Thursday, May 31, 2018

It's not where you get your ideas, it's how you fuel your tank

"Where do you get your ideas?" is the question put to authors a lot, and it's fundamentally the wrong question.

The ideas are always out there.  They are almost irrelevant.  If you're looking for them, if you're thinking creatively of how to integrate them to each other, you'll find them.  What matters is how you turn that idea in to a story.

And that goes into how you're keeping your tank full.

By which I mean, as a writer, you should always be taking in input while you're making output.  That doesn't necessarily mean Read All The Books--- but you should be reading, of course-- but any other thing that can fuel your imagination: movies, television, music, art, anything.  That's what's going to give you the little bits that weave together to become new ideas. 

And you need that.  You can't keep driving on an empty tank.  It never works.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Don't be distracted by the shiny! It isn't story.

Regarding ideas and where to get 'em... Did you read KAK's post yesterday? What she said. I'll just add a tiny bit to it.

I get ideas from science news feeds and web sites, the brain-crunchy books of pop-science geniuses like Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk's Twitter feed (which is crazysauce, have you seen that thing?!), re-watches of TV shows that stoke my fangirl imagination (Farscape, Firefly, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, etc.), documentaries, vacation photos and journals, those people in the Starbucks who look tense and clearly have some drama going on, and, when all else fails, the disco black hole of YouTube.

The problem with ideas is that they aren't a story. Yeah, I know there's such a thing as an "idea story" ("What if we were all living in the dream of some dude name Jack?"), but the format has never worked for me. Maybe my ideas just aren't juicy enough to drive a whole story, I dunno.

For me, ideas are gems, scattered out on the bedspread. I pick up a science article here, a TV character's gesture there, and a dead language there, and I slip all those jewels into a velvet bag, give it a little shake, and start drawing them out, hopefully in an arrangement that appropiately bedazzles my story.

And I mean story in the Lisa Cron sense: "A story is about what the protagonist has to learn, to overcome, to deal with internally in order to solve the problem that the external plot poses."

So, as sparkly and beautiful as all those ideas are, honestly, they're just vehicles for telling a story. They aren't the story themselves.

Which is good news, right? I mean, you can get ideas from anywhere, and they don't even need to be good ideas. The trick is use all those shiny idea gems to to tell a story that means something to you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Story Ideas: Problem Isn't The Concept; It's The Execution

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

For the high-concepts of stories? From my over-active imagination that is stimulated by life. The mundane morphing into the unusual, the ordinary that could shift to extraordinary with one tweak, the existential questions with practical answers, and the immediate concerns forgotten with a greater crisis; it's all fodder for a novel. An idea shortage is not a problem. An excess of ideas? Now there's a problem. Choosing which one(s) to pursue next? Choosing which ones to smash together into a new thing? Choosing which ones to abandon and which ones to beat into submission? Which ones get the investment of time and money? Which ones get pushed to the back of the queue? Which ones can be written in a timely manner and which ones will be long labors of love?

For the details of the story? Oh, now, this is the problematic part. The execution of the Great Concept. Again, abundance is the root of the trouble. Which path to trod? Which is unique without being alienating? There are drafts with whole tangents that seemed like a good idea that ended up not being compelling, that failed to develop the character, or that developed the character in such a way that the character is quite unlikeable. Sometimes, it's a lot of stabbing at shadows until one coalesces. "Would she really...?" is frequently uttered. Would my protag really react like that, go there, engage in that manner, solicit help, endanger that group, etc. How is my protag vulnerable without being weak? How is she competent and inclusive? How does she empower others to succeed? What is it she fears and how is that going to manifest? How does she deal with fear? How does she grow across the series without outgrowing the series?

Strangely enough, I can make a pretty swift command decision about which high-concept project I'll pursue. The details? Thems what makes writing a book a real challenge. Yet the magic happens when the brain is allowed to think, to truly muse and ponder. 

And bourbon, bourbon helps too. 😈

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Better Answer to: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Last week I attended SFWA's Nebula Conference and got to meet our 2018 Grandmaster, Peter S. Beagle. I legit teared up when we talked and he signed my battered old copy I received forever and a day ago. I felt like a teenager again and all those feelings that led into my early love of fantasy rose up and swamped me.

The conference in 2019 will be at the Marriott Warner Center in Los Angeles. I highly recommend it! It's become my absolute favorite gathering of SFF writers and industry professionals.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is "Where do you get your ideas - the least popular question ever."

Whoever suggested this topic added the subtitle because a) writers get asked this question a LOT, and b) it's really hard to answer. One reason is because we don't actually KNOW where we get our ideas. We often laugh off answering it, or glibly say something like "Getting the ideas is easy; it's having the time to write them that's the challenge."

Which is a really terrible way to answer an earnest question. People who ask this get nothing from us assuring them that ideas are common as grass. They want to know where we get GOOD ideas. How to know which ideas to run with. What story to tell when they're looking at a blank page or screen. They also want to know how they can get an idea like Twilight, or Harry Potter, or Hunger Games.

Something we'd ALL like to know!

I recently listened to an interview with Neil Gaiman where he talked about this very thing. (Yeah, it's a few years old. So what? The internet lives forever!) He was asked to talk to a group of schoolchildren and one asked this question. And Gaiman said it occurred to him that it wouldn't be fair to give them the usual non-answer, because kids deserve better than that. Really, anyone who asks this question deserves better than that.

So, where do *I* get my ideas? Here's three.

I pay attention to my dreams and write them down. If there's an image/feeling powerful enough that I remember it clearly when I wake, I know there's something to it. THE MARK OF THE TALA, the first in my Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms series started with a dream. So did ROGUE'S PAWN from my Covenant of Thorns trilogy.

I enjoy my daydreams and give them time to spin. As we grow up, we're talked out of daydreaming, like it's a bad thing. We're told to pay attention and engage with others. But daydreaming is where a lot of my stories come from. They entertain me and give me good feelings, so those naturally become stories I enjoy writing. This works especially well with erotic fantasies. PETALS AND THORNS, SAPPHIRE, and UNDER CONTRACT came from erotic daydreams.

I get a lot of ideas from reading other people's books. No, it's not plagiarism if someone inspires you. I once heard a Famous Author on a panel proclaim that she doesn't read. (She called it a dirty, little secret of authors and seemed to think others thought the same way. Spoiler: we don't.) She believed reading somehow spoiled her own creativity. In the bar after (where all the best writer conversations occur), another author said "We're rich because we steal from the best houses." And, no, it's not really stealing. Art inspires art. Good books - and great movies - suggest ideas to me all the time. Don't go and replicate someone else's plot, but if something inspires you, run with it!

