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The Future, It’s All So Clear

2011 is already looking pretty crowded. I was recently commissioned to do a pseudonymous book, which is due in April. And just yesterday I got the greenlight to do another work-for-hire novel — this one will appear under my own name — which should be fun. (That one has been bubbling as a possibility for a while, but I was waiting to find out if the editor and publisher liked my outline; they do.) We’re still working out the due date for that one, but I expect it’ll be sometime in summer, which means I’m booked up for more than half of next year already. I’ll provide details when I can.

I’m delighted to have the work, but: wow. I didn’t expect to be quite this busy, and I don’t know when I’ll write the next Marla novel, or my standalone fantasy Heirs of Grace. But I wrote four books in 2010 (one, admittedly, was a short middle grade novel), so maybe I’ll manage something similar in 2011.

All this writing is going to cut severely into my Bioshock 2, Fable 2, and Batman: Arkham Asylum playing time, though…

Notes from the Dead Center of Dead Week

(Dead Week is, of course, this strange in-between time, after Xmas and before New Year’s, when the world seems to hold its breath; not much business gets done, and there’s a sense — for me at least — of waiting for real life to begin again. Which is odd, since I’m going to work and writing in my offtime and generally going about my business… but still, there’s a feeling that the world is between breaths.)

A few notes, in no particular order:

  • One of my novels got on a Year’s Best list, but it was written under an undisclosed pseudonym, so I can’t brag. (Well, except insofar as I’m doing so here.)

  • Bioshock 2 is fun. I keep thinking I should be thinking, “This is too much like the first game, not different enough, not enough innovation,” but I don’t really think that; it’s got all the stuff I liked from the first game, plus spear guns and drills that freeze people.

  • Happy birthday to D, my loyal friend and confidante. We’re the same age again, numerically speaking. It was fun being older than you for 17 days, though, and I hope you benefited as always from my wisdom while I was your elder.

  • I was recently commissioned to write another (pseudonymous) book, which is requiring me to do some research, including books I am unwilling/ashamed to be seen reading in public. (Given that I’ve been known to read non-fiction about decomposition, arguably obscene graphic novels, and erotica anthologies in public, that’s surprising — but there it is.) Writing the book should be fun, though, and with luck, the money will arrive in time for me to give pretty much all of it to the government in April, the cruelest month. I’ll reveal the truth about these secret books in my memoirs, which will be locked in a vault until 100 years after my death, then published in time to become a big Christmas bestseller — or so I assume. It worked for Sam Clemens.

  • The Nex is nearing the end of its run. Only one week left to go. I’ll miss checking in with Miranda every week. She’s one of my favorite characters — and The Nex is the only first-person novel I’ve ever written, because I was so enamored of her voice. (It’s also my least successful novel. Perhaps there’s a lesson there. The next few book won’t be first-person, anyway. That’s not the right voice for any of them.)

  • Next few books? Well, the aforementioned commissioned work, due in April, which will be published late next year, I think, not that you’ll hear about it from me. That Wizards of the Coast book — I’m waiting to find out if the editor wants changes or not. Perhaps I’ll be able to reveal its title soon. Possibly another work-for-hire book under my own name; it depends on whether the editor likes the outline I did. And Briarpatch, my contemporary fantasy coming next summer/fall from Chizine Publications. I’d like to write another Marla serial — something called Home Again or Home Free or Murder Island maybe — and also have plans for a standalone fantasy called Heirs of Grace. It’s good to have plans.

  • Making epub files is fun. Making epub files from novels is dead easy too. It’s just heaps of text, and well suited to the limitations of most e-readers. Making epub files of A Certain Magazine is rather more challenging, as there are a lot of images and weirdly-formatted bits and bobbles… but it’s still fun, if also exhausting. We’ll be offering digital subscriptions starting next month.

  • My kid is cute. My wife and I got him to recite — by giving him a phrase at a time to repeat — the To Be or Not to Be speech; “The Red Wheelbarrow”; “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night”; “Fire and Ice”; bits of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”; and “Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister.” After each recitation we would clap, and he would say, “Thank you, thank you,” very modestly.

  • Confronted with a refrigerator of leftover turkey and potatoes and stuffing on Monday night, I chose instead to make huevos rancheros, because there’s only so much traditional holiday carbs a man can ingest. Even a man such as myself.

There. You have now rifled through the contents of my very mind. I hope you found it delicious and filling.

The Alphabet Collab

Some years ago Greg van Eekhout and Heather Shaw and I started working on what we called our “alphabet collab,” conceived as 26 flash fiction pieces, one for each letter of the alphabet. (You know — “A is for Airport,” “B is for Banyan Tree,” “C is for Caltrops,” like that.) The vague plan was to compile the whole set and try to sell it somewhere, but that never quite happened, mostly because we never wrote all the letters. We did however perform some of the pieces often at readings, to general delight — they’re short, and often funny, which are good things to be at a reading. After a while we all ended up selling some of the individual stories — my own published ones include “Caltrops,” “Fiddle,” “Uchronia,” and “Incubus”. Greg even expanded some of his into longer stories.

