Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fractured Reality: The Roads to Baldairn Motte

Two summers ago I was a featured reader at the Big Orange Book Festival. I read two excerpts: the opening chapter of my work in progress, Remember the Future, which went over quite well, and then an excerpt from The Roads to Baldairn Motte, which did not go over so well. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but in doing massive revisions with my co-authors over the last couple of months for the new edition of Baldairn Motte from Reputation Books, I learned a lot about the nature of storytelling and the double-edged sword that is multiple vantage points.

Despite having what I’ll call “aggressive prose,” Remember the Future was easy to read aloud and easy for my audience to digest aurally because it is a straight forward narrative. There is one viewpoint character (my protagonist) and the story is completely internalized and colored by his personality. It’s a narrative form readers are used to.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Fart Jokes Matter

I just released my first book as an editor this last week, and yes, it's a humor anthology about poop. Several people have asked me, Why a humor anthology from a guy who's branded as an author of dark speculative fiction? Indeed, how can a guy write so seriously about terrorism or climate change at one moment, and then in the next put together a book of stories about shitting?

Here's my answer. It's exactly because I care so much about things like global warming, police states, gender equality, and the positive impact literature can have on the world that I had to put together a book of toilet humor. I learned a long time ago that if you take yourself too seriously--if you can't stop and laugh at the painful ironies in life--then you're doomed to live a miserable life. If you can't laugh when life deals you a low blow, then what choice do you have but to cry or respond with violence? Too many people resort to the latter, and that's another reason I put this book together.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

3 Days Only: Friday, Friday, Friday!

So Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and the day after that is so-called Black Friday. There's no better way to celebrate our national heritage than by glutting ourselves one day, and then being ravenous consumers the next, right? I'm setting the over-under on the number of people that will get trampled to death entering Walmart at a modest 17. Number of injured: 78.

But who am I kidding? I'm out to peddle my own shit to consumers too. The only difference is I'm plugging literature and thought-provoking discussions, which has got to be morally-superior to pushing iPhones, laptops, and all the other gizmos made in Chinese labor-camps/factories. Right? I hope so! Either way, if you're online this Friday, here's what I have going on. I hope you'll stop by one of the AMA chats and say hi!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wulfram — The Dreamwielder Prequel

Artwork by Patrick Williams
I’m very excited to announce the release of Wulfram, free of charge exclusively on Wattpad. Wulfram, as you may know, is one of the key antagonists in Dreamwielder, and quite a bad-ass one if I may say so myself. In addition to being the only sanctioned sorcerer in the realm, he’s a shape-changer who is equally capable with claw and fang as he is with magic. Of all the characters in Dreamwielder, he racks up the biggest body count.

So, how did he become so cold and mercenary? That’s where Wulfram the story comes in. Set 44 years prior to Dreamwielder, this prequel tie-in chronicles young Wulfram at the tail end of the Dreamwielder War, when the Five Kingdoms are in chaos and his master has been killed. He is on a self-imposed quest to find the banished heir to the Sargothian throne, the boy prince Thedric Guderian. And find Guderian, he does, but the young prince is far from the salvation he seeks.

You can read the story for free on the Wattpad website, or if you prefer to read it on your e-reading device, simply install the Wattpad app and search for Wulfram or my name. And if you haven’t read Dreamwielder yet, find a free preview here.

-Garrett Calcaterra

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Happenings: Mysterious Galaxy, NaNoWriMo, and More

This autumn has been an eventful season, full of big projects and literary events, and there's no slowing down in sight. Here's a quick and dirty recap of what's going on. Galaxy Local Author Meet and Greet, Saturday, November 9, from 2:30-5:30 PM. I'm stoked to be one of the featured authors for this event. Swing by if you're local for a very cool, informal event. I'd love to meet with you and chat. I'll also have some books for sale, but don't worry I'm an author, not a used car salesman. See the Mysterious Galaxy website for more details.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

20 Obscure SF/F/H Books Recommended by the Pros

Understanding why some SF/F/H novels become massively popular while others languish in obscurity is an exercise in futility. For whatever reason, some books simply never get the right combo of marketing support, reader buzz, and magical-mass-market-mojo to become popular. Other books have moments of critical and popular success only to fade into obscurity over time. It’s no surprise then that there are dozens—if not hundreds or thousands—of SF/F/H gems that are largely unheard of and unread by modern readers. In an effort to unearth some of these gems I invited fourteen authors to recommend their favorite obscure spec-fic novels. Along with my own recommendation, we’ve dug up over twenty novels for readers to go out and discover. Enjoy!

