Quickie Update for November

My NaNo rebel project is not going well. I’m stuck trying to figure out if this story needs to be told in 1st or in 3rd person.  So I’ve switched back to the novel (the sequel to A Heart in Sun and Shadow).  I’ve never written a sequel before. It’s tough writing one for a book that is published, too.  I can’t change details that were set in the first novel, so I’m constantly having to recheck the older book for things.  I think I might take a couple hours today and make a quickie world bible or at least a list with the relevant details.  I wrote the first book before I’d really nailed down how I prefer to write novels and I have zero cohesive character notes or world notes at all (which is something I started doing AFTER I wrote this one).  It’s odd to go back and look at a work that I did a couple years ago.

In other news, I sold another story to Daily SF.  This is my tenth fiction sale in less than two years (first sale was in December of 2009).  Five of those have been to Daily SF. I guess it is true, you just have to find an editor who loves what you write and then sell them as much as you can. I’m glad so many stories of mine have found a home with Daily SF. They are a great publication (delivered to your email! Go subscribe! /end plug).

 

Oh, and I crossed the 1,000 books sold mark for my e-books.  Hopefully the next 1k doesn’t take quite as long, but it is definitely a mile-stone.

So that is what’s up with me.  Now, where did I put that outline? Back to writing!

Blog Vacation

I’m taking an internet hiatus for a while. I’ll be around a bit, but probably not updating here much.  I’m going to resume the weekly Casimir Hypogean posts as well as the Neo-pro Interviews in January.  I have a ton of work to get done between now and the new year, so I’m taking a brain break from everything else.  Which is not to say I won’t post if I absolutely feel I have something to say, but I’m not going to try to keep myself on a schedule or add any more things to my to-do list.

For the next couple months, life has to be all about the writing. I’ll be back in January with new goals for the new year and a summary of how 2010 went.

Thanks.  Hope everyone has a great holiday season.

Neo-pro Interview: Steve Stewart

Interview with Steve Stewart

 

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Steve: I was a weird kid; the worst part was, I didn’t know I was weird. It took me a long time to realize that when a teacher holds up a picture of a one-humped camel in a kindergarten class, you’re not supposed to say “dromedary.” When the school asks students for their input designing the new playground, they want you to draw a tornado slide, tire swings, a seesaw; basically anything but an interconnected network of cloud-shaped tree houses with foam harpoon guns.

I was scared of the dark. It was like a chalkboard where I could sketch my primal fears as big as my suffocating imagination could make them. I was the kid asking for doors to be left open a crack, for closets to be checked. I was the kid running up the stairs with the basement darkness nipping at my heels, clutching the jar of canned peaches my mom had asked for to my chest. I was also the kid begging my dad to tell me just one more scary story. The more something scared me, the more I wanted to tell stories about it, draw it, dig down deep and figure it out.

Maybe I’m still doing this.

These days, I have a wife and two little girls who blow my mind every single day, and I spend five nights a week away from them chasing this writing thing. It’s a life that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but I’ve found incredible fulfillment in it. Searching for true things and lying about them creatively is a hell of a job. It’s the only one I want.

I write speculative fiction of all kinds, but it tends to be visual and character-driven. Love stories creep into almost everything I write, and I’m starting to wonder if I might be, at least in part, a closeted romance writer. (I never went through the I-don’t-like-girls stage.) Most of what I’ve sold has been sci-fi, but I would like to write and sell more horror. I have soft spot for mysteries as well, and I’d love to sell a novel to Hard Case Crime someday. We’ll see what happens.

What’s your Race score? (1 pt for every short story out to market, 3 points for every novel query (1 per novel only), 8 points for every full (once per novel only also) )

Steve: Shit. You’ve got me. I’m at that weird place where I’m just beginning to sell, so I have a pile of stories in my writing folder, and I would be embarrassed to attach my name to most of them. Henlein’s fifth rule—keep a story on the market until it has sold—is a tough one for me once I realize a story is not pro quality. (Heinlein can talk big, but he was already an effing genius by the time he coined these rules.) I’ve only been producing publishable work for maybe two years, and many of those stories have either sold or continue to look for homes because they’re just so damn long.

I’m proud to say, as I write this, I’m about 5k from the end of my first novel. I’m really pleased with it, and I can’t wait to dig into revisions and send it out. Writing a novel is weird, because you’re working, but you feel strangely disconnected from everything. I’m looking forward to getting back in “the mix.”

So what is my score? Excuse-free answer: A pitiful 3 or 4, but it’s been much better in the past.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Steve: March 2009. I was working security at a university, and I would spend all night walking around in the dark, through the nursing department’s creepy lab full of blank-eyed dummies or down into the depths of the old mansion that served as the campus library. (The kid version of myself would have had an aneurysm.) I had lots of time to think about my life and the direction it was going. I had been writing since I was a kid, but working as a professional had always felt sort of distant and hypothetical. For the first time, it felt like something I could do, not some future me, but me.

I bought a little $300 netbook and starting writing every chance I got. Six months later, I was accepted into Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp where I got to work closely with one of my heroes, Orson Scott Card. I sat across from the man at dinner. We split a pizza. It was surreal. I think it was John Brown (the author and Codexian) who said that Boot Camp was “a barn burner, a great blaze of insight.” He’s right. There was no turning back after that.

What are your goals with your writing?

Steve: I want to create disposable entertainment with thematic substance. I want to be one of those hard-working, skillful, genre authors who tells great stories and gets paid for it. I want to sell books the old-fashioned way, to a good publisher who will put them in the hands of the most possible readers. I want my books to save people during a long wait at the airport or the bus stop or the doctor’s office. I want people to stay up all night worrying about my characters. I want people to argue about them, geek out about them, enjoy them, and miss them when the book or series is finally over.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Steve: I have my goals mapped out for the year, five years, and ten years. My goals will change, of course, but it’s still important to have targets to aim at. I’ll spare you my ten-year, world-domination plans, but here are some of my five-year goals:

1. Sell a novel or series to a major publisher

2. Appear in both Asimov’s and F&SF (as well as other magazines—Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock are bonus points!)

3. Finish at least one novel per year

4. Win a major award (Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, etc.)

5. Establish a strong online “platform” (Still thinking about how to accomplish this one.)

*There are others, but they mostly deal with comics.

