I have created a coupon at Smashwords for the eBook of WOMEN AND MONSTERS.
That is the coupon code.
This is the eBook at Smashwords.
It drops the price down well below the 2.99 mark. As far below it as possible.
For one day.
Because the world looks like it needs some generosity today, and this is a way I can provide it as I am able.
Be kind to each other, out there. Love thy neighbor as thyself and all that.
Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.
Monday, June 30, 2014
I have created a coupon at Smashwords for the eBook of WOMEN AND MONSTERS.
The emergence of a new Caliphate in the wild, untamed, war-torn wastes of Iraq is quite unfortunate for anyone who believes democracy is a better situation than a religious fascist dictatorship. Still, I can't help but wonder if the people in power in our own country, just a few years ago, were sort of hoping and planning for a scenario like this one. Political extremism in our country is generally relegated to anti-woman and anti-immigrant actions and activities, also the breakdown of public aid situations presumably meant to drive everyone in their hour of need to a religious charity instead. It is not a good system, generally. And, it is sort of discussed as a separate issue to the emerging caliphate in destabilized Iraq.
But, they are tied to each other, in every way imaginable.
First, since the crusades and the Imperialism that followed, carving up the land into countries that had no relationship to the people on the ground at their birth, there has been a culture of fear and intimidation, where both Islam and Christianity have difficulty trusting each other, and certainly Islam can say they have been under assault for thousands of years, in one fashion or another. Generally, these wars have been fought on soil held by Islam. Once, when Spain was taken by African Muslims, there was an actual invasion north, but this kingdom did not hold for long, and the Spanish crown recovered what was lost. The West has invaded. The West has come for oil, and manpower, and the conversion of souls. The West has built churches of wealth and beauty while permitting the mosques to decay. The West declared a Jewish kingdom, and unfortunately, everyone was so afraid of Jews and Judaism. We were all so racist and awful about the community of Holocaust survivors. There is so much history. History has set us all up for failure as the failures of so many generations push the boundaries together.
Second, in our own country, the religious extremism of the halls of power seeks to recreate the Book of Revelations to create the "end times" that actually don't sound so wonderful, nor so ideal, with lots of death and destruction and damnation. But, you know, the good people are saved, right? Yeah. But the world is destroyed. With that destruction, the wonder of grass and trees and flowers, the push of life in the fields were does run and doves fly and hawks descend and life happens is lost, in some mythical parable of humanity's apotheosis by fire, as if we are all that matters of the living here. Anyway, that's a discussion for a different day. Today, let us consider the Book of Revelations, and the goals therein. The religious fanatics in our own country, who espouse the fundamental Christian agenda, have been hoping and praying for the return of Christ. They have been wishing for it, and dreaming of it, and seeking it out, in sort of the same way that a bullied child dreams of being the owner of the company while the bullies all grow up to be janitors. ("Just you wait, all you doubters, and people who think I'm wasting my life, because when Jesus gets here, you're all going to regret it!")
(I am, myself, a Roman Catholic, and I work at a Christian Bookstore that I adore, and I can't help but wonder at anyone who wants to hasten the end times, when it is pretty clear to me it doesn't happen when we want it to happen, nor when we think it should. In fact, I suspect that the end times come for all of us at the end of our lives. For, the world exists in our senses. Once our senses are lost, in death, and we burn away into the tiniest shell of soul and bacterial presence, returning to soil, then this is the end of the world. The theological mistake we often make in our religion is to misinterpret the personal as universals. And, it is a gross misjudgment of Islam to describe a religion that is so committed to peace and harmony and justice as a violent or fascist religion, and, as ever, on the ground, the fanatics can get funky. But, I digress...)
Historically, and recently, the region of the world described as the Middle East is very unstable and difficult for a variety of reasons. But, one thing is clear: To hold power in the region and create stability for the people who live there and deserve to live without war, unfortunately only really strong dictatorships seem capable of succeeding there. Ergo, the flowerings of democracy in the Arab Spring do not look like they will be able to hold without some serious cultivation and effort. Unfortunately, the blood of many patriots has already spilled to provide that fertilizing. Now, students of history, particularly recent history, will note that this is the way regions play out after an exploitation system disguised as an "empire" pulls away from areas, generally.
Generally, people in power should be able to predict that destabilizing the balance of power in a tense, taught region like the Middle East, will lead to the rise of some serious dictator shit. Some religious fanatic will grab power violently and quickly and start the execution machines pretty quick in the face of a weak, underfunded, young democracy. This was a likely outcome, even early on in the planning stages, and described as a sort of "worst-case-scenario" of the Iraq war, from the get go. But, if you believe that the end times are coming, this is a "best-case-scenario" because it means we are one step closer to the end times, where Jesus comes down and culls the herd and the fire and the horsemen and all that symbolism made literal.
Remember, again, I am Catholic, and have read my fair share of the Bible, and I don't think you can adequately read the Bible as a literal document. For us Catholics, the Bible is a very useful document, but Jesus didn't write it, himself. He inspired it. He never wrote a word of it. He was busy practicing what he was preaching to write anything down. And, the revelations of Paul of the end times was a metaphoric way of addressing reality, not to be confused with actual reality.
Unless you are a fundamentalist Christian, and the Bible is literally true, and things not contained therein are categorically either false or unnecessary complications. In that case, the emergent Caliphate of Iraq is an opportunity to see the end times in our own lifetimes.
Evangelical, Fundamental Christianity has become the tool of an infection that plagues our own society: We have our own deadly Caliphate. They would see children of color die in poverty instead of receiving basic care. They ship black sons away to die in prison in a continuation of slavery with the War on Drugs that started on their watch. They oppress women, and remove them from the halls of power and remove control over their own bodies as it doesn't align with the will of the religious doctrine.
This is an infection of male power fantasies, not true religion. The idea that an individual man can transcend the flesh if only that man can live correctly, by a strict rule of law, and in this transcend, transcend, gain power, gain the favor of unknowable and otherwise quiet gods.
