

3- So, what about Baen?  Why can’t I just go with them?

Well, Baen is ONE house.  And they publish rather specific stuff: sf/f and sf/f of a certain bend.  For instance, I thought they wouldn’t do well with Witchfinder because it’s so weird.  They might accept it because I’m their author, but it would be a bit odd with their very distinctive fan base (who read it anyway, but because it’s Goldport they know what to expect.)  And if you’re not already their author and are doing something like mystery or thriller with no supernatural elements (or even if you ARE their author) they’ll not be able to pick it up.

Also, Baen has a long reply time.  Also, Baen might prefer to not pick up a totally untried writer when indie successes would like to publish with them.  Or at least they’d prefer tried properties.  Can you blame them?

4- But there’s no money in indie!

Well, for the last two years, when I have been almost completely sidelined traditionally, I’ve been making better than my average before I went indie.  From Amazon.  I’m not getting rich or anything, but those are the reprints, and they’re still nothing to sneeze at.  (Around 15k a year, or a little more.)  My first indie published novel got me the same I got from traditional in the first three months out.  BUT more than that, my friends with no publishing track record are making about the same or just a little less from their books.

5- But what if my book isn’t good enough?

Good enough according to whom?  Given their rate of flops, the fact a traditional publisher wants to publish it doesn’t mean it’s “good enough” for the public.  At best it means someone else took the responsibility for it if it’s a flop.  But not really, since if it’s a flop it’s ALWAYS the writer’s fault.

By all means make sure that you spelled everything right, and that you didn’t completely forget one of the subplots resolution (which sometimes happens traditional, too.)

But in the end what counts is if the book finds an audience.  And you can’t decide that.  As my husband is finding out, some people out there ARE waiting for a book just like his.

Put the book out and find out.  If you’re really afraid it sucks, (to quote Kris Rusch) use I.M.N. Idiot as a pen name.  But be prepared for Mr. or Ms. Idiot to be a ROARING success.

Go on, do it.

There’s gold in them there hills.

Murphy, please go home

When I was young and it seemed like one thing after another broke at the house, my parents would talk about how they wished the gremlin would go find someone else’s house to play in. After one particularly bad stretch of luck — the refrigerator door handle came off, the air conditioner broke and the sink backed up  and all on the same day — my mother actually made grabbing motions in the middle of the kitchen and marched out to the back fence and tossed her imaginary gremlin over the fence. If that wasn’t odd enough for a tween to watch, hearing her usually level-headed mother yell at the gremlin not to come back certainly was. Of course, when the neighbor whose yard she had tossed the “gremlin” into started complaining about things breaking down all of a sudden, we just looked at one another and tried not to burst out laughing.

That gremlin was Murphy, he of the bad luck fame. It is clear he has decided to track us down again. It doesn’t matter that years have passed since he last wreaked such havoc on the family. It certainly doesn’t appear to matter that we have moved — heck, I’ve moved at least four times since then. No, with the tracking ability of the best trained drug dog, he has taken up residency again and I am ready for him to leave. Bad enough he broke the garbage disposal (and man have those gone up in price since the last time I replaced one). Then it was my 13 month old iPad. Firmly and carefully encased in the best protective case I could find, it dropped three feet and the screen shattered in a zillion pieces.

Color me not happy but I could live. I used the iPad mainly to research while writing. I could transfer that over to the Kindle Fire or the Surface Pro 3. At least when I wasn’t at my desk and could simply hook the laptop up to multiple monitors. Noooo problem. Right?

Wrong.

Last week, the Fire HDX, 121/2 months after purchase but still under extended warranty, started acting up. Upon waking it would sometimes give me a blank screen or only half a screen. Sometimes everything would be all right. A soft reboot would send my saves in my e-books back two to three days minimum. But only on the Fire. If I checked on the laptop or the Surface Pro 3, the e-book would open to exactly where I’d left off. And then there was the wonderful overlay screen that would come up and tell me I was in full screen mode. Sometimes I could dismiss it and sometimes I couldn’t.

So, multiple phone calls to Amazon on Saturday and then they call me Sunday. They have the solution. There is the wonderful new software update that will “solve all the problems they are having with their Fire HDXs.” I kid you not. That is what the tech who called me said. Only one problem. Murphy’s cousin was visiting Amazon at the time and the webpage I had to go to in order to download the new update came up with an error message. Let me tell you, the tech really went into a tailspin then.

Fast forward to yesterday and the main reason for this rambling post. The update was finally available for download. Like a good customer, and because I was making copious notes and mad enough to call if anything went wrong, I downloaded the update and side-loaded it into my Fire HDX. Then I waited as it installed. So far, so good. Installation completed and I opened up the book I’d been reading.

And that is when things went downhill fast.

Murphy has now become a frigging programmer for Amazon. Worse, he is one who did not think about the impact of what he has done. You see, with the new update, there is a “feature” that is added to the Kindle app that “helps” you by offering to let you buy the next book in the series or buy the Audible version of the book so “you can listen along while you read”. I kid you not.

They have now put ads into their app and, glory of glories — not!, when you happen to activate the ad, it drops down from the top of the page and will cover up to 4 lines of text. Talk about throwing you out of the book. Oh, and it doesn’t disappear until you tap the page again and dismiss it.

So, yes, your Mad Genius, one of the Redheads of Doom, once again called Amazon. No, this is not something that can be turned off. It is a “feature”. No, it doesn’t cover the text. Oooh, sorry, it does. But we can’t do anything about it. No, we can’t roll your kindle back to the previous OS.

Head, meet desk.

As a reader, this pisses me off to no end. For one thing, I don’t want narration AS I’M READING. For another, if I accidentally tap the middle of the page, I don’t want an ad popping up to throw me out of the plot. But there is another issue that really bothers me. I paid to remove the “special offers” from my Fire. Why? Because I didn’t want ads. Now, even though I paid, I am getting ad. But, according to Amazon, these aren’t ads but are “additional features”.

GAAAAH!

From and author standpoint, it bothers me even more. I don’t want readers to think that I’ve authorized this sort of ad. I didn’t. I wasn’t consulted and, to the best of my knowledge, I’m not going to get any additional monies for purchases made through this new “feature”. It isn’t like clicking on an Amazon Associates link and making a purchase which will give me a very small percentage of the sales price. This is pure profit for Amazon.

More on that in a moment.

But it still not only violates the spirit of asking customers to pay to remove the special offers but, worse, it will upset our readers who, very possibly, blame us for this unwanted distraction. I don’t know about you but I’min the business of trying to keep my readers happy, not to upset them.

I don’t mind Amazon making a profit. It’s a huge corporation and it has to make money in order to continue doing what it does best. I appreciate all it has done to help indie authors and I have never been one to jump onto the Amazon Hater Bandwagon. But this is one of Amazon’s most boneheaded decisions in a very long time. I get wanting to direct customers to the next book in the series. But guess what, Amazon already does that with the page that pops up at the end of any e-book directing customers to where they can rate the book they’ve just finished and where they can see what else the author has for sale. The same sort of thing could be done for the Audible links. Heck, Amazon could include that information in what it gives in the popup that appears when you first open a book. It isn’t something that has to appear each and every time you happen to tap a page, whether by accident, to check your progress in the book or to be able to look up a word in the dictionary.

Add in a tear in my Achilles tendon and related problems that had caused and, well, Murphy the Gremlin can go visit someone else. I have books to write and it is hard to do when my tech keeps breaking and my body decides it needs to scream in pain.

So, does anyone know a good Gremlin extermination service they’d be willing to recommend?

On stereotypes

On stereotypes

It’s a word you’ll hear a lot of in the writing trade.
I believe it has something to do with Bang and Olufsen, or Bose, or dogs and birds (tweeters and woofers as they are colloquially known among the hoi polloi, like moi).

It must, like, be the opposite of monotype, because, like, a stereo’s got, like, two speakers and mono means one. And a monotype isn’t just hitting one key… it is the only one of its kind, absolutely unique, just like all of us.

Which of course is why modern litteratchewer sneers at it. It’s important to sneer in unison with modern Litteratchewer, or you will never be a unique voice in modern litteratchewer, you know. If you’re going to be ‘daring and innovative’ there are very strict rules! Do not dream of stepping outside of these boundaries or you will instantly be transformed into an evil reactionary, and no one in modern litteratchewer will have sex with you, or put you never-read novel on their coffee-table, before it begins its long sad journey to the thrift shop.