These are some pretty lofty goals for a relative newcomer like me, but I’m not in this game to dick around. I’m here to make the most of my time and talent. To do that, you have to aim high and work hard. I’m doing both.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Steve: If I had to settle on the one idea I’m most stoked about right now, it would probably be the book I’m planning to write next, “Early Birds.” It’s a zombie novel about a teenage girl who “wakes up” months after the last humans have succumbed to [whatever I end up calling the damn infection]. She discovers a group of other girls her age who have also recovered from being zombies, and ends up at a school led by the only adult anywhere (as far as they know), a brilliant, dangerous woman with a plan to rebuild the world—but first, they have to find a living male.

It’s a whole thing. School drama, cannibalism, “bunker people,” love, pregnancy, post-apocalyptic politics, violence. It’s going to be effing insane. I can’t wait to start.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Steve: I’m a geek. I like to read comics and play video games and watch anime and play D&D, although this last almost never happens anymore. If I’m going to work that hard on something, it should be something I can sell. Lately, I’m pretty boring. I watch a documentary every night after the wife and kids are in bed, and oddly I find nonfiction more relaxing that fiction. I listen to NPR in the car instead of music. When did I get so old?

I sing and write songs and play a little guitar. I’m not disciplined at it (probably because my older brother Jay was), but I have a lot of fun. Jay s and I are in a band called “Hills and Downs” [link: http://listn.to/HillsandDowns] with our two younger brothers. My wife is always bugging me to sing, but for some reason, it’s the one thing I’m shy about.

I like to fight. I think it’s a guy-with-lots-of-brothers thing. My college experience was like Jackass with boxing gloves. I have a friend who trained at Throwdown San Diego (alongside guys like Tyson Griffin, Jeremy Stephens, Diego Sanchez, and Brandon Vera); he moved back to town and began training me in Muay Thai kickboxing a couple years ago. I like bad food too much to ever fight professionally, but I love to stand across from a guy who wants to kick my ass and go to town. Best stress reliever ever.

What’s your writing process like?

Steve: I get an idea, put in it a blender with a few others, and look for the story in the tension between the ingredients. Then I list. Lists are my friend. When the lists start to look like outlines, I start writing. If I get stuck, I drive and listen to music. A road trip is as good as a month of indoor brainstorming. I also talk things out with friends. Sometimes they can see what you mean better than you can.

When I write, I try to make every section fun. Every night, I know my wife is at home waiting to read what I wrote, and I never want to hand her something boring. My theory is this: if every damn page is fun to read (and you haven’t neglected the basics), you’ll have something good. With good editing, it might even end up great.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Steve: Any time you decide to do something risky or unusual, the people around you worry. (Thankfully, my wife is not one of these people.) Sometimes they try to fix you. Sometimes that fixing goes beyond a healthy, helpful level and becomes almost discriminatory. I have failed at a lot of things in my life by kidding myself about myself, mostly in an effort to meet expectations. Writers (or the kind of people who become writers) aren’t normal. When they’re trying to do things they weren’t “made for,” they look broken—like a pair of handlebars trying to function as a wheel. You can’t get anywhere like that. Once you figure out, “Hey, I’m not a wheel; I’m a pair of handlebars” things get a lot better.

Shit happens. When in doubt, get stupid. Get single-minded. Get mad, and just write.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Steve: First, be a person. Live. Fight. Fall in love. Make mistakes. There’s no substitute for this.

Second, read. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read in your genre and outside it. Read comics. Read scripts. (Hell, watch movies.) Get so familiar with words and stories that your dreams start to make sense.

Third, write. Do it as often as possible, every day if you can. (Five days a week is pretty good.) Make plans for a project, then finish it. Start another one right away. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Fourth, become a student of writing. Read every writing book you can get your hands on. Talk to other writers. Get involved in the writing community. It may be hard to get out in the world and realize you’re not a unique flower, but it will be good for you. Stay humble and teachable. Get excited about learning new things. If you find a gap in your game, plug it with knowledge and practice. You have to do the writing, no one else, so learn all you can.

Finally, never stop.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp? 

Steve: My story “She Who Lies in Secret” is slotted as the June 2012 cover story for Red Penny Papers. It’s a story about a college boy who finds a psychic mermaid in the basement of an old mansion. Things go bad in a big way. It’s one of my favorites. Check it out when it goes up. (You should check out Red Penny Papers anyway. They’re cool people doing cool things in a cool way, and I’m convinced they’re not afraid of anything.)

October Summary and NaNoWriMo Challenge Thingy

So, first off. October was my best e-book sales month yet, with 184 sales (that I know about, SW hasn’t reported for October for the places like Sony and Apple).  124 of those sales were from post-free sales last weekend after the short story collection and the novel I had up free went back to paid. Seems a little crazy, but giving away thousands of copies of my work seems to help sell the work later. Who knew?  I’m definitely going to continue with the experimenting there.

A year ago, my friend Amanda and I bet each other that we could write 100,000 words a month.  We both owe each other a lot of dinners, because neither of us ever made it to 100,000 in a single month. Between the health problems, the job loss, Clarion, and other things, my own writing this year fell off a lot.

But it is November again. Which means time for another November Crazy Challenge.  I’m not actually going to do NaNo this year because I’m currently working on novellas, but I’m going to be a NaNo rebel and go with that.

So what’s the challenge?  Finish five novellas this month.  The word total should be around 110,000 because one novella is already partially done, so even though I’m aiming for 25,000 words per book, I don’t quite have to write 125k to get there this month.

The word count breakdown is 4,075 a day for 27 days. It isn’t 30 days because I’m going to be at Orycon and I know I won’t get anything done on those days.

I’ll post what I got done at the end of the month and probably keep a running tab on Twitter.

I know, I know, I can hear the head-shaking now. Yep, I’m sure that everything I write will suck, blah blah blah, why don’t I slow down and make the books good, blah blah blah, why don’t I work less than four hours a day because writing for four hours a day is nuts, blah blah blah.  The nice thing is, no one will ever know what I wrote during this time and only other writers seem to care how fast something gets written anyway.  Good thing, too.

Anyway, if anyone is also doing NaNo, I’m around on the forums over there.  Good luck to all of you. Writing daily is a great habit to develop.  Go forth and do it.

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Nine

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Nine

(Catch up on earlier chapters here)

Chapter Nine

            A small tick in his clean-cut jaw was the only sign Amos Levich, chief of security for the Special Projects division of BioCore Pharmaceuticals, felt anything at all about the news two of his network systems security analysts had just brought him.  He scrolled through the collected data on his PUDI, willing it to make sense but mostly just getting a headache.

            “Let me see if I have this correct,” he said in careful, measured tones, “That power hub break-in caused a leak in our server security?”

