Snake Eyes: Science Fiction Noir

Python snakeskin leather background, snake skin, texture, animal

Here’s my latest offering, up for pre-order right now. It’s a short story, about 4200 words (thus the minimal price tag) and will eventually appear in the collection Green-Eyed Monster. I don’t yet know when that is coming out. Probably December of January, maybe not till spring of next year. If you don’t care to wait (or just want to flip a silver dollar into the coffer–of which, I’ll actually only get 33 to 60 cents of…), please feel free.

How do you kill a man who has Lady Luck wrapped around his finger?

The man known as The Gambler went from loser to ruler almost overnight. Now he sits at the head of all tables. And those he toppled, the mobsters getting his scraps, they want him dead.  

But rumor has it that The Gambler has a cosmic cheat. A piece of science fiction come to life that twists all probability in his favor.  

If you believe in that sort of thing. The hitman they call Snake Eyes, he doesn’t. His dice are loaded. So is his gun.

Let the final game begin.

A tale of death, noir, and impossible odds from the author of One-Eyed Jacks, Unfeeling, and Moondance.

Now, I don’t expect to make a killing off one short story. But it’s part of what I call, “Fishing with a wide net.” It creates yet another place that a reader might discover me, whether they buy this particular story or not.

Actually, it creates a few places. Right now, you can find Snake Eyes for pre-order on AmazonBarnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

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Indie Writer Code Words: Fear

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well. (It’s also good therapy for me, and it’s free.)

Secret (and not so secret) words coming up are Sequencing and Donut Hole, and maybe even BFF.

But today’s not-so-secret code word is: FEAR.

FEAR is the primary reason I’m sitting here typing this instead of the next scene or chapter in my novel. Because, like most of you (if not all of you) fellow writers, I’m afraid of it.

I’m afraid to sit down and write it, because it might suck. Or I’m not sure where to go with it, not sure what happens next. Or I do know what happens next and it’s challenging or I’m not confident I can handle what has to be done, so I am avoiding it.

Or I’m afraid of failure: What if I write it and publish it and either no one reads/buys it? Or they do, and I get only bad feedback and negative reviews? And everyone tells me it sucks? And I suck?

Or maybe even I’m actually afraid of success: What if I finish this novel and somehow, suddenly, this big tsunami of sales happens and I’m thrust unprepared into the possible realization of my dreams—that I can actually quit working and write fulltime? Holy shit, wouldn’t that be horrible? Then what the hell do I do??!!

Or a hundred other reasons, all of which boil down to one thing: Fear.

The last couple chapters I wrote, I had exactly that problem. One of them was a scene I’ve known was coming for years! I have been looking forward to it, both because it meant I was nearing the end of the book and because it was just going to be a damn fun scene.

And yet, when I finally got there, I paused. I groped for my confidence and came up empty handed.

So, what did I do?

I sat down and wrote the damn scene.

And it was fun. Some of you may eventually find it fun, too.  🙂

Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy. I knew what would happen in the action part, the middle part, but wasn’t sure how to get that started. How to broach the chapter in order to reach the meaty part of the scene?

Sitting and thinking about it didn’t get me there. So I just started writing. I rambled a little bit, wandered more than expected, but I eventually wandered right into the place I needed to be. Perfect!

The next chapter was similar. Right after that chapter, I knew the book was breaking into the next act. (I generally support the three-act structure in my longer work.) I did a page break, typed in PART THREE: SHIVA THE DESTROYER, and then… Paused again. Now what?

Well, I knew it was going to be dialogue heavy, so I just let the characters get me through it. I let them go into the natural discussion that was coming and they hashed it out for me. Easy peasy.

As I’ll get into with the next code word entries, I’m also deathly afraid of deciding, What comes next? Which of the 30+ books in my head to start once I finish this one? There are arguments for several of them. And even though I know what the best answer is, I’m still afraid of it. Because I don’t know what’ll happen. (I usually don’t, until I write it!) I don’t know if continuing the superhero course is for the best when I have these other, easier, probably more accessible sci-fi series I could get moving onto.

But all that is a discussion for another time. (Or, in my case, about three times a day in my own head, or when I’m on a walk outside.)

