The Last Flagship

The Last Flagship

As some of you might have noticed, the newest Javier Aritza/Science Officer story (#6) is finally available everywhere. What a few of you have also realized is that #7 and #8 are also now available for pre-order everywhere, dropping together on Dec 10.

When I started writing The Science Officer, it turned out to be right at 24,000 words. The second one in the series, The Mind Field, also came in at around that length. When I decided to write more, starting with The Gilded Cage, I made a conscious decision that they were all going to be novellas, rather than novels or short stories. That means, in my head, 20,000-30,000, with most of the recent ones running up against that 30k mark and occasionally over.

Going into this meta-project, I wanted to make the storyline a little less dark and apocalyptic, especially with how grim The Gilded Cage turned out, and so The Pleasure Dome was a lighter, breezier piece that let me start exploring the nuances of the players, rather than just the world.

Which brings us down to The War Of The Pirate Clans. When I wrote The Pleasure Dome, it was just a caper, but I saw where the story needed to go, and that it would be a long, drawn-out affair. And just what I needed to round out Season One at eight episodes. (By the way, I am already into #9, but working on Jessica #6 first right now, plus a few other projects.)

Being (in my mind) a television show script, I wanted a cliff-hanger ending, or a double episode. Until I actually finished #7, I had originally planned to drop #8 in February 2018, but #7 does not stand on its own feet, considering how many people I would piss off if I made them wait an extra two months to see what happens as a result of The Hammerfield Gambit. And it would.

At the same time, I wasn’t going to suddenly make one of the books so much longer than the rest. I like it that Javier comes in at around 25k. Fast to write. Compact story that does not leave any space for extraneous meanderings, so I have to focus. They are a fast read as a result, because you step onto a ramp when you open page one and go.

I have seen other writers in my field, and occasionally compare my style to theirs. I write “fast books” because I paragraph aggressively, which means short, rather than long blocks of text. You read them quickly and get to the end needing a cigarette, rather that spending weeks slowly digesting the tale. Plus, I try to keep my little side stories to just a paragraph, or maybe even only a phrase, rather than a whole section of the book or a chapter that really doesn’t add anything to the overall story, except maybe depth or ideas for other projects later.

So I wrote five Science Officer books this year, fully intending to drop them every two months to keep y’all entertained and happy. And, like I said, #9 is coming, and actually going to be three short stories that all wrap up together, and I have the first of those done and the other two planned and in the hopper to write when I have some space. No spoilers, so I can’t go into too much detail. (Which sucks for me, since only two of you know how The Hammerfield Payoff ends.)

Let us just say that Season Two takes our heroes and villains off in a slightly different direction, and lets me introduce (and re-introduce, in one instance) some exciting characters and get a little more “Sciencey” with my stories.

I hope you enjoy. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. And your understanding that I’m only writing these things as Javier and the others dictate.

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

There are still good people…

So I haven’t posted much of anywhere lately. Been heads-down busy on various projects, including helping Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) with her girlcave, the new corporate offices of Knotted Road Press. Last weekend, hanging a bunch of fiberboard and sheetrock to close in all the walls. It is nearly ready for all the pretty work to begin.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up something nasty. (Viral skin infection is the consensus.) Went to the walk-in clinic this morning because whatever had caused my arms to break out and my face to puff up had hit her as well and was getting worse. We had walked down from the top of Cap Hill, had breakfast at a little joint, then to the clinic. In and out for both of us in under 30 minutes, and the doc gave us some better cream that is helping.

Somewhere along the walk back up the hill, I apparently lost my wallet out of my back pocket, and never noticed. (Drugs that do fun things to the brain right now.) Got back to her place and sat down to check the news before the next round of stuff, and I have an email from a complete stranger who had found my wallet, located one of my BW business cards, and asked if that was me.

You can imagine my panic. She left a number to text, so I did. As well as an email reply.

Nothing. Long pause. More panic.

