Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WIP Wednesday

From Thingbreaker:

The back door slams open, splinters of wood ricochet off the walls from the shattered frame, and four men step through. They are of an average height and weight, and uncomfortably similar. Not just because they're all dressed in the same dull brown suit. Their faces – blank eyes under a sloping brow, noses a little too wide to be handsome and hard chins like a boxer – are all identical. Like someone stamped them out of the same mold.
My feelings toward Reyneaux and his unseen visitor might be mixed, but there is no doubt in my mind about these fellows. Bad news.
I touch my forehead, polite. “I was just leaving.”
They look at me and the one who stands closest parts his lips in a bad imitation of a smile. “Stay.” The word screeches, like a calliope. He reaches out to put his hands on my shoulders, the way a friend might greet another. But his palms are a swirl of magic.
I strike outward with both hands, leaving his chest open, and slam my fists in and down at his collarbone. It isn't like hitting a normal man, his bones are harder, but they crumble more quickly under the touch of my magic. Metal. As I suspected.
They're similacrum.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WIP Wednesday

From The Gear'd Heart:

He ducked inside the hut, returning in a moment with a spindly table that was nearly as tall as Keira. “Just make sure these are in order.” Untying the cord, he licked his fingers with a vellum tongue and spread the small, rectangular certificates carefully on the polished counter. “Proof of residence. Proof of citizenship. Certificate of Specialization.” The last prompted him to look at her more closely, take in the runes stamped on the buckle of her satchel, the charms hung neat from her belt. “A Spinner, eh?”
“Yes, sir.” Keira looked toward the horizon, resisting the urge to fidget. The sun was creeping above the hills, reaching out to touch the sky with weak fingers.
His head bobbled in something that was neither shrug nor nod. “Huh.” He fastened the papers closed and returned them. “London, you said?”
Fog began to rise from the wet ground, thickening and swallowing the surrounding fields. The gate-keep licked his lips and squinted around. “The Hind in Berth Four departs for London this morning. If you speak with the captain, you may be able to negotiate passage.”
“Thank you.” She bit her lip, uncertain if the information should be rewarded with a pip. But he picked up his table and ledger and set them inside the door, then turned his face toward the muddled sky.
“The weather's turning nasty.” He drifted into the hut and gears screeched, then the doors into the airstation grated open. “Be persistent. And generous, or Hart will refuse you.”

Monday, November 18, 2013


Last December I proposed the following goals for myself during 2013.

1: Find an Agent Who Can Sell The Steampunk Novel
2: Finish the Novellas I started This Year but HAVEN'T FINISHED
3: Write another Novel or Two
4: Sell my Short Stories

Two of those (#2 and #3) were things I could control. And with that thought in mind I finished up BRASS STARS and put some good effort into ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS and SURVIVOR. I've also revised The Steampunk Novel (and am currently delving into another revision round) and started work on the rewrite of THINGBREAKER (a magic-punk thriller).

#4 was one that required a combination of doing the work I could to ensure I met the goal, and waiting for the alignment of the stars that ensured my story hit the right desk at the right time. (Remember, the best way for that to happen is to make sure that a story is on someone's desk to be read, rather than sitting in a drawer gathering dust.) I used the fantastic Submission Grinder over at Diabolical Plots to help me tackle the short stories, sending each one out to a new market as soon as it got booted from the previous one.

In addition to a handful of short stories I wanted to find homes for, I was still trying to meet the goal of selling a longer work (novel or novella) that I had set for myself in 2012. So, I did pitch contests on Twitter, summarizing both The Steampunk Novel and BRASS STARS in a microscopic 130 characters. I got requests for both, but ultimately they turned into rejections.  

I dug in deeper, researching publishers that took novella length, speculative fiction and submitted the MS for BRASS STARS to Eggplant Literary Productions.

In the meantime, I was having some success with the shorter work. I placed "Love Like Dysphoria" with New Lit Salon Press in their Southern Gothic anthology. And later in the year, I sold "The Spider-thief and The Sorcerer" to Crowded Magazine. (And last week I sold "Vessels for Destruction" to Nature Magazine's "Futures" column.)

