Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This is my horn. hear me toot it.

"The Sorcerer's Lament and Other Tales has appeared on the charts 235 times. It has appeared on charts in Australia, Canada, UK, USA. It has appeared on the Horror genre charts."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Language lesson

"I don't like people much," I said. "I'm what they call a misanthrope."

A slick, self-satisfied grin crawled across his face. "Mis-an-thrope. That's a big word for such a little girl."

I rolled my eyes and did that trick where my knife is suddenly poking up someone's nostril.

"Misanthrope. It means 'piss off right now' in Lucernan."

He did.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I self-publish, in one tweet

"I think some people were taken aback that I say no to most things. I get hundreds of queries a week. I take on maybe 5 new projects a year." -Jennifer Laughran, @literaticat

Seriously. Jennifer is a lovely person, but bloody hell, life's too damned uncertain and short to be on that sort of submissions merry-go-round for months/years/ever.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Work in progress, er, progress + daily writing sample

So this evening I busted out 1500 words. Monday morning I squeezed out another 600. As my son would say, 'sockamooie!'

And here is the promised daily writing sample (remember, this is not polished stuff):


There was a pile of heads. Some were still blinking. One of them was wearing my face.
“Right then,” I said. “Let’s go back out and try to enter the Elamner’s room through the window. Dealing with Bosch can wait.”
More strenuous agreement from behind me. I was becoming popular with the mercenaries.
Holgren smiled, which, considering what we were surrounded with, made me like him more, oddly. “We can try,” he said. “Lord Osskil?”
Osskil was staring at a rotting arm that dragged itself toward his boot, a look of sick fascination on his heavy face. Very deliberately he raised his foot and stomped down on the black, split-nailed fingers that inched it forward. He kept stomping until the bones were shattered and the thing just lay there, quivering.
“Yes,” he finally said. “Let’s.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Twice more, with feeling

I forgot to mention I've got a couple new stories up. One is currently free, and may remain so for quite some time. Or, you know, not. The other is 99 cents.

"The first time they made love – the first time he had ever made love, though not her – it was in his Malibu, on a frost-rimed night in early spring. The act itself was accomplished with a gentle urgency and a seemingly unending need." 
A story of love, loss, pain and time travel. Mature themes. Free indefinitely.  Smashwords Link

Send-up (noun): A humorous parody. 
P'uy (noun): A vicious alien race with too many legs and teeth and not enough heads. 
Varger: (noun): An alien species bearing a striking resemblance to pink jello. 
Subaltern Flint (noun): A very junior officer who never meant to start anything... 
On Harbin IV, it's better to be lucky than good. 
99 measly cents. Smashwords Link

The Blade That Whispers Hate: update

So the cemetery scene in The Blade That Whispers Hate is done. I know you've been waiting for me to kick that one in the pants, Dear Readers, so you can go to sleep tonight secure in the knowledge that pants were kicked.

What's left to do on BWH before I can say the first draft is done, you ask? Well, there's the part that I can't tell you about because it will spoil the ending, but it involves a package. So we can call that the 'package delivery' scene if you like. That or, you know, George or something. Then there are two showdowns (Grand and Petite) and another spoiler scene that I like to think of as 'Why'd you go and do THAT?!' and a breaking and entering scene. So yeah, if my fingers are correct, that's five scenes, plus some connective tissue here and there that doesn't get its own name in My Own Brain(TM) because it's just A to B stuff.

Yes, yes, Michael, I hear you say. All well and good. But  when will it be done?

Well, let's say there's about 10 left to write, give or take. Could be a bit less, could be considerably more, but call it 10k. Then let's say I can bang out 500 words a day. That would be 20 days, once I take off my shoes and include my toes.

Of course, some days I can get out 2000 words. Or more.

Of course, many other days I get exactly squat written.

But let's say 20 days, because I'm told I need a more optimistic disposition.

Meanwhile, here's another little excerpt to tide you over:


In a place like the Cock’s Spur, they don’t even bother putting out chairs or benches that don’t face the door. Nobody wants their back to any trouble that enters. As I walked in, a couple dozen pairs of eyes skewered me. Well, except for the one hairy brute that had lost a beady, pig-like peeper somewhere, and in the not-too distant past, judging from the puss weeping out of the socket. He really should have considered an eye patch; if not for himself, then at least for anyone forced to look at him.
After a heartbeat, all the eyes slid right off me onto Holgren, which gave me faith in the fetish he’d given me. Or maybe it was the quality of his clothes. I heard Holgren sniff behind me.
“What’s that smell?” he murmured.
“I think they’re brewing ale.”
“Oh. I thought it was cat urine. Is it supposed to smell that way?”
“Maybe the house recipe calls for cat piss.” I’d heard of stranger ingredients, if not less disgusting. Bludgeoned roosters and the like. There was a reason I generally stuck to wine.
“I find myself appallingly unthirsty,” said Holgren.
“Come on, let’s brace the bartender.”
“About the ingredients?”
“About the owner.”
         “Good idea. Take your complaint to the top, I always say.” 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear My Own Brain

Dear My Own Brain,

As a self-published writer who hopes one day to make a living from his writing, I find myself with the unenviable task of having to get you to believe two very nearly contradictory things at the same time:

  • Sales don't matter. Only the work at hand matters.
  • In order to reach my goals, I need to think not only 'artistically' but in business terms.
Now look: I know you can't think both ways at once. Last time I tried, you gave me a migraine. So you'll have to switch back and forth. At the moment you seem to be stuck on the business end of things. I blame it on reading Joe Konrath's blog, so no more of that for at least a week. The comments there suck you in, and you want to compose scintillating arguments rather that scintillating prose.

