Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Look Ahead, a Look Behind

Some years, you look back and you don't think you did much, even if you did. Other years, they're the years that will mark your future forever, and you know it even now. I had one of the latter sort, not the former. Lots of big changes happened this year, and they were all good changes. I look behind, and I look ahead. Behind: As holidays wind through, and gift cards roll in, I urge you to consider purchasing one of my books. In particular, LAST DRAGON remains, selling here and there, and being talked about for the four years it has been in print. The Audio Book arrived from Audible this year, and I am very excited to see the first audio edition of my work. Collecting completionists might be interested in a Polish edition, my first, of NEVER KNEW ANOTHER. They put out a beautiful product, and I can only assume the translation is good because the Polish reviews are good (that I can tell via Google Translate's grumpy, stuttery translation device). Also out in the world, my first major shared world project, NIRVANA GATES, with the amazing cover art of Mats Minhagan, and the gentle editorial guidance of Phil Athans, the Fathomless Abyss falls down and down, and then down some more. I write high fantasy monsters and creatures, there, and enjoy the work of my peers therein, with Cat Rambo and Phil Athans both the proud writers of other Novellas and more to come, soon. So, on top of all the usual book-related noise and announcements, these were big steps, for me. First big audio book, first foreign translation? (Not quite as big a deal as my wedding last September, but not bad.) Women and Monsters is still out there, stepping forward, ever forward. The unexpected return to the Kindle store was a nice treat this holiday season after months of unresolved issues that are, thankfully, behind us. Looking ahead, to the new year, I've got a full plate. I've got to turn in the last Dogsland Book soon, and it's ready. A little paperwork, and then the editing begins. I'm shopping around a steampunk novel that is about as much like a steampunk novel as Last Dragon is a fantasy quest novel and Dogsland are urban fantasies. It is a very strange, little book, and I seek a home for it, now, that celebrates that strangeness. Time will tell when one could see it. I'm currently scribbling away on the next Abyss novella. My working title is "Garden of the Dead" and it is a riff on a throwaway character in Athans' novella, "Devils of the Endless Deep" that will attempt to bring in a few other characters that appeared and disappeared in some of the short stories. Do not expect this title to remain, but it does involve gardening, and the importance of gardening in a world without either grocery stores or meaningful wildernesses spaces wherein one could hunt and forage. I would expect a world like the Abyss would be a place where calorie-dense bio-intensive gardening is a means of survival for all sorts of different races of creature and thing. I've got a very rough draft done of an epic fantasy novel that's inspired by American Westerns. Once the dough has a chance to rest and rise again in my subconscious, I will return to it and try to turn it into something. It's not ready. "Western Imperial" is what I'm calling it, for now. Let it rest a while, and maybe it will be ready to touch again in the spring. I've also got about half of a science fiction mosaic novel trundling along in my hard drive. No one has seen these little stories, yet, and I won't send any out until I get through the whole gesture. I mentioned this one a little in my interview with Sanford Allen, if only because he's seen a few of these early gestures of a book through a group of local writers, but it's not there, yet. It's growing. Time moves on. The thing to do is to keep working. Just keep working. Everything that can happen to creative careers will happen, with ups and downs and all sorts of crazy in-betweens, but no matter what, just keep working. I am going to get back to work. Have a Happy Holiday Season, everyone, and be well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

rationale as to why one should, today, purchase my books and fictions etc

Today is my birthday. I'm 33.
I had to get out a calculator to check because I wasn't sure how old I was, but now I know.
And now you know.
So, that's as good a reason as any to purchase a book by me, for whatever reason, because it sends just a little good will my way. Some of the eBooks are wicked cheap, too.

Your Pal,

J. M. McD

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Amazon Kindle Returns

For a while there, some of my stuff disappeared from Kindle and seemed to be gone forever. Recently the issues have fixed themselves, it seems, so that's nice.

Kindle Readers can pick up my work on Amazon eReading devices again.

Most titles with Apex or Nightshade were unaffected, and I don't think hardly anyone but me even noticed the impact on Bad Ducky Industries of the issues that were being resolved.

But, it's fixed. It's back. Expect titles to return. Three of them are already up. Watch for WOMEN AND MONSTERS, DEATH MASK AND EULOGY, and WE WERE FISH.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Theory on How to Stop Monsanto

Reading through a seed catalog it was mentioned that it is getting difficult to find even remote growers who can supply non-GMO corn seeds. Monsanto is everywhere.

I've been thinking about how to effectively end them, though. The activists, I think, are going about it all wrong. Instead of trying to conquer Monsanto by open, honest activism, they ought to be using the same backroom, corrupt practices that drives the operation in the free market. If every anti-Monsanto organization bought up shares of Monsanto, how much would it take to reach a controlling share? In this, dividends earned from the company can become the engine of destruction, as those dividends are used to buy up more shares. If about half a million dollars were generated, across all the shells and activist organizations, a pretty large share of the company could be owned. Heck, there are people in this world who could buy Monsanto outright without even a wince on their balance sheets. Once a controlling share is created, destruction begins.

Liquidate everything but the patent on the genomes. Hoard that. Never, ever sell that, or donate that, or anything. Just let them sit in a box in the imaginary world where unused intellectual property waits out the laws.

If rich men and women really wanted to save the world, this would be one way. It would be easier than getting a law passed, and cheaper, most likely.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The System that Eats Itself

So, let's say you work at Wal Mart and you have kids. You are likely paid minimum wage, or very close to it. You are likely picking up every shift you can at any hour of day or night available to help feed your kid. You are likely still on food stamps. You likely also rely on your employee discount for most of your purchases. You are spending money where you work, in the company store, and spending your food stamp dollars there, because lord knows you're already there and surrounded by all that discounting.

