THE EIGHTH KING acquired by Curiosity Quills!

People of the Internet: It is with considerable delight and non-negligible bemusement that I announce the corporate takeover of my creative alter ego. The fine folks at Curiosity Quills Press have made the questionable decision to acquire my epic fantasy, THE EIGHTH KING. Publication date isn’t firm yet — you’ll hear more about that. You’ll hear more about a lot.

Speaking of which. There will definitely be book news posted here, especially the stuff that works better in long form. But for moment-to-moment updates, you’re probably going to want to follow me on Twitter or my author page on Facebook. Wattpad and Goodreads are also options, but I function more naturally in FB and Twitter, so there’ll be more action there.

When I was 7, I resolved to have my first novel published by age 10. Better late than never. Here we go.

VERSO is free on Amazon through Wednesday!

As some of you know, I’ll occasionally put out a novel or a book of short stories for the enjoyment and edification of discerning individuals. This is such an occasion. Better yet, the book in question is free on Amazon, today through Wednesday! (That’s 29 February through 2 March 2016, for those of you arriving later.)


Five short SF and fantasy stories, about 140 pages if it were in print (which it will be in due course). One of my favorite passages, from the title story:

There were girls’ hordes too, of course. More, even, and more lethal: Boys were picked up from the streets at five or six, like Xin, but son-hungry families shipped extra girls to Verso in barges and baskets and the backs of watermelon trucks, and they began to work as soon as they were old enough to take a jack. Once he had seen a girls’ horde take on one of the guild armies on the Emerald Plain. They moved together like birds, the mass of them weaving and jackknifing with perfect precision, not even slowed as their foes folded in on themselves like wheatstalks burdened by an early snow.

If that seems at all intriguing, definitely pick up VERSO while it’s free!

(Sad bit: Non-Amazon readers will have to wait another 10 weeks or so to buy it on their e-readers. But I will announce it again when it’s available on Nook, Kobo, Google, &c.)

forms of respect

Every so often, Jason Howell will send out an interview question to an elite group of writers and publish their responses. Sometimes, he makes a slip of the keyboard and includes my name on the distribution list, and I get a shot at unspooling some half-formed thoughtlet to the wider Internet. I generally do all the requisite Twitter stuff around this, but it occurs to me that the links might benefit from a representation with a bit less churn.

This week’s question:

If we assume the following respect-vectors are what all writers want, and we pretend that they’re (somehow) mutually exclusive…

a) Peer acceptance: to be well thought of by other writers you admire; b) Critical acceptance: prestige by way of smarter-than-yous who assign artistic value to literature; c) Pop culture acceptance: relevance, hipness, hotness, a presence in established media outlets alongside “big names”; d) Audience acceptance: a large-enough, loyal readership that quietly pays the bills; e) Family acceptance: make parents / relatives proud.

… which two would you select at the expense of all others? And why?

My answer, along with many other writers’ answers, at Howlarium.

a love letter

CROSSED GENRES’ April theme:

32: Portals (Submissions: April 1-30. Publication: August 2015)

“…look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.” Alice’s rabbit hole, Chell’s blue and orange teleports, the T.A.R.D.I.S.’s doors… or a computer monitor, or the pages of a book. A portal can open across time, space, and imagination… and it can be closed to them as well.

There’s a story I’ve been meaning to write to this theme. It’s a follow-on to a novella I wrote on Wattpad last year. As soon as the realization came, so did the ideas, with set pieces to match. An orangutan demon, searching among rows of meditating monks like cabbages, looking for the man he’s supposed to deliver a message; war at the foot of a mountain, prayer-powered mechsuits against high sorcery; a dragon who eats the documents that Heaven has no room for in its file drawers. Two points of view (the two lovers in the letter below), told by two tellers, each with his or her own sympathy, in a frame story, and all of it converging on a girl I barely wrote about in THE EIGHTH KING—but for whom I have big plans, if I ever clear the decks enough to write the sequel.

CROSSED GENRES’ word count maxes out at 6000 words. I cut a point of view from the plan, cut the frame story, began. Two weeks and 3000 words in and Lin Ben isn’t even out of the monastery, isn’t even answering to his real name. Probably I could cut that in half, but it wouldn’t be enough. I have to concede what, in some chamber of my heart, I probably always knew: This is a novella, 20,000 words minimum. To do it right.

And, because it follows a novel that’s in queries and a novella that’s on Wattpad, it’s not a priority. I need to finish the War of Songs books—shit, I need to finish THE CLAIM—or I need to finish THE FLAME BENEATH THE STONE.

But, if I can’t finish the thing because I can’t sell it, at least I can share a bit of it. This is the first time I’ve written a love letter. I think I did all right.

Dearest Ben,

With my heart in such a furor, I feel I ought to profess ignorance of where to begin. But there is only one possible beginning; for, if you throw this letter away in frustration, thinking it some delusion or, worse, a cruel prank, then all I have done to find you again is lost.

My name is Chesa. I grew up in the colonies of Therku, in the cold pine forests where the lumberjacks live. I met you on the way from Rassha to the Summer Palace, around a campfire. We had resolved to visit my father and speak to him of a marriage. At the palace, I fought a monster when you were called away, and I died. After a short interval, I began a new existence as a page of the Court Celestial, where I toil to this day.

I know it is a great deal to ask you to believe. I pray the nature of the being who delivered this message will convince you.

