Friday, January 13, 2017

2016 Writing Recap

For better or worse, 2016 is done and gone. For me (like many people, I imagine), it was a year of transition. For the first time in my life, I made all my income from writing and editing. Most of that income, of course, didn't come from book sales but freelance work, but hey, that's still quite an accomplishment.

On a more personal note, my wife and I also learned we're going to be having our first child—so yeah, if that's not transition and change, I don't know what is. The baby is due in May, and it's exciting, a bit terrifying, and most definitely motivating for me to work harder at the writing I do.

A lot of other writing-related stuff happened, too, so here's a quick recap of the noteworthy tidbits, along with my goals for 2017:

  • The beginning of 2016 picked up where the end of 2015 left off, with most of my time and energy focused on promoting the release of book 2 in The Dreamwielder Chronicles, Souldrifter.

  • In early January, I released "Wulfram," a prequel short story to The Dreamwielder Chronicles, as an e-book single. 

  • In April, I finally pulled the plug on the new novel I had been working on, Remember the Future. It was a near-future cli-fi novel, and the real future simply caught up with my made-up near future, rendering it dated before it was even finished. It was tough to give up on the novel since I'd spent so much time on it, but no writing is ever wasted, or at least that's what I've been telling myself.

  • Also in April, I had my one and only piece of new short fiction released in the very cool anthology, Redneck Eldritch. I don't necessarily agree with the personal politics of all the contributors to the anthology, but I'm of the mind that such things shouldn't keep progressive-minded authors from contributing to projects like this. I'm proud of my contribution to the anthology, "Lake Town," and I've enjoyed all the other stories I've read in the book so far. All in all, it's a great anthology, and I'm proud to be part of it.

  • In July, Dreamrush, my first collection of short stories came out. For a detailed review of the collection, check out this great review from Robyn Bennis.
  • Also in July, I began work on my a new novel, tentatively titled The Beasts of Qaza. The book is a standalone work that's a mash-up of fantasy, steampunk, alt-history, and lost world adventures.
  • In September, I gave this blog a reboot, cleaning things up around here and getting back to bringing more interesting features, including interviews with a wide array of SF/F/H authors.

For 2017, my first writing goal is to complete The Beasts of Qaza. After that, I'll be focusing entirely on the book 3 in The Dreamwielder Chronicles. After that...well, I don't know. I'll be a dad by that point, and we'll see how much things have changed.

I wish everyone all the best for the new year. Here's to making 2017 the year it deserves to be, even if we have to beat it into submission.

-Garrett Calcaterra

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Steampunk Author Interview: Robyn Bennis

I first met Robyn Bennis last year after a panel discussion I was on at FOGcon, whereupon we immediately began chatting it up about steampunk. I quickly realized she knew way more about the genre (and its subgenres) than I do, and so was thrilled to find out she had her first novel, a rollicking airship adventure called The Guns Above, forthcoming from Tor books this coming spring. Robyn was kind enough to sit down and chat about her new novel, her experience working in the sciences, and copious reading recommendations.

GC: Based on my exhaustive Google search, there’s not much out there in the way of published fiction from you (although I did find at least one scientific article in Nature that it looks like you co-authored). Is there any fiction you have that readers can get their hands on before the The Guns Above comes out next spring?

Author Robyn Bennis
RB: Unless I come up with a killer short story between now and May, The Guns Above is going to be my first publicly available fiction. I've been very shy about posting any of my previous fiction, and I almost never submitted. Something changed after I finished this book, though. I think Sam from Quantum Leap may have been involved, because all of a sudden I was submitting personalized queries to every agent with even a vague interest in steampunk. And my memory of those months of querying is pretty much Swiss-cheese, so the data all fits. My next clear memory is signing the agency agreement with Paul Lucas at Janklow and Nesbit. (Alas, Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.)

GC: What can readers expect in the new novel, style-wise? From the cover blurb, we know there’s going to be a lot steampunk and airship action, but is it fast-paced, more character oriented, geared toward all-ages or YA? And can we expect to see any of your dry sense of humor that readers of your blog have come to know and love?