Finally, hear back from her. Turns out she and her friend had been in the process of walking clear over to Volunteer Park Cafe  from somewhere south, to have crossed my path home and found my wallet, and wanted to get there before replying to me, to have a stable, public place to meet (woman meeting total stranger male, you know the drill).

Texts me. We drive over, get my wallet, I thank her profusely. Offered her books. Flipped a coin my head to buy them breakfast (no money gone, cards all there).

Got home, still vaguely fuzzy in the brain, but much warmer feeling. Sent her books anyway.

I have been grumpy smurf at work all week. Have described the situation there as a general swirly-thing-alert (for those of you old enough to know what that is without looking it up).

So in the middle of all that, it was just lovely to run into a generally good person, who found a wallet, looked through it to find contact information, and reached out.

Makes me feel better about the world. And that’s a good thing.

Hopefully, you have little things in your life that bring you joy as well. Learn to notice them, and appreciate them.

 

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Freebies and Good Deeds

So there is a new bundle out there. Aliens Among Us. I’ve talked about it before, and want to circle back.

My first novel Imposters is in it. Right now, for as long as the bundle runs (couple more weeks), anyone who asks can get a free copy of the short story The Shipwrecked Mermaid, which is a prequel that helped me craft the universe.

You don’t need to read Mermaid to enjoy Imposters, but it gets way more fun when you understand where that Queen of Hearts coffee mug came from. And it helps me to remember that I want to write more stories set in that world, when I have time. And I will.

So forward this note to your friends. Or ping me and I’ll send you a book you can forward on to them. No purchase necessary. I won’t even add you to my mailing list, unless you ask.

You are signed up, right? And read it? I’m always amazed because I tend to give things away for people that read all the way to the bottom, but few people ever actually do. Their loss.

Better news: the charity Dean and Allyson have chosen for this bundle is Able Gamers.

From their website:

ABLEGAMERS ENABLES FUN!

We give people with disabilities custom gaming setups including modified controllers and special assistive technology, like devices that let you play with your eyes, so they can have fun with their friends and family. We’re using the power of video games to bring people together, improving quality of life with recreation and rehabilitation.”

We’re Science Fiction fans. That means we tend to be gamers as well. Able Gamers helps make sure everyone gets to play.

So please do your part to help, get ten novels for a great price, and stop by to say hello. Or take this chance to introduce someone else to the fun of some of these great authors I’m in the bundle with.

b

Aliens Among Us

And I don’t mean strangers from a foreign land. Well, maybe, if your idea of a foreign land is actually a different planet.

I hinted at it with the last blog post, but it is now officially a thing, so I can talk more. The Aliens Among Us bundle is now live and ready for people on Storybundle. (I’m kinda blushing because Dean had some amazingly nice things to say about me and my book.)

For your money, you can get ten titles, including anthologies, collections of weird (I’m not kidding. Planet Bob pushing the envelope as only he can. “Smidgen the snack cake, a high tech pastry with murder in his ultrachocolatey heart.” Seriously?), and novels from some of the top Sci-Fi writers in the field, like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Kevin J. Anderson, and Mike Shepherd.

And, because I love you people, I’m including a freebie outside of my novel, the prequel that sets up Imposters: The Shipwrecked Mermaid.

Rick Pine wasn’t always the suave, daring chef with his own bistro and no time to do anything but laundry and sleep. A year ago, he was just a guy on an assignment, a felon cooking for other felons doing cleanup after a disaster. And then the mermaid came into his life and changed everything.

You don’t need the read The Shipwrecked Mermaid before you buy and read Imposters, but it will make your reading so much more fun, when you understand where that damned coffee mug came from and why it is so important. And who the girl really is.

For the next three weeks, I’m offering anyone a copy of Mermaid for free. Anybody who wants, ping me and I’ll send you the ebook.  Then go buy the bundle and enjoy some really out there thrills.