-G. Calcaterra

“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster
-Recommended by Garrett Calcaterra, author of Dreamwielder

Brave New World, Ninteen Eighty-Four, and Yevgeny Zamyatin's We always get credit for being the grand-daddies of dystopian fiction, but E.M. Forster's novelette “The Machine Stops” predates all of them. First published in 1909, it is a stark warning tale of what could happen when humans become too reliant on technology. It seems more prescient than ever in today's era of dependency on smart phones, GPS navigation, and auto-correct. “The Machine Stops” is not entirely obscure, having been included in Volume 2B of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology (1973), but few people know about it today. Dig up the Hall of Fame anthology, the Penguin collection of Forster's Selected Stories, or find the story free online, thanks to it being in the public domain.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Big Orange Book Festival 2013 Recap

Bruce McAllister, Garrett Calcaterra,
Terri Nolan, and James Scott Bell
Book festivals, conferences, and conventions are always a great time, especially when they're in your backyard, and especially-especially when you get to participate in one of the panels. That was the case for me this year at the Big Orange Book Festival. I had the honor of moderating a panel on "Making a Career in Writing" and it was a wonderful experience. The three authors I got to work with were all insightful, informative, and a pleasure to hang out with. They included:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Find Me at the Big Orange Book Festival

If you live in the southern California area, you should come check out the Big Orange Book festival this weekend, located at Chapman University in Orange, California. I will be moderating a panel on Sunday at 12:30 pm called Making a Career in Writing, and the panelists will include an amazing cast of writers:

  • Bruce McAllister—acclaimed SF/F author and writing coach
  • James Scott Bell—suspense/thriller author; author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure; former fiction columnist for Writer's Digest; and author of the Mallory Caine zombie legal thriller series, written under the pen name K. Bennett
  • Terri Nolan—mystery author, who by some odd coincidence is represented by the same literary agency as me, Kimberly Cameron & Associates

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The History of Modern Fantasy Fiction (Sort of) – Part I

So, I’m teaching a fantasy writing course at the Orange County School of Arts, and it’s…well, pretty freaking fantastic! The students are highly enthusiastic, all are well-read for their age, and we’re having a grand time talking about things like world building, magic, exposition, and whatnot. Because the students are all high schoolers, though, their reading has been focused primarily on contemporary fantasy authors, so I’ve made an effort to expose them to some of the key authors in the evolution of modern fantasy writing. It’s no easy chore to pick only one author a week who represents a transformative moment in the genre, but here’s what we’ve gotten through so far, complete with reading recs and my thoughts.

Origins of Fantasy: Mythology, Legends and pre-20th Century Literature

I have no qualms arguing that fantasy is the oldest genre of storytelling in the history of human civilization. Our earliest ancestors created fantastic tales to explain everything from the creation of Earth to why humans must experience suffering and pain. Fantasy authors have drawn from this well from the start, tapping into archetypes that are culturally, and perhaps even evolutionarily and spiritually, ingrained into us.

The most common inspirations for fantasy authors include Greek and Roman mythology, Norse mythology, Judeo-Christian mythology, Celtic mythology, Arthurian legend, and, to a lesser extent, Eastern mythology and philosophy (Taoism, for example, seems to be a big inspiration for Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series.)

Now, for the sake of defining limits for my class, I somewhat arbitrarily drew the starting cut-off line for “modern fantasy” as

Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Interview: Wendy Wagner

You’ll not find a nicer person in the SFF community than Wendy Wagner. By some odd coincidence, she and I actually went to college together at Pacific University many moons ago. Since then, thanks to the glory of the Interwebs, we’ve been able to strike up an online friendship based on our shared love of everything spec-fic related. Wendy isn’t just a nice gal, though. She’s got the writing and editing skills to cement herself firmly in the SFF community. She’s worked as an assistant editor for Fantasy Magazine, she’s had her short fiction appear in top publications like The Way of the Wizard, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and Armored, and she has a new tie-in novel coming out as part of the Pathfinder RPG. I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy for my recent article on the writing life at Blackgate, and I’m happy to present the entire interview transcript here.

Welcome, Wendy. Can you please describe your writing career up to this point, and what's the story with your Pathfinder Tales novel? When and where is it coming out?

I started out writing novels about eight or nine years ago. I struggled through drafting and endless revisions of two books (one of which sold, but the publisher went out of business before release), and realized that I wanted to practice on something a little shorter. So for a long time, I focused on short stories, even doing some work for an online magazine to learn more about the craft. Now I'm writing novels again, including a
tie-in for the Pathfinder RPG. That book, Skinwalkers, is due out sometime next year, and you'll see it on shelves in bookstores and game shops all over.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

A pirate walks into a bar and the bartender notices he has a big steering wheel attached to his crotch. The bartender dutifully pours a stiff rum drink for the pirate, cut can't help himself—he has to find out about the steering wheel.

