Bad News

Actually, among the worst news I could ever provide.  My wife Ruth passed away on the evening of Thursday January 25th, as a result of complications from open heart surgery.

Bear with me a while.  I'm going to be very distracted for some time.

If you're of a mind to pray, please remember my family as we try to adjust to the huge hole in our lives where my wife and my kids' mother used to be.



A Rant!

Cue rant:

Developers and programmers and layout specialists, get a clue! I know it's trendy and the common thing to put texts in subdued or even pastel shades on white or other subdued pastel shades. It makes for a very artistic look. I get that. The problem is, for anyone who doesn't have perfect vision--which includes a high proportion of everyone I know--those kinds of presentations are incredibly hard to read due to the lack of contrast.

I'd be willing to bet that up to 50% of the reading public skips over your oh-so-stylish and oh-so-attractive work because they can't read it--especially if it's in a miniscule font. I know I blow right by anything like that for that very reason. I refuse to hold a magnifying glass up to a monitor to try and read anything like that.

For example, the information booklet of an older CD I picked up today by an artist I like was printed in kind of a burnt orange hue on dark lavender background. I couldn't read a single word. I had to google the album to get a list of the tracks! (Which I promptly printed out in black ink on white paper and taped into the booklet.  🙂 )

Your best bet of getting higher readership numbers is to present your text, whether on-line or on paper, in a crisp font with a shade that provides a strong contrast to whatever the background is. The paler the color of the font, the less likely it is to be read by higher quantities of readers.

But, it's your business, so it's your call. It's just sad that you seem to be losing track of the fact that if you desire communication, you have to first connect with the reader.

End rant.

Have a nice evening.


2017 Dragon Award Nominations Have Been Announced!

And I have a book on the list!

Under the Best Military Science Fiction category

The Span of Empire, by Eric Flint and David Carrico


So, now you know who to vote for.

And while you're voting, consider voting for Eric's novel 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught in the Best Alternate History category.


Bit of An Update...

... and all that.

Finished the first draft of an outline for the next Jao novel and sent it to senior author Eric Flint.  We don't have a contract for it yet, so this is all preliminary and "on spec" so to speak, but I believe when the sales figures for The Span of Empire are available for review, Baen will give Eric a contract for a sequel.  And if we have the outline done by then, the writing will commence immediately, which will mean it will be done quicker.

Have first drafts of a couple of new 1632 stories done, entitled Requiem for the Future and Lex Talionis.   Both of them feature Marla Linder and Franz Sylwester--the first new stories I've written with them as the protagonists in a lot of years.  They will probably land in The Grantville Gazette, but they need some work still, so they haven't been bought yet.

My current new project is a sequel to my story The Quiet Man, which is a non-1632 story that was published in Jim Baen's Universe magazine back in 2007.  The working title is The Wrench in the Monkeyworks.  My goal is that it be a bit of a puzzle story, but also be well-laced with humor.

I'm told that my 1632 book Essen Defiant, a short novel collaboration with Kim Mackey which is a direct sequel to his book Essen Steel, will be published by Eric Flint's Ring of Fire Press in the very near future.  I haven't seen the cover yet.  I'm looking forward to it.

And there are a few things still under development that I can't talk about yet, but I will reveal as soon as I can.



The State of Reviewing

I know a lot of writers get really worked up about reviews and reviewers, stressing over the quantity and ratings level as if they were a factor in the welfare of the universe.  I've seen some writers go ballistic over a single poor rating, or get in flame wars with reviewers or other writers about ratings.  Myself, I follow Eric Flint's philosophy for the most part.  No writer is going to please every reader with every work.  It just isn't going to happen.  So as long as I'm telling the best story I can tell, and as long as most readers seem to like it, I don't sweat it.  (Of course, if a story gets uniformly poor ratings, that tells me I probably didn't tell a good story.  That's my fault, not the readers'.)

But I will confess that there's one thing I find a bit odd about reviews and reviewers that will occasionally kind of ruffle my feathers.  One of the comments I frequently see in readers' reviews of books goes something like this:

"I really liked the book, but I've read too many of the stories elsewhere, so I'm only going to give it three (or two or one) stars."

People who say things like that really don't seem to understand how story publishing works.  If you're in that category, here's how the traditional model flows:

1.       First cycle:  Stories first get published in venues that promote and accept new short fiction.  Those are usually either magazines or original work anthologies.  Until a few years ago, there were enough magazines in the market that a good writer could generate respectable cash flow from writing stories, because if one editor didn't take a story, the next editor might.  (This is the reality behind Heinlein's Fifth Rule of Writing:  "You must keep [the work] on the market until sold.")  Traditional magazines have been dying out as story venues, but on-line e-magazines keep popping up, and we may well see them fill that writerly ecological niche.

