Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Scribbling like a mad scribbling thing

So summer turns to fall, and then next thing you know it's dark out at 3 in the afternoon.  Seems like it, anyway.  It happens every year, so you'd think I'd be used to it by now.

I'm working on the first draft of Book 3, which is the sequel to Burnt Worlds.  It's going great, at a steady 2500-3000 words per day, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. 

In the meantime, I'm starting to get some feedback from beta readers & editors about Book 2 (still calling it Magic Comes to Whiteport, though that might change).  On the whole, it seems to be in good shape, and mostly just in need of a really good polishing.

My original plan was to put #3 on hold and edit #2 (MCtW) to get it ready, but since the draft is going so well, I'm going to carry on with #3 until it's done.  So while #2 will be pushed back to Q1 2016, I think that #3 should be ready by Q2.

This is all assuming, of course, that nothing comes up to mess the schedule.  You know, like a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion, or something.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Colouring Outside the Lines

I've finished the outline for project #3, the sequel to Burnt Worlds which is tentatively titled Chosen One.  Making the outline has involved several spreadsheets, Scrivener projects, and pages and pages of scribbled notes.  It also involved a lot of staring at the ceiling and/or pacing around; these are both vital and important parts of the creative process.  Apparently.

Some characters have returned, others will return later.  We'll be meeting some new people, and visiting some new and interesting locations.  There may be an explosion, possibly some weapons fire, and probably a cuss word or two.

Time to find a chew toy pen and get started on the first draft.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Thinking Medieval Thoughts

After two solids months of nose-to-grindstone, I've finished a new draft of MCtW.  I rewrote some chapters that weren't up to standards, added a bunch of good stuff, and tore out a bunch of stuff I no longer liked.  I think it's in much better shape now, and it's off to my favourite kaleidoscope for the benefit of her insight and feedback.  I'm still planning on a December release, and I think I'm on schedule for that.

Since MCtW is a fantasy story, I've had my mind stuck in a fantasy frame of mind for months now.  Like I tell people, I've been thinking medieval thoughts.  The books I've been reading have been Republic of Theives and Tigana, and the games I've been playing have been Diablo III and Witcher III.  Swords and magic, everywhere I look; it's great.

But now that MCtW is in the hands of others, I'm going to start working on project #3, which will be a sequel to Burnt Worlds.  The current working title is Chosen One.  Because it's science fiction, I need to force my brain to switch gears, to start thinking about spaceships instead of castles.  First up, I think, will be watching Interstellar.  Then maybe Mass Effect and Star Wars.  That should get me started.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Constructive Feedback

As I mentioned in June, things have now changed to allow me a fair bit more time for writing.  If all goes well, I'm hoping to get MCtW out the door by Christmas.

To that end, I'm delighted to have received some constructive feedback from Lia and Jaye, who have given the current draft a very honest going-over.  There's a lot of work still to be done, and I'm looking forward to getting started.

One of the things I need to take care of is to create a better beginning.  When working through a number of different drafts, chapters get added and removed and rearranged, and sometimes (like now) it turns out that the original introduction has been moved, which leaves some of the later chapters hanging a bit.  I want to make sure the story is set up properly, so that the rest of it flows from it.

I'm infinitely grateful to have people who will give me honest feedback.  It will make for a much better book in the end.

Welp, time to find my pen and get to scribbling!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mugging Monsters

Progress continues on the third draft of MCtW.  I've made a few changes to the plot, including replacing one large scene with a much more interesting idea.  Doing so can be a bit tricky, because I then need to check continuity for the rest of the book.  I can't very well have characters talking about something that no longer happened; that would confuse the characters, the readers, and me!

I've just got home from spending a few days with my favourite kaleidoscope/editor, who lives in NY and has a summer home on the third level of the Abyss.  It really refills the creative tanks, to hang out with a creative mind and happily lob ideas back and forth.  When our brains started to sag from the exertion, we fired up Diablo 3 and spent hours a few minutes mutilating evil monsters for fun and profit.  It's better than therapy!