RB: Oh, it's going to be dry. Let me give you a little taste from the opening scene, as Lt. Josette Dupre lies wounded in the aftermath of a chaotic battle:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In Light of the Presidential Election, a Promise to Readers and Friends

Dear readers and friends,

I rarely write about real-world politics, focusing instead on issues like misogyny, authoritarianism, environmental destruction, and fearmongering in my fiction. I make my characters face these issues because they’re problems that affect real people I’ve met, known, and care for.

It’s for this very same reason that, today, I feel obliged to discuss real-world politics. I won’t bore anyone with a long tirade, or levy accusations at anyone. There’s plenty of that to be found elsewhere online. Instead, I offer a plea and a pledge in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

To those who are scared and uncertain as to what their future will be like under a Trump presidency, I understand. Know you have a friend in me. I’ll speak to that more in a moment, but first…

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How Would You Finish George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire?

George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire currently stands at five books, with book six, The Winds of Winter coming soon, and then likely another two books to “wrap the story up.” I’m using the quotes there because like many readers, I’ve noted that the story is becoming increasingly complex, with more than 24 viewpoint characters and counting. Even with his penchant for killing characters off, Martin has no easy chore before him to wrap up the story.

How in the world can Martin resolve so many storylines to the satisfaction of readers? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, I’ve asked a handful of authors how they would finish the series. Please share how you would finish the series in the comments section. Just subject yourself to the same restraints I placed on the contributors here: try to keep it under 400 words!

With the coming of winter, magic is alive again…

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

SF/F/H Author Interview: Wendy Wagner

Garrett and Wendy at Westercon 2016
Wendy Wagner is the managing editor at Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines, as well as a fast-emerging novelist. Her newest book, Starspawn, is a Pathfinder Tale novel that continues the adventures of the ex-pirate-extraordinaire Jendara, who readers first met in Skinwalkers. Walker also has a new, unrelated novel coming out from Angry Robot books in the summer of 2017, called An Oath of Dogs.

Wendy was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview back in 2013, but a lot has happened since then. In addition, to the new books, she’s taken part in the release of a series of special issues from Lightspeed and Nightmare that feature underrepresented voices in the genre. And of less import to the world at large, but important to me, she was also kind enough to write a blurb for my newest novel, Souldrifter.

All things considered, I figured it was hi-time we caught up, and once again she was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about her new books, her influences, promoting diversity in SF/F, and maybe travelling to Mars…

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Con-Volution 2016: My Monstrous Schedule

Con-Volution 2016: The Age of Monsters is this weekend, I'm excited to be participating in a whopping five panels. This will be my first time attending Con-Volution, located in San Francisco, California, and I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting a lot of great new people.

If you'll be in attendance, please flag me down and say hi. Here's the schedule of the panels I'll be appearing on. I'm stoked to chat about the making of monsters, and particularly Saturday's panel, "Fear of the Other," which should touch upon some important issues in the genre (and the world) right now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Celebrating Seven Years: Best of The Machine Stops

Saying goodbye to the old Machine Stops logo
August 8, 2016 was the seven-year anniversary for this blog, and I finally got around to giving the site a facelift. Hopefully, the new layout will make reading easier on they eyes. I'm also going through and updating broken links, including making sure all the book titles and images now have active links.

The Machine Stops started out with me intermittently rambling on about what I was working on in the infancy of my writing career, but as I became more involved in the SF/F community as a professional (sometime around 2011), the blog become infinitely more interesting, featuring interviews with other authors and the occasional SF/F lists.

Looking forward, I'll still be blogging about my own writing updates (about once a month), but you can expect to see a lot more interviews with other authors and fun features like top-10 lists and whatever other strange ideas pop into my head.

To celebrate the first seven years and kickoff a new chapter for The Machine Stops, here are the

Top 10 Most Popular SF/F Posts