Thursday, December 12, 2013

John Steinbeck

"If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last." ~John Steinbeck

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Received...Peter Watts

Beyond the Rift Arriving on my doorstep (actually, the mail carrier rang the doorbell, as he always does when there is a package to be delivered) is the most recent release from Tachyon Publications: the short story collection from Canadian SF writer Peter Watts.

I worked on Beyond the Rift back in June, and you can read more about that in my blog post entitled "Wattsworld," published on June 25, 2013.

The collection includes 13 of the author's most notable stories, including the Hugo Award-winning novelette "The Island." In "This Fall's Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Books," Annalee Newitz for io9 writes:
A new book from crazy genius Watts is always cause for celebration — and this collection of short stories brings together some of his greatest work, including his mind-altering retelling of The Thing called "The Things." Known for his pitch-black views on human nature, and a breathtaking ability to explore the weird side of evolution and animal behavior, Watts is one of those writers who gets into your brain and remains lodged there like an angry, sentient tumor.
And author Paul Di Filippo, in his book review column for Barnes & Noble, had this to say about Beyond the Rift:
Canadian author Peter Watts is a biologist by training and a visionary by inclination. His novels are hard-edged yet coolly psychedelic extrapolations of our gene-modded future. Possessing the stern moral acuity of James Tiptree, he also exhibits the intellectual zest of Arthur C. Clarke. His afterword to his new story collection, Beyond the Rift, is one of the best essays in recent memory about the nature of the kind of science fiction that mates these qualities. Watts is expert at inhabiting the mind of the Other, whether it's a Cambellian shape-shifting alien in "The Things," a future soldier high on techno Rapture in "A Word for Heathens," or a deep-sea dweller with mysterious origins in "Home." His killer opening sentences ("First Contact was supposed to solve everything"; "Wescott was glad when it finally stopped breathing") are rabbit holes to strange futures.

Libraries for Booklovers Everywhere

The Escorial Library, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
This is only one of the many exquisite photographs of libraries from around the world in a recently published coffee-table book entitled The Library: A World History by James W. P. Campbell and Will Pryce, from University of Chicago Press.

Campbell, from Cambridge University, provides the extensive history of library buildings, each accompanied by Pryce's amazing photographs. But, the book ain't cheap: the hardcover retails for $75.00 and Amazon has it listed for $50.03. But don't let that dissuade you...

Courtesy of, you can take a sneak peek at 15 of these awe-inspiring photographs.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Received...Kage Baker

In the Company of ThievesI had actually received my contributor's copy of Kage Baker's In the Company of Thieves nearly a month ago, but I was right in the middle of a deadline project, so I set the book aside for later. When I realized I still hadn't posted the book on this blog, I was in the middle of yet another project (actually two deadline projects, back-to-back). I'm not complaining, mind you, especially when the work involves books by Tad Williams, James Morrow, and Barbara Webb. But now those projects are complete --

In the Company of Thieves may be one of the last -- if not the last -- short story collections by Kage Baker, who passed away at the too-young age of 57 on January 31, 2010.

I worked on this collection this past May for publisher Tachyon Publications and, in fact, I wrote up some notes and thoughts and whatnot that I posted to this blog on May 14. So if you want to read a bit more about the collection, other than what is available on the publisher's website, that's the link to click on.

The collection was compiled by Kage's sister, Kathleen Bartholomew, and the one story original to the collection, "Hollywood Ikons," is a collaboration, as it were, between Kage and Kathleen.

Kage and Kathleen and I go way back... You can read my tribute to Kage, "In the Company of Kage Baker," which I posted on January 27, 2010.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Rhesus Chart Revealed

In my blog post on October 15, at which time I was working on Charles Stross's forthcoming Laundry Files novel The Rhesus Chart, I stated that I had seen the preliminary cover art but was not permitted to post it at the time.

