Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

TT: Drabbling in Feghoots

October 10, 2019

The Thursday Tangents Collection

JANE: Today I’m happy to announce the return of my long-time collaborator, Alan Robson.  As we promised, we said we’d resume writing Thursday Tangents as soon as we had something we wanted to Tangent about…

Alan, I’ve lost track.  How long did we write the Thursday Tangents?  How many Tangents were there before we ran out of things to babble about?

ALAN: We wrote 356 tangents over a period of six years. Goodness me!

I collected some of them in a free ebook.

JANE: Wow!  I’d forgotten we’d been so chatty.

One of the things we talked about was your plans when you retired.  One of these was finally having time to write.  From our various e-mail chats, I know you have kept your promise to yourself, even if you haven’t quite yet written the Great New Zealand Novel.

In fact, it was one of your stories that made me decide we needed to Tangent once more.  When you sent me a “drabble,” I admit, I had no idea what to expect.

What is a drabble?

ALAN: A drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words, not including the title. Hyphenated-words-are-argued-about.

 A drabble is not 99 words, and it’s not 101 words, it must be exactly 100 words. It turns out to be surprisingly hard to cram an entire story into that number of words. It requires an awful lot of self-discipline together with very careful word choice and sentence structure, so it makes a really good writing exercise. There’s a very strong sense of accomplishment when you finally get it to work.

JANE: Why is it called a drabble?

ALAN: The form derives from a Monty Python sketch and it is named for the English novelist Margaret Drabble, though I doubt if she knows that her name has been borrowed for that purpose. It’s also a real word, believe it or not. It means to make something wet and dirty by dragging it through mud.

And it’s worth 10 points in Scrabble.

JANE: When you sent me your most recent drabble, I was quite taken with it.  Would you like to share?

ALAN: I’d be happy to. But before I do, I’d like to go off on a tangent, if I may, and explain that in British English, the word “Ass” simply means a silly person. It has none of the ruder connotations that it does in American English. So bearing that in mind, here’s a drabble about…

An Ass on an Asteroid

The asteroid called Ceremony was an amorphous lump of rock that tumbled end over end in its orbit.  I wasn’t looking forward to landing my spaceship on it, particularly with untold billions of people glued to their television sets watching my every move.

Delicately I manipulated the thrusters to match my orbit with Ceremony. When I was satisfied, I cautiously lowered the ship to a perfect landing. I switched the engines off, opened the hatch and stepped down onto the dusty surface. Then I announced triumphantly to the waiting billions, “I am the very first person to stand on Ceremony!”

JANE: Tah-dah!

What I love about this story is that it is more than a punchline for a joke (although it certainly qualifies as a joke as well).  It has a main character, a plot arc, even a dramatic climax.

Did you find it hard to squeeze all of this into so few words?

ALAN: Writing the story wasn’t that hard in itself. I’m getting reasonably proficient at creating a proper story structure and, in this case at least, the punchline dictated how the story had to work. The first draft came out at about 150 words and took something like thirty minutes to write. Then the hard work began. I had to trim and cut and re-write and juggle so as to edit it down to the required word count. That took about four hours.

JANE: Given the pun at the end, your drabble can also be considered to be a feghoot. Two birds with one stone!

Feghoots are humorous short stories that resolve with a pun.  Unlike a drabble, they don’t need to be only 100 words, so they can sneak up on you.

I learned about feghoots from my buddy, David Weber, who loves them.  One memorable night a few months after Roger’s death when I couldn’t sleep, Weber set out to break my dark mood. To do this, he told me dozens of feghoots, one after another.  It worked.

ALAN: Ferdinand Feghoot was the hero of goodness knows how many stories written by the anagrammatical Grendel Briarton who, under his real name of Reginald Bretnor, was a respected science fiction author and critic. The name of the form derives from the name of the hero of course, and the only rule is that the story must end with a terrible pun.

Feghoots were published intermittently in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction starting in the 1950s. They soon became wildly popular. Isaac Asimov and John Brunner and many other authors also contributed to the form. The very best feghoots were so terrible that you really wanted to scoop your eyes out with a spoon after you’d read them so that you wouldn’t have to read any more.

Reginald Bretnor died in 1992 and Ferdinand Feghoot appears to have died with him, which I think is a great shame.

JANE: I’d love to hear another of your drabbles.

ALAN: I can do that. Here’s one I wrote about:

The Revolting Crew

The mighty spaceship ploughed through the void between the stars. The crew were near to mutiny and the captain was deep in angry conversation with the artificial intelligence in charge of supplies.

“What happened?” he demanded. “Come on, Marie, you stupid machine. How could you allow such a situation to arise? How did you expect us to travel five hundred light years with no toilet paper?”

