More Javier

This seemed like a good time to blog about some of my upcoming stuff. The next six weeks are going to be slightly insane with things, as several projects all decided to come together at the same time. (Alternative Truths Anthology: The Last Ranger; Hiding Behind The Cowl superhero anthology I edited, some marketing with Ryan Zee for The Science Officer, the release of the fifth Auberon book: Flight of the Blackbird, etc.)

Most fun is the fourth Javier: The Pleasure Dome, which comes out May 10, 2017 (in case you end up reading this post in the way distant future and are a little lost chronologically.) After number three, The Gilded Cage, went a little dark, I was looking forward to something a little more light and cheery. Or at least as bright as Javier, Djamila, and Zakhar ever get. It succeeded, and at the same time ended up being a fairly deep and philosophical piece.

One of the things I love about these characters is how complex they are. I have known big-name authors who leave the background characters as little more than cardboard cutouts, while at the same time keeping the main characters as unchanging as humanly possible over tremendous arcs of story-telling.

I don’t know about you, but I like to change who I am on a fairly regular basis. The key to my happiness is jettisoning those things that do not delight me, and opening up space for new things to experience. I want my characters to be the same way. We all change as we grow up. We should demand that our characters do as well.

Think about it. Major things have happened to you. Earth-shattering, cataclysmic things. Births. Deaths. Loves. Hatreds. Wouldn’t you expect someone to react to the change? (Except movie James Bond. He never, ever, changes. And most comic-book superheroes use to be that way as well, but our storytellers are getting more sophisticated these days.)

So I finished the fourth Science Officer. And moved on to the fifth: The Doomsday Vault. It is due back from the copy editor shortly, and will be coming out in July, I think. Last week, I finished the sixth: The Last Flagship. Target: Fall 2017. Pretty soon, I’ll start Seven and Eight, which will be a double-episode season-ender. Think television and the cliff-hanger resolved at the beginning of next season.  I’m nice, and not making you wait, so I’ll drop them either a month apart, or maybe on the same day. (Your votes count, do comment with an opinion, if you have made it this far and are still awake.)

The first eight episodes will also be getting the omnibus treatment, according to Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm). 1-4 and 5-8 will come out as both combined ebooks and novel-sized print books. (And no, I don’t know when yet. The publishing schedule is written in pencil. Always.)

For fun, I have started planning out Season Two. I wrote a short story introduction (first 500 words) as part of a homework assignment, and decided that I liked it so much I kept going and ended up with a story I call 8.5. It will be kinda an interstitial between the end of Season One and the beginning of Season Two, and was meant as a standalone, but then writer-brain helpfully explained that it was the first of a handful of little stories we could write and stick in to explain some of the “off-season” changes that happen.

Yeah, it will make sense when I publish #9, at some point. It barely makes sense in my head, okay? I want to introduce new characters, but I don’t want to spend whole stories doing it, since these novellas are always 24,000-30,000 words long. Not a lot of space to mess around. Better to write side stories, like I did with Siren, and the one coming up after Red Admiral (you’ve been warned, so no complaining from the back).

My goal is to get out all the first season of the Science Officer stories so I can take a break and write some other things. Got a lot more superheroic fantasy to write. Want to write some more Fairchild. Got four more Jessica stories to complete to bring her to fruition.

The joy of Season Two is that I created this huge (YUGE!!) gap in my future history. Javier will be born 7510 CE. (Yes, seven thousand and ten, while I write this in two thousand seventeen.) SPACE. Places to work.

In The Mind Field, I talked a little about the founding of the Union of Man, some five hundred years in the past. 6965 CE, for instance. Rama Treadwell will be born in 6848 CE.

Way down the line.

In between, there are four major Eras of starflight I haven’t even begun to explore:

  • Mass colonization (the terraforming)
  • The Resource Wars
  • The Corporate Wars
  • The Pocket Empires Period

Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) is looking forward to what I have as “The Gas-Sailors Era” in my notes, long before starflight.

Season Two will add some archaeology to the mix, as Javier and the crew move beyond piracy and start exploring and trading. And no, the Prime Directive does NOT hold sway. Just the Bryce Connection.

I’ll write more when I get there, but I’m inspired and pulling the curtain back a wee bit. For those of you old enough, Buck Rogers (starring Gil Gerard) was all action season one, but moved to more exploration and science and less pulp for season two. I don’t think it worked, but that’e because they ruined Col. Deering by making her a bimbo, and Gil Gerard might be able to act his way out of a wet paper bag with a knife. Maybe.

But it offers me an option that is not Star Wars (grand, epic, save the galaxy from evil) nor Star Trek (a bright, clean future where a military organization is exploring and being nice to people). Serenity/Firefly is part of the palette, but they were limited by the political elements, and the fact that Joss never had time to develop a really deep and complicated world. I would have expected Aliens/First Contact sometime in season two or three, if the show had gone long enough. That would have moved us part Reconstruction, et al.

Battlestar Galactica (the first single season, I never bothered with the remake) was too much running away, find something interesting, talk a little bit, and then flee as more cylons show up for the final space dogfight.