"So, hey there, mister pirate captain, I couldn't help but notice you had a steering wheel down there. What's the deal with that?"

The pirate took a nip off his rum, turned to the bartender to regard him with his unpatched eye, and replied, "Arrr, it drives me nuts!"

Ba-dum-dum-cha! Thank you, thank you very much.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Author Interview: M Todd Gallowglas

I met M. Todd Gallowglas last year at Conjecture Con in San Diego, California. Being a bit of a newbie on the small SFF convention scene, it was great to meet Gallowglas, a guy who was cheerful and welcoming, making me feel right at home. Gallowglas is a frequent attendee and panelist at SFF conventions, and a born storyteller. In fact, he has been a professional storyteller at Renaissance Faires and Medieval Festivals for over twenty years, and he began self-releasing two series of fantasy novels several years ago, to much success. I interviewed Gallowglas for my recent article at Blackgate, and am now excited to release my full interview with him here.

Welcome! Can you describe your writing career up to this point in a nutshell, and don't leave out the part about being a Ren-Faire storyteller!

It’s funny that everyone asks about the storyteller bit, like it’s some secret. My professional writing career came out of my storytelling show, “Bard’s Cloak of Tales.” Let’s see…in a nutshell…A few years ago, I had this storytelling show to help make ends meet while I was seeking a position as an English teacher after having gone back to school to earn my BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing, of course). My wife and a few friends sent me a couple of articles about this Amanda Hawking chick and John Locke dude, saying they were making a killing selling their self-published books straight to Kindle. I said, “Huh…interesting.” A few months later, I put some stuff up to see if I could make a little extra money by sending people from my show to my ebooks. At the same time I jumped into the self-publishing world, I wrote some Cthulu short stories for Fantasy Flight Games and

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Knight's Dog

I'm very happy to announce the release of The Knight's Dog, an epic fantasy novelette, as an e-book single for both the Kindle and the Nook, for only 99 cents.

Official Blurbage: When Dern encounters a dying knight, he forsakes his life as a thief to do the honorable thing and deliver the knight's weapons and orphaned dog to the king. Civilized life is nothing like he imagined it, though. At every turn, someone is trying to swindle him or cut his throat. Everyone but the surly dog that now looks to him as his master....

This story was originally published in Tales of the Sword by Red Skies Press. Inasmuch as I'm objectively able to evaluate my own writing, I would have to say this is one of the short pieces I'm most proud of having written. I was very much influenced by George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series when I wrote it, and I think that comes across most clearly in the moral ambiguity of the characters.

-Garrett Calcaterra

Monday, September 9, 2013

Interview: Fantasy Author David B. Coe Talks the Writing Life

David B. Coe is a fantasy author I’ve been following for several years now over at the very cool website His novels have never been on the New York Times Bestseller list. No one’s ever written him a million dollar check to turn one of his books into a Hollywood blockbuster. And yet he’s been steadily publishing fantasy novels with Tor Books for sixteen years, including a new series of historical urban fantasy novels under the pseudonym D.B. Jackson. His forthright articles at Magical Words illustrate what a consummate pro he is—always striving to improve his craft, and writing for the love of storytelling, not fame and fortune. Not that he or I or dozens of other fantasy authors wouldn’t relish fame and fortune, but that’s the point: most published authors don’t get stinking rich from their books.

Coe’s writing advice at Magical Words, along with conversations I’ve had with steampunk pioneers James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers (similarly, successful pros who aren’t rich!), and my own personal experiences struggling to make a living as a writer, all served as inspiration for the new article I wrote over at Blackgate magazine. Coe was kind enough to agree to being interviewed for the article, and since I was only able to use a small portion of my conversation with him, I’m happy to present the entire transcript here at my personal blog.

David, welcome, and thanks for your time. You received a Ph.D. from Stanford in 1993 and your first novel, Children of Amarid, came out in 1997. Can you describe your journey going from graduate student to published author to full-time author?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Free Amazon Download - A Good Brew is Hard to Find

If you have a Kindle or Kindle-reading app, hop on over to Amazon for a free download of A Good Brew is Hard to Find, the humorous, interactive SF/F/H book Ahimsa Kerp and I wrote. The book is on a free promotion today, Aug. 5, 2013, and tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 5.

