Reviews and Whatnot

Quick Sip Reviews takes a look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235.  Aside from the fact that they liked the stories, it’s nice to find a review site doing short fiction reviews. You don’t see that much anymore. Novel reviews are easy to find by contrast, and part of the reason for that is there is so much short fiction it’s hard to keep track of even for dedicated fans. Novels are a little more manageable, though in sheer numbers they’re not too far behind. Even so, it’s easier to specialize in one facet of our fractured genre at novel length and keep a handle on things that way: Space Opera, Mannered Fantasy, Alternate History, Historical Fantasy, Hard SF, whatever.

Short fiction is a little harder to categorize, at least at first glance, and you sometimes can’t be certain how to pigeonhole something until you’ve read it, and sometimes even then. It sounds rather crass and limiting, to “pigeonhole” like that. It sounds limiting—and it is–but how else to break down the avalanche of material into manageable chunks? Once upon a time it was easier, there wasn’t so much and everything in genre was either sf or fantasy, and a reader/reviewer usually preferred one or the other. Now I don’t know how anyone could hope to keep up.

There are still some places where short fiction is reviewed regularly. Locus does a decent job, and has top notch reviewers. Locus was and is the trade magazine for the sf/fantasy field and it’s in any practitioner’s best interest to keep on top of what’s going on, yet I have to confess I recently let my subscription lapse after (mumble) years. Why? I’m still trying to figure that one out myself. I think it has something to do with how I’m seeing myself in relation to the genre, and considering things that I once thought were true which now I know aren’t. Pretty vague, I know, but right now it’s the best I can do. I’d still recommend it to anyone with an interest in what’s going on in sf/fantasy. No one place covers the field better or more completely.


Standard Reminder: Since I’m now on a weekly schedule with the Story Time page, on Wednesday the 11th of October “The Trickster’s Wife” will be replaced by something else. Read it while it’s there.



On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts

Did I mention this already? Yes, well probably. Okay, I did. But that was before, as in it hadn’t happened yet. Now it has. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235, Ninth Anniversary Double Issue is now live, leading off with the latest in the adventures of Pan Bao, Jing, and the snake-devil trying to be human, Mei Li. In this episode we meet a princess who has been lost for several hundred years and turns to our heroes for help. Pan Bao is either practical or greedy depending on your point of view, and ghosts—how else could she be lost for hundreds of years?—don’t carry a lot of money. Yet even ghost princesses are used to getting their way and this one, it turns out, is very persistent.

The process for writing these stories so far reminds me of the Yamada stories at least in one respect–I had to write several of them before I had a good enough grasp of the characters and the setting to attempt a novel. I think it’s going to be the same here. It’s a steep learning curve, but I think and hope the results will be worth it.


Standard Reminder: Since I’m now on a weekly schedule with the Story Time page, on Wednesday the 4th of October, “Another Kind of Glamour” will be replaced by something else. Read it while it’s there.

Dark Wizards Need Love Too

The beauty of a blog is that you can write whatever you want. The drawback for both me and the reader is the same. Too many days this is just me rambling on about whatever bright or shadowy butterfly has my attention at the moment. Yet, now and again, I can dispense some actual information. About me, of course, but after all this is my blog and—trust me on this–usually it’s better to let my Ego run free rather than my Id.

Ahem. First item of news: the series (still un-named) that began with “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” continues later this month with “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts” in the Ninth Anniversary Double Issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which should be online toward the end of this month, so only a few weeks away. Pan Bao and the crew attempt a good deed, despite his better judgment. No telling what they’ll do next. Frankly, I can’t wait to find out myself. A podcast is also planned.

Now it’s time for the elephant in the room, or rather an explanation for the cover image above. A fan who had heard LeVar Burton’s podcast of “Empty Places” asked me why more of my work (and specifically those featuring Tymon the Black) wasn’t available on another platform, said platform I barely knew existed. So I checked it out and discovered that said platform currently wasn’t accepting new publisher accounts, so placing them there wasn’t possible for now. I also realized that, the two novels aside, the three shorter works starring Tymon had never been put together in one place for the time when it might be possible to make them available. So here they are, together for the first time in The Collected Tymon the Black: “A Time for Heroes,” the original novelette which later grew into The Long Look, “Empty Places,” (3rd episode of LeVar Burton Reads) and “The Devil of Details.” Two novelettes and a long short story, at about 25,000 words. I’ve made it available on the Kindle for now, though with luck it’ll be available Elsewhere later. At least if anyone is looking for Tymon the Black outside the novels, there’s a place to find him.