            “Yes, sir.” The older of the two analysts, Michael, swallowed audibly.  Though average in height and build with a gruff, sparse appearance, Amos had a reputation for being a man no one wanted to piss off.  His job was his life, and he took security for the company very seriously.

            “Humor me, kid.  I’m an old man and slow sometimes.  How does the power going out, in a district our building isn’t in, leave an opening in our wires?”  Amos leaned back against his stark grey plastiform desk.

            The break-in had been underneath the Kajipe central station, while the main center for BioCore’s Special Projects was located in West Morrow near the Central district edge.  BioCore’s main building was also located in West Morrow.  Their systems should be closed, accessible only from within the system itself.  That was how Amos understood things from his spec manuals.  Technology of it wasn’t exactly his strong point and he was smart enough to leave the details up to the network administrators.  The two administrators in front of him were the leads of that team and supposedly the best of the best in their field.  Amos grew more skeptical by the moment as they shuffled nervously in front of him.

            “Well, sir, our system is closed, but we still have servers that have to have a hard, I mean, physical, location.  We rent a server room in the Totsi Electronics building, due to its proximity to a. . . well. . .”  The grey-haired admin swallowed again and glanced at his companion.

            “We were piggy-backing onto a government black box.  A super server, if you will, for the use of its array and private Wires.  You can only access these directly at the site of the server, so we’d hardwired our way in.”  The freckled, paunchy middle aged admin, Seth, picked up the explanation.

            “So I take it that if we can hack into this ‘black box’, someone else could also?”  Amos waved a gloved hand impatiently.

            “It shouldn’t have been possible, but with the right mix of a hard hack onsite and then a power failure causing a system reboot, yes,” Michael confirmed.  “The servers are protected in electronically locked boxes that are nearly impossible to destroy, but you can get in at the actual physical location if for example, the power fails.  The locks would then fail.  The only way to kill that power though is from the central station or a main power hub.”

            “Wouldn’t the server also shutdown? I recall something on the newswires about interruption in certain Wires and feeds last night,” Amos said.

            “Yes, sir.” The freckled admin nodded. “But that doesn’t mean the information just goes away.  If you shut down your PUDI or one of those monitors,” he motioned to the bank of security cam screens that lined the wall behind Amos, “the information in the hard drives doesn’t cease to exist.”

            “Cut to the part where there was a breach.” Amos sighed.

            “Someone managed to hack into our partition on the server.  When we went in this morning to repair it once everything was back online, we noticed the lockpad broken and the security system had been tripped but nothing seemed to be missing.  Then we found tracers, data moved around a little.  Sometimes that happens when the servers are cleaning up after a reboot.  But it can also be a sign that data-mining programs have been rifling through.  Very sophisticated ones,” Seth said.

            “You are sure it was hacked? And that they got information off of it? Information about Special Projects?” Amos asked.  He tried to remember this satellite office in his records but he didn’t think he’d taken care of security for anything like that.  Might have been his unfortunate predecessor, if it was set up years ago.  It was still his problem now, however and that didn’t help the growing headache one iota.

            “Yes, sir.” Michael nodded. “We checked everything multiple times.  Someone was in there pulling encrypted information from our partition.”

            “These files are what they got?” Amos cued his PUDI to scroll through the files Michael and Seth had sent him earlier before he called the meeting.  The files were test results from the first stages of the project.  Obviously someone had stored the data onto the remote server as a standard backup procedure.

            Amos cursed under his breath.  Both administrators intelligently stayed silent.  After a few minutes that stretched on and filled the quiet room with breathing and tension, the chief of security refocused his eyes on the two men.

            “Can you trace who did this?  There were Hunter-killer drones on site, right?” He glanced at another screen where he’d quickly pulled up the security manifests for all the offices. “Why didn’t those get these people?”  A small relief there, since the purchase order confirmed it had been done years ago, before his tenure here.

            Another nervous swallow. “I don’t know, sir.  It was done right there at the site and the reboot from the power failure wiped the tracks.  Someone retrieved their programs and the data.  I don’t know if there was anything we could have done differently, sir.  They should have a hell of a time breaking the encryption though, if they even can.”  He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether or not to be proud of himself for that.

            “Who else knows about this?” Amos folded his arms.  He certainly wasn’t thrilled.  These two might be the best of the best, but clearly they were just good enough to cause trouble and not skilled enough to fix it.  His headache intensified and he resisted the urge to press his fingers to his temples.

            “Just the three of us. Seth discovered the program traces and came to me to confirm his suspicions.  We thought we should go straight to you, sir.”  Michael said.

            “Good.” Amos nodded, mostly to himself. “Thank you both.  You may go. If you discover anything else about this, you are to come straight to me.”  They both nodded and turned to leave.

            “And gentlemen, if anyone else finds out about this, you will be terminated.” Amos’s voice was calm and threaded with steel.  The two administrators looked back at him with pale faces and nodded again.  It was clear to them that ‘terminated’ didn’t mean fired.

            Amos waited until the door had sealed itself behind the two men before he walked slowly around his desk and sat heavily in the greenish-grey plastiform chair behind it.  He swiveled around to face the wall of monitors.  His brown eyes focused on the upper left hand screens whose cams observed the small labs.  A handful of men and women in light green lab coats moved carefully around the sterile manufactured steel tables with vials and handheld dictation devices.

            Head pounding like a drunk on a locked door, Amos cued up Dr. Tylour Blanc’s call sign in his PUDI but didn’t instruct it to place the call.  He reviewed the pitifully small amount of information his network security admins had been able to collect for him.

            “There’s been a breach.” Amos muttered to himself.  “Someone got the first testing data files, so they’ll have the basic gist that BioCore is up to more than just making pharmaceuticals, sir.  Oh, and by the way, we have no idea who got into the server, how much they might be able to extrapolate from these files, and absolutely no way to find out the answer to any relevant questions you might have, boss.”  He chuckled mirthlessly.  “Oh yes. That would go over so well.”

            Dr. Blanc was the head of the BioCore and more importantly for Amos, the brains behind the Special Project division.  Amos didn’t ask questions, but he knew that what was going on in those labs wasn’t legal or likely very nice.  Dr. Blanc had high ambitions and he was a ruthless man who’d made it clear to his head of security that getting in the way of those ambitions would be the last thing anyone ever did.  It was equally clear that what was good for Dr. Blanc would be good for Amos.

            “A rising tide floats all shit,” he murmured and shook his head.

            Amos leaned back in his chair.  If he was going to keep this quiet from his boss, he’d have to eliminate the two administrators and any data that could trace the breach or lead back to him.  It was a hard choice to make, either way.  Telling Dr. Blanc would almost certainly get him fired and likely killed.  Not telling him would cost two lives.