Then, several weeks ago, something cool happened: Jonathan Laden, an editor at Daily Science Fiction, which published one of my flash pieces from the alphabet collab, asked if we’d be interested in letting him publish the whole set — assuming we could write new pieces to fill the gaps where we’d sold the original stories. About the same time — maybe a day later? — Dave Thompson of Escape Artists (which does the Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod fiction podcasts, which have published many of the original alphabet collab pieces) asked us if we’d sell him the whole set, to offer as special downloadable content.

Greg and Heather and I were happy to oblige… except we needed to write new pieces. Lots of them, since most of the originals had been sold already. So we drafted Jenn Reese — who excels at flash fiction — to help us compose new letters. Then we talked and worked for about a month.

The result: The Alphabet Quartet, over 15,000 words of swift fictions, coming to you soon from Daily Science Fiction and Escape Artists. DSF will start publishing them, one per week, in January 2011, starting with the longest story in the bunch, “A is for Arthur”. The Escape Artists edition — which may be a paid download featuring audio versions of every story, or a subscriber gift, or something else — will probably be available a few months after that. EA is also planning to publish B-sides, variant letters, reprints of the original letters, and etc. as teasers and treats.

So there you go: half a year of stories by me, Greg, Jenn, and Heather. It’s awesome. I’m thrilled. This is one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been involved in.

Clarion Call

Clarion, people. Clarion! They’re taking applications for next year’s session in San Diego. Here’s their pitch:

Clarion is widely recognized as a premier training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction short stories. The 2011 writers in residence are Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, David Anthony Durham, John Kessel and Kij Johnson. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. Students are expected to write several new short stories during the six-week workshop, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Instructors and students reside together in UCSD campus apartments throughout the intensive six-week program.

Application period: December 1 – March 1. Applicants must submit two short stories with their application.

Workshop: June 26 – August 6, 2011.

So go to their website and take a look.

It’s a great line-up of teachers. While I can’t speak specifically to the experience of doing Clarion in San Diego (I went to Clarion 11 years ago, in the East Lansing Michigan days), I can attest to the experience of Clarion generally, which is: life changing. I know you hear that phrase a lot — about books, movies, restaurants, mind-altering substances, etc., but with Clarion (for me anyway) it was literally true. I met people there who are still among my best friends. My professors were inspirations. I learned more about writing in six weeks than I’d learned in all the years previous. I discovered that awesome famous writers are people, too. It very literally changed my life — without Clarion, I wouldn’t have ended up working at Locus, where I’ve been working for nearly ten years now. (One of my instructors was friends with the boss, and basically got the job for me — plus, I first heard about Locus at Clarion!) I can’t promise it’ll have that big an impact on your life, of course… but it will give you six weeks to spend intensely focused on writing, surrounded by people who care as much about this stuff as you do. If you can carve out the time, it’s worth applying. (I desperately want to teach there some day, myself.)

I can also speak to the awesomeness of San Diego: it’s awesome. Great food, great beaches, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore — what more could you want? No offense to East Lansing, which has its charms, but I gotta think San Diego is more fun.


We put the boy — now no longer a toddler, technically, but a pre-schooler — to bed last night. While attempting to wrestle him into his jammies, he sang/yelled:

“If you’re happy and you know it, punch, hit!

If you’re happy and you know it, kick, hit!”

All punctuated with punching and kicking. When he finished singing he said, “Do you like that song? Do you? Do you like it? You like that song?” in an extremely manic way.

It was like watching an outtake from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Like Pulp Fiction: Babies.

(Bedtime is still an epic struggle, but it’s getting better, in general.)


My awesome wife Heather Shaw recently sat down and powered through revisions on her middle grade science fiction novel of gene-hacking mayhem and adventure. She finished it off and sent it to a couple of agents last week. I’m so proud of her!


My original short-short stories “D is for De Gustibus” and “Luminous” will be at Podcastle in the future, along with audio versions of my stories “Hart and Boot” and “Terrible Ones”. Oh, how I love the ‘pods! Especially when they send me acceptances for four stories in a single e-mail. Got a rejection from Asimov’s this week, too, though, so the sweet is balanced by the sour and etc.

(Speaking of Podcastle, they recently did “Skatouioannis” by Nick Mamatas, one of my favorite of Nick’s stories. The title monster even had a brief cameo in one of my Marla novels, as an homage…)

The Way of the Wizard anthology is out, including my story “Mommy Issues of the Dead” (featuring a young Marla Mason) and lots of other awesome tales. Check it out.

