Old Spice, New Tricks

August 2, 2018

The Old Spice brand has recently introduced The Gentleman character class for the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. The Gentleman is tailor-crafted to confidently gallivant about the fantasy landscape, promoting male grooming products to a demographic that could really use them (according to the gamer stereotypes the ad agency researchers read about on the internet.)

This unsolicited intrusion may prove to be pure marketing gold, and other brands will race to stake their claims by inserting mascots into beloved game franchises. Here’s a preview of potential forthcoming collaborations.

  • Hamburglar stars as the anti-hero of the next Grand Theft Auto installment. The young miscreant will roam the urban jungle, hijacking cars and knocking over fast-food joints. His predisposition for the Golden Arches will have players primed to answer in the affirmative when asked, “Would you like fries with that?” Vice City PD will also want to put an APB out for his known associate and white-gloved stooge, Hamburglar Helper.
  • Mystery board game Clue replaces Mr. Green with Mr. Clean. What’s the enigmatic mascot hiding behind that smirk? The answer to that might be “Mr. Clean with the mop,” pretty much in any room of the house. They could all use some tidying up.
  • Players will begin the game of Life as the Gerber Baby and enjoy a worry-free adolescence as Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, but eventually grow up and get a job as the Maytag Repairman. The marriage to Mrs. Butterworth will be rocked by an affair with the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl, but eventually they’ll work things out and have a Big Boy of their own. Only the winning player will be able to lay claim to the title of The Most Interesting Man Alive.
  • Halo’s Master Chief will be replaced with Colonel Sanders, who will need all eleven of his herbs and spices to defeat wave after wave of GEICO Geckos on some hellish alien planet.
  • The Charmin Bears may only need a few sheets to get clean, but they’ll discard plenty of toilet paper to clog up the warp pipes and finally let Mario and Luigi utilize their plumbing skills in the next Super Mario Bros. side-scroller.
  • Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, and the Trix rabbit are few of the characters to appear in the next expansion of Pokémon trading cards. The cutthroat breakfast cereal business has prepared them for the life of savage gladiatorial combat against other cute pets.
  • Hollywood won’t be far behind, casting the Michelin Man in Fast and the Furious, Cap’n Crunch in Battleship II, and Uncle Ben in the Spider-man prequel.

This trend shall continue ad infinitum, until all of us feel like the Coca-Cola Polar Bears, trapped on the ever-shrinking icebergs of pastimes and media not yet co-opted by clever marketing firms.


This tiny story is free. If you enjoyed it, please consider buying my books or supporting my current Kickstarter campaign.

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Kickstarters Galore

May 18, 2018

As you patiently wait for the UFO7 kickstarter campaign (which should be coming next month!) there are several anthology projects I’d like to encourage you to check out. I find myself involved in not one, not two, but three separate anthologies that are seeking funding at the moment, and I hope some of them will strike your fancy.

First up is the anthology edited by Mike Ventrella and published by Fantastic Books where Mike has asked a group of funny and imaginative authors to come up with a story which has the line “Release the Virgins!” in it at some point. Some of the authors involved include David Gerrold, Allen Steele, Jody Lynn Nye, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, and Keith R. A. DeCandido among others. If this project funds I will contribute a funny original story from the Coffee Corps universe!

Release the Virgins on Kickstarter

Another project that also launched tonight is Timeshift: Tales of Time, edited by Eric S. Fomley. This is an anthology of flash fiction stories about time travel, time dilation, and other time-related weirdness. You’ll get stories by Bob Silverberg, Cat Rambo, Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Kevin J. Anderson and two of my own tales (two assuming the project reaches a very achievable milestone of 25 backers)

Timeshift on Kickstarter

Finally, there’s another anthology of even tinier stories, also edited by Eric Fomley. Drabbledark is a collection of drabbles — stories that are exactly 100 words long. I posted about this one a couple of weeks ago and am happy to report it has reached its initial funding goal. It’s now in stretch goals and has 11 days left to pick up some more steam.

