Monday, August 20, 2018


I've added a new links page (above) with relevant links to resources for writers. For the past year, I've been part of a writing group comprised of enormously talented individuals. They've been a tremendous help to me in improving my craft and helping back to publishing.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Interzone 276

Here is the cover for Interzone 276, in which my story 'Tumblebush' appears. The issue is due any day now from TTA Press, edited by Andy Cox.

Tumblebush emerged out of a pair of questions about the future: what form would a living wage take, and also, what if that future is also one in which our ice caps have melted? The story takes place in a submerged New York City, about eighty years from now.

It's a story about allowances. What are you allowed, for your content, the product of your own life? What do you allow yourself? Others? Tumblebush is a private detective, and product of a vanishing city - she's tough, she's merciless and she has a set of rules.

Very happy to have this story in Interzone. You can order the issue here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tumblebush Art

A sneak peak of the full page spread for my story 'Tumblebush,' set to appear in Interzone from TTA Press in July. Outstanding illustration from Dan Senecal - I'm blown away.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

I'll Tumble For Ya

Happy to share that my short story 'Tumblebush' will be published in the July/August issue of Interzone Magazine, published by TTA Press. I've read Interzone forever, and I'm thrilled to be part of this great magazine.

Tumblebush is the username of a private investigator in a flooded NYC, about 80 years from now. A missing person case leads her on a journey through the ruins, to a cold truth.

Rejoice, For You All The Children of Thanos

I used to write a lot of movie reviews, not so much anymore. Here's a stab at getting back into film criticism and discussion, with an article on a unique aspect of the reaction to Infinity War.

Princess Mine

Happy to share that my story "Princess Mine" appears in Strange Horizons. This is my first sale since 2011, and beyond thrilled it's to this wonderful magazine. The story is available to read or listen to, as a podcast. Be aware the story deals with suicide and depression.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Which time shall ne'er destroy, nor bounds confine.

Trying to be optimistic on Brexit but it's hard. The fallout from this should send shivers down the spine of anyone contemplating the day after a Trump presidential win. The shock from two of the world's most influential forces voting to flee back to isolationism clearly pays no benefits, and as Brits are discovering this morning, some of the promises the Leave campaign made were false (more money for health care). So hopefully here at least we wake up a bit. A lot of people said Trump would never be the nominee. A lot of people said the UK would never vote itself out. Well.
One possible benefit is the prospect of a united Irleand as the North has voted resolutely to stay in the EU. Scotland and Northern Ireland have made rumblings about leaving the UK in the take of this, which I think have to be taken seriously. David Cameron didn't take the first Scottish referendum seriously and nearly pissed away the empire then; apparently he learned nothing from it. On the down side, in the near term, Ireland has to decide if it's going to reinstate border checks with the North. The EU zone removed what was once one of the more bitter divides in Europe. It's disheartening to think checkpoints would return in Ireland. It's likely unfortunately, but perhaps in the long term the North will find its way back to Ireland proper. That's been pie in the sky since the partition, but nothing can be ruled out in a world where the forces of extreme nationalism have torn the UK to shreds and threaten to do the same here.
As it happens I've met quite a few Brits in the last few days and to a person they're all Remain, and expressed doubt this would come to pass. It's the same kind of doubt I've heard about Trump and his brand of politics since he blundered his way on stage. We need a strong EU as an ally, especially with the resurgence of a nationalistic Russia, and of course, ISIS. There are a lot of valid reasons to question the direction of the EU. There are a lot of valid reasons to question policies here at home which have adversely affected people at the expense of global trade. There are no valid reasons to reject togetherness and cooperation. There are no valid reasons to close borders and build walls. Identity matters. Clearly. This morning the British are asking themselves who they are. Are they still Brits? In a couple years, likely no. 
What it means to be an American has meant many things over the years, but one thing it has always meant is liberty for all. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I hope we remember that as we vote in November, and as we move forward in a world which seems to crumble around us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

“All extremes of feeling are allied with madness.”