It's a cycle of poverty, you see. More than this, it's a cycle of wage slavery. You spend the dollars you earn at the place you work, and your government-subsidized food-stamp money, beside. (What a great deal for the company, no?)

Sure, you could work somewhere else. Sure.

People who say that have, I suspect, never been in the place in their life where they have to contemplate working for Wal-Mart, and being on food stamps, and figuring out how to make the most out of the meager income you'll generate.

How easy it must be to believe in a free market when you're standing on top of it, looking down.

It's got to be quite the scam to come up with, though, where you push your employees onto food stamps, and make it so they spend their food stamps right there in your store.

This Christmas, don't shop at Wal Mart. There are plenty of small businesses that would actually care if their employees were on food stamps at the scale that they are at Wal Mart. There are plenty of authors and artists and makers of things that aren't all about the commodities of markets.

Buy local this Christmas. Buy small. Maybe even buy nothing at all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks and Free eBooks!

I am so thankful this holiday season! I have such wonderful readers, editors, friends, and family! 
As a token of my gratitude, and along with my desire to spread the thanks, I would like to spread some thanks out into the world, in exchange for an eBook!
Make a donation to your favorite charity, and when you do come here and reward yourself with a free PDF of NEVER KNEW ANOTHER!

If you would prefer a different file format, send me a note via e-mail and I can make that happen. (sankgreall gmail com) 

Please drop a line in the comments about the charity you chose, if you like.

Again, honor system donation to charity, of even a dollar or a quarter or anything at all. I personally really like Heifer International, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, your local humane society, and the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. But, these are hardly the only awesome charities out there!

So, spread thanks, and receive my thanks, in eBook format!

How long will this last? That's an excellent question. One week, and if there's a surge of donations to good causes, that get back to me, I'll let this continue.

Do please post about your preferred charity in the comments, for people looking for good ideas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

writing not blogging

                The snow had fallen hard for six days, and before that had been stewing in the grey clouds and the cold, waiting and building up before it finally fell in heaps.  The Imperial had walked on as best he could around the snow drifts and through them when he had no choice with the command in his heart from the emperor driving his boots. The Imperial geas is a death sentence, but it is never taken unwillingly. He is calm. He is tired. He is cold.
He never knew when his worn boots would sink thigh-deep into a crevice in the rock below the snow. The journey was slow. Rations were low. The last two other members of the expedition had disappeared in the night, weeks ago. It could be they were dragged off by wild animals. There were bears, here, stronger and faster than an Imperial arrow. There were wolves that could overwhelm a traveler in the night. It could be -- and this was more likely -- that they had decided to go home and pretend like they had completed their task for the emperor until the sickness consumed them. What remained of the expedition was this one man with the sunken features of starvation, a sack on his back, and a heavy stick to walk with. Under his thick robes, which hadn’t been washed in months, was a small dagger, and what remained of a small broken crossbow hanging from his belt. His skin was ashen, but he was dark of skin, with short, curling black hair. He did not feel like he belonged in this cold place, but here he was, trudging forward. His thin boots were stuffed with rags and hay to keep out a little bit of the cold, but it only got damp from the cracks. The woods were thick, here, this far up the mountain. What trails there were disappeared into the snow.
                He followed the smoke rising from the mountain. In every gap and clearing between the naked branches of the hibernating trees, he scanned the cold grey sky for lines of smoke rising. There was a village pushed against the mountain. There were crops and animals there. There might be somewhere warm to rest, if they were friendly. Some of the villages have been friendly. Some have taken one look at the dark man walking in out of the cold and casting him out as if he were a monster. It’s hard to tell what will happen when he reaches the village. There’s no way to know ahead of time how they will act.
                The wind picked up again. It was just as cold as it had been for the last six days when the snow started. Every morning, he woke up beneath the snow, as if it was burying him alive.
                He kept moving slowly through the thick trees to the smoke on the horizon. By midday, he was nearly upon it. He wondered that he did not hear any sounds from the village. Generally, people made noise. Children made noise.  Animals made noise.
                Each footfall in the snow crunched alone. When he paused to listen, there were no other footfalls. The stillness was disconcerting so close to a village. There were fires burning up ahead. There should be people at the fires. There should be laughter, blacksmith hammers, and children running through the snow.
                The village was fenced high, but it wasn’t fenced strong. It would discourage wild animals. There were no gaps or broken places in the fence. There was no forcible sign of struggle.
                He walked around once just to be sure. Again, there wasn’t anything wrong with the fence. If something was inside, it was going to be something that could open a gate.
                He had seen troubles on this journey before. He searched through the knots in the fence before he opened the gate, to see if there was anything on the other side. He had seen nothing.
                The town was empty, like a ghost town. The fires were burning inside the buildings still, but they were burning down since he first saw them. The houses were empty. It was like a whole village heard some kind of warning bell and dropped whatever they were doing to run into the woods. It had happened when he had been walking towards them, or their fires would have long ago burned out. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

stop buying plants and pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Is it any surprise that I am a compulsive buyer of plants? They look so pretty, and they are alive - a living thing - that clean the air, that do all sorts of wonderful things from fruiting and flowering to pushing pelmel over the side of a pot.