-G. Calcaterra

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Man Behind the Podcasts: Patrick Hester

If you hang out in the online SFF community much, you’ve likely run across Patrick Hester before. The guy is nutty busy. He blogs, tweets, writes a column on graphic novels for Kirkus Reviews, and runs three podcasts, the most notable being the SF Signal podcast, which has been nominated for a Parsec award and twice nominated for a Hugo Award. In addition to all that, Patrick is an emerging SFF author himself, and—oh yeah—he works a full-time day job! I had the great pleasure of interviewing Patrick for a new article I wrote at Blackgate, but since I could only use a small portion of our conversation and Patrick had so many great things to say, I decided to run with the full interview transcript here. Enjoy!

GC: Welcome, Patrick! Could you please describe your writing career up to this point in a nutshell.

In a nutshell, I got serious about writing in 2000 and spent the rest of the decade trying to write something I felt was worthy of publishing. I'm pretty obsessive about that part and didn't begin shopping a novel series and selling short stories until 2009. I now have a couple short stories out in anthologies, and have pushed some other stuff out myself as part of a hybrid/indie model I've been developing for myself. Still trying to sell the novels, though.

GC: How do you make ends meet?

I stand on street corners with a sign that reads: "Will write for money."

Kidding… I only do that at conventions. The rest of the time,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Good Brew is Hard to Find

In my last post, I dusted off the intro from the Tavern Wench Journal choose-your-own-adventure story, and I sort of got caught up in reading it. Turns out, despite being ten years old, it still holds up, and it's pretty damn funny (although, I admittedly have a warped sense of humor). I pitched the idea of self-releasing the story as an e-book to collaborator Ahimsa Kerp and artist Chris Turk, and they gave me the thumbs up, so—bam!—here it is.

I present to you A Good Brew is Hard to Find in its entirety, with active hyperlinks so you can lead the Wench, Captain, and Hunchback in the adventure of their lives. You'll find it to be very much in the vein of Douglas Adams, but a bit naughtier and sillier. Still, with pirates, ninja-vampires, big-headed aliens, a mad alchemist, and ensorcelled beer, what would you expect?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

From Tavern Wench to Mettlefetchers and Beyond!

Alas, the Mettlefetchers Kickstarter campaign died last week with a pathetic little whimper. Collaborator Ahimsa Kerp and I really thought the project would elicit more attention and excitement, particularly with the great press it got from SF Signal and Wendy Wagner at Opera Buffo, but so it goes with crowdsourcing. We accept the judgment of the Internet masses and have shelved the project for now, but fret not—if you were excited about the prospect of an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style spec-fiction book, rest assured I’ll be revisiting the concept again in the near future. With today’s e-reading technology, it just makes too much sense. Hell, Ahimsa and I explored the CYOA concept all the way back in 2003 with a little magazine called Tavern Wench Journal of Lore.

It all started back in the late 90’s. I was killing time during a summer internship and thought it’d be cool to launch my own fantasy e-zine. To set the tone I was shooting for—edgy, fun, and irreverent—I named the zine Tavern Wench.

Monday, July 29, 2013

L&L Dreamspell Closes Doors - Baldairn Motte out of print

I'm very sad to announce that Linda Houle, co-founder of L&L Dreamspell Publishing, has passed away. With her passing, the publisher of The Roads to Baldairn Motte, has closed its doors, and all of their 300 some odd titles are now out of print. My co-authors and I send our sympathies to Linda's family and friends, including her L&L Dreamspell partner Lisa Smith. Both Linda and Lisa were great to work with and we thank them for taking a chance on an oddball project like a mosaic fantasy novel with three unknown authors.

All rights to Baldairn Motte have reverted back to us, and my agent is currently reviewing the book to hopefully place it with another publisher. With any luck, the book will be available again in at least e-book format. Until such time, if you want a copy, we do have extra paperbacks that we use for book signings and whatnot--just shoot me an e-mail or message on FB.

Rest in peace, Linda.

-Garrett Calcaterra

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dreamwielder Art Showcase

I'm very excited to present the brand new collection of Dreamwielder artwork from artist Patrick Williams. Patrick is a talented, versatile artist, and it's inspiring to see his vision of the Dreamwielder characters. So much so, I have half a mind to put down my work in progress, Remember the Future, and start writing a sequel to Dreamwielder, but no, there's time enough for that. For now, I hope you will enjoy the artwork as much as I have. Cheers!