Strike quickly. This is a one-time offer, and then the bundle will be gone forever in a few weeks.

cheers,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Inspired and silly: The Shipwrecked Mermaid and Imposters

So a little background:

I keep a long list of interesting story ideas that I want to pursue at some future date, when inspiration strikes and time slots come open. (This is doubly important since I made the commitment to write at least one short/medium story every month, while pursuing my novels. There will be slots every month to fill.)

Several years ago, for an anthology, I wrote The Shipwrecked Mermaid, which is a short story about Rick, a felon working as part of a cooking crew after a major earthquake and tsunami in the PNW. It is a pure Sci-fi piece, about an alien scout in the shape of a mermaid, who gets stuck inland and needs Rick’s help to escape and survive.

Love that story. Compact, silly, exotic. When I decided to start writing novels, Imposters was the first one I did, picking up Rick’s story a year later, six months after he got out of prison and opened his own bistro with help from some unlikely friends.

This is important today for two reasons. First, I have a new bundling project coming up in a little while, and they asked for Imposters to be included in it. It is a stand-alone novel, but the story is so much richer when you understand where that damned travel mug in the first scene went off to, and then returned from.

So I would like to help everyone get the richer experience. I’m putting this out here in the hopes that it makes its way across the whole interwebs and people getting ready to buy the bundle see it and respond. And any of you that haven’t yet read Imposters, too.

You don’t have to buy anything. Just send me a note so I have the right email address, and I will send you the mobi and epub (Amazon, not Amazon) of The Shipwrecked Mermaid so you can be prepared for Imposters. And maybe go buy the bundle, or just buy the novel individually.

Second, and why this is at the top my mind today, is for a special project I am working on right now. Won’t share any details, because we are WAY too early in the process, but I’m planning out the next story in The Collective universe, which will be a short story entitled Queen of Hearts and continue Rick’s adventures. It will come out sometime in the fall of next year (publication lead times for stuff like this drives me to distraction, but can’t be helped.) and eases me back into making this an on-going thing, rather than a one-off.

I’ve been very busy this year with Science Officer books, finishing off Season One to keep ya’ll entertained. At the same time, I’m about halfway through the next Jessica Keller novel: The Red Admiral, which should come out next summer, if all goes well. I’m not done with Javier Aritza, by a long shot, but I’m giving him a little break before I start working on Season Two. Already have part of book 9 done, and literally today I’m editing on 7 & 8, The Hammerfield Gambit and The Hammerfield Payoff, both coming out December 10th.

And, one of these days I will actually finish this arc of Jessica Keller’s story. I won’t say I’m done with Jessica, but the nine novels will tell a complete story and let me start other series where I can turn out several pieces in a row, rather than bouncing all over the place and confusing and boring people.

I just completed the first short story in a new sequence in a new timeframe for the Alexandria Station universe, taking place in 10,396 CE, during the height of The Concordancy War. This series will be the first that does not include Suvi, because she is already on Kel-Sdala at this point, preparing for the events of The Librarian.

The story is Last Leaf Falling and includes a cameo instead by CW (Concord Warship) Kinnison. Those on the ball will recognize the name as a derelict Jessica and friends toured on Bunala, towards the end of Queen of the Pirates. So I do tie all the threads together and make the entire extended universe a fun place. I’m also planning at least a few stories in the Gas Sailors era, right at the dawn of interstellar flight. I went into a lot of detail about them in the two Hammerfield stories coming up, so I wanted to use the notes to expand things.

I could continue writing Alexandria Station stories for the rest of my life and not run out of places and people. For example: Jean-Pierre will be born in 14,942 CE and have his first encounter with Suvi in 15006 CE. Or about sixteen hundred years after Jessica Keller dies.

So, yeah. Lots, and I will.

But today, The Shipwrecked Mermaid. Let’s start there before we go off on tangents. Imposters will be in a bundle shortly. Read the mermaid first. You’ll thank me for it.


shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

The Last Flagship (A Science Officer story)

So,

A few of you have been paying attention, and noticed that there is a new Science Officer story up for pre-order.