Fear is ever-present. No way around it. One or all of these scenarios will continue to pop up. And all you can do is trust in the process and proceed as normal. I imagine having a routine helps. Like you get up every day at this time and churn out this many words. Sounds solid. (Too bad my schedule constantly changes—in ten years, I’ve never been able to get a routine like that!) But if you have a good routine, I bet it’s easier to just say, “Fuck the fear, this is my writing time and now I’m wasting it. Time to get to work.”

Ooohh, that sounds nice!

I’m very likely about to be job hunting again, so I still won’t be able to get a routine down. (Long story, mostly still involving the Navy and expectations for me and the Reserves. I don’t want to think about it right now. Because I’m afraid of that whole mess, too!) But damn if having that kind of daily, set-aside ritual doesn’t sound wonderful!

And there we go. Almost 900 words in like 20 minutes. If only I could focus those powers toward a book. It’s no harder to write. It’s still just pounding keys with my fingers! And once I get going, it flows just as fast as a raging river. Sometimes I even have to skip ahead to get the good part down, then come back to fill in how to get there. My brain goes that fast on the good stuff. And yet…! Here I sit, afraid to switch over and do just that.

You know, I have so many other things I should be doing too. Still have boxes to unpack, books to filter through to get rid of, go to the post office, get some exercise… Maybe I’ll save the writing thing for now. It’s just too scary…

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: The Great Distractor!

aos

If you’re a Warhammer nerd like me, you probably know that the reboot of Warhammer Fantasy—Age of Sigmar—has been rebooted again. AOS 2nd edition is out now and is all the buzz among the swarming flies of Nurgle. I never played AOS 1st edition and don’t see any major changes into 2nd, but I have been assured by others that the changes are worthwhile.

Having never gotten into the game, though, now I am tempted. And my friend Josh is pushing the issue. He’s always happy to aid in any corruption, and trying to loop me into a new game and new models is not going to help get my list of novels-yet-to-be written!

Quit trying to shove that monkey on my back, Josh!

Although, I must say… It is a pleasant monkey…

I do like AOS’s approach, versus the latest edition of Warhammer 40K. This is the 8th and most dramatic change for 40K, which is my greater love of nerdly tabletop warfare. (While I’ve always been big in both fantasy and science fiction in general, sci-fi holds a slightly higher spot for me.) I must admit, though—and I think anyone who knows would agree—that 40K and Fantasy get more and more alike with each new edition. 8th-ed 40K took on a very AOS aspect from its former versions. I have now played exactly one game of 8th edition and it was still pretty clunky, since it was my first game. There are things I like and things I don’t.

And from what I can tell, Age of Sigmar does this new approach far better.

I like that nearly every unit in the game has some special rule that it can bring into play. This is especially important given that the stat lines of most units are pretty damn nearly the same. Almost all weapons are some variety of 3+ or 4+ rolls of the dice. If it weren’t for these other flavorful rules for each unit, they’d all be the same damn thing!

40K hasn’t done this quite as well. Maybe because there is already so much variety in the game? Each army has an awful lot of unit types. Maybe, too, because there’s a much bigger variety of shooty weapons in 40K? I suppose there isn’t as great a need for individual special rules with so many weapons and vehicles to choose from.

I also like the new command points rules in AOS, giving players more special stunts to pull per turn. Plus the blending of factions, special formation traits that aren’t overwhelming and are available depending on how “pure” your force is. As well as the free magic weapon and artefacts you can get.

I’m not delving into specifics here because if you’ve read this far, you probably already know more about it than I do. Let’s just say, I like the way this is going. And damn it, I don’t have time for another game and another army!