We have our own deadly Caliphate right here, in our country, and they hold rallies, have their own news channel for their true, correct news information, and we are saved only that the rule of law, here, permits us to vote them out of power for a while. But, their appointments remain. Their infection remains.
As a student of American History, and a white male, I can understand our caliphate only in relation to racism and the history of slavery. It is a power mindset of ownership, and the power mindset of divine rights. And, we have a big army, and the religious fanatics that were in power when the GOP declared war on Iraq despite the absence of evidence of WMD, saw an opportunity to destabilize a region, and they crossed their fingers and prayed to God that they would live to see the glory of the end times.
Never pray for glory. Glory is for God, not man. Never pray for power over others. Never pray for revenge. Pray only to be grateful, and to be amazed, and to give up our anxieties to God, that we may trust to have enough, for we are not begging God for things, but begging God for the power to endure the things.
Also, defeat the American Christian Caliphate. Strip them of power. Throw them from the halls of history, to the fringes of society where they belong. Do this, lest they continue down the path of Revelations. When presented the beauty of the forests and the fields, who would dare dream that mankind was the only reason life was created at all? Who would be so arrogant as to suggest that the flowering cactus in the hardest soil, blooming in the living desert, would do so because it is part of a factory of heavenly souls? Can the world's existence be beautiful and true without the promise of a hereafter that's even better? Can we accept what we have as cosmically enough, and thank God for it, here?
Can we live in a world that doesn't make religion and spirituality the tool of power to push people into roles subservient to others?
Friday, June 27, 2014
This showed up. Over at Kirkus Reviews:
I am so extremely grateful for the support of Thea and Ana over at the Booksmugglers. After a long week of work, and so many ups and downs in my private life, this.
It's lovely to know that someone is reading, and people are talking and championing and doing so much.
Thank you! Thank you to everyone who writes reviews! Thank you to everyone who has written them!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Always something happening, and people talking about the happening, and sharing links about the happening, and always things happening of national importance.
I long for the power to cast a sleep spell across the world, and let everyone lie back, recline, and rest their eyes.
For one day, all bullets sleep. For one day, all cruel barbs and thoughtless words flame out before they touch the tongue. All sportsmen decline to appear, and no one is concerned about their absence. For just one day, the traffic lights hold still. No one drives, anyway. We just rest. Absolutely nothing happens. No one is born. No one dies. Nothing changes for one day.
We are drowning in the ocean of noise, of events, of human life pouring at us from every haunted windowpane, where ghosts flicker, and pinging beeps demand the buttons be pushed. We are drowning in this ocean of news.
Most of us have forgotten that we are, each of us, the drop that contains the whole ocean, and not a drifting particle of it, separated from our true place in the flood and flow.
For just one day, I imagine a day without news.
We all stay home. The televisions don't turn on. There are plenty of leftovers in the fridge. The dogs are walked. The cats are fed. The children hide in their rooms reading books and playing board games. And we, the grown and serious, drink tea and watch the flowers bloom in the yard or the windowsill garden, and for just one day there is no news to distract us from the sea inside. Our journey into the silent land would bring us all such peace, a sabbath rest and a stillness of mind, and books, glorious books, to fill us up with the things too often drowned out by the NOWNOWNOW tides of updates and outbreaks and statements and developments.
Still the mind.
For just one day.
with a busted bed frame, we've been sleeping all over the house. replacement is coming in today. the broken bed had been slightly broken during a move, and broke completely, eventually, sometime in the night when we were too deep asleep to notice anything.
i've been sleeping on the couch, then.
i'm rough around the edges, exhausted, and too tired to write this morning.
so, i'm going to do it anyway. the difference, i guess, between a professional writer and an amateur, beyond the money, is that being responsible about one's career requires writing even when one has been having bad dreams for weeks, and sleeping on couches, and waking up exhausted, dehydrated, hot. all i want to do is sit in a cool bath and listen to audio books and instead i am here.
books don't write themselves.
i want to start a litmag called "modern economy". it would have theme issues. it would be genre-agnostic. i can't start one unless i make more money writing, so i have to go write.
so go write.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
If folks are interested in signed copies of any of my books, there are basically two ways to go about it. First, one could contact one of my publishers and ask if any are available. I don't think Night Shade will have any, nor am I sure how anyone would reach them about it, but Apex and WordHorde are both very friendly with useful contact information on their respective web sites.
Second, where I live in San Antonio, I have an excellent relationship to the two independent bookstores here, in town. Call Viva Books or the Twig Bookshop in San Antonio, who are both easy to find in Google.
(Everyone at Viva knows me very well. At the Twig, definitely ask for Claudia, because she knows exactly how to find me.)
Make sure to tell the person on the phone that you want a signed copy, not just any ol' copy.
Here are the websites:
The Twig (Remember to ask for Claudia!)
Either one will work great, and they are both wonderful, independent bookstores with a strong, independent spirit. They both ship.
Requests for personalization are easy to arrange, in this case, if you want the book to be a gift.
I'm going to be stickying this post somewhere on the side, you know, for future reference.
Last night, on a lark, I plucked a Albert Camus' celebrated classic, THE STRANGER, off the bookshelf and read it through. It is a short novel, and a quick one to read. These days, it would likely be classed a novella, and combined with other things. It is such a pleasure, while reading so many very long things, to sit down and finish something in a sitting on a lark.
The story is simple enough. A man narrates the death of his mother, her funeral, and then the days afterwards where he ends up, in a manner not unlike washing ashore upon a hard stone, shoots an unnamed Arab gentleman on the beach repeatedly with a friend's gun.
The second part of the book is the trial from the prisoner's perspective, and subsequent incarceration, leading up to a presumed beheading.
The philosophy of the novel, if there is one, is a sort of Sartrean moment, and rejection of all faith and all society, except what parts of it are interesting to the accused. The simple pleasure of a swim on the beach, the love of a woman, and the fine meal with friends is all he desires. Anything that hampers that, including his own sickly mother, is an unpleasant thing, to be avoided. Send it away. Ship her off somewhere where people can look after her and she can live again.