-Garrett Calcaterra

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FREE BOOKS!!! - The Mettlefetchers Inverse Meme Campaign

FREE BOOKS!!! You've likely seen the series of Mettlefetchers pictures I've been posting the last week or so. Now I need your help with the inverse meme campaign. Repost some of the Mettlefetchers memes, or better yet, show off your Photoshop skills and make your own with the catch phrase "What is Mettlefetchers?" Post them wherever you hangout online--FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram--and then report back here where you've shared them and I'll pick my top 2 favorite helpers to receive the prize package in the picture: a DRM free version of Dreamwielder (Kindle not included) and paperbacks of Baldairn Motte, Umbral Visions, and Pirates & Swashbucklers 2. It's a win-win situation for everyone. Free books and you do me a giant favor in helping promote Mettlefetchers by simply having a little fun. Whadaya think?

-Garrett Calcaterra

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

For Your Consideration: Mettlefetchers

As I wrote a while back in an article at Waistcoat & Watch, one of the keys to having a successful career as a writer is creating a large body of work. If you want to make a living as a novelist, you need to have a bunch of books out there for fans to buy and read. I take the idea a step further and really try to diversify my writing, publishing everything from novels and short stories to magazine articles and essays, not to mention writing screenplays to submit to festivals on the long shot some producer will actually want to produce one and write me a fat check (yeah, I know, fat chance). In any case, this usually means I’m juggling multiple projects at any given time, and right now is no exception. In fact, my good friend and frequent collaborator, Ahimsa Kerp, and I have just a launched a new project we’d like to submit for your consideration: Mettlefetchers.

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Annotated Bibliography for Science Fiction and Climate Change

So, I just finalized a magazine article I've been working on for the last couple of weeks called "Can SF Save the World From Climate Change?" Hopefully, the article will be coming to a science fiction magazine near you soon, but seeing as how my research led me to some great reading material on the subject, I figured it'd be helpful to share my sources here and now. Below you'll find the annotated bibliography I included with my article, everything from the most up-to-date prognosis on our planet to the newest trends in literature dealing with climate change. I'd like to give a very special thanks to Bill McKibben of for taking the time to provide me with some of these great resources and for weighing in on the idea of SF inspiring creative solutions for dealing with climate change. Likewise, I'd also like to give a special thanks to John DeNardo of SF Signal. Thanks, gentlemen!

Climate Change: The Reality of the Situation

McKibben, Bill. “The Reckoning.” Rolling Stone. Issue 1162, August 2012. The popular article that drove home the notion that we’re already experiencing the effects of global warming. In addition to laying out the

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Terrorism, Climate Change, Mass Hysteria – This is Why I Write Spec-Fic

In his personal essay, “Almost California,” Chuck Palahniuk says, “That's why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. And writing makes you look back. Because since you can't control life, at least you can control your version.” As a teacher, I make all my creative non-fiction students read this essay because I think it poignantly defines what autobiographical writing is all about. As a writer, I take this idea a step further and ask myself: why do I write spec-fiction? Hell, why do I write at all?

In the summer of 2010 I worked on a clean-up barge in response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As I wrote here on this blog afterward, it was a highly frustrating experience—my hunch that the clean-up vessels were being chased off so BP could sink the oil into the ocean, thereby avoiding damaging photo ops, turned out to be right on—and I was newly inspired as a writer. In my own words, “I (re)adopted the strategy of trying to write stories with relevance to the real world...”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Midlister City, Here I Come!

Sadly, the Dreamwielder Ketchup
promo did not catch on...
So it turns out promoting a new novel, teaching six classes, playing in a rock and roll band, and trying to write a new novel keeps you pretty damn busy. I’m not complaining, though.  If I keep it up at this rate, I should be able to pay off my student loans in 22 years.  Huzzah! But seriously, all joking aside—well, I’m not kidding about the 22 years to go, just joking about it, because otherwise I’d have to curl up into a little ball and cry myself to sleep—but yeah, all joking aside, I’m happy to be busily working and things do seem to be looking up.

After riding a Barnes & Noble Nook First Look selection up into the top 200 bestsellers, Dreamwielder has settled comfortably

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hitting the Trail, Doggy Style

If you happen to read my author bio—either here or at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.—you’ll notice two non-writing related items: 1) I’m a big fan of craft brew and 2) I enjoy hiking with my two dogs. Having grown up in the boonies and since moved to the suburbs as an adult, getting back out into nature and away from people is sort of a rite for me, one that helps rekindle my drive to write. In fact, many of my writing ideas started while trekking through the woods with my dogs. Most of my hikes are of the day-hike variety, which doesn’t pose much of a problem logistic-wise, but a couple of years ago my friends and Baldairn Motte collaborators, Craig Comer and Ahimsa Kerp, and I decided to do a multi-day backpacking trip, and it turned out bringing along my two four-legged companions wasn’t so simple of a matter.

