Progress in Publishing

I’d love to tell you there’s a really good reason for my lack of posts, but to be honest, my reasons are the same as a lot of other people’s: Depressed financially, emotionally, physically. Yeah. The past five years have been awful in so many ways, but it scares and saddens me to talk about it, so I don’t.

All that said, this very strange post is NOT about my bouts with depression! I’m mostly doing well right now, which is why I wanted to post. I just had to get out an oblique apology/excuse for not keeping up. There ya go.

RESEARCH, EDITING AND PUBLICATION!

I’m pleased to say, despite the difficulties I’ve faced over the last five years, I never stopped writing and it’s paid off.

While “Mourn Their Courage” is on submission, I’ve continued to write for the rest of that world. While I’ve got several books in various stages, the one I’ve focused on is based (loosely) on the Maccabean revolt and the struggle for succession after Alexander the Great’s death. I’m World Building to my heart’s content and I believe I’ve carved new channels into my brain trying to internalize Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid process, but it’s a good hurt. LOL

I applied the lessons from Story Grid to my short stories as a means to learning the process faster and it worked! My short story, “Cold Heart” was published last winter in Nature Futures. Yeah! First professional sale and I did a happy dance.

Nature has a great market for flash pieces and I recommend them. They were a pleasure to work with, they pay well and they’re not your standard S.F. market, so there may be less competition.

READING RECOMMENDATIONS!

I’ve also read some phenomenal books, mostly while agent searching. Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted” is wonderful and fresh (pun intended, but with apologies) but everyone knows about it. I wanted to mention some books that might be a little less on the radar, especially since they’re the sort of thing I WANT on my radar. (If you find more, let me know.) The first book was “The Bird and the Blade” by Megan Bannen. Set in Mongolia and filled with politics and kumis. What’s not to love? I can’t blather enough about this book because of the emotional reaction it elicited, but I can’t say more because I loathe spoilers. Read it yourself. You won’t regret it.

Also up there among the year’s best was “The Perfect Assassin” by K.A. Doore. The World Building in this story is so perfected, the city is part of the plot and I LOVE stories like that. The subtitle is “The Chronicles of Ghadid,” which is the name of the city, so it’s obvious she intends to return to the series, but we all know what the publishing industry is like right now. I hope she gets to go back. Heck, folks, mysteries aren’t my schtick, but for this world and this character, I’d read more mysteries. Just so you get an idea, there are jaani, (think non-wish-granting, madness-causing jinn) political machinations, drought, true love and no win scenarios.

In fact, the latter point is true of “The Bird and the Blade,” too. Both stories are so darn good and why don’t I know these authors on a first name basis? Just. Not. Fair. It’s not like I’d gate crash their writers group meeting. Yes I would. LOL

So I hope you all have had a great year thus far. If you’ve read anything good lately, please tell me!

Trailer for Your Viewing Pleasure

Girl in Reverse

I’m very happy to say, this is a book trailer for a YA novel done by an author in one of my writing groups, Barbara Stuber.

The book is about a young Korean girl adopted into 1950’s Kansas City society.  Since Barbara is a docent at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, where much of the story takes place, she was able to put a lot of detail into the book, which asks an intriguing and heart-breaking question:

How do you fit into society when you have the face of the enemy?

Please check the trailer and the book out.

It’s intense, but worth it!

Published!

Well, once again, I have to apologize for letting this site slip so much. I will try to get back on the ball.

I’m excited enough right now, I’ve finally remembered my own website to tell you, I published a short story (Cold Heart) in Nature Magazine: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07680-8

I was also published a year or two ago in an Asian Steampunk game, but sadly, I couldn’t access my own work. It was a technical thing. But I had an AWESOME time writing it and if you come across zombies in Hong Kong in a steampunk setting, that’s mine. 😀

That said, I’m excited by this story’s success. I’ve consumed Shawn Coyne’s Storygrid over the last few years and I think it’s paying off. I can tell a difference. The publishers agreed, too.

I posted this on Facebook days before receiving my acceptance: “I was such a failure, I decided to quit writing. That made me depressed, so I grabbed a chapter to edit and that cheered me up.” Obviously, I’m a failure at quitting, too.

That’s a good thing.

Two days later, I posted this quote from Stephen King on Facebook: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

Two HOURS later, I found my acceptance in my inbox. It’s enough to cover the electric bill, folks and I feel like I’m on my way.

 

 

Izanami’s Choice: A Book Review

Izanami's ChoiceToday I’m speaking with Adam Heine, author of Izanami’s Choice. Thank you for taking the time, Adam, and for letting me read “Izanami.”

I enjoyed this book so much. It’s a steampunk murder-mystery set during the Meiji Restoration period in 1901 Japan. What’s not to love? There are Ronin, robots, political upheavals and murder most foul. But who is behind it and why? This novelette clocks in at 96 pages of pure enjoyment because at least in one sense, there is no easy answer.

Yes, I knew who the “Big Bad” was as soon as the individual (no spoilers!) entered on stage. But that was the only easy answer. The far more difficult questions remain unanswered and are something humanity has yet to decide: If technological life becomes sentient, are humans safe? If technology is sentient, can humans react in an even handed, nondiscriminatory way? Do actions cause violence, or does fear of potential action?

Mr. Heine did an admirable job of making his robots (Jinzou) both sympathetic and terrifying. We are taken through the above questions through the eyes of Shimada Itaru, former Ronin and retired police officer. He doesn’t trust the ubiquitous Jinzou and carries illicit weapons because of their involvement in his son’s death. His pain as a father is palpable and his conclusions are just as heart-rending.

 


I wholeheartedly recommend the book and now, without further delay, here’s my interview with Adam!