Drabbledark on Kickstarter

In addition to all the crowdfunding news, I also learned today that my story “Ambassador to the Meek” (originally published in The Sum of Us anthology edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law) has been selected to appear in Best Indie Speculative Fiction, volume 1, forthcoming in November 2018.

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Pay what you want for HUMANITY 2.0 in January

January 3, 2018

Humanity 2.0 is the Phoenix Pick Book of the Month in January! That means you can pay whatever you want for it, or even snag it for free if you don’t want to subsidize my caffeine habit.  This promotion will only last for the month of January, so hurry up and take advantage of the offer!

http://www.phoenixpick.com/botm/Humanity.htm

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The Cackle of Cthulhu Released!

January 2, 2018

It’s launch day for The Cackle of Cthulhu and it’s also the international science fiction day, which is rather fitting, isn’t it? You can grab the book from Amazon or most online and physical bookstores.  I’m really excited about this anthology and think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies.

You can try to win a free signed copy here, or just buy your own!

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2017 Year in Review

December 31, 2017

Another year is in the books as my adventure in speculative writing, translation, and publishing continues. It has been a somewhat quieter year, with fewer short stories written and sold, but there have been new exciting opportunities and new successes I’m proud of. Some of the highlights for me:

* I’ve had two new anthologies published, Unidentified Funny Objects 6 and Funny Horror. And The Cackle of Cthulhu is coming out next week.
* I was nominated for the Canopus award for the second time, for “Whom He May Devour” published in Nautil.us. Winners will likely be announced in January and although I don’t expect to win (there’s tremendous competition in my category, and I predict the award will go to Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds) I’m thrilled to be recognized.
* I’ve translated and sold a number of Russian language speculative stories. I also recently helped judge a Russian science fiction short story contest, which was great fun, and will be translating the winning story into English soon.
* I was involved in a best-selling book! I got to write a story for Monster Hunter Files, edited by Larry Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It was by far the most high-profile anthology I’ve had my fiction appear in to date and it was great fun to play in the urban fantasy universe I immensely enjoy reading.
* I broke into some new-for-me markets, including the stories Analog magazine (with a story co-written with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.)

Not all of my plans for 2017 worked out as planned. Let’s take a look at my list of goals for the year I posted twelve months ago:

  • Sell Eridani’s Crown (my first novel).

Didn’t happen. Publishing, it appears, is a slow-moving beast. I only got two rejection slips for my book, and the other couple of editors my agent sent it to haven’t responded at all. I remain optimistic and look forward to a better result next year!

  • Write and finish my second novel within the 2017 calendar year.

Didn’t happen either. I’m a bit more than half-way through writing The Middling Affliction. I’m rather disappointed in this, but there were good reasons for the delays and I will keep plugging away at it until the book is done.

  • Sell at least one new anthology to a major publisher.

I haven’t actually tried. I plan on pitching Baen some more ideas, but I think it’ll work better if they see strong sales numbers for Cackle, and that took longer to publish than I anticipated. I do have other editing projects in the pipeline and other exciting editing-related stuff that I hope to announce soon.

  • Publish UFO6 and Funny Horror.

Done, and done.

  • Sell or crowdfund my second short story collection, aiming to be published in 2018.

The book is funded, written, and sent off to the copy editor. It should be releasing in May.

In 2017 I also write eleven new short stories, totaling over 33,000 words of fiction. I wrote over 40,000 words for my second novel. And it’s not til I just looked it up that I realized I actually wrote more words of fiction than I did last year. Yay! Eight of the newly-written stories are already sold, which is a really good ratio. (It helps that four of my new stories were commissioned or written for invitation anthologies.)

I earned $3341 from direct short fiction sales (not counting translations, anthology royalties, etc.) which is a nice bump from 2016’s $2170. As before, aggressive marketing of reprints has been hugely helpful toward this number. According to my spreadsheet I sent out a total of 123 submissions this year, which resulted in 27 acceptances. (These numbers do include translations.) Interestingly, this is the exact same number of submissions as last year, but those only resulted in 20 acceptances.

