Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

Shining Legacy

December 13, 2017

On Saturday, Jim and I drove up to Santa Fe to have dinner at the invitation of Warren Lapine who, along with Trent Zelazny, co-edited the tribute anthology to Roger Zelazny, Shadows and Reflections.  Jim and I arrived early enough to walk around the plaza and enjoy the glittering lights.  As we were turning to head toward the restaurant, we encountered our dear friends, Steve (S.M.) and Jan Stirling, and learned they were going our way.

The Santa Fe Plaza

Several other contributors to the anthology were part of Warren’s dinner party.  These included  Trent Zelazny, Gerry Hausman (and his wife, Lorry), and Shannon Zelazny.  Rounding out the festive board were Warren’s wife (and frequent partner in things editorial), Angela Kessler, and the aforementioned bonus guests: Steve and Jan Stirling.

We met at the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill, which, in an earlier incarnation, was a place that Roger very much enjoyed, so this seemed like a nicely appropriate setting.

Chat was lively and general, one of those lovely occasions where everyone – even people who hadn’t met before – quickly arrived at the conclusion that we were all friends.

A few words about the Shadows and Reflections anthology, for those of you who are curious.  It includes both fiction and non-fiction.  The introduction by George R.R. Martin is a reprint of a piece he wrote in 2009.  The final piece, by Shannon Zelazny, who was in high school when her father died, is probably my favorite bit in the entire book.  Of all the many biographical remembrances of Roger that I have read, Shannon’s comes closest to capturing the man I knew, loved, and lived with.

There’s also a little known short story by Roger, “There Shall Be No Moon!”

The other fiction draws on a wide variety of Roger’s universes, from the science fiction Isle of the Dead (Steve Brust’s “Playing God”) to the sword and sorcery Jack of Shadows (Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “The Lady of Shadow Guard”).  Gerry Hausman (who co-wrote the novel Wilderness with Roger) contributed “Nights in the Garden of Blue Harbor,” based on a story idea Roger gave him.  One thing that’s nice about the collection is that both Roger’s short and long fiction are represented as sources of inspiration.

My own piece, “The Headless Flute Player” is set in the same universe as Lord Demon, one of the two novels that, at Roger’s request, I completed for him after his death.  It’s a prequel to the novel, and incorporates a few ideas Roger casually mentioned that someday he’d like to use in a story.

Full disclosure.  I haven’t read the entire anthology yet, so I can’t tell you much about the stories.  What I hope is that this anthology inspires readers to go back and read the original works that have inspired such devotion and enthusiasm over twenty years after their author’s death – and in many cases, several decades after they were originally written.

One wonderful thing about Roger’s writing is how well it has held up to the test of time and how it can still stir the heart and imagination.  Not a bad legacy at all…

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Change(r) of Approach

November 15, 2017

Some of you may remember that a while back I invited feedback regarding new cover approaches for my novels Changer and Changer’s Daughter.  Everyone agreed that these books would be hard to represent in a simple picture, so I received few suggestions.  Nonetheless, perversely encouraged, I decided to forge ahead.

Changer E-Book

If you’re familiar with Changer and Changer’s Daughter (aka Legend’s Walking), feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the novels, I’ll offer a short description.

Changer and Changer’s Daughter are classic urban fantasy.  By this I mean that they have more in common with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or the mythic fiction of Charles de Lint and Terri Windling than with the paranormal romance novels for which marketers have appropriated the term “urban fantasy.”

You won’t find vampires, werewolves, or Faerie Folk in these novels.  You will find the athanor: deities and creatures whose tales are told in myths and legends from all over the world.  The athanor are neither static nor fixed in their roles, but pursue rivalries and goals old and new, even as they struggle to adjust to the modern world where they find hiding in plain sight much, much more difficult than it once had been.

Changer’s Daughter E-Book

When, at the request of readers who were eager to share the now out-of-print novels with friends, I decided to bring the books back into print as both e-books and trade paperbacks, I was in a dilemma as to what approach to use for cover art.

