I’m releasing two Cormac and Amelia e-book novellas this fall, and the links are now available for preorder! (The books will also be available on iTunes, and I’ll post those when they’re ready. I’m doing this in baby steps while I’m on an Oct 1 deadline for another project, so your patience is appreciated!)

DARK DIVIDE (Cormac and Amelia #1)

On Kindle

On Nook

BADLANDS WITCH (Cormac and Amelia #2)

On Kindle

On Nook

He’s an ex-con supernatural bounty hunter. She’s a disembodied Victorian wizard. Together, they fight crime!

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checking in

September 16, 2019

Just checking in. Don’t really have more to say because what I really need right now is a nap. This was one of those weekends, flew out early Saturday morning, arrived at the event, did several hours of programming in a row, finally checked into the hotel and collapsed, then flew out the next day. But I did see a merganser on the Truckee River in the middle of Reno, and that was cool.

It was a good weekend, just tiring. Which might be a good time to mention that when you see your favorite author at a literary festival or convention or the like and they seem a little frazzled… it may be they’re on a tight travel schedule and they haven’t had a chance to get to the hotel yet or eat and they’re trying their best to keep it together because we really do like these events and love talking to readers about books.

So yeah. Nap and lunch. More later.

 

Reno – Saturday

September 11, 2019

Reminder, this Saturday I’ll be in Reno for the Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl. I’ve got a couple of panels, a reading, and I’ll be signing books. See you there!

I’ve recently had a chance to dive back into one of my favorite space opera universes, C. J. Cherryh’s Merchanter series. There’s a new book out this year co-written with Jane Fancher, Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars, with the hope of more to follow.

I finished it and immediately had to re-read the first book in the series I ever read, Finity’s End. They’re tied together in some pretty big ways. Some epic ways. The ship Finity’s End features in both, but in Finity’s End we’re at the end of Captain James Robert Neihart’s career. In Alliance Rising we’re at the start of it. One of the main characters in Finity’s End is Fletcher Neihart, and a big deal is made of the fact that he’s named for one of the heroes in the ship’s history. In Alliance Rising, we meet that heroic Fletcher — before the self-sacrificing heroism became necessary. And ugh, we’re in for a ride in any future sequels.

You see why I had to immediately dive back in to the earlier (chronologically later) novel to get my bearings? It’s a bit of a gut punch and I’m emotional about it all over again.

I’m trying to figure out why these books draw me in so hard and why I get so wrapped up in them, because on the surface, technically, they shouldn’t work. They’re full of exposition. Long chapters of nothing but exposition, with a few observations from the viewpoint characters. I thought maybe it was just Alliance Rising, that the writing was maybe a bit stilted after so long away from the world, but no, Finity’s End does the same thing. I remember being swamped by exposition in Downbelow Station and Cyteen. These books dive deep into the four-way politics of merchant Families, stations, Earth, and Union. We get lots of descriptions of trade routes and why everyone is suspicious of Cyteen and why the sovereignty of the Family ships is so important and why some stations are rich and others aren’t, and what Earth has to do with it all, and how hyperspace works, and, and…

And then, just when I think I’m getting bored, I get to a chapter with a sharply drawn character moment and I start crying because somehow, all that exposition and the people involved with it have hooked me and I’m emotionally caught. Ross Monahan and the Galway, you guys. Broke my freaking heart.

I think Moby Dick does something similar. That one gets dinged for all the exposition, the seemingly endless details of whaling. But you need all that to understand what’s happening. By the time you’re neck-deep in the climactic battle, the story doesn’t have time to stop and explain — and it doesn’t need to. The book was teaching you how to read itself the whole time. I think the Merchanter books do the same.

Writing workshop are always telling us to avoid long passages of exposition.

But then I’m reminded of the primary, number one, rule of writing, as told to me by John Crowley:  Whatever you can get away with.

You’d just better be sure you can get away with it.

 

Cormac and Amelia return

September 5, 2019

So, I’ve been working on a couple of things:

These will be e-book novellas, and I’m planning on having them out in October and November. I’ll get pre-order links up just as soon as I have them. But since I have covers, I wanted to show them off.

I always planned to spin Cormac and Amelia off to their own series when I wrapped up the main Kitty arc. A lot of stuff intervened to keep that from happening on the timeline I envisioned — I changed agents, my editor at Tor died suddenly, etc. etc.  I have a post I want to do on “career strategy,” the advice people give on career strategy, and how every time I’ve tried to strategize my career it’s blown up in my face. Anyway.

The thing that’s always saved me is to keep writing, and I’ve done a lot of that. And I’ve finally got Cormac and Amelia off and having adventures. I’m SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY these stories are finally going to see the light.

I hope you like them.

 

Neolithic research

September 3, 2019

This trip, I spent about five days driving around and looking at piles of stones.

They’re really great piles of stones.  This one is Pulnabrone, probably the most famous of the Irish portal tombs and the one most tourists see.