            Either way the two network administrators would die.  It wasn’t so hard a choice, after all.

            Amos sighed again.  He’d have to get his own hands dirty since he couldn’t trust anyone else to remove the two in a way that wouldn’t trace back to the Chief of Security. He’d take it slow though.  They weren’t likely to cause him much trouble yet.  It would be best to see how things played out in the next week or two.

            After a few more minutes of processing his options, Amos rose slowly.  He deleted the unmade call to BioCore’s President from his PUDI.  Running a gloved hand through his close-cut, graying hair, he walked out of his office.  There were two accidents to plan and a security breach to cover-up.  It was going to be a long month.

(Continued Soon with Part Two!)

Neo-Pro Interview: Kat Otis

Who are you?  What’s your genre/history/etc?

Kat: I’m Kat Otis and my genre is speculative fiction –  everything from historical fantasy to urban fantasy, with the occasional bit of science fiction thrown in for good measure.

What’s your Race score? (1 pt for every short story out to market, 3 points for every novel query (1 per novel only), 8 points for every full (once per novel only also) )

Kat: Alas, only 2!  I’m currently revising a novel, so I haven’t had as much time to devote to short stories, recently.  I expect that number to shoot up again once I’ve started querying and have time to revise a few shorts that are almost-there-but-not-quite.

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Kat: I started submitting to Writers of the Future on a semi-regular basis in 2005, but I think I really “got serious” in 2009.  That’s when I decided to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.  In an usual-but-awesome series of events, that’s also where I sold my first story.

What are your goals with your writing?

Kat: Get as many stories as possible out of my head and onto paper.  Or e-ink.

I’m one of those people for whom the ideas never stop flowing, and if I don’t write them down then my characters follow me around and whine.  There are a lot of those characters who really do deserve a novel of their own (but don’t tell them I admitted it!) so my long-term writing goal is to someday have published a whole bookshelf’s worth of my novels.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Kat: I would love to have a novel (or three, hey, a gal can dream) out within the next five years.

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Kat: I really want to write an historical fantasy about Juana La Loca.  I’ve got most of the plot figured out, I just need to do scads and scads of research on the milieu.  Now if only I could figure out how to survive on no sleep….

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Kat: And outside of reading, too, right?  🙂  Singing, hiking, photography, Girl Scouts and whatever else happens to catch my fancy.

What’s your writing process like?

Kat: I’m definitely a “pantster.”  My process generally goes along these lines:

1) Something sparks my interest

2) so I jot down a note and generally forget about it

3) except for when I start daydreaming about a character and all the trouble they could get into

4) so I open up a Microsoft Word file and start writing

5) until I get stuck

6) so I wander off and sometimes forget about it

7) but more often I daydream some more and eventually figure out what happens next

8) so I repeat steps 4-7 until I finish

Then, of course, we get to the editing process, in which I analyze the story to discover what I was *really* writing about and just didn’t realize until afterwards.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself  going? 

Kat: Balancing my writing and my day job, both of which draw on the same mental circuits.  Though a close runner-up is Shiny New Project Syndrome. 🙂  I cope by making myself to-do lists and schedules, most of which I promptly ignore but at least the process of making them helps me figure out where my current priorities need to be.  Also, it’s so much easier to feel like I’m making progress, especially on a big project, if there’s lots of tiny “to-do” steps I can cross off a list.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Kat: Retro-outlining!  Because I’m a pantster, I don’t outline before I write, but I do outline after I’ve got my first draft written.  I find it extremely helpful to go through the manuscript and find all the key plot developments, character arcs, etc.  Once I’ve retrospectively figured out my structure, then I can revise to bring out the strengths in the story.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Kat: I’ve got a story in Sword & Sorceress 26, which is coming out in November.  You can see the list of contributors and the cover art at http://www.mzbworks.com/S26.htm

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Eight

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Eight

(Catch up on earlier chapters here)

Chapter Eight

            Lucien toweled off his body, evaluating his abs in the fogged mirror.  He’d been working lots of shifts lately and letting the morning crunches slide.  Sloppy of him.  An alarm chimed suddenly inside his PUDI, the warning signal that someone was coming down his hallway.  He left off his vain musings and pulled on a pair of pants as he headed through the bedroom leaving damp tracks across the plush cream carpeting.

It was Sif.  Lucien had been expecting her sometime that week, knowing she’d run out of her Drift vials soon.  Her pale skin was painted with black markings, the kind used to confuse the facial recognition programs in the drones and various surveillance cameras.  She was also stumbling gracelessly to his door, making more noise then he’d ever heard her make in the years he’d been her Drift supplier.

He had the door open before she’d reached it.  Her green eyes were glassy as they stared up at him and she just shook her head, pulling out a small metal spike from a pocket in her black pleather belt.

“Poisoned. Hunter-killer drone,” she said, stumbling past him toward the main examination room.

Lucien caught her elbow and gently guided her to the secondary room.  His patient was still recovering in there, out cold on the table.

“All right, I can analyze the chemicals, come on, sit down here.”  The secondary room was set up much like the first, only far smaller and without the moveable lights and adjustable tables of the main.

He noted her slight recoil from the space.  Sif had an intense dislike of examination rooms, probably from her youth as a science experiment.  He’d asked her once what really bothered her, wanting to know more in a clinical way than a personal one, and she’d only shrugged and said “it smells like blood someone tried to wash away, over and over.”

Now she said nothing, just sank into the chair and ripped open her sleeve for him to see the tiny wound.  It was puffed up and the skin, so delicate, so inhumanely pale, was an angry bruise now with deep red lines shooting through it.  Her superior immune system was fighting as hard as it could, but losing slowly.

He pressed two fingers to her wrist.  Her pulse was sluggish and he guessed the poison had a paralytic in it.  Cheap, lazy chemists.   Lucky for Sif, however.  There were far deadlier substances available, for the right price.

“I’ll give you a shot of Drift, it’ll help until I can make an antidote.” Lucien talked as he worked, swabbing the dart for a sample.  The hollow tube had a sack inside that ruptured when it struck and many tiny holes along its length to let the poison seep out into the wound.  It hadn’t gotten deep in Sif and plenty of the stuff remained on the dart turning almost sticky as it evaporated and dried.