The Last Flagship. Volume 6. Dropping October 10th everywhere.

A brief intro, from the beginning of Book Seventeen: Avalon:

The door chime was almost a welcome interruption.

Almost.

Javier took a deep breath, stashed everything under handy nets, and rose.

His back hurt from being hunched over too long on the four-legged stool. Probably time to go do some yoga or something. He was pretty good about maintaining his regular lifting and stretching cycle.

He ran his hand back through his short, black hair and contemplated how much of it was coming in gray now, mostly at his temples, but a little everywhere. He wasn’t vain enough to dye it, and many women seemed to think it made him look more distinguished.

Always a good thing, looking good for the women of this crew.

Privately, he made a bet with himself who would be on the other side of that hatch. There were only a few people who would come down here, rather than just call him on the comm to ask a question.

That meant it would be a private conversation.

Another deep breath, finding his calm center, as he approached the hatch.

He unlocked the system and opened it, finding himself staring at her chest. Not hard to do when her breasts were about on a level with his chin. Small ones, to be sure, hiding on top of muscles. Lots of muscles. But breasts.

Djamila Sykora. Dragoon of the private service, Strike Corvette Storm Gauntlet.

A woman 2.1 meters tall. She towered over Javier by thirty centimeters.

Her brown hair was still worn short to fit inside an armoured lifesuit, buzzed very tight on the sides and spiked into a petite Mohawk on top.

It was still the only thing petite about her.

She had bright, pretty green eyes. They reminded him of Holly, his ex-wife, but he only told her that when he wanted to annoy this woman. Mostly, it was the faint freckles, anyway.

The bone structure in her face wasn’t delicate enough to be pretty, but he suspected she could be stunningly beautiful if she ever cared to try. Not that a hardass like Sykora would, unless she was undercover on a grift. Like the Pleasure Dome had been.

Artemis, by Michelangelo.

<<<spoiler alert>>>

At the end of The Doomsday Vault, the little warship Storm Gauntlet has been savaged well beyond the point that it would be profitable to repair it. The crew is facing an end, as Zakhar Sokolov looks around and realizes that the best he can do it sell the ship for salvage and retire to a desk job somewhere.

Javier has a suggestion, but the risk will top anything the crew has faced before now. The flagship of the Neu Berne fleet, lost for eighty-five years, hidden in a place where nobody less desperate would go.

But desperation drives them all. What secrets will they find, when they go looking for the grave of a Sentient warship?

And who will survive?

Pre-order today. This is the third part of The War of the Pirate Clans, and will be wrapped up in Volumes 7 and 8:

  • The Hammerfield Gambit
  • The Hammerfield Payoff

both due out on December 10th. Because it would be mean of me to leave y’all that badly cliff-hangered at the end of 7.


And thank you, for all the support. For telling your friends. For leaving nice reviews. Every day, I get a little closer to that dream of being able to write full time, and put out enough stories to keep y’all occupied for a while. Working as hard as I can, and publishing like mad.

The Superhero stories are coming in a week:

The Breakfast Dragon

The Coffee Doctor

Kid Lexington

Hopefully, you will find them entertaining as well, as I slowly build out the world of the Modern Gods.

shade and sweet water,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Superhero news

In ancient times, almost every culture invented mighty warriors to commit great deeds and fight terrible monsters. At the same time, future generations could look back on those mighty warriors for inspiration, an ancestor-worship so powerful that ruling dynasties often claimed to be descended from such heroes as a way of gaining legitimacy.

For the heroes themselves, they were often looked upon as the child of a god and a mortal, making them so much greater than the rest of us and capable of doing such great things. Think about the stories of Heracles, or Rustam, or Rama, or Yoshi-Iye, depending on your cultural matrix.

Which brings us to the so-called Modern Age. Starting in the 1930’s, superheroes began to fill the niche that had once been the province of demigods. Superman, Batman, Dr. Fate, and a whole host of others, many long since forgotten. In the fifties, they kind of fell to the side, to be resurrected by people like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers.