And I grew up reading other things. Doc Smith. Robert E Howard. David Drake. Isaac Asimov. C.S. Friedman.

It all goes into the gumbo. And will come out, but they will come out as side projects in between things, rather than me spending the better part of a year dropping Science Officer stories. Of course, if they start selling like mad, I’ll keep feeding that beast. I have a ways to go to catch up with Perry Rhodan, but that’s not the same as me not trying. Tell all your friends, and I promise you I’ll try to crack three digits. You’re gonna have to sell a bunch of them before I got for four. Just telling 100 Science Officer stories would be 2.4 million words, ballpark.  I’d get bored. You’d get bored. Shit would get really, really weird before it got better.

But money talks. Let us not forget that part. And I like Javier, Djamila, and Zakhar. And I love Suvi.

Hopefully you will as well.  And Matt W is on-board to do audio books as well, so more of those are coming too.

shade and sweet water

blaze

West of the Mountains, WA

The Metric System

I’ll blame Thomas Jefferson.

At one point, this nation’s foremost Francophile politician found the Metric system too French to be thought of as a universal standard, even though many of his contemporaries would have happily moved to that system of weights and measures. Instead, we stayed with the Imperial system, which is a functionally irrational way to do things.

This is on my mind because I have always expected that the Unites States would eventually succumb and stop doing things in pounds, cups, and feet. When I write science fiction in the distant future, I have to use some measuring system for things. As an American from the boring parts of the Midwest, I would be expected to use that system, but there are only a handful of countries still doing it the old way.

Indeed, my expectation has always been that the metric system would become the standard. Certainly, it is more coherent. But making conversions in my head is not always fun. (Thank God for the internet and people way more nerdy than me.)

David Drake always talks about measuring systems in the future with an eye towards history. What we use today bears little resemblance to what the Greeks or Romans used (and he reads Latin for fun). But the modern reader (e.g. Early Twenty-First Century CE and the next few centuries) will need a system they are familiar with.

Ergo, metric. Americans and Brits can figure it out. Everyone else is already there.

This is all on my mind because of Brexit. Used to be, one could expect that Great Britain would slowly lose the battle for cultural weirdness and migrate over a couple more generations into using the same system as the rest of Europe. (Certainly, the idiots in Brussels required that bananas be sold by kilogram weight, and not as individual, pre-packaged units.)

Brexit means that the UK will go their own way. Defiantly, as well, when you get right down to it. Two fingers in the air in a general south-east direction, if you will.

I expect one of the first things they will do is stomp back to the Imperial system for everything. They may even pass a law that metric measurements be removed from packages good in the grocery. (It is a deeply held thing with them.)

But it also colors my view of the distant future.

I am a student of international political economics. (Did my advanced work at Claremont Graduate School in exactly that topic.) And a nerd for currency arbitrage. Plus, my first published paper of a political nature was an analysis of changes in standards of living using US Census data for Kansas over several decades. (Back in the days when you had to program a computer to handle least squares linear regressions and load the data from a flat file. Think days to get results for analysis.)

So I watch the world grow and change.

In my youth, the Soviet Union was an up and coming power. (I was in Petrograd the day Yeltsin was first elected President in 1991, and expected the country to collapse that summer, which it did. Black market currency rates don’t lie.)

Europe was slowly coming together, but the Great Experiment hadn’t gelled yet and it was going to be a small collection of Western European states. (This was before they decided to bring everyone in before they were ready.)

China under Deng had started down the long path to power, but was only starting out.

I look around today (2017), and Russia is failing hard and fast. They are facing a population crash almost as hard as Japan among working ages. Russians are drinking themselves to death, while Japanese tend to not have many kids. Both nations are a century from becoming theme parks ready for some new thing.

China got old before it got rich, and is facing a huge demographic problem where there are too many young, single men who will never find wives, because there are so many more men. Plus, the government is riding a tiger. It has to keep delivering growth, or a number of angry people will start listening to demagogues.

India is an interesting case study. A gigantic democracy, slowly industrializing, slowly becoming a place called India. They aren’t really. Each of the three dozen states is largely organized around a distinct language, where English tends to be the one that everyone speaks as a second or third language. India reminds me of where the United States was in the early eighteenth century: each colony its own country slowly joining with the others in a prickly relationship to become a greater thing.

Their problems (in my jaded opinion) are that the best and the brightest frequently migrate permanently to the United States after they get educated. Yay for me, living in a place where so many smart people want to invent the future, but India has a brain drain going on. Those are the people that would transform the nation away from being caste-conscious and into a place where Dalits aren’t Dalits anymore.

And the growth the Indians do have, while impressive to westerners, is focused on a small fraction of the total population, while the vast underclasses are ignored and getting further and further behind.

Why does all this matter?

We’re going to space soon.

In science fiction, we’re going to the stars. Either Earth will be a mono-culture, or several Terran cultures will individually colonize the galaxy.

Who will those cultures be?

It is a lovely thought experiment I like to play. How would the future turn out if the men and women who set the template for the galaxy were Jordanian? Moroccan? Mexican?