Thanks, Victoria! I really appreciate this opportunity to talk about the book.

Adam, how did you come up with this story?

Most of my stories are a melting pot of elements I love. I love detective stories. AI fascinates me, as does the idea of a technological singularity. But I didn’t want to write this story in a stock cyberpunk future (that would’ve basically been Bladerunner). I needed something unique about it.

The Penny Arcade web comic writes an occasional mini-series called Automata, involving sentient androids in a 1920’s Prohibition Era-type world. That was probably my biggest inspiration in combining a robotic singularity with one of my favorite periods in history: Meiji Era Japan. Once I started slotting androids into key events in Japanese history, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And the world of Izanami’s Choice was born.

 

Making a satisfying and believable ending can be difficult, but the conclusion to Izanami’s Choice has an appropriate, satisfying and very Asian feel. Without spoilers, did you consider other endings? (I realize this may be impossible to answer without spoilers. If so, go on to the next question! :D)

There are kind of two endings, so it depends on which one you mean! The very end of the book — the epilogue, let’s say — was not something I planned, but it felt like the right way to leave things (or at least the right direction to point things in).

As for the other ending just before that: that was always the plan. I can’t say much without spoilers, but I think the Asian feel (the Japanese feel, really) for this particular story would have been lost with any other outcome.


You’ve rewritten Japanese and world history with the robots in this story. Since you live in Thailand, are you planning on taking your Jinzou to Thailand or other locales?

I would really like to! I don’t know that I’ll ever write a jinzou story in a Western country (only because I feel like that’s been done), but I do have ideas for what society might look like in, say, India, China, or — yes — Thailand. Whether or not I get the opportunity to flesh out those ideas remains to be seen!


You are also a game programmer/player. Where do you see cross pollination between that and writing novels and short stories? What are the main differences from your perspective?

For those who don’t know, I’m the Design Lead on the upcoming role-playing game Torment: Tides of Numenera. That particular game is a LOT of writing (we’re at over 1 million words!), which is unusual for a video game. As a result, there’s more crossover between novel writing and Torment than there might be with other games.

I’d say the biggest difference between the two is player choice. Game stories, especially RPGs, are often in the player’s hands. Imagine if a reader could choose whether or not Frodo puts on the ring at Weathertop. How might the story change after that? Would they have had an easy ride to Rivendell, or would something else have happened? Would they have met Arwen on the road? Earlier? Later? What would that meeting look like?

Game writers (at least RPG writers) have to write every option they want to offer the player. It’s fun, because you basically get to write ALL of your ideas and let the player choose which ones they want to follow. But it’s hard because the story has to make sense no matter how the player goes through it.

Fiction, on the other hand, is the story *I* want to tell, giving the reader the information I want her to have and when. It’s easier, but there’s a lot more pressure on the words, since words are all fiction has to carry it.


I know there have been Role Playing Games (RPGs) where you can choose the ending – in a sense, creating your own stories with a set of given characters. Do you see this sort of game technology advancing and becoming more seamless? That is, more like a live-action book?

I think interactive storytelling comes in different forms and mediums: RPGs, Choose Your Own Adventure books, interactive fiction games, pen-and-paper role-playing, live-action role-playing, and so on. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and its own niche of readers/players.

Personally, I enjoy most of these — I just love a good story. And we’re finding new ways to tell stories with (relatively) recent mediums like VR and MMO gaming. The more game developers and storytellers cross disciplines, the more and better stories we’ll get out of it.


I’m always fascinated by other writers’ creative processes and you work for Torment, among other things. Do you use RPG modules to help you in world-creation?  If so, how does it help you, or do you do it for fun?

For me, world-creation is the fun part that’s always drawn me to both fiction writing AND game development. Creating a world that you want to explore — whether it’s explored through a novel or a gamepad — is my favorite part of writing. So I don’t really use RPGs to help me create worlds so much as I create a world that I can use in a novel or a short story or a game.

Or more realistically, I will have a story or game I want to make, and I will create a world for it. Every writer’s different, but for me the world almost always comes before the story I want to tell within it.


You seem to have a lot of plates spinning in your life. What helps you keep them spinning?

Boy, do I. I’m the Design Lead for a mid-sized RPG, a writer, and a foster father of 10!

Some things that help:
— Making a schedule (and keeping it).
— Being realistic about what I can get done in a given day.
— An understanding family (that is at school most of the time).
— Knowing when to stop!

I can’t say I’m great at all these things, but the times in my life when I’m not stressed out are when I did all of these right!

Thanks again, Adam for spending the time. “Izanami’s Choice” is available for pre-order through Amazon and its release date is September 1st. You can also purchase it through the publisher’s page.

 

Book Review of Girl From the Well

You’re (possibly) thinking, “OMG! She’s not dead!” No, I”m not but the past two years have made me feel that way. Frequently. That said, it’s not what I wanted to tell you today. No, I wanted to tell you about a character who is dead.

I was privileged to  read devour Rin Chupeco’s “The Girl From the Well” this week. This book enthralled me. Could. Not. Put. Down. It’s both terrifying and moving and the end – just wow. The hook tells you a lot:

I am where dead children go.

Nice. I refuse to give away anything, so I’ll tell you no more than the jacket does. This is an urban fantasy, mostly set in Japan (and you KNOW how much I loved that) and is based around a character from Japanese folklore and history: Okiku, the ghost from Himeji Castle’s Okiku’s Well.

If you’ve seen a movie with a wet dead girl, that story owes its creepiness to Okiku and this story does her so much justice, beauty and honor. Go out and read it.

Review by Victoria Dixon. No arcs were sent for the review of this novel.