I sugar-crashed the other day, and in my post-pumpkin-cinnamon-roll misery, I purchased plants. Boxwood basils, to sit near the front of the door, to grow and blossom. Fresh basil is a wonderful thing. That part of the porch is not yet overgrown. Truly, we have not been here long enough to overgrow anything. All that is overgrown was like that before we got here.

Stop buying plants is the advice I have gotten, and it is good advice and true advice. Because we have seeds. We have plenty of seeds. (I am also, occasionally, a compulsive buyer of seeds, and enjoy saving seeds when I can...)

How much easier it is to purchase living plants than to start a seed. Seeds take weeks to sprout and look like anything at all. Seeds take time

How much easier it must be to co-author with someone, and let someone else take the first steps, and to hand it off when it gets hard. In books, I do not compulsively buy plants. In fact, I would push any such instance of starting from plant away from me, and I would only start from seed.

In books, I am not compulsive. I am slow, methodical, and tedious. I am a boring, boring person most of the time, building up plants from seed a little cell at a time, a little root and leaf at a time.

In life, there is the easy way where you buy plants, and there are times when one should buy plants because fruit trees do take a long time and they are inconsistent when they don't come from a graft. But, most of the time, start from seed.

I've stretched this metaphor enough for one day. But, when I get depressed about writing I fantasize about co-authoring something. Then, the day turns over and it occurs to me that I would prefer not. I would prefer to do the hard stuff myself. In fact, it is the hard stuff, and the miserable waiting period when the hard stuff is working out that I think I like the most. If it's too easy, I lose momentum.

When I am done with this seedling, I shall start another for this shared world...

Oh, and as for the cinnamon rolls, I took half of a roasted pumpkin in a food processor with a cup of dark brown sugar, pinch of salt, and yeast. I added white whole wheat flour until I had a good dough (about 5-6 cups). I let it rise. Then, I rolled it out flat, brushed it with butter, and sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice blend. Rolled up and cut into rolls, I let them rise for an hour before baking at 350 degrees for about twenty to thirty minutes, until the tops were brown and crusty.

Serve with butter and honey. Also, for a sweeter tooth than mine, include brown sugar with the pumpkin pie spice. I'd have added golden raisins if we had any handy.

If only writing books could be explained in a recipe as simply as pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Creepy Things from SAMA

Leave the lights on tonight. There are old, evil things. They're pushing against the glass when you turn your back. They want to follow you home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

rocket to Mars...

The technology to build a rocket is as old as the technology to build a car. People build cars in their garage. Why don't people build rockets in their garage? Why haven't home hobbyists shot so many rockets to Mars that N.A.S.A. has to dodge them? If you have the tools and the know-how to build a car, build a rocket. Make your moonshot. Make your place on the face of the red planet. Make something. That is all.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Coolest Thing This Week

Fans are awesome. That's all you can say when you encounter this story.

Graf. It was made up in a book by an author. Homebrewers thought it sounded good and made it.

 is a strong hard cider or apple-based beer widely consumed in In-World. The specifics of the beverage are not mentioned (except to say that some varieties of graf are weak while others are eye-wateringly strong).
Modern homebrew aficionados have created a huge variety of graf recipes (usually calling it "graff"), originally inspired by the Dark Tower series (as there is no known historical beverage called 'graf'). They share in common the idea that graf is a malted, slightly hopped cider however many recipes also add a number of spices and/or adjunct fruits. Some recipes have a relatively small malt contribution (being almost entirely cider) while others could be described more as apple beer (with large amounts of malt and only a small amount of apple).
Graf is said to taste tart, light and refreshing with a deceptively high alcohol content.

Stephen King invented a drink for his fantasy world, and people are making it based on the description.

Homebrewer "Brandon O" seems to have created the grandfather of the many variations that exist, now.

Hell, I'm not going to explain it. Here's a video.

A beverage that sounds amazing in a book, made by people, and now the idea has taken on a life of its own i the world, as people brew and create and it won't be long before someone is selling this stuff and making a living at it.

Is it any wonder operating on the boundaries of things, where speculation and life happens, is an addictive thing that makes me excited to get to work today.

Also, regarding the beverage of choice in the Dogsland novels, please do not anyone invent "Piss Gin" because I would really prefer not to be the person who gets blamed for that. (Khali would be neat, though.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

on politics...

I enjoy following politics, because it is a bloodless, pseudo-intellectual version of professional wrestling. I don't think the real issues that matter the most for the survival of this species on earth are going to be impacted in the slightest by whether the blue team or the red team win the race to the top of the mountain wherein they plant their flag until the next round.

You see, there is a revolving door between big business and government regulation. The polar ice caps are melting, and will probably be gone in 5-10 years. The GMO crops are taking off, despite all the warning bells and health issues that result. The sickness of our population rises with our wealth, and in turn sickens the earth around us.

Tax cuts have no bearing on whether our species will survive to the seventh generation. Wars the size of Afghanistan also have no bearing on the survival of our species to the seventh generation. GLBT rights (which I wholeheartedly support) have no bearing on the survival of our species to the seventh generation.

The polar ice caps are almost gone. It's sort of moot whether we expand drilling or contract it if we are still pouring oil from somewhere into the mouths of engines. Fracking is happening. Mountains are being torn apart for coal. Nuclear power plants are being built on fault lines and in areas prone to natural disasters while no one really knows what to do with the spent fuel rods.

