Some people still think I should write the dragon story I was kidding around about last year, so here’s part of it, just to show that I’m really not an epic fantasy writer, nor a comedy writer, alas.
May 2, 2016
March 8, 2016
We have a cover!
My short story “Peacock in Hell” is part of this amazing anthology, Shadowed Souls, that will be released in November (and you can preorder it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite Indie!). I’m in great company, here. Edited by Kerrie Hughes and Jim Butcher, with stories by Jim, Tanya Huff, Erik Scott de Bie, Kevin J Anderson, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jim Hines, Lucy A. Snyder, Anton Strout, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
March 4, 2016
February 29, 2016
I was exchanging replies to a post on Facebook with a reader and he asked about my editing process, because I am currently struggling with a tough revision. I have been tearing chunks out and rewriting to a tight deadline and the process is frustratingly ugly—it always feels like two steps back to take one forward, even if that isn’t the truth of it. The reader asked if that was my usual process and I had to say, “yes and no” essentially. That may be my process as a writer, but as a fiction editor, it isn’t. (And yes, editing fiction is not like editing non-fiction—they’re related, but different beasts.)
As a fiction editor—and as a crit partner, writing coach, or workshop instructor—my job is not to put my stamp on someone else’s work, but to help the writer realize their own goal for that work. So I have to approach with respect and care. I make suggestions and observations more often than changes. I point out places where an opportunity was missed or where voice or a structure could be strengthened, where information was missing, muddy, or heavy-handed, where pieces might be swapped, characters or arcs adjusted, inconsistencies, “clangers,” and so on. I also make sure that the writer is aware of the things that they did well—because it’s easy to forget to say “Oh, did you know this is Damned Fine Writing?” I never take someone else’s piece apart and rebuild it. That’s the writer’s job and it’s a necessary process in improving as writer.
But when I start revising or editing my own material, I’m both writer and editor at the same time and I have to listen to advice, weigh it, and analyze both the advice and my own work, as well as revising, cleaning, fixing, and re-building. I’m a lot more brutal on my own work, because no one else can be. The other aspect of editing my own work is using what I learn from reading, analyzing, and editing the work of others. So critiquing or editing my peers is part of my process of becoming a better writer, and after that a better crit partner, better editor, better workshop leader, better coach, and a better writer… And back full circle, endlessly.
Writing and editing (or critiquing) are cooperative processes, not adversarial. I learn from each to do the others better and I treat each writer I crit or edit as I would like to be treated by my crit partners or editor.
February 25, 2016
The Kickstarter for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is finally live! Hurray! Look at that great list of authors, editors, artists, and essayists shaking up the clichés and tropes of genre fiction–including one by me! Go, make it happen!
February 10, 2016
This morning I was told that the TV option my agents at Cooke and APA have been working on is finally official. As of last night, The Greywalker novels have been optioned for development of a Greywalker TV series. That doesn’t mean there’s a show coming for sure, but it is the first step. The folks at the agencies and at production company have been really wonderful throughout the process and I hope there will be more good news on this soon. (And thanks to Qwill for the heads up.)
This was the official announcement from Publishers Weekly under TV option sales:
Kat Richardson’s GREYWALKER series, about a private investigator who, beaten and left for dead, recovers to find she can step into the Grey, a place between this world and the next, and is attracting otherworldly business, to Back Alley Films and Muse Entertainment Enterprises, by Debbie Deuble Hill of APA Agency on behalf of Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency.
So. Now I’m going to to outside and scream with joy. I hope the neighbors don’t freak out too much….
February 9, 2016
Yesterday, I found a blog post in my feed titled “Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon.” I decry this headline (not the author, who’s clearly thinking about this a lot), because it focusses on a really narrow definition of success for self-published writers (or any writer) and that pisses me off. “‘Making money’ here means selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years.” Wow… a million copies in one format over five years? That’s a hell of an accomplishment for any author, regardless of format or publishing mode. But the idea that we all should be selling like Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking–regardless of format or platform–is a problem. It tempts so many worthy writers to see moderate success as dismal failure.
I wish there was more discussion of the “mid list” in digital–that segment of writers who are paying their bills with steady, moderate sales, but not going out and selling blockbuster numbers. That’s where most steady, commercial writers have traditionally stood, regardless of format or platform, but that slow-and-steady segment is shrinking (as is also noted later in the post) in the print world, and I’m not sure how it’s doing in digital (why won’t people talk about this?)