The original covers from Avon were interesting, even lovely, but they didn’t really suggest anything about the content of the novels.  When I was doing bookstore signings for Changer, the most common comment I received from people who wandered into the bookstore was “Oh, I love Tony Hillerman’s novels.”  This was not encouraging since (while I love Hillerman’s work) it’s a stretch to find anything in common between these books except that they share (in part) settings in the American Southwest.

The friend with whom I was working on the reprint project suggested we use coyotes.  This approach fit one aspect of the novel.  The Changer begins the novel as a coyote.  His daughter Shahrazad is a coyote pup throughout.  You can see these covers on my website and on-line.   They still adorn the trade paperback edition.

However, with the recent resurgence of interest in urban fantasy of the “mythic” sort, I felt a yearning to try for cover art that would get across the idea of urban fantasy.   I started by searching the stock art sites where I had successfully found art for the covers of the e-book editions of When the Gods Are Silent and Smoke and Mirrors.

While I found some interesting art, I failed to find two pieces by the same artist – or even featuring similar approaches – that would meet the challenge of representing the individual works, while indicating that the books belonged to a series.  I solicited opinions, but none of the many suggestions worked out.  Finally, my friends Rowan Derrick and Cale Mims (both of whom had read the books) suggested that perhaps a magic circle done in a street art fashion would provide an appropriate mood and tone.

Although a magic circle isn’t featured in either of the books, the idea of urban magic is an important element in both.  Since the art was going to be on an e-book – and therefore had to be effective on a relatively small “thumbnail” scale – I decided against a circle as too constraining.  Instead, I went with a fragment of a spell scrawled in colored chalk on a cinderblock wall.   I deliberately chose colors that would echo the southwestern setting of portions of both novels. The crackle of lightning suggests the spell coming to life.

The design was a laborious process but, in the end, we arrived at something that I felt said both “magic” and “urban” – and maybe even “mythic.”

For now, the coyotes will remain on the paperback, the new art on the e-book.  Why not?  In the world of the athanor, gods and monsters wear many faces.  Why shouldn’t the books that tell their story have different faces as well?

Wolves at the Door

October 25, 2017

Outside, the wind is roaring.  Inside, my “to do” list of projects is also mightily gusting.  In fact, it’s longer than I can possibly get done before I depart for MiHiCon early Friday morning.  I’m looking forward to being one of MiHiCon’s author Guests of Honor, along with Eric Flint.  Although I’ve corresponded with Mr. Flint occasionally, I’ve never met him, and am quite looking forward to the opportunity.

Just Some of My Wolf Stuff

If I read the schedule correctly, you should be able to join me, Eric, and Carrie Vaughn for coffee on Saturday morning at the 9:00 a.m. Kaffeeklatch.

In addition to panels and interviews, I’ll be doing a reprise of my much-praised talk, “This is the End: Concluding Your Story or Novel.”  I came up with this topic after I noticed that there’s lots of material out there about getting started, but not nearly as much about finishing.  I’ve met many authors who have a book “almost” done, so I thought that talking about how to make the “almost” go away would be worthwhile.

Of course, I’ll end up talking about other things, too, because you can’t talk about the end without discussing other parts of the process.

During my “Hour With,” I will either read a short story or something from my forthcoming novel Asphodel, depending on my mood and whether the audience wants an ending or not…  I’ll also take questions about projects past, present, and future.  There are a lot of these!

I haven’t visited Colorado in a while and I’m hoping the weather will cooperate.  I used to drive to Colorado a couple of times a year when my dad was still alive, so the journey is certain to be very nostalgic.

My inside life has been full of wolves as I gear myself into beginning writing the seventh Firekeeper novel.   After a long break from Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest, I find myself really excited about spending time with them again.

A small warning to those of you who are hoping for a nice trip down memory lane, complete with a golf bag full of token appearances of any and all characters.  That’s not going to happen.  I waited to write a new Firekeeper novel until I had a fresh new story so, while you’ll definitely hear about many of your old friends, we’re off to see new places, meet new people, and face new challenges.