Of course… outside the dreams of the modern litterati, things are a little more complicated, and yet more comprehensible. Stereotypes – a word I believe derived from the Greek ‘stereos’ (and no, it’s not multiple recordings of slightly out of phase EU members complaining about austerity. That’s the Greek tragedy.) meaning ‘firm or solid’ and type – are both a blessing and curse in writing.

Stereotypes exist. “He was a stereotypical Greek”, “she was a stereotypical modern literary writer.” You know precisely what that is in your head (although it may not be the same in mine). Some fantasy authors have made a great success out of using the stereotype, as a kind of foundation onto which they build the character. David Eddings springs to mind. You may or may not like his books, but they worked for hundreds of thousands of people.

The word has (in some uses, usually when complaining about someone’s writing) come to mean formulaic, predictable. So for example you could predict in the last ten years out of Trad publishing, that the hero would be a kick-ass strong independent woman. The gay character – her sidekick and confidante — would be good, kind, supportive. The [insert POC flavor of the month] would be noble, strong, mentally acute friend of the hero/s. If the any of the above had to be American, they’d be hyphenated-American. The villain would of course be American (de-hyphenated for his sins) male, middle-aged, conservative, Christian, white and a mouth-breather. Naturally – because they all are in purely in the imagination of modern literati, where working men drink gin — misogynists, rapists, probably pedophiles and insane. Oh and they like guns, weapons, fighting, which oddly enough, they are defeated in the use of by the vegan heroes who abhor violence.

Now, I think it is pretty obvious that these stereotypes exist as ‘real’ or ‘firm’ only in the head of the writer and those of similar beliefs. It’s got almost zero probability of being accurate. It’s predicable, formulaic, but not accurate. It’s a world of difference from the stereotype ‘all Latins have darker skins, and typically black hair and brown eyes, get very voluble and use a lot of hand gestures, and eat garlic.’ That’s not universally true either, but has at least a reasonable probability of being right at least on several points, and is not necessarily derogatory (I love garlic).

However, even wildly inaccurate to downright stupid formulaic predictable (since when have these last two indicated writing failure?) types of stereotypes work for writers too. At least, they work well with the UK and it seems NY acquiring editors, and their ‘client’ literati inner circle. They work for the simple reason that they’re saying precisely what those readers WANT to hear. They confirm their own biases and bigotry. Although in practice they don’t actually KNOW any of the kind of people they want to believe this about… and it is logically impossible to support their beliefs, they believe it emphatically. As Prof Jonathan Haidt demonstrated so well, the Left wing – which is almost all of Traditional publishing, are much more ignorant of the Right (or anyone outside their circle) than vice versa.

The problem starts when the book goes beyond this circle. If you’re only trying to sell to that circle: go for it. It’ll be beloved, and the same as much to a book stereotyping any group, Right, Left, off somewhere in third dimension… they will enjoy relaxing into their familiar dislikes and likes. Unfortunately, for sf/fantasy/horror to be a major success, the book HAS to sell outside ANY major division, and indeed to people who don’t buy a lot of any of those genres. Probably, to people who don’t buy a lot of books.

When your stereotypes are likely to offend those outside your ‘circle of fellow believers’ … it had better be a great, great story. That happens, but not often.

I don’t flatter myself as that great a writer, that I venture into this territory. Besides, while stereotypes – at least if they’re accurate and not just your biases, exist, at most they should be a foundation to help a writer to build more on. If I say a character has Latin looks and temperament, I don’t have to explain that and certain actions flow logically from that. I’m inclined to write about and build real people from people I have met and details I’ve picked up… and while someone may have all the stereotypical characteristics, Mr or Mrs or Ms Average is actually a rare bird, and quite boring.

What brought this up BTW was yet another stereotypical Guardian UK Puppy kicking. I’m not going to bother to provide the link because it was just the usual: Make shit up, because fact checking is too hard, and straw puppies are much easier to demolish than trying the real thing. Make snide implications about Puppies being Nazis (we are storm troopers) and cheat. You’ve read it all before, it’s been fisked to death. What caught my attention was something about the writer’s voice or style. It seemed oddly familiar, and not quite the same as the usual contributor (cats make contributions to cat-boxes too). So I bothered to look at the name: Sarah Lotz. It took a while for the penny to drop – sorry, slow-brained monkey. A month or so ago I got given her breakout novel, by a friend with one of those carefully neutral expressions on his ugly mug.

He said “Here. This is by another South African.”

I said, as I always do… “I’m Australian, mate.”

He laughed a lot, but granted I was trying a damn sight harder than most people born here.

It’s true enough. I understand Algis Budrys’s comment from a different age (1950’s), in his ‘Rouge Moon’ about “the fierce patriotism of the new American” of an escapee from the Soviet Union – Budrys, himself from Lithuania understood this too well (except I am a new Australian, but I understand that gratitude and feeling I owe my new country a debt of it I can never entirely repay).

I read… well read a bit and then skim-waded to see if it ever reached a worthwhile resolution (not IMO). It was not to my taste, an appeared to be taking a ghoul-like advantage of the sadness and sorrow, and car-wreck fascination with passenger plane crashes. It was sort of somewhere on the line of Sclazi’s Lock in – more a psychological thriller than horror or sf, and in a style cloned from some successful Zombie book, using bits of made up media. (snark on/ I guess that made her shoo-in for writing in the Guardian. Snark off/). But what I remember most about the book – she got vast support from her UK publisher including sending her to the US on a book tour, and media support and promotion in all the usual suspects of the client circle – EW (I think it was the same author who did the hit piece on the pups – incestuous bunch), I09, Tor.com, the Guardian… was that I found she ticked all the stereotype boxes so perfectly. Her grasp of – and antipathy towards — Americans is so very typically upper-middle class South African white, particularly in the Arts and left of SA politics. Like the PC of the story it was bad enough to make my teeth hurt… because I actually know an American or two, from across the spectrum, and know how complex the country and people are. Well, that was me. It’s obviously very appealing to a probably very similar class in London. Maybe even in the US.

Curiously, the very Australian friend who gave it to me, did not like it. Neither did I. Different people like different things, I suppose.

Despite the hype, the push (and her poorly concealed fury that her chance at a crony-in-crowd Hugo is hurt by the puppies)… I’d never heard of her or the book that they all reckoned was going to be the next big thing. It was on the coat-tails of two air disasters, about air disasters. It had tons of expensive push, loads of media support.

So why didn’t it fly? (Well, besides being afraid to?)

It could be that the style is just too confusing or that there are too many POVs.

Or it could be the stereotyping that many readers found offensive. Stereotyping’s a tool, like a rifle. It can be used well, and in the right place. Or not.

Something to keep in mind when write your next book.

Marketing and support services for authors – a survey

Dorothy and I have been talking at some length about her plans to set up a consultancy service for writers in relation to marketing and author support. Unfortunately, based on market research she’s done so far, it seems that many authors aren’t clear about what assistance they want, don’t know how they want it to be delivered, and aren’t sure whether (and/or how much) they’re willing to pay for it. Accordingly, we decided it would probably be best to lay out the problems here, and ask all our members and readers to respond with their ideas. If we all put our heads together, we might come up with something workable.

Many authors complain that their books don’t achieve the sales success they’d expected or hoped for. The reasons for this often are not clear. In many cases it’s simply because the books are poorly positioned and/or poorly publicized – which is where marketing comes in. Let me give you some examples from my own experience.

  • I took a SWAG as to what keywords to use for my first two or three books (essential to help potential readers find them when searching for books in their areas of interest). They sold reasonably well, but could have done much better. This was proved when Dorothy (who understands search engines and optimization very well) analyzed the keywords I was using and pointed out that books on similar subjects were using keywords more closely tailored to the book and to potential readers’ tastes. After she modified my keyword selections, my sales went up by over 25% across the board.
  • I was mainly publicizing my books through my blog and through asking friends to mention them on their social media accounts. This had some success, but again, not as much as I would have liked. Dorothy investigated the major marketing services available (e.g. BookBub, etc.) and Amazon’s internal marketing offerings (Kindle Countdown Deals, Free Book Promotions and Advertising for KDP Select). She then used several of these tools and services to publicize my more recent releases, with greatly improved results.