2.       Second cycle:  Historically, story anthologies would occur to either collect the "best" work of a time or place, or to present work that supports a particular theme.  So, you would find "Best SF of 1969", or "Best of Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1963", or works like the series of anthologies called "There Will Be War".  Even today, you will find a lot of these types of anthologies.  Until relatively recently, these were the rule and anthologies of original fiction were the exception.

3.       Third cycle:  Once a writer has a sufficient quantity of stories that have been published in various venues, then the writer (or sometimes an agent or publisher) will begin grouping them in collections and publishing them as such.  Sometimes the collections are just sort of ad-hoc collections of stories by that author; sometimes they are thematic collections where the stories gathered together all relate to one another in one way or another.

Here's what a lot of modern readers don't seem to get:  There is nothing new or unusual about this practice.  As long as such a  book is not being marketed as containing all new or all previously unpublished material, it is not deceptive or underhanded to do this.  This has been part of the short story publishing model for generations.  And really, do you expect every single story anthology or collection to always be totally original work?  Every time?

This actually does a service for readers.  If you really like a series of stories that were published in a variety of venues and issues/editions, having them all pulled together into a single volume is a great thing for you when you want to reread the series.  Instead of having to have maybe fifteen or twenty different magazines or anthologies stacked around or loaded on your Kindle—or even worse, having to hunt them down to acquire them—and having to figure out once again what order you have to read them in, you just pick up the collection volume or open up the collection e-book and there they are, nicely together, formatted the same for consistent reading, and in the right order without your having to do anything.  Personally, speaking as a reader, I love it when authors do this.

So be's okay to comment in a review on the fact that a book contains some (or a lot of) previously published stories, but unless the book is being misleadingly presented as being all new stories, it really isn't fair to lower the rating.  If you thought it was four star good before you realized it wasn't all new material, it should still get a four star rating as long as it's not being misrepresented.

New Work Available

So, recently I wrote a series of stories set in the 1632 universe.  I took a germ of an idea that I had mentioned in 1636: The Devil's Opera, and built a story arc around it.  The idea germ was that a secondary character named Johann Gronow, a real historical personage who was a man of letters, discovered the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft that came back from the 20th century when Grantville translocated to 17th century Germany, and became so enamored of the idea of horror stories that he started the first horror story magazine in the world in 1634.  (I wanted to name the magazine The Black Cat Magazine, but apparently in German there isn't a generic word for cat, so it got named The Black Tomcat Magazine.)

That's the actual framework in which the story arc is built.  The core of the story arc is that a young man named Philip discovers The Black Tomcat Magazine, is immediately hooked on the horror stories, and very shortly develops a passion to write horror stories.  The story series is entitled Letters from Gronow, and they detail the travails Philip goes through as he tries to learn to write and keeps submitting stories to the magazine.

It's mostly a light-hearted set of stories.  I think you'll enjoy them.

The first story appeared in Grantville Gazette 70, the second just appeared in Grantville Gazette 71, and the remaining four should appear in Grantville Gazettes 72-75 over the next eight months or so.  See the following link.


To Outline, Or Not To Outline, That Is The Question

As a writer, I HATE outlining. I'm not an outliner. I'm very much a discovery writer. Which is okay. It works well for me.

The only times I've actually used outlines is in collaborative work where my partner had done an outline and we worked from it. So I'm really not very good at outlining--no practice at it at all. But now I'm having to write an outline for a new collaborative project, because the senior author asked me to do it. {sigh}

So I'm trying, but it's very slow going. Partly because I'm no good at it, and partly because the story is shaping up to be a complex tripod story framework with three parallel story lines and character cross-overs between the lines. Plus it's a space opera story in which aliens abound, some of which are truly alien, which takes extra thought on my part to figure out what they're going to do in certain situations.

Even slower going.

So, I'm having to build it in Excel to keep the cross-storyline timing straight.  I'm lucky if I get one paragraph done per day.

This is going to take a while. {sigh}


I'm Back!

Okay, this is going to be a pretty mammoth update.

First of all, major apologies for disappearing, but the host of my website had to make some technical updates late last year, and in the process of doing so, my website package got somewhat discombobulated, and long story short, it took a while to get it straightened out.  But it's fixed, and I'm back!

Second, I have several writing announcements to make:

And I think that's it for what's been happening and what's lining up for the immediate future.  I'll talk more about long term plans in another post later.


Bringer of Fire

And Baen Books today published my story "Bringer of FIre" on their website. This tells the backstory of Vikram Bannerji, one of the new characters introduced in "The Span of Empire" which will be published in three weeks.



It's A Review!

A rather nice reader review of the e-ARC of the forthcoming The Span of Empire down at the bottom of this page.:

First one I've seen.  🙂