Sif bit her lip and some of the light came back into her gem-like eyes as he loaded a syringe with Drift for her.  Her perfect mouth curled into a half smile as the drug settled into her damaged veins.  The relief was instantly apparent. Her face smoothed out into the doll-like perfection that Lucien could never get enough of looking at.  Some would find her uncanny.  Not he.  He appreciated the level of skill and decades of research and experimentation that had gone into creating the genies.

Her friend, Ryg, now.  There was an unfortunate accident of nature and science.  A necessary byproduct of experimentation, but sadly still living on.  Ryg was as disgusting to Lucien as Sif was beautiful.  He still repaired and did what he could for the abomination.  He was a doctor and keeping something like Ryg alive was a point of personal conflict.  Mercy killing it would be preferable, but Lucien knew the day he did that would be the end for him.  Sif would end him.

Sif was almost perfect and perfectly deadly.  The need for the chemicals in Drift was her only weakness and it bound her to him more firmly than if he’d tied her down with all the chains in Casimir.

“Shh, easy,” Lucien told her as he laid her back on the table.  She didn’t want to relax under his hand but he kept firm pressure on her uninjured shoulder and she relented, letting him feel her over in a mostly clinical manner. “I have more supply for you, though not as much as I’d like.  Things have been tight with the worry over the Council nomination.”  This was, of course, a giant lie.  He had people in his proverbial pocket all the way from street dealers to administrative staff for the Council families themselves.  Drift, pure, clean, untainted Drift, wasn’t any harder to come by now than before the suspected assassination.

“I’ll take it,” Sif said, closing her eyes.

“Paying with credits, or. . .?” Lucien left his ungloved hand on her thigh, watching that lovely doll face.

“Or,” she said so softly he might have mistaken it for a sigh if he hadn’t been watching her lips.  She didn’t open her eyes as he smiled and his hands started to rove again, this time gently removing her clothing.

His heart started beating a familiar rhythm and his loose, drawstring pants suddenly felt too tight as arousal hit him in a hot wave.  Her body relaxed completely and Lucien knew she was taking herself away, deep into the quiet, crazy mind of Sif, deep where no one could reach her.  She was soft, pliable flesh beneath his dark hands, so warm and paper pale.

This body could kill him in an instant and it thrilled him.  This was the real joy, real power.  He bent low and drew her thick gold hair from its braid, burying his face in it. She smelled of paint and sweat and something underneath so sweet and tangy, like fresh cut goya fruit.  Lucien stood up and soaked a cloth in water.  Gently he washed the paint from her face and then stroked the cooling damp rag down her naked body.

“Sif,” he murmured and she turned her face away, bringing another smile to his face.  Not so deeply gone, then.  Still here, still feeling his presence, awake and aware of her submission to him.  Good.  Still smiling, Lucien reached for the ties on his own pants.  Tonight hadn’t turned out so poorly after all.

* * *

            Ryg wasn’t alone when Hex finally got back to the apartment.  Kadin’s presence wasn’t that surprising because Ryg had said the job that had just gone completely sideways was one he’d contracted through Kadin.  Hex didn’t recognize the tall woman with skin as smooth and dark as finely lacquered wood.  Her eyes were a rich brown, flecked with violet in a way that reminded him of his daughter’s eyes and caused an instant dislike the roiled like a tangible thing in the air between them.

Ignoring the confused look on the woman’s face, Hex focused in on Ryg.  He looked smaller somehow, curled in his chair in front of the screens with even more of a kicked in expression than normal.

“The whole thing went to the roaches,” Hex said.  He knew he should establish who this woman was before he blurted out about the damn job, but screw it.  Her being here, Kadin being here, Sif not being here.  It was too much.  “Non-lethal patrol drones? Really?”

“What happened? Where’s Sif?”  Ryg craned his head around, looking for her in the room beyond.

“Don’t know.”  Hex shoved the image of her sprawled in a concrete hallway, convulsing with poison as Grey Guard burst in, shooting her on sight just because of what she was.  Or not shooting her.  There were worse things and a genie wasn’t a person at all to the Guard.  Hex knew what they might do to her; how they might take her if she wasn’t dead.  He’d been one of the Guard once, half a life ago.  Before the law said his illegal second child had to die.  Before his wife had died instead with a Drift needle still in her veins.

“Shit,” Ryg muttered.  “She’s got her PUDI set to bounce.”

“And Tommy isn’t responding either,” said Kadin.

“Who is Tommy?” Hex started to ask and then glanced at Kadin. “Wait, “the Mouth”?  That Tommy?”  Tommy “the Mouth” was a scrappy little code junky.   Hex felt he was unreliable, but had nothing solid to complain about.  Tommy mostly dealt with Ryg when they had to deal with him at all.  Eggheads speaking the same language and all that.

“Yeah,” Kadin said with a heavy sigh.

“And who the hell is she?” Hex jerked a thumb at the woman standing around like she’d rather be anywhere else.  Not that he blamed her.

“I’m Nico,” she said with a shrug of her slender shoulders as if to acknowledge that her name would mean less than worms to him.

“Great,” Hex said.  “So what were we really doing up there in Kajipe?  Something that took a code junkie and a drift junkie apparently, yeah?”

“I’m not a Drift junkie,” Nico said when Ryg just pressed his lips together and looked like he was going to take a year or two to compute a reply.

“Sure, sweetheart,” Hex muttered, giving her a disgusted look, “and I’m not a man.”

Her eyes narrowed but she half-smiled, saying “well, I’ll just take your word on that one,” and suddenly Hex started to like her a little more.

Not enough to thaw out fully.  Junkies were unreliable, even the smart ones.  Maybe especially the smart ones.

“It’s my fault,” Kadin said, holding up placating hands.

Hex got the impression from the quick look Ryg and Kadin shared that they’d been talking over their PUDIs about what to tell him, so he glared really hard at Ryg, imagining how his scrawny white neck would feel if he gripped it and shook until all the metal bits and pieces and maybe some truth fell out.  Shaking wouldn’t make Sif get back any quicker, or make her any safer.  He took a very deep breath and waited for whatever story they were about to spin him.

“You can’t tell it all to Sif,” Ryg said softly, surprising Hex.  Ryg and Sif shared everything, like twins almost.  He’d learned quickly, years ago, that he couldn’t get between them and didn’t want to be there even if he could.

“Tell what?”  He felt very tired, the long night and the adrenaline dump coming up on him like a thick bat to the head.  He backed up a couple steps and leaned into the wall, crossing his arms.

“We hacked into a government black box.  At least, we might have.  Tommy has the drive and he’s missing,” Kadin said.