As much as we may riff that we get ideas all the time, most writers are always looking for new and better ones. They may be common as grass, but there's a lot of grass out there. We're all looking for something more special than that. Don't let any writer convince you otherwise.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The WIP and a New Release

My favorite thing about the current Work in Progress (WIP)?  Well the central theme of the book, entitled GABE, involves a major plot development in this ongoing series, which is fun to write, but I’m not talking about it yet LOL. I did foreshadow this once in book two, so readers may or may not be surprised. It’s a fun thing, I think.

In general my favorite thing about any WIP is just the fact that it's the book I'm writing and thinking about right now. I can't wait to read whichever book it happens to be when it's all done and to share it with readers.

My other favorite thing about the current WIP is that it’s book #5 in the series - book #4 is at the editor -  and I just released book #3 this week, so if you’ll forgive me, I’m now going to share the deets on my new release!

The book is JADRIAN: A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance (Sectors New Allies Series Book 3) and here’s the blurb:

Taura Dancer has been pushed to her limits by alien torturers known as the Khagrish and is ready to die when suddenly the lab where she’s held as a prisoner is taken down by an armed force of soldiers.

The man who rescues her from a burning cell block is Jadrian of the Badari, a genetically engineered alien warrior with as many reasons to hate the Khagrish as Taura has. This set of shared past experiences and the circumstances of her rescue create an unusual bond between them.

Safe in the hidden base where Jadrian and his pack take her, Taura struggles to regain her lost memories and overcome constant flashbacks during which she lashes out at all who come near. Only Jadrian can recall her from the abyss of her visions and hallucinations.

As the war against the Khagrish continues, it becomes increasingly critical to find out who she really is and how she can help in the fight. Until she can control her terrors and trust her own impulses, Taura’s too afraid to pursue the promise of happiness a life with Jadrian as her mate might offer.

When he’s captured by the dreaded enemy, will she step forward to help save him, or will she remain a prisoner of her past?

This is the third book in the series and each novel has a satisfying Happy for Now ending for the hero and heroine, not a cliffhanger. Some overarching issues do remain unresolved in each book since this is an ongoing series but romance always wins the day in my novels!

Amazon     B&N    Kobo     Google     iBooks
My cover artist Fiona Jayde has given me another gorgeous cover, if I do say so!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Derivative Fun in the WIP

My favorite thing about the current WIP is that I get to be a kid again.

Edie is a thinly veiled homage to my favorite MMORPG character ever. I can't say which game because frankly the game company believes they own my character and everything about her even if *I* did all the work creating and voicing her. So no screenshots of her, either. What is it about this situation that lets me be a kid?

I can pack Edie's speech, actions, and characterization full of Easter Eggs that harken back to the character and game of origin. I get that maybe three people on earth will recognize them when they read them. It amuses me while I write, so that's my excuse. There's a distinct chance that not a single one will survive editorial, anyway. Oh well. True, my game character had magic as the basis for her power and I frankly can't swing that in an SFR, but you know. Arthur C. Clarke, right? "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  So Edie has the tech to do what the things her progenitor did with magic.

All of this came about because the game company made repeated disparaging remarks about the race of character I had chosen to play. It's as if they learned nothing from Robin William's devastating suicide. The gist of their statement about this particular race of characters was something like 'this fictional race is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.' Sure. It looks like the game designers built the race in question to provide comedic relief in the game. But I think they're wrong. Dead wrong. I think most of us have come to understand that the funniest exteriors mask the most tragic and conflicted interiors.

So yeah. No pressure or anything, but I'm doing my best to pack all that stuff into a character who only has 90k words and a romance to get off the ground. My other favorite thing about it is that I don't have a hard deadline. So when something isn't working, I can afford the time to backtrack and figure out where I deviated from The One True Path.

Now. My very favorite thing on earth will be FINALLY finishing this thing. So I'm off to do that.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

My current WIP: The Shield of the People

Talking about my current WIP is a bit odd, because it's the sequel to a book that you all haven't read yet.  I mean, I could talk about my favorite bits in THE SHIELD OF THE PEOPLEbut it's lacking context for you. 

One thing I am enjoying in this one-- and to a lesser degree this applies to THE WAY OF THE SHIELD as well-- is a different kind of antagonist.  At least one of them. Namely, I have an antagonist whose goal is something that is a complete anathema to Dayne, but methods that are completely in sync with him.  So Dayne doesn't respect what the antagonist wants to do, but deeply respects the way he's trying to go about it, and therefore the person doing it.

One of the things I like about this series is a lot of the characters are fundamentally good people who are trying to do good things-- but they each have a very different idea of what that means.  That leads to, for me, fascinating situations of the lines between rebellion, revolution and lawlessness, and where those lines fall when, fundamentally, you believe in the system.

A lot of that is what The Maradaine Elite series is about.
That, and cool fight scenes.  Always cool fight scenes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why my new obsession is and must be a secret. (Hint at the end.)

The thing I like most about my work-in-progress is that you know nothing about it.

It's not that I don't like you or trust you [I love  you to bits, and you should know that]. It's not that I'm scared of rejection [except I so am] or even that I don't do well with criticism [oh God, what if it sucks? what if my baby grows up to be a super villain?!].

See, the thing is, this new series is nascent, gestating, passing through gleaming android milk over and over again like the monsters on Westworld, slowly becoming something better than it was in my brain.

But it's not there yet.

Right now, it's a lattice with little sprout vines reaching up, latching on. I think they will make flowers someday, and I think they will be beautiful. But I don't know for certain, and my hands are still dirty, and the no-you-can't voice is still really, really loud in my garden.

Last night, this unformed android alien plant baby transmorgified into complete synopses of all four books.

Tomorrow I will send those synopses in all their slimy, gross, hope-laden still-growningness to my agent. And I will be terrified.

This is the first time I've ever written a synopsis before I finished the book, and, in case you couldn't tell by the disturbing metaphors, doing the process this way is extremely weird. In the past, when I've synopsized, either the book was done and ready to roll or ... the magic bled out in the summary as I wrote it and the exsanguinated story gasped and died. Crisp vine, no flowers. Limp, fetid puddle of android alien goo. And then I hopped along to the next shiny.

Except, this time, I'm trying really hard not to do that, to kill my plant. I sort of have to send this early idea-let to my agent because that's how the next phase of my writing adventure progresses. I should be able to do this. I'm a professional, damn it.

So tomorrow I'll drop the chubby li'l info packet off at preschool [write email to agent; attach prehensile thing; tap Send], maybe have a little cry, and then go drink a lot of vodka and hope it learns how to play nice with others.