Those are only a couple of the areas in which Dorothy and I have worked together to investigate and analyze options for improved market penetration.

The trouble is, many authors don’t analyze such factors at all – or, if they do, they regard it as a burden on their time compared to the job of writing the books and getting them out there. I’ve seen a lot of advice on the Internet along the lines of “If your latest book doesn’t sell, perseverance is the key! Get stuck into writing the next one!” Unfortunately, while that may be a good creative strategy, it’s a very poor business strategy – and we’re in the business of writing. If we don’t analyze where and how we’re going wrong, marketing-wise, how will we ever put things right? Furthermore, actually conducting that analysis involves giving someone a fair amount of information about what you’re doing – either gathering it ourselves (which may take a fair amount of effort), or giving others access to our Amazon account and/or other outlets’ accounts so that they can gather it for us (which is a security risk if we don’t know the person involved). Many authors don’t want to ‘give away their secrets’, even if that’s the only way to get an objective analysis of where they are and how they can improve their marketing.

So, dear fellow authors – what do you want? We really need your honest, in-depth answers to the following questions.

  1. What author services and marketing assistance do you, personally, need?
  2. What author services and marketing assistance are you, personally, willing to pay for?
  3. How much are you willing to pay? (Think in terms of either an hourly rate, or a ‘package price’ for a marketing support deal for a single book – input on cover design, genre and keyword selection, marketing and publicity, etc.)
  4. What do you not want in the way of author services and marketing assistance? Are there things you simply insist on doing for yourself, or in which you want to retain a right of veto? (It’s no good paying someone to come up with an idea that you will then reject – neither of you will be satisfied.)

As an example, let me tell you what assistance I’m willing to pay for in terms of author support and marketing:

  • Manuscript pre-publication preparation and formatting;
  • Cover image selection, layout and design;
  • Composition of blurb, selection of cover reviews and advertising copy;
  • Genre and keyword positioning;
  • Publicity (selection of channels and tools for marketing and advertising);
  • Analysis of sales and fine-tuning of market positioning based on performance;
  • Ongoing analysis of the genres and markets in which I operate, so as to revisit earlier books and modify their marketing elements as necessary to accommodate changing trends.

To do all that, I’ll happily pay $500 to $1,000 per book, in advance, and regard it as cheap at the price. It’ll pay for itself before long, and my overall sales will be all the greater thanks to such assistance. For the lower figure, I’ll have to deal with some of those areas myself; for the higher sum, I’ll generally expect all of them to be covered by the consultant. In either case I’ll have regular discussions with the person(s) doing the work, including the right to veto elements that I don’t like; but I must, in my turn, respect their professional expertise, and acknowledge that they may know more than I do about what works, or doesn’t work, in particular areas. Therefore, selecting the right person is critical. (I selected the best . . . in fact, I married her!)

What say you? What areas would you like to hand off to a consultant or assistant? How would you prefer to handle market research, positioning, etc.? Please let us know your perspective in Comments.

Thanks!

Of Magickanica and Machination, Part 2

Part, the Second

“Truly? Two ambushes?” Art demanded of the universe at large. “It defies reason!”

“To speak nothing of probability,” Nelline sounded as though she might swoon.

Heavy, clanking footsteps scraped across the stone floor toward them.

“Magae Comelissa will be returning with me to Mekeigos, there to answer to Annemnos Aesymnetes for her crimes. You will turn over to me the formulae, and then you and Trank will likely remain undiscovered until Master Namboro has occasion to check this warehouse for rats.” The clanking stopped just in front of Art, and the lights in front of them died, revealing a magichanical suit of armor more sophisticated than the Victus they’d left behind.

A suit with the face of a man.

A face time had not loved. Art knew the man to be a handful of years his junior, but a lifetime of harsh work and bitterness showed in the lines carved deep into his skin, in the taut stretch of skin over bone, and in the fanatic’s eyes blazing out of his skull.

His suit was an odd creation fashioned to imitate a cuirassier’s steel coat of centuries previous. If, perhaps, such a warrior were nearly seven feet tall with clawed hands and feet.
The metaphor needed work, perhaps.

Interestingly, the suit looked incomplete: Art could see his boots and the cuffs of his trousers through the shining rods and linkages. In the same way, his shirtsleeved arms thrust into a bizarre marriage of blacksmith gloves and the contents of a mechanist’s toolbox. Art was nearly certain he could see a drill bit in the mess. Vapor puffed quietly from a small, hooded tube jutting from the massive assembly on the man’s back.

At a word from the suited man, two more similarly attired men dropped from the shadows to land behind them. These two had more the look of thugs than zealots, and their suits weren’t nearly as sophisticated as the first man’s.

“Well-a-day,” Art said, keeping the fury and, yes, fear he felt, out of his voice. “Mallar, see you: it’s our old friend, Markos Antarkos, here to greet us. Unfortunate in that whole rhyming name thing, old boy,” Art slowed his usual speaking tone to a low drawl and was rewarded when his adversary ground his teeth. He sensed Mallar tightening in preparation for action. “By the by, Markos, what formulae? The lovely Nelline mentioned something of the sort earlier, but for the life of me I don’t have the first clue what you’re mouthing about.”

Tool ends folded back, leaving a bare – if armored – glove, as Markos took another hissing, heavy step forward. The glove shot out, and Art braced himself for the blow. Instead of impacting on his chest, the thing closed over the front of his coat and jerked him into the air.

“You stole revolutionary magical formulae from the office of Dottore Atrianni, unbeliever,” Markos grated out. Even at arm-length, Art could smell the remnants of the Mekeigan’s lunch, which had been heavy on garlic. “You then slunk away and stole Don Marrenti’s favorite-”

“He’s got others, he shouldn’t miss one.”

The over-powered agent shook Art, rattling his teeth.

“-favorite auto-carriage, created great mayhem in the Doge’s city, and finally conspired with an Enemy of Mekeigos-”

“I am not!” Indignation flared in Nelline’s voice.

“You are now, Serra!” Markos glared at her past Art’s shoulder.

“It’s not what it looks like?” Insouciance dripped from Art’s words, and he was gratified at the fury burning in the Mekeigan’s dark eyes. “Besides, dear fellow, you still haven’t told me what I’m supposed to have stolen. Mallar and I simply had a bit of a chat with the Dottore – old friends: you know how it is – and then departed. The only thing taken, the tea in our bellies.”
“I took a pastry for later,” Mallar confessed.

“And you will be beaten for it, foul villein, within an inch of your life,” Art retorted, “but later, as these fine gentlemen are of delicate constitution, and the blood might well send them earth-ward in a faint.”

“Blood!” Nelline’s blurted word drew all eyes.

“That’s hardly the sort of language a lady should be using, don’t you think?” Art quipped. “Despite our rather desperate straits.”

Ignoring him, she pointed at a device on Markos’ left gauntlet. An inward curving blade rode alongside the Mekeigan’s forearm, mounted to his suit by a set of curving rails and shining rods. It reminded Art of nothing so much as a claw from some monstrous, steel cat. It was also smeared with dried blood. Markos’ eyes flicked a glance at the cruelly sharp weapon.
“The Dottore had to be persuaded to recant his lies that he’d freely given this filthy-”

“I bathe,” Art protested, and was shaken for his pains.

“-thief a lockbox containing the formulae. This filth-”

“You’re repeating yourself,” Art interjected. Mallar grunted a laugh, and Art was shaken. Again.

“-does murder and worse and thinks he can get away with it because he’s clever. I will not have it!”

At such a close vantage, Art saw the veins pounding in Markos’ temples. Flecks of foam dotted his fury-reddened face around his generous lips, and Art smiled inwardly.

“Not just because I’m clever, old man,” he said in his most urbane tone, relishing the moment. “I’m also quite charming, you know.”

For an instant, he though he’d gone too far. Markos’ left eye twitched in a manner most disturbing, and the wicked claw on his free hand slid in and out of its cage seemingly independent of conscious control. Art wondered distantly if his blood was to shortly join the Dottore’s.

“But- but you couldn’t have been there! I watched them leave the Dottore’s apartments, and nobody went in until I did.”

At Nelline’s confused interjection the berserker madness faded from Markos’ eyes. Art thanked the gods as a few of the knots in his gut untied themselves.