Also, death comes. In death, in knowing death, and experiencing it hanging over an individual soul like a fresh tattoo, the beauty and wonder of the imagination and life flowers. The self cuts through the nonsense, beyond fear, driven by fear, and finds the true self for a while.
The book really seems to try too hard to be "ABOUT THE 20TH CENTURY!" and the MODERN TIMES. By stepping back and being so general, it loses the power that comes from great specificity, in such an interesting place and time, with such brutality and naked colonialism. The message of the absurd and the excessive condemnation of a society that seems to have created the monster it destroys is muted by the failure of the space to feel specific. All of the cosmos exists in single, precise gestures and lives. The alienation I felt was not indicative of the human condition, but indicative of a failure of an artist to provide ample support for their world.
My opinion is obviously not shared by the Nobel Prize Committee, or most of Academia, but we are allowed to disagree.
I may not agree with the book, but it is a thoughtful and relatively simple one to read. I did not like it as much as I liked THE PLAGUE. And, the narrator is absolutely horrible, and it is hard not to agree with his guilt, even if beheading the man is so extreme, and the trial is a farce. The narrator is cold, callous, and sociopathic, and has no issue in the slightest lying and taking advantage of others whenever it is easier to do so than not to do so. Whomever stands before him can convince him to do anything, agree with anything, with one exception: a priest. He couldn't care less about his own life, really, even on the brink of losing it. The only certain thing he holds onto his a nihilistic rejection of religion, and a full-throated embrace of objectification of women.
An interesting character-study, perhaps, but definitely not an enjoyable one.
Also, I felt like I was reading a lesser version of George Simenon's wonderful masterpiece, DIRTY SNOW. I would recommend that over Camus' STRANGER, instead. Many of the same ideas are present, including, alas, the misogynistic ones of the place and time, but they are fleshed out and made real with more depth and meaning, and the characters around the monster are allowed to be fully realized, and not just faces in the gallery around the accused, more mask and symbol than flesh and blood and bone.
So, skip the Stranger. Read Simenon.
Monday, June 23, 2014
On human bodies, the necessary part of us is our brain, at the top of our heads, and if we lose that nothing else matters.
In trees, the root ball where the trunk begins to rise is that part. From there, one could cut away the top and graft something else on and it would make no difference to the tree below, generally.
In humans, our reproductive organs and the exhalation of our waste materials happen below.
In trees, the waste matter goes up, and the flowers bloom on long stalks, where the seeds mature in the air, and spread through the air where our mammalian children run over the land to chase the cottonwood puffs far away from us.
The soul of the plant is in the ground. The way they talk and share knowledge is through the soil where roots spread and form interlocking communities with the complex web of life in the soil. They drink from there, and eat down there. This is where they live their lives, hold their parties, and ease their infants into the world of the living. The roots are larger than the trees above them. Mesquite taproots descend a mile into the earth, down and down like a tower of babel in reverse. Fig roots reach around and spread widely, seeking all the food and water greedy for it.
We are looking at each other, but we do not see each other. We see each other only upside down.
And the trees do see us. The soil is upended, and the bodies descend into the earth. They taste the bacteria and fungi of our skin, the populations of things that live inside of us, and go down into the soil, and from there they communicate with what is left of us, and learn of our strange, above-ground cities.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
i have had nightmares for a few nights in a row, now. last night was the worst. i dreamt that i had been offered the chance to go back to high school, and do it all over again (which is bad enough!) still, i righteously decided to be positive and be a warrior for good in the past, and ignore all the bollocks high school nonsense, because i was a grown, confidant man in a boy's body. i marched to school, proudly declaring to myself that i was going to be change. i was going to make a difference this time.
i walked up to the first ostracized kid i saw, and said a cheerful hello. i looked in to one of the worst teachers i had, a couch of some sort of sport, who had often simmered a little homophobia from the edges of his mouth. it was catholic school in the early nineties in central texas, so that was par for the course, and evidence indicates it remains so. not me, though. i was going to be a force for good. i was going to bravely stand up for the rights and humanity of the people around me. i knew better.
so i did exactly that, as class was shuffling in to the desks for another hour of meaningless "education" in texas history or health or something ridiculous and ridiculously unhelpful to me as an adult, freethinking, reading, writing, human citizen. he was offended, and turned away from the class to stop one of the students from coming into the class and quickly, cleanly sliced the young man's throat.
the kid he killed had been acting gay.
we screamed. we howled. he was the authority. he said the boy was acting gay and we had to take it. we had to sit down and go on with our class like it hadn't happened at all.
this isn't the worst dream i've had these few nights.
they've all had this same pattern, where i start down this difficult path, decide to do my best, and try my best, and make the best of things, and then something unspeakable happens to slaughter the cheerful mood.
i expect i'll be staying up very late tonight, trying to still my mind, and find something better to dream about. i don't want to sleep right now. i don't want to dream.
tell me your bad dreams. what is the worst dream you've had. in speaking of them, there is power over them.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Every minute of our lives will be spent in public and private space. I am at a desk in a public space, waiting for students to arrive and use our facility. The layout of the room was designed with this in mind, a big, open computer lab, with desks in back for tutors and teachers to observe without leaning over a shoulder. There are classrooms that began as a thought in someone's head, with a layout of desks designed by someone.
I parked in a garage near here. The side of the building is covered in recycled plastic that forms an elegant and otherworldy weave pattern. There is little utilitarian function for it beyond just shading the hard concrete, but it is ornamental and distinctive and recycled.
Every building in all the cities of the world, every room began as an idea in someone's head, sketched out on paper, imagined and observed by moneyed interests that got to choose to make real or not.
We invent our landscape as a community. We go from parks carved out, selected, interpreted by designers of parks, and implemented. Our homes were built by architects and contractors who design homes to sell homes to people, and then we buy homes because of furniture, or buy furniture because of homes.
