New publication: “Masquerade Night” in In a Cat’s Eye anthology

October 22, 2016


There have been lots of cat anthologies and there surely will be lots more. But that’s only because we never get tired of reading them! In a Cat’s Eye features original stories by Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Z. Martin, Elektra Hammond and others, as well as an all-new horror (well, horror-adjacent at least) story from yours truly.

“Masquerade Night” is about a dance club in 1920s New York City where ancient gods and monsters mingle with unsuspecting humans.  Here are the opening lines

The first time Harat saw Ada was when she was dancing with the goddess of death.

It was masquerade night, and cub Rhythm was full of monsters. An orchestra blasted the latest European tunes at their highest volume setting, filling the cavernous dance hall with music. Dance beats reverberated in Harat’s temples. An engine rotated an enormous lantern of painted glass suspended from the high ceiling, which cast shards of colored light across the hall. It was the glint of light against the lapis lazuli amulet that drew his attention.

Want to read more? Grab the e-book or a paperback here.


A Major Milestone

October 17, 2016

Today marks a major milestone in my writing career. I just typed the words “THE END” at the bottom of a 95,000 word document that is my first novel, Eridani’s Crown.

When I first dared to try my hand at writing fiction in English, back in 2010, I planned on being a novelist. I wrote a prologue and half a first chapter on a novel and then I realized that I had no bloody idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to proceed, how to build a decent plot or a character arc. Worse yet, I didn’t know if the writing was any good, and I didn’t know any people who could tell me. While I have been a life-long science fiction fan, at that time I never even met another science fiction writer.

And so I came up with a brilliant plan: I would write a few short stories and I would send them out to science fiction magazines (of which I only knew about three total.) I figured that if I was able to write publishable short stories then that meant I was ready to tackle a novel.

I wrote a short story. Then another. Then another. After a few months of this my stories suddenly began to sell. At first I placed a few at very small token markets, but before long I had a string of semi-pro sales, then a few pro sales. Over the course of six years I’ve had nearly 100 short stories published, most of them at pro venues. I won an award, was nominated for another, had countless stories reprinted, podcasted, translated to other languages…

But I never finished that novel. Or any other novel. Until now.

Having more-or-less established myself as primarily a humor writer, I figured my first book would be some sort of a snarky urban fantasy or an otherwise humorous adventure yarn (space opera, maybe?) But instead, I set the mode to “super difficult” for myself and wrote a secondary-world grimdark fantasy with not a joke in sight.

Why grimdark you ask? I wrote a short story about the protagonist and was really fascinated with her. So I wrote another. And then I wanted to write her origin story. And before I knew it, I had a novel-length project on my hands. So I just kept writing.

It was slow going. I started working on this book about three years ago, but I added to the novel very slowly. choosing to focus on short story projects instead. As the manuscript slowly grew, I became more and more focused on the novel. In fact, well over 50% of my writing time in 2016 was spent working on this book. And tonight, the hardest part of the project is done.

To be clear, the book is far from finished. First drafts are messy and kind of ugly; they’re the sort of things you never ever show anyone because they contain mistakes and prose that can be outright embarrassing. But they’re the bones upon which the book will grow and flourish as I work on revisions.

I also have no idea if the book is any good. At the moment it feels like someone thoroughly shook the dictionary and upended it onto my screen. In other words: a random combination of words masquerading as a story. I simultaneously crave and dread the moment when I get to show this book to my trusted beta readers. If all goes well, they will assure me that the book is not totally crap. If it doesn’t… Well, no one can make me show this manuscript to anyone else. But I remain optimistic.

I can’t tease you like this and not tell you what the book is about. Eridani’s Crown is the story of a woman who is her world’s version of Alexander the Great or Napoleon — except she succeeds where they failed and actually takes over the entire world (conveniently, her world is a single Pangea-like continent called the Heart.)

She starts out as a hero, fighting against terrible odds and for all the right reasons. But by the end of the book, she is the worst kind of villain and despot. I like to describe it to folks as a “character arc of Breaking Bad meets the grimdark setting of Game of Thrones.”

And while, again, I’ll reiterate that I don’t know if the end result is any good, I’m certain it’s ambitious. There are politics and machinations, examination of power and responsibility, and the first instance of a political Cold War I’ve seen in this sort of setting. I stole liberally from different eras of history, with characters loosely based on Alexander the Great and Mozi (Chinese engineer and pacifist from 400 BC). There are scenes inspired by the Battle of Waterloo and the decline of the Roman Empire, by the ill-considered reforms of Peter the Great and the brutality of Ghenghis Khan.