“What is it to me?” said Marie haughtily. “I have no need for toilet paper.”

The captain buried his head in his hands. “What am I going do?”

“Let them use cake,” suggested Marie.

JANE: That made me laugh out loud, which brought Jim in from the other room so he could read it.  And he laughed.  Congratulations.

ALAN: Thank you. If you’d like to read a few more of my drabbles you can find them on my website.

In all fairness, I probably ought to point out that, although my drabbles tend to be rather feghhootian (because that’s the way my mind works), drabbles don’t always have to be humorous. Gene Wolfe, Brian Aldiss and many other respected authors have all written drabbles that are dramatic and thoughtful and sometimes quite deep. A drabble is just like any other fictional form and therefore it can be used for any legitimate fictional purpose. That’s part of the beauty of it.

JANE: I may need to dabble in drabble one of these days…


Walker With Sleeping Gods: Liz Colter

October 9, 2019

World of Mystery

Exciting News!  Alan Robson and I will be presenting a Thursday Tangent tomorrow, on a Thursday, even…  It will feature original fiction, thoughtful discussion, and everything you loved in the Thursday Tangents.  Make sure you don’t miss it.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled Wandering, a guest appearance by author, Liz Colter.

My encounters with Ms. Colter have occurred in mysterious stages, which is strangely appropriate, since that is how her fiction also seems to unfold.

I first encountered her as L. Deni Colter, the author of “The Weight of Mountains,” one of my favorite stories in DreamForge magazine’s second issue.

At Bubonicon in 2019, we were doing a panel on DreamForge before a surprisingly full room, given that it was early on a Saturday.  After the panelists had introduced themselves, moderator Emily Mah Tippetts announced that there were two other DreamForge authors­—John Jos. Miller and Liz Colter— in the room.  She then suggested they introduce themselves.

I’d known John for decades, but who was this mysterious “Liz”?  When she mentioned the title of her story, I was very excited.  Later, we ended up chatting.  Almost immediately, I knew I wanted to interview her.  In preparation, I read her most recent novel, While Gods Sleep…  But more about that later.  Let’s let her speak for herself.

JANE: Liz, I always start these interviews by asking the same question, so here it is…

In my experience, writers fall into two general categories: those who have been writing stories since before they could actually write and those who came to writing somewhat later.

Which sort are you?

LIZ: I’m a came-to-it-later writer. I was a massive daydreamer when I was young and I nearly flunked out of grade school due to daydreaming, but it proves to me that I was always wired for writing fiction. On top of that, I’m English born and was raised with a very English mother who was a strict grammarian. My vocabulary tested high when she started me in 1st grade a year early, and reading and writing assignments were always strong areas for me in high school and college. I was also an avid reader from about age 10 onward, nearly exclusively science fiction and fantasy.

I might have come to writing earlier, but I stayed too busy after graduating from college, pursuing a lot of different interests, schools, and (as my biography will confirm) many careers. I never made time to write seriously until about twenty years ago when I found myself with a seasonal work break, a rainy winter, and my first computer. I started my first novel that winter and wrote 10,000 words in a week. I’ve never looked back.

JANE: Your official biography lists a wide and fascinating variety of careers including field paramedic, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress.  How did this very active lifestyle influence your writing?

LIZ: I’m a bit “Jack of all trades, master of none” but at least this has given me a wide range of interesting experiences and a fairly unusual knowledge base of draft horse farming, firefighting, emergency medicine, outdoor skills, and plenty of other things.  (That biography is by no means a complete list!) I’ve also had the privilege to meet a few true masters along the way.

As to how it’s contributed to my writing, in my early short stories I did what many beginning writers do and tried to write stories like ones I’d read,  avoiding things that were personal or unique to me. As my writing developed over the years, I’ve learned to draw more deeply from my past, not only from my experiences but, more importantly, from the feelings and truths that came with those experiences.

JANE:  In While Gods Sleep, Ty, your protagonist, is a locksmith.  Did you learn how to pick locks to get into his character?

LIZ: <laughs> No, that’s one skill I haven’t attempted to learn, at least not to the point of physically learning lock picking. That said, I am absolutely obsessed with getting details as accurate as I can in my stories. I fall down research rabbit holes constantly, so even the shortest of stories can take me far longer to write than perhaps they should.

Locksmithing was certainly one of the things I researched for While Gods Sleep. I did the standard Googling, but I also reached out on a writer’s forum and got responses from a couple of people who had practical experience and could answer my very specific questions.

JANE: Let’s talk a little about While Gods Sleep.  When I started it, I figured it would be a variation on the popular portal fantasy sub-genre, in which a character in our world is drawn into another.  The more I read, the more I realized you have two imaginary worlds here.  Why did you make that choice?