[Though, like all nurturers of super-villains, I do dream of it taking over the world someday.]

Wish us luck.

Hint: There are dragons.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Orchids on Young Queens and Vengeance from Slave Kings

I’m writing this post on an airplane on my way back from SFWA’s annual conference and Nebula Awards.

The gathering this year shone for so many reasons—excellent programming, exciting new initiatives on the Board (I’m a Director at Large, for SFWA), and wonderful camaraderie. We really connected with each other this year and I’m revved for next year’s conference in Los Angeles.
Because of all this I’m posting on Tuesday instead of my usual Sunday SFF Seven blog. Kristine Krantz switched days with me, which I truly appreciate. She wrote about her new urban fantasy series, so check that out!

We’re talking this week about our favorite things about our current WIPs. That stands for Work in Progress, for those not in the know. It’s a standard writer catch-all term for whatever we’re working on, regardless of length or medium.

(Medium is an important factor, I’m becoming more aware, as I spent a substantial amount of time meeting with folks this last week how to set the rules for the Game-Writing Nebula Award. Parsing how narrative arcs in games of all types as compared to in novels and shorter works has me thinking about how we tell stories.)

At any rate, I’m working on THE ORCHID THRONE, which is the first book in my new trilogy for St. Martin’s Press, The Forgotten Empires. The above images are ones I used for inspiration and to encapsulate the feel of the story.

And they summarize the contrasting worlds of the heroine and hero. She is the Queen of Flowers and he is the King of Slaves.

Really, these two characters are my favorite parts of this WIP. They are the ones driving it, especially as—the way my process works—I’m discovering the world, secondary characters and myriad other conflicts as I live with them.

They’re both very interesting, complex people, each fighting to hold themselves and their “kingdoms” together in different ways. She is young, very intelligent, fascinated by science—and holding onto her virgin status to preserve the sovereignty of her throne, in possibly the last somewhat free kingdom left. He is an escaped slave, king of nothing and with a voice roughened and strained from laboring in volcanic mines. He’s entirely focused on revenge—and willing to do whatever that takes.

They’re alike in their determination and iron wills. And also in what lies beneath all that.
So it’s fun to write these people and see what happens when I bring them together, both immovable objects. Or both irresistible forces. I’m not sure yet.

Explosions to ensue.

Monday, May 21, 2018

My favorite thing about the latest work in progress

Is that it is almost done.

I've been working on BOOMTOWN for a very long time. How long? Well, it was the project I was actively writing when my wife passed away.

I have to say, for me at least, the death of a spouse tends to slow down the writing on a project.

I came to a complete halt. Of course the fact that the publisher I was going to sell it to went belly up didn't help.  Maybe it did'tt really hurt, but it certainly took away from the incentive to get my butt in gear any faster.

I managed to keep myself busy with other projects. Also, I managed to write several sequels to the novel in question. How many? Well, there's "Black Train Blues," "The Devoted (a serialized novella), Songs in the Key of White, "What Rough Beast (With Charles R. Rutledge), and another on the way. Roughly 70,000 words worth of sequels to a novel that has not been finished.

But it's very close. Very close, indeed.

So close, in fact, that I'm willing to put the first scene here for people to read. It's a Jonathan Crowley story. It is also a weird western.  That last part will probably make it a challenging sale, but I am a patient soul. I'll make it work, one way or another.

Almost done. I'm between projects, which means I'm only working on three different things at once. Well, four, but who's counting?

Here, because I can, is that sample I promised you: the first scene from BOOMTOWN, A Jonathan Crowley Chronicle.


By James A. Moore

copyright 2018, by James A. Moore

Colorado Territories, 1869

Chapter One: “Frozen Moments”

“There’s something wrong with the world when it’s cold enough to freeze a waterfall.” 
The trapper spoke to himself, or just possibly his horse, but neither of them responded. The proof of his comment lay above him and to his left, a frozen wall of white ice that only two days before had still been running water.
The cold was all-encompassing, a living thing that seemed to thrive on sucking the heat from the world around man and stallion alike. He called his horse Stomper and it was a massive thing, meant for hauling wagons. The black beast barely seemed to notice his weight or the burden of the sled behind it, but the cold sent plumes of steam from its muzzle with each breath. Covered in the thick coat he’d sewn for it, his stallion looked almost more like a locomotive than it did an animal. He wouldn’t see his beast of burden and closest living acquaintance killed by the elements if he could help it.
It wasn’t the elements, however, that had done most of the killing in the area. If he had to guess it was Indians. Someone must have driven them half mad if they were responsible for the bodies he kept finding.
The idea had been, as it always was, to shoot enough bison and foxes and wolves to load his sled with furs. Instead he’d been gathering the dead for the last two days. He didn’t have it in him to leave them frozen to the ground for animals to feast on. His mother would surely rise from her grave and beat his fool head into a new shape if he ever got that callous.
Didn’t much help him get his work done, but there was enough money set aside and as a trapper and hunter it wasn’t overly likely that he’d starve any time soon.
The latest body showed itself on the left side of the trail, and he nodded his head and tugged the reins. Stomper came to a halt and snorted agreeably.
The trapper slid from his saddle with practiced ease and walked over to the latest grisly find. Nine bodies so far, each one cut, shot and in different stages of undress, depending on the sex. There were two women who had likely been of marrying age among the dead. There was also a little girl child and an old woman who should have never headed from the east to the wilds. Only the crone had any clothes on her by the time the murdering dogs were done. The others had been treated as poorly as the whores in San Francisco, and that was poorly indeed.
The man in the snow stared with dead eyes behind thin spectacles. The frost on the lenses hid the color of his eyes and made him look blind as well as dead.
That he was dead was obvious. Even if he’d not been frozen to the ground there were lacerations on his skin and shreds of meat and flesh peeking from under his tattered clothing. Like the waterfall a short ways back the trickles of blood had frozen into twists of crimson that hung suspended from his wounds. If he had to guess, the trapper would have told anyone curious that he suspected the man had been dragged behind a horse for a while. His shoes were torn apart—a pity that, as they could have fetched a few cents—and his clothing, thin and fine and no doubt very expensive, had peeled half way from his body during the long trip. Ropes still bound his hands and cut into the flesh of his wrists and forearms. He’d very likely fought hard to get away before his attackers had finished with their job.
“Well, sir, I’m sorry to meet you this way.” He looked the body over again and frowned. Someone, his killers or otherwise, had turned out the man’s pockets and taken everything that might have value. The cloth of his vest was split where his watch fop had been torn away. The derby he’d likely worn at one time was nearby and judging by how clean it was, he guessed it had been dropped by the killer after the fact.
“I reckon we should get to work, old boy.” The wind let out a moan from the nearby trees and sent an additional shiver through him. No one else bothered to reply and he reckoned that was for the best.
He took the axe and pick from the bundle he kept on Stomper’s flank and got to digging. The night before had seen a hard, freezing rain and the body was stuck in a thick caul of ice and mud.
Ten minutes later he had a rope wrapped around both wrists—new rope that had not frozen into the ground—and he tied that to Stomper’s sled before urging his horse forward. The ground gave up the its prize reluctantly, and for a moment the trapper thought the corpse would break like a sapling before it finally came free with a crunching sound.
Once uprooted the dead man slithered stiffly across the ice and bounced off two aspen trees before coming to a rest. He slid the body across the ice until he could wrestle the weight onto the back of the sled.
He had leather aplenty and he used it to lash the body on top of the other corpses. 
“Well, sir. You’re the tenth and I pray the last. Let’s see about getting you to Carson’s Point. Might be we can arrange a funeral for you.”
The rain started again, dropping from the sky in a half frozen state and solidifying as soon as it touched the ground. The sound it made as it rattled to the earth was not unlike a dozen sets of teeth chattering away.
“I’d never wish a good man to hell, sir, but I reckon it just might be warmer in either end of the journey than it is here.”
They rode together in silence, he and his ten companions, and Stomper carried them all without complaint.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sneak A Peek: Favorite Thing in Current WiP

