The “A-ha!” Moment in Writing


You see this?


If for some reason you don’t, this is a brick wall. I sometimes come across them when I’m writing. Nothing—and I mean, nothing—is more frustrating than knowing the direction you want a story to go, but you are staring at this instead:


This sucks.

I felt like I’d been staring at one of these with The Ghost Rebellion. Don’t get me wrong. I have an idea of where Pip and I want to head with this next Ministry adventure, but I found myself staring at that wall, thinking “All right, I know where I am at presently. I know the next point I need to reach. How do I get there?” I am working the grey cells, running bullet points from notes, setting up scenes, asking questions I’ve written on the white board again and again… Continue reading

4 Things that Star Wars Fans Should Be More Upset About than Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath


chuck-wendig-aftermathSo, if you might have heard, author Chuck Wendig released a book.

Chuck is the author behind Star Wars: Aftermath, the first (of three) books bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Since its release, both Jedi and Sith alike are losing their midichlorian-laced shit over this book.

The common threads amongst haters are:

  • Chuck wrote the story in 3rd person present tense. Very different from previous Extended Universe books.

    • In Aftermath, we meet a character that is gay.

    • This is Star Wars done in the style of Wendig. If you have not read some of his other works like Blackbirds or Zeroes, this is a very different approach.

    • There is an unexpected crossover between new Star Wars character Norra Wexley and Marvel favorites, Rocket Raccoon & Groot.

Okay, I might have totally made up that last one, but those other gripes are what a lot of panties twisted in special knots only learnt at Jedi Summer Camps. After reading thinly-veiled attempts at hiding homophobia or anti-Disney sentiments behind various “This is bad writing…” comments, I’m a bit stunned. Star Wars fans are pissed over a gay character and Chuck’s style? Seriously? After everything we’ve dealt with across six movies?

Over the decades, we fans have weathered some serious missteps. And no, I’m not talking about:

  • Midichlorians
  • Jar-Jar Binks
  • The feeble attempts to have Han Solo appear to shoot in self-defense

We’ve talked about those (and continue to talk about them) at length. What I’m talking about is the kind of writing or direction that should have made fans call them out to the center of the octagon, but I’ve rarely seen happen. If you really want to be pissed off about something in the Star Wars universe, have you considered… Continue reading

5 Things to Help Keep Your Works-in-Progress in Progress (and Avoid Overcommitting to Other Projects)


IMG_4191.JPGIf you have been listening to the podcasts, you may have heard that I’ve got a few ideas percolating in the brain. This week, with the close of the summer rapidly approaching, I’m looking at the following projects:

  • Various short stories for the final season of Tales from the Archives
  • A novella for a special collection of science fiction, available only at RT 2016
  • A new fantasy epic, co-written with Pip
  • The fifth novel in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series
  • An urban fantasy novel (that has been sitting on a back burner for WAY too long…)

These works-in-progress are just that: in various stages of progress. That sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Five projects, and today I got an invitation from this guy… Continue reading

Post Mortem: The Unsolved Mystery of True Detective, Season 2

True-Detective-Season-2-Vince-VaughnI’ve really been struggling with this.

I am trying to get my words down as eloquently and succinctly as possible. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

When I come to this blog, I bestow advice, make commentary on the world, and express opinions in such a manner that is professional (or at least represents my professionalism) and reflects this command over the English language that I have been blessed with. However, I find myself really having a tough time with this.

There’s really no other way to put it…

Sweet crap, that was terrible.

Maybe some details are needed at this point… Continue reading

Watch That First Step: Starting New Projects (and Yes, It’s Okay to Be Scared Shitless)

TheDiamondConspiracyI’ve been writing in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for almost five years now. Five wonderful years. Every time I sit down at the keyboard to reconnect with Eliza, Wellington, Bruce, Brandon, and the crew, it’s like reconnecting with old friends from high school and college. No time has passed. We’re cracking jokes. It’s a real synergy that—I won’t lie—is a tad addictive. I feel as if this world has become my port in a storm, an oasis in the desert; and I genuinely love these people and this world.