LIZ: I wanted this to be a contemporary fantasy but I used an alternate 1958 Athens, Greece setting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I’ve never lived in Greece, so I set it far enough back in history to hopefully give it a contemporary and accurate feel, but not be tied down to getting every detail of present-day Athens correct.

My second reason for the time period was to give the world a slightly less realistic feel since I needed to alter the history of Greek royalty to incorporate the storyline for an important pair of characters. They were the main reason that my Athens ended up being in an alternate world. I could throw demigods and creatures into the real Athens, but I couldn’t change the history of the rulers without changing the world a bit.

JANE: And those rulers…  Shiver.  Shiver.  So good.  So creepy without ever being a cheat.  Nicely done!

Based on what I’ve read of your work, you very much like mythic material.  What draws you to myth and legend?

LIZ: It’s almost a which-came-first question for me between my love of speculative fiction or my love of mythology and folklore. One of my favorite books as a child was a beautifully illustrated book of Russian folk tales, though the biggest hook into reading I can remember was discovering Tolkien at age 10.

In junior high and high school I spent much of my free time in the library reading all the Kurt Vonnegut they carried as well as all the Greek mythology I could find. I remember doing a research paper around tenth grade and choosing Hindu religion and gods as the subject.

 I honestly don’t know what drives the passion. Perhaps it’s learning the classics or the draw of mythological archetypes. Maybe it’s a natural progression from the fairy tales and folklore I grew up on or the appeal of learning about the similarities and differences of myths and religions in different cultures. Probably, it’s a bit of all those.

JANE: Tell us a little more about your other works.  While you’re at it, tell us why you’ve chosen to publish under several different names.

LIZ: To date, I have three published novels—two of them Colorado Book Award winners—and two or three dozen published short stories.

On the pseudonym, I went back and forth at first about using one, but eventually published my early short stories under my full name, Liz Colter.

When my debut novel, A Borrowed Hell, was accepted for publication, first by Shirtsleeve Press, and later at Digital Fiction Publishing, I revisited the question. My protagonist was male and my hope was that the book would appeal equally to all readers, and so I made the decision to switch to a non-gendered byline, L. D. Colter.

The next novel I published as L. D. Colter was While Gods Sleep—hopefully the first in a set of contemporary, myth-based novels from different cultures.

My next published novel was an epic fantasy, The Halfblood War from WordFire Press (that first novel I mentioned earlier, which I started that rainy winter on the farm). While plenty of readers, like me, enjoy multiple sub-genres of speculative fiction, my contemporary and my epic fantasy novels were very different. I decided to use a slightly altered pseudonym for my epic fantasy, L. Deni Colter, to make it easier for readers to know what they’re getting from me, as I expect to continue to write both contemporary and epic. Both my newsletter and my website list all of my books, as do my other social media pages, so hopefully everything is easy to find.

JANE: You’re not the only author I know who uses slightly different names as a “code” to guide reader expectation.  It’s an interesting choice.  Can you give me a link to your newsletter, in case any of my readers would like to follow any of you?

LIZ:  They can sign up for my newsletter here.  I have a website, too, where all my secret identities are listed.

JANE: I’ve taken a lot of your writing time with this chat, so I’ll let you go.  I definitely look forward to our next in-person meeting, and to reading more of your work.

Is Your Homework Done?

September 25, 2019

A Bonsai Maple Forest

I used to get asked that question by my parents—a lot.  Now I ask it of myself, especially at times like now when I have several writing projects that are crying out for me to get one done so I can move onto the next.

There’s Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to July’s new release, Wolf’s Search.  There’s the new Star Kingdom book with David Weber, for which I signed contracts a couple weeks ago.  There are various other projects, including a short story that started hopping up and down after a recent exchange of e-mails with Alan Robson, my former Thursday Tangents collaborator.

Here’s the problem.  And the big secret. Back in school, getting your homework done before goofing off was almost certainly productive behavior.  However, when you’re a writer like me there are times that staring at a screen or keyboard or pad of paper or whatever is precisely the worst way to get your creative juices flowing.

The same can be true of any profession that calls for an element of right brain thinking, or even non-thinking.  There’s a value to daydreaming, staring at the wall, doing a craft project, or any number of things that look like goofing off to someone on the outside.

Many years ago, I wandered on about how walking away from whatever you’re working on can actually be the best thing for those of us who draw upon our subconscious to get our work done.  Inspiration comes from the quiet corners of the mind, and sometimes the Muse doesn’t answer on demand.

So, why is there a picture of a bonsai at the start of this Wandering?  Two reasons.  One was that this weekend Jim and I went to Aki Matsuri, the Japanese Autumn Festival, and this was a display we really enjoyed.

