Cover Reveal — Nick Kelly’s Catwalk: Lineage

IMG_4643Nick Kelly is no stranger to this blog. You may have remembered his blogpost back in March when he talked about “crossing the line” in writing. The book he was talking about then was Catwalk: Messiah, his first novel and one I had the pleasure of reading this summer.

Best described as “cyber-noir” or perhaps Blade Runner if Marvel Studios produced it, Catwalk: Messiah follows Leon “Catwalk” Caliber, a former Washington D.C. cop, now hired hit man on the west coast of the United States. You would think being a gun-for-hire in a sprawling megapolis of the future would be complicated enough, but Catwalk is good at what he does on account of the cybernetics that not only keeps him alive but also enhances his physical abilities.

The cost isn’t too bad…until you take into account that every enhancement replaces part of his humanity. Now, Cat has to keep hold of what makes him human lest he becomes what he hunts.

Nick and I have talked a lot about his first novel; and never at a loss for words, Nick and I will probably be talking over a scotch or three about what’s coming soon from his dark, twisted imagination… Continue reading

Unexpected Monday Surprise: A Cover Reveal

steam_teeIt’s been a month.

I’ve been trying to get back into a groove, what with the new job (nearing a month being here and it’s been great!) and how that will affect my writing calendar. We’ve managed to get in a steampunk tea in Shepherdstown, West Virginia (photos from S4 by Bruce Press Photography are available for viewing and purchase) and a fantastic weekend at Steampunk unLimited (thank you to everyone who stopped by and said “Hi!”), all of which has kept me from getting back to the blog. My wife-of-infinite-awesome may need a cooler title, as Pip is keeping me in check with a variety of things, and finally I stole a pocket of time to talk to you about one of them. We’ve got some great news coming down the pike; but last week we were (pleasantly) surprised by our publisher-of-infinite-awesome, Ace/Roc Books, as they revealed to the world the next cover in the adventures of Books and Braun.

I now present to you The Diamond Conspiracy, the fourth installment in the award-winning Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series: Continue reading

Finding that Perfect Pitch

YSP_003The 2014 World Fantasy Convention is fast approaching (Yeah, I know, it’s not until November but when you think that next week, it’ll be August. The season of pumpkinfying everything will soon be upon us!) and is a very different experience compared to other cons. In fact, calling World Fantasy a “con” is innacurate. Sure, there are panels, Guests of Honor, readings and signings, and even a few fun get-togethers, but this convention is a place where business, serious networking takes place, and where new novels find a home.

Representing your novel, along with showing how marketable your novel could be, you think would be easy for writers. After all, writers can put words to thoughts, weave then into gripping stories and engaging characters, and easily create heroes, villains, societies, and worlds where readers happily lose themselves.

But pitching a book? It might surprise you how many writers can’t do this. Continue reading

Villains and Why We Love Them

Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC's The Musketeers.Last night, I was watching The Musketeers, the new BBC series featuring Peter Capaldi rocking the Van Dyke and redefining diabolical as Cardinal Richelieu. He’s pretty badass in The Musketeers, but not chewing the scenery or twirling his mustache (which I would imagine is hard to resist because dat stache!) kind of way. Capaldi is working the dialogue like a boss and creating a foil against our heroes that makes you sit up and take notice. There’s a mind and a motivation you connect with on a visceral level, and sometimes it’s difficult to take a side against Richelieu as he makes villainy look really, really good.

That and the wardrobe. And did I mention DAT STACHE?

Watching Capaldi in this role has me of late considering villains, what makes them compelling versus comical characters, and why they are so important in writing.

Your villains—or antagonists, if you want to use the fancier term for “bad guys”— are as high a priority to develop as your heroes. They need to resonate with you, lest they reduce themselves to nothing more than set dressing hell bent on destroying said set along with any major players that happen to be in the vicinity. Continue reading

Stranger on a Train XXIX

Four days of Photoshop. Eight lessons with a few bonus skills added into the mix. I have to work a bit on Day One of Level 2; but once I took a lesson from Kacy Catanzaro and took a steadier pace, Day Two more than made up for my stumble.

Did you see this woman rock the American Ninja course? #MightyKacy indeed.

I’m digging Photoshop CC a lot. Good program. Now I need to take a serious look at Lightroom. I’d like to see if we (that’s Mike Witherall and I) can turn it into a class. I don’t see why not.
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So the people behind Snowpiercer‘s Facebook page put that image online this morning. It’s a stitch, especially when you consider the film. Lot of “in” jokes here, so kudos to the fan who created it. Inspired works like that just remind me of how incredibly talented people are everywhere, and I’m lucky enough to get to share my stories. I’m gearing up to do it again, too. The edits for The Diamond Conspiracy arrived today, so it’s time to level up and work on the next adventure of Books & Braun. We are dealing with a lot in this one, so I look forward to returning to that world…

…Monday.

First, I need a nap. A really big one. Photoshop is a demanding mistress.

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Amazon v Hachette: Round Two (Featuring 100% More Monster Porn!)

20140515-161639.jpgI honestly thought I had said everything I wanted or needed to say about the current face-off between Amazon and Hachette; and when I read John Scalzi’s angle last week, I figured this discussion was done. 

Amazing what complete and utter absurdity writers can kick up within 24 hours.

It started first on Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds.com where he brought to light a petition making the rounds on the Internet.

Well, it’s not really a petition as a petition is defined as “a formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to authority with respect to a particular cause.” This it is more of an open letter to Amazon saying “You are a winner, bro! Keep that up!” with an appeal to independent authors everywhere to sign this, acknowledging why Amazon is so star-spangled awesome.