At the end of the day, everything we see is designed.
Architecture is a rough gig. It requires long years of schooling, and afterwards a long apprenticeship in an unstable field, paying relatively little. They scrounge around for sponsorship, marrying rich if they are lucky. All for art, they tour the continents, observing the great palaces and gardens and the way light moves across rooms in open space.
Every road is planned out, considered as a means and method and artery of life. Every cul-de-sac is intended for a lifestyle that it supports, like a pulsing organ. Every grand, huge building that bears some incredible name is at once a monolith of the founder, and an outward expression of interior belief.
Everything is designed. Everywhere is designed.
We are all walking inside the imagination of the city, itself.
We are all sleeping in a room born in someone else's head.
We hang curtains inside the imagination, and hang pictures on the walls and call it ours.
Call the architects and urban planners. Tell them how you want to live, and they will build it for you carefully, precisely, and the imagination of space lives on long beyond our lives in the solidity of steel and stone and heavy, red bricks.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Wash ashore against long, difficult novels, and see if you can beat them. These great, huge tomes that linger in the cultural moment, and hang over the academics like an anchor. They sink beneath them, and readers rarely finish them whole.
Attempting Ulysses, again, from which I have only ever gotten slightly beyond halfway before intellectual exhaustion sets in and I long for shorter books, I am reminded of very large video games. There are these big, huge games, and they are big and huge, and it is rare that anyone actually gets to the end of them. I remember a discussion at work where they were debating the length to make games, and the size of them, and the big, huge novels do not have the same amount of necessary resources in their creation. A lonely person sitting in a room, probably the attic, or an apartment with a loft, carefully and patiently creating, line-by-line, editing line-by-line, until exhaustion is a state of being so omnipresent that the soul itself might crumble a little, but only one soul - maybe two if there is a dedicated editor - and then the book is done.
Long video games have teams that stretch into the hundreds, and each asset is on a spreadsheet and must be delivered on-time to be entered into the production cycle of the game. And, who ever reaches the end of them? I have abandoned long games entirely. I have no time for these commitments of long stretches of time, finding greater joy in gardening and cooking than in slaughtering imaginary beasts. I am growing carbon and mulching carbon, growing food and eating food, in my efforts to do a little bit to save the world. I look at the games I do play, like the ridiculously corny NUN ATTACK! and KINGDOM RUSH, and find I prefer the smallest possible window of game. When I arise, exhausted from my day, I have no mental energy to pound against Demon Souls. I have to rest, lie fallow, and find simple things to recover my sense of self from long stretches of complex, difficult, and challenging work. And so many human lives burned down to build them. So many marriages failed over the crunch times. So many families broke bouncing from one city to another after the next upward push in staffing.
Better only one martyr. I'm washing ashore against Ulysses. I have a few books like this one, where I have never finished them, but I do, occasionally, wash ashore and get as far as I can until my mind will have no more of it. I prefer shorter novels. I think about how James Joyce died in Zurich, mostly in penury all his life, and supported by a family and friends that all loved him so much that they would do anything to permit him the time and space to produce this book that no one understands. His perforated ulcer is the sort of disease that a sedentary man might have, a deadly form of bacterial indigestion that spills out of his guts and consumes him.
This big, long works of art ask so much of everyone. They ask so much of readers, and so much of creators. I am suspicious that the thing that drives me away from things like TIN DRUM and ULYSSES and Herodotus' HISTORIES is how I am afraid that if I start reading them, I will want to start writing them. I have always noticed, looking at them with the eyes of an artist, that the longer a book is, the smaller it is. What I mean is this: Reader attention can only stretch so far, and only permit so many great chances in a text, and the longer the text (or game) the fewer chances an artist has to really go off the rails without losing everyone. In poetry, there is so much room for invention. There is limitless space for invention in poetry. In short stories, chances are over so quickly, that readers will ride out with them. Short novels (and short games) are often the jeweler's gemstones and ornamental pieces of great, careful craftsmanship. Big, lumbering things, building up a head of steam and charging out into the horizon, racing for it, casts of characters, and castings of poesy, all building up steam and building up steam will not have the methodical precision. Marathons are not beautiful races, like sprints. Marathons are steam engines, where willpower breaks a little along the way, in such tiny ways. Sprinters running are just so beautiful.
I'm reading ULYSSES again, washing ashore upon Dublin's beautiful disaster. I will get as far as I go, this time. I will endure a while. Likely it will be too much, and I will go out to my little garden and plant lettuce seeds, radishes, and more little onions. I will dream of Calvino, and his little jewels. I will reach for new literary magazines, with new ideas in them, and all of them so delicate and small. I will take a break for a while, is what I will tell myself. I will just read a little something else for a while. When I return to Ulysses, I won't even remember where I left off, and will just have to start over from the top.
So it goes, with the ones who burned down to be pure weavers of winds.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
I would rather go into biscuitness than business.
Eating biscuits, lots of them, drenched in butter and jam, perhaps cheesy or with jalapenos, perhaps dribbling with maple syrup, perhaps as a sandwich that crumbles even as it is devoured. This is more appealing than going into business.
If business more closely resembled eating biscuits, we wouldn't even notice that we were working.
In this, writing what you love and care about comes in. Writing is a business. Business is very boring. But, being passionate about what we write smoothes over the rough peaches of the job. I write what I care about.
What part of MAZE is the biscuitness, for me? It is an interesting thought experiment, on the one hand, to send myself into the labyrinths of genre, and to face the unknown things there.
Also an interesting thing, learning about unicellular life forms and their interaction with human natural defense mechanisms as reference. Integrating them into horror tropes.
Also interesting, recreating a version of rural Chinese culture, streamlined, and slammed into the Maze's walls of stone, where outside voices will occasionally pass through. (Note: a random sample of humans over forty thousand years will be a strong Chinese majority... Human history can be seen, in some ways, as Chinese history with occasional noisy blips at the fringes of their eternal, ever-populous empire.)