“Magae,” scorn weighted Markos’ rough voice, “you of all people should know of what magichanica is capable. Ascending the wall to Atrianni’s window is simple when you rely not upon your own strength, but upon that of forged steel and magical formulae.” He drove his free hand into the side of the crate next to him with the sound of rending wood and a shower of splinters. He withdrew it with another crack and held it up before him. Slivers clung to the congealing blood along the claw and caught the light.

“You, you killed the Dottore? Because he gave formulae to Captain Caelish?”

A note in Nelline’s voice set alarm bells ringing in Art’s mind. Whomever the good Dottore had been to Markos, he’d obviously been someone else entirely to Nelline Comelissa, Magae of Mekeigos. The skin between Art’s shoulder-blades crawled, and he wished he could see the petite woman’s face. Unfortunately, the grip Markos maintained on his coat prevented him from turning his head that far.

Markos turned a surprised expression on Nelline.

“Why, no, Magae. The Dottore killed himself. When he chose to betray the will of Annemnos Aesymnetes, Atrianni proclaimed the necessity of his death to the universe.” The Mekeigan agent sounded genuinely perplexed by Nelline’s surprise. “That I was chosen to be the instrument of that will is an accident of circumstances, though I’d never shirk my duty.” He glared at Art, who assayed an insolent shrug.

Inwardly, Art was stunned. When they’d left Atrianni, the man had been calm, even relaxed. When Nelline informed them of his death, he’d been shocked. When Markos had admitted to wielding the knife, and then in the same breath absolved himself of any culpability in the gruesome death of a man not even a citizen of his own city, Art’s slow temper had started to burn. Even now he found himself looking over his enemy for a weakness to exploit.

It was truly a pity the magichanical suit came with a steel codpiece.

“You killed Dottore Atrianni because he sold formulae to the Republic.” Nelline’s calm – almost serene – tone set Art’s guts to knotting in a way Markos’ threats never could. A soft scuff of a shoe told him Mallar was trying to put as much distance between himself and the rest of them as he could.

Markos blinked.

“Magae,” he explained slowly, as though to a child, “the man killed himself when he chose against Mekeigos. Much like this fool. That it is my duty to be the tool in both their deaths is not my doing, but neither will I go against the requirements laid upon me. In the same way, you will return to face the punishment for your crimes.”

“Menigarius was still a young man,” Nelline’s voice sank nearly to a whisper, and every instinct honed over years of reading marks told Art he needed to be far away. “There was every reason to expect great advances from him for years to come. There were even noises he’d been invited to study at Kortas Ruhk.”

“Serra,” Impatience rippled through Markos’ tone. “When an individual acts against the demands of Mekeigos as the epitome of true governance, that individual must be held up as an example. We do not belong to ourselves, but exist for the furtherance of all. You don’t seem to understand-”

“No! You don’t understand!”

The actinic flash gave Markos no time to prepare; Nelline’s Power cracked, sending the Mekeigan fanatic flying backward to crash into and through one of the pillars holding up the ceiling, despite his massive suit. Fortunately for Art, the magae’s tame lightning jolted Markos hands open, dropping the Welfraian to the floor with no more injury than some distressing tears in his favorite coat.

Art blinked to focus his much-abused eyes and snaked his hand inside his coat for his repeater. As he spun, he heard a grunt from Mallar, and a more muted crack of Power from Nelline, accompanied by a slightly less-blinding flash of light.

As his vision cleared, Art took in the chaos before him. One suited thug lay crumpled in the shattered wreckage of yet another crate. The foot-long splinter standing out of one eye suggested he wasn’t likely to be interfering further. Nelline stared at him in horror, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Mallar knelt on hands and knees, blood dripping from his face matching that on the gauntlet of the remaining henchman. The henchman, face a mask of battle-rage and fear, swung one claw-suited foot back and aimed a kick at the kneeling man’s head.

Art’s arm swung up without conscious volition, and his repeater bucked in his grip without him registering the bark as it fired. Sparks flew as his bullet spanged off the thug’s steel hat, snapping his head to one side and replacing his furious expression with one of shock. The inches-long claws on his suited foot whistled as they whipped just past Mallar’s groggy face.
“Hah,” Art crowed.

The suited thug crouched and extended one arm in front of him. Steam hissed, gears whined and metal slats fanned out to snap into a circular shield of overlapping blades, which he held in front of his head. Art snapped off another pair of shots, and his heart sank as the heavy slugs ricocheted off the barrier.

The thug, emboldened by Art’s impotence, rose to his feet and extended a blade from his other arm nearly identical to the one Markos had used on Atrianni. He advanced again on Mallar, blade cocked back to strike, shield interposed between himself and Art.

A vision of the immediate future flashed in front of Art’s eyes. With Trank dead and unable to provide timely antidote, the quiet poison flowing through Art’s veins would awaken, and life would become truly hellish. He had no desire to experience that again.

Art cursed and dropped his trusty pistol. A quick stride and a lunge sent him careening into Trank. He wrapped his arms around his still-dazed partner and rolled, pulling the two of them out of range of the cruel blade, albeit momentarily.

An inconveniently placed crate met Art’s skull with a sound impressively like a leather-wrapped stone hitting a hollow log. The sound carried on for a goodly while somewhere between Art’s ears as he disinterestedly watched Markos’ remaining associate move toward them.

The man’s clanking steps echoed mutedly somewhere in the distance as Art tried with detached desperation to flog his thoughts into a semblance of coherence. The Mekeigan agent’s eyes assumed a killer’s disinterest as he raised his bladed gauntlet and inspected the single claw.

Art’s stunned mind watched with absent horror as a fiery gleam limned the suited agent with an orange glow. The low hum of his suit’s compact boiler rose into a demon’s hellish shriek, and the calm detachment in the agent’s face turned to horror as he began to claw at his back.

A split-second later, the agent’s scream joined that of his suit in hideous dissonance. The suit’s howl rose until it was a barely audible whine that set Art’s teeth buzzing in his skull. The stink of hot metal mixed with burning wool and pork assaulted his nostrils, and Art had just enough presence of mind to turn his head away. A thunderous roar deafened him and he felt a hand of force push him against the floor.

When Art returned to himself, he looked up to see what was assuredly a portion of the Mekeigan thug’s suited foot embedded by the claws in the crate near his head. Impressed by the violence, and a little nauseated, he rolled over to see a scorched spot on the stone floor and no sign of Nelline.

Art rolled to hands and knees and heaved himself to his feet. After hauling Mallar up to join him, he looked around for the missing magae and his dropped pistol. The latter he discovered a few steps away. He sighed as he examined it; the fall had bent the front sight out of alignment. He growled in irritation, even as his hands went through the automatic routine of reloading and holstering the weapon.

A sharp oath and the smell of wood smoke jerked Art’s head up. Fragments of exploded magichanica sent flames licking over seasoned wood crates throughout the expansive warehouse. Art’s pulse pounded in time to the thudding pain in his head.

“Cap’n, we’ve got no more’n a few ticks before this whole place is a giant bonfire.”

“Inferno, Mallar,” Art corrected. “Or conflagration. But giant bonfire? What shall I do with you?”

“Survive more fights, I expect, sir.” No sign of the pain he must be feeling showed on Trank’s face. Art shrugged, unwilling to concede the point, despite the obvious truth of it.

“Where’s the magae,” he asked instead.

“Here,” came the thready reply from behind him.

Nelline tottered out from behind a large crate. Exhaustion etched deep lines in her too-pale face, adding years to her appearance. The fracas had completely disheveled her dark hair, and her hands shook as she approached them on unsteady feet.

“Serra Comelissa,” Mallar said, bowing deeply. When she looked at him in stunned surprise, he explained. “You saved all our lives with your Power.”

“Oh.” Surprise, horror and pride mingled in her countenance. “Thank you?”

“No, Nelline,” Art said. “Thank you. I doubt we could have overcome the Mekeigan agents on our own. Truly, we’re more simple messengers than stalwart warriors. Without your astonishing abilities, we’d undoubtedly have died here today.”

“Which we still might,” Mallar muttered.