There are some other interesting numbers here, like, in spite of higher pricing, “legacy” publishers held 2/3 of the digital market and 36% of book buyers are print-only buyers. These things are related and they’re important. The blogger recognizes that digital only-authors are missing potential sales in the print-book market segment. She then goes on to talk about ways some authors have reached out to that segment. And she talks about the problem of “book discovery” in a highly saturated and volatile market. That last is one of the things I’ve been bothered by for years. How do writers reach potential readers in an information system that is now so huge and so saturated?
The discovery problem is part of the reason the Big Publishers continue to dominate the market even with a model that’s deeply flawed–they are “trusted sources” and have more control over current modes of book discovery and market penetration than independents, small presses, and self-published writers do. The combination of print sales, discovery, and market penetration are the real keys to making or breaking in the book industry. Over all, it’s an interesting post with some interesting links, and I’m amused by the ironic black-humor of the ending. (At least I hope it’s irony….)
January 27, 2016
I found this beast in what I would call a junk store in Northeast Bremerton just before Christmas. Aside from sawdust all over it and a lot of wear on the case, it was in excellent condition and the shop owner was thinking of stripping off the keys and selling them for craft materials, since the “weird” machine was unlikely to sell for a good price intact. I just couldn’t let that happen, so I bought it. Not super-cheap, but certainly a lot cheaper than if I’d bought if from someone who was more “into” typewriters. I took it straight to the local repair shop–known for their knowledge of vintage machines–and left it to be cleaned and made serviceable. Today I got it back.
I have named it “August” (or “Auggie”) in honor of Dr. Dvorak–who designed the keyboard arrangement. Auggie has pride of place on the vintage library table. We’ve determined that Auggie is a Royal Portable model (specifically an OT), built in early 1934, and shipped to the University of Washington. Dvorak keyboards weren’t a standardized item yet, since Dvorak’s patent was still in review (it was filed in 1932, but not granted until 1936). Paul, the technician and owner of Bremerton Office Machine Company, tells me that custom keyboards could be ordered at the Royal dealer’s offices by anyone, so long as they met a minimum order cost. A photo from the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle shows several of the older, heavier Standard “Model 10” Royal typewriters in use in Dr. Dvorak’s 1932 typing class at UW. I’m hoping to get in contact with MOHAI and the University’s archivists and see if I can discover more about Auggie’s past–not because it’s likely to be worth money, but because I’m a research hound and can’t resist a historical mystery.
Auggie has an unexpectedly light touch, but a long stroke, so while I’m hitting the keys harder than they need, I don’t push them down far enough to get good contact on every keystroke. I don’t yet touch type Dvorak, so it may take a while to get up to speed on Auggie. I’m also trying to discover what makes the sub-type OT different from the parent model O, and I hope to find an owner’s manual for it as well. This isn’t a museum piece–the finish is imperfect, scratched here and there, foggy in some places, the keys are not enamel but metal with paper tags under protective glass disks, and the model wasn’t rare–except for the Dvorak layout–but it still makes me happy to have it lurking in the library.
(Sorry I’m still having trouble with comments here–I really need to figure out why they don’t work.)
December 27, 2015
The last quarter of 2014 and most of 2015 was heavy going for me: The Greywalker series came to a close; I was diagnosed with a tumor and had a lot of tests and surgery, then a long, slow recovery both in the hospital and out of it; assuming that would affect me less than it did, I committed to 5 short stories and a cooperative/chain novel as well as revision of a new novel; then I agreed to an additional short story and a novella.
While most of the stories haven’t yet been published, the chain novel and novella are both still in draft, and some other projects are still in the air, I met all of my original obligations plus a bit. And this is how 2015’s project word counts look now:
Novel: 150,000 words revised twice, plus some additional wrangling.
Short stories: 30,354 combined total words.
Chain story: approximately 3,700 (+1,300 words of notes and one more chapter to do between 3,500 and 5,000 words in 2016).
Novella: approximately 10,000 words (plus notes and 15,000 words or so to do in 2016–unless it decides to be a novel).