Also interesting, handing the boring bits off to a small press. I have self-published and will do so again in December with a book-length work. It means handling the boring stuff and not just eating all the biscuits.
And, I write other thing that aren't fun, and struggle against the conformist space. I really dont have willpower. Place all the biscuits in front of me and tell me, eat only half of this one in only this way, with the approved topping... It keeps me up late, stressed that I couldn't just eat all the biscuits however I thought them best.
I am stretching this metaphor a bit too much. MAZE was such an interesting biscuit. I hope I get to write another interesting biscuit like MAZE soon. In the mean time, read MAZE and share it with others that the odd taste of biscuits particular to my pallate spread around a little.
I am going to go bake a little biscuit, and I hope I enjoy it as much as Maze.
I dont want to be involved in the business of writing. All I want is the biscuitness. Biscuits are tasty. Metaphors are fun to stretch until they pop.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
At the community college, where I work part-time, I was asked to put together a thing for one of the department monthly newsletters about publishing. This is what I wrote.
"Publishing is Simple, but it isn't Easy. This is Everything I Know."
My first novel came out in 2008 from Wizards of the Coasts’ “Discoveries” imprint, which was dedicated to non-shared world fiction. That novel, Last Dragon, was #6 on Amazon.com’s Year’s Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for Debuts. It had been selected from the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts. I had no secret knowledge, no networking, and no agent. All I had was a good book, that I submitted to a publisher per their own instructions. Since then, I have published 6 books with publishers both very big and very small. I’ve had dozens of short fiction publications. I’ve been staff writer for a AAA video game company. I’ve had work translated into foreign languages and turned into audiobooks. I have never made a decent living for any long stretch of time in writing, despite my great successes, but I persist.Here is everything I know about professional publishing.
Be brilliant. Failing that, be very dedicated to craft and professional and courteous. Even for the brilliant, be professional and courteous.Brilliance is actually not a product of natural talent. Rather, it is a product of lots and lots of hard work. Take time to read widely, learn craft, and develop an original voice. Write what no one but you can write. That is what brilliance is.Many publications and websites list agents and publishers and most of them are useless without further research than a public listing. A better way to locate agents, publishers, and other professionals is by looking at the “Acknowledgements Pages” of current, newly-released material that appeals to the sensibility and genre of your own completed manuscript. If the agents or publishers of that new material are accepting submissions, submit per their guidelines, which are generally going to be on their website. They will be slow to respond. Write many things while waiting for a response on the other things. Send many other things out that you have written while waiting.Also, reading widely and with an eye for craft is critical for writers. Without reading, there is no writing.Self-publishing is a rising trend, and I have dabbled in it with some limited success, but I advise that the most successful self-published writers I know began traditionally published, and evolved into self-publishers for a variety of reasons. Different genres have different examples, as always, but there is a general trend of authors doing both. Generally, they begin by publishing with traditional publishers first. When pursuing publication, sometimes opportunities come around that are actually scams pretending to be opportunities. Googling whatever name someone presents to you, along with the word “scam” will generally reveal the truth very quickly. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Remember this simple rule: Money flows to the writer. Anyone who is asking you for money is neither an agent nor a publisher of repute. If you have any doubts, consult Victoria Strauss’ “Writer Beware” (http://www.sfwa.org/other-
resources/for-authors/writer- beware/). Writers often feel powerless early in their career, but a writer is always the most powerful person in the room. The writer is the only one that can produce the work that they produce, and if it is good work, true work, someone will want it with a fair contract and payment. There’s this cliche that publishing is like a lottery, and this is very false. For professional writers who have mastered their field and have an amazing manuscript, being published is the easiest thing in the world. All they have to do is write a letter announcing their project to a prospective publisher or agent. My first novel was sold exactly like that, and I had no name or connections or big literary agent or bribe. The only thing I had was a good book. I wrote a letter, per a publishers’ guidelines, and was published. I have repeated this process a few times successfully. As far as agents, I’ve had two. Generally, people will know when they need an agent, because they will need someone to negotiate a difficult contract. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all, and writers don’t need an agent to get published at most houses. The larger the house, and the more complex the contract, and the more money that is involved, the more likely an agent would be beneficial. Again, better no agent than an agent that isn’t right for your work. If an agent would suit your goals, seek them through the acknowledgements pages of other new writers whose work is appearing in print. The only truly difficult part of publishing is writing a good book. Everything else is a simple process, with clear instructions from every source on the subject. The people who want good books will state exactly how they want to receive the prospective books. Follow their guidelines. Writers of good books are the rarest commodity, and a powerful force for positive change in the world. So, before concern with the publication process, young writers need to learn the craft of writing. College is a wonderful time to start down that path, and some amazing writers - including one of the best short story writers of the last century, Raymond Carver - began their writing career at a community college writing workshop. Anyone can take the time and make the effort to learn the craft. Brilliance isn’t something that a writer is born with. It comes about through years of hard work. Like I said: Persist.One website that can help aspiring writers at any stage of their career is the AbsoluteWrite.com Forums (http://www.absolutewrite.com/ forums/). If you are interested in knowing more about me or my work, I can be found on-line at http://jmmcdermott.blogspot. com/ and my latest novel is We Leave Together (WordeHorde, June 2014). If anyone wants to talk about publishing in more detail, I work Monday and Tuesday morning, and Thursday afternoon in the Developmental Writing Lab.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
FOOD AND DRINK IN DOGSLAND: Take us home, to the woods and hills north of the city. We Leave Together is here, and so is an appropriate beer.
If you've been brewing these at home, and planning to do a beer and book pairing wherein you drink the beer while reading (or rereading) the books, I commend you.
The concluding piece of the trilogy, where everything falls apart, needs a beer worthy of falling apart, capturing the heat and power and broken places of Dogsland, where alcohol is likely a major cause of death.