Well, the final cover art has been released -- so, behold, The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross, to be published by Ace Books in July 2014:

The Rhesus Chart

You'll note that at the bottom of the front cover, below the book title, the text reads: "Bob Howard, the vampire slayer?" So I won't be spoiling anything if I present here the novel's opening sentence (which the author himself has posted online as well):
"Don't be silly, Bob," said Mo, "everybody knows vampires don't exist."
But in Bob Howard's world of Applied Computational Demonology, can we be so sure?...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Editing in Process...James Morrow

The Madonna and the Starship
Cover Art & Design by
Elizabeth Story

My working relationship with author James Morrow dates back a good ten-plus years. In 2003 I included a reprint of his story "Auspicious Eggs" in my co-edited anthology Witpunk (with Claude Lalumière). Then in August 2008 I line/copy edited Morrow's novella Shambling Towards Hiroshima, which was published by Tachyon Publications the following year. Shambling received critical praise, winning the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 2010, as well as being named a finalist for both the Nebula and Hugo awards. Also in 2010, my original Fermi paradox anthology, Is Anybody Out There? (co-edited with Nick Gevers) was published, for which Morrow wrote "The Vampires of Paradox," one of the more celebrated stories in the book.1

James Morrow is an absolute master of the sardonic, which was one of the reasons Claude and I selected his story for inclusion in Witpunk. (The other, primary reason, being that he is a master craftsman.) But a reader wouldn't need an anthology like Witpunk to know about the sardonic side of James Morrow: simply look at the individual titles of his stories -- "Auspicious Eggs," "The Vampires of Paradox," and "Shambling Towards Hiroshima." And his new book is no exception. The title? The Madonna and the Starship, forthcoming from Tachyon Pubs in early 2014.

I recall the book launch event for Is Anybody Out There? at ReaderCon in Boston in July, 2010. In addition to James Morrow, authors Yves Meynard and Paul Di Filippo were on hand to read from their stories. My blog post "Readercon Recap," published on July 27, 2010, covers the details, but to quote from that post: "About five or so minutes into his reading, Jim [Morrow] reached under the table and -- surprising us all (myself included) -- brought forth a purplish brainlike thing with long tentacles, which he perched upon his shoulder as a visual representation of the parasitic cacodaemons in his story. Great bouts of laughter ensued."

Fast forward three years.... In late September I received an email from Jill Roberts at Tachyon Pubs informing me that James Morrow had requested that I work on his new novella. And two days later I received an email from the author himself: he would send me "a version of the file with a few new nips and tucks and tweaks" when I was ready....

So, here I am working on The Madonna and the Starship, a story that takes place in the early 1950s, the decade in which commercial television was finally affordable for mainstream America. Television sets first appeared in the Sears Roebuck catalog in 1949, and by 1950 nine percent of U.S. households could boast of owning a television set. By 1951 the television networks broadcast a total of twenty-seven hours of children's shows each week, and promoted the educational aspects of television to parents.2 Which brings me to Kurt Jastrow, the protagonist of our story. who is the head writer for the NBC children's program Brock Barton and His Rocket Rangers. In addition to cranking out weekly episodes of Brock Barton, Jastrow was also tasked with writing -- and starring in -- a ten-minute segment at the end of each episode: Uncle Wonder's Attic. Wearing a cardigan sweater and hiding behind a fake grizzled beard and equally fake eyebrows, Uncle Wonder would rummage around in his attic until he found just the right materials to perform some experiment related to the Brock Barton universe. Here's Kurt:

I liked my job. Just as our show enabled kids to fantasize that they were star sailors, so did my scripting duties allow me to imagine that I was a playwright, though I knew perfectly well that nobody was about to confuse a space schooner called the Triton with a streetcar named Desire.

But, Jastrow's day-to-day normalcy was interrupted by the arrival of two lobster-like aliens -- Wulawand and Volavont, from the planet Qualimosa in the Procyon system: a planet of "logical positivists." Unfortunately, this didn't bode well for Kurt Jastrow's love interest, Connie Osborne, who wrote and produced a Sunday morning religious program called Not By Bread Alone. Certain that the program's audience represented "a hive of irrationalist vermin," the Qualimosans planned to piggyback their death-ray onto the broadcast signal of Not By Bread Alone, to every NBC affiliate. Come Sunday morning, at ten minutes past ten o'clock, the Earth would be cleansed of nearly two million irrationalists.

Kurt and Connie now had less that two days to write, cast, and rehearse a replacement episode of Not By Bread Alone, one that was so perfectly rational and utterly absurd as to foil the Qualimosans' plans.

The Madonna and the Starship is available for preorder on


1. This blog also has a dedicated Is Anybody Out There? page, which includes the complete text of six of the anthology's stories.