The other is that bonsai are a good metaphor for a creative life that looks, from the outside, like what it isn’t.  Bonsai look like lovely, natural forests in miniature, but actually they are the result of a lot of crimping, cramping, cutting, and restricting.

For me, my creative life doesn’t work that way.  Mine is more like my yard which, right now, is overwhelmed with wild asters, going every which way.  Yesterday I sat in the yard and stared at them.  And then my Muse started whispering in my ear…

Wild Asters And Other Aspects Of My Yard

Crystals of Stories

September 4, 2019

Mei-Ling Researches Bats

Last week, when I mentioned I was reading about the extinctions of various paleo mammals, someone said, “So, shall we expect a story with mammoths and saber-tooth tigers soon?  Or are you going to be writing about mass extinctions?”

I have to admit, I was flummoxed.  I was reading the book (End of the Megafauna by Ross. D. E. MacPhee, with marvelous illustrations by Peter Schouten) because I’d seen a review and it seemed interesting.   But during the discussion that followed, I was reminded of a comment made the previous weekend at Bubonicon during the GOH interviews.

Somehow, research came up.  Alan Steele answered first and his answer was well-balanced, thoughtful, and very scholarly.  He researched both before and during a project, often for years in advance. Then it was Ursula Vernon’s turn.  She laughed and said (I may misquote, since I’m doing this from memory), “I don’t really research.  I write Fantasy.  I can change things to fit what I want.”

Well, that didn’t fit my impression of her books.  Since first meeting Ursula some years ago, I’ve read a lot of her books, both those written as Ursula Vernon and others published under her pen name of T. Kingfisher.  One of the things I love about her books is that underlying the rollicking stories is a lot of cool information about a wide range of topics.  A good example is Lair of the Bat Monster from her Danny Dragonbreath series.  You come out of this book knowing a lot more about bats than you ever knew there was to know.

Later, when we were chatting privately, I chided Ursula for underselling the amount of work that goes into even the most apparently lightweight of her books.  Her response was, in its own way, as thoughtful as Alan Steele’s.  She said: “But I don’t really research.  I just draw on what I’ve read and thought was fascinating.”  She then started telling me about a nifty book she’d been reading about perfumes, and we got sidetracked from there…

Often when both readers and writers think about “research,” we think about it in terms of schooldays of yore, of immersing oneself in a specific topic of more or less interest in order to produce a specific product.  That sort of research absolutely has a place in fiction writing.  I’ve done that, both before writing a project, during the writing, and then after to make sure I have specific points right.

But the other sort of research is probably more valuable.  Why?  Because you probably won’t even have ideas about new and thrilling topics if you never read outside of secondary sources and your existing interests.

I think this is why so much literary fiction deals with college professors and academics.  I’d also argue that it’s one reason why some writers start writing about writers and the business of writing.  In both cases, their interests have narrowed to what they are doing on a daily basis.  Becoming too immersed in a single field is another research issue, one that leads to some writers creating stories that are more and more specialized variations on a single theme.  That’s great if that’s what they want to write, but I’ll admit, both in my own writing and in my reading, I’m more eclectic.

Roger Zelazny routinely read up to five books at one time, dipping into each on a daily basis.  These included a volume of poetry, a biography, something non-fiction (often science or history related), something specific to a project he was working on or contemplating, and one or more volumes of fiction.  My reading is much the same.  Those of you who look at my Friday Fragments get part of my reading, but I don’t even try to itemize the articles I read,  nor short fiction.

Without my eclectic tastes, the “Breaking the Wall” novels never would have been written, because I wouldn’t have known enough about Chinese history, characters, and mythology to find myself asking the question that triggered the idea that led to the story.  The same is true for the varied cultures featured in the Firekeeper novels and elsewhere.  They’re not cultures from our world with the serial numbers lightly filed off; they’re evolved from the ground up based on what I know about how environment, politics, and religion (to name just three) have to do with how cultures are shaped.

My next read is likely to be a non-fiction book about a relatively minor historical figure.  Do I plan to write about him?  Not necessarily, but what I learn will definitely bubble up in some strange and wonderful way somewhere in the future.

Bopping From Topic To Topic

August 7, 2019


This week’s Wandering is going dedicated to chaos.  First a public service announcement, then we’ll hop on the carousel and spin off to where Jane Gets Her Plots.  Warning…  To be permitted on this ride, you need to be able to handle illogical logic!

A recent piece of fan mail lifted my spirits by saying this about Wolf’s Search: “It’s been a long time since I read a Firekeeper book. In fact, I was fascinated at how you worked in things so I didn’t feel I was in too strange a world.”  Big grin!  I guess I achieved my nearly impossible goal of writing the seventh book in a series that doesn’t require a year of re-reading the six prior volumes before a reader can enjoy the new tale!