Hello, Sunday Readers!

Jeffe's off partying hard with the SFWA at their Nebulas Weekend. If that sounds like a mash of mystery words, well, come back on Tuesday for Jeffe's lowdown on hobnobbing with the likes of Peter Beagle and the Muppets.

That leaves me to kick off the week's topic of "What's Our Favorite Thing in Our Current Work in Progress (WiP)."

I'm working on Book 4 in my Immortal Spy series, THE HANGED SPY. So far, my favorite thing is deepening the relationship between my protagonist and her primary romantic interest. They have a long history she can't remember and he's cursed to not speak of. Like many long-term relationships, there have been good times and times they tried to kill each other. Third parties who knew one or both of them "back in the day" pop up throughout the series to nudge them back together or to prevent their HEA. My favorite parts are the private moments between them when there's nobody meddling in their lives. They have a lot of fun needling each other as they navigate their new normal.

Excerpt (that may or may not make into the final edit). For context, my protag is a kind of magical transporter who has a habit of relocating herself when she sleeps:

Bix jerked her attention back to him as her temper woke. “If I wanted you in my bed, Tobek, I wouldn’t stoop to tricking you with aphrodisiacs. Enthusiastic consent or nothing at all.”

His brows shot to his hairline. He took two steps to close the distance between them. “When it comes to you, I am an endlessly patient man. However, do not confuse my patience for being obtuse. You may not understand the complex emotions you feel when it comes to me or the interplay of what exists between us. I cannot help but be keenly aware of my feelings for you as well as your feelings for me…as quixotic as they are.”

Her surprise lasted a heartbeat until she remembered his Eternal Knot, etched beneath his layers of ink, was anchored to piece of her that existed within him. Samesies for the Enteral Knot hidden on her chest that anchored a piece of him within her. It was an emotional conduit meant to help the woman she'd once been understand empathy and cope with emotion. She hadn’t really spared a lot of thought for what Tobek got out of the deal.

“I too will accept nothing less than your very vocal and enthusiastic consent. Dithering isn’t going to be good enough. Neither will be mustering courage nor naïve curiosity. I too have standards.” He grinned. “Besides, sweetheart, you have no idea how many times you fetch me to your bed. You’re too sound asleep.”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Title's Not the Thing For Me

I can talk about titles in three areas.

First, my ancient Egyptian paranormals are all “of the Nile”. It’s my little inside nod to Mara, Daughter of the Nile, a YA by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, which I read in elementary school, and which inspired me to write my own Egyptian stories much later in life. It’s also a nod to “Princess of the Nile,” one of my all-time favorite 1950’s B movies with Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter.

And it’s a pretty good bet anyone searching for a novel set in ancient Egypt will correct identify my books as something they might be interested in.

When it comes to my scifi romance titles, I’m a bit all over the place frankly. My first published SFR was Wreck of the Nebula Dream, because really, what else can you title a novel about an interstellar cruise liner coming to grief?

Besides that book, my original plan was to title each book in some sort of alliterative fashion and include the name of the planet. This worked for Escape from Zulaire, Mission to Mahjundar and Trapped on Tlanque. Well, which is to say it worked for me. I was at a big conference early in my career as an author, doing a book signing, and met a number of my readers, which was fun and they were very excited about the books but after watching every single person have a problem with my tongue twister planetary names, I flew home and said, “Time for rethinking titles going forward.”

Then I hit upon labelling the series STAR CRUISE and having a short title after those introductory words – Outbreak, Marooned, Stowaway, etc. I think that strategy worked out all right.

When I was writing my story about kidnapped alien empaths forced to work for the interstellar mob (and how they escape and who they fall in love with), I went for sort of retro scifi titles – Danger in the Stars, Two Against the Stars, etc. This was my secret nod to Andre Norton, who inspired me to love science fiction and want to write it as my main genre.

Now, with my Sectors New Allies Series about genetically engineered warriors, the Badari, I’m following a current trend in the SFR genre of just giving each book the hero’s name as the title – Aydarr, Mateer and Jadrian (the latter to be released shortly, followed by Darik, Gabe and more titles yet to come, I hope!).

Yes, I am ALL over the place with titles. I don’t try to imbue them with any deep meaning or magic. I don’t agonize over them much (obviously). In my head I refer to them via a kind of shorthand or nickname anyway, which sometimes confuses people when I’m talking with them about my books.

Which brings me to the third bucket of titles – what do I label my Work in Progress files?

It varies. Are you surprised?

Sometimes I give a new book file the hero or heroine’s name as a working title. Sometimes that name changes but the file name never does. So for instance, JADRIAN began as Hadir, so that’s the file I open on my computer when I need to work on the manuscript.

Sometimes I give the file the planet’s name. I have one planet name that went through three iterations along the way but the file still has that original, first stab at a designation moniker.

Occasionally I give the file the name of the main concept of the plot.

There are times when I’m looking at my files and I have to laugh because anyone but me would have a hard time finding the right set of documents. Since no one but me needs to carry out that task, it works. I’ve always been a bit idiosyncratic in my filing methods, which used to drive my office assistants a bit up the wall when I worked at JPL. I’m not the most organized person in the world but I do have my own quirky structure underlying my efforts.