Here’s the first review I’ve seen of Welcome to Bordertown, and pleasantly enough it says nice things about my contribution, “Our Stars, Our Selves”. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to be part of that anthology.


My middle grade novel The Deep Woods has been revised and line-edited. I think it’s one of my strongest books yet. I’ll send it to my agent after Thanksgiving and hope she agrees. And that some publishers agree. And that readers agree. And so on.

All I have on my plate writing-wise at the moment is a few book reviews and a couple of stories (one a flash piece, one a Christmas story). Should be fun. I’m expecting to hear back about some longer projects in upcoming weeks, though, so life could potentially become more exciting soon.


Worked a 12+ hour day last week to finish up the December issue of A Certain Magazine. (We were on a short production schedule because of Thanksgiving.) Brutal, but at least it was followed by a three-day weekend. I read a bunch of comics, watched some TV, played with the kid, took walks, ate brunch, got fancy ice cream, etc. Wonderfully relaxing. And today… back to work. But I only have to work two days of the next seven, so it’s hardly a great trial.


Part 12 of The Nex is up. Not sure if anyone’s reading it; no one has commented in a couple of weeks, and no one has donated in many weeks. Maybe everyone who cared just bought the e-book version. I still like it, though, and am happy to have it out there.

The Death of Free Time

Life is full of interesting things. Lots of fun projects are bubbling around in my personal Possibilitysphere; I hope they all coalesce into actuality. (Vague enough for you? Well, I don’t want to scare the Possibilities away by speaking of them any more specifically.)

I took a whole night off from writing after finishing The Deep Woods. I aimlessly wandered through my house all evening and went to bed much earlier than usual. Dreadful. So last night I dove back into work, doing a 1,000 word story for a project that has attained actuality, but which I’m unprepared to discuss in detail yet. The story’s a mash-up of Dora the Explorer and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, in about a thousand words. (As my friend Melissa pointed out, Dora is probably far better prepared for the jungle than poor Marlowe was.) Sometimes I just sit around and cackle to myself. I love my brain.

I also love my kid… though he’s doing unlovable stuff lately. The bedtime power struggle continues. Peacefully leading him back to bed when he gets up works, I guess, but very, very slowly. Last night we led him back to bed about 50 times — literally — before he finally fell asleep. Heather and I have lost entire evenings lately to kid bedtime drama, which sucks, since that’s our only real free time as a couple — and also my main writing time. (Remember: I have a full-time day job, so the books get written on nights and weekends.) I really hope he gets over this soon, but he’s firmly enmeshed in the Terrible Threes, so I don’t really expect things to get better in the near future. Sigh. He used to be such a good sleeper. Last night he went to bed at 10 and got up at 6 this morning. BRUTAL.

Endings and Beginnings. Oh, and Middles.

The final chapter of Broken Mirrors has been published! The end is upon us. Thanks to everyone who read. (If you want to donate and get fundraiser prizes, you only have a week left to do so. After that, I stop dispensing goodies.) E-book version will follow soon, and the print version will be along in a month or so, I think (assuming I finish going over the page proofs in time!).

Onward to the next project: I’m serializing my science fantasy adventure novel The Nex, starting on September 6. Though next week I’ll post my story “Dream Engine,” which is set earlier in the same world and shares some characters, to whet your appetites. Head over there and sign up for the RSS feed or whatever. This will once again be a reader-funded serial, so pay if you like. There are some fundraiser prizes, but not as many as I had for Broken Mirrors (for one thing, The Nex is shorter! Only 18 chapters/weeks. For another, it doesn’t have the accumulated cool stuff of four previous novels — artwork etc. — for me to give away!)

Now begins the Two Weeks Of Madness. We’re finishing up the September Steampunk issue of A Certain Magazine at work this week, so that’s busy. On Friday, my kid has an examination under anesthesia, which is always stressful. (Wish us luck, and hope for no need for surgery.) Next week Heather’s out of town all week for a wedding, so I’ll be solo parent. Aiee!

Over the weekend I realized the novel I’m writing was proceeding in entirely the wrong direction, so I had to throw out everything I’d written (not too much so far, fortunately) and start over from scratch. On the bright side, the writing should go more smoothly now that I’m on the right track. But I’ve got lots of writing ahead of me.

It was a pretty fun weekend, though. River’s ear infection is better, thanks to antibiotics. (Whoo science!) My lovely wife and I took the kid over to the old neighborhood on Saturday to visit the Farmer’s Market and play in the bounce house, which was great. We did a cookout last night — I grilled four different kinds of animal! One evening I had coffee with a local fan who was cool and fun to hang out with. (And, hey: free coffee.) So it’s not all stress and lost pages.