Author Chow: Señor Ramon Taqueria

Author Chow: Señor Ramon Taqueria

Help feed all of the poor, starving authors out there in, well, wherever. Authors tend to be solitary critters, although they do gather in small herds (er, writing groups) sometimes. Still, somebody’s got to make sure they get fed, or the stories will dry up.

Here’s a meal from the newly opened Señor Ramone Taqueria in Chantilly, VA, featuring two deluxe tacos, accompanied by chips and salsa. On the left, the Ghost Taco, with Chicken Tinga, Cotija chess, shaved onions, sweet peppers, cilantro and ghost pepper cream. On the right, the Gado Taco, with skirt steak, caramelized onions, guacamole, jalepenos and Cotija cheese.

Good stuff. High recommended. Will definitely keep your favorite authors’ daily word count cranking along.

Posted in A Little Inspiration | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Is Dave Working On?

Coming Soon

One of the most common questions writers get is:

What are you working on?

For most writers, that’s an easy question to answer. They just start talking about their current Work-In-Progress, or WIP.

From my day job in the Information Technology world, I’m used to multi-tasking. Due to years of on-the-job training, I find that I multi-task the same way as a writer, which most of my fellow authors in my writing group find bizarre. Or maybe it’s a peculiar form of ADHD. I dunno.

I work on a pipeline of stories at the same time, with different stories in stages like Concept, Outline, First Draft, Second Draft or Beta. Movement of a story from one stage to the next is usually driven by factors like deadlines, anthology schedules, marketing considerations, or, sometimes, I just need to work on this story right now.

I’ve sometimes confused my blog readers by mentioning stories further down in the pipeline before they’re even close to publication-ready. To add some transparency to my (unorthodox) process, I’ve now got a Coming Soon page that shows my entire pipeline and what’s in each stage.

You’ll see that I’m starting to roll some SF into the mix, as well as some Steampunk. There are also sequels to some of my existing stories on the way.

And no, I didn’t compile all this information just special for this new page. As a software developer, I use agile sprint management software to track all of my writing activities (it’s OK if you don’t know what that means). So I had all of that information already. I hope you find it interesting.

Posted in Science Fiction, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Second Round: Cover Art Reveal

Second Round: Cover Art

This is the cover art for the upcoming anthology, Second Round: A Return to the Ur-Bar. This fabulous picture was created by Justin Adams of Varia Studios.

The anthology features stories set in a mystical bar that appears at different times and places throughout history, with Gilgamesh cursed to be its eternal bartender. My story, “The Whispering Voice,” will appear in this book, since editors Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray were kind enough to accept my story.

The anthology will be published in August by Zombies Need Brains. Preorders can be purchased here.

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Look What Just Arrived…

Book Delivery: Fantastic Defenders

Hey, look what just arrived. It’s my latest delivery of Fantastic Defenders from CreateSpace. Another box of selling stock, 20 copies. As it turns out, just about every copy is already spoken for, so I actually need to order another box.

This is, well, not a new edition, but I did take the opportunity to fine-tune the cover a little bit. And, ahem, a few typos that crept through the copyediting process have also been corrected.

Posted in About My Books | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inspiration: Godzilla

Godzilla, In Perspective

This is a shot from the movie Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. I think this is a stunning scene that contrasts the human scale with the “monster scale” typically embodied in monster flicks. It emphasizes how dangerous the monster is, both from its respective size as well as the fact that nobody is even thinking about making any sort of move against the behemoth. The inclusion of the crew members in the helicopter is vital, because in this scene they serve as a surrogate for the audience.

Posted in Film, Science Fiction | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inspiration: Cat People

Cat People Dream Sequence

This is an image of a strangely moving, recurring dream sequence from Cat People, the 1982 romantic horror movie starring Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell. The movie is about shapeshifters, specifically dangerous, black leopards. Irena Gallier is a young woman who keeps having a recurring dream about black leopards, eventually leading her to the discovery that she’s a were-creature, a shapeshifter.

She eventually finds out that shifting in her species is triggered by sex. And that she’ll have to make a decision between the normal human that she’s fallen in love with and another member of her kind.

Note: (2018/03/03) I find it interesting that Marvel’s new hit film, Black Panther, includes a similar dream sequence featuring panthers in a tree. Used for slightly different effect, of course, but nevertheless remarkably close in aspect and impact.