And I’m pretty sure the body count would make George R. R. Martin flinch.

Whether this book or good or not, I have unlocked a major achievement in that now I can call myself a novelist. Tomorrow the revisions begin, but tonight I celebrate and rest on my laurels for just a little while.



Humanity 2.0 is now available

October 17, 2016


Humanity 2.0 is an anthology of hard SF and space opera short stories, each dealing with the idea of how interstellar travel (whether from or to the solar system) may alter us as a species. Physiological and social changes are both on the table.

This is a bit of a different project for me. Up until now I’ve edited mostly anthologies of humorous fiction, as well as a couple of books with a tight but at least somewhat-whimsical focus (an anthology of Coffee stories and a fun space opera antho set in a game universe.) So Humanity is arguably my first “serious” anthology, with not a pie in sight of anyone’s face nor a banana peel hidden in the darkness. Can I curate a solid collection of “serious SF”? We’ll  find out.

You can buy Humanity 2.0 here. And if you happen to have received an early review copy, don’t forget that your reviews are both extremely helpful and really appreciated!



New publication: “How Gaia and the Guardian Saved the World” at Amazing Stories

October 16, 2016

On the heels of my Nature AI story comes my Amazing Stories AI story. and they were kind enough to create a cool illustration for it, too! (this is not an easy story to illustrate as you’ll find it when you read it!) I’m excited to be among the first authors to have original fiction appear in the resurrected Amazing Stories and happy to share this story with readers!

Read “How Gaia and the Guardian Saved the World” here.




The Hook: Xan and Ink by Zak Zyz

October 13, 2016


The Hook:

The white tower of Joymont had seven bronze bells, imported all the way from the foundries of Aran. It took a team of oxen and twenty men a week to raise them into the high tower and mount each on its beam. The work was pure murder, a labor like none of the men had ever done, but when it was all through, how fine the tower looked! A fluted shaft of white stone capped in a cone of gleaming copper, seven levels, seven bells engraved with glorious scenes from the epics. Atop it all they raised the flag of Joymont, a seven-pointed green star rising over white-capped mountains on a field of indigo.

For years the laborers had worked on this keep, hauling stones and timber, swinging hammers until their bones rang, and now they looked out across the tall ramparts they’d built, the thick walls and the fine white bell tower, and beamed with pride. Here was something for the ages!

Even the King seemed moved. A few workmen thought they saw a tear gleam in the corner of his eye as he gazed up at the grand tower. His own flag flew above the tower he’d designed, crowning a keep that would repel slavers and bandits. More than that, he’d built Joymont from nothing, he hadn’t simply inherited it by accident of birth. He was a conqueror, he’d seen a kingdom where others had seen naught but wilderness.

Joymont’s cronies were flopping over themselves, each trying to find their own angle to praise. How stately it looked, how clever the design! What a fine choice he’d made selecting the scenes! Wasn’t it just perfect to have the Calamity of Rapaxoris beneath the Beheading of the Limitless Light? And if you were going to choose a battle of Grimbalgon to depict, what better than the final one? Didn’t the figure of Harlan remind you of a certain King in his youth? On and on they went until his stomach nearly turned.

When at last it was time to sound the bells, each rang more pure than the last, resonant tones that you could hear from any corner of the keep, and far out into the fields. Every man, woman, and child in Joymont was looking up at those bells as they rang, one, two, three, four, five, six…


They rang the seventh bell, and all winced. As sour as the others had been sweet, a bitter, jarring note that made teeth ache and bones lurch. At once they knew the bell had cracked, and their eyes were on King Joymont, their breath caught in their throats. The head stonemason took off his hat and wrung it, his mouth working like mad with little half-spoken excuses.

For a moment, Joymont’s eyes twitched with fury, but he swallowed it. He could feel the weight of the years to come balanced on this moment. It had to be salvaged at all costs.

“We’ll save that one for the hangings!” Joymont roared at last, winking at the head mason. There was a titter of nervous laughter. Relief rippled through the crowd, and the stonemason looked as if he’d been pardoned at the gallows. He was as pale as the white stone he worked.