“Oh,” Nelline repeated, responding to Art. “I, I suppose I’ve killed three men today. The hardest part was adapting the formulae to avoid scorching the flesh from my hands. I can see how there may be some changes in applied magichanical metallurgy in the days to come. I’m not certain whether I’m horrified by my actions, or by the thought that I’m glad such horrible people are dead.”

She patted her sides, as though looking for something. Her bright tone and absent expression concerned Art. “I really do need to write these changes down before I forget them.”

At the last word, Nelline’s green eyes rolled up in her head and she pitched forward in a faint. Art lunged forward to catch her before she could fall to the hard stone floor, and swept her small form up into his arms.

“Thought she’d never shut up,” Mallar’s concerned tone belied his harsh words. He looked about at the no-longer-minor flames chewing through the well-seasoned wood. “Time to go, Cap’n?”
“Time and long since, rapscallion.”

The two men headed back the way they’d entered, and arrived at the parked Victus in short order. Art nodded, and Mallar leaned in to hit the starter button on the magnificent contraption. The low hum of the boiler rose in a howl unpleasantly similar to the exploded suit’s, and the two Andrine agents jerked back in alarm. A muffled cough sounded under the Victus’ engine hood, and dark smoke rose from the vents.

Mallar swore.

“On foot, then, it seems,” Art wasn’t as nonplussed as he sounded. He admitted to himself he was having enormous fun.

The third of the doors leading from the room opened onto a lobby and then to the street. A few seconds with his set of tools, and Mallar had the door open. Art charged into the street, delighted to see a pair of the Doge’s guards walking along the other side of the road.

“Fire!” Art’s shout had the desired effect of drawing all eyes to himself. “Fire in the warehouse! Namboro and Sons promises a month’s wage to all who extinguish it!”

The lie, couched in fear with a touch of desperation and projected in an upper-class Altierestan accent, spread through the crowd much like the fire in the building behind them. Soon, a special chaos ruled the street, and Art was pleased to see the Doge’s men scamper off in search of reinforcements.

“And now, my dearly detested comrade,” he told Mallar, “we simply walk away.”

The two agents strolled down a convenient alley.

“What about the magae, Cap’n?” Mallar indicated the unconscious woman in Art’s arms. His tone left no doubt that he was concerned about Nelline’s fate. “Don’t seem right to leave her in the street.”

“And no more shall we. The safe-house should have an easily alterable cover identity for her. I imagine a Mekeigan magae deemed an Enemy of the State could find employment nearly anywhere else. We can make the offer when she wakes up. Until then, we go to the safe-house. We’ll pick up our new covers, a change of clothes, and airship tickets home. When we reach the aerodrome, we can purchase one for her, if she’s amenable.”

“And if she’s not?”

“Burn that bridge when we come to it, I expect.”

Mallar looked over his shoulder at the rising pall of smoke from the warehouse.

“Bit unfortunate turn of phrase, there, Cap’n. Namboro may not want to help us in the future.”

Art looked over his shoulder as a squad the Doge’s guards thundered past. He shrugged.

“Who knows? Perhaps they’ll manage to put out the fire.”

*I know I’m supposed to put links up. I don’t have time this morning, as Saturday mornings are actually pretty busy around the Dave household.*

Of Magicanicha and Machination, Part 1

*My apologies. I was finishing up a workout when I realized today was my day, and the WordPress mobile interface leaves much to be desired. This is the first half of the story I submitted for last year’s Baen adventure fantasy contest. It was apparently found lacking, but I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless.*

Part, the First

“What happened to me, Mallar?” Artringen Cailesh asked, snapping off a quick shot with his Talmon and Findersin repeating pistol.

Answering bullets from the Doge’s guards whanged off the ancient paving stones of the the Via Pandrenaea as the two men fled from the authorities in their commandeered Victus. The delightful machine was creating a new sensation on the Sea of Tears. Produced in the smoldering abyss of Milcarth’s premier manufactories, the self-powered conveyance handily outran the two-man horse-drawn carriages.

It wasn’t nearly so good at corners, he observed as the machine careened around just such a thing at not quite top speed. Sparks sprayed from underneath them as the squat man next to Art yanked hard at the lever between them. The rear of their magichanical steed shimmied back and forth as Mallar fought it for control.

“Not sure just what you mean, sir.” Mallar Trank crouched low over the Victus’ steering yoke as cracks from behind them gave warning the Doge’s best still sought to bring their wild ride to a screaming, rending halt. Art’s compatriot – of sorts – was a block of a man, nearly as wide as he was tall. Traces of a childhood misspent on the docks of Welfrai still graced his speech. Odds were good the two men had tried to beat each other into pulp as boys. Which lent their current circumstance a certain delicious irony.

“I mean, oh keeper of my hope of a future, that I used to be a thief in good standing.” The jouncing as the Victus’ stiff wheels jolted over the cobbled street shuddered its way up into Art’s spine, and roused once again in him serious thoughts of walking away from the whole nonsense.

“Beggin’ your pardon, Captain,” Mallar yanked the yoke to the left, sending Art’s next shot wide. “But you still are, and in even better standing that you was a year gone.”

“Careful, Mallar!” A note of command crackled in Art’s voice. “I don’t want to hit an innocent because you spoiled my aim.”
“Aye, Cap’n,” the shorter man said, phlegmatic as always. “Thought it might be a good thing to not hit the old lady crossing the street.”

“Also that, jackanapes,” Art grunted. He could feel the slight smile that was the only break in Mallar’s typically stoic demeanor.

The lead carriage jerked to the side as it, too, avoided the stooped grandmother in the middle of the street. Both woman and driver swore up a storm. Art grinned. He lined up the T&F’s sights on the driver’s helmet as buildings and people whipped through his peripheral vision. The silly hat was an old fashioned morion, with an upstanding comb. Could he hit that, the two might yet walk away from this unpleasantness.

“Hold her steady, Mallar,” he ordered out of the side of his mouth. “I’m going to try something slightly clever.” He ignored the snort from his companion. The man had almost no sense of panache. The jolting motion of the Victus smoothed – ever so slightly – and Art drew up the slack on the repeater’s trigger.
He let his conscious mind drift, the riotous colors, smells and sounds of their mad run through Altierestes’ commercial districts fading away, until only the fuzzy gleam of the late-afternoon sun on the guard’s helmet and the much sharper bead of the front sight of his T&F filled his vision. Breath slowed, finger tightened on the trigger, and –
CRACK.
No obliging ruckus ensued. Carriages, horses and men disobediently continued thundering along in their wake, instead of piling up in a mess on the cobbles.

“Care to try again, Cap’n?” Mallar didn’t have the courtesy to turn his head. Or even smirk as Art’s jaw hung in dismay.

“I shall have to improve the quality of the service around here, Ser Trank.” Art sighed and shifted to the left horse of the lead carriage. He hated to do it. Shooting an animal who had no choice but to be chasing him turned his stomach. Unfortunately for the beastie in question, the prospect of spending a short eternity in the Doge’s prison chilled his entire being. He took careful aim again, and let go of the world to focus on the target.

When a nudge from the side spoiled both his aim and his mood. He snarled at his cohort, who – typically – ignored his fit of pique and pointed with one finger of the hand still gripping the steering yoke.

Pointed at a heavy drover’s cart laden with barrels moving slowly down the street ahead of them.

Art’s eyes lit up and he spun in the seat to aim forward. He was doubly glad of the goggles strapped over his eyes as air rushed over his face, yanking his hair about and threatening to choke him with his own scarf. Frod’s Rapid Conveyances ought to put a pane of glass – suitably reinforced, of course – in front of the driver and passenger. Of course, had they done so already, he’d have had to lean out to get a shot, which would have made his life immeasurably more complicated right at that moment.

Art’s point of aim was the box containing the mechanism holding the rear gate closed. He’d commandeered a cart of the same make once in a job – before he was obliged to go to work for the legitimate authorities – and had discovered that a blow of sufficient force would not only cause the gate to release, but also drop the rear of the cart by a solid foot. Intended to assist stevedores in loading and unloading, it would do to discourage their pursuers, as well.

If he could hit it.

“What I wouldn’t give for Bramonten’s favorite rifle right about now.” Some enterprising mind in Frod’s design shop had the decency to set a box into the passenger side of the Victus on the board housing the instruments. In this one, which he’d opened completely by accident – and a handheld lock picking tool – Art had found a pair of rather expensive leather gloves. He used these as padding between his wrists and the hard metal frame of the Victus, and took careful aim at the rapidly approaching release mechanism.