We have not been without costumed heroes now for more than seven decades, but only in the last twenty years has it really been possible to make movies where mortals like us could believably play such gods on the silver or green screen.

With this in mind, my confession that I’m kinda of comic book nerd. I know, major surprise on your parts. Bear with me.

Nobody has ever really done a good job explaining where super-powered beings might come from. Superman is an alien with a solar-powered battery. Batman is just a bad-ass with a major-league bank account. Mutants are the off-spring of the atomic age.

With White Crane, I tried to create a good-enough story for where spandex-clad heroes and villains might come from. Mutants should just inherit the exact same powers as their parents had, if the mutation is what gives them the power.

In the Modern Gods world, it was atomic bombs that were the genesis of power suddenly swamping the world, but not by mutating human genes. Instead, the bombs themselves blasted power into the atmosphere in the form of unstable isotopes and exotic elements that became the basis of power, available for those people who were born with the ability to tap it.

There had always been those people, but there was barely enough power, so the world only knew a few gods at any one time. In the modern age, there can now be many.

I enjoy reading well-written superhero stories. I try to write them as well. Sometimes, I even succeed, or at least entertain myself, and maybe a few of you.

As a side note, you can get a whole plethora of superhero stuff in the Capes Masks Spandex bundle, right now on the rabbit

On September 10th, the next Amazon drop, there will be three new stories in the Modern Gods world. Or rather, two of them already are out there, but only available in anthologies where folks might not be interested in buying the whole for a single story. (Silly you: much cheaper that way.)

The Coffee Doctor is about Anna, a woman with the ability to tap the power, but who grew up in a place where nobody understood her, and she thinks she might be crazy, until she realizes that she really can understand the lightpole’s emotions, or the pavement’s. Now, she must confront her own fears about going crazy and find out if the Coffee Doctor can really help her.

Breakfast Dragon is the other half of Business for Breakfast: The Beginning Professional Storyteller. One of the recurring examples I used in that book was about making toast, and how compelling something so utterly mundane could be once you wrapped your head around the techniques of the Seven Point Plot structure and threw in explosions, car chases, and femme fatales. Or something like that.

Finally, Kid Lexington. A 32-year-old Japanese-American, US Army, WW2 veteran, pretending to be the patriotic, teenage sidekick of a bigger and better-known hero, because it is 1952 and white people in those days weren’t yet willing to accept that every American might be a hero.

When Kid Lexington gets captured by the team’s greatest enemy, his life will never be the same. Nor will anyone else’s.

Coming soon, but not yet available for pre-order, I will have another Modern Gods story in a bundle on BundleRabbit, sometime soon. Stand Up is a story about a Small God, a woman with no powers whatsoever, intent on leaving her mark and making the world a better place, even if she must face some of the most dangerous people in Emerald, or the world, to do it.

Finally, in November, also on BundleRabbit, Expectations. It is a story starring (spoiler alert) Kid Lexington’s two daughters, coming of age in 1974 as the world seems to be coming apart. And come to grips with her own family secrets.

Adventures in silliness

If you have been paying attention, you know I own 6 acres of mostly trees, out in the wilderness of western Washington. About an acres and a half, maybe two, has been cleared enough for a house, a barn, a pumphouse, and the new Knotted Road Press corporate offices bungalow that Fabulous Publisher Babe™ is working on in the front yard. Today, she is staining and sealing hardwood flooring, two inch strips of old maple, that will be the walls upstairs in the loft.

In a few minutes, I’m going to go out and walk the near tree line, looking for the right spot to dig (and kill a ton of ants, but they had it coming). This morning, as we headed into town to run errands, I packed the gardening shears and a plastic bag. On the road is a long stretch of what we call feral roses. The wild kind with a single ring of petals and a lot of scent, as opposed to the poor cousins that people breed. The ones that are pretty, scentless, and die in any sort of weather. I wanted hearty stuff.