“Still the traitor bell! Let the rest ring!” Joymont shouted, and they rang the other six bells until everyone’s ears ached.

As the years went on, there were few hangings worthy of ringing a cursed bell. The seventh bell grew quite dusty and forgotten at the top of the tower while the others sang out for weddings and feasts, holidays, and all other occasions for joy.

Today they rang the seventh bell.

Zak Zyz writes:

This is not the hook I had in mind!

Originally, Xan and Ink began thirty-six pages later, in a bar fight where the four adventurers get their asses handed to them. Structurally, the four archetypal characters were never meant to be more than a pack of fools, in way over their heads. In video game terms, they’ve blundered into a zone that’s way too high level for them, everything can kill them, and their save is corrupted. The book is meant to open at the point where they’re realizing just how screwed they are, as a single diminutive drunk mops the floor with the whole party.

Beta readers did not go for this! Introducing characters, and making readers care about them, is somewhat difficult to accomplish in a scene where a crazed dwarf is beating the everliving piss out of them. On top of that, this is the scene where readers first meet the titular character, Xan, a cantankerous masked scholar who has somehow managed to survive for decades in a malignant jungle teeming with hostile, intelligent insects.

I’m a strong believer in beta readers, and we had some great ones for Xan and Ink. I was really surprised to find that people cared more about the plight of our four hapless fools than I ever would have guessed. People loved the intense cat-and-mouse between Xan and Ink, they loved the weird, sinister denizens of the Kalparcimex, but they wanted to know more about the losers who, in my mind, were simply there to struggle, fail, and potentially get eaten.

Armed with that feedback, I set about to explain more about Gregary, the oaf knight, Sandros the haughty magician, Osolin, the illiterate thief, and Brakkar, the wrathful zealot imbecile.  It wound up being incredibly fun! Because the characters were originally written as walking flaws, as I explored them and wrote stronger backstories for them, I  began to discover why they were that way, and what it might mean for their arcs.

Now when you read Xan and Ink, you don’t simply peer through the door of a tavern to see an ass-kicking, you march through a screaming mob alongside four disgraced adventurers and see them banished from the very kingdom they’ve sworn to save. The introduction stands you in the streets of the backward kingdom of Joymont and you hear the story of the Traitor’s Bell, a cracked and discordant bell that hangs disused at the top of an ivory tower, to be rung only for executions. The reader learns that this cursed bell is ringing again today, and I hope they will want to know why!

Buy Zan and Ink on Amazon


If you’re an author with a book coming out soon and you wish to participate on The Hook, please read this.

Capclave 2016 Schedule

October 6, 2016



I’ll be attending Capclave instead of the New York Comicon this weekend (why oh why do they always fall on the same weekend?!). Here’s where to find me:

Friday, 5pm-7pm – Suite 1209 – UFO5 and Humanity 2.0 anthologies launch party!
There will be refreshments served including the real Brooklyn bagels, so definitely come by this one!
Event page

Saturday, 10am-11am – Signing – Author hallway table

Saturday, 1pm-2pm – Salon A – Humor in SF&F panel

Saturday, 7:30-8:30pm – Salon A – Mass Autograph session

Sunday, 11:30am-12pm – Seneca – Reading

Sunday, 12pm-1pm – Rockville/Potomac – Cats in SF/F panel

Sunday, 1pm-2pm – Frederick – Markets for Published Stories panel

Link to my schedule at Capclave official page.



Two Stories at StarShipSofa Podcast Today

October 5, 2016


This week’s episode of StarShipSofa features a pair of stories that were not previously available online for free. The first is “Dominoes Falling,” the story written in the Dark Expanse video game universe which appeared in the Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse anthology. It’s followed by “The Far Side of the Wilderness” which appeared in Beyond the Sun anthology from Fairwood Press. Both are space opera adventures with a bit of a dark bend, so kudos to editor Jeremy Szal for bundling them together as they do complement each other nicely.

Dark Expanse cover

The episode also includes a flash piece by Stephen S. Power from Nature magazine.

Listen to the podcast here.

This is the second time in a week I had a story (or stories) published without advance warning. (i.e. I knew they were going to appear in DSF and SSS at some point, just not when.) Honestly, I can get used to this kind of pleasant surprise.

The next up is “How Gaia and the Guardian Saved the World” which I do know the publication date of; it’s scheduled to appear at Amazing Stories on October 12 and I’ll post the link when it goes live!