What do you say?
Everything you can say about the routine mass murder of innocent people seems rote. Empty. You lose the will to even say it when you realize how little comfort it gives and how little weight it carries in a country where this is normal. The outpouring of grief and support for Orlando is remarkable, but it was with San Bernadino. It was with Sandy Hook. It was with Columbine. It was with the dozens of other mass shootings that have occurred in this country. I was 6 or 7 when 'going postal' was how we described this. One post office shooting after another. I was watching the local news one night at home and they played a 911 recording of a woman, a post office worker, barricaded in some room as a shooter stalked through the building murdering her co-workers. I don't remember all of the tape, which seemed to go on forever, but I remember the last thing she said. 'I think I'm going to die.' And she did. Liz Mathis told me so, and then she moved on to the next story. We've been moving on to the next story my entire life.
When will it end? 
When will our outrage and grief be enough? How many dead will be enough? How many dead children? Certainly not the 20 that were butchered in Sandy Hook 3 and 1/2 years ago. Will we be outraged finally when we realize our own leaders voted to ensure that people we won't allow on an airplane can buy still buy weapons of mass destruction? Apparently not. When we realize that America is the world's leader in... deaths from gun violence? No. When we realize it's not really about personal security or 2nd amendment rights but that the feckless, shameless exploitation of the preventable deaths of innocent men, women and children isn't about your 2nd Amendment right, but a major corporation's bottom line? No. This is a country where we value stock over children. Where we value guns and bullets over children. Where we value the assumption it will never happen to us over children.
Isn't it?
We sigh and we shrug and we say never again and we go on checking for updates on Facebook and then it happens again. We should be embarrassed and ashamed and terrified and we're not. We should care more about our children and our future than the irrational need to own weapons of mass destruction, but it seems we don't. I want to be wrong. I should be wrong.
Am I wrong?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Free Advice For Disney On The Next Star Wars

After digesting what is probably the geek-news of the decade, I’ve accepted the fact that there will be new Star Wars movies – in perpetuity, probably – and that these will be further and further removed from the film that made such an impression on me as a child. George Lucas decided to retire, secure his brain child with a corporation that will mint money off of it until it’s public domain - or they spend enough money lobbying in Washingtonto prevent that  - and let go of the reins once and for all.

There are inherent pros and cons with this. I’ve found myself growing more and more excited about the idea of a new Star Wars movie, especially one set in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, that could potentially feature so many of the characters and elements that people felt missing in the prequels.

So here’s some free advice from a life long fan to Disney on how they can not just make money, but believers out of a willing but skeptical fan base (if it goes bad - we know it – there will be blood):

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Bastard Genre

Turns out modern sci-fi owes nearly everything to a bastard.

The surprise here isn't that most of the most famous tropes in science fiction owe themselves to a single work - hello, Star Wars - but that they originated from a book that was essentially fan fiction. Garret P. Serviss somehow avoided the legal apocalypse that would surely visit him today after publishing an unauthorized sequel to H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds - Edison's Conquest of Mars. The book was apparently written on commission from The Boston Post - I guess things were looser back then - and featured Thomas Edison leading the fight back to Mars.

The article at Cracked labels Serviss a 'hack.' I won't make accusations as to the man's ability (capsule review: Serviss never met a comma he didn't like. Also, brownie points for 'puissance') but I don't think it's fair to dismiss him so easily.

According to Wikipedia, 'the book contains some notable "firsts" in science fiction: alien abductions, spacesuits (called "air-tight suits": see Spacesuits in fiction), aliens building the Pyramids, space battles, oxygen pills, asteroid mining and disintegrator rays.' It also features what appears to be a Mary Sue type character in the form of Serviss himself. More than its contributions to science fiction, what the book may represent is a significant contribution to the genre of fan fiction.

Why is that important? Because we're all fans.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The question for the last four years has been, is there any way they can top The Dark Knight? The answer is obvious, and became beside the point in the early morning of July 20th. The question unfortunately for this series of Batman films by Christopher Nolan is why such grand cinema must be forever associated with tragedy. At the end of the day, this is just a movie. It means nothing in the light of the loss of so many lives in Colorado, just as The Dark Knight meant nothing in the wake of Heath Ledger’s unexpected passing in 2008.

What TDK did become was a tribute to a spectacular actor. The Dark Knight Rises was not intended to be any tribute to what happened last week, and it cannot be. What TDKR becomes is a tribute to a feat very rarely accomplished on film – the successful trilogy. The bad third movie in a trilogy is a bit of a running joke in cinema. Say when: X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3, Superman III (yes, they did it in Roman Numerals once) The Godfather 3 (this actually happened). The Dark Knight Rises withstands any comparison to these movies, and most movies being made today; for all its faults, TDKR is a barely restrained commentary on the current state of class in our society – the villain Bane (Darth Vader’s love child with Dr. Evil) comes to Gotham looking to liberate its people from the oppressive greed of the rich and privileged, Bruce Wayne foremost among them.