Longtime readers of the blog will remember when I visited Newgrange five years ago and it kind of took over my brain. This is an era and culture we know very little about, but their ruins are everywhere. These structures hint at a complex, well-organized society. You need free time and abundant resources and intricate knowledge of things like astronomy and physics to build megalithic tombs and monuments. I’ve spent a lot of time imagining what such a society might be like, and why so few stories — even entirely fictionalized stories — get told about it, given how interesting it must have been. I wrote a short story, “Sun, Stone, Spear,” my first delving into what that fiction might look like.

This trip, I was determined to immerse myself. There are hundreds and hundreds of these sites in Ireland. I didn’t even scratch the surface.

This is Lough Gur Wedge Tomb. There is a story that two hundred years ago a local woman lived here. There’s a bit of shelter inside, but not much, so I can’t imagine what that must have been like. It must have felt solid and isolated. I bet people left her alone.

A lot of researchers who work on these sites feel that the traditional Irish stories of fairies and underhill and ancient dangers helped protect these sites. Cairns were left undisturbed, the tombs remained intact, because everyone stayed away from them. Even now, only a tiny percentage have been excavated and studied.

Archeologists are pretty sure how these got built, that isn’t really a mystery:  ropes and rollers, earthen mounds and basic man power. What I’m interested in is how these sites must have looked five thousand years ago, when they were new. Or not new, but maybe a hundred or two hundred years old, when they would have become part of the landscape and the fabric of society, when the culture that built them was still at its peak but had been around long enough that its own history was no longer part of memory. Ireland was mostly forested then, so the landscape would have looked very different than it does now and I tried to image that. Many of these tombs would have had cairns covering them. One site, Carrowmore, is a complex of a dozen or so tombs in a shallow valley. The hilltops surrounding it all have tombs on them, and once you know what to look for, you can see them, the symmetrical lumps of the cairns.

Imagine what that must have looked like, what it meant to the people for whom this was part of their lives, to stand there and be part of this landscape.

I was on a couple of “post-apocalyptic technology” panels at Worldcon — i.e., what would survive after an apocalypse, how would society function, etc. See, this is what happens when you write a couple of post-apocalyptic novels. On one of them, another panelist said something about technology regressing to a really primitive level, “with nothing but stone tools,” or something along those lines.

And I pointed out:  people with stone tools built Newgrange. People with stone tools had a complex, symbolically rich society where they spent a lot of time thinking about the past, the future, and their place in the world.

I managed to pack my brain full of stuff this trip. It’s going to take awhile to process it, and even longer for the stories to come out I’m afraid. I’m a bit daunted. It’s a big idea, and I want to do it right.

 

movies on airplanes

August 29, 2019

I’m really liking this thing where every seat gets their own screen and you have hundreds of choices of what to watch, classics as well as newer stuff. The film library this trip included Casablanca! Even with all that, I only watched two films on airplanes the entire trip. One was a rewatch of Tangled because I needed warm fuzzies.

The other was Shazam!

This film looked ridiculous when the trailers ran. Then the reviews for it were pretty universally positive. So I finally gave it a whirl for myself.

This is great. Just great.

First off, it does that thing that the Marvel films do so well, which is you take a superhero movie skin and pull it over the structural frame of a different kind of story — political thriller, heist comedy, space opera, whatever. In this case, it’s kid fantasy. You know what I’m talking about, where a troubled kid gets access to some kind of fantasy portal/power/creature and then makes mistakes in the course of learning how to handle that responsibility and make his life better? It’s that. With superheroes.

It’s also a bit of a deconstruction of superheroes, but from a kid perspective. Like, these kids live in the DC universe, that’s made clear. (Collectibles? A fully authenticated smashed bullet that bounced off Superman’s own chest? OMG I wish I had thought of that.) So they live in a superhero universe and they’ve been thinking about what that means and they talk about it. It isn’t cynical and dark — it’s very practical. Like why wouldn’t you go to a real estate agent to try to find a superhero lair?

The actor playing Billy Batson, Asher Angel, which sounds like a superhero secret identity name now that I think about it, is really good, clear-eyed and earnest and troubled and all-in.

There’s an absolutely devastating character moment at the end of the second act that has nothing to do with superheroes and superpowers. But the moment completes Billy’s arc and makes the rest of the story possible. Everything is set up. And then there’s the rest of the kids he builds a family with —

But I say too much. And the post-credits scenes, oh my gosh…

I will say I’m getting really, really tired of the trope where a movie starts with a family in the car and the kid in the backseat and the car gets in a horrific wreck to set up a tragic backstory. There’s a mild twist this time. But still.

But yeah. Overall I liked this a lot. I’m now thinking that if the DC movies had started with this instead of rehashing Superman and Batman — going with second-string characters the way Marvel did — we’d have gotten a very different set of movies over the last few years.