My Ben—if mine you still are—I have spent the years writing letters to you, on whatever spare scraps, with whatever broken or discarded implements, I could cadge or find. I could send you the book of my afterlife, if anyone would deliver it. As it is, I have relied on the indulgence of a demigod who finds me useful, and she tells me a single sheet is all she may slip into the subpoena-serving demon’s freight, lest it take notice of the document’s thickness and inform some more influential functionary. I hope the thought of receiving a summons from the Court Celestial did not fill you with too much dread; but perhaps the dread will prove worthwhile, in the end.

But I have already wasted too much time on salutations. I bid you, Ben, to contemplate the substance that now connects us, the stuff that catches ink in the shape of characters and faithfully conveys them to the faithful correspondent. (Are you faithful, Ben? The question does not gnaw at me as once it might.) These characters, of course, are not the perfect, dire shapes that form a summons from the Gentian Circuit; but there are many such summonses, and more each day, a copy of each remanded to some box in some closet in some hall built from bricks of hardened cloud, bound together with a mortar of ground starlight mixed with new rain. The Gentian Circuit alone must produce tens of thousands of sheets each day, each inscribed with the writing of the greatest spirits, demigods, and beasts on Earth, Hell, or Heaven, each summarizing events of consummate importance and all-permeating consequence.

Keep such things together long enough, and a certain kind of energy begins to collect where they are stored, and eventually to grow, and take on forms. They must be culled and gotten rid of periodically, after their usefulness has passed. Or so this demigod tells me, so she claims. It is a strange claim, but I have seen stranger things transpire in these unending hallways, and I can name no reason that she should wish to deceive me.

The Court’s preferred repository for paper that has passed its usefulness is a creature called the Shoat of the Sky, whose specialty is eating the inedible. It lairs at the summit of the Fragrant Heap, the great peak which looms over the Tanggang mining colonies. The tribute will be made on the first new moon of the coming year, when fireworks and festivities will preoccupy the mortals of the outlying towns.

The feed will begin half an hour after the sun has quit the sky. It will be hours before the last paper enters the Shoat’s gullet.

Do you understand, Ben? A door from earth to heaven will be open on that night. And I will be at the threshold, waiting.

I pray this message reaches you in time. I pray it does not betray its true nature to its carrier. I pray it finds a Ben who cares enough for me to climb a hill and dodge a pig. My prayers defy enumeration. I pray that you can read these words. Did we never speak of books, Ben, in all those weeks? How not?

Well, there is your subpoena. Be timely in answering it, I beg you. The Court Celestial barely runs without you, as any heaven fails without a sun.



The prodigal

Good morning. It’s been a while. How are you?

Me, I spent a week in London trying to learn to be a software engineer, and another two at home trying to figure out how to get work done while the kids were homebound due to excesses of snow or snot. Other than the trip to and from Heathrow, my London experience was more or less confined to the fifteen-minute walk between my flat in Shoreditch and my job in Shoreditch; so, despite my hopes to tap into the mythic half-forgotten London that animates China Miéville’s New Crobuzon and Alan Moore’s FROM HELL, I spent most of my time pondering the curious popularity of Mexican and fusion Mexican cuisine (falafel with guacamole?) and rubbernecking at some admittedly pretty amazing graffiti:

IMG_8819By “most of my time” above, I of course mean “most of the time I wasn’t learning how complicated it is to write apps,” which is a lesson I honestly haven’t fully grasped just yet.

But now I’m home, and the snow and snot have cleared, and I’m trying to figure out where I’m going. The main issue is finding time to write for an hour a day. I’d like to do more, of course, but if I can do that, I can make progress. But with the office right at home, it’s hard. One really liberating thing about the otherwise horrible commute to Philadelphia was that it gave me a solid block of downtime every weekday. Now all time is potentially uptime, and I need to make choices. So far, I’ve been making them to the detriment of writing. That’s going to have a pretty bad effect on my mood and motivation if it continues.

Beyond that, we have issues of strategy. THE CLAIM is stalled midway through Chapter 8. If I can write 5000 words a week, it’ll be done in two weeks. I’m somewhat resolved that I ought to finish it… but with THE CANDIDATE still unwritten, that decision isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. With two or even one and a half books done in January, I could still think of the War of Songs as a winter-and-spring project, with the latter half of the year devoted to polishing those books and writing the sequel to THE DANDELION KNIGHT. With THE CLAIM not even done yet, the pull of the sequel is a lot stronger. Before, I thought I was looking at 50,000 words to finish the War of Songs trilogy; now I’m looking at 100,000+, which makes the 100-150,000 likely words of the DANDELION KNIGHT sequel (many of which are already written) a lot more palatable by comparison. And that will close a loop that’s been open two or more years now.

And then we have the business side of things. This website is suboptimal in any of a dozen bleedingly obvious ways; I still need to write a coda to the JaNoWriMo project; I still need to work on list-building, collecting blurbs, getting some of my work free on Amazon. I’m also trying to teach myself about marketing and entrepreneurship, notably through <a href=””>Copyblogger’s</a> free ebook library, but reading time is a bit thin on the ground. Bandwidth is my big blocker right now, and I can’t even scrabble for more by waking up early, because my son is awake at random times between 3:30 and 6:00 and I usually need to help out.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t things I can do better.

I’m going to start, though, by trying to check in here daily, at least on weekdays. This is, at least in theory, where my business lives; I’m hoping that more regular contact with the site will keep my writing head where it needs to be. Nothing this lengthy, I think–again, more along the lines of <a href=””></a>, wisps and stretches.

And I’ve spent about half an hour more on this than I meant to, which means it’s time to bring home the bacon. I’ll be back tomorrow morning. Maybe sooner; who knows?