I have mentioned in prior communications that Steam Beer, a.k.a. California Common, is truly the beer of the city. Begun in San Francisco, during the gold rush, a flood of thirsty miners were looking for cheap beer, and lots of it. The brewers were often German immigrants, attempting to adjust their native techniques to the challenging conditions of San Francisco. You see, the lager yeasts they had were bred for much colder fermentation temperatures than were possible in San Francisco in the 1860s. There simply wasn't any way to ferment cold. The best they managed was to ferment in big, open tanks that were very flat to create a wide surface area for fermentation, put up on roofs where the wind was cool above the brewery.
This beer was not famous for tasting good for a long time. It was cheap beer, pumped with whatever adjuncts were handy, overhopped to mask off-flavors, and served as soon as the alcohol was in the keg, no aging or lagering or improvement necessary.
This is a street beer for hard-drinking, violent people, in a port town full of every vice available to man. California Common beer has evolved a little since its rough origin, but not so much that it has lost it's rough edges. At heart, it's a street beer, intended for fast and furious intoxication.
Dogsland is a harder street to swallow. Let's go ahead and make it an IPA of a Steam Beer, with alcohol and hops kicked up to the level of a IPA on the backbone of a Steam Beer. It will keep a while, as a result. It will be waiting in the back pantry, for that red night when everything is red in this world.
It's exactly what Jona would drink while he is trying to make sense of what is happening between him and his beloved, and he is trying to make sense of the hard decisions he has to make. It is exactly what Djoss would drink, because it's color is nearly pink, and reminds him of his desired intoxicant. It is exactly what Calipari would be sipping on in the wee hours, staring into the glass and wondering if there's enough money in his pocket to get drunk enough to forget everything he has seen.
It's a blood color, this brew. It's demon blood.
SRM 11 (That means it is a light, noticeable red color)
IBU 64 (That means it is bitter and "hoppy" up to an IPA)
8 pounds of Vienna Malt
2 pounds of Flaked Maize
1 pound of Crystal 60l
3 ounces of Northern Brewer
Saflager S-23 yeast
This is a single infusion mash, at 152-153 for an hour. Mash out at 168, and get up to a boil.
Minty and Piney Northern Brewer hops will be divided into four additions.
At 60 minutes until the end of boil, add 1 ounce.
At 30 minutes until the end of the boil, add 1/2 an ounce
At 15 minutes to the end of the boil, another 1/2 an ounce
Right at flameout, just before the wort is cooled, add the last ounce of hops
Cool the wort down to about 60 degrees, then add a healthy, large dose of lager yeast. (If you don't make a starter, use 2 packets. If you do make a starter, think 2 quarts? Somewhere around that.)
Ferment at hot ale temperatures, around 68-72 degrees. After two weeks, transfer to secondary and let it sit another two weeks at room temperature in a new bucket.
From there, bottle it with about 4.25 ounces of regular sugar per 5 gallons. It will come out just fine.
Lemme see if I can find a picture of the brew itself, in my hand...
Raise a glass to Jona Lord Joni.
Raise a glass to Rachel Nolander.
Raise a glass to Erin's Walkers, running through the streets in the skin of wolves.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
The 2nd Dogsland novel occurs mostly when the weather breaks, and things are dry a while, and there's a long season with sweltering, hot weather. Yeah, people are going to get smashed because that's the thing people do before they go home, exhausted from a day cutting meat in an abattoir. People are going to drink something that's lighter, though, and better for really, really hot weather.
Saison yeast can take some heat, and make beers that keep a while well. But, we will have to adjust because white wheat doesn't do well in the heat, and the imported barley and imported hops would need some local spices and fruits to add some flavor to the brew.
This is what to drink when you'll be dancing together, late into the warm, summer evening. This is what to drink when the canal-builders come with their golden hammers to parade the streets. This is what to drink late at night, when you're stalking the man who would be king in bear-baiting den, and you want to be quenched, but you want your wits to stay sharp.
So, what I propose, for WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS, where two lovers drift together and apart, and a man finds himself, sort of, and murders a couple people, is a hybrid of witbiers and saisons, without the raw wheat of a witbier, and without the high volume of expensive barley, more appropriate to a place where such things would be imported and cut with other things available locally for consumption by the masses.
WITNESS TO THE EXECUTIONERS
5 Gallon batch
About 4% ABV
2 pounds Vienna Malt
2 pounds American 6-Row Pale
2 pounds Red Wheat
1 pound of Honey
1 pound of Flaked Oats
1 ounce of Styrian Celeja @30 minutes for about 17-18 IBU
1 tablespoon of Cracked Coriander Seed
1/2 tablespoon of Cracked Black Peppercorn
2-4 bags of Chamomile Tea (adjust for strength and freshness)
Zest of 1 Valencia Orange
Wyeast Belgian Saison
Brewing with honey: Never boil the honey. The very last thing that is added, after flame-out, and as the wort cools, is honey.
Okay, I brew-in-a-bag, so there's this thing I can do to the mash that few others can. I dough in cold, and let the fire slowly warm up the kettle to 112 Degrees over about half an hour with a low-medium flame. From there, I slowly creep up to 153 and hold that for half an hour. From there, I crank the turkey fryer to mash out at 175. This is a long, slow, stepped mash that would be challenging for others. In this case, aim for a step mesh, and an OG of 1.036 for the end of the boil, just before honey is added.
A nice, long boil of at least 75 minutes is ideal.
After flameout, the honey is added. At boiling, the honey will lose a lot of the aromatic and interesting things that make it worth adding to the brew. So, don't add it until the wort has stopped boiling, and is only steaming a little.
Fermentation with a famously finicky yeast, like Wyeast Belgian Saison, means starting cool, at the bottom of its range, and then letting it warm up during the week to close to 90 degrees. Even with a dry yeast alternative, like Safbrew T-58, would benefit from this method. I see this as a process, in Dogsland, where they are cooling the hot liquor tank down with seawater pumps, then letting it ferment up to heat as it will, up to 90 degrees in the shade of one of those ruined factory halls.
At bottling, keep it relatively light with about 4 ounces per 5 gallons of plain, white table sugar. Just enough to make it bubbly, not enough to make it explode.