Here is the list of the original stories and first-run translations of mine that were published in 2017:

Golf to the Death – Galaxy’s Edge – 03/01/17
First Million Contacts (w/Bryan Thomas-Schmidt) – Little Green Men Attack!, Baen, 3/07/2017
Recall Notice – Tales from the Miskatonic Library, PS Publishing – 3/07/17
Parametrization of Complex Weather Patterns for Two VariablesDaily Science Fiction – 5/24/17 Free Online
Catalogue of Items in the Chess Exhibit at the Humanities Museum, Pre-Enlightenment WingNature – 7/20/17 Free Online
The Practical Guide to Punching NazisDaily Science Fiction – 7/31/17 – Free Online
Ambassador to the Meek – The Sum of Us anthology, Laksa Media – 9/8/17
The Hunt for the Vigilant
– Oceans anthology – 9/26/17

The Troll Factory
– Monster Hunter Files, Baen Books – 10/3/17

Translations:
Untilted by K. A. Teryna – Apex Magazine – 11/14/2017 – Free Online
Impress Me, Then We’ll Talk about the Money by Tatiana Ivanova – UFO6 – October 2017
Black Hole Heart by K. A. Teryna – Apex Magazine – 6/21/2017 – Free Online
Despite only a 50% success rate on my 2017 goals, I’ll go ahead and set some goals for 2018:
* Sell Eridani’s Crown to a publisher.
* Finish The Middling Affliction.
* Break into at least one new major short fiction market where I haven’t been published before.
* Continue to translate Russian stories. Translate at least three new ones in 2018.
* At least double the number of subscribers to my mailing list. (Which I haven’t been working very hard to promote so far.)
Happy New Year, and may your goals for the new year be accomplished!
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Seven 20th Century Classic SF/F Books You May Not Have Read

December 23, 2016

Over the course of this past week I posted the following recommendations on my Facebook page. These are all books I’m a big fan of, have read and re-read growing up. They played a major role in shaping my perception of genre as well as my own writing style.

The posts generated some interesting discussion and I figured it may be worth collecting them into a blog post, for those who do not read my FB feed. (Which you totally can. My posts are generally set to public and you can subscribe/follow if you wish.)

So, here goes:

Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick

This book covers the history of the human race over the course of several thousand years. It’s episodic: each chapter is self-contained and can be read as a short story. In fact, I was surprised when Mike told me it wasn’t put together out of individually written/sold short stories first but, in fact, written in order over several months.

I love episodic fiction and this is perhaps the finest example of such when it comes to space opera. It also outlines the future history of the setting of many of Mike’s popular novels such as Santiago, the Widowmaker series, the Starship series, etc.

 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

This is my favorite Russian-language novel and Bulgakov is my favorite Russian author. In writing this book he invented Magical Realism decades before Marquez. In his “Heart of a Dog” he scooped Keyes by writing a superior version of “Flowers for Algernon.” Both of these books also have a humorous bend and engage in then-death-defying satire of the Soviet regime.

Inexplicably, Bulgakov was favored by Stalin, which protected him for a time. He died in 1940 and this novel wasn’t published until 1966. A very small print run was produced before the book was promptly banned by the censors and circulated mostly in samizdat until the late 1980s.

Although I can argue that this is one of (if not the) most influential Russian novels of the 20th century, I recommend it because it’s a great book that easily withstands the test of time and still reads fresh today.

 

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

 

In honor of the release of ROGUE ONE, today I’d like to talk up Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars Admiral Thrawn trilogy.

I tend to strongly dislike media tie-in books. I’m of the opinion that they’re rarely any good, even when written by authors who are capable of producing excellent material. The combination of restraints placed by the IP holder, short turnaround times, and often crappy pay encourages writers to channel their inner hack and turn in bland, uninspired work that ranges from Meh to eyebleedingly horrible. There are, of course, exceptions, and Zahn’s Star Wars books are among the very best.