The world of Alexandria Station assumes seven major trade languages, plus all the hundreds of smaller dialects largely limited to a single planet or cultural group: English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, Kiswahili, and Bulgarian (don’t ask).

Languages as they exist today will largely standardize, and remain in place, only slowly evolving, because people can record their voice. That means that people will learn a new language from a “standard” template, rather than picking it up in their travels, absorbing words, and adding accents that eventually turn into a different spoken language. (See Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukinese, etc. that all use the same written words, but they speak their own dialect/language incomprehensible to others.)

So then I get back to the metric system.

The United States and United Kingdom use standard. Everyone else uses metric.

What will the future use?

Javier Aritza is currently operating in the year 7550CE. I’m close to done with Volume Six: The Last Flagship. You are about to be able to read Volume Four: The Pleasure Dome in a couple of weeks. (Volume Five: The Doomsday Vault comes out this summer.)

The metric system itself was a radical outgrowth of the French Revolution (and the Rise of Science from the ages of barbarity preceding).

I presume some radical social/political revolution someday will introduce some new system for doing things, but why, exactly, would you move away from a decimalized system? And if you don’t de-decimalize, why bother introducing a different decimalized system from the one you have?

But what if they future (and the galaxy) belongs entirely to a derivative/child culture of the US/UK alignment and everything is in stones, quid, and tablespoons? What does that do to all the science fiction out there?

I can’t be wrong, because I’m writing science fiction on a scale so grand that nobody will probably ever get there. (And if you do, please toast my memory and my ghost at this point at having gotten something even remotely close to accurate.)

You, the reader, needs to be able to understand distances, temperatures, and weights. I have chosen metrics. And, now that I think about it, I’m going to have to write an entire new epic space opera series (already planned, it comes after Jessica) where EVERYTHING is as convolutedly-English as I can make it. And they can get really weird: rods, hogsheads, and such.

I’m going to blame all of you, for not stopping me.

 

shade and sweet water,

blaze

West of the Mountains, WA

 

Hiding Behind the Cowl

So a while back, I mentioned that I was going to edit a superhero anthology, with lotsa details TBD at that point. Mostly because life happens, and stuff, and until you get to the final product and the delivery date, everything can go sideways in a heartbeat.

Good news. Hiding Behind the Cowl is now available for ebook pre-order on all the usual suspects. There will also be a print edition that goes up for sale around the same time (there is no pre-order function for paper, so timing is more interesting.)

I wanted to do this because the best way to find fans is to borrow them from other writers. Put my story in front of people buying it to read your story, and hopefully they will add me to their list. It is a tried and true method for discoverability.

In this case, editing was an adventure, all by itself. The original spec called for stories between 10,000 and 20,000 words. This is longer than traditional short stories, because I wanted to do superheroic fantasy, and that requires backstory to establish the world, the hero, the villain, and their origin. And THEN, go on an tell a story. The short one ended up around 13k. Annie Reed’s story (Faster, first in the antho) ended up at 37k.

I got this frantic email because she was on a roll and already at 26k, with no end in sight and was afraid she was going to have to chop it hard and maybe break the story to get it back down to length. The joy of this kind of anthology (royalty-share rather than paid by the word) is that you can go way long and just tell the story. Hers came in just under novel length, and I expect her to add enough detail later to a second edition of the same story to push it up over 40k.

The other grand adventure was Michael Kingswood’s story (A Switch In Time, last in the antho). He was joking with me when he said that he didn’t really have any ideas, because the one he wanted to explore was something no editor would touch. And with good reason. His idea was a Klan true-believer who becomes a hero to fight for the down-trodden, as he sees them. Think batman in a white hood and you can see why many editors would say no and walk away.

I was concerned when he sent me his submission. I mean, seriously? It turned out to be a brutal read, because he got inside the head of an unabashed racist with super-powers who sees himself as the hero in his story. (Every villain is also the hero in their own story, but that’s a different discussion.)

The language is raw. The hatred visceral. The casual brutality leans off the page and pimpslaps you.

But the story is good. You have a character, in a setting, with a problem, to meet the classic definition. Several characters try and fail, and suffer personal growth as a result. Other characters never change, and show how far the hero comes, from the first page to the last one.

By the end, the hero redeems himself.

Several editors I chatted informally with all suggested I bounce the story. After the BLM movement last year, a number of people (whom that author occasionally refers to as Social Justice Warriors in the pejorative) don’t want anything to do with a story that explores the inner mind of a racist.

Tough. Deal with it. Forcing these stories to not be published is a disservice to the whole reason we do this, which is to tell stories. And speculative fiction as a genre has always been about dealing with uncomfortable topics, frequently political themes thinly veiled in fictional settings.

On the other side, I appreciate that the story will put a lot of people off. So he went last.

In an anthology, the story that goes first sets the tone for everything. Annie’s Faster does just that. Light, adventurous, coming of age and the joy of doing good. The story that goes at the end leaves the reader with the emotional signature. Again, pimpslapped, but hopefully the reader will stop and question themselves, as the main character did on his path of enlightenment.

At the same time, I put that story last because if I didn’t, some readers would put the book down and walk away in the middle of that story, and never get to the ones behind it. It is a balancing act.

