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

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

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

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

It Never Gets Old: Musings on Release Day, One Month Later

I was on the other side of the world when it happened. Day Four in New Zealand and Wellington is turning on the charm as she usually does…


You might be led to believe my random posting of photos and video meant I was taking it one day at a time in Aotearoa, not a care in the world to be seen nor any fucks remaining to give. Trust me, the stress of 2014 was now and truly in the rear view, my new day job reinforcing my ability to do what I do and perhaps push the boat out and try adding new skills under my belt. A daring thing to do when you are south of 45 years, but that is what life is all about, isn’t it? Discovery and learning new things. Then off to New Zealand to kick off the 2015 convention year. Enjoy the ride, as I like to say…

Truth be told, I was really walking a knife’s edge on Day Four, the day that I blogged about last year (around the same time) on Chuck’s blog: The Diamond Conspiracy was out in the wild and reaching the hands of readers. Continue reading

RavenCon 2015: Ten Years of Geeking Out in Richmond

Ten years ago, on the way to Stellarcon in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was asked by Nth Degree Magazine creator and editor Mike Pederson to help him start up a convention in a city was in desperate need of a convention: Richmond, VA. At that time, there was nothing happening in the area. It would be the first time in a long time that Richmond would have seen a scifi con.

Naturally, this was my reaction:


After several years of attending conventions, I was being invited (as much as you can be “invited” when you are in a moving car) to step into the wild, weird, and surprisingly wonderful world of convention organizing. (Either that, or walk the rest of the way to Stellarcon.) Thus, with boyhood hero Terry Brooks as our Guest of Honor, RavenCon launched.

Ten years later, RavenCon is still going strong. Continue reading

Authors & Self-Promotion: Why This Isn’t Someone Else’s Job

delilahThis week has seen a week of self-promotion posts. Not necessarily a week of authors hardcore-pimping their latest book or sounding from the rooftop news about their latest work-in-progress—and it should have been as Delilah S. Dawson released Hit while Pip and I kicked off the fourth season of Tales from the Archives—but a week of writers blogging about self-promotion. Two authors of infinite awesome—Chuck Wendig and the afore-mentioned Delilah Dawson—posted strategies on what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to talking about your own work. Continue reading