Stopped in a nearby park and hiked along the trail. The darker red the rose hips are, the better. The bigger, as well. Cut probably twenty or so, looking at the bag sitting next to my computer. White, Pink, and Fuchsia. Going to go plant those with good morning sun, afternoon shade, reasonable water, and let them take over. My money is on them rather than the blackberry.

And it will delight my wife to have the smell and color of roses out her window. Plus, I figure the deer have enough to eat, so they won’t necessarily concentrate on the roses. Maybe. They are kinda tame.

Got home last night from a wonderful evening at a friend’s house and parked at the top of the long driveway. Fabulous Publisher Babe has seen an owl the other night, so we wanted to look. It was just dark enough, but saw no bird.

Did realize that I was standing in the middle of my driveway with the little girl deer on my left, about thirty feet away in the septic drain field, and her brother on the right, in the back yard, about thirty feet away that way. Those two are yearlings. They have a little brother that was hanging out with big brother, contentedly munching as I waved and said hello.

Terribly frightened of me, I could tell. I went indoors and they meandered off to chew on blackberry bramble.

I’m editing today. Just finished wrapping up my second to last pass on the two Science Officer books, The Hammerfield Gambit and The Hammerfield Payoff before sending them off to first readers. #7 and #8. Those of you keeping score at home will have hopefully gotten a chance to pull down your copy of #5, The Doomsday Vault.

My apologies in advance if you haven’t read it, but I did warn you. #5: The Doomsday Vault, ends on kind of a cliffhanger. So does #6: The Last Flagship. And #7: The Hammerfield Gambit. Only #8: The Hammerfield Payoff ends properly, wrapping up Season One and setting the plate for what I will do with the gang when I get back to it.

Hopefully you find them as entertaining to read as I do to write. Next month (September), a whole bunch of superhero stories are coming out. Then The Last Flagship in October. Because I like you, both Hammerfield books come out together in December, or you can wait for Omnibus #2, containing 5-8, in January.

Today is relaxed. This pleases me, because the summer has been kinda nuts and I needed a little down time. And to commit some guerilla gardening. Fall is coming, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully you are as well. Remember to take care of yourself and your friends.

b

Postscript: and a woodpecker, banging happily away in a tree just down from the where to roses will go, beyond the new tea trees. Life is good.

The Doomsday Vault

So I haven’t really mentioned it all that much this summer, mostly because things have been completely crazy between that nasty summer cold, an already-aggressive publishing schedule, and being invited to participate in more bundles than I ever expected. However, today (already for a few of you who read clear to the bottom of newsletters and such), the fifth Science Officer book comes out.

The Doomsday Vault is now available and pre-orders should have been delivered to your machines.

It seemed like a legitimate heist when someone hired Storm Gauntlet and her crew to go hijack some cargo. Pirate ships did that sort of thing.

However, whoever hired them didn’t count on the Science Officer’s sneakiness. Paranoia. Whatever.

The situation didn’t make sense. No one would deliver cargo to a dead planet. It had to be a trap. Someone had set them up.

But who? And why?

The Doomsday Vault follows the adventures of Javier Aritza, Suvi, and the rest of the crew of Storm Gauntlet in a story with unexpected twists, as well as surprising consequences.

This is also the beginning of a four volume arc that I call the “War of the Pirate Clans,” which will be the end of Season One.

I write these books like episodes of a British television show. (BBC, if you are listening, feel free to contact me about developing these characters for real. I have copious notes about Season Two already worked up. I just won’t get to them until Jessica is done.)

Interestingly, I have also set this story up as part of a much larger arc that I will write someday, involving Doyle Iwakuma, and thus, tying Alexandria Station more firmly into one grand whole.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and this arc. Unlike some authors I have read, I believe that all well-developed characters will evolve and grow over the course of a long series of books. That includes the villains as well as the heroes.

One of the key conflicts in the Javier Aritza books is with Djamila Sykora. The Dragoon is a hard woman, a warrior-monk in a male-dominated culture who will not take a gram of shit from people. I got to explore that here. I won’t spoil the rest of the series, but things will take several unexpected turns with that woman.