“That office you and Sif were in was patched into the government hard wires and it created a leak.  I used that chip I sent you with to load in programs to get me into the servers below.  My programs collected data using keywords and dumped it onto a drive, which is what we’re now missing,” Ryg said, anticipating Hex’s questions. “But I’m not sure it worked.  The power got cut sooner than I expected I guess, because the security and stuff in that office wasn’t what I expected either.  That’s listed as an administrative filing office, not a sophisticated server room.  And definitely no records of Hunter-killer drones.”

“And we don’t know if Tommy was successful.  He went offline and now isn’t responding on his PUDI.”  Kadin shook his head, worry creasing his dark brow.

“Sif, too.  Not a good sign.” Ryg hunched over further, looking translucent and hollow, as though his clothes hung on an empty frame instead of bone and flesh.

“Nothing on the Wires about anyone being picked up?” There was always a chance, Hex knew, that this would leak quickly.  It’d been well over a couple hours now and the illegal Wires would still be running even though it was past curfew.

“Nothing,” Ryg said. “A little chatter about the Guard being called out to the Totsi Electronics building and then nothing further.  The power grid is up again, so they’ve got the Guards from the hub.  But they won’t be able to tell them much.  That part went off fine.”

“If they had Tommy or Sif, we might not know until morning.” Nico shook her head.

“If they have Sif, she’s dead.” Hex didn’t mean to say it so flat and hard like that, but he couldn’t help himself.

“No, they won’t get Sif.  Not Sif,” Ryg said it more like a prayer than a statement.

“Why hack the box? Is there credit in this?” Hex remembered the promised six hundred.  Didn’t seem likely now.  But they could have had a buyer for this information, whatever it was.

“The appointment,” Kadin said.  “We wanted to collect any data on the nomination for the new Councilor.  That could be worth a lot of credit to the right people, maybe even saleable to more than one group depending.”

Hex chewed the inside of his cheek and thought about it.  It was a gamble, but he understood what they’d been thinking now.  That six hundred was gone for sure and that made him a little sick inside and angry again.

“You conned us,” he said to Ryg, not caring that it made the hollow man flinch as though physically threatened.  “You’re right, Sif will be pissed.  You know how she feels about anything to do with the Council.  That’s your problem.  You don’t tell her if you want, but you’ll be explaining the missing credits.  Six hundred.  Each. You pull that number out of your mechanical ass?”

“Hex, please,” Ryg said, shivering now.  He looked as though he might cry and Hex wondered if he still could with all the implants.  He felt mean and small and exhausted.

“No. Explain the rest later.  I don’t care.  I’m going to bed.  Wake me up if I need to shoot someone.  Otherwise, fuck off.”  He slammed his way out of the room and across the common space, kicking a pillow as he went. It hit the far wall with a very unsatisfying fuft noise.  Hex flopped down on his mattress and closed his eyes.

Come back to me, Sif, he mouthed in the dark.  Eventually he fell asleep waiting for the sound of a door that didn’t open and he dreamt restless dreams where a violet-eyed girl asked him if she could have breakfast yet.

(Continue Reading in Chapter Nine)

Neo-pro Interview: Lon Prater

Interview: Lon Prater

Who are you? 

Lon: I’m Lon Prater. I retired not long back from the Navy and now hang my hat in Pensacola, Florida.

What’s your genre/history/etc?

Lon: Mostly dark. Horror (Lovecraftian and otherwise), Weird Crime and History.  Occasionally science fiction.  I suppose the lightest story I tend to write would be classified as a “cautionary tale.”  The mood of much of my work falls somewhere between noir and tragedy.  Despite this, I am a pretty happy person who finds a lot of joy and laughter in the real world.

What’s your Race score? (1 pt for every short story out to market, 3 points for every novel query (1 per novel only), 8 points for every full (once per novel only also) )

Lon: Thanks for reminding me–not just of the Race scoring system, but that I’m supposed to send my stuff out.  As I write this, I’ve just finished my bi-or tri-monthly push to get my stories out there pounding the pavement, looking for work. So my score at the moment is 20.  Soon to plummet, no doubt.

And I don’t dare mention what the score was 12 hours ago. Did you know it really is possible to die of shame?

When did you “get serious” about being a writer?

Lon: Heh. Which time?  Family members claim I declared my intention to be a writer when I was about 6 years old.  I made several flawed attempts between then and 2003, when finally something I threw out into the world landed in the much beloved Borderlands series, volume 5. Not long after, I entered Writers of the Future and ended up a Published Finalist in 2005. Since then, I’ve only gotten serious about being a writer five or six times.  Somehow, though, I tend to get more things published when I’m just having fun with being a writer.  So it’s all good.

What are your goals with your writing?

Lon: Sometimes, I want to write stories that challenge my abilities and what I think I can do with the form.  This would be epistoleries such as “Never the Twain” [Daily Science Fiction”] and weird second person thingies like “You Do Not Know What Slipstream Is” which appeared in the much-missed Lone Star Stories.

Sometimes, I want to write stories that capture some theme or insight that is bugging the crap out of my brain and will continue to do so until I get the darn thing written and out there into the world.  Most recently, this would be the experimental novels I indie published this summer: The American in His Season and The Island of Jayne Grind.

And yet other times, I just want to have so much fun writing my stories that strangers who read them send random emails telling me how much they enjoyed them (which sometimes means “how much they were disturbed by them”).  I’m thinking here of “This Is My Corporation, Eat” which was published in IGMS at the beginning of this summer, and “Kids Cost More” about a magic-wielding Mafiosi out for revenge.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

Lon: I plan to still be writing, and trying to get my stories inside the heads of more readers. I’d like to have landed a traditional publishing contract at some point, but that’s only one leg of the tripod.  I’ll always  adore the risk-taking small press and like to support worthy ventures and bold visions.  Self/Indie Publishing is the final leg of the tripod.  I’m fairly new to the joys of Kindle, Createspace, etc. but I like to think I’m catching on fast.

I don’t look at the career end as very “career” to be frank.  This is something I do because I enjoy it. I like to write stories and create whole worlds in other people’s heads who come back for more. It’s great when I can get a happy meal or a car payment out of it, but I don’t foresee a day when all I do for a living is write. For one thing, where would all the good material come from?  The idea of becoming some bestseller who always writes about writers because that’s all I know anymore kind of terrifies me. Good thing most of my writing is so niche-oriented that I hardly have to worry about that nightmare coming to pass, eh?

Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?

Lon: I finished my average 60K words early this year (plus a bonus short story!) and have been focusing on converting some older published work to ebook, revising a few originals for the same end, and–more to your question–plotting a fun and somewhat spicy arc for a series character that I want to begin writing before the year is out.

