Writing Is Hard: Not an Excuse, A Challenge

delilahYesterday, the steampunk-romance-let-me-creep-you-out-to-the-edge-of-your-skin dynamo, Delilah S. Dawson, posted on her blog a column about being a writer, about getting off your ass, and about doing what you tell people you do. When I read the title of her blogpost, I was ready to mix it up with Big D because I’ve lost nearly twenty pounds all while editing an anthology, editing the fourth book of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and writing up a new social media book, specifically geared for writers…

Instead, I read the article, proving that, yes, it is better to comment after you’ve read a blogpost instead of reading only the headline. The best part about Delilah’s blog is that, after meeting her, you can hear her in your head when you read her blog. So now I hear Delilah S. Dawson in my head…

I am terrified. Just so you all know.

Delilah’s a stitch. We’ve broken bread with her, been on panels with her, and she’s one of my literature spirit animals. I say “one of” because I have many. There’s my wife Pip, Chuck Wendig, Myke Cole, Mur Lafferty, Erika Napoletano, Kate Cross…I swear, I am building a Noah’s Ark of spirit animals over here. Thing is, D drops the mic hard in this blogpost when she says: 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

A Game of Wait and See: The Hullabaloo over “Hullabaloo”

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I’ve been getting tagged all week on social media platforms about the successful IndeGoGo-finded project, Hullabaloo. I was originally going to respond to this via Facebook, but it started to get too long, and thought this better suited for a blogpost.

First off, this definitely needs to be said — congratulations to the animators and creative team behind this project. After my own experience with Kickstarter, both the positive and the negative, it is always awesome to see brilliant, passionate crowdfunded projects not only hit their goals but surpass them. Well done, Team Hullabaloo. You kicked ass, and even grabbed the attention of io9 in the process. That is tremendous work, and I admire that.

Second, it’s nice that when people think of steampunk, they think of me, my wife, and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. We’ve been working hard since breaking into the genre and it means a lot to me that people are curious as to my thoughts on steampunk creations.

So, what are my thoughts? 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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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

Much Ado About Nothing: The Brouhaha over #AmtrakResidency’s Terms of Service

bildeYou may have heard, if you’re friends with writers, that Amtrak, inspired by an exchange on Twitter, has come up with a really cool program called #AmtrakResidency where writers can catch a cross-country train (with Amtrak picking up the fare) and trek across the states while working on their next big novel. Truth be told, there is something very cool about writing while on a train. The world is your television, and seeing the country rush by you—given the atmosphere of riding the train across our majestic landscape—is nothing short of inspiring.

No, “rush by” is not the right description. From the window of your Amtrak observation desk or sleeper car, a cross-country odyssey unfolds all around you.

It all sound very poetic, which is why some crusaders of truth, justice, and “Your Content is YOURS” did a massive deep-dive into the terms of the #AmtrakResidency Program and  speculate there is trouble at mill when it comes to your content. Nuzzled within the terms of giving you, the author, free train fare in exchange for this opportunity to write, Amtrak reserves “the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy the name, image, and/or likeness of Applicant and the names of any such persons identified in the Application for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing. (taken from #6. Grant of Rights of #AmtrakResidency Program)”

This sent some in the writing community into a right tizzy. New York Times Bestseller Diane Duanne warns on her blog “Never sell anyone world rights to any of your writing. Ever. Ever. Because who knows if that one piece of writing is the one that would have made you famous worldwide and rich beyond the dreams of avarice? Or more to the point, what if they later do something with your writing that is absolutely opposite to your intentions and which you find harmful or offensive? You’d have no recourse there either.”

She used bold AND italics. Wow. This must be serious. Continue reading

Paying Attention: A Secret Behind Inspiration

iStock_000006201684XLarge “How do you get all those ideas?”

I rank this question up along with “How do you learn all those lines?” when I was the actor. It was a question actors dreaded, but I rarely think we were asked it when we had a “Meet & Greet” with the audience. It’s a fair enough question, though; and since I never got it when I was an actor, I’ll answer it here. “Rehearsal and repetition.” That’s the key in learning your lines, be it for a play, a presentation, or for a very important one-on-one you have on your books.

Now, as a writer, the ideas question tends to be the one that earns an eye-roll, but I don’t think it’s fair. People are genuinely curious how authors come up with what they put down on paper. Maybe it’s because they wonder how someone can think up Victorian secret agents investigating the unknown, or a dwarf-detective solving crimes in the Prohibition Era; and it’s a sincere question. I know that when I’ve read books I love, or enjoyed an episode of Almost Human or True Detective, I marvel at the air tight dialogue or incredible situations these talented writers come up with and wonder what drives them. It’s good to know where ideas come from and what makes them happen because inspiration keep you busy as a writer.

If there was a magic bullet in finding great ideas, it actually ties back to a trick I had with acting: Pay attention. The world around you is teeming with ideas, and inspiration can happen at any time. With technology, jotting ideas down has been made insanely easy, so now instead of carrying around the writer’s notebook, journal—or ledger as The Taxman does—you can whip out the smartphone and take notes. What’s key though in finding inspiration is paying attention to what’s around you. Many times, that’s all you need to get an idea going. 

Case in point, today the third season of Tales from the Archives launched; and I’m particularly proud of this story that Pip and I put together as it came from the unlikeliest of places: church. Now church is probably not the place where I should be in “Writer’s Mode” but Trinity Episcopal of Manassas prides itself on being a different kind of church. This particular day, Dennis Reid, was giving a sermon on Judas Iscariot; but not the kind of sermon you would think. He said something that struck me hard: Continue reading

Endless Possibilities 2014 Blog Tour: An Introduction

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Yes, the blog has been quiet, just like the podcast. I hate it when things like that happen, and this time it was for reasons good and bad.

Instead of delving into the bad (which was all the chatter on my Facebook, if you were curious), I want to hold on to the good. Oh now, don’t you worry — I will always have room for a good, old-fashioned rant here, but this blogpost is more about rising to challenges and keeping a hold of what works…

This blogpost is also to welcome those of you new to my side of the blogosphere. S’up?

Yes, I’m on board at the opening of this new year with a blog tour aimed to introduce myself to new reader, be they readers of my blog or readers of my works. And what a day to introduce myself to people — on the ninth anniversary of the MOREVI podcast going live. Where did the time go?

But I digress. Let me start from the beginning. Introductions? By all means…

Continue reading

MINISTRY PROTOCOL: The Cover Reveal (and other stuff that I’ve been up to…)

IMG_0450So yeah…I do this on-the-edge post about OSC, get the traffic, get the comments, and then…I disappear.

All right, let me explain…

No, is too much. Lemme sum up…

Shortly after that post, the Kickstarter for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences’ anthology and role playing game launched. Pretty much, that was my life. It was a new world of stress, of statistics, and of sensational results, the sum of it all that we made 152% of our goal. We did it! Yay us!

Oh crap, we did it — better get cracking on that anthology.

So I hunkered down with new steampunk from Delilah S. DawsonLeanna Renee HieberAlex WhiteJared AxelrodTiffany TrentPeter WoodworthJack ManganJR BlackwellDan RabartsLauren HarrisKarina Cooper, and Glenn Freund from The League of S.T.E.A.M.

How’s that for a line-up?

Ministry Protocol: Thrilling Tales from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences promises to take readers across the Empire and around the world, introducing new agents and delving deeper into the organization’s history. I’m not only thrilled with this collection, but I’m excited to present it to everyone.

So hold on, it’s coming. Soon.

Until then, allow me to tease you with its cover from the far-too-talented-for-his-own-good renaissance man, Alex White… Continue reading