But if I did…

I bought the huge Chaos grand alliance book the other day. I can envision a Chaos force built from many factions…

  • The core warband would be composed of Slaves to Darkness and/or Hosts of Slaanesh forces. The general would have to be a cool centerpiece model. A Slaaneshi lord on a daemonic mount, for example, or a sorcerer on a manticore. (That model kicks ass!) The Lord of Chaos on foot has the potential to become both a daemon prince and a spawn! Bonus either way. He’d likely not be my commander, but I like the idea of driving him forward, knowing he’s got reincarnation in his pocket whether he succeeds or not. Then I’d have some chaos warriors on foot and some marauders on horseback throwing javelins. (I like to have some ranged weapons in my forces—a variety of tools in the toolbox makes it strategically more versatile.) A badass chariot would just look cool. And I have a box of Empire flagellants still waiting to be put together. I could paint them all chaotic and call them “chaos fanatics” and count them as marauders on foot with flails. J
  • Most of the minions of the warband—the bulk of throw-away bodies sent in to kill or die, or both—would be beastmen. I want a Bray Shaman to lead them. He gives me magic plus the potential for more monsters with his summoning powers. Then two units of beastman infantry with blue war paint striped on them would just look cool as hell.
  • Of course, the overlords of Chaos, the puppeteers pulling strings behind the veil of reality, are daemons! I tend toward Slaanesh these days, so I’d want either units on the table or some on the side for summoning—or both! A Keeper of Secrets or daemon prince, daemonettes, seekers, some mortal hellstriders with big hooked whips. That’s fun shit. Plus, I like the Tzeenchy stuff too. Their characters have the potential to make spawns of the enemy, which is awesome. And having a nice big unit of pink horrors gives me more ranged firepower, and an extra spell to boot!
  • The final aspect of my motley crew: Monsters! Chaos ogres, trolls, chimera, cockatrice, dragons, spawn, warhounds, whatever! The bigger and uglier the better!

Of course, I probably won’t be able to squeeze all that in one army, but you get the idea.

But, like I try to tell Josh, I can’t be starting over with a new game and new models! But it is fun to keep in mind. And maybe slowly, overtime, I might get to doing that. (Even though I already have more 40K shit than I know what to do with…)

Aaaand, everytime time I tell myself I can’t get into it, I come up with more ways that I can… Maybe I’ll just inventory what models I have and see where it goes from there…

 

Indie Writer Code Words: Maslow

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Today’s relevant code word is: MASLOW.

Does that sound familiar? Like from your high school psychology class or from a medical or educational college track?

I am doing both of those right now. My day job (at the moment) is teaching at a nursing college. I teach my students about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And when I do, I remember its relevance to my own life. Especially when it comes to my writing life.

I actually remember this from my own high school psych class, back in, say, 1993? It made that much sense to me that it’s stuck for that long.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs basically means this: If you don’t have your basic needs met, it’s really damn hard to concentrate on higher ambitions.

pyramid

For example, if you don’t have food on your plate or a roof to sleep under, completing your PhD isn’t going to get a lot of attention in your life.

For my students, many of whom are coming from low-income, high-crime areas, completing their nursing degree is made more difficult by trying to find daycare for their kids, working one or two other jobs to feed those kids, and living in less-than-ideal (sometimes dangerous) situations.

As you can see from the diagram (borrowed from here), the bottom level of the pyramid is your physiologic (bodily) needs. The top is “self-actualization.” This is like transcendence, reaching Nirvana, etc. Writing, in my case, would probably count as this top tier.

But if you’re lacking in the lower tiers, it’s hard to reach the top. A pyramid without a base falls apart. Climbing a ladder with no lower rungs to step on means you’re probably not going to reach the upper rungs.

For me, I have a lot going on in my life right now. I’m six months into my Navy-to-civilian life transition, having moved my family from Japan to Ohio, and I’m still struggling. There are tasks not yet done. We are far from settled into a routine for our new life. We’ve only been in our new home a month. Had our worldly possessions for less than that. (And why do we own so much crap, anyway?!) And now I’m looking at possibly changing jobs already. As the primary breadwinner (read as only breadwinner), that’s a big deal.

And yet, every day, I’m thinking about which books I should write next. How long it’s going to take me to finish the one I started years ago and am still fighting with. Which series should I wrap up and get out there? Which genre should I be striving in: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery? What’s going to get me the response/audience I need to ultimately sustain myself as a writer: superheroes, space pirates, space marines, dungeon questing?