Till now, I’ve never felt like I wanted to work in series fiction. But I’ve always found ways to push my own limits, and with this character and idea, I think I have enough traction to make a go of it.

If I was to get a chance to write in other people’s worlds, I think I’d get a kick out of writing a Calvin & Hobbes novel.  Yes, I know this one will never, ever happen for anybody, but that just makes me want to do it even more.

What are your hobbies outside writing?

Lon: I am a devoted Texas Hold’em nut, but I really like playing card and board games of all descriptions. We have been playing a lot of a Canasta style game called “Hand and Foot” lately.  When the winds are good I tend to take my stunt kites out to the beach and tear holes in the sky with them.

What’s your writing process like?

Lon: It’s changed a lot over time.  At first, the trend was toward writing gradually longer stories as my “writing muscles” developed.  In time, I discovered my natural novel length is at the 50K end of the spectrum.  (I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, though. The timing and pace stinks for how I usually work.)

Then I began to really understand story structure, and it colored my process quite a bit. For a long time I thought in terms of four act structure, and found that I tended to work very similarly to the first few steps of Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Theory. I still use a model much like that when plotting a story (or editing one.) But now there’s the new wrinkle, adapted from Dan Wells’ 7 Point Structure, of considering the changes in status from beginning to middle to end.

I’m always looking for new craftsmanship ideas to try on, creatively. Some I use for one story, some I keep for years until I outgrow them.

What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer?  How do you keep yourself going?

Lon: I think it’s probably been distraction and guilt.

It’s easy for me to get distracted by the shiny stuff on my laptop screen and make no progress even when I am dedicating time for nothing but forward progress on a project. The best workaround on this for me has been the Alphasmart Neo. All you can do with it is write.  I’ve put over 700 pages on mine so far, and I’m still on the first set of betteries.  Only downfall, IMHO, is that it is just smidge too simplified of a word processor.  I’d kill for the ability to do italics and underlines when composing on the Neo.

Regarding guilt, there’s two parts. First, I’d go read writers blogs about the daily progress meter and how “writers write” and if you aren’t writing every day, you must not be a writer.  That kind of thing used to get me really down. Because I don’t write every day.  I do keep track of my writing, with a simple date, # pages in Standard Manuscript Format. This helps. I write somewhere north of 60K a year, usually over about 30 well-scattered calendar days.  And I submit the stuff I write to editors who actually pay me for the right to publish it!  Realizing that I must be a writer even though I don’t apply butt to writing chair every day was a huge relief.

The other part of the guilt is that when I am focused on writing I feel guilty about all the things I am not doing with or for my family. I am grateful to have their support, but there’s an uneasy, whispering voice that’s always there, telling me if I really cared about my wife or my kids, I’d stop writing right this instant and go spend time with them.  Finding a balance and feeling like it’s okay to do this writing thing for is a tricky hill to climb, and one I always feel like I’m falling down the wrong side of.

Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?

Lon: The best piece of advice I can offer anyone–and this is what I feel has done to most to improve my stories and craft–is to aim for some new goal with every story you write, and to keep that goal in mind every time you sit down to write. Also, pick some particular aspect of your technique that you are going to be mindful of with every session–whether writing or revising.

I never thought I’d write a time travel story, until I challenged myself to figure out what a Lon Prater time travel story would look like. Beyond Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, I’ve never had much use for writing in the second person, but I’m still proud of accomplishing what I set out to in “You Do Not Know What Slipstream Is”.  When I edited one story in particular, I gave myself the goal of paying extra attention to sensory elements beyond sight and sound.  Another time, I focused on bringing out the theme and mood  by finding better verbs all the way through.

The key is: Consciously challenge yourself in some deliberate way, every time you write or revise what you have written. And after, make sure you know what you learned from the process.

And finally, got anything you want to pimp?

Lon: There are free previews available for my two indie pubbed novels, The American In His Season and The Island of Jayne Grind at my site. I’d be delighted if readers of your blog were interested enough to go there and take a look.

Thank you to Lon!

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Seven

Casimir Hypogean: Chapter Seven

(Go here to catch up on previous chapters)

Chapter Seven

            Dr. Lucien Graeme had just come home from a mandatory ten hour shift at the Ijipe Morninglight Clinic and all he wanted to do was take a long, scalding shower and curl up in his bed and surf the Wires until he fell asleep.  He walked up the last flight of steps to his door, noticing the blood trail that slowly grew from droplets on the hallway floor to a ragged smear along one dingy blue wall outside his door.

It seemed there truly was no rest for the wicked.

Lucien’s day job was as a surgeon for the city clinics, beholden to the Council and its dictates for his livelihood.  And while the pay was enough to survive on, it certainly didn’t allow for Lucien’s own expensive and often less than legal tastes.  The easiest way to afford his toys and the extra rations was to run his own clinic and go on being a doctor long after official hours were over.  Casimir had a seething underbelly of not quite legal people doing not quite legal things, and sometimes those things led to injuries that would be inconvenient to explain.

So he stitched up and patched up and medicated all sorts of criminals and in return got paid, sometimes in credits, sometimes in favors, most often in goods or services.  Lucien thought of himself as a very reasonable man.  He always found ways for his extracurricular clients to settle their debts.

The boy curled up in a ragged ball outside his door this time wasn’t someone Lucien had seen before.  He stared up at Lucien with bruised-looking eyes too big for his thin face.  Not a boy, a man, but a skinny, unkempt one, clutching a satchel and a badly broken arm.

“You the doc?” the man said through chattering teeth.  Lucien recognized the signs of shock and wondered how far this idiot had come with that arm.

“Sure,” he answered, unlocking his door.  The hallway was clear, his PUDI was linked into his private wires and monitoring the security system installed.  Lucien owned the entire floor of this section.  He liked his privacy and needed the space to hold all his specially acquired equipment.

He helped the man up, noting his dilated pupils and unsteady breathing as well as the thin film of sweat coating the guy’s face.  Definitely in shock.

“I’m Dr. Graeme.  How’d you find me?”  Lucien asked as he half carried his patient through the foyer and into his after hours examination room.  It was highly unlikely this sucker was working for the Grey Guard or anything.  Even they wouldn’t go so far as to give someone a compound fracture just to uncover an illegal medical practice.

“I’m Tom. A friend said, I mean,” the man said, shivering. “I can pay.  Friend said you fixed up people who aren’t on the official forms.”

“Let’s get an IV in you and set this arm, then we’ll worry about payment,” Lucien said in his best bedside doctor voice.

