So I have been absorbed in two large projects lately, and have hit that point where I need to flex some different muscles. So I am going to ask you guys to chip and give me some ideas.

Tweet me (or drop in the comments) a pin (or something easily pinnable), and I will pin them all to a board, and then write a short involving all the suggestions.

That’s it, really. Can be any image, objects, etc. Lemme see what you have!


Something Clickbaity About the Secret of Publishing Success

Publishing is a weird, weird game. You can’t swing a dead cat on the internet without hitting no less that 4,572,901 articles on How To Get Published, How To Get An Agent, How To Get a Book Deal and How To Attract Perverts By Swinging Dead Cats. The thing is, those articles are universally bullshit (except for the attracting perverts one. Those are pretty accurate). Because the only secret is there is no secret. There is skill, and there is luck, and there is timing, and all are involved in some measure that isn’t the same from one book to the next.

weirdBut, man, do people rail about how their way is the best way- and with good reason, if not good information. If you are an author, likely you want your book out there. And just as likely, you have a fair amount of skill and at least a working knowledge of language, but you probably aren’t an expert of publishing. So you start googling, which leads you down the rabbit hole mentioned in the previous paragraph.

It used to be fairly straightforward- You found and queried an agent, in turn to the big publishing houses, and then you got a book deal or you didn’t. The waters, to say the least, are muddied now. There are sill the big houses and their myriad imprints, there is self-publishing, and seemingly endless small presses in the middle.

And it’s that middle group that needs to be addressed. Before I go on, a small disclaimer- I am not stating anything dogmatically in this post. I self-published. That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t go the traditional route, or even that I won’t at some point. Self-publishing is not for everyone- hell, a lot of days, it isn’t for me. Nor am I condemning anyone- anyone who doesn’t deserve it, anyway. But more on that in a second. My point is, none of this is meant as an attack on what you do. It is to bring attention to a problem- a big one- in publishing, which doesn’t get talked about very much.

That problem is ‘small presses’ which are either a) Vanity Presses or B) Completely useless. Thanks to Amazon and the like, publishing is easier than ever. Literally a few clicks, and your book is available to the world. This means anyone can do it, an that carries with it the painfully obvious fact that anyone can do it.

This also means that anyone can be a publishing company. Email me a word document, and I can ‘publish’ it for you. I’ll give you 50%. If the book sells for $3.99 on Amazon, I make a tidy 20% (Eighty cents, baby!) for doing very nearly nothing.

Because of that accessibility- either through design or ignorance- people start ‘publishing companies’, and boy do they make promises. Peruse a few small press websites, and you’ll find so many buzzwords, you’ll think you showed up at an SEO conference. But really read what they have to say, and you’ll find there are a lot of words that don’t actually say anything.

Not a great look for a book publisher.

Even worse, they do, you know, buy books. Which, on the surface, should be good. But when authors regularly receive little-to-no support in the areas of editing, design, distribution or reviews- you know, the things you give up a percentage to GET- what’s the point? If an author has to do everything themselves, why shouldn’t they just do it themselves?

What these individuals thought process is, I have no idea. But when this is a story I have heard from multiple people- people who are very good authors- that they signed a contract, signed over rights, and received nothing in return? Just… why?

Maybe it’s well-intentioned ignorance on the part of publishers. How hard can it be to sell ebooks? Frank can design covers, Susie can edit, and we’ll tweet about it and it will sell. This is also the mentality of 75% of self-publishers. So they make grand promises, and have no clue what is actually involved. And so the author loses rights, sales and time.

Maybe it’s malicious, in which case it’s worse and less understandable. I don’t know why one would spend several thousand dollars to purchase rights and do worse than nothing with them, but the internet is full of examples of hate which I don’t understand, so, whatever.

In any case, if you’re an author, with a book to sell, seeking a book deal, let me tell you a secret word to use:

minion no

Say it with me


It’s a very powerful word. Because, plain and simple, you have the product. Without books to sell, a publishing company is Starbucks without coffee. There’s a lot of fancy marketing and pretty colors, but the product is what they need. And they need it.

So you can tell them no. Even if you really, really want to say yes, because no one else offered you a contract. Because this is your dream. Well- and I hate to sound like a motivational poster- your dream deserves better than sitting on someone else’s shelf.

And if you are inclined to say yes, get everything- everything– in writing. Because all that crap they promised you over the phone or over email? Doesn’t matter if it’s not in the contract. Make them put it in, and if they won’t, walk away. It might not feel this way, but they need you more than you need them.


Idris Elba Should Not Be James Bond (but not for the reason you think)

I was going to write this morning about plot and character development. It was great, and made several fine and informative points. But now, because Anthony Horowitz is an idiot, you get this rant instead.