2. "Television History - A Timeline: 1878-2005," The University of Texas School of Law, Tarlton Law Library, Jamail Center for Legal Research.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Winter in the City Kickstarter

Art by Kip Ayers
If you read this blog even irregularly -- which is pretty much how I post to it anyhow -- then you've undoubtedly seen the two or three "teasers" I've posted about a Kickstarter project entitled Winter in the City.

Winter in the City is -- will be -- an anthology of urban fantasy stories about real cities. The Kickstarter campaign launched on November 1, which means we're now at the halfway point.

Though I will be editing this anthology, the idea for the project -- and the management of the Kickstarter -- belongs to authors R. B. Wood and M. J. King. The idea came about during R. B.'s and M. J.'s attendance at ReaderCon in Boston this past July. If you would like to read more about the actual genesis of the Kickstarter project, please read R. B. Wood's guest blog post on Fantasy Book Critic. But for now, and in their own words, they share some thoughts on Winter in the City. (I'm surprised they even asked me to join the team... I don't have any initials in my name!)

* * * * *
R. B. Wood: Ever since I was old enough to hide a copy of Analog or the now defunct Amazing Stories in a random text book, I've loved short stories. My library is filled with anthologies of the fantastical dating back to the 1970s, and I continue to collect, read, and reread them to this day.

The Winter in the City Kickstarter project is a culmination of decades-worth of adoration for the short story. And for one boy's obsession for more worlds to explore.

M. J. King: The awesome thing about urban fantasy, for me, is that it takes the familiar and makes it fantastic. The places that each of us sees every day made magical. Or perhaps urban fantasy taps into the magic inherent in these places, allowing us to see it more clearly.

Urban fantasy is just sideways of everything we know and experience in our waking lives. There's always this niggling wonder in the back of my mind: What if it were real? What if the magic of fey, and gods, and demons joined our everyday sort of magic?

RB: What if all the things in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, or even Dracula were transported into the real world of city life?

And how could you use the complexities inherent when large populations of thinking and feeling people live in close quarters with the supernatural?

This is at the core of the anthology. Exploring different cities from around the world and how monsters, faeries, magic, and ghosts play with the millions of city dwellers.

MJ: As a new writer, the opportunity to work with a project with so much potential has been awesomely staggering. To go from talking over the concept with R. B. to this stage has been a huge learning curve, and I'm sure it will only grow steeper from here.

RB: The response to WitC has been overwhelming and exciting, while also being a bit daunting. Key for us was engaging with an editor that not only is the consummate professional, but has the industry experience to take this project to an entirely new level than even I had imagined. I've known Marty Halpern for a number of years -- and not only was he perfect for the role, he was excited to join the team. His guidance and support has been invaluable.

MJ: Marty has been fantastic, and because of his involvement, this project has already become so much more than I imagined it could be.

RB: The authors -- many of whom I am a fan-boy of -- responded to their project invitation with not only the response we were looking for, but with offers to help with things like reward levels and advice for the Kickstarter. These storytellers have begun to share ideas, and more specifically the cities in which they want to set their Winter-tales.

MJ: We owe a giant thank you to all the Kickstarter backers, because without them, this project won't happen. I can't wait to read the submissions and discover what magic the authors find in their cities!

RB: Our goal, really, is very basic: great stories that focus on the one constant in Urban Fantasy (no matter what definition of the genre you subscribe to) -- The City.

Because, in the middle of the night, we all know that the unexplained and fantastic will walk, crawl, slither, and fly amongst the concrete, steel, and glass of the metropolis.
* * * * *
A brief explanation of Kickstarter if you're not familiar with the term, or these types of projects: Kickstarter is a website that supports crowd-funded projects. Readers of this blog, for example, help make up the "crowd." A Kickstarter project will offer rewards, or incentives, hopefully intriguing enough -- or at least interesting enough -- to compel the "crowd" to part with some amount of their hard-earned $$$ to help support the project. No matter how much money any one individual "invests" in the project, no money actually changes hands -- and no rewards/incentives are sent out -- unless the project is fully funded. And that, of course, is the goal: Winter in the City needs to be fully funded for this anthology to happen.

Our Kickstarter project website lists the authors who plan to submit stories to the anthology, but I'll just throw out a few names here: Kevin J. Anderson, Brad Beaulieu, Pat Cadigan (a 2013 Hugo Award winner for best novelette), Alex Irvine, Gini Koch, Nick Mamatas, James Morrow, Pat Murphy, Shauna Roberts, and Harry Turtledove -- and that's just a very few names that come immediately to mind.