I like watching politics. It sort of soothes me to see all this serious and high-minded debate about issues. It's a way to distract myself from the terror of knowing how futile our democracy has been at solving the problems of our generation instead of the problems of the middle ages. The separation of corporation and state is an issue for us, not the separation of church and state. (Corporations aren't evil, mind you, but they are capable of doing evil things when corrupted by access to political power.) Rethinking our urban and suburban and rural infrastructure to support a radical alteration in our sustainability matters. (Urban farms are good; a solar panel and windmill on every building, and re-jiggering our energy and water usage towards a sustainable level could radically shift our nation away from pollution, but you know, politics and the status quo bias and we all love our cars, etc....)

If a political system cannot save you in a time of global crisis, what use is that system?

I enjoy politics, and I plan on voting, but there's a part of me that looks at it all and feels like it's professional wrestling on the deck of the Titanic. Don't look at the iceberg. Just don't look at the iceberg. Watch this. Watch this.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I recently signed on with Weightless Books, and one could now purchase WOMEN AND MONSTERS or DEATH MASK AND EULOGY from them, and instead of feeding the Amazon, you could be feeding Small Beer Press.

They have a lot of interesting titles, too.

Poke around and see what you can find for your preferred e-reading device!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Presupposing Consensus Reality in Fiction

We are wed. We are moved. We are gently settling in. Life is wonderful.

In other news, annoyed by a book, I put it down for good and picked up Cloud Atlas, instead, to re-read the hefty tome before the film arrives to ruin the dream of the book in the mind with actors and screenwriting and whatnot. Annoyed by this other book, though, I searched my brain for why it bothered me so.

It was the sort of book that gets reviewed in important mainstream magazines, and it was well-written, and it wasn't anything but personal preference for why it bothered me, so take all of this not so much as a manifesto or angry yowl or anything of the sort, but as a sort of exploration of what bugs me sometimes in some books. As one might suppose, there is a strong preference that I have in my fictional writing and reading for the non-real. In general, but not always, I prefer books that do not engage with reality as we understand it, but instead integrate the unreal, the speculative, etc., or at least presume an awareness of the mysteries of this world that are beyond the known.

I was thinking about this because I am actually working on something (not a book or work of fiction, etc.) that is strictly realist, involving murders and the solving of murders. The thing that bugs me is that there is no possibility of the unreal in the text.

But, the thing I think about reality is that we do not grasp it. We only think we grasp it. When we say "reality" what we're actually saying is "consensus reality" and that is not the same. This is the sort of thing that self-help gurus like to exploit to encourage people to change their lives, and the thing that scientists explore, and the thing that religion exists to explicate occasionally: we do not truly know what is real.

In the realistic fictions, ones that leave no opening for a sense of mystery, ones obsessed with recreating the world that is for the page, there is a limitation to what is possible, and an artificial construct of a reality that reflects the consensus back upon the lulled mind. The magic thing about reading weird fiction is that consensus reality is challenged, pushed, and occasionally broken. Also, reality is a shifty thing that moves with measurements and moves with time and belief and understanding. Fiction of the experimental and mysterious pushes the goal posts, just a little bit, to move the boundaries of consensus reality outward, and prime the mind for what strangeness will come when we know more, grow more, and reach out beyond the perceived limitations of the flesh, and of the systems of this world that seem so immutable.

Realistic fiction is a fine thing, but the stories of this genre I enjoy the most often do not particularly obsess over consensus reality, and leaves room for the impact points between the known, the known unknown, and the unknown unknown.

Soundbyte hunting? Well, here is one for you: Realistic fiction is actually consensus reality fiction. There. Flame me, if you must for saying it, but keep me out of the genre versus literature, because this is definitely not part of that debate. There are plenty of wondrous literary tomes that qualify to my evolving understanding of what I really look for in a text, including things like Wuthering Heights which has such lovely, mysteriousness in the explorations of dark, destructive, healing loves.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Of Ladies and Tigers

Most folks around here probably remember this story about ladies and tigers and cities on the backs of giant lizards.

Well, I put together a min-collection of work, including that short story, with the YA readers in mind. These ten stores and flash pieces run about as long as a novella, at 27,000 words give or take. They include new and previously published pieces that I believe would be more interesting for teenagers.

What do I know about teenagers? Not much.

Still, it was something I could do to ease the muttering of money. We could definitely use a little more around here with the wedding looming and the move and all the uncertainty of moving and though I have a position lined up in San Antonio, my wife does not.

I don't like charity situations. I'm working for my keep. I make things.

Anyway, I also updated the cover art to DEATH MASK AND EULOGY, which was ridiculously overdue. I had left the placeholder on for way too long and never got around to it until now. <-Some YA appropriate fictions and flashes of fictions. <- Updated cover art on DEATH MASK AND EULOGY

Both cover images are from the public domain, located at Wikimedia Commons.

Watch your preferred retailer for availability. I don't believe we'll be seeing too many Kindle titles around here until the Smashwords site connects to it, sorry. But, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.? Watch for it, and you'll see it very soon. They're both DRM-free so you can pick it up anywhere you like and port it into your favorite device at will.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I am thinking a lot about money this morning. It's weird to say that, because it's a useless thing, and has nothing to do with art or family or anything, and I don't enjoy thinking about it, but it certainly has everything to do with anything I'm doing right now because work ought to lead to money and families struggle without it and  many good things can be made to happen with money. I don't like to think about it, but I'm thinking about it a lot.

Money money money. It's pouring through my head this morning. I'm thinking about money. I'm thinking about how to make more money, or if anyone should bother making more money. It is the sort of thing that happens, I guess, less than two weeks from your own wedding.

