Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Postscript

This year I partook in National Novel Writing Month for the first time because November 1st coincided with the time I was set to start writing the first book in my new near-future sci-fi series, Cold Reboot.

It’s the story of Erica, a woman who finds herself ten years older with no memory of how she spent the last decade, no record of her activities, and no clues other than the scars she seems to have picked up along the way. Can she adapt to this cold new world in time to figure out why people keep trying to kill her?

It’s a story about poverty and desperation, about people doing the best they can, about adaptability, identity, and the persistence of memory. It’s about trauma and our sense of self. It’s about the way the world flows, and the likely future we’re facing in 2025.

That was some of the most fun, I think, researching futurist predictions of the next decade and extrapolating from that. I tried to take a middle-of-the-road approach, neither overly cynical nor blindly optimistic, in describing a future that will come to meet us if we continue along our current path.

The Process

NaNoWriMo challenges entrants to write 50,000 words in a single month. That sounds like a lot, but to someone who writes full time it really isn’t, especially for a first draft. First drafts are light, breezy, easy… it’s the revisions that are the work.

In fact, that was a bit of a trick, for me. See, I write in layers. The first layer is the story’s structure. The bones. The bare “what happens” in a lean and economical style. I get the basic of story down without concern for the quality of my prose.

The second pass is the meat. I add substance. Subplots. Fleshed out lines of conversation.

Third pass is the surface, the skin, the chrome. I make everything pretty. Tidy it up.

Point is, my manuscript grows with each revision. I trim away the excess, but I add quite a bit as well. And that means that my first drafts — what I write for NaNoWriMo — are light. For Cold Reboot, it barely reached 50,000 words. By the time I’m done with my revisions it’ll probably come in at 60-80,000 words.

But that’s later.

Now, during December, Cold Reboot is going to sit and marinate and do its thing in the back of my head while I write the sequel. Then, in January, I’ll revise the book, get it ready, and — beta-readers willing — release it.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Galvanic Century in Kindle Unlimited

For at least the next three months the Galvanic Century books will be available through Kindle Unlimited.

Wait, doesn’t that mean that you have to enroll them in KDP Select?

Well, yes.

Doesn’t that make them exclusive to Amazon.

Well, yes.

Aren’t you generally against exclusivity?

Oh yes. Whenever possible, I advocate going wide. However, for the last few months the Galvanic Century titles’ sales have been, everywhere but Amazon, dribs and drabs. Taking them out of iBooks, Google, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo will cost me twenty dollars a month at most. I’m curious to see whether that $20 will be made up in KU page-reads.

What about your readers who lack Kindle devices?

Oh, it’s only an experiment for the next three months, and only for these titles. I’ve got a lot of new titles coming out next year, and I’ll be going wide with those… unless it turns out that nobody on other platforms is buying them. Then they’ll be select on Amazon.

And my books are also available in paperback, so you can buy them that way.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Optical Routers: From Radio to Laser

Scottish professor Harald Haas has been developing a way to transmit digital information using lasers, instead of the radio frequencies used in modern wi-fi.

His project has been working for the last four years to bring this “Li-fi” technology to life, using solar energy and a flickering LED system to transmit data. This would be faster than wi-fi, but requires line-of-sight connectivity.

This isn’t as big a limitation as it initially appears to be, as the LED pulses will be omnidirectional. A single Li-Fi router in the center of your room could supply information to everything operating on the same network.

For more distant transmissions, a similar technology could use multi-frequency laser beams. These beams would be almost impossible to “snoop” on due to their highly directional nature, unless the eavesdropping device were inserted into the beam itself. A community could set up a system of rooftop pylon relays to transmit the data along a set path, and as long as nothing interrupted said path, it would be powerful and secure.

A further extrapolation might see orbital (or stratospheric) information satellites beaming information to and from positions high above any receivers.

Staving off technoshock

Haas just announced the creation of a prototype Li-Fi router, and as I’m neck deep writing a thriller set in 2026 it’s causing me to re-evaluate some of the ways I present future technology. This is a good thing, though. I’m only on the first draft, so it won’t be hard for me to shuffle some things around without collapsing the whole house of cards.

I think.

That’s one of my goals when I write science fiction, though — to make my predictions as logically sound as possible, to extrapolate to a degree where tomorrow’s developments won’t invalidate today’s imaginings.

Have you read a science fiction book written in the past that was off-base enough about today’s technology that it pulled you out of the narrative?