I won't say that taking my dogs on that 4-day hike was a deliberate act of defiance, but that was certainly part of it. As I discovered while planning the trip, taking dogs on a multi-day hike/camping-trip is tantamount to getting permission from the FCC to broadcast the F-word during Saturday morning cartoons.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

WonderCon Notes and Dreamwielder News

It's almost been a month now since Dreamwielder came out, and as you might expect, I've been a busy bee. I capped the month off yesterday w/ a quick visit to WonderCon, which is essentially ComicCon Lite. I did a quick run through of the main exhibit hall where I witnessed everything you might expect—crazy costumes, a boatload of comic books, and these cool R2 droids—and then it was off to the panel discussion I really wanted to see, "A Story is a Story." Patrick Rothfuss was one of the panelists and he was hilarious and insightful. All in all, it was a good time.

I came home to find that Dreamwielder has moved up into the top 300 bestselling ranks for Barnes & Noble Nook books. This is in large part due to the book's selection as a Nook First Look book, which I'm very proud to be included in. The boost in sales rankings means Dreamwielder is now on page 2 of the best sci-fi and fantasy novels under $4. It's pretty amazing to see my book right alongside major hits from John Scalzi, Robert Jordan, George Orwell, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing Groups Part II: The Biscuits

Last week I profiled my spec-fiction writing group, The Inklings II. This week is all about my literary writing group, The Biscuits. This group actually began as a writing contest between author Melinda Combs and me. Yep, you read that right, a writing contest—that’s how nerdy we are. It all started during a camping trip when Mindi and I started talking smack about which of us was more prolific as a writer (copious beer consumption probably played a large role in boisterousness). To settle things, Mindi suggested a competition, and just like that we were off. We came up with an overly-complex set of scoring rules and poneyed up some cash to make things interesting. I don’t even remember who won that first contest, but it sparked a new contest, and then another, and before long we were recruiting new blood and spicing things up with bigger cash prizes and embarrassing punishments for whoever came in last place. (I once had to sing Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” at a karaoke bar, for example, but the joke was on them, as the only thing my singing punished was their eardrums.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Writing Groups Part I: Introducing the Inklings II

Writing is a solitary profession. Apart from your characters, it’s just you and your computer. It’s no surprise then that writers so often form writing groups. One of the main appeals of a writing group is to simply have other like-minded people to commiserate with (“Guh, I received another rejection letter…,” “The agent told me I’m a talentless hack...,” “I accidentally drank an entire handle of spiced rum while working on chapter 3, and then spent next couple of hours on the toilet…,” etc., etc.). More importantly though, writing groups offer up an invaluable luxury to writers: a captive, literate audience to read the early drafts of stories and provide feedback.

I’m lucky enough to be part of two great writing groups, Inklings II and The Biscuits. Inklings II is my spec-fiction writing group. We’re an odd group in that we are spread out all of the world and workshop our fiction primarily online. We can only manage to all be in the same place at the same time once every two or three years (and then spend more time barbecuing and drinking beer than actually talking shop, but that’s neither here nor there). We’re still a highly effective group. So much so, that members Ahimsa Kerp, Craig Comer, and I managed to write The Roads to Baldairn Motte together. More recently, The Inklings II were instrumental in helping me beat Dreamwielder into readable shape.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Acknowledgments (but cooler because they include book recommendations)

Whew! Dreamwielder had a successful launch yesterday, and even got its first review from a blogger, a 4 out of 5 star review from Book Broads that starts off, "I was swept away from the moment I began reading Dreamwielder to the turning of the last page." I'll take it! Now that the book is out, it's time for me to thank all the people who helped make the book possible. First up are the big names--the fantastic authors who were kind enough to write jacket blurbs for Dreamwielder.

Tim Powers is one of my favorite writers, contemporary or otherwise. He's one of the progenitors of steampunk, and an all around brilliant writer who masterfully blends elements of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror along with history, mythology, folklore, and more than a few mad-genius ideas. My favorites of his are Anubis Gates (perhaps the only book I've ever given 5 stars on GoodReads), On Stranger Tides (the inspiration for many of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies--and far better than all of the movies, I might add), and The Drawing of the Dark (a fantasy novel about magic beer!). Tim is a fantastic guy and has always been super generous in offering advice to me. It's obviously a huge honor to have one of your favorite authors write a blurb for your own book, so thank you, Tim!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dreamwielder is Here!

At long last, Dreamwielder is here. The novel is available for $2.99 and can be purchased directly from your e-reader device or online. Click on the image to find links for purchasing the book at Amazon, B&, iTunes, or Kobo. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Introducing Wulfram: An Exclusive Preview of Dreamwielder

We're one week out from the release of Dreamwielder. To give you a taste of what to expect, I decided to give you a sneak peek at one of the bad guys from the book, perhaps even my favorite character: Wulfram.