Works for me!

I can promise the book will always have a title when published. Fortunately Fiona Jayde provides me with gorgeous cover art (with a few of the earlier Egyptian covers from the incredible Frauke) so no one’s too focused on how the title parses anyway, right?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Titling Purgatory

Titling novels is a magic I do not possess. My stories are all filed under the character names. Even after they're published.

I swear to you, there is this paranormal historical thing I did last year - finished it. Subbed it. Got the rejection letter. There's a series name. But the book title? The manuscript went out without a title because I got nothing. I think it said Book 1 of Artifacts of the Aegean. The file folder still says 'Sinclair', which is the hero's name. Now granted. The book has a few fatal flaws that have to be corrected before it sees the light of day again. Maybe it'll find its title somewhere in that process. But this is me. Not holding my breath.

Yes. I did come up with the title for Enemy Within. Don't ask me how or why that title volunteered. It did and attached itself to that story. Berkley's marketing folks didn't like it, though. So we went through the titling motions, which look like this:

  1. Email from your agent saying 'marketing would like a list of title options.'
  2. You cry.
  3. You call your friends, beta readers and anyone who is tangentially aware of the story being a thing that exists to ask for suggestions.
  4. You try to come up with a list of 20 title options.
  5. You fail at number 8.
  6. Your TRUE friends get on line with you and in a chat window, they throw out title suggestions based on your characters, the theme(s) in the story, and/or whatever black magic happens on their sides of the chat windows.
  7. You email your list of 20 to your agent, who forwards it on to the editor.
The marketing team then picks one of your title suggestions or comes up with one of their own. Or. In the case of Enemy Within, the editor comes back saying 'we're sticking with the original title because no one could come up with anything better.' 


Makes it easy for the rest of the series, though. All of the titles will be Enemy something. That doesn't help my poor, forlorn historical paranormal weird series, though. And I somehow don't think my chances of getting better at titles are very good. My stories start with characters, not concepts, and I tell myself that the people who are good with titles are the concept people. Please don't shatter my illusions.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Choosing Titles

Titles are a strange beast in this business.  On some level, they're immaterial to the book, in and of itself.  The title is there for marketing purposes, a quick and easy way to set the tone of your book.  The shortest version of your elevator pitch.

But on the other hand, I think about them for a long time.

Almost every one of my books had some working title that didn't survive contact with reality. The Thorn of Dentonhill was just "Tools of the Trade" in draft.  The Holver Alley Crew was "The Fire Gig".  An Import of Intrigue was "The Little East".  And many times that working title is definitively and only a working title, one that I knew even then was not for public consumption.  Imposters of Aventil was merely "Wingclipper", as the original one-paragraph concept focused more on one of the antagonists. 

About the only one that lasted all the way through: Lady Henterman's Wardrobe.  For some reason I always knew that was the title of the second Asti & Verci story.

I've mentioned that the books up to People of the City (original working title... is a spoiler) marks the end of Phase I of Maradaine things, and if you know me, you know I'm a planner, and yes, I do have a plan for Phase II and Phase III.

And those Phase II books have tentative titles.  They still may change between now and when they are written and released, but that's the plan for now.

So, how about a little contest?  Below I'm going to put eight hints for eight prospective Phase II Maradaine Novels. And so we're on the same page, these titles each would represent Book Four and Five of the four respective series, but I've mixed up the order so it's not completely obvious what's what.

Email your guesses to me before AUGUST 1st, 2018.  The entry that is the most correct (or, barring that, most entertaining in incorrectness) will win an ARC of THE WAY OF THE SHIELDlimited to mailing in US and Canada.  Sound good?  Here goes:

The Q_____ G_____
The A_____ of C_____
The S_____ of the C_____
An U_____ of U_____ M_____
The C_____ of the C_____
A P_____ of P_____
The N_____ K_____ of R_____ S_____
A_____ and D_____

Happy guessing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All the Truly Nasty Titles I've Thought Up

Okay… titles, huh? I’m going to have to punt on the expertise here because I’ve never successfully titled a work. Let me explain.

I have two books out. The first was a cyberpunk romance featuring a BladeRunner-type android assassin, and in my overwrought newbieness I called it On the Squeeze. Note the singular lack of cyberpunk or romance imagery there. To my ever-patient editor I submitted more than twenty terrible titles, each terribler than the last. Don’t believe me? Feast your giggler on these gems:
  • Lost Things
  • Hard Drive
  • Hard Wired
  • Guardian Machine
  • Full Metal Seduction (<-- Seriously, I sent this. Amazing SFR author Cara Bristol had just done a poll on Facebook asking readers what words in a title were appealing for romance, and "seduction" was the clear winner. So I guess I thought I was being marketing savvy or something. Am blushing with embarrassment now, though. Pretty sure this was not the context the voters had in mind.)

Finally, in the last batch via email, I said, um, maybe Wired and Wanted?

At that point, either I’d worn down my editor with the sheer volume of badness or that title was close enough to what we needed. She switched it around to Wanted and Wired, and voila.

But wait! The follow-up book was going to be even more fun to title, for both of us. And by “fun” of course I mean agony. My working title for book 2 was Claws in Chrome, which, again, wasn’t super romancey, but at least it had a cyberpunk feel and called out the robot cat, who is a pivotal character in the story. (I had in my mind the cover image of a shirtless cowboy facing away from the camera, a la Daniel Craig on that hot Cowboys & Aliens movie novelization cover by Joan D. Vinge, only with a creepy robot feline peering over his shoulder, possibly in full ears-back hiss mode. THIS IS WHY VIV DOES NOT DESIGN COVERS.)

My poor, poor editor. 

None of the titles I suggested were even close to suitable, and just in case you don’t believe me, here’s the complete list I sent with the launch paperwork:
  • Fire and the Fall
  • Desire and the Desperado
  • Spurred and Smitten
  • Trust and Treason
  • Tampered and Tempted
  • Bliss and Bravado
  • Riled and Ready
  • Claws in Chrome
  • Evils and Angels
  • Passion and Power
  • Outlaw and the Oratrix (<-- OH YES! Clearly targeted at readers who always have a dictionary handy!)
  • Shadow Trust
  • War and the Wild Things
  • Fire of Forever
  • Best of the Beasts

The title we ended up with, Perfect Gravity, has nothing to do with the book, but lordy is it better than anything I submitted. We may have gone back at revisions and added a couple of lines about the pull of gravity, or the heroine’s magnetic personality being like gravity or something. Regardless, it’s a pretty cool title.