If everything continues going well, I hope to have the third draft of MCtW ready to visit my brilliant and generous beta readers by the end of July.  Come August, I've arranged for more time to spend working on writing, so the sequel to Burnt Worlds is going to be getting my undivided attention.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Dillon, Amba, Sap, and the Chief have all been up to.

I've got a few minutes left this evening... I think I'll go separate some monsters from their money.
They'd only spend it on frivolous stuff anyway.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Is it drafty in here?

Making excellent progress on my next book, Magic Comes to Whiteport (working title).  I've just now finished the second draft, and I'm much happier with it now.

My original schedule was for MCtW to be out by the end of the year, and at the rate things are going, I might even be a bit early.  That would be great, so I'm going to try to do that.

I'm going to let the draft sit for a week or so, giving my mind a chance to think about other things, then I'm going to come back and start working on a third draft.  Or second-and-a-bit draft; I'm not sure what the technical classification would be.  There are some great characters in MCtW, and I'm going to go back and spend some more time with each of them, to make sure they have a chance to shine.

But right now, it's a beautiful day, it's Victoria Day (God save the Queen!) and I'm headed outside to do, er, outsidey things.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Necromancers make their own friends

I'm working on the second draft of my next book, tentatively called Magic Comes to Whiteport.  I'm not sure if I'll keep that name, or if my muse (whose judgment I sometimes question) will offer a different idea.

This second draft is roughly 35.18% done, and it's going very well.  I'm at the point where a lot of details crop up that demand my attention.  Continuity, motivation, that sort of thing.  And if it's a world with magic, then the magic has to work consistently and logically.  Well, as logically as magic goes, anyway.  Even though it's all set in a fantasy world, it's all got to make sense.

I don't know if it's a measure of success, or a measure of a lack of success, or what, but I've now found myself chasing websites to take down pirated copies of Burnt Worlds that are cropping up.  I suppose I'm flattered, to a point, and at the same time it puts the proverbial shoe very firmly on the other foot as far as my personal opinions on copyright.  If any of you spot someone offering a pirated version available out in the wild, I hope you'll slay them using the power of your mind let me know.

Game of Thrones has started season 5, and it's such fun to watch the characters as their world spins out of control.  Because screwed-up is fun!  Who wants to read/watch a story in which everyone has a lovely day and nothing happens?  Mayhem and pandemonium, that's entertainment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Planetary Lottery

It's been a joy to see all the intelligent & attractive people who are enjoying Burnt Worlds.  I'm thrilled to have received quite a few nice reviews, which have had the effect of motivating the hell out of me to work on the next book(s).

There have been some interesting comments in the reviews.  One intelligent & attractive reader made mention of the political situation I've imagined for the future.

I had in mind a future in which humans eventually discover faster-than-light travel, and quickly begin to scout out the local galactic neighbourhood.  Because Earth's nation-states get along so well with each other, they'd all rush to claim planets for their own.  As fast as they could, they'd be founding colonies which immediately set about the vital task of looking suspiciously at other colonies.

Naturally, a great deal of work would go into choosing which planets to colonise, but at the same time there would be a certain frantic rush to 'grab' planets before other countries grabbed them.

The result of it all, I imagined, would be a sort of 'planetary lottery'.  If a less affluent country grabbed some planets that turned out to be wildly lucrative, while a major power colonised a bunch of duds, the power balance would shift.  Add to that the usual genocidal warfare vigorous interaction between nations, and over a century or two a whole new political landscape would emerge.

During all this, I can only assume that alien races would be observing the humans go about their usual mayhem, watching us with a combination of fascination and dread.

How likely is this future?  Not very, I shouldn't think.  But if you went to London around 1750 and told them that their thirteen quaint little colonies in America would become the global superpower, they'd probably lock you up.  So who knows?  It's part of the fun.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A bit less absurdity

I continue to be grateful for the many intelligent & attractive people who have taken copies of Burnt Worlds home to live with them.  Some of them have even said nice things about it in public, which is wonderful.  Thank you again!

My next book is continuing apace.  I'm at the very serious stage where I've printed out the first draft and have been savagely going at it with a red pen.  Some pages are soaked with red like a crime scene.  There is revising and rewriting to be done, but it's going very well and I'm happy with it.  I'm especially enjoying getting to know the characters.  Some of them are fun people and I'm looking forward to introducing them to all of you.