It isn't just me anymore. I can't just be a starving artist and be happy with the work, because I'm asking someone else to starve. I mean, I haven't been a starving artist for a while, but I certainly haven't ever been somewhere where I don't think about money when I work, and I don't have to do things I don't want to do for money. I'll have to do more of the things I don't like for the money. Always for the money. Because I have more responsibilities, and making money is the only way I know how to address them.

The most important thing has always been the idea, not the units sold. Science texts and journals innovate and innovate and innovate and change the world and build a better world and the readership of the journals and texts are strictly professional. Never expect a nitty-gritty physics tome about gravity's relationship to jet propulsion or somesuch to be hot off the presses, bestselling, celebrity star. Hot off the presses best-sellers tend to change society very little. At best, they tend to open a dialog about a controversial subject. At worst, they reflect the preconceived notion of the mainstream back upon itself. We should be writing ideas. Better to change the world with your idea than to sell the world the ideas it already has. Exceptions always, but...

But, money...

I write flags, not books. People who are predisposed to liking my books like my books. We are fellow citizens in this kingdom of the mind. Rally to my ideas, as I rally to the other ideas like mine. We rally. We push these ideas out into the physical world, all together, into the sea of culture with our books before us like stepping stones and shields and flags and the wood that makes our boats.

We are tract scribblers. We are pamphleteers disguised as prophets, or prophets disguised as pamphleteers. What use to us a dollar? What use a Euro? This is a Revolution or perhaps it is God's work. Commandeer as you go, or God will provide, or something. You aren't on the street, yet. It doesn't matter where you are, if the work continues, and it is good work - righteous work.

Yet, the work is not always enough to still the naked heart. There is more to life than just the revolution. What will we do if we ever win and people treat each other with empathy and bloody be kind to each other? What happens to us, then?

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, right? Wealth is in a strange place, Mr. Franklin, sandwiched as it is between health and wisdom. But, I know wealth can buy good health. I've seen that. It always could. Could wealth also buy wisdom? Do we believe it does, deep down? Do we listen to the rich man more than the man who has worked every day of his life, to get some of that wisdom that can lead us to wealth? Do we really, secretly believe that?

I'll admit it. There's a part of me that is a subconscious part of me that hears the words of a successful man and assumes the words he speaks matter more than the words of his assistant. The assistant, though, if I were to rationally estimate, is probably the wiser. That's certainly been what I have experienced in life, talking to rich man and the people who work for them.

The work continues. It is, I think, a good work.

I'm thinking about money a lot, today.

I'm thinking about piling all my books into a trailer and driving to a new city, far away from here, where life will start up anew.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

a little news of interest to very few

Most of y'all aren't affected by this, in the slightest, so for general readers, move along and don't worry...

I just wanted to let people know that my agent and I have parted ways. There weren't any problems or issues or anything scandalous in the slightest, and I was always impressed with Matt Bialer's work and affable personality. I recommend him highly to others. This was an artistic-difference decision involving where I'm going with the work that I'm doing and where he's going with the work that he's doing.  He's going to finish working on the one thing we have pending, and I have no doubt he'll be a tireless advocate. Beyond that one thing with the people who know who they are, please contact me directly for any business inquiries. I don't know what the future holds, exactly, but I know this is the right decision moving forward for us both.

Again, a great agent and a great dude! Thanks for being my agent, Matt, and thanks for your help with all sorts of things, Lindsay, and I appreciate all that you've both done! I look forward to seeing you both succeed in the future!

One of those things that impacts just about no one that reads this blog, but worth saying, regardless.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chit-Chat With a Space Cowgirl

  • I've been reading these two books by some crazy Texan by the name of Katy Stauber. They're a little lighter than the usual heady stuff I push on you around here, but that's not a mark against a book that pursues lightness honestly. Fun isn't a dirty word, after all. Everyone likes a good space cowboy romping caper now and then. As summer winds down, you have time for another summer read, I reckon.
    I asked Katy a few questions about the science fictional things happening in her books, which are a complex mess of what is very possible on our current cultural destination.
    •  What parts of your imagined futures do you most desire to happen?

  • July 11
    Katy Stauber
    • Oh, well, there is much of the 'space cowboy' fantasy aspect that is more personal fantasy than things I'd actually like to see. Although, the whole Texas cattle ranchers in space aspect comes more from a belief that I should write about what I know, in so far as that is possible in science fiction. I grew up in rural Texas so rednecks and ranchers is what I know.

      In my small southest Texas town, we had a large immigrant population from Mexico and I definitely patterned many of the characters off my first generation Texan friends and their parents when writing this because I grew up watching them as they struggled with surviving and thriving in a totally different culture, language, and world, really.

      I really think near Earth orbital/Lunar colonies or mining colonies are the next step before a Mars colony although I've gotten into long arguments with the Spacex and NASA guys over that.

      I follow the progress they are making on those manufacturing printers because I think that's definitely something that needs to be the next step and because they are frickin' cool.

    • Why are your space cowboys different from the rest?

  • July 24
    Katy Stauber
    • Ach. I could have sworn I answered your question, but I don't think it went through. Basically, I gave the main characters the last name of Vaquero because I wanted my space cowboys to be more like the vaqueros, traditional Texas cowboys, than the Hollywood version. Growing up in a small Texas town, I went to school with what's left of these guys and they were always impressive. It was easy to envision them in outer space charging off to mine meteors, stop space stampedes and shoot it out with pirates. 
    • Okay... Let's do a couple more. You're dealing with some high-tech stuff, and I'm curious where and how you find inspiration for all this technology, and if you wish you could unimagine any of it from your own mind, or the minds of others? (Okay, super high biotech scares me...)