The unanswerable question that you can't seem to leave alone at the moment is 'when/how do I reach the tipping point?' By tipping point of course you mean the level of sales that generate more sales simply because of the sales already being generated. It's a chicken & egg thing, Brain. The answer is unknowable until it happens.

The single biggest thing a writer can do to boost sales is to release more great titles. This has been proven over and over. Part of it has to do with algorithms at the various retailers, Brain, and part because if someone likes what the read of yours, odds are they'll go looking for more stuff of yours. But there are a whole host of other factors that play in as well. Genre. Price. Cover image. Blurb. You know this. Why are you obsessing? Just. Stop.

You've got half a dozen stories that need some forward motion. Go obsess over them. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The minimum

Minimum wage (where I grew up): US $7.25/hr. This works out to US $1,242.85 per month.

How much I make on each 99 cent story (after retailer & distributor cuts): 56 cents*.

How much I make on each $1.99 title: $1.19*

How much I make on each $2.99 title: $1.80*

How much I make on each $3.99 title: $2.40*

To make minimum wage as a writer, I need to sell monthly:

2219 short stories at 99 cents (74/day), or

1044 titles at $1.99 (35/day), or

690 titles at $2.99 (23/day), or

517 titles at $3.99 (17/day).

So yeah. Let you know when I hit that target.

*via Smashwords. Amazon's royalty structure is different. I don't sell much at Amazon, though, so meh.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why I made Waste Land free. Forever

I was twelve. That summer we stayed with my uncle and aunt in Pensacola, not really welcome. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. My aunt and uncle went off to work each day, seven days a week, to the kennel they owned, and my mom did whatever it was she did. Mostly sat in the guest bedroom reading mystery novels, from what I remember.

Which sort of left me at loose ends.

Now this could have ended very badly, but my uncle had a big, big bookshelf. And on that bookshelf were something like fifteen of the 'Year's Best SF' annuals.

And everything changed.

Each one of those stories changed the way I viewed the world, my world, in ways I had no words for. In ways I didn't even realize, and didn't show up for years, decades, some of them.

I read them all. Then I read them again.

I think, because I read them so young, I got it into my head that I could never write anything even close. At the time of course I couldn't. But I doubt I had to wait until I was forty to try. So when I started to write, I wrote fantasy. Fantasy is safe. I enjoy it. Sci fi, the sci fi I read that summer, the sci fi that became the definition of sci fi for me (Tiptree, Ellison, to give you an idea) was some far out, uncomfortable, existentially scary shit. The fact that it was painfully beautiful, stunning really- that only made it the more out of reach.

It was the world of literally. anything.

And so I shrank away from that place, the place where the horizon wasn't just limitless, but in truth debatable at best.

Then I wrote Waste Land. I would not say it belongs in one of those year's best anthologies, but I am proud of it. I also know that for some readers the ending is like a kick in the gut. It's not spelled out. It's still linear, but there are a few bars where you have to sort of hum the tune to yourself. Or make it up.

And so when I got the one star review for Waste Land that said 'didn't understand anything' I got where the reviewer was coming from. He'd wandered into a story- that story- utterly unprepared, with no real ability to 'get it'.

There's a reason Waste Land is free, and will always be free. I don't want anybody to pay for something that has the potential to mess with them.

On being an indie writer: a few thoughts

  • I use the phrases 'indie' and 'self-published' interchangeably. If this puts anyone's knickers in a twist, I suggest they seek a remedy to alleviate their pedanticism.
  • I write the best stuff I am capable of. That is my main goal. My main goal is not to get rich off my writing, though that certainly would be nice.
  • I believe the ratio of time spent honing my craft to the time spent marketing should be on the order of 10:1
  • Which is good, because marketing an indie book is, by and large, a stupid, pointless time sink. You'd get similar results just cold-calling random people.
  • The most evil, the most pernicious trap an indie writer can fall into these days is constantly checking sales and rankings. Don't watch the pot boil. Go read a book if you're not going to write.
  • The single best way to generate sales is to write and publish more good work. Go do it.
  • I respect my readers, and give them value for money. In this way I can have a reasonable assurance that my readers will become repeat readers, and may even tell others about my writing.
  • Some readers will not like my writing. It's inevitable. Which is why I give some stuff away for free, so they don't lose out monetarily.
  • Some readers will leave bad reviews. That's their right. As long as the reviews aren't personal attacks, I welcome their feedback and try to learn from it, if there is anything to learn. Bad reviews are far, far better than no reviews at all. You can't be in pain if you're dead.
  • I'm getting just a touch annoyed with other indie writers who get so involved with the business end of things that they forget about craft. If your book isn't the best you can possibly make it, what the hell are you doing marketing it? 
  • I've gotten the royalty checks from Random House in the mail. I like the PayPal deposits from Smashwords better.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


 “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”
― Stephen King:

Sunday, July 08, 2012


A sunny Sunday afternoon, waiting for my son. Not much to say, friends, except I'm still alive. On the writing front, things have slowed while I chew over a few plot points. I've got a funeral to write next, in a most unusual cemetery. Cheers.