This means that those of you who aren’t familiar with the series don’t need to worry that you need to read thousands of pages just to try out a new book.  However, this is definitely going to be a new Firekeeper novel, not merely one set in the same universe.  It begins within a year or so of the events chronicled in Wolf’s Blood, and Firekeeper and Blind Seer will be at the heart of the action.

That’s about all I have to say about the book right now…  However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to re-read a series before starting the new book, you might want to get started.  Some of those earlier books are long.  Don’t have copies anymore?  I have copies of all the hard covers except for The Dragon of Despair for sale in my website bookshop.

If you prefer e-books, you might want to wait before buying copies.  New editions will be coming out – hopefully sometime early in 2018.  In addition to the text of the novel, the new editions will have an afterpiece dealing with about some aspect of the series.  These editions should also be free of the numerous typos/formatting errors that plagued the Tor editions.  Careful proofing is one reason they’re not ready yet!  It takes a while to carefully read something that long.  I can only do a few hours a day.

So…  Time’s a-wastin’!  Hope to see you this weekend!

Daily Focus

September 27, 2017

Last week I didn’t end up needing to go back for juror selection, so that particular adventure is over.  This week’s adventure will start on Friday, when I head off to Silver City, New Mexico, to be one of the speakers at their biennial Southwest Festival of the Written Word.

Getting To Work

You can learn more about the Festival here.

I’ve never been to Silver City, and am really looking forward to seeing a new part of New Mexico.  It’s supposed to be a lovely part of the state, and autumn is one of the nicest times of the year for a long drive.   I’m also looking forward to talking about writing SF/F, and participating in an author’s roundtable.

Earlier this week, I went to Santa Fe to meet with Emily Mah Tippets, so we could consult about a bunch of on-going projects, many of which are going to get some of my stories into the hands of the people who want to read them, rather than them remaining in my office because I’m busy playing with the new idea that bounced into my head.

The reality is that, as much as big events like jury duty and book festivals provide topics to Wander on about, the real focus of my daily life is writing.  Last week, I wrote the final segment of a novel I started – more or less by accident – back in early April.  Actually, by the time I write the one scene I skipped and fill in a bunch of world-building elements, the project is probably going to turn into two novels.

So…  How could I have just skipped a scene?  And how could I write a novel (or two) without doing the world-building in advance?

Let’s talk about the scene first.  The short answer is that, while I knew what the end result of this scene had to be, I also knew the scene was important in and of itself.  The great mystery was that I didn’t know why the scene was important.  Rather than struggling miserably to just end up writing a lot of filler that I would end up rewriting later, I skipped ahead.

By the time I figured out why that missing scene was crucial, the book was surging ahead with plot complications galore that demanded my careful handling.  Rather than risk losing momentum (which is the same as being immersed in the story, which I love), I left that scene unwritten.  However, now that the story has a beginning, middle, and end, I can go back and write that scene.

As for world-building…  Well, sometimes I enjoy planning in advance, but sometimes I enjoy exploring the world along with my characters.  That’s what happened in this case.   As I discovered key elements of language, forms of clothing, magical arts, and the like, larger patterns that in turn shed light on the world and its cultures also appeared.  Rather than going back and putting these in, I created a second file in which I would periodically stop and write myself notes about things I needed to include later.

None of this material is filler.  For example, characters do need names but, unless the story is built around a name (such as The Importance of Being Earnest), I can quite easily be content with referring to even a major character as ABC or DEF.

The same is true of physical descriptions.  Again, unless what a character looks like is crucial to how the story is developing, the question of whether he is a golden-haired youth with deep violet eyes or she is a buxom maiden with dark-green locks and a distracting dimple can wait until later.

As interested as I am, delving into much of this material is going to need to wait.  I’ve promised myself that I’ll get several other new – and in their own way equally fascinating – projects moving along – which was one reason that I took a whole day away from writing to go off to Santa Fe and meet with Emily.

Now, however, I have nearly three days before I hit the road again.  You can be sure that some or all of those days will be occupied with writing that missing scene!

