Griffin’s Feather Update

My debut novel, Griffin’s Feather, is now in production with WordFire Press. The cover art is done. The cover layout is in process. The interior layout is in process. These are all great things.

I know I’m sounding a bit analytical about it all, but that’s because it’s all so surreal to me. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept that I’ll soon have a published novel that people can buy, read, review, love, hate, do cosplay as one of the characters (that just blew my mind as I typed it), lose sleep over, or simply enjoy and escape reality with.

You figure that if I’m writing stories about an immortal Roman Centurion who works as a bounty hunter for the gods of the ancient world in modern-day San Antonio, I’d be able to wrap my head around getting a book published. Well…. I can imagine all sorts of crazy things, but nailing down the reality that I’ll soon have my name on the cover of a book is…. I don’t know. No words. Strange for a writer, right?

Let me talk a bit about the cover. I’m sure you can see it here in the post. Isn’t it beautiful?!!? I love what Jeff Herndon did for my novel. This captures a scene somewhere around the 2/3 mark of the book. Yeah. Okay. That’s a bit spoilery. Sorry. I won’t give anything else away. I love what he did with the colors and splashes of light and capturing the raw power of the griffin. The fine details are what make it for me. Check out the wing tips on the pixie (click the image for a larger version). Yeah. Aren’t those wonderful? Thank you so much, Jeff, for bringing my words to life with your painting.

I’d also like to thank Manny Frishberg for editing the novel. We went through a couple of rounds of edits, and Manny was fantastic, supportive, encouraging, and pressing through out. When I say “pressing,” I mean he pressed me forward to greatness. He really challenged me in the right spots and congratulated me where I did well. There were a few times where he put in a comment along the lines of, “I can tell you got lazy here. You’re better than this. Rewrite with X as your target.” Yeah. He used the word “lazy,” but he also told me I was better than how that scene was written. He knew I could do better. Deep down, I knew I could do better. He pressed me forward with that nudge to do better and I did. Griffin’s Feather is orders of magnitude better now than it ever was before thanks to Manny giving me the guidance I needed.

A shout out goes to Dave Butler, WordFire’s acquisition editor, for taking on the project, speaking so highly of it to Kevin J. Anderson and others, and telling me that my original title (Freyja’s Daughter) was not quite up to snuff. We brainstormed a handful of titles and finally settled on Griffin’s Feather. This title has provided me with a pattern to the novels for the rest of the series (that’s right, I said, “Series!“). Book two is tentatively titled “Viper’s Bane.” Don’t get all excited for me yet. Book two isn’t under contract. We have to see how the sales for Griffin’s Feather goes. (This means you, my wonderful readers, need to spread word and boost the signal about the book if you love Marcus Barber and his adventures. The only way Viper’s Bane hits the shelves is if Griffin’s Feather does well.)

Lastly, thanks to WordFire Press for giving me the opportunity to get my words out into the world. I’m eternally grateful for this chance, and I hope the end result doesn’t disappoint everyone working in that fine organization. Even beyond having my mind shattered by getting a novel published, joining the esteemed ranks of authors WordFire has published is boggling. I hesitate to use “peer” or “equal” or anything like that when comparing myself to these luminaries, but I’m at least standing in the same room as them. This is an incredibly warming feeling.

How did all of this come about? Wow. Long story. A Inigo Montoya once said, “Let me explain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

In July of 2006 (yeah, 11 years ago), I found a flier for a local critique group. I immediately started attending and joined the membership of The Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group in November of 2006. I wrote tons of short stories to get the basics of storytelling, writing, and craft down. My intent all along was to write novels, but I didn’t want to screw up a novel (and I knew I would) since that takes a year (more or less) to execute upon.

Late in 2009, I started my first novel (now trunked, sorry) and finished it about a year later. I also wrote the second book in the trilogy, and started the third book. I never finished the third book because I realized it was more an exercise in futility since book one never sold.

Sometime in 2014 (see how much time had passed?!?!) and with a new critique group, I started telling Marcus’s story and all that it entails. Less than a year later, the novel was done, critiqued, edited, and ready to hit the streets. I started querying in the summer of 2015. Lots of the usual. Requests for partials. Requests for a few full manuscripts. All ending in rejections. While at WorldCon in Spokane, I was hanging out outside a bar waiting for others to show up. Peter Wacks (acquisition editor for WordFire at the time) and I were chatting. He asked what I was writing on. I told him about my querying travails with Griffin’s Feather and about the novel. He was very interested and wanted me to send it to you. That was August of 2015.

After some staff changes, shuffling of paperwork, lots of emails, and loads of being patient (more on that in a bit), Kevin J. Anderson approached me in the bar at WorldCon in Kansas City (sense a theme with bars and WorldCon?) with an offer to purchase my novel. It was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing the nearest woman, planting a kiss on her, and celebrating. Of course, that would have probably gotten me slapped and/or beaten up, kicked out the bar, kicked out of WorldCon, and smeared my public reputation for life. Me, being aware of all of this, thanked Kevin profusely and shook his hand with a goofy grin on my face.