That I would never in a zillion years have thought up.

So that's my unimpressive track record so far. The third book in the series has a working title of … (wait for it)…Bits of Starstuff. And okay fine, I love it and it’s so appropriate for my noncorporeal, sentient-chatbot heroine Chloe. So what it isn’t romantic. So what no stars actually explode in the story. So what it’s punny with “bits” having two meanings, and no one likes puns.

We’ll have to see what happens with that book, but hey, if you have title ideas, please feel free to pass them along. They can’t be worse than the crud I’ve thought up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Titles: A Story in 5 Words or Less

Tell me a story in five words or less. That was the first bit of advice I got on how to title a book. A little tidbit about me: I struggle to keep a query letter under 250 words and the back copy of a book under 200. Now you want me to do it in FIVE? FIVE? Are you nuts? No. It's sound advice, a great starting point.

It's not really how I do it, though.

Instead, I opt for what makes the novel...novel. Does it work? If by "work" we mean "drives sales," I have no idea. No reviewer has ever said, "I bought this because of the awesome title." Similarly, no one has said, "I skipped it because of the crappy title."

For my high fantasy series Fire Born, Blood Blessed, each book is named after a god/his eponymous nation. The titles are also the path our heroine takes on her journey. While each book is/was easy to name, those names do not tell a reader unfamiliar with the series anything about the book. I hope the made-up nation names at least hint that the book is fantasy. It certainly doesn't meet the SEO standard that Jeffe mentioned on Sunday (though SEO bears consideration in future naming efforts); however, the series name might.

As for my Urban Fantasy series The Immortal Spy, I went for the classic naming convention of adjective + noun. There will be seven books in that series, and the first four were easy to name because I already knew the rough plots. The titles reflect the spy for whom our protagonist takes up the mission that drives the plot. The titles also stay within a certain character limit (as in number of letters, not body count) so I don't dork up the layout of the cover.

The Burned Spy, The Plagued Spy, The Captured Spy, The Hanged Spy

I opted for straightforward naming with the UF and went weird for HF because I think the genres support them. I kept the titles short to be easily remembered and allow the cover art to hold greater presence. I used the series names to supply information the titles didn't and cover art to fill in where the words failed.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Coming up with Titles

I am remarkably indifferent about book titles. I like something that makes a point and is hopefully catchy, but beyond that...Meh.

Some of the best titles on books I've worked on come from Charles R. Rutledge, my frequent author and good friend.  We've done three novels together and I love every title. BLIND SHADOWS, CONGREGATIONS OF THE DEAD and A HELL WITHIN. He came up with all of them and he has even found appropriate Bible quotes in all cases. He's good like that.

My first boom was called UNDER THE OVERTREE I thought it was catchy and it correlates to the name of the lake in the story, Lake Overtree.

SEVEN FORGES, THE BLASTED LANDS, CITY OF WONDERS and THE SILENT ARMY are all titled from the main focus of the novels. Really, that's about as crazy as I go. Not a lot of research, etc. Currently I'm working on BOOMTOWN, SPORES and the first draft of AS WE KNOW IT.

Those titles are subject to change at a moment's notice.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Coming Up with Titles: the Pain and Glory

Spring has sprung here fully into summer and the flowers are so lovely! This is my pink anemone clematis that I'm training to climb up the grape vine in the arbor. Love how it's coming along!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is "How do you come up with your titles?"

I might have as many answers to this question as I have published (and unpublished, for that matter) works. And a single work can have multiple titles by the time the final one goes on the cover. So much so that I can have mass confusion looking through my various files and documents for versions of stories. I'm pretty organized, but that can get crazymaking, especially keeping things consistent between email folders and those in Dropbox.

So, the short answer is I often choose titles initially on instinct. Some of them come to me before I start writing. Like "Wyoming Trucks, True Love, and the Weather Channel" was a title I thought of first, then wrote the essay, and then we ended up calling the entire essay collection that. Sometimes I write on a book for a long time before I figure out the title. Some are called "Story" for a significant amount of time.

One cool trick I learned is to pull the title from a line or phrase in the story. Grace Draven likes to draw from poetry, which is how we came up with "Amid the Winter Snow."

When you work with a traditional publisher, they very often want to change the title. So, here's a story about the title of the first book in the new trilogy I'll be doing with St. Martin's Press, out August 2019.

I called this book "New Story" for about a week while I worked my way into it. Once I had a handle on it more, I started calling it "The Slave King." That lasted about a month until I apparently decided my heroine needed to share top billing. Then it became "The Slave King and the Flower Queen." I had those images for the hero and heroine, which resonated with the core idea I worked from. When I sent my agent, Sarah Younger, the first rough fifty pages, that's what I called it. We have a number of back-and-forth emails with the subject line "TSK/TFQ." Which should've been a hint right there that it was a cumbersome title.

By the time we went out on submission, Sarah suggested taking "The Slave King" out of the title. I get that descriptor for him in the story, but she was concerned that it would be possibly offensive as an email subject line out of context. She proposed

Throne of Flowers, Throne of Flesh
Throne of Flowers, Throne of Fire
 Throne of Thorns, Throne of Fire
 Crown of Thorns, Crown of Ore

I came back with (inspired by her) "Throne of Flowers, Throne of Ash." She polled everyone in her agency and they voted for that.

And sold it to St. Martins! (along with two sequels to be named - literally, as we still haven't titled those...)

Once we signed the contracts and started digging into what my editor, Jennie Conway, envisioned for the series, she relayed that the SMP marketing thought that my title would get lost in SEO. (That's Search Engine Optimization for the lay people - and means that they worried my "thrones" would get lost with all the other "thrones" terms people might type into Google.)

She suggested:

Book 1: A Throne Veiled by Orchids
Book 2: A Throne Bound in Shadow
Book 3: A Throne Carved from Embers

Sarah riffed on that, coming up with:

Book 1: A Throne Masked by Orchids
Book 1: A Throne Hidden in Orchids
Book 1: A Throne Built by Orchids
Book 1: A Throne Shadowed by Orchids
Book 1: A Throne Covered with Orchids
Book 1: A Throne Disguised by Orchids

Book 2: A Throne Bound in Shadow

Book 3: A Throne Carved from Embers

Marketing came back with a No on anything starting with "Throne," because of how SEO works, and also avoiding the words "ice," "fire," and "ash," as they're overused with "throne."

After a lot more brainstorming, we all finally settled on THE ORCHID THRONE as the title for Book 1. You can no doubt see the evolution of that. As for Books 2 and 3, we decided to wait until I wrote more of Book 1 and saw how the story was developing.