Posted in A Little Inspiration | Tagged | Leave a comment

Novelette Series: Entertaining, Fast and Just Enough Plot

I’ve written about this before, about how I’ve always liked novelettes and, sometimes, their slightly longer cousin, the novella. The annual Hugo Awards for SF classify novelettes as stories between 7501 – 17,500 words (roughly 30 to 70 pages in a mass market paperback). Novellas run from 17,501 to 40,000 words (71 – 160 pages).

A lot of famous stories fall into these ranges. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a novella. So is Jack London’s Call of the Wild (one of my absolute favorite stories). Robert Silverberg is famous for his award-winning novelettes and novellas, such as Enter a Soldier. Later, Enter Another, Hawksbill Station and Sailing to Byzantium.

Even more interesting, some writers wrote frequently at these lengths and produced a body of such works in the form of series. Poul Anderson created his Technic Civilization Saga, now reprinted in seven largish volumes, as a mix of short stories, novelettes, novellas and novels. The Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was likewise a mix of short stories, novelettes and one novella (A Study in Scarlet).

OK, so it’s obvious that I like novelettes and novellas. Thus, it’s probably not surprising that I’m written a bunch of them, and am in the process of writing more. In fact, I’ve started organizing my work into a number of distinct series.

Science Fiction

While the bulk of my work has been in the fantasy field, I’ve still got several SF series in progress.

  • After the Fall: After spreading throughout the entire solar system and achieving a high level of technology, civilization has been demolished in a vicious war between humans, AIs and post-Singularity humans. This is a series of stories about the pockets of humanity surviving in pockets throughout the system, from the burning wastes of Mercury, a war-ravaged but terraformed Mars, the devastated Earth and other places.

          — Hell-Cats of the Burning Sands

  • Belters: In the 24th century, Jonas Kastle is a troubleshooter for the Outer Planets League (OPL) in the run-up to what may become the first interplanetary war.

          — The Deep Dive

  • Monumentalists: In the early 23rd century, Emily Dunkirk works for the Monumentalists, an organization dedicated to finding stolen artwork and returning it to its rightful owners. She specializes in retrieval, usually from people and organizations who don’t want to give up their stolen property.

          — Clash by Night

Fantasy

I have several series that are best classified as fantasy…

  • Forever House: Adventures involving the Forever House, a mystical tavern that appears in different times and places throughout the multiverse.

          — Rocco Fitch, on Fighting Evil
          — Hunting Expedition

  • Roadwerks Limited: Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, inadvertently buys a magic road…and gets far more than he bargained for.

          — Road Trip
          — Paying the Toll

The Thousand Kingdoms

The Thousand Kingdoms is a balkanized nation of anarchic kingdoms controlled by the Tars Arcana, a ruling organization of powerful mages. It’s a post-feudal setting where the existence of magic has stunted the development of science. Series existing in this setting include:

  • Big Sky Country: Brant Halvar is a skyracer on the dangerous skyracing circuit. He and his crew overcome adversity as he advances through the ranks in his effort to be accepted into the elite Big Sky League.

          — The Mad Diver of Mistveil

  • Keeper’s Guild: Demetrius is a member of the Keeper’s Guild, an organization in the anarchic city of Mozanya that preserves the integrity of the city’s for-profit legal system by ensuring the safety of plaintiffs and key witnesses.

          — The Most Dangerous Thing

  • Pageeda and Scuffee: Pageeda, a young homeless girl living in the gritty port city of Mozanya, struggles to find out what happened to her older sister. She is befriended by Scuffee, a strangely intelligent, oversized cat who has escaped from the local Arena.

          — Bitter Days
          — The Threefold Revenge

  • The Royal Protectors: Lydio Malik is the Royal Bodyguard for Princess Analisa, the heir to the throne of Salasia. He and a team of others, including the princess’s maid and the Royal Mage, defend her from powerful forces trying to topple the ruling dynasty.

          — The Rooftop Game
          — Last Day on the Job
          — Unleashed

  • The Silent Knight: Ser Kedric Hawkthorn has been betrayed by his own liege lord, the so-called Boy King. Taking refuge in a rebellious province, the disfigured knight finds himself leading troops against his former king…and his mysterious backers.

          — The Silent Knight
          — An Unexpected Journey

Posted in Science Fiction | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Fantastic Defenders: Tuning a Cover

Cover Comparison: Fantastic Defenders

When we launched “Fantastic Defenders,” the first volume of our new Worlds Enough anthology series, we were never quite as happy with the cover as we’d hoped. The issue wasn’t with the cover art, which we thought was both excellent and well worth the money we’d paid (that’s how you get real cover art by the way…you buy it from somebody good). But the typography…the design…of the cover wasn’t quite as snazzy as we’d hoped. Additionally, the cover was perhaps just a little bit dark. Some of the key details simply didn’t stand out when the cover was shown as a thumbnail.