Running the Rat Race

August 30, 2017

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend was Bubonicon.  I’m happy to report that it was an intense weekend, but a very good one.

My Third Panel of Bubonicon

For those of you who don’t know Bubonicon, I should mention that the mascots are Perry and Terry Rodent, so the reference to rats in the title of this piece is not in any way derogatory to the convention – far from it!

I had two panels on Friday.  This may not sound like much until you fill in that the first one was at 5:00 pm (Is the Stand-Alone Novel Dead?). This was followed by the Opening Ceremonies, which are a major event at Bubonicon, and not to be missed if at all possible.  I then had a dinner meeting before racing off to my second panel (Facts Behind the Fantasy: Research Impact) at 7:30 pm.

The panels were fun, and the meeting productive.  I have now met Linda Caldwell, who did the cover design for the new e-books of Smoke and Mirrors and When the Gods Are Silent.  Along with Emily Mah Tippetts, who is my e-pub guru, we discussed a host of future projects, both reprints and original fiction.

Then we went home to discover the pump on our little pond had stopped working…  But it was too late and too dark to fix it, so we admired the toads who were enjoying the still water and went to bed.

Saturday I was on the first panel of the day (Felines and Feline Aliens in SF/F).  This was very exciting for me, because I had my fan moment being on a panel with C.J. Cherryh, whose innovative aliens and alien civilizations are a seminal influence on the field.  I also had the chance to be on a panel with Ursula Vernon, who was back at Bubonicon, this time as Toastmaster.  And I meowed my introduction, which probably showed that I was already punchy!

Then Jim and I had lunch with writers (and dear friends) Steve (S.M. Stirling) and Janet Stirling.  Steve is amusing that early in the day (11:00 a.m. is early for Steve and thanks to an alarm clock error he’d been awakened at 10:00.)  After Steve toddled sleepily off to do his noon reading, Jim and I had a chance to tour the Art Show and a bit of the Dealer’s Room before my reading at 1:15.

This was very well attended.  Thanks to all of you who stayed to shiver in that very cold room!  I read my yet-unpublished short story “Can’t Live,” and took a few questions.  At that time, I revealed for the first time that forthcoming projects will include a new, self-published, Firekeeper novel…

(Did you read far enough to learn that?)

First, however, will come Asphodel, probably early in 2018, featuring cover art by Rowan Derrick, who also did the cover for my short story collection, Curiosities.  More on forthcoming projects in future Wanderings!

Fairly soon after my reading, Jim took off to buy a new impeller for our pump.  He was reassured that, given the number of plants thriving in the pond, the fish should be okay.

He returned in time to go with me to my next panel, SnackWrites: Writing Exercises. Moderated by Josh Gentry, host of the SnackReads site, this panel provided me, Robert (Bob) Vardeman, and M.T. (Matt) Reiten the challenge of having five minutes to show what we could write in response to a set prompt that we had not seen in advance.  The audience was encouraged to participate, and many did.  We had lots of fun and proved that five minutes is enough to get some decent writing done.

Whew!

We chatted with a few people after, then raced off to catch the second part of Artist Guest of Honor Elizabeth Leggett’s excellent presentation.  I always learn something about the creative process when I go to these – far more, honestly, than I do from most writer’s panels, given that I’ve been writing professionally now for some twenty-five years.  In her panel, Elizabeth offered a bonus lesson on perseverance as she showed just how many revisions she did on just one piece.

After that, it was time for the Mass Signing, followed by dinner with our much-missed friends, Mike and Yvonne (who moved to Virginia several years ago).  We added Ursula Vernon and her husband, Kevin Sonney, at the last minute.  However, as I had hoped, the group chemistry was great and I think a good time was had by all.  I certainly had a blast.

Sunday morning, Jim fixed the pond pump.  The fish were grateful.  I picked a lot of string beans and eggplant…  Gardens do not understand that you’re at a convention.  They keep growing.