So… WorldCon 2017 in Helsinki just wrapped up (I was not there, so no bar stories for this year), and my novel is coming out soon. Most likely in September from what I’ve been told.

I said I’d talk about patience a bit. Here it is. Get some. Get lots of it, to be honest. The publishing industry is slow. I’m not complaining about it. It’s just the nature of the beast. There’s a bit of “hurry up and wait” going on, but mostly it’s just “wait.” As you can see, my deal took a full year to develop and then another year for the deal to turn into a novel. That’s really not abnormal from what I’ve heard from others. Yeah, there are the lightning strikes that break the mold and someone gets published six months after the ink dries on their contract. These are the exceptions, not the rule.

So… What’s next?

We wait for the book to be launched. I do plan on having a few signings in the Colorado Springs, Monument, and Denver areas. I also hope to make a few more conventions as part of the booth that sells WordFire titles. Stay tuned here for announcements on that. I’ll probably be adding an “appearances” page to the site. Also keep an eye on my social media (look in the upper right corner of any of the pages here on my site for links). Lastly, I’m hoping to land on some podcasts that’ll have me on to chat and talk about the book and just have a good conversation.

BTW: If you haven’t clicked on the image yet to see the larger version… WHAT ARE YOU WAITNG FOR? Go click. NOW! It’s gorgeous!


Overdue WorldCon Report and Publishing Announcement

MidAmeriCon IISo…. WorldCon was over three weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to this. Most things are a hazy memory at this point, so this’ll probably be the world’s shortest WorldCon wrap-up report.

The drive from Colorado to Kansas City was long and interesting. We got a little lost at one point (there is a Hays, KS, and a Hayes, KS. Make sure you know the difference!). Not a big deal. It only added 45-ish minutes to the overall drive. Then again, I was a passenger all the way there and back, so I didn’t worry too much about the drive time. (PS: A huge thanks to Patrick for driving all the way there and back!)

Once there, we got settled in and prepped for several days of con and BarCon and festivities and networking and panels and all sorts of great things.

I got to run into old friends, make some new friends, network with some folks (old and new), and just have a great time. The panels I went to were really good (except for one, more on that later). The Hugos were surprisingly pleasant to attend even though I really didn’t want to go. I’d been full up on my people quota and wanted some downtime. Shannon and MB talked me into coming down from my hotel room and heading off to the Hugos with them.

I had some great meals with great friends. I’d love to try to list everyone off here, but I know I’d forget someone possibly offend them. To avoid accidental offense, I’m just going to say it was great breaking bread with everyone around the various tables of the con.

BarCon was BarCon. It went as I expected (except for one thing, more on that later). Meet ‘n’ greets with new friends, old friends, and just friends in general. It was a great time being a social butterfly and floating around with a drink in my hand. So many faces and names flash by in my memories. Many of the names I remember. Some I don’t. After all, it’s been three weeks. I had a great time chatting with everyone I ran into. Again, no names to dodge that “offense bullet.” If you ran into me and chatted, just know that I had a great time for the either brief moments we were together or the longer times we had sitting down.

My main disappointment was that I didn’t get a chance to run into Neil Clarke or Kate Baker. They were high on my list of folks to track down and hang out with, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Ah well. Such is life at a large con.

A few things stood out in my memories:

Hanging out with Teri and Dave Robison on repeated occasions made for wonderful conversations and productive idea generation on all sides of the conversation. Also, the true compassion and depth of love Dave shows for everyone around him makes me proud to call him a true friend.

Mary Robinette Kowal broke my brain. Innocently on her part, but it still happened. Here’s what happened. I was talking with Alasdair Stuart (host of PseudoPod) and Marguerite Kenner (hostess of Cast of Wonders) and was tracking the very cool conversation well despite being used to hearing both voices come out of my car stereo. Then Mary Robinette started speaking to someone behind me, and I didn’t know she was there. It shutdown my brain. Hard. The cognitive dissonance of three podcast voices (Mary Robinette is part of the Writing Excuses team) in my brain and only two being part of my active conversation just broke me. I recovered quickly enough, but man… What a mental feat that was!

The drive home was fast. Then again, I was snoozing on and off for part (most?) of it, so that helps. 🙂

Ok. Now that I’ve given over all thoughts and some specifics, there are two things I earmarked as “more on that later.”

There was a panel (forget the topic now) I’d been looking forward to. The moderator arrived right as the panel was supposed to start. She proceeded to allow the panelists to introduce themselves (which is normal and expected), and then she took the panel in a sideways direction away from the description of the topic and refused to allow the other panelists to speak. It wasn’t a diatribe or screed or soap-box speech. She decided she was the subject matter expert on the off-base topic, and just went with it. She also… talked… really… really… slow… and… had… to… stop… every… three… or… four… words… to… catch… her… breath. After about 8 minutes of this, I got up and left. I couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if the actual panelists had a chance to speak or not. If you are moderating a session at a con, it should be an absolute requirement for you to go read this post by Chuck Wendig and scroll down to #5 on the list!