Winter in the City has a goal of $15,000, of which nearly one-half is earmarked for the authors so that they may receive professional rates for their work. Kickstarter works when a lot of people know about the project: the more people who know about the project the larger the support pool becomes. Even if you don't choose to participate in the project, if you think it's a worthy endeavor, then helping to spread the word will aid the project in the long run.

We hope you'll join us in this endeavor to help make Winter in the City a reality. And please share the link to the Kickstarter campaign with others as well.

"The underground of the city is like what's underground in people. Beneath the surface, it's boiling with monsters." ~Guillermo del Toro


R. B. Wood (@rbwood) is a technology consultant and a writer of Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and quite frankly anything else that strikes his fancy. His first novel, The Prodigal's Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012. Mr. Wood is currently working on the second volume of his Arcana Chronicles series, The Young Practitioner, as well as numerous short stories, a graphic novel, and a science fiction trilogy that he dusts off every few years. Along with his writing passion, R. B. is host of The Word Count Podcast: a show that features talent from around the globe reading original flash-fiction stories.

M. J. King (@mjkingwrites) currently lives on the Maine coast with her husband. Her urban fantasy short story, "A Trick of Shadows," can be found in the Kickstarter-funded anthology Fight Like a Girl. She is an occasional contributor to The Word Count Podcast and is one of the three women behind Anxiety Ink.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Editing in Process...The Very Best of Tad Williams

The Very Best of Tad Williams
Art by Kerem Beyit
My latest copy editing project is a hefty collection of Tad Williams stories, 135,000 words (including front and back matter) to be exact, titled The Very Best of Tad Williams, forthcoming from Tachyon Publications in May 2014.

I have Tad's four-volume Otherland series in my library, but except for the Otherland novella, "The Happiest Dead Boy in the World" (included in Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Robert Silverberg, Tor Books, 2003), I've not read any of the author's other short fiction --

Until now. And my excuse for not having read any of Tad Williams's other short stories? Well, can I plead insanity? As I must have been insane to have overlooked some of these stories.

I was pleased to see that this collection contained the more recent Otherland story, "The Boy Detective of Oz" (originally published in Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, 47North, 2013), which I hadn't previously read -- so now my Otherland series is complete.

My favorite story, by far, in the collection is "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of" -- a story of stage magicians, a locked-door mystery, and a missing book of memoirs. This novelette is pure gold, written in the style of the noir detective story, with just the right touch of sardonic wit provided by the occasionally drunk protagonist, one Dalton Pinnard -- also known as "Pinardo the Magnificent." And, of course, we have Pinnard's receptionist Tilly, and the requisite damsel, Ms. Emily Heltenbocker.

Second favorite would have to be another novelette, "And Ministers of Grace" (originally published in Warriors, edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin, Tor Books, 2010). A heady tale of two religious factions: the Rationalists of Archimedes and the Abramites of Covenant. An assasin's beliefs are so ingrained that he completely closes off the ability to even listen to, let alone consider, the beliefs of others.

Here's the table of contents:
The Old Scale Game
The Storm Door
The Stranger's Hands
Child of an Ancient City
The Boy Detective of Oz
Three Duets for Virgin and Nosehorn
Diary of a Dragon
Not with a Whimper, Either
Some Thoughts Re: Dark Destroyer
Z is for...
Monsieur Vergalant's Canard
The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of
A Fish Between Three Friends
Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air
A Stark and Wormy Knight
Black Sunshine
And Ministers of Grace
Omnitron, What Ho!
The last story, "Omnitron, What Ho!" is original to this collection. It's the tale of Werner Von Secondstage Booster, his Aunt Jabbatha, and how "Wernie" first met his robot servant Omnitron. As I read this story, I pictured Jeeves and Wooster....only instead of Jeeves rescuing Wooster from one of his typical hijinks, Omnitron saves Wernie from a more deadly romantic liaison.