I’d like to thank those of you who have shared your enthusiasm for Wolf’s Search with me on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail.  Special thanks to those who have taken the time to share their thoughts on Amazon or other bookseller sites.  To a reader, my enthusiasm for my books is potentially suspect, so yours is very important!

Now for that carousel ride…

Late last week, I asked for suggestions as to what I might wander on about this week.  Nan Silvernail asked me to talk about carousels.  Later, Jack McDevitt said he’d like to hear something about how I come up with plots.  Today I’m going to do both…

Some of you might be wondering “Why did she ask about carousels?  I could see wolves or gardens or even guinea pigs, but carousels?”

Well, although I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that features a carousel in a major role, I’ve been a huge fan of carousels, quite possibly since I was pre-verbal.  I grew up in Washington, D.C., and was lucky enough to have parents who thought that taking the kids to the Smithsonian was a good thing to do.  On the Mall was an antique carousel.  Although we rarely got to ride it, we were allowed to stand and watch as it went around and around.

My enthusiasm for carousels was further fed by the collection of figures in what was then called something like the Museum of History and Technology.  For that reason, this was my second favorite of the Smithsonian museums.  (My first favorite was Natural History.)

When I went to Fordham University in New York for college, I had a chance to meet a whole new slew of carousels.  A perfect weekend jaunt was to go to Manhattan to the Complete Strategist gaming store, then for a ride on the carousel in Central Park.  One time I even went to an auction of a carousel collection.  They were impossibly expensive, but it was a once in a lifetime chance to see those figures.  I still have the catalog.

When I was in grad school, I purchased a fiberglass “carousel horse” on Canal Street.  The quotes are because this figure was never meant to be on a working carousel, but to be used as a store display piece.  Originally, my horse was just grey fiberglass but, after I moved to Virginia, I painted it with house paint.  Goliath—yes, named for the horse in the movie Ladyhawke—has been with me since.  In my yard, surrounded by Datura and Russian sage, resides Jerome Girard Giraffe.  He’s aluminum, and probably came off a decommissioned Mexican carousel.

Jerome Gerard Giraffe Among the Datura

Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who loves carousels, which go round and round and up and down all at once, does not write in a linear fashion.  This definitely applies to how I come up with plots.  Basically, I don’t, at least not in advance.  Instead, I come up with a problem or several problems, then set out to find out how my characters will deal with them.  I don’t know the end of a story until shortly before I write it.  If I did, I’d get seriously bored and probably never finish it.

Character point of view is very important to how a story unfolds for me.  Firekeeper will see events one way, Laria or Ranz another.  None of these points of view are necessarily wrong.  I really enjoy immersing myself in different people, their values, priorities, and even shortcomings.

Organization comes both as I write and after.  As I am writing, I keep what I call a reverse outline that helps me keep track of the flow of time, and makes sure I don’t leave any point-of-view character out of the action for too long.  After I’m done writing a rough draft, I clean up stray bits that didn’t go anywhere and tighten my prose.

About the closest I come to outlining is to pull out crayons or colored pens and do freewriting exercises.  For these, I scrawl random elements from the novel on a blank sheet of paper, then draw lines between them, just to see if there are any links I’ve forgotten or overlooked.

Sometimes I have a revelation.  Other times the end result is just pretty, but at least I’ve had an excuse to play with my crayons.

Maybe I’d work differently if I wrote mysteries like Jack McDevitt’s Alex and Chase novels (I’m really enjoying Octavia Gone), and I needed to know the solution before my characters do.  However, working up an outline, even a very detailed proposal, doesn’t stimulate my creativity. It stops it.

This reminds me that I need to update the reverse outline for Wolf’s Soul, then maybe pull out those crayons and a stack of scrap paper and explore what’s going to happen when…  No.  I’m not teasing!  I really don’t know how the story is going to work out, and I’m very eager to learn.

FAQ: Wolf’s Search

July 31, 2019

Blue Wolf With A Blue-Eyed Wolf

Wolf’s Search, the seventh novel in the Firekeeper Saga, has been an official release for two weeks now.  In those two weeks, I’ve been repeatedly asked several of the same questions.  Here are both Questions and Answers.

1) Will I be able to order a signed copy directly from you?

The answer to that one is “Yes,” but the details are complicated.  Read on!

At least for now, Wolf’s Search will not be on my website bookshop’s list of available titles.  I am considering revamping the form I’ve been using, because—as some of you already know—it has quirks.  Until I have the time and money to mess with the website form, this book needs to be ordered via e-mail from  (See below for more about this.)