Sunday, once again, I was on the first panel of the day (Pros Who Game: Gamemastering &Writing).  Then we went to the excellent interview of the two guests of honor (Sherwood Smith and C.J. Cherryh) by Ursula Vernon.  We had to leave a little before the end to get upstairs to help set up and run the Afternoon Tea.

The Tea was, as always, delightful.  This was my first attempt at judging the “hats and gloves” – a sort of friendly “hall costume” show, for which we give prizes donated by the Tea Team.  Betsy James was a good coach, and I think I’d enjoy doing it again.

After Tea clean-up, we stayed for closing ceremonies, and then stayed to chat for about 45 minutes with Mike and Yvonne.  Thus endth Bubonicon for another year…

On Monday, we discovered that Ursula and Kevin couldn’t get home because their flight is through Houston, so we picked them up at noon and went out to show them something of Albuquerque.  We hit the Rattlesnake Museum, then several shops in Old Town.  After that, we went by the zoo, where the much-desired the wombats and Tasmanian devils cooperated by being out and active.

Now it’s back to the “normal” week of writing.  On Friday, I left my characters about to discover some rather world-changing information.  Time to find out what they think of it.

Joy!

Try, Try Again

July 19, 2017

This week began on a very positive note.  My short story, “Unexpected Flowers,” was accepted by Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.  This is the first time I’ve sold a story to that magazine, so I’m very pleased to have finally achieved that particular personal goal.

Unexpected Flowers

I don’t know which issue it will be in, but I promise to let you know as soon as I do.

“Unexpected Flowers” was written late this February.  It’s not very long: only about 1,400 words.   For that reason, I can’t tell you much about it without providing too much in the way of spoilers.  I will say that it’s a very mathematical story…

In case you’re wondering, “Unexpected Flowers” was not accepted the first time I sent it out.  Or the second.  Or the third…

Or the fourth.

This was my fifth attempt.

If you think that rejections hurt less when you’re an old professional (which I guess I am, although there are times I feel as if I’m still just getting started), the answer is “No.”  Honestly, I wanted to give up after that first rejection, but I did like the story, so I kept trying.

Submitting stories to short fiction magazines has changed quite a bit since I started in this field.  In some ways it’s easier.  Most magazines actually prefer electronic submissions, so there’s no need to go to the post office.  There’s no need to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with correct postage if you want your manuscript back.  (I started writing in the dark ages, in the days before disposable manuscripts.)

On the other hand, in some ways it’s harder.  One of the ways it’s harder is that most magazines request that you only submit one story at a time.  This means that if a magazine has a long waiting list – Asimov’s took three months to get back to me – then you’re not only tying up that story for a considerable time period, you’re also closing the door to that market if you come up with another story you think might suit it.

It also seems to me that there are fewer “professional” markets out there.  However, I haven’t sat down and done a studied comparison and contrast, so I can’t say for sure.

When I was first going to conventions with Roger Zelazny, a question I heard him asked over and over was “What do you think is the single most important thing for someone who wants to be a professional writer?”

His answer was always the same: “Persistence.  Keep writing.  Keep sending things out.  But most of all, keep writing.”

I kept this in mind as the rejections were coming in, went back to the market lists, reviewed my options.  I wrote a few more short stories, then a novel came and swallowed me.  I’m still mucking around in its gullet.

I also kept reminding myself of something so obvious that it might seem ridiculous: If you try, you have a chance of succeeding, but if you don’t try, you have no chance at all.

That’s cold comfort when the rejections are coming in, but when the acceptance happens, it’s really very sweet.  Now, off to do some more persisting!

TT: The Debate Heats Up!

June 22, 2017

JANE: So, here we go, tangenting off our Tangent, which was discussing whether or not Robert Heinlein put himself into his books.

Had Spacesuit, Did Travel?

Before we get back to that (because you still haven’t convinced me), I promised you a story about how careful writers – and those of SF and Fantasy in particular – need to be.  Why?  Because we have some of the brightest, most inquisitive readers there are.

ALAN: Indeed we do. Did one of them happen to catch you out in some way?

JANE:  “Catch out” may be too strong a term.  Here’s what happened.