I also got to fill in more history of the universe. Javier’s time is rich with current events, but it is also the earliest set of stories that I have written in the Alexandria Station universe, so far. But The Doomsday Vault also takes place in the year 7550CE. Or, a little over five and a half millennia from now.  Five and a half millennia ago, Uruk was still a thing, in Sumeria, and the Egyptians were just starting down the road that would eventually lead to the pyramids.

And mind you, I have a spreadsheet entitled “The Future” where the first three line items are the birth of Yuri Gagarin, Chicago Pile 1, and Vostok 1, so you can imagine the sorts of notes I have about our future in that world. And I promise to get there, eventually.

But that takes time. Get Season One in your hands. Finish off Jessica’s story. Write other things. Circle back to Season Two and the long eras of the times until Javier is born in 7510CE.

I think you will enjoy this story. My readers to date have. And it sets up the sixth book, The Last Flagship, which I just sent to Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) this week. It comes out in October.

At the same time, I am just about ready to send volumes 7 & 8 to the first readers shortly.

The Hammerfield Gambit

The Hammerfield Payoff

Those are most likely going to both come out together in December, because I intentionally did a cliff-hanger in 7. (Don’t all tv shows cliff-hangers season enders?)

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. Characters will evolve. Worlds will be upended. Things will go a direction you never saw coming. But it will be fun.

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

Why This Story? (Time and Effort versus Money)

One of the interesting questions that a writer must ask themselves when they sit down to a blank screen is “Why This Story?” You can tell any story. All stories. But you have committed to this story.

Why?

But first, a note from our sponsors, with this short-term offer that’s going away in only a few days.

 

First: The Bundle Bundle Bundle with our selected Charity being AbleGamers. You’ve heard me talk about if for a few weeks. The bundle ends in three days and then you are back to spending way more money for the entertainment.

Second: the big Science Fiction giveaway. Your chance to win an ereader filled with books. Your chance to win just the books. For us, a chance for readers interested in space opera novels to find you.  And you to find us. I won’t spam you, except to say thanks and add you to the quarterly newsletter in hopes you stay with me for the long term. I have a lot of books to write.

 

Getting back to your effort.

Why are you telling this story?

And this is a question that the reader is going to ask you. Why did you decide to write this story and not one of the other ones you have been threatening them with for the last however long. What makes this story compelling? For the character, what was it about these events that made this the most important thing you could tell?

I tend to write serial. I grew up on comic books, so it was always natural to me to tell small chunks of a longer narrative as “chapters” in an epic, as it were. Other writers will want to tell you the entire massive epic trilogy in one long go, but you run the risk of bogging down (at least I do). You need to tell all those little bits that slowly move the story from where you are to where you need it to be to confront the boss monster.

One of the complaints many readers level at Tolkien is the amount of walking that goes on. I can’t really read JRR these days, because I find the story itself such a slog, with slow pacing mixed in with utterly irrelevant asides that wander off for several pages and never advance the story one bit.  LOTR is an effort to read, and I’m not willing to commit the interminable time necessary.

That’s me as the reader. So I have to face that as me the writer. How do I balance moving a longer arc forward with filling in all those little world-building details that make your place so rich with depth and voice?

As readers, we are misers. Nobody is going to necessarily commit to wade through a thousand pages of walking to get to the good bits. Not in this day and age.

Long ago, when Tolkien was publishing, there were far fewer options for the time of entertainment. In the US, three networks of television, plus radio ongoing. Movies. Live stage performance and vaudeville. Plus the few other books in any given genre.

Of those, books were the only one that gave the person consuming control. All the rest (in those humble days) could not be time-shifted to when it was convenient for the reader.

Now, they can binge on their favorite television show. All of the movies ever made are available somewhere on demand, either across the interwebs or in your personal video collection (for those of you old enough to have a stack of dvds on a shelf somewhere, because you haven’t backed them all up to digital files yet). Radio for teledrama is no longer really a thing, and people have hundreds of hours of audio files available.