The madness of their flight disappeared until the world consisted of Art, the T&F’s sight, and his target. The CRACK of the pistol surprised him, as it always did on a good shot, and the gate control box on cart ahead obliged him by exploding in sparks as the heavy flat-nosed bullet punched through the thin metal casing and shredded the mechanism inside. The gate swung out and the cart shuddered on its chassis as heavy barrels rolled off the end to fall to the cobbled street.

They roared past the cart just before the barrels rolled across their path. The drover screamed obscenities and called down imprecations upon their heads in their wake. The guard driving the lead carriage had a bare moment to gape before they ran headlong into the mess. And then the trailing carriage ran into them, leaving a twitching, heaving mass of horses, guardsmen, shattered carriages and equally shattered beer barrels. Art crowed and cocked a jaunty wave as they sped off through the city.

After several more sedate turns left the wreckage well out of sight, Art turned and clapped Mallar on the shoulder with a grin. The shorter man flicked a glance his way, and said, “Much better, that time, sir.”

“You wound me, Mallar. Deep in the heart and soul of me,” Art said, sounding remarkably unwounded. He cracked open the repeater, a top-break model, and the extractor ejected all seven shells from the cylinder. He separated the two empty casings from the unfired ones. Those went into a hidden, inner pocket of his coat, and retrieved two more unfired shells from a row of loops sewn into the lining of another pocket. With all seven chambers filled with their own little bundles of mayhem, Art snapped the repeater closed and tucked it back in the holster under his right armpit. “Ah. What is this place?”

Mallar directed the Victus up a short ramp and into an opening in the side of a building. Art could see a small crowd pulling handcarts laden with fresh produce and handicrafts into the space in front of the door. Four burly gents dressed as farmers – but for the cleanliness of their skin and the lack of dung clinging to their rough shoes – lifted the ramp upright and then slid a door across the opening, plunging the still-humming Victus and its passengers into darkness.

“This, Captain, is where we get off.”

A light appeared in the darkness, illuminating a vulpine face topped with a dark bob haircut. Large, green eyes regarded them solemnly for a moment, the amber light shining off them bringing the fox-like cast of the woman’s features into striking relief. Eyes that narrowed as her fingers curled around the light in her hand. It was an odd, little device. He’d heard of galvanic torches made portable by a single person, but most of those created in manufactories still bulked large. Sorcerer artificers occasionally made smaller things, but such cost the proverbial arm and leg. Certainly too much for the Senator to authorize one for the use of a minor agent.

“Captain? I was told to expect a merchant and his manservant, not an officer and batman.” Her voice remained smooth, and clear of emotion despite the suspicion her features evinced.
“And no more are we,” Art lied. Instincts honed by a lifetime spent in distinct skepticism of authorities prompted him to betray as little information into untried hands as possible. “Ah, madame, Megarde and I used to work for the Afforala Combine. Flying airships. When we both left their service, he signed on with me, in a strictly, ah, civilian capacity.” He smiled, as much to get the emotion into his voice as because he thought she could see it. “He still calls me ‘Captain,’ though, out of habit.”

The woman stared at him through the darkness, inscrutable as she pondered his glib untruths. After a pause pregnant with deep currents, the light grew brighter, and she spoke.
“I am called Nelline, ‘Captain,’ and I will be your guide to the place of safety.”

Mallar tensed beside Art as she spoke. Something was wrong.

Nelline approached the Victus as her light increased, and part of the wrongness sent a chill down Art’s spine. The light shone from a small, luminescent ball hovering over her palm. A fairly common exercise of Power it might be, but that still meant they dealt with a sorceress.

And no sorceress should have been sent to lead them to the safe-house. No Power-wielder should have been: their abilities were held far too dear to send them into harm’s way like that. Moreover, a Senator’s agent should have known their true identities, rather than expecting their covers.

“Please, gentlemen,” she said, her sphere now luminescent enough to confine shadows in the far corners of the room. She stepped toward the still-humming Victus, her expression opaque. “It is important to get your burden safe.”

Her free hand twitched as though she was about to reach out toward them, and then stilled as though with conscious effort. Art wondered, in an academic manner, at her self-control. He presumed a Power-wielder would have to be rather disciplined, given the dangers inherent to the practice. Similar to his previous endeavors, really, thought of which brought an ambivalent roil of emotion to his gut.

“Burden, Serra?” Mallar said, as he opened the small door in the side of the vehicle. Art did likewise on his side, and they both stepped out. “Not sure just what you mean by that. Ser’s luggage ‘as already been removed to the aerodrome for the trip home to Afforala.”

Nelline’s shapely brows drew together, creating a fetching crinkle in the skin of her forehead as she absorbed this falsehood. Art wondered just how much she knew about them.
“That’s … I mean,” she started, when Mallar stumbled stepping out of the Victus.

The squat man lurched against the vehicle. Art slipped his hand inside his coat to grasp the butt of his repeater. Nelline reached out toward Mallar with her free hand. As though she meant to help him, Art thought.

Without warning, Trank lunged toward the slight woman. He was the best close-in fighter Art had ever met. The two sparred regularly as part of their partnership, and the shorter man took him four falls out of five. And Nelline couldn’t have weighed half what the former dockside ganger did.

The sorceress jerked back as he bore down on her, surprise writ large on her expressive face. A fat, blue spark leapt with a CRACK from her hand to contact Mallar’s hip, flinging him against the Victus hard enough to dent the engine cover. Art froze as she turned her eyes to him. Her huge, terrified, furious, green eyes.

The smell of lightning and the stench of singed wool hung heavy in the room as the two stared at each other, to the sound of Mallar Trank’s labored breathing.

“D-don’t move!” The sorceress’ voice matched the her emotional eyes. Art’s pulse rocketed, certain now she was some odd amateur, mixed up in actions that could get them both killed. A professional intelligencer such as his partner and him wouldn’t have wasted time ordering a motionless man to stop moving. Nor would such have been so shaken over dropping an attacker. There was no telling what the madwoman might do.

“I am, indeed,” Art forced the tension thrumming through him out of his voice, leaving it calm and measured, “not moving, Serra. I do hope you haven’t killed my man. Training a new one is always such an inconvenience, you see.”

Nelline’s eyes flared with their own inner light, and for a quick eternity, Art thought he’d just sentenced himself to painful death. The fingers of her off-hand actually began to glow with the same blue-white as the spark with had sent his partner sprawling. The petite sorceress’ nostrils flared and Art wondered what a lighting strike felt like. He debated pulling the repeater, but doubted he was fast enough. Marksman he might be, but he was no true quick-draw shootist, and knew it.

Mallar groaned in the stillness, and Art and Nelline both started at the noise. For a long moment, she stared down at the man she’d struck with her abilities. Art could see the conflict in her form; for a confidence artist of no small success, the tension and unease was practically shouted. It did not fill him with encouragement.

“Power for defense, and never attack,” Nelline muttered, in a slight sing-song that suggested rote memorization. “Poison is in the dose, and the Force which kills can also be the Force which heals. I will not attack, but only defend.” She took a shuddering breath and relaxed, if ever so slightly.

“The Berlammic Oath,” Mallar grunted from the other side of the Victus.

“You, you know the Oath?”

“Surely, Serra. First thing the Order of the Shining Light teaches its students. Along with making a glowball.” Mallar paused, not moving, that Art could hear. “Would you mind, terribly, if I got up?”

Nelline blinked, and the glow in her eyes doused. She stepped back with haste, keeping them both in sight.
“Slowly, Megarde; no more tricks.”

Art relaxed just a hair more. She’d regained some of her composure, confident she had them under control. Time to start undermining it.

“Tell me, Serra,” Art kept his voice light, “what is it you want with a somewhat well-to-do merchant and his manservant?”

She snorted.

“Merchant and his manservant,” she repeated. Her vision turned momentarily inward, her lips twisted, exposing small, even teeth in what could charitably be called a smile. “You are no more merchant than I am, Captain. Somewhat well-to-do merchants do not, as a rule, careen through cities in a brand new autocarriage, let alone a Victus!”

“Perhaps I did well in a business deal while visiting your lovely city.”