So there you have it! My answer in this case to "How do you come up with your titles?" is "over months of effort and with a bunch of really smart people weighing in."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paying It Forward Is On My Mind

Not the Author. Also I never wear suits any more.
This would only be an accurate depiction of my Author talk if I was presenting Jeffe's spreadsheets!

What’s been on my mind this week is the talk I’m giving tomorrow to a local writers group. They invited me to speak about six months ago and I said yes, because May 2018 seemed a long way off. Surprise, now it’s tomorrow! I get very tense prior to doing a talk or a panel, I have huge FUN during the event – I ride the adrenaline – and I’m always glad I did it when it’s safely over. (I also have chocolate.)

I also always say I’ll never do another one…and then eventually I do.

They left the topic up to me although they did say maybe I wanted to touch on scifi romance. I decided no to that one. It’s not a romance group – it’s a very eclectic critique group ranging from poets to nonfiction to fiction. Given that, I figured the best way for me to stay interesting enough to keep everyone awake would be to briefly discuss my own journey to publishing and then give a few insights or guidelines about being an independently published author nowadays.

Kind of funny, I thought I had an hour. Nope, thirty minutes. EEK! So I revised and revised. It’s so tempting to go way deep into a rabbit hole on any one of the zillion things I could talk about with them and I had to make myself pull back to just the 100,000’ level on all of it.

One of the first things I plan to say to them is that there is no one right way to do things, no one right answer. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, as with everything else in life, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

When I got into indie publishing, I had so much help and advice from authors who came before me, and so I feel a strong drive to also ‘pay it forward’ to others.  I think right now is a tough time in the industry for many reasons, including scammers, trolls, trademark issues (which were on my mind a LOT this week but I'm not going there), a mature marketplace, pressure to do frequent new releases…so I struggled a bit with this talk. I didn’t want to be depressing or daunting in speaking to them, because I love being a fulltime author and would never give it up. Do I miss the gold rush days? Sure! But those days won’t be back and I still very much love writing my books and putting them out there for readers to (hopefully) enjoy. I don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams in the least. Just add a smidgen of realism…it’s not all tea parties and movie contracts out here.

So I settled for advising them to develop a thick skin, remember it’s a BUSINESS, not to compare themselves and their journey to anyone else’s and to stay true to their own voice. Plus some other more tactical stuff about covers, blurbs, editing and promo. And ergonomics.

I hope I get questions because that’s where the fun conversations often spring up! I probably should be more basic and hope anyone even shows up on Mother’s Day weekend!

The other thing on my mind right now is that I got my next book back from the editor and I need to disappear into the revisions so I can get the book out there in the wild and crazy marketplace…

Friday, May 11, 2018

Faith in Humanity on My Mind

What's on my mind? This'll shock you. Not at all.

Cats. And the near mortal blow taken by my once shining faith in humanity.  Let me introduce you to Fluffy. (Don't @ me. I did not name him. I inherited this stunning lack of imagination.) Fluffy is 15 and he lives outside, among the rocks and mangroves beside Tampa Bay where he was dumped by someone years ago.

Yes. I'm back to feline rescue. I met up with a group who manages this colony of cats. All of them dumped. Because several of the dumped cats weren't fixed before being abandoned, there's now a generation of truly feral (and spectacularly gorgeous) cats on site. Someone dumped a seal point Himalayan queen. She produced a glorious long-hair tortie and a stunning short-hair calico with blue eyes. All three are fixed now. And once a day, one of the colony managers goes out to put out food and fresh water for the crew. We have about twenty cats and a group of 6 people who work with the colony.

This is where faith in humanity is restored. Because this is where these cats live: In elevated shelters built by one of the men who originally began feeding these cats. That's Rocky on the shelf. There are two of these shelters. These shelters and all of the cats weathered Irma without a hitch.

We run a constant TNR (trap, neuter, release) program at this colony, because just as we reach 100% fix rates, some git comes along and dumps a litter of kittens. This happened late last year. My co-managers had trapped three of the four kittens. Three of those kittens were taken into rescue and homed. They all have human slaves of their very own. But we had one wily panther (solid black coat) who for WEEKS avoided our efforts to trap him. I was lucky enough to get him with a drop trap last Sunday. He was neutered, vaccinated, and returned to the colony on Wednesday evening.

 But that same Wednesday evening, not a mile up the road from where these fluffs live in the rough, I was accosted by a charming 6-7 month old, solid grey kitten. Obviously male. He is ultra-friendly and charming. I was at a beach bar and the staff told me they had a bunch of cats. I identified myself as one of the managers of the colony down the road (everybody knows it because of the excellent houses) and asked for permission to get on property and trap the cats. The general manager said, 'yes please.' I'm heart-broken that someone would dump such a love-hungry kitten when there's a perfectly good Humane Society with a robust foster program in the area. Surrendering an animal isn't a death sentence here, damn it. Abandoning them IS. So if anyone near FL wants a young, handsome gun metal blue kitten, hit me up. I have no idea how many cats are at that colony. I have no idea whether any of them are fixed or sick or  . . .  But I will find out.

The thing that preserves my faith in humanity is the number of people who stop when they see us taking care of the cats and telling us how much they love the cats and appreciate that we're looking after them no matter the weather. People bring us cat food. Some offer to help defray vet bill costs. It's really heartening.

The little grey guy is every bit as friendly as my sweet peach and white friend, above right. This is the one I would take home in a heartbeat were I not contractually obligated to only have two cats (on pain of losing my place to live.) He's looking for a sofa of his own, too. But here. The star of our friendly cat show is Rocky. This guy walks up to everyone who stops, shakes hands and says, "Welcome! Skritch my chin!"

If you obey his commands and rub his chin, he'll drool all over you in reward. Yes. We're actively looking for a home for him, too. He needs a human to boss around, don't you think?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Maradaine On My Mind

The question put forward this week at SFFSeven is the open-ended "What's on your mind?" (i.e., there's no real topic this week), and frankly any given week, the big thing on my mind is Maradaine.  Because, frankly, you can't write four intertwining series set in the same magical city without it occupying a fairly sizable portion of your brainspace.How that's manifesting right now is two-fold.  One is drafting The Shield of the Peoplewhich I will confess I was having some challenges with, but-- thanks to the other part of the manifestation (see below)-- I've figured out a large chunk of what my problem was and have hacked through that to see the problems in my initial outline.

It's been good stuff.