Tom seemed to relax at that, though he didn’t want to let go of the satchel until he was assured it would just sit on the floor until the procedure was finished.  Lucien got him comfortable and pulled on gloves.  Everything was laid out in a neat, orderly fashion, but sometimes he missed having a competent nurse.  Too much risk, however, and a nurse would have to live in the flat to be any real use since his after hours clientele were erratic at best.

What he didn’t tell Tom was that what he was adding into the IV would knock him out.  The man’s thin face smoothed out and his jaw went slack as Lucien counted back slowly from fifty as he got his implements ready and assembled what he thought he’d need on a tray.

With his patient blissfully unaware, Lucien was free to examine the arm.  A hand-held x-ray imaging machine slowly scanned and loaded a picture of the broken arm.  The radius was the bone sticking out of the skin, and it was fractured into three pieces.  The ulna looked better, but had a nasty fracture as well with hairline spidering of the break all through the bone.  He’d lost a lot of blood as well but at least his tendons looked mostly undamaged.

A quick slide and check revealed blood type and Lucien started a bag going.  Tom’s heartbeat was steadier now that he was on painkillers and unconscious.  Lucien took a deep breath and tucked his mask up over his nose, pinching the bridge.

It would be easiest to amputate the arm at the elbow.  Otherwise this would take a pin or two, a lot of stitches, and using one of the special breathable casts he’d acquired from the clinic.  Far, far simpler to just remove the damaged arm at the elbow.

Underneath the mask, Lucien smiled.  Simple was for hacks and quacks.  This arm was a challenge, and as tired as he was, he still couldn’t resist the lure of putting something so broken back together again.

Besides, the man had said he could pay.  Amputation was so much cheaper than surgery.  Tom would pay, Tom would be grateful.  A little consideration now might yield unknown dividends in the future.  Small-minded men where the ones who didn’t plan ahead, didn’t seek longer term advantages.

Lucien’s foot tapped the satchel as he pulled up his chair next to the examining table.  He made a mental note to go through the bag this man had clung to through all his pain and trouble, a bag that might have something to do with how his arm was crushed in the first place.  Later.  Now, now was the time to begin his latest masterpiece, now he would deal with this ruined arm and make it whole again.

* * *

            Sif figured whoever had come up with the design for these stupid Hunter-killer drones must have been the god of con artists.  The little drones were quick, but their hovering depended on magnetic forces, so their movements were simple to predict.  They also hummed a little, the kinetic motors creating an almost aural static that a normal human ear might have been able to track, but her ears did just fine.

The Hunter-killers also broke easily, not being designed at all for slamming into walls and floors at high speed.  Against a slow, stupid thief with no night vision, she could see the darts working. Maybe.  These drones were never going to have the chance to find out.

Using her PUDI as a mini-map for the building, Sif led the drones away from the stairs she’d sent Hex up.  There was another way to the roof from here if she went out a fire escape access point and she wasn’t averse to a little climbing.  The hallways dumped into each other, one winding corridor after another, and she knew this was taking too long.  Hex would be well away by now, however, and the drones seemed to have given up pursuit.

She was nearly to the door when the whir warned her.  Sif dove to the side, dropping down.  A sharp prick stung her shoulder but she ignored it, twisting and rolling down the hallway in a half-tumble.  The murmur of the drone’s motor located it for her and she was up again, kicking off one wall to gain height as she leapt and smashed the annoying thing into the concrete and plaster wall.  It lodged there, humming angrily.

Sif’s arm started to go numb and she could almost feel her cells curdling and dying as the poison tried to invade her system.  With one hand she plucked the dart out of her shoulder.  It was thick and short with the dark gleam of the poison coving half its length, seeping out from the hollow center through invisible holes.  So tiny a thing.  She tucked in gingerly into a pocket in her belt.

It wouldn’t kill her. Probably.  But it meant a detour on the way home.  She felt the familiar hunger in her blood.  She needed more Drift, she was burning through her body’s resources too quickly doing everything she’d done tonight and, now, fighting off the poison.  There was nothing else for it.  She’d have to go see Lucien and barter something other than credits for his services and her drugs.

            With a grimace, Sif slipped out onto the fire ladder and into the neon-lit night.

(Continue Reading in Chapter Eight)

My Orycon 33 Panel Schedule

Yes. They are putting me on panels. Seriously. It’s a squee Immareelritur moment.

So here is where you can find me during Orycon 33, which takes place in Portland, OR from Nov 11 to the 13th.

Fri Nov 11 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm The Real Middle Ages
Why do writers love the Middle Ages? What do writers leave out or get wrong?
(*)S. A. Bolich, Donna McMahon, Annie Bellet, Renee Stern

Sat Nov 12 11:00:am- 12:00:pm Heinlein’s Rules
What are Heinlein’s rules of writing, and should you follow them all to the letter?
Steven Barnes, (*)Edd Vick, Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Mark Niemann-Ross, Annie Bellet

Sat Nov 12 12:00:pm- 1:00:pm Kung Fu vs Wire Fu
Are your fight scenes realistic? Even if they are, do they work on the page? What makes combat feel real, what makes it clunk, and how much blood you can get away with splashing on your readers.
Sonia Orin Lyris, Rory Miller, (*)Steve Perry, Annie Bellet, Steven Barnes

Sun Nov 13 1:00:pm- 2:00:pm Self-publishing, the new vanity press?
Will going it alone work or not?
John C. Bunnell, (*)Jess Hartley, Annie Bellet, Victoria Blake

Sun Nov 13 2:00:pm- 3:00:pm Getting your first professional sale
An author can struggle for months or years before achieving their first success, but even after writing their opus, they can be tripped up by a process which is both entirely new to them and yet critical to their success. This panel describes what an author may experience as they revel in their first success.
(*)Jess Hartley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Annie Bellet, Edward Morris, EE Knight

So if you are in town, Orycon is a pretty sweet little convention.  And you could watch me get kicked out after being mobbed by my fellow panelists (note: mobbing is not promised.  But my friends have always said my special superpower is that I can make anyone want to hit me and I have some pretty strong views on writing as anyone reading this blog might have noticed, so I predict at least a few sparks in some of these panels).  I also am doing the writing workshop and have multiple victims stories to read and critique for that, which any of my fellow Clarionauts can tell is my favorite thing, ever. Really.

It should be fun though. I enjoyed Orycon when I went a couple years ago, and it is neat to be able to come back as an invited panelist.  Shows that even though I still feel like I’m sitting in the ditch, I have actually come quite a ways in the last couple years with this whole writing thing.