Look what you’ve done, Anthony. I hope you’re happy.

In any case, Mister Horowitz chimed in on the ongoing Should-Idris-Elba-Play-James-Bond debate, saying Idris was “too street”, which, as far as idiotic statements go, should put him between “Donald Trump Speechwriter” and “Justin Bieber”. But there it is, and in true internet fashion, the internet has responded by saying, no Idris should play James Bond, you racist piece of trash.

Allow me to take a third party stance (that’s two Trump jokes, if you’re keeping score at home): Idris Elba should not play James Bond, because James Bond sucks.

Anthony, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but your character, and your stories are terrible. We can- and will- start with Bond being a misogynistic… something. Adjectives fail me. Cad, maybe? That seems appropriate. Go through and count the times a woman tells him “no” and he just kind of… keeps going. And somehow, she ends up just swooning over this.

We have a word for that. I don’t think it’s found in any of Flemming’s works.

Women tend to get smacked around quite a bit by Mister Bond, but at least he’s not shooting them? Silver linings, I suppose.

CLEARLY too street

CLEARLY too street

Then there is the story itself. “Story”, I should say, since Bond relies on plot conveniences that even Harry Potter is dubious of. To say nothing of the fact that most of his antagonists employ plots so convoluted that it’s a wonder they are any real threat at all. Most Idris could sit back, look awesome, drink a few martinis, and wait for something to go wrong.

It would save millions in property damage.

Every film, save for the recent Craig films (again, with the actor changing, thing. Crap, I promised myself I wouldn’t even go there), presents itself as juuuuust too campy to be taken seriously, yet too serious to be simply camp. You end up with a complete waste of two hours.

The whole premise of Bond is a contrivance to appeal to some ‘basic male fantasy’- virile male who is an action hero, has awesome cars, guns and the ability to drink heroic amounts of alcohol (are we sure Bond isn’t American?). It’s stupid, the character is stupid, and the plots are stupid.

Too street? Idris Elba is too smart to play such a stupid character.


Story Notes: The Long, Cold Dark

Are you reading The Venturess? You really should be. Go, do it now, it’s free and barely hurts at all. I want to take a second, though, and talk about this latest installment, The Long, Cold Dark.

I started it with a couple ideas that I really wanted to introduce/talk about- namely, Laurie’s backstory, and the Dead Corps (more on them in a second). When The Venturess started, it was kind of a happy-go-lucky thing. I viewed it as sort of a serious Futurama (the parallels are fairly obvious). In that vein, Laurie’s backstory is dark as hell. Aspects of it have been alluded to- as with Chip’s father in the beginning of the second series- but this week throws what she was into pretty stark relief. I’m curious to see the reaction, even with the small readership so far, that it elicits. There are big choices in this storyline, so I am curious to see how the vote goes.

Which brings us to the Dead Corps. If I could go back, there would be no Venturess, just these guys. Man, I love these guys. I need to talk about them from two perspectives, the story perspective, and the writing perspective.

Story-wise, I love these guys. Basically, the beings themselves are parasites. We’ll see that borne out no matter which way the vote goes (though the consequences are radically different). But they are awfully judgey parasites, and seek justice throughout the galaxy. They do this by attaching to their victims and seizing control of their body, which, at that point, is effectively dead. But the mind they leave alone, so the victim is trapped in a prison of their own memories, until the body falls apart entirely. I won’t say more, since that curtain will be pulled back in the next couple stories, but, as far as baddies go, I am pretty proud of them.

But let’s talk about writing them for a moment, for the writerly types among you. The problem was, essentially, that I had a locked room murder mystery on my hands, except in reverse. The only two characters I had available were Laurie and the Bartender. Both are worldly-(galactically?) wise, so having either of them be ignorant of such a threat would undermine their credibility. Also, I didn’t want 500 words of a 1,000 word story to be rambling exposition, either by me or by a character, so a combination was arrived upon. A flashback, slight incredulity from the Bartender, and some clarification from Laurie, and what needs to be revealed, is, along with its emotional ties to the character who is in the emotional center of the story.

So, please- head over to The Venturess, read it over, and vote on it!


Write What You (don’t) Know

First, go read this piece by E Catherine Tobler. It’s more important than anything I have to say, and probably better worded. We talked about this particular exchange right after it happened, and I refrained from writing this post, but since she said it, I am going to say some stuff as well.

People say this kind of crap all the time- I don’t see race, gender, whatever– and I get what they are trying to say, even if they are saying it incredibly poorly. They- I assume-slash-hope- are trying to say ‘everyone is equal, so it shouldn’t matter’. That statement is true, but there’s a pretty important qualifier in there- shouldn’t.