When I wrote The Buried Pyramid, I carefully wrote out the bits in hieroglyphs.  I missed an error –the equivalent of a typo – though…  And, yep, a fan wrote to tell me about it.  Happily, she was a great person and, because of my error, I made friend who now sends me beautiful, handmade cards, but I blushed about that error for weeks.

ALAN: Good for you for admitting the mistake. I don’t think Heinlein would have been able to do that. The Heinlein Individual always knows how and why things work, without the possibility of error. Here Heinlein’s own personality comes out very clearly in the stories. In his autobiography I. Asimov the eponymous Isaac records:

“Heinlein was not the easygoing fellow that other science fiction personalities I knew and loved were. He did not believe in doing his own thing and letting you do your thing. He had a definite feeling that he knew better and to lecture you into agreeing with him. Campbell did this too, but Campbell always remained serenely indifferent if you ended up disagreeing with him, whereas Heinlein would, under those circumstances, grow hostile.”

The parallels with the Heinlein Individual are marked. Both Colonel Dubois in Starship Troopers and Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land (for example) exhibit this trait. They lecture at the drop of a hat (to be fair, it is Colonel Dubois’ job to lecture since he is supposed to be a teacher) and they do not allow disagreement. They are always right by fiat.

JANE: I have been on panels with numerous people who will lecture at the drop of a hat.  And, let me assure you, so many of them are convinced they are absolutely right.  Does that make them Heinlein?

ALAN: It depends on whether or not they are willing to listen to opposing points of view. I lecture at the drop of a hat as well (too many years as a teacher!) but I would never claim that I am always right. I have often been questioned and corrected by my students, and I just take it in my stride. Being a teacher is a wonderful opportunity for learning.

JANE: Indeed it is.  However, we only have Asimov’s word here for how Heinlein reacted and, from what I’ve read, Asimov wasn’t exactly the least opinionated writer out there.  Do we have an unbiased comment, or a clash of strong personalities who had to share the same stage?

ALAN: Oh it’s not just Asimov’s opinion. Heinlein had a very public and very hostile disagreement with Arthur C. Clarke when Clarke criticised some aspects of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Heinlein was strongly in favour of it and refused to allow any dissent at all.

Interestingly, Heinlein’s insistence that his opinions were the only correct ones does not mean that he never changed his mind about how and why the world worked. Asimov also records, somewhat cattily, that:

“Furthermore, although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far-right conservative immediately afterward. This happened at just the time he changed wives from a liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far-right conservative woman, Virginia.”

I often wonder how such people reconcile their later beliefs with their earlier ones. Both sets of beliefs cannot possibly be correct because they are mutually contradictory and yet they must both be correct because the person holding them is never wrong…

JANE: Uh…  This example just violated your basic premise.  If Heinlein really was supremely confident, if he needed to always be right, there is no way a mere wife could change his mind.  In fact, given how little respect the opinions of women are given in many Heinlein novels, I’d argue that if Heinlein really was the Heinlein Individual, then a wife never could change his mind.

ALAN: Asimov found it puzzling as well:

“…I cannot believe he would follow his wives’ opinions blindly. I used to brood about it in puzzlement (of course, I never would have dreamed of asking Heinlein—I’m sure he would have refused to answer, and would have done so with the utmost hostility)…”

Asimov’s observation about Heinlein’s changing opinions does go a long way towards explaining why the Heinlein Individual in some novels views the rules of the world in a different way to the Heinlein Individual in other novels. Heinlein’s own ideas had changed in the meantime.

JANE: True.  So, is there any better proof that Heinlein “was” his characters than these thin psychological arguments?  Please don’t say that he used his stories to put forward his ideas and beliefs because, to a certain extent, whether deliberately or not, every writer does this.

Here’s an example from my own stuff.

After reading Child of a Rainless Year, my good friend Yvonne called to tell me how much she’d enjoyed it.  But (chuckling even as she spoke) she said, “The ending was so Jane.  You do all these things to the humans involved, but you make sure the reader knows the horse was okay and had a good home.”