Oh yeah, and how am I going to feed my family in the meantime? When can I spend time reading with my son to get him up to where he should be? Is there a morning coming that I can catch up on my lost sleep? When am I going to hit the gym to lose weight so I don’t get kicked out of the Navy Reserves?

Yikes.

Fucking-A, yikes.

The lesson here is (at least for me, maybe even for you): It’s okay not to beat yourself up over this. There are more important things going on than writing about space pirates.

No, I’m not getting as much writing done as I’d like. Few indies ever do. We all want to have a ten-book series on the best seller list yesterday.

Yes, I can optimize my day, muster a little more dedication, and carve out more writing time than I am now. I may not be making the absolute maximum effort toward these goals. I could squeeze out a little more blood-like conviction for my cause.

But I have to balance that against everything else. I need to give myself some breathing room.

I do have a lot of important life shit happening. And it’s important to acknowledge that, too. Don’t beat myself up too terribly bad, because the fact is that I am a father, husband, teacher, breadwinner, naval officer, nurse, etc.  I have other things in life that require my time, too. Even though the dream is to be writing full-time, I am awake right now. This is the waking world, and I have a lot of other shit to do in it. I am far from having a normalized life and schedule right now. Accept it, adapt, and move forward. Don’t feel too guilty about it. Don’t belittle yourself.

Heft that extra load on top of the iron-shod pack of stones on your back—without killing yourself in the process—and then get back to the march. You can make it. Slow and steady, that’s the way.

And that goes for you, too. There are only 24 hours in the day. Acknowledge that. Realize you do need to sleep. (It’s at the bottom of the pyramid, see?) Your kids do need to see you. Writing is important, but it’s not the most important thing in your life.

And that’s okay.

Now on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo and more: Moondance

noir

As of today, June 20th, my short story Moondance is open for business. If you preordered it, it should be on its way to you by now.

A rare item of great value. A beautiful woman shrouded in mystery. And a hard-boiled private eye with supernatural instincts and a nose for trouble.

No, this isn’t The Maltese Falcon.

But if detective Larry Talbot is tracking you on a full moon night, you’ll wish you had wings.

Classic noir, urban fantasy, and a howling good time.

Click here for the universal link, and select your favorite retailer (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc) from there. 

Enjoy!

Indie Writer Code Words: Platform

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Which brings me to my first word: PLATFORM.

This isn’t really a secret code word. This concept is an industry standard.

A “platform” is kind of like… well, literally, visually, it’s having a platform on which to stand so you’re up where everyone can see and hear you. It’s having an established audience via channels like a blog, pod cast, TV or radio show, loyal book following, a million Twitter followers, etc. If you already have a platform, you are more likely to move books. Or at least, you’re more likely to land an agent or big publishing deal. (Which most wise indies don’t want anyway—those folks aren’t much help anymore.)

For example, if you’re Snookie and you write a book, the publisher figures people already know your name and watched you get drunk on TV, so, sure, we’ll publish your book. You may or may not have anything worthwhile to write 200 pages about, but it’ll sell, so who cares? You already have an in-built audience. If we take a chance on you, someone is going to buy that book.

If you don’t have much of a platform, then few people know your name. You’re not a guaranteed sales machine. And when you publish your own book, aside from your mom, very few people are automatically going to be aware of its existence.

Part of the reason an indie writer may have a blog is to have such a platform. To perhaps attract a regular readership who may then translate into book buyers. If they like reading your blog, they may take a chance on your books, too.

I’ve also heard some more successful indie writers say that they gave up on the blogging and social media because they saw no correlation to actual book sales. Trying to build such a platform from which to shout from the rooftops was a waste of time. That time, they decided, was better spent writing fiction than whispering nonsense into the ether, assuming anyone was going to follow that trail back to Amazon or Kobo.

And for me, I have to say, that makes more sense.

If I spend my very limited time blogging and hanging out on Instagram or “liking” cat pictures on Facebook, is that really going to draw the masses to reading my fiction? And the question that would then follow would be, “What fiction?” Because if I’m wasting time posting pictures of my dinner or saying how disappointing I was in the last season on Netflix, who’s writing my novels? Not me.