If I were Jona, this is what I would be serving Rachel in the dance halls in all those humid night.
This brew is dangerously easy to drink. Be careful you don't get executed by it.
(Note: In honest fact, this is one of the most-requested beers I brew, and it is popular among friends and family, both that enjoy craft beer and that do not.)
I brewed this one, again, just the other day...
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
When I think of the first Dogsland novel, I think of leading a long life in hiding, in fear, questioning everything, and wondering always when the cloud of dread will fall at last upon my head. Then, there is an encounter with someone like me, and the colors of the sky turn for a little while.
I think of beers that could be made in Dogsland, with ingredients they might have around.
In the south, we can't grow white wheat very well. We do better with hard winter wheats, grown off-season. Barley is difficult, and would be expensive, and would probably be imported. Roasted grains would be useful, as well, to mask many of the difficulties that one would face fermenting warm, and warm fermenting yeasts would be necessary.
As the first of the trilogy, I think, as well, it's an overwhelming thing, an experience like no other, and a strong introduction to a world that is dark, complex and dangerous, and unlike any other experience on the shelf.
So, here we go, with the brew of NEVER KNEW ANOTHER... Let's say we call it
DARK MEMORIES STRIPPED FROM A DEMON CHILD'S SKULL
Target 5 gallons, boil 6.
Original Gravity 1.062,
Final Gravity 1.015,
Red Wheat Malt - 8 pounds
Dark Munich Malt (20l) - 2 pounds
Flaked Maize - 1 pound
Chocolate Malt - 6 ounces
Crystal 120L - 6 ounces
(optional) Rice Hulls - 2 pounds
1/2 an ounce of Perle Hops
1 package of Danstar Munich Yeast
If you are a brew-in-a-bag brewer, like me, bring ye ol' water (6 gallons) to warm in a very large kettle with crushed grains on hand, ready to be brewed. Other brewing systems will need to figure out their mash water separately, but it looks like 4.375 of the total water will be used in the mash, if my numbers look right. All-grain brewers should understand what I mean and be able to adjust to their systems.
Dough in at 112 degrees for fifteen minutes for a nice protein rest, and gently step the mash up to 149/150 for half an hour, and follow that with a mash at 158 for half an hour. From there, mash out at 168 and do whatever it is you do to get the spent grain out of the way of the wort. (I brew-in-a-bag, so I lift the bag out gently, and set it aside in a separate kettle with a colander in it to continue draining sweet wort. (The rice hulls will help brewers who collect vorlauf in their brewing rig to prevent a stuck mash with all that red wheat in the mash. You'll know if you need it.)
After mashout, do a nice, long 90 minute boil, and add the 1/2 ounce of Pearle hops at 60 minutes for an estimated IBU around 18-19.
Cool the wort after the boil, down to a pitching temperature of 75 degrees.
Ferment warm, just over 80 degrees, to really get funky with that yeast. It will be clovey, but will contrast pretty well with the many fruit and candied notes from the dark crystals and dark munich malt. Also, do you think temperature control is even possible in a place like Dogsland? Do you think it is even possible to get the wort cooled down and held below 75 degrees for a full fermentation cycle?
Carbonate it relatively frothy with about 5 ounces of demerera sugar for extra oomph in the bottle, if you aren't going to keg.
I don't think so.
Lemme see if I got a picture of this bad boy floating around. I brewed it a few weeks back, and I'm drinking it know. If I don't see one handy, I'll post one up later.
Doesn't look like I see one handy. I'll snap a pic when I get home.
[edit to add: Look, I got home and popped one open and took a picture!]
With this humble blog entry, I will describe, as I am able, the food economy of my invented city, and propose a couple recipes.
What do people eat in your fantasy world? What do they drink? In our society, we have really lost touch with the seasons, and with availability of different crops in different regions. In pre-industrial societies, this was one of the most important questions, if not the driving thing that drives everything. Civilization, as we know it, is built upon a single thing: Agricultural Surplus. Everything in economics, everything in culture and society, is a direct product of the excess produce sold by farmers.
In pre-industrial societies, clean water wasn't just difficult, it could be nearly impossible. Think of it like this: Boiling water could purify your water, but how much fuel does it take to boil that water? Where did the fuel come from? How long did it take to acquire that fuel?
Ergo, the most important question is food and drink.
Ergo, and with a fantasy world demarcated deeply by the drugs and drinks and cheap eats of a very dirty, semi-pre-industrial landscape, in Dogsland, I thought I would talk a little bit about climate and food, and propose a couple recipes to get started living in the city, as it is, so to speak.
Dogsland is rice country, with a bay and a swamp ringed with hills and low mountains. It is a swampy landscape, with monsoon-like rains. It is hot and wet and sticky. It is where cattle sink into the swamps. Apple trees would likely die, here. Cherries wouldn't exist. Plums would be a challenge. Pears would succumb to fireblight and mold. Grapes, as we think of them, would likely die. Muscadines are more likely, or something like a muscadine. Possumhaws, Mayhaws, and things like that are more likely.
Acorns are in the hills, and that's an excellent food crop that we've mostly forgotten as a society, to our great detriment. Figs would probably like it. Citrus would do all right, maybe, but the heavy winter rains would make sure varieties that ripen in the winter would struggle. Valencias would probably be okay, so let's stick with those. The heat also means that many conventional brewer's yeasts wouldn't work. We'd need something that can thrive in the heat to brew. Lagers are out of the question - with one exception that I will mention below - and even most ales can't take the heat, and with a high water table, cellars are mostly out of the question.
Peppers can take it, too. Lotus greens, and okra would probably be all right. Beans, definitely, because beans are everywhere, all over the world, and an important food crop it is indeed.
Sheep would be present, as fullers are present, but these sheep were imported, and are kept north of the city where, presumably, the hills lift the delicate herd animals up above the worst of the sea level heat. They are also often shipped in from noble lands around the city. There's enough trade going on that the wool could be shipped in to the fuller's little district.