She raised an eyebrow, following it with a bark of laughter quickly silenced.

“Oh, truly. You did so well in your putative business – what is it, again, that you trade in, master merchant? – that you threw away all your profits-” her fiery gaze raked his just above average coat, “-and upset the Doge’s Guard with antics more often perpetrated by aristocratic scions than such sober businessmen as yourselves!”

“Ah, well, you know, Serra: trade has its ups and its downs. It is quite easy to lose one’s entire capital on a deal gone sour. Why, once – early on in my career, just after I parted ways with the Combine over the Galbarad Affair-” Though she quirked that eyebrow again, she didn’t otherwise react to his mention of the accidental death of an heir to the Carnelian Throne that had nearly enveloped the Sea of Tears in war. “-I invested-”

“Wagered,” Mallar muttered.

Art stared hard at the back of his partner’s head before rolling his eyes.

“Invested, I say, a sizable sum in a shipment of Talliver’s Jungle Snake furs from the Green Lands. The last word I heard from the convoy they’d just pushed off from their anchorage and were expecting fair winds through the Strait of Yultark heading to the great, cold north. It should have been easy money, but they got caught by the eruption of one of the Jade Isles near Mintanay. Which one was it, Megarde?”

Mallar’s shoulders artfully slumped.

“Dogache.” Art thought the disconsolate note in his voice quite well done; just the thing to suggest remembered pain.

“Dogache,” Art repeated, keeping his tone dismissive. Despite inserting a number of significant disasters into his brief soliloquy, natural as well as man-made, she’d reacted with nothing more than polite skepticism. “So you see, one can make or lose a fortune on what might seem like nothing to someone else. And when a fortune is made, spending on something, well, perhaps a bit extravagant could be in order.” He beamed at her, radiating nothing so much as honest good will.

“You’re a talented liar, Ser,” Nelline said, face closed but for a tightening of the delicate skin around her eyes. She backed into a corner, gesturing toward the closed door behind her with the illuminating hand. “Please, Sers, precede me from this place.”

“Cap’n?” Mallar turned his head just far enough to see Art out of the corner of his eye.

Art shrugged and pulled his empty hand out of his coat, then waved toward the wooden portal.

“Well, good Megarde, you heard the lady with the dangerous hand,” he winked at Nelline, who scowled in return.

Mallar stumped toward the door and jerked it open. Muttering what were no doubt curses couched in the dockside cant of his childhood, he swiveled his head around to bestow a truly cantankerous glare on Art. Warmed through, and delighted by the bizarre turn, he beamed back at his shorter companion.

“Liar, I may be, Serra. Most men are, I’ve noticed,” Art said as he sauntered around the Victus. He paused just on the other side, and reached inside the still-running vehicle. The kill switch cast a hush over the room. Art could hear the noise of the street outside muffled by the thick wooden door and masonry walls. At almost identical quizzical looks from Nelline and Mallar, he explained. “It just wouldn’t do to leave a magichanical device like this running. For one thing, it might explode. Rather unthinking way to treat the kind folk who provided such an excellent escape for us, no?”

His partner sighed and shrugged, turning back toward the dark doorway. Nelline looked slightly confused, but gestured toward the door.

Art stepped through into momentary darkness. When their diminutive captor followed, the light from her still-glowing hand showed him a nondescript corridor, off of which doors opened every half-dozen paces.

“Offices, I shouldn’t wonder. M- my man,” he covered, quickly, “do you suppose they have anything interesting inside?”

“This is the building of Namboro and Sons, Factors, Ser,” Nelline said before Mallar could respond, a touch of asperity making her voice curt. “No doubt these offices are full of papers, ledgers, records and all the various and sundry implements of trade. Interesting, no doubt, to a man such as yourself, but not to us in our current endeavors. Now, if you please, through the doorway at the end of the hall, and into the warehouse, Sers.”

“Ahh,” Art leapt on the opening as they filed through the doorway, “and what are those endeavors, Serra Nelline? What exactly is it you want from me? I am, as mentioned somewhere previously, a simple merchant.”

Nelline’s light-sphere, which had illuminated the narrow corridor, lit only a small bubble in the cavernous interior of the enormous room. Wooden crates upon wooden crates faded into the darkness.

“Why, the magitechnical formulae you wheedled from Dottore Atrianni suggest otherwise, Ser Captain,” Nelline retorted. “What I don’t understand is why you killed him afterward. And in such an atrocious manner.”

Remembered horror choked her voice to a rough whisper. Art, surprised at his concern, turned his head enough to catch her out of the corner of his eye, and indeed: her green eyes were dark wounds in pale blaze of her face.

“What?” Mallar choked, surprising Nelline and Art both, though Art’s professional vanity made him hope he controlled his face better than she. The squat man turned around, his face a twisted mask of rage. His half-raised hands flexed in rigid claws. “Menigarius Atrianni dead, foully murdered?”

“But, but of course, Megarde,” Bewilderment – with no small admixture of fear at his furious outburst – muddled her fine features. Her high emotion fanned the flame of her Power, sending brilliant blue-white arcs crackling through her fingers. Art pressed himself against a nearby crate, his desire for self-preservation warring with his hope of eventual freedom from the dictates of the Republic’s spymaster. Incongruously, the scents of drifting dust and packing straw tickled at the back of Art’s nose, an incipient sneeze threatening to explode.

“How could you not know? You were the last ones to leave his rooms this morning!” Anger, righteous or not, lent Nelline’s voice the strength it had lacked just a moment earlier. “The poor man was rent limb from limb, his tongue and eyes plucked out. His blood sprayed across the walls and the very ceiling of his apartment!” Shudders of reaction gripped her slight frame, though her Power-filled hands remained steady in front of her.

“We-?” Thoughts whirled through Art’s head. “Well, bollocks and botheration. Serra, just who are you, out of professional curiosity? You’re no agent, that’s for damned certain. You have the trade-craft of a gifted amateur, which, in this field is just enough to get you killed. Quickly.”

Mallar froze, a thick ribbon of surprise and curiosity clear on his face, pulling him from the brink of – likely suicidal – violence.

“I, I’m-” Nelline shrank back, her brilliant eyes and the svelte lines of her form proclaiming her uncertainty for the world to see. All of it in the darkened warehouse, at the least. Her gaze turned inward, then outward, shifting rapidly from Art to Mallar and back again. “Who are you, Sers, that you speak of agents and trade-craft and visit a brilliant magical theorist immediately prior to his murder?”

Art and his partner exchanged a long look. Mallar, now seeming completely relaxed, shrugged, a simple abnegation of responsibility made eloquent by his customary economy of effort.

Art swung his head back to face Nelline, putting on a charming grin with just a touch of predatory anticipation. Her gaze locked on his face, her shoulders growing tense and mouth pinched as his expression registered.

“Well met, Serra Nelline of no place in particular. I am Captain Artringen Cailesh, agent-under-duress of many faces, and my companion-of-necessity is Ser Mallar Trank, leash-holder, general ne’er-do-well and dog robber for the Andrine Republic.” He swept a Phelgen court bow full of flourishes, waggles and gestures, ending with his head nearly touching his left knee. Instead of the customary bowed head, however, he canted his to see Nelline’s reaction. He was stunned when she spun her hands out and around in the Phelgen hand-sign to indicate he’d shown her inappropriate respect. A very honor-conscious people, the Phelgen.

More impressive yet, that she’d managed it without losing her grip on her Power.

“Captain Cailesh, Ser Trank – if, indeed, those are your real names -” she said with a taut smile and a short curtsy, “why in the names of the Nine of the Phelgen pantheon would I tell you who I am, let alone my goals?”

Art bobbed straight, manfully converting a guffaw into a warm chuckle.

“Mallar, I like Serra Nelline. May I take her home, do you think?”

Steam hissed and lumber splintered as a huge something dropped from the darkness above them to land on the stone floor of the warehouse with grating shrieks.

“Not on your life, Cailesh,” a hard, hated voice cracked out of the darkness. A darkness that vanished as galvanic lamps burst into light, forcing all three of them to squint against the sudden brilliance all around them.