The thing about indie publishing is, if you’re doing it right, your book is available forever. We always knew we were going to do something down the road to improve the cover. It wasn’t horrible, it just needed some tuning.

Well, that time is now.

Maybe we should have done something sooner. In fact, yes, absolutely, we should have. But with indie publishing, there’s never a shortage of work to be done. There’s always another deadline, more words to write, another convention to prepare for, etc.

When I took on the task of tuning up the cover, I consulting with Don Anderson, a graphic artist. We discussed the flaws of the original cover:

  • Uninspired typography.
  • Unclear delineation of Worlds Enough as the series name, not the volume name.
  • Rough snow on the bottom of the page distracted from the names of the editors.
  • Despite the snow, the cover was just a little too dark.
  • Key details, especially the sword, not visible in thumbnail.
  • Remove the list of writers on the right side of the cover.

Above, you can see the Before and After versions of the cover.

One key addition was little graphic chevrons on either side of the series title. They’re small, but they subtly serve to set “Worlds Enough” off as the series title and, by contrast, emphasize “Fantastic Defenders as the title of the anthology. Although not shown, slightly stubbier chevrons are used as the bullets on the back cover blurb. So the chevrons are functioning as a unifying element of an overall theme.

The overall cover has been lightened, so some of the fine details are more visible. The sword has been lightened even more in order to make that feature more prominent (and visible in a thumbnail).

The snow at the bottom of the page has been lightened and smoothed, and the editorial designation has a drop shadow. Combined, this makes the names of the editors easier to read.

Overall, I feel like the cover has been improved. The changes might not be dramatic, but even a 10% improvement (however you might quantify that) seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

Posted in Management | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meetup.com: Yet Another Disappointing Update

A Typical MeetingI’m a member of a writing group that uses Meetup to promote our group and organize our meetings. I have come to the general conclusion that the folks at Meetup are totally clueless about the business they’re in.

Despite the fact that people are paying to promote and manage their groups on Meetup, the company seems determined to take away existing features and continually devolve the product into something of use only to photo-sharing teenagers (for which there are probably also better sites).

Last year, they took away the Files feature. So, you can run your meetings, but you can’t share things like hand-outs, agendas, course materials, etc. As a writing group, we shared chapters weekly to be critiqued, a capability that they took away. When I complained, their answer was 1) they felt other sites like Google Drive did filesharing better, and 2) most of their customers were using Meetup on their phones. So, you can’t share files, but, hey, you can share photos.

Thanks to this feature removal, our members have to join Meetup. And then they have to join Google. And then we have to do extra work to set up access for new members so we can share files with them. No more one-stop shopping. More headaches, and more work, for the organizers. And each group on Meetup that has this same problem, has to figure out how to solve it themselves.

In their latest update, Meetup is rolling out a new user interface. Well, really, they’ve unified their codebase so the same interface is being used for both their web presence and smartphones. Theoretically, they get a single more maintainable user interface, and paying customers get:

  • An inconsistent interface, with different parts of the site in varying stages of makeover.
  • An airy design that uses screen real estate inefficiently and makes features harder to get to for web users.
  • Out of sync information between screens. For example, while on a Meeting page, if you click “Attend” and then go to the All Meetings page, the attendance numbers will be out of sync. Are you scheduled to attend or not? This is important…our writing group meetings have a cap on attendance.
  • An invalid count of the number of meetings attended (for some users). This has been a reported bug now for a year; still not fixed.

I could go on with my list. As an IT worker (in my day job), I consider it a half-assed, unprofessional update that adds nothing for paying users. It’s a shockingly bad release for a company that has seventy or so people.

All I’ve got to say is…we’re actively looking at alternatives. Facebook might be a viable alternative for us, and they’re free, too.

Posted in Tools for Writers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration: Worst Cities in a Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie Apocalypse

If you’ve ever worried about which cities would be the worst to be in when a zombie apocalypse starts, well, here’s an infographic that ranks the worst cities in the United States. Not unexpectedly, New York tops the list (which just happens to be where I’ve set my upcoming zombie story).

Posted in A Little Inspiration | Tagged , | Leave a comment
« Older
Newer »