In the books, there is mention of meat and rice dishes, and many descriptions of meated breads. There's "piss gin" which is rocket fuel, and little else, likely made with imported, dried juniper berries from the docks and local spices. There's brandy, and I presume it is imported. There is sugar, because rice country also produces sugar cane and sorghum.
Right, so let's do something with this knowledge. I homebrew. I have made homebrew with Dogsland in mind...
Let's put together some recipes, shall we?
One recipe for each book, with the unique vision and perspective of each Dogsland book in mind.
Monday, June 9, 2014
I don't think of myself as someone who blossomed in high school. In fact, I would say they were some of the loneliest times in my life. I was in this small, religious high school, (Author Carol Berg and I went to the same, tiny high school in Fort Worth, TX, many years apart) and though people were nice enough, I often had great difficulty crossing over into a sense of social life in part because everyone lived so fucking far away from us! We drove half an hour one-way to get to school, more if there was traffic. Everyone in school did. We drifted in from the highways to be locked up into the institution, and all connection ended when the reality of traversing such great distances to peoples' houses on bicycles and borrowed autos was too great to foster lasting connections. Local friends were around the neighborhood, but they went to the high school one block away from our house, and had their own world in which my siblings and I were only passing through. I spent a lot of time reading, did not understand the internet, yet, and watched a lot of Animaniacs in the afternoon, when my mother was asleep (and no friends were permitted in the house while my mom was sleeping) before her night shift began at the hospital, and my father wasn't home yet, and...
Returning to that time in life in my imagination, revisiting my younger self, is not something I desire because high school was a misery endured like long marching band practice in the hot sun where even if I was unhappy, I was making music and I was part of something that pretended to be a social unit of some sort and sometimes people clapped for us for real instead of just being polite.
Return then, in your mind, if you want.
I do, occasionally dabble in YA Lit as a reader, but I don't understand people who choose to make it their permanent intellectual residence. In this, I refer only to readers, not writers. As a reader, I prefer to reach broad and wide and seek out diversity. The mind, like the body, responds well to a diet that goes beyond just one kind of food.
I understand neither the attack of ya, nor its defense.
I know only that I don't revisit high school much, and when I do, it had better be the best book I've ever read about it lately. High school, and even undergraduate college, is a horrible place where lots of seemingly innocuous, casual decisions turn into the chains that bind us to the career and opportunities ahead, and we don't really know anyone well enough to know if we can truly trust them, yet, because we've only known them a short time, though it may feel like a lifetime. To live in that space in my imagination for long stretches of time, and to consume this and only this, would be as stifling, to me, as only reading works of epic fantasy, or only reading biographies of politicians and books of current events.
Soon, we will all be living in skyscrapers staffed with robots because there won't be enough young people around after years of first world population decline, and there are more useful things for the economy than serving carrots to the dead. At this time, I would hope to be a little prepared to entertain myself and understand what is happening to my intellect and soul at such a time, and to approach the unknown future requires reading widely and learning widely.
Read YA, absolutely, but don't read any one thing too much. It is okay to criticize people, a little, who have fallen into the past and only the past and nothing else.
The kings of time once walked the streets in the clothes of a beggar, washed in filth, and hiding their white teeth with a red wine wash. They stumbled into the marketplace alone, an anonymous group of guards perhaps aware, perhaps nearby, perhaps watching to be sure.
To rule is to be ruled. It wasn't so much that these vast fields of men and women pushing and shouting at each other needed to be understood that they could be brought into alignment. It was that the king, afraid for his sanity, and unable to trust the machinations of a harem of self-interested courtiers, had to take upon himself the job of a telephone survey. What is the problem here? What do you think of the king? Are taxes too high? Are the circuses better now? How is the bread?
At a low enough level of officeholder, fundraising is done on a personal level. Gubernatorial candidates will personally call donors of some money and wealth. City councilmen will probably call everyone they know, and a few they don't, directly, asking for such tiny amounts of money. Imagine, if all those insane and pushy e-mails we get from our national politicians were actually typed one at a time, by the man himself.
That's what it's like to walk the streets for a day, in beggar's clothes. It's to sit there and be the man that talks and listens and takes the pulse of the crowds one face at a time.
These kings of the world, I do not trust them. They stand behind layers of false beggars, hands out, begging for coin of the realm one issue at a time. They don't even pretend to be the beggar.
The strangest thing about a king is that he has more in common with beggars than most. Each lives or dies by the mercy of the community. Neither one contributes much to the welfare of the state except as a sort of figurehead for the application of blame upon a single source.
They're building these spikes under roadways, now, to keep the beggars from finding shelter there. Vagrancy is illegal, but not everyone has a place to sleep at night, and shelters close all the time.
Were you in disguise, would your community treat you the same way they treat their kings? I know mine wouldn't.
It's late, I've been awake too long. I've been resting my head while I wait for reviews to appear on a new book that's out. I'm waiting to hear back and so many things. I'm tired of waiting. We had lunch together, then we wandered apart to our distractions.
I started thinking about beggars and kings, and how they are the only folks who might truly understand each other.
Artists are mostly beggars, and like Princes and Paupers, our fortunes turn with a change of clothes and a bath and an introduction.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Print editions are coming very soon. Kindle went live faster, apparently, and the rest of the eBook sites went up soon after. If you have pre-ordered a book, I thank you, and will be signing many bookplates today for your collectible editions.
If you wish to create a "collection" of Dogsland books, I am currently setting something up with the two independent bookstores in town, VIVA BOOKS, and THE TWIG, to make sure collectors can acquire signed copies of the first two Dogsland novels straight from us, for the cost of a trade paperback and media mail shipping.
Here's some links!
Monday, June 2, 2014
Publisher's Weekly has already reviewed the final Dogsland book here.
I await, with baited breath, bookplates to sign and return to Ross. I am very busy, as one could imagine, and will be blogging lightly for a little bit longer.
Here's an official press release from WordHorde:
# # #