I have to finish up the last short story before the end of the year and I promised a certain meerkat that I’d get this novella done by the Ides of March, so I have to get back to work as soon as the Holiday Period is past. But, for the most part, I’m happy with the work I’ve done. Now I just need to get back up to speed on my health and fitness. Guess what I’ll be doing in the New Year….
December 8, 2015
I wish I could post part of the funniest Christmas things I ever wrote, but alas, I think it’s still under license. It was “The Werewolf Before Christmas” from the Wolfsbane and Mistletoe anthology put together by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. And it started like this:
“‘Twas the night before Christmas – well, the late afternoon, in fact, but who could tell at the North Pole in the middle of winter – and Matthias the werewolf was knee-deep in reindeer guts. Really, it was the deer’s own fault for having that glowing red nose that had made it ever so easy to pick him out in the gloom.”
But since I can’t give you the rest, I’ll give you my second-favorite piece of Rudolph-abuse (yes I seem to have a “thing” for abusing Rudy and making venison jokes.) So here y’go:
[Originally posted: December 23, 2002 on a long-gone blog called Mullspace]
It was in a dark and dingy bar, far from the North Pole and obscured from the city’s self-knowledge by a veil of shame and hopelessness. I just came in to use the phone–honest.
I sidled in, keeping a hand on my bag, and leaned on the bar, trying to attract the bartender’s attention. The place was so dark that, at first, I didn’t realize the patron next to me was a deer. A reindeer, in fact. He had a large, red nose, which resembled a Christmas light-bulb. It wasn’t lit, but he sure was. He was knocking back what appeared to be his fifth or sixth glass of Old St. Nick–rot-gut whiskey I wouldn’t pour for a junkyard dog.
He looked at me and began to talk, which would have surprised me, if I could have been further surprised after seeing a large ruminant sitting on a bar stool in a low-life bar. Now, I’m not in the habit of listening to sob-stories in drinking establishments, but, as I tried to attract the bartender, the deer began to tell his tale. I sat myself down and listened as he rambled on. Here’s what he told me:
I see you’re lookin’ at my nose. Yeah, it’s big and red, and yeah, I’m a drunk, but that ain’t why it’s red. It’s the other way around, see? I’m a drunk ’cause of my nose. See, long ago I was a sleek, young buck with a nice, little, furry-flapped nose like every other reindeer. Surprises you, don’t it? Yep, I’m a reindeer. Used to run for the Big Guy–y’know: Santa Claus.
But let me tell you, it ain’t all fun and reindeer games up at the North Pole. No, siree-bob! Let me begin at the beginning. See, when I was just a young buck, Santa’s Elves came around to all the herds, recruiting. Had a bunch of nice flyers and it sounded real good. Easy hours, only one performance a year, educational benefits, room and board, health care and retirement benefits. Now, let me tell ya that when you’re wandering the frozen tundra, that sounds like easy street. So I signed up.
For a while, I was just a second-stringer. Hangin’ around, hoping for my big break. I used to talk to all of the other reindeer, trying to get pointers, but some of them where kind of stand-offish. Then, I got my chance: Charlie retired. Never heard of Charlie? Well, you’d have called him Rudolph. See, the team has positions for each name and when you take the job, well, you become the name. You didn’t really think they were the same deer, did you? Reindeer don’t live that long. It’s kind of like Ronald Mac Donald. So, y’know, everybody’s been replaced a time or two. And some of ’em–well, you wouldn’t believe what they’re really like.
Let me tell ya’, it’s rough up there; nothing but wall-to-wall guys, except for Vixen. You could have called her a lot worse than that. But, really, can you blame her? The only girl deer in a herd of eight guys? Not that she had anything to do with Prancer and Dancer, ’cause those two were getting along just fine together, if you know what I mean.
And the elves, man, let me tell you! What a bunch. They used to wear these little pointy-toed shoes until that movie came out. Y’know: Lord of the Rings? Then they all got uppity and started wearing long hair and soft-soled boots so you couldn’t hear ’em sneaking up on ya. Used to frighten the hay out of us, and then laugh like crazy. Nasty.
But, so, anyway, back to Charlie. See, when Charlie retired, Santa needed a new Rudolph and I wanted to make the first string so bad, I didn’t care about the surgery. It was all gonna be OK, right? I mean, the health care was gonna take care of it and I was gonna be Santa’s Number-One Deer. I was gonna be in gravy and I might even get into Vixen’s stall, if you catch my drift. Gravy: boy, there’s irony for ya.