And the longest story in the collection, "Black Sunshine," which clocks in at nearly 28,000 words, is written as a screenplay. Five friends, Brent, Eric, Janice, Kimmy, and Topher, party down on the last Saturday night of the summer, before school begins. Then, twenty-five years later, on the last Saturday night before school begins, they all meet once again, and slowly begin to realize exactly what happened that night, twenty-five years ago -- except that it is happening right now.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winter in the City

"The underground of the city is like what's underground in people. Beneath the surface, it's boiling with monsters." ~Guillermo del Toro

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The main reason I don't post on Blogger more often:

Books Received...Stephen R. Donaldson and K. W. Jeter

The Last Dark
The long-awaited tenth and final volume, The Last Dark (G. P. Putnam's Sons), in Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, has finally been published.

I remember when I first started reading the first volume, Lord Foul's Bane, shortly after the book was published in 1977. I was expecting a fantasy -- you know, some medieval land, or faery land, or bewitched land -- and here was some guy walking down the street on his way to pay his electric bill! So the community started paying his bills for him, and sending him food so that he didn't have to come into town for any reason. But one of those thoughtful meals, a sandwich, contained ground glass. And all of this was being done for, and to, the man because he had leprosy! WTF?

I was so taken aback by the setting -- it was so NOT what I had been expecting -- that I couldn't get into it, and I put the book back on the shelf.

For whatever reason I no longer recall, more than ten years later I picked the book back up and started to read it once again. Now that I knew what to expect, I got sucked in to the story and couldn't put the book(s) down. And by now, of course, there were six volumes to consume! I was working as a technical instructor at the time for a high-tech company. (The hapless company shall remain nameless to protect their innocence.) I would make my way to the classroom as early as possible to prepare for class, and as soon as all the setup was complete, I'd pull out whatever Thomas Covenant volume I was on at the time and continue my reading; and it always seemed to take longer to clean up after class, too.

It's now been more than twenty years since I've read the first six books in this series. Gawd, twenty-plus years.... I've now purchased all four books in The Last Chronicles, but I haven't started reading them yet. First, I don't like to read a series until I have all the volumes in the series in hand; and second, I'm seriously considering starting with book one, Lord Foul's Bane, and reading all ten volumes.

Fiendish Schemes
The second book I purchased was another long-awaited title: K. W. Jeter's Fiendish Schemes (Tor Books), sequel to his Steampunk novel Infernal Devices, originally published by St. Martin's Press in 1987. Jeter, by the way, is credited with coining the term "Steampunk" in a letter to Locus magazine, printed in the April 1987 issue.

In October 1988 I was on my way to ArmadilloCon 10, at which K. W. Jeter was the Author Guest of Honor, and the other author guests included James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers. I flew American Airlines from San Jose to Dallas/Fort Worth, and from there to Austin, Texas. Upon boarding the plane to Austin, as I was walking down the aisle to my seat, I spied someone reading a copy of Infernal Devices. I stopped, and made some type of comment like, If you're reading Jeter's novel, then you must be going to ArmadilloCon, too -- to which she responded in the affirmative. That individual was Spike Parsons, well known among Bay Area fandom, whom I met for the first time on that plane. [Hi, Spike!]

You can read a bit more about my attendance at Armadillocon 10 in my blog post entitled "Philip K. Dick & Rudy Rucker's Warez," posted on August 30, 2010.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Editing in Process...Charles Stross

I promised myself -- and readers of this blog -- that I would post updates of my current editing work in process, so....

I'm currently line editing and copy editing the fifth Charles Stross Laundry Files novel (and my fifth volume as well), The Rhesus Chart, to be published next year by Ace Books.

I have seen the preliminary cover art, but since it's not the final cover art, and I'm not permitted to post it here, you'll have to make do with the SOE Department Q coat of arms -- the World War II precursor to the Laundry.

If you're not familiar with Stross's Laundry Files stories, I have written previously on this blog about the events surrounding the acquisition and publication of the first two Laundry Files books, originally published in hardcover by Golden Gryphon Press, and currently available in trade paperback from Ace Books: The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. That blog post, entitled "Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service," was posted on December 10, 2009, and can be found here. I also wrote extensively about my work on the previous Laundry Files novel, The Apocalypse Codex, as Ace had imposed a new requirement on me: providing a style sheet (which I must provide this time around as well). Posted on January 27, 2012, "Doing Charles Stross's Laundry with Style" can be found here.

And you can read Stross's latest Laundry Files story, "Equoid," available for your reading pleasure courtesy of

Now, where did I put my warrant card....

Follow-up blog post:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Editing in process....Michael J. Sullivan

Hollow World
For the past couple years, I've been posting my current editing work on Facebook, on Google+, and on Twitter -- but not on More Red Ink.