It takes years to build an effective platform, and “effective” is a relative term. And results are not guaranteed. You might decide to forego penning your beloved novel series and force yourself to blog about TV shows instead. Everyone loves bingeing those shows nowadays, right? What better way to build a following?

So you spend all your spare time between your job and family and trying to get 6 hours of sleep every night, watching TV and bombing the internet with your opinions on it. And your books don’t get written. And while you’re talking about Game of Thrones, so are 100,000 other blogger and facebookers, and no one really notices you anyway.

So how effective is that platform you’re building to sell your books (that aren’t getting written)?

I say, Screw it.

Of course the platform works for some people. It probably worked better a few years ago than it does now. The indie writing landscape changes constantly, after all. The bandwagon that worked last year now has so many people riding on it that the tires have gone bald and it doesn’t run anymore.

But unless your voice or expertise in your chosen field on your chosen platform is different and more attractive than most of the others, who’s going to know you’re there? You’ll blend into the crowd. Just like your fiction writing. If it doesn’t stand out amongst the millions, who’s going to know it’s there?

So, for me, I’d rather be putting that effort into the fiction than the pre-fiction. If I get a platform built, I’ll build it on a stack of my books, not my opinions on… whatever.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony of this situation: I’m metablogging. I’m saying blogging may be a waste of my time, while at the same time perhaps hoping my writing about that attracts people to my blog. It’s like putting a mirror up to a mirror. Weird, huh?

I hope this doesn’t come out sounding too dismal or pessimistic. I’m just thinking through the reality of the situation. And for me, my choice, is to write the fiction, not the blogs. Or the Facebooks or Twitters or Goodreads or whatever.

That’s not to say I won’t interact with you. Contact me directly and I’m all in. I’d love to hear from you. But if you’re commenting on a Facebook post and hoping I’ll notice… You might be waiting a while.

In fact, I’d love to get rid of FB altogether. I say that a lot and I really mean it, but I’m also afraid that if I sever all ties to social media, then literally no one will know I’m here. But I do plan to downsize. Downsizing is good. Simplify. Consolidate web sites. Stop spending time and money and stuff that no one really sees, etc.

In the meantime, I apologize if my website and facebook seem to always be about what new story or novel I have coming out. It’s just that I have spent my constructive time writing those things instead of watching Netflix. And maybe someday I’ll build a following for my fiction instead of my unsolicited opinions about… whatever. 🙂

Supercriminals, the Walking Dead, and Space Pirates!

cirsova8

Cirsova #8 is out now! This Hugo-nominated magazine features fun and fantastic fiction in a great range, from Conan-style sword and sorcery, to weird tales of horror and the occult, to space opera on a galactic scale!

I’ve only read a couple of stories so far in this issue, but I have to honestly say I’m impressed. It’s good to see the editor–Mr. P. Alexander–taking the risks that he has. There are two tales that kind of surprise me, both stories I’d expect to also find in the more mainstream spec fic mags. The reason they probably aren’t in those mags? Because they have action, excitement, and fun, along with being written from less common SF perspectives.

Which stories am I talking about? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. There’s something for everyone in the pages of Cirsova, and issue 8 keeps pace with (and possibly exceeds) all those before it.

And did I mention space pirates?!

Yes, another installment of the adventures of Captain Leonidas Hawksblood appears here too, the first of a two-part story. I plan to write whole books featuring the crew of The Lion’s Share someday soon. In fact, as I was mowing the lawn last night, I came up with yet another episode for these misfit anti-heroes. But I have a few other projects to finish and holes to fill before I get to them.

In the meantime, check out Leonidas and all the other heroic adventurers in Cirsova #8! Click here to find it on Amazon. 

Here’s a list of this issue’s contents:

Novelettes

  • Slavers of Venus, by Nathan Dabney
  • Promontory, by Jon Zaremba

Short Stories

  • Littermates (Part 1 of 2), by J.D. Brink
  • Brandy and Dye, by Jim Breyfogle
  • Breaking the Accords, by Amy Power Jansen
  • The Dream Lords, by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
  • Only a Coward, by Jennifer Povey
  • Party Smashers, by Ken McGrath
  • Going Native, by J. Manfred Weichsel