Autumn Is Coming

Just got word from Mike Davis that my story "Cul Du-Sac Virus" is going to be included in his Autumn Cthulhu anthology. As an avowed lover of Autumn (there really is no better season) I'm both honored and excited to have one of my stories among the leaves.






Closing the Circle

I can still clearly remember the cove of Inferno #1, a Khornate space marine standing cruel and defiant against a misty background. It (and William King's Felix and Gotrek novels) was my entry point into darker fantasy fiction. Sure, I'd devoured the works of Tolkien, Feist, McCaffery, Llywelyn, and a score of other genre luminaries, but I'd never come across a vision so gritty, so hopeless.

One issue and I was hooked.

I picked up every Inferno until the end of its run in 2004, and loved every word of it. As evidence, I submit my first (and only) car accident, which resulted from me running a stop sign because I was arguing with my brothers about who would win in a fight: an elf or an ork? (I argued elf, of course). I won the argument, but totaled my 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon.

Ten years ago, when I started trying to actually publish the stuff I wrote, I never could have dreamed I'd be sitting here holding an issue of Inferno with my name on the cover. Well, I just received my contributor's copy--and here it is.

Sorry for the blurriness, my hands are shaking from excitement.

I can't really convey what this means to me. I can only say how grateful I am, both to Black Library, and the many, many people who took a chance on me--Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells, Kate Hamer, Nick Kyme, and all the copy editors who spent long hours whetting my prose to razor sharpness. If I ever manage to cross the pond, I owe you all a drink (at the very least).


Of Self-Promotion and Podcasts

I don’t like promoting my work. Period. Full Stop. End of sentence.

But, like my clumsy attempt at humor above, that’s not really the way things are done in this particular day-and-age. Not that I’m complaining. Decades ago, before the advent of the internet and social media and the subsequent blossoming of genre publications I probably wouldn’t have had enough of a career to even gripe about having to blab about my stories.

So, honestly, I much prefer this to the alternative.

First of all, thank you. Seriously. From the bottom of my heart. You’re a rare and beautiful treasure, maybe a bejeweled sword, or a magical ring that grants its wearer the power to eat ghosts, or some sort of crown…I don’t know, you pick.

Now, well, I suppose if I’m going to self-promote, it’ll have to be here. So let’s get this over with.

I love podcasts. With a full-time job, young son, and all my free time being devoured by writing, I find I have absolutely no time for actually reading. Someday, when my boy is grown and my responsibilities lessened, I may be able to crack a book again and really dig into some prose. But, until that time, I cling to the spoken word.

GOD, I love podcasts. I’ve waxed prosaic before about various casts you should be listening to, but I’m not here to do that, I’m here to self-promote.

(Takes a few deep breaths)

I’m proud of all my stories. I can’t tell you how many pieces are sitting on my hard-drive because they didn’t hit me just right. But you’re a busy person, you don’t have time to read all my stuff. So, I got to thinking about which of my stories best exemplify me as a writer, which ones do exactly what I want them to do.

So, here are three podcasts, one for each genre I write in, that still make me happy as hell. I don’t want to give too much away (in the hopes you’ll actually give them a listen). They may not be the best stories out there, but they're certainly the best I can do:

Science Fiction: How I Killed Your Mother” My (odd) take on military science fiction, although not really. When bodies are replaceable and war loses all meaning, what’s left? The first portion of the podcast is an introduction by a delightfully exciteable Scotsman talking about Patreon--the story starts at roughly: 19:50. 

Horror: Saturday” Everything comes around, until it doesn’t. This is my (slightly) pre-apocalyptic meditation on madness and entropy.

Fantasy: The Uncarved Heart” Even in the worst of times under the worst of despots we can be better than our history. At least I hope so.

So that's it. Consider me thoroughly promoted. Now I can go back into hiding. Thank you again for reading (or listening, as the case may be). I can't tell you how much it means to me to know that people are entertained by the stuff I scribble.


The Plague Reader

Opened up my mailbox most recent issue of Analog, cracked it open, and did a total double-take.

“Hey, that’s me in the table of contents!”

Granted, I knew my story was going to be in this issue, but there’s always that little (okay, let’s be honest…BIG) part of me that can’t quite believe my work is appearing in a publication that I have read and loved since, well, forever.

I inherited my subscription to Analog from my dad (and F&SF as well), and have kept them going for some time--partly as a remembrance, partly to stay somewhat current in the SF genre, but mostly because I enjoy the hell out of them.

How fortunate, then, that my son has just embarked upon his first months of preschool and come home dripping with the effluvium of a dozen other children. Not a single week has gone by without him infecting my partner and I with some form of infantile plague. Those among my friends who have already braved parenthood have informed me that this will be, and I quote: "A year from hell."

Ah, my little vector. I love him so much.

That being said. One of my complaints about becoming a father is that it has seriously cut into my reading time (well, unless you count board books about farm animals and anthropomorphic dinosaurs). The silver lining to this lingering ague is that I can now curl up (between bouts of uncontrollable shivering) with the small stack of Analog and F&SF issues that have been piling next to my reading chair.

This may be a year from hell, but it'll be an entertaining one, at least.



That Weird Blog Entry You Write After Not Sleeping for Days

My family is sick, very sick--my son stricken with his first serious fever/ear infection, my wife suffering from the worst cold I've ever seen. I have been up for three days straight taking care of them both and my thoughts have become strange. 