Consequently, two (or more) weeks may pass before I post a new update here, which may lead dedicated readers to believe that I've not been working, that I've been out enjoying this beautiful Northern California weather, that I've been spending all my time on my Nexus 7 tab (only partly true).

So, beginning with this post, I will be updating the blog with a brief entry on each of my new projects, when I receive new books, and essentially anything that may be relevant to my work, that I have previously been posting on social media.

My current project, pictured to the left, is copy editing the forthcoming novel Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan. Hollow World will be published by Tachyon Publications in April 2014.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chuck Wendig: "Dear Publishers"

Author Chuck Wendig has been known to post a rant or two...or three or four...on his blog terribleminds....

In his most recent rant [Note: NSFW language], Dear Publishers, Chuck has a few words -- actually, a lot of words -- for publishers: what they should and should not do. I'll include the major points below, with a few succinct quotes, but you really need to read Chuck's blog post in its entirety, assuming of course that you are in some way connected to the business of publishing.

Chuck writes:
"I think [publishers] do the Story Lord's work in bringing books to to the world.... You are vital. A vital part of the ecosystem. A critical and competitive keystone of the entire book-reading, book-loving, book-smelling, book-humping culture. I love books. You publish books.... Still, as much as I like you, I think it's time we had a conversation. I've noticed some things you do that, frankly, I think you could be doing better...."
    "I get it. You like DRM. You think it's valuable in staving off waves of book-thieving pirates.... [But], for the most part, DRM is implemented poorly."
    "No, really, I'm not kidding. You tell me, 'You buy a hardcopy, we'll give you an e-copy,' then I'll take that deal every time."
    "Indie bookstores want to sell books and spread the book-love around. And you, as publishers, are purveyors of those very books. Partner with them."
    "You know another way that a lot of people learn to love books? Libraries. I mean, how awesome is a library?... Help libraries. Help them. They’re customers. But even beyond that, they’re the drug dealers of the book world."
    "SFF right now is going through a lot of growing pains in terms of straining its white dude diapers.... A lot of this change happens inside publishing. It starts with hiring people at all strata within the industry from a variety of life experiences and social configurations."
    "I've been happy with my publishers. I know a lot of authors who are happy with theirs, too, and who have signed smart contracts.... [but] You try to grab rights that should never be yours, or offer up Byzantine rules so confusing and labyrinthine it's like a math puzzle for MENSA meth addicts."
    "...if you keep data from us, it might seem as if you’re trying to hide something. Again, we want to feel like partners, not like employees. What you know, we should also know."
    "...signing up with these services often wildly exploits the author."
    "Author-based publishing is here and it’s not going anywhere.... Relationships must evolve. The business models must change.... "

I can't emphasize enough: If you are a writer, editor, publisher, self-publisher, please read Chuck Wendig's entire blog post, Dear Publishers. You won't be disappointed. And you might even learn something...or two...or three.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Digital Detective Inspector Chen

Snake Agent 111437787684
Nearly three years ago, on December 1, 2010, I published a blog post on the long-awaited publication of the fifth Detective Inspector Chen novel, The Iron Khan, by author Liz Williams. At that time, the novel was only available in various ebook formats. Morrigan Books, publisher of this fifth DI Chen novel, released the print edition in the first part of 2011.

I had edited all five of Williams's Chen novels for Night Shade Books, but due to circumstances (which the author explained on her Live Journal here and here), the fifth volume was dropped by Night Shade and picked up by Morrigan Books.

Now, finally, all five Detective Inspector Chen novels are available in a variety of ebook formats from Open Road Media -- the novels should be read in order, as the underlying story is revealed that leads up to the proposed sixth and final volume, Morning Star. Here are the five volumes, in order of publication -- and the order in which they should be read: [Note: Links below are to the Amazon Kindle format; other formats can be obtained via iTunes, Google, B&N, and Kobo.]

  1. Snake Agent
  2. The Demon and the City
  3. Precious Dragon
  4. The Shadow Pavilion
  5. The Iron Khan

Paul Weimer, in his review of The Iron Khan on Goodreads, has summed up what is so special about this series of novels. Paul writes: "As is usual for the Chen books, the narrative not only focuses on Chen, Zhu Irzh and their friends and allies, but new characters, whose goals, desires and needs bloom like a flower quickly coming into full season. Both the titular antagonist, the Iron Khan, other antagonists, and those who oppose their efforts, such as the Japanese warrior Omi, have their narrative threads intersect with our main characters. They have pasts, presents and futures of their own, and never serve to act for the benefit of the main characters. If anything, these characters draw our main characters and their talents into their stories, for ill or will."