ALAN: I can answer this to a certain extent – when Heinlein was at the Annapolis Naval Academy, his sport of choice was fencing and by all accounts he was very good at it. The hero of Glory Road is a fencer and the novel contains much fencing lore.

JANE: Roger Zelazny was a fencer in college, and was very proud of the fact that he’d been on the college team.  Based on that evidence, one could as easily say that Heinlein modeled the character in Glory Road on Roger Zelazny – or any of an infinity of people who have fenced.

ALAN:  Indeed so – I agree that it’s a very weak argument. But it’s about as far as I can go without introducing the kind of speculations that you’ve ruled out of bounds. Certainly there’s nothing quite like that about Colonel Dubois and Jubal Harshaw, the two characters who are most generally assumed to be representations of Heinlein the man.

But let me leave you with this little speculation. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Jubal Harshaw is described as:  “Jubal E. Harshaw, LL.B, M.D., Sc.D., bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, and neo-pessimist philosopher.”  Heinlein didn’t have the formal paper qualifications that Harshaw boasted of, but he demonstrably had every single characteristic in the list that defines Harshaw’s personality.

JANE: So, we take the parts we want and leave out what we don’t?  I’m not convinced.  If the text had read: Jubal E. Harshaw, graduate of the University of Missouri and the US Naval Academy, student of physics at UCLA, then all the rest… then maybe, just maybe, I’d be convinced.  However, given how general the rest is – most of that would apply nicely to my friend Walter Jon Williams, for example – I’ll take Heinlein’s side and say, no, he never put himself in his books as a character.

ALAN: And there I think we have to leave this fascinating topic. I wonder what opinions our readers have of it?

When the Gods Are Silent E-book Now Available!

June 7, 2017

Back in January, I promised you there would be lots going on in 2017.  The release of When the Gods Are Silent as an e-book – following on March’s e-book release of Smoke and Mirrors – is only part of my keeping that promise.  Let me start with When the Gods Are Silent.  Then I’ll drop a few hints about other projects I’m working on.

When the Gods Are Silent

When the Gods Are Silent is my 1997 mythic sword and sorcery novel.  It was my first attempt at writing what is often termed “imaginary world fiction” at novel length – that is, fiction where I created the entire world, as well as the characters and story.  My earlier novels: Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls; Marks of Our Brothers; The Pipes of Orpheus, and Smoke and Mirrors had all used some variation on our world or at least the mythic history of our world or a futuristic extrapolation.

So, in a way, When the Gods Are Silent is an older cousin of the Firekeeper novels which are set in a very complex imaginary world.

For those of you who already have When the Gods Are Silent, I will add that the e-book contains a bonus afterpiece talking about some of the things that influenced me when I was writing the book.

When the Gods Are Silent is available DRM free from Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo.

Want to know more about When the Gods Are Silent?  Here’s the cover blurb.

Sharp-tempered, dangerous, yet fiercely loyal, Rabble is a skilled warrior who knows both too much and too little of her past.

Discovered unconscious at the side of the road by the Travelling Spectacular, Rabble willingly becomes a member of this eclectic band of wandering entertainers.  But her life and theirs are about to be disrupted by Hulhc, a prosperous farmer who is obsessed with finding the magic that vanished without warning over fifty years before.

Will any of them survive their search for the answer to a question about which the gods themselves are silent?

If you prefer print books, a limited number of the original mass market paperback are still available on my website bookstore.

 Prices include shipping and handling.  As always, signing and personalization are free!

Now…  How about what’s coming?

The other day, someone asked me if all I’m doing is working with getting my older material out.  The answer is “Absolutely not!”  I’m currently writing a new novel, which takes place in an entirely new setting.  The story will stand on its own but, already, the characters are hinting they have other stories to tell.

Moreover, I’m planning to bring out Asphodel, an extremely strange novel I wrote last year.  I’m reading the manuscript  of Asphodel to a group of friends.  When I’m done with that, I’ll give it a final polish and start getting it ready for the press.