The competition is fierce for the little time the reader is willing to commit, because the options have exploded in the last decade.

You need to keep up. Your story has to be compelling. It has to suck them right down to the bottom of the lake with the first paragraph and never ever let them surface until they finish. If they want mystery, they need to stay up all night trying to get to the end of the book. If they want space opera epics, you need to be destroying planets every other page to keep them interested.

Etc.

So why do you choose this story? What is it about the character, the setting, the world, and the problem that will make them decide to spend an evening with you instead of someone else?

Similarly, you can’t slog. I know you want to show all that world-building you have done, but you can’t go too far afield or you’ll lose them. The solution there is what they call micro-setting.  A single sentence, sometimes just a phrase, that communicates something to the reader’s subconscious mind. They probably won’t even notice, unless they are paying close attention, but it will be there.

I’ll give you a close example. The first two stories in “Agent Kiesler’s Secret War.”

#1: The Rescue. We start off by introducing the two main characters, Eva and Nik, and do it in such a way that you immediately understand the setting. Eva’s shooting a Nazi in the middle of a firefight, while rescuing Nik and hoping she doesn’t have to kill him to keep the Nazis from recapturing the man. That story never really lets go, even as we slow down a bit to frame the backstory, before the big car chase at the end.

Then a gap. Time unknown to the reader, because that was the paperwork part of being a secret agent.

#2: The Machine. Nik comes to the fore to help disable and destroy some mad science Nazi inventions that threaten to win the war. Mad Science!! Nazis!! Firefights!! Plus we meet the rest of the team and watch them work.

#3: Rocketman (unpublished). British Intelligence intercepts a message that an American scientist is at risk. Race into the night and darkness to get halfway across the country to stop them.

Again, time passed in between each story. Simple things, like eating, sleeping, and doing paperwork. Even in a war, you generally have two months or more of utter boredom, followed by five minutes of complete panic and risk, and then back to boredom.

Pay attention to your next novel you read. How does the author get you over those bits where nothing really happened? Was there a single sentence of paragraph that spanned long journeys with some hand-waving, or do we walk to Mordor, experiencing every day and rain drop? (That’s what it always feels like to me, at least.)

More importantly, do you, as the reader in control of everything, prefer that? Or would you like short stories bound up together as an arc?

Those of you old enough might remember the twelve volume series of Conan the Barbarian, published in the late seventies and early eighties. Robert Howard wrote a bunch of short stories, not novels. Later editors stacked them up in chronological timeframe order, rather than written order, and wrote what we call interstitials to describe, in a paragraph, the months of travel that saw our illustrious barbarian jump from here to there, possibly mentioning things that Howard discussed, but never wrote (at least that anyone ever found).

Howard stuck with the important bits, because he was writing short fiction for the pulps and making some miserable amount of money, but not enough. Had he lived longer, he might have written long things, because only “novelists” were respected in those days.

Today, the novel is frequently losing out, because readers on the bus commuting have less time to dedicate to some magnum opus. They will consume the shorter work, assuming it is well written, because that is a quick investment of time and attention, when money is really no longer the deciding element. (I have a friend whose coffee order is frequently more expensive than my novels in e-book format.)

Who is your reader? How do you find them? But, more importantly, how do you keep them entertained enough to keep them coming back for more? YMMV, seriously. For me, short and punchy is frequently, but not always, the answer. But even my novels never tend to lag. And if they do, it is because I have to get the story set up in a believable manner for most of my readers, and not just the ones that want one starship battle after another. (Occasional complaints about fashion porn notwithstanding. Heh.)

You can’t slog, either in the telling, or in the choosing.

Why this story? I think it tells the story I need to tell, as part of a longer arc, in the most compelling and entertaining way possible. I want you to come back for more, and bring all your friends with you.

Simple as that.

So what’s your excuse?

 

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA