Next Saturday – February 11, 2023 – I’m happy to say that I’ll be taking part in a new event in Charleston, DualCon.
It’s primarily a gaming convention (of tabletop and video varieties), but it’s also having various folks there who are writers, cosplayers, and other creators. I’ll be there along with John Russo (who co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with George Romero) and author/actor Gerry Lee Vincent.
Should be an interesting day, so stop by and say hi! Buy a book! Or ten!
I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month this year, but I am stepping away from the blog for November due to a couple of pressing things that will take up a lot of time.
The first is that I’m ready to start the final edit of Heroes of the Empire.
I’ve gotten my beta reader feedback incorporated and can start my last run through before sending it to my editor for (hopefully) publication early in 2023.
The second is that, on November 20, the World Cup kicks off in what will be, for a couple of weeks, a complete orgy of top-level soccer.
The Cup should never have been given to Qatar in the first place (least of all because it requires the Cup to be played in fall/winter instead of summer), a decision that looks all the worse for the stories about the treatment of workers who built the stadiums. But the tournament is going to happen whether I watch or no, so I will not let the chance to watch a lot of great soccer over the course of a few weeks, not the least because it marks the return of the United States to the big show.
For the first time since 2019, the West Virginia Book Festival is back in full strength, including the marketplace, which means I’ll be there, too!
As you can see, it kicks off this Friday and runs all day Saturday. In addition to the marketplace full of writers with great books, the Kanawha County Public Library is doing its traditional used book sale. And, of course, there are numerous presentations from several authors, including V.E. Schwab and C.J. Box. The schedule of those presentations and various workshops for the festival can be found here.
The book is The Dancing Plague: A Collection of Utter Speculation, which you can get here (paperback) or here (Kindle eBook). My story is “The Consequences of Sin,” takes one of the traditional explanations for these kinds of phenomena (not really a spoiler – it’s demons) and twists it a bit, inspired by the Fritz Lang classic M. You can read more here about the background of the story (and other stuff) in this interview I did. The other authors did similar interviews, which you can find here.
Regular readers will know that lost of years I’ve done a story for Halloween here on the blog. Since this story is coming out in October and is sufficiently creepy (I hope), it will fill that role for this year. You can find links to all my Halloween stories here.
So, you know how I’ve released two volumes of the Unari Empire Trilogy, right? That would be Gods of the Empire and Widows of the Empire.
What about the final volume, you might ask, Heroes of the Empire? Any update on it? Yes, friends, and it’s good news!
But first, some context.
Although Widows just came out last fall, I’ve been working on Heroes since about a year before that. It was my NaNoWriMo project in 2020, so I started writing it in November of that year. I “won” that year, but the book was nowhere near finished, so I kept working on it into the new year. By June of 2021, according to a timestamp on the Word file, I had something saved as “First Draft.” Except it really wasn’t.
What had happened is that I got about 80% through the draft and my creativity came to a complete halt. I didn’t have a good idea of how to bring things in for a landing, so rather than try to push through the end, I took a different approach.
In my day job, sometimes I take pieces of legal writing from others in my office and synthesize them into a single brief. It’s safe to say that each of the attorneys in my office has a different voice and just cutting and pasting won’t work to produce a clear, readable final product. So I have lots of experience rewriting the words of others to produce a smoother end product.
When I wrote Moore Hollow and The Water Road I did the same thing – I took my first draft of each book and rewrote them completely, filling in any shallow bits and using the quicker pace to connect up things better. It worked well, but I hadn’t felt a need to write that way for the other books that followed.
Until Heroes. Since I was stuck I decided to pull a Bruford and go back to the beginning again and rewrite the first draft. According to yWriter I started that process last April and everything went swimmingly for a while, until things bogged down again. In particular, when I got to that ending, I just completely lost momentum. It wasn’t that I didn’t know where the story was going to end up, I just didn’t quite know how it was going to happen.
Last week I was bogged down (again) in what I thought was the next-to-last chapter. It shifts POVs a lot as the climax happens and that made it hard to write, anyway. Otherwise, I was just kind of drifting.
Then I got up to take a piss one night.
I was up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, my mind barely functioning, when it hit me. This was out of the blue inspiration of the kind I don’t generally have. The solution was simple – a short time skip to move straight to the consequences of what we’re seeing, rather than the details of the incident itself. I was so stoked I couldn’t really get back to sleep (which made work the next day quite a drag).
This is a long way of saying, this past weekend, I finally put the final words of the first draft of Heroes of the Empire into yWriter! It’s finished! Well, I mean, it tells a complete story. Now comes the fun part, the several rounds of edits, but at least I can see the end of the process at this point.
Thus, coming late this year or (more likely) early next, the final, gripping part of the Unari Empire story, Heroes of the Empire.
It’s been a while since I had something to say about my short fiction, so here’s an update and a bit of free stuff to read to boot (in this post and the next).
New Story Coming Your Way!
The update is that I’m very happy to have a short story that will be a part of a collection published this fall by Speculation Publications. They do volumes dedicated to a particular weird phenomenon filled with speculative stories explaining that phenomenon. This volume is about the “dancing plague” of 1518 in Strasbourg (in what is now France).
My story took inspiration from the great Fritz Lang film M, in which a group of mobsters unite to catch a serial killer because all the extra police attention is bad for business. More details the closer we get to release day – put on your dancin’ shoes!
More New Stories – One Right Here and Now!
I’ve also got a couple of stories I can share just for the hell of it. They’re both things I wrote for NYC Midnight competition, which I’ve mentioned a couple of time before. This one was written for the microfiction contest earlier this year. Microfiction, in this context, is 100 words or less. For the contest the assignment was to write a ghost story that involved putting flowers in a vase and used the word “free.” Here it is, “The Flowers in the Window”:
Something transitory, a final moment of beauty, is what the medium said. That meant flowers. Rhea had clipped a few stems with brilliant purple blooms from the lilac bush at the corner of the house and put them in a plain white vase on the table by the front window.
That night, she and Jason slept better than they had for months, since the accident. It was a night free from strange noises and freakish breezes.
In the morning, Rhea went downstairs, to the front room. The flowers were gone. She said a silent thanks. Her daughter was finally free.
I know that I decided this was going to be my month of lists, but other writing circumstances have conspired to push the final two installments back a week (or two). I’m working on a short story (with an interesting subject) to submit to an anthology that’s due on May 24. I need to focus my energies on that until then, so while I will be back with lists of favorite movies and books, they’ll be delayed a bit.
I recently read Steven Wilson’s semi-memoir Limited Edition of One.
I say “semi-memoir” because interspersed with more typical chapters detailing the history of his career with No-Man, Porcupine Tree, and as a solo artist, Wilson inserts chapters where he discusses his views about the music industry and other things. It’s a pretty good read, particularly if you’re a fan of his music.
One of the recurring themes of the book is that Wilson loves making lists and several chapters are given over to lists of various things. In one chapter, he rips of lists of his favorite (?) songs, films, and books. As I listened to his lists, I noted that he and I had some common tastes and I thought, “there’s some blog fodder here!” I’ve done similar things at the close ofthe 2020s and on myoldblogs as well.
Thus, here we have arrived in what I’m calling “The Month of Lists.” For the rest of May, I’ll be laying out my favorite songs, movies, and books in the same numbers Wilson did – 100, 20, and 10. The length of any list like that is arbitrary, anyway, so why not? In each post, I’ll explain the criteria and limitations I used to put together my lists and provide some brief explanations. Should be fun, right? Here’s hoping.