For the longest time, it was known as Something something magic something, because a title hadn't occurred to me yet and Word insisted that I give the file a name.  But now I've given it the working title Magic Comes to Whiteport, mainly because that's what happens in it.

As for me, the book currently on my night-table is Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.  It's the third in the 'Gentlemen Bastards' series, and I'm happily cruising through it.

I just read that Sir Terry Pratchett has passed away today.  Good grief.  This world needs all the fun and absurdity it can get; he will be greatly missed.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Thank you, UK readers!

A special hello to readers from the UK.  In the space of a few hours, a huge mob of intelligent & attractive UK readers picked up copies of Burnt Worlds.  Copies were flying off the (virtual) shelves ten times faster than usual.  I don't know what prompted all of you to appear on the same day, but thank you!  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Burnt Worlds: Paperback version

In its first week of release, Burnt Worlds has already been downloaded by hundreds of intelligent & attractive people.  Thank you!

Pixels are all very well and good, but a great many humans prefer their books to be physical objects, made of paper and ink.  For them, I have enlisted the services of CreateSpace to make a softcover version of the book available.  Amazon's links still need to be updated, but the softcover format is available through this direct link:

Burnt Worlds in softcover format at

I'm glad people are enjoying the book.  Time for me to get back to work on the next one!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Burnt Worlds: Now Available, free for first 72 hours!

I'm delighted to announce that Burnt Worlds has now been published and is available on the Kindle store:
To celebrate, I'm making the book free for three days, from February 17th to 19th.  I hope this will encourage people to give it a look!

Next up, I'm going to look into CreateSpace.  I know a number of people who are interested in the book but don't have any form of e-reader, so I'd like to have a physical version available.

Grab yourself a complimentary copy, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Burnt Worlds: final bits & pieces

I've got the acknowledgments, dedication, and teaser all taken care of.  It's fun and exciting, and I'm looking forward to publishing Burnt Worlds.  One or two tiny things left.

For now, here's the preliminary teaser:

The commander of HMCS Borealis has a problem.  Several, actually, the most pressing of which is that he’s not even supposed to be in charge.  Something happened while testing a new jump drive, leaving he ship crippled and most of the officers dead.  Once the dust settled, Lieutenant Dillon found himself the highest-ranking person still alive.

At the far edge of the galaxy, beyond any hope of rescue, it’s up to Dillon to pull the survivors together and get the ship home.  As Dillon struggles with the unexpected burden of command, things start to go from bad to worse.

There’s the fugitive Palani priestess, who could control the minds of the crew.  There’s the mysterious ship that’s hunting them.  And there’s the desperate jump that puts them into entirely uncharted space, surrounded by star systems full of dead planets.

Dillon and the crew of the Borealis find themselves in a race against time to solve an centuries-old mystery.  Can they stop an ancient enemy from being unleashed on the galaxy?  Or are all the planets of the galaxy destined to become burnt worlds?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Burnt Worlds: Cover Image

This is fun.  With the help of a wonderful, graphically-inclined human, I am happy to release the final cover image for Burnt Worlds.  It's turned out to be a process quite a bit like the writing itself:  I toiled away for ages and ages learning to use 3D rendering software, importing objects and textures, and meticulously crafting an image that I liked.  Then I chucked it all out the window because a better idea came along.

I've finished the last edits of the book, and am now satisfied that it's ready to go.  I'm going to let it sit for a very short while, then give it one last read.  I'm quite certain that even after all the editing, there will still be one typo lurking in there, and I'll give it a final opportunity to surrender quietly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Excerpt: Burnt Worlds

I have received the last feedback for Burnt Worlds from the last beta reader.  Some technical details, a few minor continuity cockups whoopsies, and some stylistic thingies.  All in all, it's excellent feedback, and with one final edit I'll incorporate it and That Will Be That.