The other part has been a massive reorganization and re-examination of the material and notes.  I talk about spreadsheets upon spreadsheets, and that's key, but a good part of what I need to do is have a Saga Bible for the whole Maradaine project.  And every year or so I need to just plain STOP and clean it up, maintain it, and get it up to date.  Especially when little changes to the larger picture have created a butterfly effect.  For example, I don't have accurate summaries of THE IMPOSTERS OF AVENTIL or A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES-- I have summaries of the outline as they existed before writing the actual books. 

So I'm rebuilding a lot of the material in the Saga Bible from the bottom up right now.  Which is something of an undertaking, but a valuable one, because it helps keep the material fresh in my mind, and helps me see the bigger picture.  Which I needed to get through the wall I was having with SHIELD OF THE PEOPLEas well as getting me in the needed headspace for writing THE FENMERE JOB and PEOPLE OF THE CITY.  

So that's how I'm keeping my head on now.  Hope I can keep it there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Help Viv name her fancypants new Facebook group. Win prize!

My blog-mates have posted about really thought-provoking things this week, haven’t they? Impressive. And on this fine Wednesday, I invite you to go back and read all their wise and insightful thoughtings.

Am afraid, however, this post will be the inverse of wise.

Which, of course, is panicky.

See, my poor brain is jammed completely full of info concerning the EU GDPR (European Union General Data Protection Regulation), which is a new set of laws designed to protect people’s privacy on the internet. Yay, privacy! Yay, Internet! Boo, VivBrain.

This regulation goes live May 25th, by which date everyone who has collected any user data via the web must be compliant. User data includes, among other things, lists of emails like folks use for newsletters. To become compliant, distributors of newsletters have to … okay, you really don’t want to hear all this. I promise. It's overwhelming. But it’s the reason why you’ve been getting all those “hey, if you still want to receive this newsletter, could you click the doodad below?” notes in your inbox. Look for such notes to become more frequent as we near May 25. (And be sure to click on the ones you do in fact want to continue getting!)

Like most writers, I have a newsletter, but frankly, it’s a big ol’ mess, and the task of bringing it into compliance has boggled my brain and made me grumpy. For the time being, I've taken down the subscribe forms, sent info to the folks who are already subscribed, and have put my newsletter on hiatus until I am absolutely certain no one will get an unwanted email from me.


In the mean time, if you’re interested in hearing about my upcoming book releases or discounts/sales of books that are already out, you can

- Follow me on BookBub

- Follow me on Amazon

- Join my brand new, fancypants Facebook group

About that last part... It’s brand(ish). It’s new (true). It’s fancy (only true from a certain point of view). It may be ultimately be named after a cat, but the best part is YOU CAN HELP DECIDE.

Oh yes! This little group is so new it doesn’t even have a name yet.

We’re soliciting ideas for names right now, and in a couple of weeks (May 25th? too on the nose?), I’ll run a poll and we’ll all vote and pick a winner. The person who suggests the winning group name will get… I dunno, something cool. (Do people still like free books? Kittens? Cookies? Bespoke flash fiction?) 

At any rate, here’s the group link again: 

Viv Likes Kissing Stories and Cat Videos (Official Name in the Works)

Join if you want. Don’t if you don’t. Not gonna judge either way.

Regardless, I promise to clear the grumpy outta my brain and get back to putting good-hearted characters into mortal danger.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

On My Mind: The Political Price of Convenience

Riding heavy in my thoughts today: the political price of convenience.

It's on my mind because we're voting today in Ohio for gubernatorial primaries, a half-assed gerrymandering fix, and a tax increase to save our county's libraries. One of those votes is a no-brainer. One is a case of three-card monte that is likely to pass so politicians on both sides can say, "be grateful you got this much." Never mind that we voted--overwhelmingly (71% For)--to fix gerrymandering three years ago with an effective date of 2021 (after the next census, which is the normal timing for redistricting and one of a thousand reasons an accurate non-partisan census is critical...and why certain political entities are actively trying to skew the 2020 census through under-resourcing, lax oversight, and biased questions).

The primaries are, well, a reflection of which puppets rise to power when the public doesn't pay attention and doesn't act. It'll be interesting to see the voter-turnout numbers come morning. November isn't that far away, and it will be a make-or-break election for equality and justice on local, state, and national levels. Yet in non-presidential election years, voter turnout is notoriously low. Zealots tend to show up, the mainstream doesn't. That's how a nation wakes up one morning to find their status as a person has been reclassified as a target or as a vessel.

Why don't most US citizens 18+ show up to vote? Because it's not convenient. Time off work, queues, parking, identification on hand, etc. It really is the little things that keep most voters away. Sure, there are the bigger issues of voter suppression, bullying/threats at the polling sites, etc., and I'm not dismissing those as very real problems in far too many communities. That said, if you ask rando on the street why they didn't vote, "too busy" is the most common answer.  A pity really.

Yes, there are those who think "my vote won't matter, it's just one vote and I've more important things to do." Things like taking care of family, meeting up with friends, going to the grocery, going to social services, waiting in the ER...Yet if voting was as convenient as taking a Facebook quiz many more citizens and communities would have their voices heard.

Let's face it, Congress really screwed the pooch when they fucked off enough that their constituents started paying attention. Making the common voter care for longer than 24 hours on an election day is the worst thing a politician can do, regardless of party. Constituents with informed opinions are inconvenient and dangerous to the longevity of a political career; particularly when that career is built on corporate interests overriding community interests. Informed constituents who have minimal barriers to voting would be revolutionaries.

The technology is there to support palm-of-your-hand convenience. Can voting be convenient and secure? Of course. The power is in the local and federal governments' hands, they just have to want to do it badly enough that they're willing to pay for it...financially and politically.

Making voting convenient, and you make politicians accountable.

Monday, May 7, 2018


The subject this week is whatever is on our minds, so here we are.

genres annoy me.

I think they are useful in small doses and deeply annoying when pushed too far. Listen, my website is called genrefied because damned near everything IS genrefied.

What do you write, Jim?

Well, I write horror. Except when I'm writing crime-horror fusion, which is, of course when I'm not writing a media tie-in that is likely to be horror and science fiction mixed well. Oh, but I also write fantasy, except when I'm writing sword and sorcery fantasy, which is when I'm not writing Grimdark fantasy.
Only now and then I like to do something new, so I'm working on apocalyptic sci-fi novel, which should not be confused with my hard sci-fi novel, and definitely has no tis to my weird western.

I know it SOUNDS like Im kidding, but I'm not.

Thing is, I'm not a one trick pony. I like having a lot of different genres mixed and blended into whatever I'm working on. I recommend writing whatever you like and letting agents and editors work out where it best fits.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish the outlines for the fantasy thing, while writing the actual first four or so chapters of the sci-fi thing.

Keep smiling