Kate the Impaler Goes To Libertycon – Part the Fourth

Kate the Impaler, having finally arrived at the magical realm of Choo Choo has learned that the reputation of the land makes promises the place itself is unable to meet. Still, she has a wedding to attend on pain of unspecified horrible consequences, and after that a convention to enjoy. She thinks…

And it came to pass that upon the appointed hour of eight, when the sun was due to set and the wedding party did hope that the setting of the sun would begin to reduce the heat of Choo Choo – which, it must be said, was not unseasonal, but many guests, including Kate the Impaler, had traveled from less heated climes for the occasion and were finding the heat… difficult – the warrior maiden Kate the Impaler did venture forth from the stale – if cool – air of the palace to the formal gardens, wherein the nuptuals were to be held.

Great was her relief when the Redhead of Doom did plight her troth unto the Evil Muse without evil omen, and greater still her joy when the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess did renew her vows to her beloved Mathematician with nary a sign of displeasure from the gathered crowds.

That the celebrations following upon the happy even were somewhat muted was, in the eyes of the weary warrior, to be expected, for the gage of heat did read near dragonfire levels though the sun’s fiery gaze had fallen beneath the horizon. Thus, wearied from her long day and longing for rest, did Kate the Impaler excuse herself from the celebratory dinner and take herself to the stale – but blissfully cool – air of her suite within the palace of Choo Choo.

And there did she sleep, waking upon the morn in a less fragile temper.

Ere long, the warrior maiden did array herself for recreation and make her way unto the palace refectory, wherein she joined with the Redhead of Doom and her family and others of her friends (Sorry, I can’t remember all of you, much less what kind of titles you all want) to break their fasts. And lo! Though the buffet tables of the refectory were of limited range and quality, they did provide sufficient for Kate the Impaler to vanquish her hunger – yet did she have to conceal dismay for what eating establishment of quality does charge its guests for a refill of orange juice?

Upon departure, Kate the Impaler did speak with the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and the Mathematician, apprising them of recent events in her homeland while enjoying their company. It was a respite all too short, for – as befits a Beautiful But Evil Space Princess – there were many desiring the Lady Sarah’s presence and limited time in which all might enjoy said presence, for alas! The programming director in a fit of insanity (or possibly evil) had scheduled the Lady Sarah for all but a handful of time slots.

Let it be known at this point that even should a guest take leave of all senses and request to be involved in events in all time slots, no director of programming worthy of the title will actually schedule said guest in such a fashion. That all shall know the pusillanimous cruelty of the programming it shall be listed herein (and one must remember that the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and the Mathematician do make of themselves a unit: if one is programmed, so to is the other, no matter what the Book of Schedule doth decree).

Thusly did the Lady Sarah and her noble Husband be scheduled on this day:

Friday

4 PM What’s new in Space Opera

5 PM Opening Ceremony

6 PM Keeping Track of your Money

7 PM Short Stories or Novels, Indie?

10 PM Social Justice for the Undead

Lest the noble reader believe they did have a break between the hours of eight and ten, during this time frame the Lady Cedar, the Redhead of Doom, did host a party with the Evil Muse and the Lady Sarah and her Lord Husband were among the guests of honor.

Thus, though they did present with admirable skill, they did express their displeasure, and great was Kate the Impaler’s sympathy – until the hour grew late and she sought to remain awake that she could enjoy the thoughts of the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess upon that most important of topics, Social Justice for the Undead.

And so, when the appointed hour did arrive, the warrior maiden did seat herself quietly within the chosen venue, wherein she had little time to rest, for upon the arrival of the Lady Sarah, she did be dragged (metaphorically) unto the stage and did join the proceedings – though assuredly she was too wearied to fully participate, most especially with Mad Mike waxing eloquent upon the needs of Assembled Americans and which bathrooms they might prefer to employ.

With much goodwill did the panel proceed, though it must be said that perhaps it might be advisable that the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess’s Elder Spawn not be permitted to practice medicine with the Evil Penguin, for the question of whether one should bring cadavers home to meet one’s parents prior to dissection is perhaps one best not contemplated on an empty stomach. Or, for that matter, a full one.

And so it was that with the ending of the panel, Kate the Impaler did stumble towards the refuge of her suite, wherein she might rest ere the truly epic scheduling of the Lady Sarah’s panels upon the morrow.

To be continued

The Road To New Rome – Dan Hoyt

The Road To New Rome – Dan Hoyt

The Road to New Rome

A writer friend of mine who has penned multiple international bestsellers over his long career called me a bad writer the other day. And he was absolutely right. I am a bad writer.

Oh, I’m not talking about the craft; I am professionally published, after all, in the traditional world of publishing. It’s a reasonable assumption that I have at least a modicum of ability in the craft of writing. I studied Joseph Campbell and Dwight Swain and attended workshops. I studied and applied what I learned – which is how I managed to get published by the gatekeepers in the first place.

What I did not do was write every day. I am, in fact, a bad writer. Writers write. That’s what makes them writers.

So, what does all this have to do with anything?

My first novel, Ninth Euclid’s Prince, launched a few days ago. I wish that I could say that I finally got my act together and applied myself to novel-length fiction recently, and Euclid was the result, but that would be a lie. Of course, writers lie for a living (as I’m prone to mentioning when on panels at conventions), so the appeal is high, indeed, but I’m not going to lie in this post.

I wrote the original version of Euclid in 2001-2002. Yes, that’s over a decade ago. Yes, that’s actually before I published my first short story in Analog. Yes, that’s an unconscionable path to publishing a novel. [Oh, I don’t know.  This is while I was re-writing the original Darkship Thieves, first written in 1998 into the version first published in 2010. I remember because it was the first time we both wrote in one office -SAH]

Of course, what I published a few days ago isn’t exactly the novel I wrote so long ago. I expanded it, revised it, rewrote it, remade it into what I thought it could be. I also backtracked some of those revisions, after I realized that I’m incredibly good at screwing up revisions. I over-polished my prose, destroyed its life, and destroyed my writer’s voice in the process.

I made several stabs at completing Euclid over the years. And every time, it wasn’t ready. Yet.

Ironically, it was writing short stories that showed me what I was doing wrong. I learned that I’m a first-draft writer. I plan things out first and then commit them to paper – well, I commit them to the word processor, at any rate – and those first drafts are what sold, ultimately. I do an editing pass, of course, to eliminate as many typos and plot problems I can find. I’m not bragging, mind you, just stating the facts. There are plenty of other writers out there who are better than I am, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who are faster than I am, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who write better first-draft copy than I do, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who write better copy than I do, period, after however many drafts they need. Writers are all different, you know; there’s no writer factory producing us.

One of those writers who does it better and faster is my wife, Sarah. One of the best, in my opinion. Sarah is immensely talented, yet she also devotes an insane amount of work to the craft, as well. She is deservedly an inspiration to aspiring writers worldwide, especially to those like her for whom English is not their first language. But her career grew slowly, picking up fans one by one, like Juan Valdez picking coffee beans. And so I kept thinking, “If Sarah can’t make a living at this, what chance do I have?”

And so I kept shelving Euclid. Over and over. Fix it up, put it away.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the novel. Euclid was a ball to write. I enjoyed every minute of it. Really. Ultimately, that’s why it took me so long to publish it. For a couple years, it was under consideration at one of the Big Five publishers, when they were still the Big Six. After a series of events I won’t go into here, I pulled it and shelved the project. Again. I liked my character, Ninth Euclid, and I thought he deserved better than I could provide on my own at the time. And definitely better than what I felt the traditional publisher would provide. I gave Euclid life, and I wanted him to live for a long time.

Last year, Sarah dipped her toe in the indie publishing novel world with Witchfinder. In the end, she made as much income as she would have if she’d published it traditionally, and that opened my eyes. For the first time I could see Ninth Euclid living a long and happy shelf life. [And I will typeset it into a print edition soon.  Probably next week.- SAH]

So I got my act together. Sarah goaded me into doing a final fix-up and soliciting beta readers. A year ago. Yes, a year ago. What happened this time? Readers of this blog know. We decided to move about that time, and spent the next six months finding a place to rent where Sarah could write, and another six months moving and clearing out the old house. And every day of that year has been torturous for my writing. I wanted to write. I needed to write. I just didn’t have the time.

So I got my act together again, almost a year to the day later, and un-fixed my final fix-up screw-up, and got it published. With a lot of help from Sarah.

I finally gave Euclid the life he deserves. I hope it’s a long and adventurous one.