  • August 2
    Katy Stauber
    • Much of the tech comes from spending way too much time trying to imagine the future and how it will work followed by doing a bunch of research on the Internet and then having subsequent horrific nightmares. I used to find the whole "Gee, look, yet ANOTHER way humans could destroy the world with a touch of a button" aspect of tech news mildly amusing until I had kids. Now I don't find it amusing at all.

      I do frequently wish I could unimagine this stuff. Much of my impetus to write science fiction is more of an attempt to find some useful outlet for the ridiculous amounts of time I will spend researching what's going on in biotechnology or robotics or whatever.

      I get so excited that I feel like I need to tone down the tech, take more time to present each one to the story instead of trying to cramming in one more cool idea. It is hard to do that, though, without slowing down the action or infodumping until the reader's eyes glaze over.

      Getting other people to unimagine this stuff has its appeal as well. I don't want to take the classic science fiction route in which I present cool new cutting edge technology and then have it immediately try to kill everyone on Earth. It always makes for a fun story, but that story has definitely been told and now I think we need a more positive, more complicated story to tell.

      For example, right now, I've horrified myself by reading up on quadmotor drones. After two night of nightmares about flying drones popping through the window to kill my babies, I am finding it difficult to write a short story about them without being depressing about it. I mean, yes, the story will be about someone accidentally confusing the TSA's No Fly List with the Drones Kill List, but I don't want it to be a total bummer, you know?

  • There's books you should and could be checking out. SPIN THE SKY and REVOLUTION WORLD!

    Thanks to Katy for answering some questions about the magical place known as the FUTURE of TEXAS and SPACE and stuff.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Robbery

Freedom from care. That's what money means to me. Like if I had the money I could do whatever I wanted forever and nobody could stop me, and I could leave this place behind for something better. The bank robber was not thinking like I was. He was robbing us because we had the money. He was only thinking about getting the money. He had a gun and a getaway car. He was Hispanic or he was faking a Spanish accent. He was dressed like a business man in a black suit. He had no idea what he was doing to me.
"Empty the register. Fast, man, fast!" They train us to always do what the man with the gun demands. 
"You honestly think this is a good idea? They’re going to catch you."
"Hurry up!"
A woman screamed. People have noticed. The police are coming. I'm sure they'll be here any moment.
"I will do this that you ask me to do. I'm reaching for the register now and I'm doing this. Please, don’t shoot. Listen, though. I have to know. What does this money mean to you?" I was doing what he demanded. I was emptying my register into the bag, meticulously, without moving too fast. Robbers don’t like it when you move too fast.
"Shut up!" His hair was dyed black with grey at the temples. I'm sure of it. He has a Caucasian mouth, like a pudgy Matthew Perry. He was blond at the very tip of his roots. He had green eyes. They don't look like contacts. 
I looked him in his eyes.
" I'm doing what you say. Return the favor. Tell me what the money means to you."
People are scared. They're trying not to move. Fight or flight doesn't work with guns. Bullets are too strong and too fast. Hold still. Hope he runs out of bullets before you. Call for help who have more guns -- the police. "Please," I said.
"Its just money. Hurry up."
He had given me a grocery bag to fill up. It was a Whole Foods reusable bag. He was going to do this again; he needed a reusable bag.
I was at the change now. I was watching it go. Let him have it all. "I wish you well," I said. I held the bag out to him. " Hurry before they catch you. Police are on the way."
He needed not to look too close. He needed to run. He leaned over the counter. I could smell his smell. A fancy soap, vanilla or lavender or something in between. It was an odd smell for a man. I saw him now for what I think he was: a man in a nice hotel, visiting town, and using nice hotel soap. A professional bank robber, then. I saw his clean shave, and the fine hairs on his face. I had not moved an inch backwards when he leaned over the counter. He saw the drawer, and looked up at the clock on the wall. "Plenty of time."
I don't say anything. I fill up the bag. 
"You're the manager, right? You count out the drawers?"
"That's right."
"Keep filling it up," he said. "Plenty more in there." He held the gun out.
I kept filling up the bag. There was nothing else I could do.
He was smirking now. His Hispanic accent was dropping away. The bag was heavy with paper. He reached for it, over the counter, and snatched it from me. "You want to know?” he said. “What this money means to me?"
"I do."
"It means I win."
The bank robber was smiling. He turned quickly then, and surveyed for heroism. He relaxed a little when he saw no one even try to run from him, or pull anything. He held the gun out to the woman who had screamed. She was cowering. "Bang," he said. She didn’t move a muscle. She didn’t breathe.
I moved. I stepped around the counter. I walked behind him as he slipped into his running car.
There were sirens coming this way.
He looked over at me. He saluted with his gun and revved the engine. I stood in front of his car. I folded my arms. I looked at him. He held up the gun. I shrugged. He laughed and backed up. He swerved around me and was gone. I walked away before the police could find me. 
Freedom is what money means to me. So I live free. My first night under a bridge a dirty man came for everything I had but I pushed him and fought him and shouted until he left and then I couldn't fall asleep again. The second night was better because I had found a bench and I could be up off the ground and no one came to chase me off. I found an apple tree in an abandoned yard after that. The fruits were small and hard and tart but I ate until I could burst. I was sick from eating all the apples I could stomach. Then, I went to the police station and no one knew what I was doing there. I gave a statement about the robbery, and how scared I was and that’s why I ran away. They wrote it down. They told me to go home.
I went home and took a shower and it was like nothing had happened.
It was worse than being caught.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weddings for Everybody!