The sorcerer Wulfram stooped through the doorway into a small round chamber at the top of the tallest tower in Col Sargoth. A cloak of shadow covered his body from crown to toe, a mottled mantle of black feathers and fur. His body, though shrouded beneath the cloak, was visibly misshapen: his legs were splayed forward and bent at a grotesque angle, his shoulders stooped forward, yet arched above his head, and his head—even hidden beneath his hood of feathers—was too long and too narrow to be completely human.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lovely Distractions: The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and Tales of the Apocalypse

We’re exactly two weeks out from the release of Dreamwielder and I’m going a little nutty in anticipation. I’ve been keeping myself busy sending out advanced copies to reviewers, doing interviews, and all that promotional business, but that only seems to add to the anticipation. So, as a healthy distraction for all of us, here’s my recent rants and raves.

Tales of the Apocalypse
I’m teaching a sweet class at the art high school this semester on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic literature and film, largely because I feel it’s my civic duty to teach students the difference between dystopias and apocalyptic stories. It drives me crazy when moron critics call a show like The Walking Dead a “haunting dystopia.” My other main motive for teaching the class is so I can get paid to watch Mad Max. Doesn’t get much better than that.

John Carter and Mad Max duking it out
in Ragnarok. © Chris Turk. 

We haven’t quite gotten to Mad Max yet though. First up has been tales of apocalypse in mythology. We kicked off the term learning about Ragnarok and reading some of the Poetic Edda. Next up was flood myths. I found this great article from geologist David R. Montgomery that documents geological evidence for some big ass glacial floods that likely inspired everything from the Noah and the Ark myth to flood myths amongst the Yakima and Spokane native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Cool stuff. Biblical-Type Floods Are Real, and They're Absolutely Enormous.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hats Off to the Ladies

(Authors Note, March 8, 2017: I just reread this post, as I'm about to share it on social media to help celebrate International Women's Day, and realize that while my heart was in the right place here, I could have worded things better in many instances. Let's just say I've learned a lot and grown as a person and a writer since I first wrote this in 2013. In the end, I'm happy to share some of the great women authors who helped inspire my Dreamwielder series, so here it is without further disclaimers.)

The Women Authors Who Influenced Dreamwielder

I was recently interviewed by my long-time friend and frequent collaborator Ahimsa Kerp over at Be Obscure Clearly, and one of the questions he asked me was who my favorite contemporary writers are. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but upon rereading the interview I realized there wasn’t a single woman author on the list. If you look over my previous blog posts here you’ll find more of the same—lots of mentions of Tolkien, Asimov, Burroughs, Bradbury, Martin, Powers, Blaylock, Bacigalupi, but no ladies. Apart from my interview with Misty Massey, there’s nary a mention of women authors.

The question I’m sure people are left asking is how could an author who seemingly doesn’t read women authors manage to write Dreamwielder, a book with a young woman as a protagonist and more female characters than male characters? The obvious answer would be that I have strong women who have influenced my life, and that’s definitely part of the story. In addition to my mother, Shirley, who literally dreamt up Makarria, I have a strong woman role model in my step-mom, Corine, as well as my four grandmothers and a slew of aunts, and then there’s my sister, half-sister, and my partner, Mandy. This is the first and most obvious answer, but not the only one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Covers and Contests and Beers, Oh My!


Things are moving full-speed ahead over at Diversion Books. The cover artwork for Dreamwielder has been finalized, I’ve approved all the line edits, the e-book files are formatted, and boom!—the book is already available for pre-ordering on iTunes. It should be available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, and it’ll be available through Kobo and other retailers once we get closer to the March 5 release date. If you write reviews for a magazine or blog and want an ARC, hit me up.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Steampunk Interview: James P. Blaylock

I first met James P. Blaylock in the Fall of 1999 when I took one of his classes at Chapman University for my MFA degree. Sadly, I had never heard of Blaylock before. I was an avid reader of genre fiction already, but I read mostly the classics—Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Burroughs, Bradbury, Poe—and the stuff I read from contemporary authors was limited to embarrassingly few authors. I quickly remedied that problem, gobbling up Blaylock’s The Last Coin and then going on to read a ton of his short fiction. I found his writing to be unlike any other writer’s. It is a fantastic cross of sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction; quirky and funny, but at the same time, it explores very tangible problems that cut to the core of the human condition. I took as many Blaylock classes as I could, absorbing the wisdom he had to offer, and through him I even got a chance to meet Tim Powers, whose work I’d already discovered by sheer coincidence.