All five Detective Inspector Chen novels are also available in matching trade paperbacks from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bradley P. Beaulieu Has Booked Passage

Back in April, I published a blog post highlighting my then current project: copy editing the crowdfunded short fiction collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, by Bradley P. Beaulieu (pronounced "Bowl-yer").

Well, that blog post was four months ago, and I now hold in my hand my contributor's copy of Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, with cover art by Sang Han, and original black and white illos by Evgeni Maloshenkov that open each of the seventeen stories.

The book is a trade paperback, and the quality is as good as, if not better than, books published by any New York publisher. I'm quite impressed with this book, and pleased to have been a part of this crowdfunded project.

I want to thank Brad Beaulieu for providing me the opportunity to work on this project with him (Here's to hoping there will be others in the near future!) and for his kind words, which he shared with readers in the book's acknowledgements:
To Marty Halpern, you have my thanks for lending your keen eye to the three new stories, and then applying it again to the entire ms. This collection would have been riddled with errors without your help.

Aw, shucks. Thanks, Brad.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

In memory of Elmore Leonard, crime novelist and screenwriter, October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013. During his sixty-year career, Leonard wrote nearly fifty novels, twenty-six of which were adapted for television or movies.

For all the details behind these Ten Rules of Writing, please read the author's Writers on Writing essay entitled "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle," published in the New York Times, on July 16, 2001.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Mensch by any other name...

The Urban Dictionary defines "Mensch" as:
...someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being "a real mensch" is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. (Rosten, Leo. 1968. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: Pocket Books. 237)

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For those of you who have worked as freelancers for any length of time -- especially in the various genre fields -- you have most likely encountered a situation when your employer kills a project that you've worked on, or the employer files for bankruptcy, or, to avoid bankruptcy, is purchased by another entity. In my years of freelancing, I've encountered this twice: the demise of Realms of Fantasy magazine, published for a short time by Damnation Books, and the demise and sale of Night Shade Books.

When these unfortunate events happen, the freelancer is typically owed money and, most likely, not all of that money will ever be forthcoming. Some refer to the money that eventually does get paid as a "kill fee"; I prefer to call it a "screw fee." A kill fee comes from the magazine industry, and refers to, say, an article that is written and accepted, but then never published for some reason. The freelancer did the work, but the article is never used; thus the freelancer is typically paid a pre-defined percentage of the money owed. In my case the work was accepted AND used, and there was no pre-defined "kill fee" clause. I simply wasn't paid the full amount owed to me by either Damnation Books or the new Night Shade Books owners, Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing.

And though I would prefer to be paid fully for work performed (Wouldn't we all?), especially at the level of quality that I adhere to for all my projects, I understand that that is one of the risks in freelancing, especially in this business of independent publishers.

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So what do "mensch" and "kill/screw fees" have in common, you might wonder....

When Night Shade Books was sold, the new publishers owed me for four projects that I had completed between November 2012 and January 2013. Though I was paid only a small percentage of what was owed, on the bright side, something is always better than nothing.

Shortly thereafter I received an email from one of the four authors whose projects I had worked on. S/he asked me how much was owed to me for working on her/his project, because, s/he said, "I want to make it right with you." The author was planning on paying me with the money s/he received, per contract, from the new owners of Night Shade Books.

So, using the percentage of what I was paid versus what I was owed, I figured out the difference, and determined how much I was still owed for that one project.

I emailed the author back, and I quote: "I want you to know that I in no way expect any author to repay me any fees owed to me by Night Shade Books. My invoices are for work performed for Night Shade, not specifically for the author." But, of course, if s/he was determined to pay me what was owed on this specific project, I certainly wasn't going to turn down any money. Keep in mind that my work for Night Shade Books was a significant portion of my income, which has ceased to exist as of mid-January.

That email was sent to me on April 10; on July 23 I received emails from both the author and PayPal that a payment had been made to me.