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Stories to Order at the Chicago Book Expo

If you’re going to be in Chicago on November 21st, take a trip down to Columbia College and see me at the 2015 Chicago Book Expo. I’ll have a table where I’m selling books, giving away bookmarks, taking mailing list sign-ups, and offering spontaneously written stories.

Not buying? That’s cool. If you bring any books of mine down, I’ll cheerfully sign them for you.

It’s a bit last-minute, as far as holiday shipping goes, so I won’t nearly have as big a stock as I’d like, just the handful of copies I happen to have around the house. To supplement this for when I run out, I’ll also be writing spontaneous stories.

Spontaneous Stories

I got the idea from fellow author and all around good guy M. Todd Gallowglas. Essentially, someone pays me and I write a page-long story for them on the spot.

Now, I write novels these days but I started out with shorts. A single page is a short short, flash fiction, not a form I’ve dabbled in for some time. Still, with a week-and-a-half before the expo, I’ve plenty of time to get a feel for it again.

What do you like to see when you visit an author’s table? Beyond buying from them, what’s interesting or compelling to you?

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Bus Cake

A short time ago the girlfriend and I had to duck out of a birthday party early. It was a smashing good time, with lots of great food, wine, and company, but the person who was kind enough to give us transport out to the distant suburbs had an early call the next morning, so off we went.

It was before the cake had been served, so our generous host gave us huge slabs of it to go, for which we were grateful but a little overwhelmed; they were big pieces, and part of our sojourn home (after we had returned to the city) was by bus.

So there we are, sitting on the bus with these giant pieces of cake protected only by paper plates. The bus was, fortunately, not too crowded… just us and a group of slightly drunk guys in their early 20s.

One of them asked if we were carrying wedding cake.

“No, birthday.” I uncovered it, showing them the excellent frosting job. “Want a piece?”

They didn’t think we were serious at first, but to be honest it was a LOT of cake and I didn’t feel like carrying it all the way home.

After some prodding one of them (I forget his name) accepted a piece, and we had a long discussion about the merits and dangers of accepting cake from strangers on the CTA. His friends thought it was hilarious and awesome. I enjoyed the end of our conversation the most.

Me: (in a creepy voice) Enjoy the cake [guy’s name].

Guy: Oh man, why did you have to say it that way?

But in the end they got some cake and I got to inspire some cool story that that guy will be telling people for years to come, a story of strangers on the CTA united by delicious bus cake.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
Photo Credit: geishaboy500 via Compfight cc



October started out well. I’d worked up a production schedule, rededicated myself to my craft, made great plans for the last few months of the year, had it all together… and then things started to go wrong. My cat grew ill, and eventually passed away. Between vet visits, concern, mourning, and other arrangements, I didn’t get much work done.

Understandable, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that it threw my production schedule into disarray.

These things happen. Disasters happen. Tragedy happens. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and sometimes that enemy is just life. So we adapt.

October might have been a bust, but life goes on. The book I was going to start on this month is going to be my NaNoWriMo project for next month; I’ll start from scratch. Every release slated for next year gets shuffled down a month.

We adapt. It’s important to build in a little wiggle-room into our long-term planning for the things we cannot foresee or account for.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.
Photo Credit: geishaboy500 via Compfight cc

Short Story vs Novel

Someone on Reddit’s writing board asked a question about evaluating whether a premise works better as a short story or as a novel. Here’s the answer I gave about my own process:

Well, it depends on how you see short stories. For me, they’re not short novels. Different structure entirely.

A novel follows a character through a transformative arc where they overcome some flaw (or fail to, or fix some flaw the world has) through overcoming some obstacle to achieve some goal.

A short story, on the other hand, is more like a “joke.” There’s a set-up that establishes the context the reader needs and builds tension, then a reveal of some sort – the character makes a decision, or discovers something, or solves a puzzle, or something is revealed to the reader that the character knew but which was not opposite.

A novel is an emotional experience that builds and builds and builds and keeps someone entertained for the duration.

But a short story is just a sudden and powerful emotional slap across the face.

So in evaluating I ask myself what the idea seed is best used for… is it a journey for the reader, or just a jolt? Is there a reveal powerful enough to stand on its own (short story) or is it just a piece of a larger puzzle (novel)?

Bonus Tip: Take the same general idea and extract from it both a journey and a jolt. Write both. Use the short to promote the novel.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Gore Vidal Quote

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” – Gore Vidal

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.