After graduating, my literary knowledge expanded and I discovered that Blaylock, along with Powers and K.W. Jeter, were the three progenitors of Steampunk. The term, which was jokingly coined by K.W. Jeter in a letter to Locus in 1987, was used to label the weird brand of Victoriana sci-fi/fantasy the three of them were all writing during the 80’s and into the 90’s. Seminal works of the genre include Homonculus and Lord Kelvin’s Machine by Blaylock, The Anubis Gates, On Stranger Tides, and The Stress of Her Regard by Powers, and Morlock Night and Infernal Devices by Jeter. Since then, the genre has drastically evolved at the hands of a slew of other writers, film makers, video game developers, and counter-culture do-it-yourselfers. So much so, in fact, that many fans of the genre hardly recognize the seminal works as Steampunk.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Read Free of Die (Part 2)

(Update: My website has undergone several reincarnations since this post and these ebooks are no longer available there. Instead, you can find new versions of these ebook singles on Amazon, here.)

The Knight’s Dog
Download for free!
Promo Code: KNIGHT (Nook, iPad, Android) or KNIGHT2 (Kindle)

The first complete novel I ever wrote was a high fantasy novel called Praxis of the Gods. It was the thesis project for my MFA degree and it took me a little over two years to write. After getting gobs of critiques and feedback from my thesis committee, I spent the next year or so after graduating completely rewriting the novel. By that point, I was sick of looking at the book and I was a bit burned out on writing fantasy. So, while I started sending off query letters to agents and publishers about the novel, I turned to writing other genres, primarily horror and literary fiction. I wrote my novella, The Shadow, which ended up comprising half of Umbral Visions, and then a dozen or so literary short stories. A few years later I got on a sci-fi kick, going back and reading a bunch of Asimov, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Phil Dick, and writing my own sci-fi pieces, including “The Tracer Pilot” and “The Lunar Resort.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Read Free or Die!!!! (or you could always just pay the 99¢—I mean death is a bit extreme for an e-book, but yeah, you get the idea…)

(Update: My website has undergone several reincarnations since this post and these ebooks are no longer available there. Instead, you can find new versions of these ebook singles on Amazon, here.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, my e-book singles store is up and running on my website, Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be highlighting each of the e-books, to give readers a little insight into the inspiration, origins, and the story behind the story, so to speak. First up is one of the two stories I’m giving away for free.

The Sway of the Dead

Promo Code: ZOMBIES (Nook, iPad, Android), or ZOMBIES2 (Kindle)

After the infamous Night of the Bear, this story is the raciest and most offensive of my stories. It started with a pen and paper on a plane ride back in 2007, and the first line just came to me:

Ferric Smith found little joy in xxxxxxx zombie girls, but he was too full of life to not be copulating with someone or something, and in a concrete and steel girder city full of zombies, that meant zombie girls.

I’m not sure where my head was at the time, not sure I want to know, but that’s how it started, with a dude boning down on zombies. If I remember correctly, I wanted to a write a story for a specific (and now defunct) magazine that was looking for gritty, urban horror, so yeah, that’s my excuse. Anyhow, it was one of those rare stories that was written more or less in one sitting and came about very organically. After getting feedback from my writing group, The Inklings 2, I made some revisions and sent it out. It got rejected from the magazine I’d specifically written it for, then went on to collect dozens of other rejection letters over the next three years. Getting a ton of rejections is hardly unique in this business, but the nature of the rejection letters I was getting for this story was rather astounding.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Embracing the E-book Revolution

(Update: My website has undergone several reincarnations since this post and these ebooks are no longer available there. Instead, you can find new versions of these ebook singles on Amazon, here.)

Free e-book singles!

The Sway of the Dead – Use promo code ZOMBIES (or ZOMBIES2 if you have a Kindle)

The Knight’s Dog – Use promo code KNIGHT (or KNIGHT2 if you have a Kindle)

For a guy who’s fairly savvy with technology, I’ve been dragging my feet on the whole e-book thing the last couple of years. I just prefer reading books the old fashioned way. I’m no fool, though, and as both an author and an avid reader, I definitely see the benefit of e-books and e-book readers. Hell, as I mentioned in my previous post, I even signed a contract with an e-book publisher last month for my newest novel, Dreamwielder; and as of Christmas, I’m a proud new owner of a Kindle Fire. One of the coolest aspects of the new generation of e-readers and tablets is that, not only are they portable, they’re great for short diversions—whether it be checking your e-mail, playing Words with Friends, updating your FB status, or dare I say, even reading short stories!?