I was at a family funeral last weekend, the death was both expected and something of a mercy, but still quite sad for all that. All the disparate branches of my clan drove, bussed, and flew to the family farm in southeastern Ohio to see off the matriarch who had held us together.

My brother and I were speaking to a distant great-aunt, a delightful woman we’d never met before who couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful our family was.

She was right, of course, our family is wonderful.

We remarked on how lucky we are in that particular regard, to which she countered: “You’re not lucky, you’re blessed!”

Not wanting to provoke bad feelings, we agreed, but the intentionality implied in her statement really got me thinking. I consider myself a self-interested deist--I sincerely hope there is something divine behind the curtain of our reality, be it a “God” in the religious sense, or just some flavor of universal zeitgeist collecting the unspooled thoughts and dreams of those of us who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

But, in both cases, I don’t think there is any sort of personality behind happenstance. Good things happen to bad people (take the current U.S. President, for example), bad things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people, but, most of the time, normal things happen to normal people. It’s just how the world works, I suppose.

Which leaves me with the understanding that, should there be some manner of unmoving mover behind the skein of our existence, it either: 1) Doesn’t intervene (either on principle or due to some inscrutable goal); 2) Doesn’t care; 3) Doesn’t understand, or; 4) Doesn’t really notice us at all.

Before I rumble off on some Ligottian tangent, I’m not really preaching nihilism, just a flavor of neglect. Still, humans have always been good at finding patterns (recognizing them, not to mention how they shift and interact is the basis of intelligence, after all), so it makes sense that, in the absence of information to the contrary, we can construct just about anything we wish.

And yet, I still worry about what will happen to me after I die. It’s a purely egotistical endeavor, but one I spend quite a bit of mental bandwidth grappling with.

The rest I spend on writing.

By now, I’ve pretty much accepted I have no control over anything apart from the production side of the authorial process. I write, I send stories out, most are rejected, some make it through the gauntlet. I am lucky in that regard, luckier than most, in fact. I DO work hard at writing, but there's also the fact I'm a cis white dude, so the road to publication is a bit easier. 

So, I write stories, I (occasionally) sell them, but I've got NO say in when they are actually comitted to paper (or pixels as the case may be).  

And yet, amidst the crawling chaos of publication schedules there is occasionally the glimmer of kismet, stars aligning as if guided by the brush of some divine hand.

I wrote: “All of Us Told, All of it Real” in mid-2016 as a sort of companion piece to “How Lovely is the Silence of Growing Things.” Both stories inexpertly grapple with death and frangibility of memory, specifically the memory of those who pass on and how it is constantly reconstructed and recapitulated by those who remain.

I wrote: “All that Moves Us” sometime in 2017 for Turn to Ashes: Volume II, a local Columbus anthology whose previous iteration I’d very much enjoyed. I was thinking about emotions and desires, and how they very frequently seem disconnected from intentionality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been made to feel sad, or angry, or happy, or any of a dozen other rootless sentiments. Emotions shape how we perceive and interact with the world, and yet (as with luck), so much of it seems driven by chance.

Here, I veer once again into Ligottian pessimism. I can make myself write, but I can’t make myself want to write.

Luck. Emotions. Desire. Self-similarity across scale--like a Mandelbrot set, or a Koch Curve, or fern fronds--infinite regression to a non-existent mean. The finer measure we use, the longer the coast becomes. Maybe there’s intentionality in the design, maybe it’s all happenstance.

All I can say is that I wrote two stories, years apart, both set in southern Ohio/northern Kentucky, both about similar subjects. I sent one of them to dozens of markets, had the other picked up by the anthology I wrote it for, then, on a whim I decided to send it out for reprints. Both stories came out this May, both in podcasts, both with performed by consummate readers--one at the NoSleep Podcast and one at Strange Horizons.

Maybe it’s luck. Maybe I’m blessed.

Either way, I’m grateful.


My Semi-Charmed Life: 2017 Writing Income Report

Well, my taxes are filed and another year of writing receipts have been tallied. As I did last year, I figured it might be worthwhile to throw the totals up here to give something of a “view from the middle” of the authorial life.

Quite a few professional authors post their income on their various blogs (Kameron Hurley, Bradley Beaulieu, and Jim Hines to name a few), but what about the rest of us ? For reference, I consider myself solidly semi-pro in that I do make money writing--although certaininly not enought to call it a career.

So, without any further prevarication…

I was lucky enough to place four stories with pro markets (>6 cents a word), three in semi-pro publications, and sell the reprint/audio/visual/translation rights to 9 stories from my back catalog. However, this doesn’t mean I’ve received payments for all of them. I don’t want to get too granular with regards to actual publications, but here is a general breakdown of my writing income for 2017:

Quite a banner year--my best ever, in fact.

As far as expenses go, this year was relatively modest. Having a young child at home, I was only able to attend two conventions (one in my hometown and one in Los Angeles). There’s also my website, which I paid to have upgraded and redesigned. I think it was worth the investment--hopefully you agree. There are also professional dues, publication tracking, a small cut taken by publishers, and a reasonable allowance for purchase of genre books and publications.

As with last year, there are quite a few ways I could have cut down on expenses--switching from Duotrope to a free service like Submissions Grinder, trying to hit more local conventions instead of flying across the entire country, moving my website from Squarespace to a free site like Wordpress. Having said that, these are the things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, in summation:

2017 Income:     $4,744.03

2017 Expenses: -$2,098.69

2017 Total:         $2,645.34

Believe me, I’m as surprised as you.