Will I catch hell from fragile, little snowflakes who don’t think that other people’s views are as important as their own righteousness? Probably. Don’t really give a shit. In this instance, the one bitching will be left-wing, but on other things, the right-wing is just as narrow-minded.

But there’s more to the anthology than just those two stories.

Leah Cutter wrote me a lovely manga coming of age piece. JD Brink gave me the origin story of one of his heroes.

My contribution was another story in the Modern Gods universe (White Crane, Breakfast Dragon, others coming soon). I went historical with this one, setting it in 1952 in Boston, MA. The hero is a 32-year-old WW2 Army veteran, pretending to be a 16-year-old sidekick, because he is 5’6″ tall and skinny.

Oh, and Japanese-American. Nissei.

One Puka Puka. Varsity Victory Volunteers. 34th Engineering. 442 Regimental Combat Team.

A man with two purple hearts and a silver star. Who isn’t allowed to be American, even as an American hero.

The story is also not the one I set out to write. The themes ended up far more adult and interesting than I had planned, but it works. Dark, but not brutal. PG-13 unless you read close, then your brain goes to a hard R in a hurry. (Everything is off screen.)

And it sets me up to write a sequel this summer. I’m publishing half a dozen or so Modern Gods stories this year. The Breakfast Dragon in “Steam. And Dragons.” Kid Lexington here. Daoma Dan. Chef Tom. The Coffee Doctor.

You should buy Hiding Behind The Cowl. And tell all your friends to buy it. They’ll need to buy a lot of copies if they want to have a good book-burning, and I won’t be offended, as long as the checks clear.  Hell, if you need pallet loads, let me know and I’ll make you a deal on drop-shipping them to your bbq.

Because I can…

shade and sweet water,

blaze

West of the Mountains, WA

Aces!!!

So one historical rule of writing was that a young writer often started with short fiction and got it placed into magazines, developing their craft and their audience. Over time, you (hopefully) got better at words and got more fans. Eventually, depending on the writer, you might write longer pieces and go after an agent and a New York book deal; or you might find a medium-sized press to publish collections of your shorter stuff as an interim.

Whatever your path, the goal was always to get printed books in bookstores as the key to discoverability. A reader walks the shelves and sees something, maybe something they would never otherwise pickup. Thus, a fan. And money.

This is interesting because I saw a statistical on the interwebs that something like 75% of all book sales these days are online, rather than in the bookstores.

My books are generally not available in most bookstores, with a few exceptions. Oh, you can order them, and they’ll arrive fast enough. But what I discovered a long time ago (before I became a writer-writer) was that it was easier to order a book from Amazon or whomever, and it would arrive on my doorstep, no second trip to the mall needed.

The rest of the world has apparently finally caught up with this logic.

Why is this important?

Had a chat on the topic with Fabulous Publisher Babe™ the other day and she explained that the reason why my print books are so expensive is because they need to be priced such that a bookstore makes a 40% profit off the retail price. That keeps the lights on and employs the nice people behind the counter who help you find the perfect book.

However, if I don’t care all that much about selling in a bookstore (hint hint), then I don’t need to set the price that high.

Outcome: ASE. Amazon Special Editions.

Starting with Jessica and Auberon, my publisher is doing Amazon Special Editions where she uses every trick she knows to make the novel shorter. Same story, fewer pages. The goal is a final price of $9.99 whenever possible. Jeff Bezos (Mr. Amazon) wants books in the $2.99-$9.99 range, and he has trained everybody to look for those price points.

That’s her goal. The books are physically shorter, mostly by adjusting the first page of a chapter (and those if you who know Jessica understand how many chapters she has). The result has been books we can sell at $9.99.

These are Amazon Special Editions, because no bookstore will touch them. Considering how few I sell at the range they want, don’t really care. What happens is that you can start picking up paper versions of my novels for under $10, as long as you don’t suffer from Amazon Derangement Syndrome (that person who hates Amazon with every fiber of their being and refuses to deal with them. You’d be surprised how many book dealers and middlemen suffer from it.)

As Mal said: About half the ‘verse are middlemen, and they don’t take kindly to being eliminated.

And Amazon is working on it.

Special Editions, by the way, aren’t a short-time deal. No artificial scarcity model where you must buy today. These are permanent versions of the books where we’re lowering your price, while I still make enough money from them to justify the additional work. (For example, I’m literally only going to make pennies on Goddess of War, whereas I might clear a couple bucks on the rest.)

This is, by the way, a measure of the future. Specialty bookstores will continue, because they offer curation as a service. Used bookstores offer cheap reads and the chance to go wander off the reservation and spend a few bucks on something you might never buy for full price.

It is the big box stores that will evaporate.

The smart stores will reinvent themselves as what used to be called department stores. You see this already in some, where they offer toys and games and stuff in addition to books. Or are physically attached to a store selling computer games (which, with the advent of Steam and such, means they are also selling lots of swag with high margins to keep the lights on). Or, even, as coffee shops, such as Ada’s in Seattle.