I'd also been working hard at goal #1. Starting in December of last year, I'd been querying agents with The Steampunk Novel. Dozens and dozens of queries sent out over nearly eight months. Hours worth of mindnumbing research on AgentQuery and QueryTracker trying to find every single agent who might be a good fit for my alternate history/fantasy/steampunk/murder mystery mashup.

I got requests to see more. And a lot of rejections - most from the initial query and some after partial or full requests. A lot of rejections.

Then I got a letter from Raechel Henderson of Eggplant Literary saying "Yes! I love this and here's a contract." (Okay. She didn't quite say that, but it's close.) And suddenly BRASS STARS was scheduled for publication. Only a few days later I got a phone call from an agent who'd been looking at the full MS of The Steampunk Novel. He was interested and wanted to know if I could do some more revisions.  

Hell, yes, I could do some more revisions. So we talked and brainstormed and I started in on those just this past weekend. Along with still working on The Magic-punk Thriller. And all the "OMG! I have a book coming out Monday!" madness that precedes a release day.

"And this is all great, but what is the point here?" you say.

The point is this. I'm sitting here, realizing that I have successfully accomplished one of the things on my List of Things To-Do. (Admittedly, the Sell a Novella goal was for 2012 so I'm almost two years behind, but it has been done.) I'm also realizing that the list never gets any smaller.

Writing goals are not destinations, they are mile-markers. It's not like saying "I want to visit Australia" and then going and being like "Well that was hot and those koalas sure were cute but now I've DONE that so cross it off the list." Every goal I reach reveals a new one. 

Every story written makes room for a new one. Every sale is a step up to the next. Every goal achieved gives way to another one down the road.

The list never gets any smaller. It just gets different.  

P.S. My SF Western novella, BRASS STARS, is available now from Eggplant Literary Productions:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cover Art for BRASS STARS

Ever since I first saw the sketches for the cover art, I've been waiting on pins and needles to see the finished version. And today it arrived in my in-box. I can't tell you how thrilled I am.

The artist is the amazing Lex Paul. More of his work can be found HERE and HERE

More info about my novella (including a free excerpt) can be found at Eggplant Literary Productions:

And, if you want to know more about Eggplant Literary Productions (and check out some of the other awesome books they've published), be sure to browse their site:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Challenge

The National Novel Writing Month is here and with it comes a heightened awareness of the function of The Challenge.

On the one hand is the obvious, write 50k words in 30 days challenge. For those of us still balancing the demands of Real Life (including family responsibility and day-jobs) with the requirements of Being an Author Who Actually Writes Stuff, making that 1.7k words every day is rough. Especially for a whole month.

But there's also prospect of writing something difficult. This is where I find myself - facing down a story that I love, but is more complex than anything I've written before. (Not more complex than anything I've attempted before. There are a bunch of things I've tried and had to put to one side because I'm just not there yet. ) This is The Challenge to Improve as a Writer.

It wears many hats.
Sometimes it's the struggle to improve my storytelling ability. The elusive quest to put the emotion on the page so strongly the reader feels it.
Sometimes it's the fight to give my characters depth. To make the plot be more than just a sequence of events. To make the story feel like something that matters.
Sometimes it's just about being a better writer than I was yesterday.

The problem with The Challenge is that it raises questions and with questions come doubt and with doubt comes the seemingly inevitable "block". That mind-numbing, finger-paralyzing block that keeps us from putting a single word on the page because it might be The Wrong One. Or the words might be okay but the concept is a Bad Idea. Or that this story is taps something so personal that No One Else Will Get It.

But there is hope. When staring down my own doubt (and the blank white screen of my word processing program) I remind myself of the following.

1. The first word you think of is usually best.
2. Even when it's not, you can always fix it later.
3. A simple word is frequently better than an esoteric one.
4. Even when it's not, you can always fix it later.
5. Every idea has potential.
6. Even when it doesn't, you can always fix it later.
7. Every idea will appeal to at least one other person.
8. Even when it doesn't, you can always fix it later.

The Challenge, really, is not in the story. The Challenge is in the writer and how much we are willing to risk putting on the page.

"Brass Stars" - Sneak Peek

Eggplant Literary Productions has the official page up for Brass Stars. It includes the blurb and an excerpt from the novella.

You can check it out here:

The full novella will be available Monday, November 18th.

Stay tuned for more updates (and the awesome cover art).