Price will be $18.99.  This includes shipping via Media Mail, handling, and autographing, including personalization upon request.  (Hey, lots of fans pay extra for movie star autographs.  It’s worth thinking about.)

You can pay via personal check, but I will hold the order for two weeks from date of deposit to give time for the check to clear.  You can also use money orders, cashier’s checks, or PayPal.

If you use PayPal, any refunds will have PayPal fees deducted from the return.  Send PayPal payments to

As indicated above, my business e-mail is  Please note: My web host has been having difficulties, so your e-mail may not get to me.  If you don’t get a reply within a couple of days, e-mail again or Message me on Facebook or Twitter.

I will get your book in the mail as quickly as is feasible, but I usually reserve one day a week for trips to the post office.

2) Can I order other of your books directly from you?

Yes, you can.  Most of my books are available via my website bookshop.  When possible, I offer hard cover first edition, first printing.  However, not all of my books are available, nor are they all hard covers.  Check the details.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

As above, shipping is included in the price.  See above for other details.

3) What if I already have bought a copy?  Can I sent it to you to get signed?

Yes.  You can, but you need to include return postage.  Also, if you want to send a large order, be sure to let me know.  I am not equipped to handle massive boxes.  If you want me to sign your entire collection, consider attending a convention or bookstore event.

Package the book in reusable packaging (because I firmly believe in “reuse, recycle.”  Enclose the book with any instructions for signing (Ex. “Signature Only” or “To Jessie.”).  You can also include a note saying something like, “This is a birthday present for my spouse, Chris.  Can you say something special?”

Include an address label for the package addressed to you or whoever you want to have the book.

Remember to include return postage or your book will have found a new home with me.

4) Is Wolf’s Search available as a hard cover?

No.  However, I’ve been asked this often enough that at some point I may produce a limited edition hard cover version.  If so, I will probably do a Kickstarter to judge how serious interest is.

5) Is Wolf’s Search available as an audiobook?

No.  This is not because I am not interested.  As a devoted audiobook junkie, I most definitely am.  However, I have not been approached by any vendor who is interested in doing the work.  If you want a Firekeeper audiobook (or any of my works as audiobooks), I suggest you contact the vendor or vendors of your choice and alert them to your desire.  They actually listen to purchasers!

6) Is it true that there is going to be another Firekeeper book?

Yes.  The working title is Wolf’s Soul and it picks up close after Wolf’s Search.  I haven’t quite finished writing it, and then it will need to be polished and proofed and produced, but the nice thing about my using indie publishing is that as soon as it’s ready, I’ll put it in your hands.

7) Now that you’re writing sequels, are you going to write another Artemis book?  Or “Breaking the Wall” book?  Or athanor book?

Maybe.  I talked about plans for the future last week.

8) I’d love to have you do a signing near me.  Is that likely?

It’s more likely if the bookstore contacts me and offers to defray my expenses.  The same goes for conventions.  I don’t live where I can just hop in the car, drive a few hours, and come home again.

9) As of this moment, there is no Number Nine.  Feel free to ask, though, and I’ll answer either in the comments or next week!

Want More?

July 24, 2019

Keladry Lounges With Blind Seer

When I decided I was going write a new Firekeeper novel, I’ll admit, I was scared.  Not about writing the novel.  I was ready and eager to return to Firekeeper and her world.  What scared me was the investment in time and expense I was going to make in the hope that people would buy another Firekeeper novel.

When I shared my apprehensions with a variety of people, I was amazed at how many said something like “You should do a Kickstarter” or “Sign up for Patreon or Drip.  Everyone is doing it.”

I’ll admit it.  I balked, but not because I didn’t think I would finish the novel.  I’ve written many novels based on a proposal or even just a verbal pitch.  As long as I have an idea I’m enthusiastic about, I will write the story.

No.  I balked because I didn’t have any idea how long it would take me to write the novel. Asking people to fund me for an indefinite period of time didn’t seem fair.  I’m relatively new to indie pub, but the one thing I’ve learned is that, if you’re going to do a good job, the process takes time.  Indeed, as I revealed back in January, the writing of Wolf’s Search didn’t follow the path I thought it would.

So now Wolf’s Search is completed and is available for sale.   You can acquire the ebook at the following on-line retailers: Amazon; Barnes and Noble (Nook); Kobo; Google Play, and iTunes.  The trade paperback is also available at Amazon.  I talked more about the story itself last week, so I won’t repeat myself here.

What can you do if you want more original works by me?

Buy Wolf’s Search.  Don’t search around for a pirated copy.  Don’t pirate.  Let me know if you find someone who is selling or even just giving away a pirated version.  Pirates are only romantic and dashing in the movies.  In reality, they are just petty thieves.