So I get the surgery and everything’s going pretty good. Heck, I even went for the high-tech, laser-pointer nose option. Every year we get a nice card from Charlie from some exotic place like Madagascar, or whatever. “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.” Yeah….
Then, one year, things have been going OK, when I get sick. So I go to call in, but I can’t remember the back office number. So I call the main number. And what do I get? I get Santa’s phone tree! And what do I hear?
“To speak to Santa, press one; to speak to an elf, press two; to order venison products, please stay on the line….”
And suddenly it all falls into place for me. I mean, why didn’t I see it before? I mean, this is the frickin’ North Pole, fer cryin’ out loud! How does a guy running a business on his own manage to weigh three-hundred pounds in that kind of weather without a supermarket nearby? Let me tell you, it sure ain’t his wife’s cooking. That woman could burn water. He puts away a lot of milk and cookies every Christmas, but it sure ain’t enough to keep up that bulk all year. Hell, no!
But every year, somebody “retires.” Somebody like Charlie. I was walkin’ around in a dead guy’s nose! “Wish you were here….” Yeah, more like “wish you were a hero sandwich!”
I needed to get out, but I was too sick to crawl. It was two days to Christmas and I was in deep kimchee. I knew Santa’s dirty secret. And I knew I’d be the next Rudolph to “retire”. I lay low and tried to build up my strength….
But on Christmas Eve, the worst happened: there was a knock at the door and when I opened it, I could barely see Santa for the fog which had socked us in like poisoned cotton candy.
And y’know what he says to me? Yeah, I can see it in your face: you know. He says, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
I know what I should have done. I know what the smart thing would have been, but I panicked. All I could see was that smiling, jolly old elf, fat and happy on roast leg of Charlie!
“Fuck you, Fat-Man!” I screamed and I ran for the back door!
I was out and across the field, into the woods and gone in five seconds flat. But I knew they’d be coming after me: the Elves! The elves with their silent boots and long streaming hair and bows!
Bows, I tell ya! I should have realized it earlier. They all had bows, just like that elf in Lord of the Rings–what’s his name? Leg-o-lamb? That’s how they got Charlie! Silently, in the night….
But, my nose was shining like a beacon, that treacherous, traitorous nose! The nose I thought was gonna make my fortune was leading my death right to me! So I ran for the nearest bar and in it I found Blitzen. And he was really Blitzed. I called him a sissy and he took a swing at me and he smacked me right in the kisser. He broke my nose and I thanked him, but the Elves were already on to the place and coming through the door, so I made with the flying trick and sailed on out of there.
With my broken nose, I couldn’t see in the fog, but neither could they and I managed to get away.
Eventually, I found a surgeon who was willing to fix my nose so it would never light up again, but it was never going to be a nice, furry reindeer nose again. I’d have to move south, where the air was warm enough to breath. I started moving, selling my services to petting zoos, then moving on, whenever the Elves started breathing down my neck.
And I’ve been moving on ever since.
I don’t know how much farther I can run, though. It’s been a long time. I’ve been from the North Pole to the South, been to Africa and South America and every little island you can think of, but they keep on coming: the Assassin-Elves. Some day, some day soon, my luck’s gonna run out. Then I’ll be just another string of venison sausage in Old St. Nick’s larder. But at least I’ll have told the world the truth about Santa’s little Sweat Shop. I’ll die a free deer.
And he tossed back the last of his drink and staggered unsteadily for the back door. He looked back just once and said, “Remember me. Remember Charlie.” Then he was gone with an eerie clatter of hooves as he ascended into a cloudy sky, running like… well, like a deer.
When I left the bar, a man came up to me. He was tall and thin and his long, silver-blond hair hung down his back like a shimmering curtain from under a dark fedora. He wore dark glasses and a long, black coat. He stopped me and flashed a picture.
“Ma’am, have you seen this deer?”
“No, sir,” I replied. “No deer around here. It’s still hunting season.”
He glared at me suspiciously, then turned away. I could see the bulge of his bow under his jacket.
I don’t know what became of that deer, or if he wasn’t just half-crazy with drink, but every time I think of that night in that bar I say a little prayer for him.
“Run, run, Rudolph.”