The Thrawn trilogy picks up five years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI and is full of intrigue, adventure, and unabashed space opera that makes Star Wars, well… Star Wars. He also introduces one of the best bad guys in the franchise, Grand Admiral Thrawn, who–in my opinion–is second only to Darth Vader himself. The alien tactician is brilliant enough to climb high in the Empire’s xenophobic hierarchy, and he makes a worthy opponent to Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the gang.

Although older Star Wars books are no longer considered canon as per Disney’s decree, many of Zahn’s ideas took root. It was he who introduced the concept of Coruscant, the Republic’s planet-wide capital city, which was later featured in the movies. And although I haven’t watched the cartoon, I understand Grand Admiral Thrawn shows up in STAR WARS REBELS, so that makes him canon, too.

From These Ashes: The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown

 

Much of what I know about writing short fiction in general, and especially flash fiction, I learned from reading Fredric Brown. He isn’t as well-known today as he deserves to be but I don’t think it would be much of an exaggeration to call him the father of flash fiction. He wrote beautiful, funny, clever little stories that fit onto a page or two but carried more punch than most longer works do.

Although you might not already know his name, chances are you’re familiar with some of his work. Two of his pieces are particularly well-known. The first is “Arena,” a short story that a Star Trek: the Original Series episode of the same name was based on. (The original short story is better, IMO.) The second is “Knock,” which opens with the world’s shortest SF/horror story. I shall post it here in it’s entirety:

“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

Brown goes on to elaborate on the concept in “Knock” but it’s these two lines that have spawned countless imitations and elaborations, and remain firmly embedded in our pop culture.

Although this book is a bit pricey, it’s well-worth it for the complete collection of Brown’s genre stories (he also wrote mysteries, which are collected in a separate volume.) In my opinion, anyone who is serious about writing short fiction must read this book.

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

A beautiful, evocative, complex science fiction novel, this and it’s equally-good sequel The Summer Queen are among my favorite books — genre or otherwise.

Vinge has written several other excellent novels (such as the Psion books) but a serious car accident in the early 2000s derailed her career. She appears to have published a couple of film novelizations since then, and little else, which is a great shame.

 

Labyrinth of Reflections by Sergei Lukyanenko

While I talked about my favorite Russian writer earlier, my favorite *living* Russian writer is Lukyanenko. He has written everything from urban fantasy to space opera to YA, but his very first published novel (I believe it is, anyway) remains my favorite. Labyrinth of Reflections is a cyberpunk novel written in the 90s and while some of the references (like AOL and saving a laughably small amount of data onto a diskette) feel outdated, the book withstands the test of time as well as Neuromancer.

You may already be familiar with Lukyanenko’s work from the NIGHT WATCH and DAY WATCH films (the books are WAY better than the movies.) He’s deservedly the most popular fantasist in Russia (as well-known there as Stephen King is in the US) and is well-worth reading. I can’t vouch for the quality of the translation below since I read this book in the original, but a cursory examination suggests it’s pretty good.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

 

Simak is, in my opinion, one of the best SF writers of the 20th century. His work was well-recognized with award nominations and wins but it has been out of print for entirely too long and younger readers are sadly unfamiliar with his books. Fortunately, Open Road Media brought his work back into print recently. Although many of Simak’s books are excellent, I consider WAY STATION and CITY absolute must-reads for every SF fan (and writer!) out there.

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So what are some of your favorite genre books written in the 20th century? (With a special focus on titles that may not be as well-recognized as Dune or The Left Hand of Darkness or Ringworld)

 


Mailing List Activated

July 20, 2016

Writers who are smarter than me (aka writers) keep telling me that I must have a mailing list. Well, fine then. I went ahead and made one.

My plan is to update once or twice a month, but also to provide anyone kind enough to sign up for these updates with some exclusive content: I will send out a free short story or flash fiction every month (from my many previously published pieces for now, but if the list grows popular enough I’ll consider posting something original!) I will also do raffles and share some unique specials through the list. I might even share a few tidbits from my novel-in-progress in the coming months. Which is to say, sign up. Please? With sugar on top?

Click here to sign up.

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