“In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil”

I’ve been dropping annoyingly vague hints here and there, but now it’s all out in the open—I’ve apparently started a new fantasy series. I didn’t really plan to do it and I certainly didn’t think I was ready, but then I’m not always in charge. I know writers who strongly disagree with that perspective. “I’m in charge and my characters do what I say.” And that’s often true even with me, as in sometimes I am and sometimes they do. But for me it usually works out better when the characters do what they want and I just follow closely and mark it all down, then cut out the bit where they stared at the horizon for an hour just for the hell of it and add the bit where one of them tripped and fell into the icy stream. Just for the hell of it. Or maybe because they deserved it…ahem. Where was I?

Right, the new series. The first one, “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake-Devil” is now up in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #226. I’ve already written and sold the second one and started blocking scenes for the third. As I said, after Yamada I wanted to do some stand-alone stories, since some of my favorites of my own work have been books or stories with no befores or afters, except what was implied in the story itself. I once attempted a few befores and afters in the case of Jin from All the Gates of Hell, because I liked the character so much, but none of them worked out. She was done, and thus so was I.

Pan Bao and Jing were different. I’ve had them in my head for a while, wondering what they were about. I first had him pictured as a bumbling Taoist priest kept successful (and alive) by his far more competent daughter, and there are still echoes of that, but the man himself turned out to be quite different. Then Mei Li showed up, and well, that was that. So it’s a series. I hope you like it. If you don’t I’ll write it anyway.

It’s not like I’m in charge.

Before the Landslide Brings Me Down

WarGod-600Before I get into anything else, I thought I’d mention that Beneath Ceaseless Skies just released their Seventh Anniversary Double Issue #183, with Rose Lemberg, Naim Kabir, I.L. Heisler, and Grace Seybold. Scott also reprinted “The Bride Doll” from Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, so if you haven’t read any of that book yet, here’s a free way to get a taste.

Though the official release date is either the 22nd or the 13th (depending on whom you ask), Amazon is shipping real copies of Yamada Monogatari: The War God’s Son sort of…nowish. So if you’re looking for actual paper copies, there’s no more excuse. If you’re holding out for the Kindle/Nook editions, well, you’ll have to hold out a little longer. It’s unlikely they’ll be available before the official date which, whatever date you pick, is later this month.

The fact that I have a new book coming out touches on an online conversation on one of those sites that attempts to do an exhaustive listing of all new books about to hit the shelves. The point was made that, and I paraphrase, “there’s an almighty shitload of new books.” It’s true, and that’s not even counting the Indie and self-published stuff. Just from the publishers who license the rights to publish a book from an author that particular month. Publishing with a traditional publisher of whatever size is and remains difficult, and yet an awful lot of writers do manage it. So many that an awful lot of them do manage to get published every single month. It must be said, that some proportion of those awful lot of books really are awful. But most aren’t. A significant proportion of them, perhaps even the majority, are pretty good. Some are even damned good, but that might not be enough to save them.

For a reader, it’s pretty much like trying to judge the esthetic qualities of one snowflake over another in the middle of a friggin’ avalanche. It’s no wonder that many readers stick with writers they’re already familiar with, and eagerly await anything new from that set of writers. That doesn’t leave much room for happy discoveries, and yet who can really blame them, when the alternative is dealing with the avalanche?

Still, newer writers do get read, sometimes. Could be on the recommendation by a friend, or sheer accident. Perhaps the work was even enjoyed, and the reader makes a mental note to look for that writer again. Maybe. Equally likely they’ll just forget about it and go back to what they know. Most books go nowhere, either in building sales or readership. It’s no surprise that a great many writers publish for a few years and then just go silent. What’s more surprising is that more don’t do the same. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t make that much difference, since there’s always a new batch of writers to come along.

The point, if there is one, is that it’s hard to get noticed. The Yamada series has done well, and frankly the publisher was just as surprised as I was. Not that either of us didn’t believe in the books, but because we both knew that any particular book getting any attention at all is such a long shot. So here’s a thought–If you’re inclined, maybe you can help the next new writer you come across. If you like their stuff, say so. Review it. Tell your friends, especially any with similar tastes in reading. If you want to see more books from that writer, let people know. And by “people” I’m not referring to the writer or even the publisher, especially, but rather to people who might want to know, whether they are aware of this fact or not. You’ll be encouraging more books of the sort you want to read, and writers will get paid to write them for you. Win win.

Otherwise, just watch all the snow fall down the mountain. After all, there will always be more where that came from.