(I am stealing her tweet because it is great)

I’ve used this before, but it holds true: walk into a bookstore and grab 100 books at random. How many of them are by something other than straight white males?

Does it matter?


Because most of those books will be by straight white males. And, again, I get it- guess which category I fall in? And, man, I hope people buy my book. But that’s just it- it’s the vast majority. Of those 100 books you are metaphorically, I would bet you 80 of them fit that bill.

So by making the statement I don’t see X, well, of course you don’t. You haven’t given yourself the chance to. By literally grabbing blindly, you have ended up with a result that is primarily one thing.

Think of it from the publishers perspective: They publish primarily straight, white dudes. Then most of what sells is straight white dudes. So the publisher, in turn, thinks “Well, consumers want more straight white dudes! They sell!”

Yes, it is that stupid. Yes, that is the way consumerism works. So vote for some diversity with your five/ten/twenty dollars.

As a reader, that’s bad (and dumb) enough. But let’s talk writing for a moment. “Write what you know” is a piece of advice writers just love to dispense (along with ‘write every day’). Apparently, a lot of authors have much more experience with vampires and werewolves and romancing ghosts, based on the books I am seeing out there.

Stephen King said it best, though:

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

That is a great piece of advice. But if, like Mister Weir, you are only reading authors who are just like you, and write essentially the same things as you, what tools do you have?

So maybe start seeing it. Go to a bookstore and seek something else out. Read and write something outside of your wheelhouse- particularly if you’re in a vast majority.


Dear Authors

Come on in, guys. Grab a seat anywhere. You need a drink? No? OK. You? OK, good.

Look, gang, we need to talk about this:

Again. Look, everybody, it’s simple: Don’t do this.

Here’s the thing: I know how you feel. It’s your baby. You worked on it, stayed up way too late, ignored friends and family and you, yeah, buddy, you, are going to be the next Tolkien/Rowling/Asimov/Whoever. This is your ticket. And man, you had a free day, and a bunch of people discovered it, and read it and… they hated it. Or didn’t like it very much. And boy, that stung.

But here’s the thing… All those great authors you want to be? They took the same chance you did. And they were stung along the way too. And- this might hurt- but they are probably better authors than you are. And if they are not, they didn’t get where they are by attacking their readers- even if the readers didn’t like what they wrote.

Because you garner exactly no goodwill, from that reader or any other, when you do this. Time and time again, authors do this- get a bad review, and lash out. Again- DO. NOT. DO. THIS. How people think this will get them anywhere is beyond me. But it happens about once a month. And you know what? I never hear of those authors again! It’s almost as if railing on readers and reviewers did their careers no good whatsoever!

So, in conclusion, don’t do that.


Story Notes: The Venturess

In case you’re not familiar, The Venturess is my free, ongoing, crowdsourced science fiction story. What does that mean? Every Friday, a new story is posted. At the end is a poll. You vote for what you want to happen next. After a week, voting closes and yours truly writes the next installment. Rinse and repeat.

This is a concept I have always loved- and I think a lot of people have, growing up with the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (which is a trademarked term, natch). I wanted to find a way to make that work online, with anyone who wanted being able to participate. I think this way works very well, and hopefully you do too. In the near future, I’d like to be posting more frequently, but more on that in a sec.

As to the story itself, I wanted a fun, open SciFi universe. Lasers and aliens and FTL travel and all that. I wanted engaging characters that readers would care enough to vote on their fates, and had to have them doing something that would allow them to see the sights in said universe. Package delivery worked for Futurama and Firefly, so The Venturess is a cargo ship.

venturessWhile it’s certainly lighter than a lot of what I write, I wanted the voting process to carry meaning. Which is to say, there is no fridge to hide in- Characters can die, and have. It’s not Game of Thrones, either, where every choice leads to a bloodbath. Sometimes the endings, such as they are, will be happy. Other times, not. It all depends on the votes.

About those endings: It’s in an episodic format, obviously, but think of it as a TV show with ‘seasons’: Each one contains a story arc. I don’t have a set number that it will take, because that would be too much planning- I’d rather let the votes play out as they need to. So some might be longer, some shorter.

The other thing I wanted was for this to be free- free to read, free to participate in. But, time being money and all that, if it’s something people enjoy and want to support, I want to give them (and myself) that opportunity. So I set up a Patreon for that purpose. If it gets to the point where it is something a lot of people are enjoying, and supporting, I will change to a weekly schedule (and if people really enjoy it, I will start a second story in a new universe, with new characters).

‘Season’ three started this week. It goes to a much darker place than the first two, so if you haven’t yet- come aboard! Read and vote for free, and if you like it, please consider chipping in!