Don’t buy one copy and share it with your five closest pals.  Sure, I appreciate the compliment, but I can’t make a living from shared copies or used copies.  This may be a shock to you, but libraries don’t pay me when you take my book out.  I only get paid for the one purchase – and institutions usually buy at a discount.

What else can you do?

Write on-line reviews and post them at the vendor of your choice.  Although many people think it is disgusting when writers request on-line reviews, while writing is an art, publishing (which enables writers to make a living) is a business.  Especially when a book has been independently published, the author doesn’t earn a single penny until you buy the book.

Still with me?

Tell your friends about Wolf’s Search.  Feature it in your book club. Word of mouth—or of electron—is still considered the best way for the word to get out about a book

Another thing you can do, if you haven’t already, is sign up for my mailing list.  That way you can be first to hear about special offers, contests, or get a sneak peek at the cover art for forthcoming works.  You can sign up from my website or by using the link on the left side of my Facebook page.  I never share my mailing list information, and I post only occasionally, so you don’t need to worry about weekly spam.

Let me be completely honest.  Whether or not I can afford to publish more novels, as well as how quickly those novels become available, is in your hands.  With your backing, I can afford to concentrate on writing, because I can hire help for the mundane business details.  Without your help, there’s only me acting as writer, editor, marketer, art director, and all the rest.

Not a fan of Firekeeper?  That’s okay.  Some of you have asked if I’ll be writing more novels in some of my other universes, such as that of the “Artemis Awakening” series, the “Breaking the Wall” series, or the athanor series.  I definitely have some exciting new sequel projects planned.

Even better, I also have some new, never before published, works in progress.

However, whether I can afford to pursue these projects, as well as how quickly they become available, depends on you and your support.  If you don’t want to buy a Firekeeper novel, then consider buying one of my other novels or my short story collection, Curiosities.  Have all of them?  Buy one of my books as a gift.

Don’t buy used.  My website bookstore offers many of my novels in hard cover first editions.  The bookstore page will be undergoing revision and expansion, but you can always e-mail me if you are wondering about the availability of a certain title.  Contact information is on my webpage.

Many of my older titles are also available as e-books.  More will become available as I have time and finances to produce them.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for the Firekeeper Saga and my other works.  I hope you’ll be part of making sure that my stories – both your old favorites and new material – remain available in the years to come.

Now, off to do some business stuff, but soon I hope to be running with Firekeeper and Blind Seer again soon.

Take Flight With Wolf’s Search

July 10, 2019

Back and Front Cover!

As you’ve probably guessed, the image accompanying this post is the official cover for Wolf’s Search.  The art is by Julie Bell, who gave her talents to the art for the first six books, and let me use her “Andre” for the cover of Wolf’s Search.

Many readers of Fantasy and SF are already familiar with Julie Bell’s art, but did you know that doing the covers for the Firekeeper books brought her to doing wildlife art as well?  You can read all about her journey—including the ups and downs along the way—here.

If you’re interested in seeing the original of “Andre,” here’s a link to the proper page on Julie Bell’s site.  You’ll see that her image is just a little different from the one on the cover, but it’s still magnificent.  Even more fascinating, Julie Bell’s painting actually perfectly fit something I’d planned for the book long before I started looking for art.  There is such a thing as serendipity.

Wondering what Wolf’s Search is about?  Let me spare you trying to read off the photo and give you the blurb here!

Transformative Journey

Blind Seer has run at Firekeeper’s side since the wolf-woman first crossed the Iron Mountains into human-held lands.  Now it’s her turn to run alongside the blue-eyed wolf as he sets out in search of someone who can teach him how to use his magical gift—on his own unique terms.

The pair’s search will take them to the far side of the world in the company of allies who include a young woman scarred by war, a falcon who believes himself a traitor, and an old friend… or possibly enemy.  Together they will fight battles from before they were born, climb mountains, cross badlands, eventually unveiling a threat that will reshape not only Blind Seer, but his belief in what he most desires.

As I write this, I’m waiting for the print proof for Wolf’s Search to arrive.  It’s scheduled to get here tomorrow.  Proofing that is the final Big Step before the book is ready for release.  Depending on whether any new errors cropped up in printing, Wolf’s Search could be available as both e-book and trade paperback within a few weeks.

I’ll announce when Wolf’s Search is available as a Wednesday Wandering.  If you can’t wait even a moment, sign up for my Mailing List, since I’ll post the information there as soon as it becomes available.  You can find a link to the mailing list at my website.  My mailing list is only used for important announcements, and I never share the list, so you don’t need to worry about being inundated except by the sort of news you want!