Over time, the big box book store as you have come to know it in the last generation will be gone. Jeff’s store is bigger, cleaner, and EVERYTHING is in stock, to be delivered in a few days if you want physical, and NOW if you want it ebook.

The only way to survive is to compete on Jeff’s terms.

Kobo is trying. A few others will as well, but they have to understand that Jeff isn’t just selling books, so they can’t either. On the internet, every other store is just across the way in the mall, and people can compare prices. And the stock is identical when dealing with books and music, so you are competing almost purely on price. Ease of checkout and completeness of stock matter, but again, there is no warehouse holding everything (Jeff is building fulfillment centers to make your delivery faster, not because he wants to have crap in hand to pay B&O taxes on.)

Long story short, I don’t plan to chase the quarter of the market that represents bookstores today. And that quarter is probably declining, but I don’t know where the bottom is. However, at the same time, why cut off my fans? I still see Extended Distribution sales (bookstores ordering my books) several times a year. Not a lot, but a few bucks here and there.

What Fabulous Publisher Babe tells me is that for now we’ll keep two editions out there. One for bookstores, at the 40% profit version, and ASEs for folks who want to order directly from Amazon and don’t mind the same story on a smaller number of pages.

You’ll generally be able to tell by the $9.99 price point, and the Amazon Special Edition sticker on the cover. Hope you enjoy, and let me know how else we can improve your experience.

 

blaze

West of the Mountains, WA

Marketing Troll (or “Oh, you’re a writer?)

Went to a fantastic birthday party last night with a few people I knew and a whole bunch of really neat strangers. Fabulous Publisher Babe ™ was with me. The shindig was for a group of folks who all celebrate March birthdays.

Was an absolute ball.

I don’t talk about being a data nerd at things like this, mostly because so many of the folks are artists of some sort. The host is a classically trained musician, to give you a flavor. Another woman I met absolutely assured me she couldn’t be an artist, let alone a writer, but finally had to confront that she had (if I understood her correctly) created the entire contents of a hilarious game, including writing all the fortunes. So, maybe…

At the party, the host liked to introduce me and the babe as writers, because, in his mind, that’s what we do. It’s where my (our) passion lies. And why I did one of the very few dedications I have done to him.

Of course, everyone asks “Oh, you’re a writer? What do you write?”

For me, that’s an easy question, so Fabulous Publisher Babe lets me answer first. Plus, I’m the Marketing Troll(tm). Pull out the wallet, grab a business card for The Science Officer or Auberon, and hand it to them with the explanation that the next in each series are coming out soon. (Javier in May, Jessica in June).

I have found that the return on the cards is low, but above zero. A standard business card is something you can stuff in a pocket, or put in your wallet/purse, and then you’ll find it again later and look at it.

According to scientific studies, you need to see something something like 3.4 times (THREE POINT FOUR!?!) in order for it to lock into your conscious mind for you to do something about it. In this case, first touch is me handing it to you and you reading it. Second is when you pull it out and look at it the next morning, or in the next few days. Then I’m halfway.

In this case, there were several people who were SF fans, so that might be enough. Plus, I’m happy to send book one in a series to anyone who asks. (Seriously, tell your friends. Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send them something. Working on stories to send to anyone in the sound of my voice soon, including you.) Lemme know if you have not read Science Officer or Auberon.

Hell, feel free to seed a download/sharing site with it. You aren’t stealing from me. You are advertising for me. The biggest problem for an indie author like me is getting the word out to enough people. TradPub has a big enough advertising budget and can automatically put books in bookstores. I think I’m a better writer than most of those folks, and I’m willing to compete. Heh.

So I went through a bunch of business cards last night. Maybe I’ll hear from those folks. Maybe not. Mostly, it is a way for me to meet people, break the ice, and hopefully give  them a way to connect with me. Also went through a bunch of the Babe’s cards as well, since she’s the actual brains of the outfit. And the boss. I just work here, and wear the Marketing Troll hat. (That’s me: Ollie the Marketing Troll. If you want marketing ideas, email me at Ollie AT Knotted Road Press (all one word) dot com. Yes, seriously. Why the hell not?)

I enjoy meeting artists. And there were a bunch there. The question the Babe and I always ask is: How can we help you achieve your goals?

Your success as a poet, musician, writer, painter, or actor does not detract from mine. It helps, actually, because the more art there is in the world, the better a place it is.

And I hope we helped some people.

I know that she did, because she had lunch with another woman yesterday who is a poet, just getting back into her craft after a series of life rolls. That woman wants to support herself with her art, and suddenly realized yesterday that not only was it possible, but it could be fun. We showed her that there was a door.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to be kicking that door in, sometime in the next month or three.

I got a text from the Babe asking if there was a way to include this new talent in a project I have coming up this fall. F@#$ yes. More people, more marketing opportunity for discovery. More chances at the wheel.

Every time I publish something, as the joke goes, there is a one in a million chance I will write something HUGE. The next Harry Potter. The next Hunger Games. The next something.

I just have to keep publishing, keep writing, and keep marketing. It makes me happy. And lets me help people.

What have you done today?

Birthday Girl

I’m celebrating a birthday today.