Why connects this film back to the first, Batman Begins, and this is where the film becomes something on the order of Return of the Jedi, and these three films something akin to the original Star Wars trilogy. I don’t say that lightly – there simply is not another comparable series of films, much less a frame of reference, for these movies.

For a writer – for a geek like myself – it is a powerful thing to become inspired again by something as familiar, and fundamental, as a character like Batman.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rule #10: WINNING

A writer offering rules on writing is always a fun exercise to - if nothing else - argue about the rules of writing. Colson Whitehead provided his own the other day in the NY Times that you should definitely read if you write or have any interest in writing.

All of the rules resonate, but for me, #1 and #10 do the most:

Rule No. 1: Show and Tell. Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.       
Show, Don't Tell is extremely pervasive in fiction workshops, and can be stifling, depending on the type of story you are wanting to - key word - tell. What Whitehead says makes a lot of sense to me. Showing gets you a lot of places. Telling it is what you went there for.

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat.        
Now, whenever friends ask me how the work in progress is going, I no longer need to hang my head and mumble, "I'm revising." Now, I can hold my head high, and answer with gusto:"I'm WINNING."

What do you think of Whitehead's rules?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Maze

aMAZEme Book Maze In London
Imagine you wake up in the middle of one of those huge hedge garden mazes. The scary Shining kind. You start wandering around, looking for a way out. Time after time, you hit a dead end. Some paths hold promise only to come to nothing. You ultimately test each possible path, because you don’t know where you are. You know where you’re going – out – but how to get there? Eventually you find your way, but only after you have spent a lot of time, effort and frustration. Fear, even.

This is writing a novel for me.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Revision Revisited

 Matthew Salesses wrote an outstanding article on revision at Necessary Fiction the other day, and it inspired me to think a little about what rules I have for revision, since it's mostly all I do. There are no hard and fast rules - a random Google search will generate hundreds of equally good suggestions - but what I liked best about the 'thoughts' Matthew shares is that they're fairly unique. Most how-to's and guides you will find on this subject are very clinical and technical. Do this. Do that. Writing is rewriting, and writing to me has always been a very intuitive process.

The best one maybe the first:
1. To me, the most important question to ask as I revise is: Am I bored here? The best “advice” I’ve ever heard on revision was from the wonderful teacher and writer Margot Livesey. It was something like this: if you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times, it’s because it’s boring.
A lot of the time as a writer, you spend so much time with something, you lose perspective on it. Writing a novel for me at least is something like a relationship, so I'd offer this thought:

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

If We Let Semicolons Marry...

I came across a nice essay on the semicolon over at NYTimes today.  I'm a fan, in case you couldn't tell, but it seems not everyone is. The writer, Ben Dolnick, quotes an amusing anecdote from Kurt Vonnegut on the subject:

“Do not use semicolons,” he said. “They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
This only endears the semicolon to me. I find it one of the most musical of tools in the language. The semicolon allows you to impinge on other thoughts, other sentences, often in a rhythmic or as Dolnick points out when discussing William James, symphonic way; in the present tense, the use of the semicolon can help achieve a certain kind of kinetic energy that has always appealed to me. I love music. If I had a choice of any artistic ability, it would be to create music. The only way for me to even try is through words. I fail daily, but I keep tapping away at beats I hear in my head. I marry them to images, and then dialogue, and time them to punctuation. I have this fantasy any of it makes sense. Periods are absolute. Non-negotiable. Music, like language, is always a negotiation. Fluid.

It surprises me, the hostility Vonnegut had against the semicolon. The language he uses is especially grating. You could do worse heeding the advice of Kurt Vonnegut, but I'd suggest giving every instrument in the language a try. Music is music; language is language.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Next One

So, like I said.  The next novel after this new one will probably be the Elizabeth sequel.

I say probably because it was supposed to have been the next book, and obviously that didn't pan out.  I do have about 150 pages of what was to be the sequel that I wrote back in '09.  I probably will not use any of this.  We'll see, but my concept of the next book has veered pretty far from what I had in mind back then.  My approach to the sequel is that it's not even really a sequel at all. 

As I said earlier this year, I am approaching the sequel somewhat as a level setting of the story. It will assume no one has read the first book.  One of the themes of the first book is reinvention and the sequel completely recontextualizes the story to the point that you could call it a reboot, except it's not.  Some of the influences on this novel include The City and The City, Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, Watchmen, and Chris Claremont's early run on X-Men. 

Obviously comic books feed a lot of my thinking here and the comic book Miranda is reading in book one will be an important aspect of the story.  The endless rebooting of comic book continuity proves endlessly fascinating to me for some reason, and I will continue to explore this idea in the fractured continuity of history in the novels.

I look forward to getting back to the story.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Not Finished

But kind of.

The story that has given me so much grief over the last - um, it's been a long time - finally came together in the last month or so.  As always with me it was a matter of confidence.  The book is more or less the version I attempted about three years ago.  I lost confidence in it then and spent a long time lost in the weeds trying other approaches.  These yielded some interesting writing but ultimately they weren't right for this story.  The Book of Elizabeth had quite a few false starts too, but none as dramatic as this (actually, I'm leaning toward my next novel being the Elizabeth sequel, which as it stands now would kind of make the first one a false start...) I hope this is something I am getting better at recognizing.  Maybe I am just one of those tinkerers that never knows when to quit.  Or maybe I just never know what I want.

In any case, I am very happy that I have found my way to this place.  The novel right now sits at about 424 pages, which is probably a little longer than it will end up.  I'm going to let it cool its heels for a few weeks, and then clean it up before sending it to some beta readers.  My hope is to see it released probably late this year/early next. 

In the meantime, I do plan to go ahead with the story collection that has been neglected while I went off on this long weekend with the novel.  That's actually been ready to go for a while now, so that should come together kind of quick.

And then it's on to the next one.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Type Those Money Makers Baby

There was an article recently in the NYTimes (the link is escaping me) about how the boon in digital publishing for indie writers has created something of a sprint to generate as much material as possible.  The nutshell is that if you are not producing multiple books in a single year, then you are not sustaining your brand and worse yet, not making money.  Dean Wesley Smith actually breaks this down in a post on his blog that is well worth reading.  There is a lot of thought that goes into his reasoning, and that of all the advocates for blitz publishing.  The e-reader consumes at a pace that is both electrifying and terrifying.  If you want to build a readership, you need to give them a reason to stay around.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't write more than one book a year.  I will probably publish my second novel later this year.  I feel the same pressures other indie writers do.  I feel the same spirit of opportunity.  Money simply doesn't motivate me, and I'm not going to sacrifice the quality of my writing for the quantity of my output.  It will cost me in income and readers.  The fact that I can't focus on much else beyond my slow writing - including this blog - already does that.

When A Country of Eternal Light comes out, the people that read The Book of Elizabeth may or may not find it.  They may or may not wonder why I spent so much time on something that isn't a sequel to the last book.  They may think this guy spends a lot of time on nothing much at all.

It's a price I'm prepared to pay.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Through The Looking Glass


Have not been posting as much as I've meant to.  This is entirely due to the fact that I can't write a novel and anything else at the same time.  I have tried.  I admire those that blog and build their 'platform' - which is so key to what indie authors need to do these days - and I admire the hell out of authors who can produce quality material at a decent pace, since that's also apparently something we need to do

In just about every other aspect of my life, I can multi-task like no one's business.  Not when it comes to writing.  I have to focus on what I'm working on to the point that I can't really see what's in front of me.  And that's really the problem.  I've talked quite a bit before about my struggles with the Big Damn Epic.  Over the last several years, it has taken this strange place in my life.  The elephant in the room.  The monkey on my back.  Alternately it feels like I'm turning into Axl Rose, and this is 'Chinese Democracy,' or I'm Brian Wilson, and in my head at least, this is 'Smile.'  Either way, I feel a bit cracked.  And clearly delusional.  And lost. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Buffy Season 9 #8, Or Hey We Were Just Kidding

This is a tough post to write.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I love Joss Whedon.  A lot of people love the current direction of the comic series, which is canon and often has matched the quality of the television show.

I do not love where this comic book is going.

The pregnancy/abortion storyline that sprang up recently seemed to offer a true evolution for the series and for Buffy herself.  I thought the approach was a little too literal but it offered an enormous opportunity.  The last two issues have squandered that opportunity, and frankly, the series' credibility with me as a reader.

I'm a writer and it's not my intent to judge the merits of other writers, especially ones as gifted as Joss Whedon.  So this will be the last of any such post where I do anything other than offer what I'm reading/seeing as a prompt or guide for my own writing or yours.  If there is a lesson here, it's simply not to play games with your reader.  I feel that the last two issues put Buffy through the ringer for no reason save to raise the subject of abortion.  That just doesn't work and the bizarre gobbledy-gook that Andrew spews in issue 8 to explain away why a robot thought she was pregnant has to be the clumsiest attempt to throw dirt on a narrative fire I have seen.