Here’s the thing, though—Pip and I are starting something new. Amidst a flurry of D.I.Y. projects undertaken while the Boom is away at summer camp, we started a title that is a complete departure from steampunk. Yes, that is what people know us for, but a solid writing career isn’t based on hitching your wagon to one series and then you’re done. Do you want to be the writer known for that one series, or do you want to have one of those careers where people love your work no matter what world it is set in? This is why Pip and I have taken those first steps in developing a new series, and I am scared shitless. Continue reading

Sometimes, It’s Not About Making the Sale

New York City at nightNext week, my wife of infinite awesome and I are heading up north to New York for a writer’s conference. It is the Writers Digest Conference, and we are heading up there to talk about two things we do very well:

  • Steampunk
  • Social Media & Content Marketing

Now, here’s the thing. There are going to be a lot of writers at this conference. This is an event where writers of varying backgrounds—fiction, non-fiction, beginners, seasoned veterans—go to pitch their ideas and perfect their approach to business. This isn’t really a “con” like RavenCon or Balticon, but this is an honest-to-God, professional, industry conference. No cosplayers. (But we will get punked up for the Steampunk panel, sure!) No panels on who would win in a fight—Batman or Superman. (Supes.) Less fans of our writing and more people who want to be professional writers. (Awww yeah, it’s business time!) This is a very different dynamic than a book event at a teashop or a steampunk convention. This is an event where writers are learning about the business of books. Continue reading

Wide-Eyed Wonder: A Review of Tomorrowland

spa224653LARGEWhen Walt Disney Studios revealed that coming to theatres this summer was a movie called Tomorrowland, a feeling of dread (equaled only by my level of anticipation) welled inside of me. Tomorrowland—the park, not the movie—was a place that, even in my teenaged visits to Walt Disney World, I would hold my breath, make a wish, and lose myself in science fiction come to life. Tomorrowland was not just a special place, it was sacred. I remember visiting Walt Disney World when Space Mountain was under construction. (I’m old. Shut up.) I remember when their first spaceflight simulation “A Voyage to the Moon” convinced me had launched from Orlando and were en route to Tranquility Sea. Yes, I know—Walt Disney World is an amusement park. An expensive amusement park. Walt Disney World, I’ve always believed, has been less about the rides and more about the experience; and for me, nowhere else in the park embodied that more than Tomorrowland.

Now, it was a movie with George Clooney at the helm. And all I could think about was The Haunted Mansion.

Oh. Crap. Continue reading

May Madness: From RT to Balticon

Memorial Day weekend. You know what that means?


Grill time.

It also means showing respect for those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have cookouts in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Sometimes, you can forget why we enjoy the extended weekend. This particular one comes with a pretty powerful price tag, regardless of what the sales at Macy’s and Bed, Bath, & Beyond advertise.

But I digress…

AWARDThis May, as you saw in my previous post, has been pretty eventful. Pip made it home safely Monday morning, and when I got home Monday from the day job I was presented with the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Steampunk of 2014. Wellington, Eliza, Dr. Sound, Professor Axelrod & Dr. Blackwell, Tesla & Edison, and new friends Wild Bill Wheatley and Felicity Lovelace brought home the gold (or in this case, the crystal) with Dawn’s Early Light. It doesn’t feel quite real, you know? Two of the finalists have written for me and Pip, and another was a New York Times Bestseller; but we were presented with honors. It’s a little humbling and immensely rewarding.

The best part? No puppies of any demeanor were involved with this distinction. We earned this award. I’m more than good with that. Continue reading

Musings Over a Pint

IMG_4191.JPGToday reaches the end of what has been one of the fuck-craziest weeks of my existence on this rock hurtling through time and space. Not since high school or college can I recall a week where everything felt like it was happening all at the same time, and what would start as a busy week of ALL TEH THINGZ deteriorated into a countdown to when ALL TEH THINGZ would come to an end.

I’m enjoying a Cafe Vanilla Porter from Old Bust Head Brewery, officially declaring a highly-anticipated (from me!) conclusion a full-on week wherein the day job exploded on account of a new website launched in the same week when Pip took off for RT in Dallas to accept and award and, standing as Best Man, one of my best buddies got married, all while preparing for a 5K run I agreed to do with our daughter. Not even my visit to the Man Cave of Old Town took off the week’s edge.

This beer is my first, truly solitary deep breath. Continue reading

Making the Cut: The Pure Joy in Editing

Three men in an office hunched over a typewriter

Editors, man. Editors.

I love ‘em. Love ‘em hard.

That might come across as a shock to some of my fellow writers. There are authors who truly loathe the editing process, or believe their work is so dead-solid-perfect out of the box that editors need not apply.

This is your first warning sign, Sparky — you need an editor.

Continue reading