When I first got engaged, it was great and fun and I thought Weddings for everybody! Hooray for marriage! Then I learned that it is actually a lot of work to get married. With a couple weeks to go and final preparations happening, I have had plenty of time to think about weddings. I know lots of my peers and cousins are against weddings, and I want to go on record saying they are wrong to be so. I think a wedding is a very good thing, particularly inside of a faith tradition.

The first step in getting married in the Catholic Church is taking a course led by volunteers in the church dedicated to interpersonal conflict both small and large, and how to deal with conflict without losing sight of your love and affection for each other. They call it "Pre-Cana" and it's sort of silly, but it is full of information culled from decades of research and personal experience from all sorts of folks. Conflict resolution, working together, running a budget, etc. Most religions have this sort of program, to my knowledge, and I recommend going through one because it is a nice refresher course for what comes next.

You see, next, there comes the wedding planning.

Events planning is a difficult thing, and particularly so for introverted writer-types accustomed to falling into a routine to making books that has little to do with dealing with about 100 friends and family members. Frankly, few can handle that kind of noise and confusion and struggle of managing the needs of 100 people day to day.

So, anyway, regardless of the intimidation factor, the training one acquires in "Pre-Cana" is immediately applied to events planning. We have to run a budget together. We have to disagree amicably about things and work towards compromise. We have to face the worst parts of ourselves, sometimes, when we realize we want something and we have to face the difficult discussions about family and friends who are coming or not or not invited at all. We have to face the facts. Also, we have to build the facade. Plan an event. Reserve a space. Handle paperwork, legal paperwork and otherwise. We have to do all the stupid little decisions that come from events planning. We have to disagree about things that are important to us, and work it out, and the theory is you apply what you learn in Pre-Cana, and you have your family and friends around to watch and observe and guide. Also, it's a big thing that you do together, right at the beginning of your life together.

This is why I think weddings are a great idea, and probably a good thing to have at the beginning of your life together.

Also, it's going to be really fun to get everybody together! With big, diffuse communities like we have these days, it's rare that everybody gets together, celebrates something.

Weddings are a good thing. They are a very good thing. Weddings for everybody!

PS Please buy my books and help pay for my wedding?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two Important Pictures.

Notice there's a coupon code in the second image... ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Take a Picture, or The Dog Days of Summer Dogsland Giveaway!

I will be giving away books and eBooks during the month of August. I'm doing this for a reason. It looks like the third Dogsland book is happening, and I want to make sure that as many people as possible pick up a copy of the first two and get themselves ready for #3, and I want to encourage people to pick up copies of DISINTEGRATION VISIONS, and LAST DRAGON, and WOMEN AND MONSTERS, and TALES FROM THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS, and DEATH MASK AND EULOGY. I want to encourage people to buy a book by me. So, starting on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, and through the month of August (*cough* which ends with my wedding on September 1st *cough*) I want to give one physical copy of a signed book away every Friday, and copious eBooks.

Here's what I need you to do. Buy a book by me, or check it out from a library. A physical, hard-copy book. Show me that you bought the book by showing me a picture of you holding that book on Facebook, Twitter, FlickR, or anywhere public. I desire a public display of the book, you see. I want you to hold it where other people can see you holding it, and other people can ask you what the heck that was all about, and if the book was any good. Post your picture to my Facebook Wall. Put it up on FlickR and link it to me in the comments here. Put the book up, with you holding it, so that others can see that you are holding it. My Facebook Wall is a great place to do that.  Twitter is a great place to do that @jmmcdermott. If you've already bought the book, you've already got a leg up in this little adventure, don't you? All you have left is to pose for a photograph!

In return, I offer a free eBook of either Dogsland Book, or if you already have those, any one of my eBook-only projects, including TALES FROM THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS, DEATH MASK AND EULOGY, or perhaps, later this month, a novella that's coming out soon...

This Friday, and every Friday until the end of the month, I will randomly select one of the photographs to receive an autographed copy of either NEVER KNEW ANOTHER or WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS.

Go forth. Take a picture. Show me the picture. Etc.

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us. Dogsland is upon me, and maybe you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I should be writing...

ETA: Seedlings coming up below!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Corruption Steals From Us and Human Movement

I have been reading perhaps too many historical texts, including revisiting Richard Hakluyt's Voyages and Discoveries, and some new-to-me-but-not-new books on the history of the world viewed by an economist. It made an interesting mental backdrop to a recent piece in the Rolling Stone about corruption and bid rigging and all sorts of nefarious acts in the corporate financial system. Taibbi's piece, and I'm not the only one to suggest it, is a must-read, regardless of political stripe, if only because the corruption is so commonplace that it could not exist like this in one aspect of the financial sector if it did not exist in others:
Corruption, when it is done well, happens so quietly we don't even know we're being abused. In fact, the bribers and the bribees in this situation and many others all believed they were behaving quite honorably, because this was the way things are done, and the way everyone on their side of the table reaped the most rewards.

There are people looking into things, and they are finding things, and the things they find happening are very bad things, indeed, and I am sure this story is only the tip of the iceberg of corruption that will be unraveled in the days to come, if our economy continues to drag and we keep demanding the blood of bankers to blame.