It may turn out Buffy is pregnant, and this is one of a series of endless complications, but it doesn't matter.  The reversal cheapens what came before.  Buffy says it herself:

'It turns out it's just more bizarre Slayer crap.'

The comic book is doing more acrobatic tricks than a Russel T. Davies episode of Doctor Who.  That's not Buffy; Buffy is straight forward, honest emotion through the lens of a genre that Joss Whedon proved could sustain just about anything.

Except this.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Websters Not Doing It For You? Write Your Own Dictionary

Back in the 80's the supernatuarally cool Nick Cave wrote his own dictionary. The only thing that would have been better than that would have been if he had made up his own words. Which of course, some people do, and you can too

For example:

rebel, rebel (noun): a torn dress

So take this as a lesson - don't settle for those dogmatic tomes from Webster's.

English is yours! Take it back.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Book of Elizabeth: Giveaway!

As you may have noticed one of my hobbies is collecting Star Wars toys.  My very good friends at JediDefender have joined forces with me for a giveaway of my novel The Book of Elizabeth

Take a look and if you enjoy Star Wars toys and good conversation, go ahead and join the forums!  This is my favorite place on the internet.

Thanks again to Jesse and everyone on the outstanding JD staff!

Monday, March 26, 2012

'Zou Bisou Bisou,' or Subtlety In Writing

A big part of what I like to write about in this blog is what interests me in the moment, and how that impacts my writing, and maybe yours.  Much has been said that this last decade or so has been the 'Golden Age of Television.'  There is no denying that, not with The Wire, Deadwood, The Sopranos, and certainly, Mad Men, which returned last night after nearly two years with a fantastic example of why the writing on television is quite possibly the best writing that's happening anywhere.

That's not to leave fiction lovers or writers out.  There's lots to take away from TV, as there is any medium.  Cinema and now television have always presented an aesthetic challenge to literature - the axiom 'Show, Don't Tell' is simply a fact of life in motion pictures as opposed to a rule (well - ok, it's not, but by virtue of its nature, the camera eliminates the need for the kind of scene setting that was expected and necessary in literature in the past, and really, still is today). 

Great writing, in any medium, is subtle.  Last night's Mad Men was a perfect example of this.  The scene above is both the least subtle scene in the show - the series? - and one of its most subtle.  Instantly generating internet buzz around the country, Jessica Pare undid the Freedom Fries debacle of a few years ago in less than two minutes by making all things French very, very cool again through a little song called 'Zou Bisou Bisou.'  Just watch it.  Trust me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Carnival of Indies - Issue #18!

The Book Designer

The latest issue of Carnival of Indies, featuring a round up of great links from the world of indie publishing, is now up at Joel Friedlander's amazing site, The Book Designer.  Even better, one of my posts is among the links you'll find there - My Advice For Writers.

If this is your first time to the blog, I hope you enjoy what you see and come back for more.  Thanks!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Visit From The Goon Squad: Charting New Territory

Credit - Tessie Girl
I recently finished A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and it's one of the best books I've read in a while.  It flows from one character to another in a kind of narrative relay.  At first it's disorienting and honestly I lost track of who the focus was or was supposed to be - the point, I think - and it required me to stop and start again once or twice.  The book also caroms from one era to another.  This narrative river just flows along and then washes ashore deep in the future, providing a brief, sober glimpse of the fate of the character we follow, before retreating back to the sea of the present. 

At some point you almost long for a chart mapping out all these people, these places and times, and then as if on queue, Egan actually depicts an entire sequence of the book in a succession of flow charts.  I wa struck at how effective, and affecting, this was; the PowerPoint slides gradually became thought bubbles, accumulating tension and drama as they chart the uncertainty of a young girl living in the desert of the future, struggling to understand her father, himself at a loss on how to cope with his son.  Children at a loss could be another title for this book, really.  The dexterity Egan employs in this sequence and all throughout the book really speaks volumes to the possibility of the novel.  Especially now in this digital age, the boundaries of fiction blur; so much of the advice and tutorials I see for beginning writers have to do with either how to sell something or how to write to sell.  Sentence structure.  Choosing the right perspective.  All these things are important.

What interests me more - and hopefully does you too - is not what's to be done within the form, but with the form itself.  The novel evolves with every generation, and has seen many iterations in the last 50 years; the digital era will push it even further.  A Visit From The Goon Squad is one example of what's possible, and inspiration to push your own work to the limit.