Finally, I’m beginning to lay the groundwork for some projects that will take me back to some familiar settings and audience-favorite characters.  Since I want to finish a rough draft of my current novel first, you won’t see what I’m working on for a while.  So, let’s just leave it at “You asked and I’m listening.”

Consider going to my website and signing up for my mailing list, so you don’t miss any of the new releases, updates, contests, and promotions I have planned for the year to come!

Cat in a Fish Tank

May 17, 2017

Over the last several weeks – according to my records, we’ve just passed the mooniversary of my starting the actual writing of the book – I’ve been spending all my spare time working on a new novel.

Ogapoge in a Fish and/or Guinea Pig Tank

“What’s it about?” is the first question I usually get.  And that’s usually where I stall.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an intuitive plotter.  When I start a book, I have a strong sense that a story that’s been incubating in my subconscious is ready to go.  Then I go and find out what it’s going to be as I write.

This keeps me really excited, because I’m discovering along with my characters.  I’m usually a little ahead of them, but sometimes not much, and sometimes they surprise me as I’m writing.  I love it!

“Well, I get that,” is the usual follow-up.  “But what sort of book is it?”

“Uh…  Fantasy.  I guess.”

“What sort of Fantasy?”

And, again, I dig in my heels.  If you listen carefully, you may hear me growl.  Why?  Because categories are reductive.  Basically, they take a story idea and then reduce it to its lowest common denominator.  Tell me, does anyone ever fall in love with a story for its lowest common denominator?

I don’t.  Maybe I’m weird.

Probably am…  After all, my favorite books tend to be the ones that make the people putting labels on the spine uneasy.

When I’m writing something, the last thing I want to do is say “Well, it’s like this, except it’s not because…”  That reduces the story even before it gets started.

I’d like to think that even when my books seem to fall into a meme or trope or whatever, what they end up doing is surprising the reader by being something more or combining parts differently.  Expanding, rather than reducing.

Weird.  Yeah.  I guess.  The stories that burble out of my brains are like cats in fish tanks.  Unexpected, even when you know all the elements…

New Bermuda Triangle?

May 3, 2017

At least as far as delivery people are concerned, I apparently live in the Twilight Zone or the Bermuda Triangle or some such place.  And, no, I haven’t moved recently.  I’ve lived in the same house for over twenty years.

Hidden in Plain Sight

My suspicions began when my super-sweet mom ordered Valentine’s Day flowers for me and Jim.  The flowers never arrived.  Mom queried and learned the flower arrangement had been delivered to our address on a street some five blocks away.  Since her order was clearly for my address, the company agreed they should resend.  The new flowers were then sent to the same wrong address.

Mom sent my sister flowers, too.  Those flowers did arrive, but without a card.  Mom cancelled our order.  She sent me and Jim citrus from her garden instead.

I wrote a short story inspired by these mishaps called “Unexpected Flowers.”  It’s science fiction, because it’s about branching probabilities.  I ran it by a mathematician friend who complimented me for writing mathematics in prose.  So far the story hasn’t found a home.  Editors keep wanting it to have a definite ending.  Since I gave the tale as definite an ending as I could without spoiling the underlying science, I just shrug and send it out again.

My writing this story is about as good an illustration as you’ll get about what makes a writer different from most people.  Almost anyone would wonder about the reaction of the people who received the unexpected flowers.  Some people might muse over possible outcomes.

However, a writer actually goes beyond musing to start putting those thoughts down in a readable form.  In my case, my sister’s anonymous flowers provided the added kick.  I mean, anonymous Valentine’s Day flowers??  The possibilities as to what would happen if those arrived unexpectedly boggle the mind.

Why am I talking about this today, rather than back in February?  Well, recently I learned that a card my sister sent me never arrived.   Then this past week was Jim’s birthday.  Once again, delivery people may have lost a gift sent to us.  I hope the people who got Jim’s chocolates like creams.

I wonder if we’re living in a new Bermuda Triangle?  Now that I think about it, vanishing is only part of what makes the Bermuda Triangle special.  Things supposed to reappear there, too.

Hey, that might make an interesting story!