Goats

goat/dachsund/zebra

From ON THE LEFT FOOT. Thanks Zane, I can’t get enough of this goat.

Instead, what I saw might only be described as the stare of the unconcerned. The creature nosing through last night’s leavings looked something like a goat. It had yellow eyes flecked with blue. It had horns, but they were longer than anything I had ever seen growing from a goat’s head before. And instead of curling around the animal’s ears they shot up straight toward the sky like a pair of sky scrapers. And it was short. It was like a Dachshund version of a goat. With stubby little legs and a tan and blue zebra pattern of fur along its back.

 

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Synchronicity

This afternoon I put Aral down for a nap. It was a long morning, filled with lots of errands and plenty of adventures. Admittedly, I snoozed a little while calming him down sufficiently that his tiredness could catch up and pin him in slumber. When he wakes in a while he’ll be happy and ready for some new adventures this afternoon.

But I got up from his bed and tiptoed down the stairs, thinking about the next stack of boxes I might unpack, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t written much to this point in the day. So I sat down at my “desk” (a corner of the kitchen actually, carved out to support a laptop) and started scrolling articles mostly to get the juices flowing.

I am constantly amazed at how often we overlook the astounding. Especially in our friends and acquaintances. Being open to the amazing skills and abilities of complete strangers seems to require an unsustainable level of energy. Even the simple act of acknowledgment, focused on friends and family, can be a stretch. “Wow, you’ve got a very special talent,” are words we just don’t say enough. They’re not heard enough. I’m not open enough.

While scrolling I came across this video of three strangers who pick out a tune on a sidewalk. Yeah it’s not going to win a Grammy, but it is good from the get-go and it only gets better as each of these guys lends their talent to the mix.

The first guy, the fella with the guitar, had to be open to the second and third talents that just join. But in maintaining that openness he allowed something new and greater than the original song to emerge from all parts.

Recently I’ve started working on a couple of shelved projects. A friend from our days in eastern Washington approached me and asked if I might have a story idea that would lend itself to graphic novel form. “Yeah, here’s a list,” I said. Since then I’ve been feverishly hammering away at a script for an idea I had plotted out as a novel. Just recently (like yesterday) I was talking to an online publisher about the potential of picking up the Jack Isen series I started late last winter. Zane picked up the manuscript of ON THE LEFT FOOT and started sketching and now my dropbox is filling up with pencils and ink work. Considering that I’ve known Zane since a chance encounter at a coffee shop in 2008 what follows is some sort of amazing stroke of luck.

goat/dachsund/zebra

All you get to see for the moment

Zane Kinney has this uncanny ability to read what I’ve written and translate those words into the image I had in my head. That’s one of the goats! It feels to me, as if he was watching over my shoulder while I was dreaming up the story. Looking into my head. Let me tell you, as a writer, this is an amazing feedback loop. Complimentary, self-replicating moments of flow.  Each and every time I see something new pop up on my screen I eagerly open up the file to get a better look. “Hey! There’s Umoya.”

For the time being we’re keeping the graphic novel under wraps. Call it NEFARIOUS PROJECT X if you need a name. But know, each and every time I settle the little boy down for the night, I find myself rushing to my laptop to add a page or two of panels to the script. His preliminary sketches are AMAZING. And, ON THE LEFT FOOT is getting revisited, not because I have the time, but because I love to see what Zane is going to draw from that tale too.

Synchronicity is an amazing experience. You know you’ve got it when all participants are saying things like “It has been a great thing for me to play with this. It’s been liberating to be able to chase these ideas around with few strings attached,” and the work becomes a sort of playful experiment around melody and a solid beat.

News

First, the good news. This weekend I received a letter from the DetCon1 Programming folks and I quickly shot off a reply. I’m headed, once again, to Detroit, Michigan for a summer convention.

I don’t know what it is about that part of the world, but man you “Yoopers” sure have a thing for SFF. I’m not complaining. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m sort of ecstatic to visit Michigan in the middle of the summer. I’ll get to hang out with the mucky-mucks for a couple of days. Meet new friends and share with colleagues. I’m currently planning on driving so if you’re interested you’ll get to experience my overlander first hand.

Yesterday I nailed down my reservation at the hotel, and there is even the possibility that my beautiful and talented wife might join me on this excursion into intense geekery.  And for that I am even more excited than I have the words to express. I might have to bump up the reservation and get a room with a view.

In other news I have lined up a couple more author interviews for FROM THE INDIE SIDE. Be excited, you’re going to get buckets of new author blood really soon. Peter Cawdron is due this upcoming Friday. Followed by Ernie Lindsey, Susan May, and Mel Hearse.