Because I can. (I think we’ve covered this logic before…)

I have an app on my phone that flashes a red balloon for each birthday on any given day. (If you don’t have one of these, get one. Greatest thing ever in this modern age, especially since I forget birthdays.)

Today’s birthday falls on a Sunday this year, so it is extra special.

The birth itself falls a bit in the future, however, because I write science fiction, and these things happen.

She is not the only one of my characters whose birthday will pop up on my reminder list, but hers is still the most important to me.

The following is a quote taken from The Story Road, the first of the Henri Baudin stories (I promise a trilogy one of these days. Gimme time). I will let her describe it:

I was born, if you will, on the nineteenth of March in the year 7,426 of the Old Calendar, the Homeworld Calendar. It was a rainy Sunday, when those things meant something. The Great War was raging, and the factories did not take a day off to rest. This last spring, when no one was about, I celebrated my five thousand, six hundred, and fifty-seventh birthday. I have been awake for most of them.

Suvi. Summer Baudin. The Historian. The Narrator of History in the Alexandria Station universe. The goofball who was Javier Aritza’s sidekick in his lifetime. Doyle Iwakuma’s greatest discovery. Henri Baundin’s teacher. Jessica Keller’s darkest secret.

I did not set out to make her thus. She grew into her role by refusing to be saddled with expectations or limitations. Suvi can be like that.

I was writing The Librarian, and needed to spell out more of her backstory, so I invented The Science Officer. She took on a life of her own after that.

I have just (JUST) finished with the fifth Javier story (four is coming out in May, I think. Details to follow). In it, Javier has a moment considering his own mortality in the context that Suvi was born before Javier’s grandfather, and will hopefully outlive him by a considerable amount.

And if he’s only going to have one child, he should make sure she turns out to be a pretty nice girl. I think she did. Certainly, she will probably outlive all of her cousins, the other Immortals.

And a good chunk of my career can be laid at her feet. The fact that I sell as many books as I do comes back to The Science Officer taking off when it did, and the Jessica books regularly selling well. And there will be more of both.

And time to fill in the gaps.

Over breakfast this morning, I was talking to Fabulous Publisher Babe™ about writing into some of those spaces one of these days. The Gas-Sailors Era. The Resource Wars. The Union of Man. The Concordancy War.

That will be possible because I expect to finish Jessica soon. I’ve always ever only planned nine novels, and I will start writing number six, The Red Admiral, this summer, right about the time that Flight of the Blackbird comes out.

I’m now done with the fifth Javier, The Doomsday Vault, in the last five minutes, and will head into the sixth one soon. (Title still iffy, leaning towards The Hounded Galleon.) Seven and Eight will follow closely as a double episode, and wrap up Season One, and then I’ll take a short break before I start Season Two. I currently can’t imagine where I go after sixteen Science Officer stories, but I’ll let y’all clamor for more and offer suggestions. He and I might be ready for that to end in a few years. And we might not. YMMV.

I want to step outside the Alexandria Station universe one of these days. I saw a picture the other day that simply popcorn kittened me hard. The picture showed a humanoid with four arms playing an electric sitar. That’s an alien concept, and there are no aliens in Alexandria Station. None. Made that decision early on, because I wanted to focus on a place where all the problems were human.

I can write good alien. It involves getting inside the head of someone who isn’t just an actor with a nasal prosthetic and some makeup. It is an entirely different way of seeing the world, interacting with it, talking about it. I have a lot of aliens running around in my head, wanting to be born, but Jessica Keller cracks the whip on them very hard and tells them to wait their turn.

She’s like that.

But Suvi is even more so.

She exists at all points after The Science Officer. She will outlive Javier, Doyle, Henri, and Jessica by millennia. That’s what happens when you are an AI. You can envision living forever. And that does make you a little alien.

She strives to remain human, however. To remember all the men and women she has loved over the centuries, even as they become reduced to pictures and footnotes. Forgotten by the rest of human civilization.

And she will be born on a rainy Sunday in March, five thousand, four hundred, and nine years from now.

Happy birthday, Suvi.

Overdrive (and stuff)

Background: a great many libraries in North America and other places use a service called Overdrive to acquire ebooks for loaning out. As I understand it, they pay a one-time fee for the title, and can then loan the ebook out to as many people who want to borrow it.

TradPub being stupid and greedy, they usually set that amount to some high price, at a time when most library systems are hard up for cash and cutting everything to the bone just to keep the lights on.

This is at the front of my mind because I was down in Lincoln City, Oregon a couple weeks ago at the Fiction River Anthology Workshop. Fabulous Publisher Babe™ was one of the editors this year. Mark from Kobo was there. Mark who pretty much invented Kobo Writing Life and made it a very profitable and useful thing.

And he likes my wife.

Kobo recently bought Overdrive. The Babe asked Mark to check, and we found out that while her novels are available in Overdrive, mine were not.

Past tense.

Apparently, Mark logged right into the system, looked me up, and toggled the little switch that put all my novels into Overdrive’s computer. (Mark’s kinda awesome that way.)