Here’s how the “petition” closes:

“It is fitting that Independence Day is upon us. Amazon has done more to liberate readers and writers than any other entity since Johannes Gutenberg refined the movable type printing press. With the advent of e-books and the ability to ship paper books to your doorstep in record time and at affordable prices, Amazon is growing overall readership while liberating the voices of countless writers, adding to the diversity of literature. A large percentage of the e-books sold on Amazon are from independent authors. You have validated our decision to write and to publish. Don’t let the wealthiest of writers convince you to turn away.

We urge you to support the company that supports readers and authors. Amazon didn’t ask us to write this letter, or sign it. Amazon isn’t aware that we’re doing this. Because in the end, this isn’t about Amazon. It’s about you, the reader, and the changes you’ve helped bring about with your reading decisions. You are changing the world of books, and you are changing our lives as a result.”

I was trying to process exactly why I would want to add my name to this when, later in the same day, I got a note from the Science Fiction Writers of America, announcing their endorsement of an open letter from New York Times Bestselling Author Douglas Preston. Here’s a selection from this letter the SFWA president is signing and the SFWA Board are inviting members to co-sign:

“Many of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)”

Seriously. This “Pick A Side” bullshit has got to stop. Now. Continue reading

You Wanna See Something Really Scary: A Fresh Horror from Tee Morris

twilightIf you remember back in 2012, Pip and I were engaging in an experiment. We never really mentioned what that experiment was all about, and that was on purpose. We wanted to step deeper into the waters of self-publishing and write outside our genres, see how works way out of our known expertise would perform in the wild frontier of digital do-it-yourself storytelling. I created for myself the pen name of “Jonathan Carter” and set out to write stories that—I hoped—would keep people up a night, make readers afraid of the dark, and check the house to make sure they were truly safe.

I’ve never been one for pen names but after two years and little-to-no activity, I went on and said to Pip “I think we’re done with the experiment. How about we go ahead and just kill Jonathan Carter, and I claim those short stories.”

So, I sat down with Photoshop, edited the eCovers, and re-released them into the wild. Within the first twelve hours of being live, one sold.

I’m thinking the loss of the pen name was a good idea.

How would I categorize my horror? I don’t think of myself as a horror writer heavy on the “squick” factor (if you are curious of what the “squick” factor is, think of the works from Clive Barker or film like the Saw series, or Hostel); but I would say the element of a setting or a situation slowly unraveling, and watching what the players do to try and solve or salvage it but wind up making the bad even worse, makes for good horror. It’s a feeling of helplessness, that wild tailspin of trying to make a situation right while knowing there is nothing that can be done, that I believe horror derives from.

While I have just opened up my own private shop here, you can find my works of horror on Amazon: Continue reading

Achievement Unlocked: My First Con (DemiCon 25) as Guest of Honor

IMG_0556So Monday was the snap-back from my return to Richmond — RavenCon. It was a great weekend with an additional bonus of Pip and myself hijacking award-winner Elizabeth Bear to show her a few sights from my hometown. We left the con at 2 o’clock and didn’t return her until 6:15.

What did we do in four hours?

It was not only quality time with a friend, but a good sampling of what Richmond had to offer.

I plan to write about the weekend — especially on the exceptional KidsTrack which followed a S.H.I.E.L.D. Training theme — but presently I am looking ahead to this coming weekend: the Silver Edition of DemiCon. I’m feeling the butterflies kick as I’ll be reuniting with old friends, meeting new ones for the first time, and fulfilling a role I’ve never held before at a convention.

IMG_0271At DemiCon 25, I am being welcomed as the event’s Guest of Honor, or GoH.

Following my first year experiencing the con scene, I made the GoH distinction one of those “That would be cool…” goals in my career. Why? It would have been an indication that to the organizers and staff of a particular convention, my stories held a special place. Not a bad benchmark to reach for, I figured. After a few years of con-hopping, I assumed my first GoH would be an event I frequented. Maybe? Then, on going full time in writing, the notion fell to the bottom of my priorities list, beaten out by other items like new title development and paying bills.

Imagine my surprise when it was DemiCon, an event I attended only once, that would be the first to extend this distinction to me. Imagine my surprise growing when I found out it would be for their 25th anniversary.

No pressure there, Morris. Continue reading

RavenCon 2014: A Homecoming in April (Hail, Hydra…)

This week has been one temptation after another to rant a bit on topics ranging between Game of Thrones to pretentious nitwits in steampunk, but I have chosen a different direction for my weeks blogpost:

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That’s right — RavenCon! Finally, after years of trying to make my hometown event happen, I am finally coming back to the weekend in April that I helped kick off seven years ago alongside Con Chair Michael Pederson. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend!

It’s been a little frustrating not being able to make it, mainly on account of things like the lack of a day job; but after balancing the books and making sure the numbers weren’t misleading me, I can finally come back to my hometown (the second time within the month!) and enjoy some good old-fashioned geekery alongside such terrific people like Bill Blume, Gail Z. Martin, Michael A. Ventrella, the Geek Radio Daily crew, and Guest of Honor (and all around great lady!) Elizabeth Bear!

Want to know where I will be this weekend? Continue reading

My Writing Process: A Blog Meme for 2014

iStock_000021621315XLargeAs you all know, I’m always game for something new online, and last week I got an invite for something new—a blog meme. The concept is I go on and share with you all what’s happening in my writing life. I then introduce two people where, next week, they post their own answers to these questions. Hence the blog meme—from my answers, you jump to two new authors who will take you along on their journey.

While our intern-of-awesome K.T. Byski had a hand in making this happen, the invitation come from author Emily Swartz, a recent graduate from USM’s Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing. She has a work-in-progress called The Midnight Thief, a drama set in Appalachian Kentucky, but a freelance writer’s life is peppered with experience and it is that experience she brings to her work.

Thanks, Emily, for this invitation. This should be fun.  Continue reading