In the mean time, if you’re looking for something to read you won’t be disappointed with this anthology. The diversity of voices and tales means that you can pick and chose what you’d rather read based on your mood in the moment. And, even though it is thicker than a Chilton’s Auto Repair manual, it won’t break your budget at $4.99 (kindle price).

While you’re supporting independent authors you should give me a try. I’ve just put out a short story of my own which is turning into something of a series. ON THE LEFT FOOT: A TALE OF THE LONG EARTH is only $0.99 on Amazon and it will transport you from that dull, slightly musty bus seat into an otherworldly back country filled with the rich scents of waking pine trees and fresh trout.

Also, last weekend I added another couple of thousand words to the next in the “sports in space” series UP SLOPE. It is on target for spring release and I’m pretty happy with how the story is coming along. You don’t need to read the first in the series to understand the story, but if you gave THE BIG RED BUCKLE a gander you would not be disappointed.

Next up, this morning I was browsing through your many, many Facebook posts when I came across a real gem from Jacqueline Carey, who is a formidable presence in the the world of wordsmiths to say the least, and she has something really poignant to say about our professional organization.

I don’t mean to imply that the blame for all that ails SFWA lies with its most senior members.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but I can only speak to what I’ve observed, which is that there’s an undeniable generational push-back against changing mores that’s a significant part of the problem.  I don’t want SFWA to lose its identity or its sense of history, but if it’s going to remain relevant, it needs to adapt.  Honor the past, but celebrate the present and look toward the future, too.

I can thank my wife Tess for getting me hooked on Carey’s Kusiel series, late night readings from Kushiel’s Dart were something of a treat back in the early days of our relationship. It is sexy stuff, but with careful and complete construction, deep plots that make it difficult to sleep (even though you have work in the morning).

At ConFusion I had only the briefest of encounters with Carey, but her opinion, and the action (or inaction) she is willing to undertake in order to achieve a clear and unmistakable expression, is admirable. And she has done a wonderful job of laying out all the things SFWA might be missing its maddening rush to cling to BS and drama.

I mean… seriously?  The publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, changes that affect every single author in (and out of) the genre.  E-book pricing and royalty rates, the antitrust lawsuit, DRM, the rise of indie publishing, Amazon’s slow-burning bid for a monopoly, dwindling brick-and-mortar stores, the commodification of fan fiction, promotion in the age of social networking, the Google Books lawsuit, the consolidation of the Big Six into the Big Five, etc.  There’s a lot to talk about!  And yet when it comes to SFWA, it seems all the oxygen in the room was—and still is—being sucked up by a discussion that has no business taking place in this day and age.

When I first started to accumulate rejection letters one of my primary motivations to be a writer was SFWA membership. I wanted to be included in the group and run along side others doing the same thing. In my past life as an engineer I belonged to a variety of professional organizations, and for the most part, this was a useful and even necessary requirement for inclusion within the network of people working in the field. They kept me appraised of the major currents in my industry and helped me make good decisions that ultimately made me a better engineer.

The realization that SFWA membership might be beyond my reach, even with the growing collection of SFF bearing my name, gave me pause. I started to ask myself, “What could I get out of this relationship if I take the time to jump through their hoops?” The answer that I reached basically amounted to not much that I couldn’t find on my own. I’ve got KBoardsGoodreads, and conventions for community, inspiration, and to keep me appraised of what is and isn’t happening in the writing world. The organization’s Writer Beware blog tends to be far behind the 8-ball when it comes to breaking news and new predatory practices that harm creatives, and its contributors spend at least half their time tooting their own horn. The organization has become, in many respects, just a breading ground for drama and discontent.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to extend some kudos to Jacqueline Carey, I think she is doing a good thing and I hope the best for her and wish her luck. Yes, she has lost her nomination privileges for the Nebula, but her opinions are already well respected. I’d happily read anything she recommended, her cogent and considered opinion has lot more weight than an award.

And finally, I wanted to take a moment to pass along the announcement that Michael J. Sullivan‘s next book is available for pre-order. And if you order now, you’ll get a pile of extras and bonus stuff … early. This is a series I’ve had on my W2R list for a while and Mr. Sullivan is an excellent dude.

So, I will round out today’s news and announcements with one more place for you to spend your hard earned dough on books. Click on through to this announcement for all the details and goodies.

I Give You ON THE LEFT FOOT

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ON THE LEFT FOOT. A short story as wild and wonderful and full of weeds as I could manage in about 7,000 words. Write what you know? Write what you don’t know? Well I did both. Take a look. Enjoy. It’s cheep.  It’s Saturday. You’ll likely want more. I’m writing.

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Backcountry ranger Jack Isen has had a bad year. Once school gets out he is anticipating some time alone, working the back country of the Flat Tops Wilderness. Something strange happens and he finds much more isolation than he was planning for.