Now, off to see if the proof has arrived.  I know it’s a day early, but I’m very excited!

Isn’t Necessarily Right

May 29, 2019

Mama Gets Ready

Despite the picture, this Wandering isn’t about birds, it’s about writing.  Well, it’s about birds, too, because the birds are what started my thoughts wandering down this trail.

When I was a kid, everyone knew that animals—especially “simple” animals like the sparrows featured in these photos—were basically organic computers programmed by that mysterious force called “instinct.”  Simple animals didn’t teach their young.  At best the young “imprinted” and thus became organic photocopies of their parents.

Turns out, what everyone knows isn’t necessarily right.  Even sparrows—like the delightful family Jim photographed on our bird block—teach their children.  How well in this case is an interesting question, since bird blocks aren’t exactly natural, but we watched for quite a long while as Mama Sparrow taught her kids to feed themselves.

Isn’t That Delicious?

I hope those lessons will extend to encouraging them to sample the plants we have growing in the backyard, many of which we let go to seed to provide food for the birds.

It turns out that “bird brained” birds aren’t the only animals who teach or at least learn by example.  I’ve seen many guinea pigs teaching their young what is and isn’t safe to eat.  Even when they’re not related, younger ones will look to their seniors for guidance.  This can cause a few unintentional ripples down the chain.  We’ve had a couple very dietarily opinionated guinea pigs convince their associates that something perfectly fine—even beneficial for guinea pigs—is “yucky.”  Currently, it’s carrots.  Sigh…

Many types of wild canines not only teach their young to hunt, they take advantage of their ability to regurgitate at will to carry back live prey—small rodents are a favorite choice—so the kids can practice in the safely of the home.

Nonetheless, despite ample evidence to the contrary, humans continue to superimpose their preconceived notions on animals, rather than viewing the animals as distinct individuals.  Not all cats cold-shoulder their humans when they’ve been away.  Mine tend to follow me around, apparently to make sure I won’t do it again.  But who knows?  Maybe they’re more like teenagers hiding the pizza boxes and beer bottles so their parents won’t know they’ve had a party.

My friend (and fellow writer) Walter Jon Williams once pointed out to me a minor error in one of my novels.  I sighed and said, “Well, I guess that makes this an alternate history, then.”  He laughed and very kindly replied, “It’s not what you know you don’t know that’ll get you; it’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you every time.”

That’s a good piece of advice to remember when writing.  Next time you start writing a standoffish cat or an eager-to-please dog or a faithful steed or a stupid cow or…  Well, you get the idea.  Next time you start to write what everyone knows, take a closer look.  It’s highly likely that what everyone knows isn’t actually true.

Now that I think about it, that’s good advice for life as well.

Storyteller, Not Only Writer

May 22, 2019

Past Adventures In The Court Of The Faceless Tyrant

People—especially other writers—often ask me why I run a roleplaying game (and have been for many years) when prep for the game takes up some of my writing time. Last Sunday’s game demonstrated one reason.  I’m still grinning at the memory as I type this.

Sunday night I sprang a plot twist on my players. It was terrific watching eyes widen as, one by one, people caught the implications of what was unfolding.

Dominique, the unwitting foil for my revelation, did a brilliant job of playing her part as Persephone who, daring to hope for a very special Midwinter gift from her long-time crush, instead realizes that he’s proposing to her – in the form of inviting her to join a conspiracy.

I had no idea what Dominique/Persephone would do or say.  Being ready to react appropriately was definitely an adrenaline high.  She gave me a lot to work with.  After everyone left, Jim said he half-expected Dominique to really burst into tears. It was improv theater at its best.

My fiction-writing self usually waits years to see how a novel will be received. Often, I never hear.  Worse, when I do hear, most responses are not about what I wrote, but about what I didn’t write.  By contrast, my game master self gets to see the response in real time.

Running my weekly game jazzes me for my daily writing, maybe because my players are such excellent collaborators.  Nonetheless, I have no desire to reveal a novel until it’s done. Why?  Different type of storytelling, I guess.

I often define myself as a storyteller, not a writer.  I realize that’s not precisely true.  I am a writer.  I love the process of finding the right words to portray a character or describe a setting.  I love refining these elements until they’re as close to perfect as I can get them.

My earliest stories were told aloud, mostly to my two younger sisters.  Later, I daydreamed elaborate plots with only me as an audience.  My current two favorite forms of storytelling are descendants of those early experiences.

Now I’m off to be my prose writer self, who has been busily scribbling all over the manuscript of Wolf’s Soul in a quest for the perfect words and cadence.  Nonetheless, my oral storyteller self is already anticipating next week’s game when…  Well, we’ll just need to see!