What this means is that all of Jessica Keller is or will shortly be available on the list, when your library is making purchasing decisions. Fairchild, Imposters, and White Crane as well.

If you wanted to go into your local library, you could fill out the little wishlist card they have and tell them that you want them to acquire the Jessica Keller series for their ebooks. (hint hint)

Best part? We’re setting the price down at the same price as they could buy it from Amazon. ($5.99 US). Stupidly, some of TradPub’s books are as much as $70.

I understand that they charge that amount because then the book is then loaned out any number of times.

But seriously. Blood-sucking vampires.

I would rather people read my books. Hell, as we speak, the fourth Science Officer (The Pleasure Dome) is scheduled to come out in May. It’s a novella, just like all the rest. However, the Babe plans to roll the first four books up into an Omnibus Edition, specifically so that it qualifies as a novel for the purposes of being in bookstores and Overdrive.

And, while we’re on the topic, I’m three-quarters of the way through Book Five (The Doomsday Vault), and plotting Book Six (The Flying Dutchman), Book Seven (The Hammerfield Gamble), and Book Eight (The Hammerfield Payoff). Those four will make up the second Javier Omnibus, and, coincidentally, cover Season One. And yes, I have a title for Book Nine, but I’m not sharing anything about Season Two just yet.

So, do me a favor? Go to your library and ask them to order Auberon. Hell, if it’s a small enough library, offer to buy them a copy. $5.99. Did you really need that extra-grande, soy, caramel, double latte today?

Oh, and while we’re on the topic. Fabulous Publisher Babe tells me that Flight of the Blackbird has gone up for June pre-order on all the usual suspects. Thank you for putting up with some of the weird shit that I have been publishing from my back catalog and strange imagination. There should be a raft of big Science Fiction and some superhero stuff coming over the rest of the year that ought to keep you entertained.

If you really loved me, you could also add a review on something you have read. Amazon and other places generally count the number of reviews a book has, and not the average rating. The Science Officer has 54, last I checked. I’m pretty sure 100 puts me on some cool lists. Auberon had 26 this morning. Is there something else of mine you’ve read that really touched your soul (in good ways, you perverts)?

Every little bit helps.

But Overdrive is really kinda kewl. And not just for me. Have you considered asking your local library to get ebooks by indie authors? Discoverability is the greatest problem we face. I write good stuff, but I don’t have a million dollar advertising budget to get the word out. That’s where you can help me, and all the other awesome writer folks you know.

Thank you.

It was twenty years ago today…

I had been living in SoCal in the early 90’s, going to Claremont Graduate School. Stayed for a while when I was done. Did some really interesting and weird (and stupid) shit, including working as a bouncer at a cowboy bar in Riverside, CA (primary guests were the cowboys from Norco and marines down from Twenty-Nine Palms or up from Pendleton, plus buckle-bunnies).

Left for good in the fall of ’95. Done. Literally sitting and bitching at my friend Bishop about how much I hated living there (at the time Fullerton, but all of SoCal). He looks at me and says, “So where do you want to live?”

Picked up the phone and called my mom to tell her I was leaving LA.

“Where?”

Dunno. Will let you know.

Had a variety of options, from randomness to moving back to Wichita, Ks. (Also had a standing invite to move to a Buddhist monastery in/near Houston, TX, but I didn’t want to live with them, even though they assured me I didn’t have to be a monk. They just wanted me to continue my studies in kung fu and teach eventually. Whole ‘nother story I might share over beer, sometime.)

Ended up in Wichita.

Got a job teaching at a community college. Got involved in the ’96 Senate races when Jill Docking ran against Sam Brownback. Jill and my dad had been friends for twenty years at that point.

We lost.

Looked around for options.

A friend from the LA days living in Seattle convinced me to move there. Things didn’t work out as intended, but I fell in love with the city and stayed anyway.

Talked to her out of the blue last week. Social media. She had found me. Hadn’t talked to her since maybe ’98. Weird.

But it got me to thinking about the past. And I realized that today would the 20th anniversary of that Monday morning I got in my little, red pickup and drove to Grand Junction. Then Baker City, then Federal Way.

Even the best psychics would have lost money on the next twenty years.

I found the most amazing woman and lost her to breast cancer in ’08 after ten years together. Dated another one for three years, but it didn’t work out (and I talked to her on social media this morning.)

Reconnected with Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) three and a half years ago when I threw most of me out and started over with a clean slate. Married her a year and a half ago.

People look at me and don’t realize I’ll be 48 this summer, so they have a hard time realizing that twenty years ago I was a grown adult doing crazy shit and looking to be shot at less often. And starting clean from all the stupidities of the Midwest and the Inland Empire.

Don’t really have much else to say, and I’m off schedule, but I wanted to take a minute to mark that milestone of picking my ass up and moving cross-country again, looking for that horizon.

It was twenty years ago today…

Blaze Ward has a new book out?

Amazon just let me know I have a new book out. A little background:

Around 2005, I stopped writing poetry with the sort of passion I had previously had. That was when my first wife was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given six months to live. (She ended up making it a little over three years, but there was never going to be a cure, and she was only bad the last six weeks or so. The end, when it came, was two days. But that’s a story for another day, maybe. I miss her everyday.)