Now that is what a "Mensch" is. And the author? Well, that's between me and her/him, but saying "thank you" just doesn't seem to be enough.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Colorscreen: Sunrise

For those of you who are Android freaks and geeks you probably know about the website And if not, you really need to check this out. On this site I have seen some of the most incredible Android home screens, especially those in which the individual has used PhotoShop to make custom wallpapers and icons. I just shake my head and say "Wow!"

Anyhow, pictured here is my home screen on my Google Nexus 7, which I have titled "Sunrise."

Now for the details, which will undoubtedly bore you unless Android is your OS of choice.

My Nexus 7 runs stock Android Jelly Bean 4.3, Nova Launcher Prime, and the DCikonZ ADW Apex Nova Go Theme for all app icons. Both Nova Launcher Prime and DCikonZ are available in the Google Play Store. The DCikonZ icon pack now contains more than 3,200 icons, and the developer is constantly adding new ones. Many are rather obscure that he has added specifically because of user requests.

1. Battery widget: I created this using the Minimalistic Text app (Google Play Store). However, I didn't use the default battery widget that comes with this app; I created my own, using a custom battery font with no numbers for the "Non-Accented" and "Normal" parts of the battery bar.

2. The Time, Day, and Date widget, also known as a "skin," was added using the Ultimate Custom Widget app, or UCCW (Google Play Store). In the Play Store you'll find the Elegante UCCW Skin, which includes just the Time and Day. I used the Elegante-Plus UCCW Skin, which also includes the Date, available only from the XDA developer's website.

3. Weather skin: I created this minimal weather skin myself using UCCW once again. I replaced the default weather condition icons with Metrowhite weather icons, courtesy of "Marco" on the MyColorscreen YouTube channel.

4. The custom "APPS" icon in the bottom left of the screen is for the Circle Launcher, full version (Google Play Store), which launches eleven of my most used apps -- other than the six media apps appearing in the dock -- in a vertical bar, as pictured in this second screen shot.

As simple as this screen may appear to be, I spent quite a bit of time learning the use of the Minimalistic Text and UCCW apps. There are numerous YouTube videos, some in multiple parts, that provide excellent tutorials for using these apps. The only problem I found is that the apps are constantly updated and the various options, settings, etc. in the vids no longer match those in the current apps. However, the vids will provide the basics, and then it's just some trial and error after that to get the options and settings just right. Just remember to save your work, as you would on any computer.

One final note: Not visible on either of these screen shots is the notification bar. I use another app called Quickly Notification Shortcuts (Google Play Store) that allows me to place up to nine apps on the notification bar pull-down. I have only six of the shortcuts being used, and included among these apps are my Flashlight, tablet Settings, Google Keep, and WiFi Connection manager.

Here's the link to my colorscreen on

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jack Swag

If you've been in the book biz, say, at least 15 to 20 years (and even longer), then you will remember when publishers used to send out promo swag to encourage bookstores and book reviewers to push their titles. Just some of the goodies I have on hand include the cardboard mask of the cover image on William Gibson's novel Mona Lisa Overdrive, and a red and white Repairman Jack baseball cap from the F. Paul Wilson series.

Which brings me to the photo on the left: the box of swag I received as a contributor to the just published anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross E. Lockhart -- the first book to be published by Word Horde.

As to the box's contents: Obviously, the most important item is the anthology itself -- one of the nicest looking trade paperbacks I've seen in a long time: true production quality. Working with Ross on this book (along with Claudia Noble on the cover design) felt like a Night Shade Books reunion project. For more on the book, you can read my previous blog post as well as view the video trailer.

Next up is the "official" Jack the Ripper knife. I mean, what would a box of Ripper swag be without a knife? The card to which the knife is attached reads in part: "Meet Jack's little friend! Stab your friends and family!" Now, the red item you see in the photograph is a spongy rubber kidney (sorry that it doesn't show up better in the photo) bearing the title of the book, "Tales of Jack the Ripper." When I first opened the box, the kidney was resting right on the blade end of the knife, and it initially appeared as if the knife had been stuck into the heart!

Last, but certainly not least, are the Tales of Jack the Ripper postcards and book marks, and Word Horde stickers.

And if you are interested in obtaining a box of Tales of Jack the Ripper swag -- including an ebook edition in the format of your choice, then hit the Word Horde site at this link and place your order for the Saucy Jack Deluxe Pack.

And, enjoy the read. I'm confident that we'll be seeing a number of these stories on "best of" lists for the year, and even a few award nominations.