I was reading a book about the trade of agricultural staples across the oceans of history on the one hand, and the first-person accounts of British voyages to new places and territories on the other. It is hard not to read Taibbi's piece without Empire on the mind. It is an imperial way of thinking, that if the territories do not know what they do not have then we can go ahead and take it from them. It is an imperial way of behaving, to skim and pad and schmooze in such a fashion, and harm the natives who are perceived as part of a different category of being from the brave British captains, sailors, and cabin boys whose accounts of adventure are being transcribed. The people involved, from New York do not view the people of Oakland as human on quite the same level as they see the other people in the financial services industry, who were all such smart people and good students and go-getters and whatnot, compared to those lazy schlubs in municipal government service, you see. That is the way empire thinks. Take what we can from the natives of that foreign country who has fallen under our thumb, for we are the enlightened ones who bring great gifts and they should be grateful we have brought our expertise to their shores, at all.

The Taibbi piece is also hinting at a pattern reminiscent to the flour riots of France, and most of the peasant revolutions of history. For, when there is plenty, corruption flourishes and takes root unchecked by the population that would rather be busy with their own plenty and not fighting anyone over such scraps, until such time as there is no longer plenty and peasants seek out the reasons for their lack of food in the waste generated by systemic corruption. New leaders must be installed, forthwith, and new laws! Hear-Hear!

Revolutions in history overthrew corruption in times of scarcity, like we have right now. Naturally, what immediately followed was temporary reforms that, once entrenched, commenced to re-institute or at least not disallow the return of corruption in times of plenty. In times of plenty, when there is enough food and the harvests are good, the peasants don't riot over a little corruption. It becomes common-place. It becomes the way things get done in the society. It becomes so natural, business leaders discuss their clear and present corruption even when they know they are being recorded, because it has been happening for decades.

Presidential elections, even today, seem to be about our daily bread. Do we have enough bread? Let him stay in power! Do we need more bread? Throw the bum out! Presumably, and particularly after a certain Supreme Court case was decided, no source of political power is free of the corruption that drags on the coat tails of public policy. It seems to be the natural cycle of corruption, as old as the riots of the ancient world. This is part of the natural life-cycle of all empires, and the language of empire is all over these men.

My warning then, to all lefty and libertarian-leaning voters, is to take heed that political power of any group, maintained too long, will only lead to more and greater levels of corruption. Ergo, it is best not to attach our political identities too much to any one faction. Hopefully, before the corruption comes in our preferred faction of the moment, there will be a time of great plenty to withstand the drag on the economy of corruption that is as inevitable as death and taxes. At such time, we might be best to switch allegiances around to favor not the incumbent boss leaders, but the reformers who will make great promises - and might even pass a few decent laws - before these reformers, too, suffer the inevitable end of all politicians in the complex ecosystem of human political power.

Corruption is bad. It's a theft we don't even see, and it happens all the time, in a myriad ways, based around the political influence and power of men and women who feel safe behind their wall of SuperPAC donation-receipts.

Speaking of which, I am blogging a long-ish thing today, but I have not been blogging regularly. You see, I am more interested in being a great novelist, and husband, than I am in being a great blogger. I expect this trend to continue as I begin the steps necessary to relocate to a new state, and a wedding in September, and etc. Even if I had time to blog more, I am finding the form less and less interesting, as a writer and as a reader. I prefer only to come here when I believe I can contribute something I find interesting, and I have no desire to force a number of blog posts per day/week just to meet some artificial goal of on-line activity that doesn't actually do much to aid in the marketing of books, or in my general happiness.  I am not leaving, but I am also generally disinterested in planning or posting with anything resembling regularity. More blogging will happen or it will not. 

In the mean time, I am packing to move, and planning our wedding, etc.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fathomless Abyss-byss-byss-byss...

Salutations mortals, and greetings from down here in the Fathomless Abyss. You don't know where that is, do you? Well, you should. The early missives with news from below trickledup from the depths via nihlex messenger a few months back.

You might notice a price drop on your preferred eDevice. Well, the powers that be down here, underground, decided to sweeten the deal for newcomers on account of the arrival of a new letter from below, from Guillermo and Kegan O'Malley, who face the devils in the endless deep:

Devils of the Endless Deep is the first follow-up to the anthology Tales From The Fathomless Abyss.

When the Fathomless Abyss opens onto an unsuspecting world, the Smog that chokes its upper regions is released. And with the Smog come the Tabagie—raiders and scavengers from thousands of different worlds and thousands of different epochs. The Tabagie get what they can, while they can, then the Abyss closes again, and no one knows how long it will be before it opens again.

When the Abyss opened on Earth in 1986, Keegan O’Malley fell in, and Guillermo Cordova floated out. Keegan is left trying to adapt to a strange new world populated by a mix of aliens from the far-flung reaches of the universe and humans from both his past and his future. And Guillermo, a 16th Century Spanish Conquistador, will have to make his way in a future world that’s no less alien.

But Guillermo knows something Keegan doesn’t.

He knows when and where the Fathomless Abyss will open next.

Philip Athans, the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation, leads a team of fantasy and science fiction veterans into a bizarre new world, and a fascinating new project: a shared world series as exotic and expansive as the infinite Abyss.

Phil Athans' is the first novella to come in this strange, underground place. Mine will be coming soon to eReaders near you.

 Soon my own, strange letter will rise up from the depths, where an ancient god sends out his profits to bring back new acolytes in a novella also dedicated to the Tabagie at the cap, in perhaps a harder time with fewer open caps to belch out smog.

Anyway, greetings from the depths! Do come visit soon! Tourist visas range anywhere from 99cents to 2.99, so there's really no excuses on your part not to come on down!