The poetry had been epic fantasy, for the most part, with occasional forays into what might be considered contemporary fantasy as well. As you can see, I have slowly started publishing it, but you’ve seen perhaps a fifth, maybe a quarter, to date.

Getting back. I wrote a play. Don’t ask me why. I had become someone else. That someone wrote plays.

I used to be into drama, when I was a kid. Did a pair of three-week things every summer for a number of years, where we learned a new short comedy, two-act musical, and traveled around to all the summer schools in town performing them.  (If you ask, Val Cheatham is probably the person most responsible for how I turned out. I hope he knew that. Probably been 30 years since I’ve seen him.)

So I wrote a play. Or rather, I took an event, and filed off enough of the serial numbers to protect the guilty. The play is Strangers, and is contained in Beyond the Mirror, Volume 4: Dramatic Worlds.

It is based on a true story. I can say that, now. They were Italians, not Irish. It took place in the midwest, instead of Boston. And the FBI never showed up on the doorstep. Most of the rest of it went down just like that. (There is a reason I spent most of the 90’s with a loaded firearm within easy reach of my bed. It involved pointing a loaded .357 at a couple of people as they sped off in their car. I’m pretty sure they were the guardian angels, but never asked.)

As far as I know, today, 2017, I’m the only person directly involved in that situation still alive. She died about twenty years ago from a drug overdose, after her life took a downhill turn. Many of the boys got incarcerated by the FBI in the early 90’s. A few of them went down fighting instead.

That is neither here nor there.

I wrote Strangers. Liked it. Liked Cisco and Jefferson enough that I wrote another one, Sins of the Fathers. By then, I was on a role. Witness For The Prosecution. Leap of Faith.

Ran out of things to say for Cisco. By Cisco. About Cisco. Tried a few times, but there were no words. Poked at him occasionally, but he really had run out of things he needed to say. And I had become someone else a few more times. (Did write a few other things in that interval that ran out around 2010. They’re coming next month in Volume 5.)

Then everything went into a trunk. Tried my hand at writing screenplays. Have a few of those, but never got beyond the “maybe we’re interested, but you want too much (read: any) money…” phase. Probably not going anywhere, but the door is open.

Fast forward to 2013. I had dated Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) after Donna died, but it never really went anywhere. Then we connected again, but in the interval we had both become other people from then, and it worked.

She convinced me to start writing again, with intent. You’ve seen the results. You will continue to see them.

But I also published some of that old poetry. And last fall, I asked her sister about the plays, and Kris was all over that.

This is the future. As an indie press, we can put out anything we want. Ebooks cost nothing to keep up forever. Paper books are print on demand, so we don’t have to front any cash for stock that we have to stash under a bed and eventually throw away.

Just publish.

And keep publishing.

Gamer joke: Every single time you hit the publish button, roll 10d6, target number 58. If you succeed, you’ve just written Harry Potter. Or Hunger Games. etc. Lots and lots of money. Over time, that number slowly comes down. And as people like you, that number slowly comes down. When you hit twenty or twenty-five novels, that number comes down.

But you have to keep publishing. (And you have to keep learning, and improving your craft, and, and, and…)

For me, I’ve been writing as long as I have had words. There are things I wrote thirty-plus years ago, long hand, still sitting carefully in my pile, waiting for me to get around to typing them into something I can publish, someday.

So I have a new book that just came out. Beyond the Mirror, Volume 4: Dramatic Worlds (Cisco). In the process of writing this post, the Babe just reminded me that she has put #5 up for pre-order, so I stopped long enough to “claim” it on Amazon (long, technical discussion unnecessary here). It will come out next 10th. (March 10, 2017, for those of you keeping score at home.)

I keep hoping something will explode. It will, one of these days. And in the meantime, I hope to entertain folks with my words. (My dirty little secret? I don’t do this for y’all. I write because these are the stories I want to read, to hear, to know. You are just along for the ride.)

So thank you, in case you haven’t heard it enough from folks like me. Most of us wouldn’t be here without you.

shade and sweet water,

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

There is a new BlazeWard.com Marketplace (or “Why I Love The Future…”)

So first off, my apologies for two blog posts in one day. I had set a reminder to myself to update the marketplace, and then promptly forgot and wrote the other blog post. Then my alarm went off. Whatever.

Back at the Master Publishing Workshop in October, somebody said Society6.com was the best choice for custom branded swag. They were right. I had way more options for stuff that I could put an image on than I ever expected. (And I’m drooling a bit at the thought of a custom comforter, but not today.)

Long story short, I finally managed to put up the Auberon ship’s Badge as something you could slap onto a coffee mug or a t-shirt (I have the first of both coming in the mail as you read this.)

Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) specifically did a tote bag, so she could order one for herself.

All that and more is now available, and I’ll throw more things up there as time and demand dictate. (Anybody want Athena’s badge slapped on something to order?)

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new BlazeWard Marketplace. (As hosted by Knotted Road Press and Fabulous Publisher Babe.)

Y’all go nuts.