In the meantime, here's a tiny excerpt.  Several readers have mentioned this bit:  Chief Black explaining how a jump drive works:

The Chief smirked.  "Want to know my theory?  I don't think anyone has the faintest clue how it works.  I think someone was trying to invent, I don't know, a new dishwasher or something, and accidentally made a jump drive.  Wrote up a hundred pages of bullshit, collected their Nobel Prize, and retired.  Everyone else just makes copies of the failed dishwasher, and as long as it keeps working, no one asks any questions."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Procambarus zonangulus

One of the things I enjoyed about writing Burnt Worlds was having the opportunity to research stuff.  I'm a great lover of random & pointless trivia, and my obsession mild interest in creating a plausible science-fiction setting drove me to fits of Looking Stuff Up.

For instance, the main armament on HMCS Borealis is a pair of 6-inch (152mm) railguns that use magnetism to accelerate projectiles to ludicrous speeds.  Naturally I needed to know how much kaboom would be exerted per shot (many kilotons) as well as a reasonable expectation of engagement range (thousands of kilometres).

I also wanted one of the alien races to be cold-blooded.  They come from a cold planet, and their body temperature is near freezing.  Would it be possible for such a race to exist?  Could they be warmed up, so they could make bouncy interact with humans?

This started as an idle Googling at 8pm, and one thing led to another and it was 3am and I was reading a fascinating article about our friend the humble cuttlefish.  It lives quite successfully in near-freezing water, with copper-based hemocyanin in its blue blood in the place of iron-based mammalian hemoglobin.  It can even be warmed up to human body temperature, if done carefully.

Another such Googling-Gone-Wrong evening found me reading about the sex lives of Tetrahymena thermophilia.  This curious species of bacteria has not two, but seven distinct sexes.  Each of them can successfully mate with any sex other than their own, with the offspring having various probabilities of being each of the sexes.

That's one of the awesome things about science and science fiction.  You can dream up whatever strange alien lifeform you want; chances are, something a lot like them is already here on Earth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


There's another human writer who is of particular personal interest to me. I'd like to introduce you to Jaye McKenna.

Lia was very kind to bring Jaye and I into each others' orbits, and she's very much one of our tribe. By 'tribe', of course, I mean that circle of humans who are like us, but not necessarily related to us. In this case, I refer specifically to humans with the previously mentioned "twisted, messed-up [and] morally-out-of-the-mainstream" sense of humour.

She's a prolific writer.  Good lord, how prolific.  She's published more than Lia and I put together. Which, seeing as how I haven't published anything yet, sounds pretty stupid. But when I read this again in ten years, it'll be hilarious.

Plus, she's smart. I mean, to the extent that she, Lia and I constitute an 'operation', she is definitely the 'brains of' said operation. She's been to school and everything. I especially like that she's particular about the science in her science fiction. Getting the science right has been a fetish obsession interest of mine.  The reader probably doesn't know how a jump drive works.  I figure they should feel comfortable leaving the driving to a character who does it all the time.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Like I mentioned before, I think it's vital for any creative person to have access to one honest opinion, to one person who can challenge you to do better. 

I have been fortunate to have such a person come into my universe:  Lia Black.  She's a writer as well, and though she writes in a quite a different genre than I do, she's very good at it.

She's one of my all-time favourite humans, and I love her to bits.  We made an agreement early on to provide feedback on each others' stories, and to do so constructively, without taking any of it personally.  That's made all the difference for me.  If you're in any sort of creative endeavour, I hope you find someone who can do the same for you. 

The title of this post is an in-joke sort of reference to her unique ability to create the most spectacularly fucked-up pairings of characters, and still create a romance that brings them together in a believable, rewarding way.  It's truly remarkable to see it happen; it's like a superpower.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What? No herald?

Good morning.  Afternoon?  Evening.

Always best to start with an introduction, I figure.  I don't have a herald to announce me, so I'll have to introduce myself.

Name's Steve.  I'm one of those people who has always talked about writing a book, but never got around to finishing one.  Maybe you're the same.

In my case, I was fortunate to meet another like-minded human.  Just when I was going to give it up, she inspired me to keep at it.  Now I've got one book in the final stages of editing, and the first draft of a second book waiting its turn with the red pen.

Every creative person needs that one honest voice who will say, "You can do better.  Keep at it".

If they happen to share your twisted, messed-up, morally-out-of-the-mainstream sense of humour, then so much the better.

No looking back.  Onwards!

- Steve.