WordFire Press Contract HeaderNow for the Big News of WorldCon (for me, at least). At the Friday night BarCon, Kevin J. Anderson approached me about a book that I’d submitted to his publishing house (WordFire Press) shortly after last year’s WorldCon. He gave me a verbal offer of publication for one of my novels on the spot. Wow! I was hoping something like that would happen, but I rarely set myself up to expect something like that will happen. This made my WorldCon even more special than it already was. I loved hearing the words from KJA, “We’d like to publish your book.” I’m not sure who was smiling more, me or him. What made the deal even sweeter was the fact that Dave Butler (the WordFire Press acquisitions editor) made a huge deal about it all weekend. As a matter of fact, the entire WordPress team made me feel at home, welcome, and special throughout the con. It really made me feel like I’d finally gotten to the next level with my writing. Here’s to a long and happy relationship between WordFire Press and myself! *clinks glasses*

Escape Artists

Rolling back the history reels to June of 2008, I received a recommendation for a good horror podcast from Hank Snider. He vastly understated the quality of the stories, narration, production value, and editing done on these stories.

The podcast was PseudoPod and it had just released its 93rd episode, a story called, “The Land of Reeds.” As I usually do, I downloaded the past 10 episodes and listened to them in order. I fell in love immediately, and ran through their web site downloading every episode. (Sorry for the bandwidth bill you had that month.) Many of the stories were hits with me, some of them didn’t quite hit the mark for me, but they were all entertaining and thought provoking. The story that, to this day, still has the most impact on me is “Flat Diane.”

I kept downloading episodes as they were released, and after burning through the 100-some-odd episodes in a massive binge-listen on my daily commute, I caught up. I felt, well, cold and alone in my car. Something was missing because I no longer had a massive backlog of stories to consume. Then Alasdair Stuart (the host at the time, who would become the eventual owner of Escape Artists) mentioned the sister podcasts called PodCastle and EscapePod. PodCastle was somewhere in the 30+ episodes, but EscapePod (the original started by Steve Eley) had hit high marks at around 170+ episodes.

All three of these live under the umbrella of Escape Artists, and I know my life would be a more empty place without the wonderful stories released into the world by everyone who tirelessly works (some without pay!) on each and every single episode.

I’ve mentioned my favorite PseudoPod episode. I’ll do the same for the other two.

The story PodCastle ran that hit me the hardest was one called, “Sundae” about a guardian teddy bear. Seriously. A guardian teddy bear. It’s not flippant. It’s not childish. It’s the rawest story of protecting another I’ve ever come across. The performance given by Dave Robison in this incredible story brought me to tears. I came near crashing my car on my commute no less than three times during the near-hour the story ran.

Now, picking my favorite EscapePod episode is more difficult because they just crested 500 episodes. Yep. You’re reading that right. Five Hundred. In the podcast world, a series is considered fairly successful if they can hit 50. EscapePod has ten times that amount. Holy cow! I’ve had to think long and hard about this one, and I’m going to pick Dave Thompson‘s reading of “Flowers for Algernon.” Again, my car almost ended up in the same physical space as another throughout the episode. The powerful narration at the end of the episode forced me to pull over in a gas station just so I could bawl like a baby without fear of running over someone. This happened to be while I was on a run to the airport to pick someone up for our annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference earlier this year. I’m pretty sure I had collected and composed myself before they got off the plane to meet me because they didn’t ask me if I was okay or anything like that. Perhaps they attributed the red, puffy eyes to the stress of helping run a conference.

To this day, I’ve listened to every episode Escape Artists has put out, except one. Alasdair was nice enough to put a trigger warning about graphic suicide at the start of an episode of PseudoPod. I skipped it. I had to. I apologize to the author of what I’m certain was a fantastic story, but that’s a little too close to home for me.

Now that the metacast (parts one, two and three) is released into the world, I talk about how incredibly thrilled I am to see Cast of Wonders joining the EA family sometime in the next 6-12 months. I just added it to my iTunes feed and will update my Podcast Page here in a bit to link to it permanently. In other news, EA is launching a new online magazine called Mothership Zeta, and it looks like it’ll be going live almost any moment now.

I’m going to close out by thanking everyone who has made EA great in the past, is still with EA, and I look forward to many more years of listening greatness.

Thank you.

Belated Worldcon Recap

Sasquan-logoThe 73rd annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) was named “Sasquan” this year and was held in Spokane, WA, USA from August 19th through the 23rd of 2015.

Patrick Hester bugged me back in February to ask if I was going and if I wanted to split a hotel room with him. I put numbers together, built a budget, and quickly decided that I could go if I could convince my wife to let me run away for a week or so. I put together great arguments in my head, and readied for the “verbal battle” that was to ensue. When I called her to ask if I could leave her and the kid alone for a week, she said, “Sure. Have fun.”

That was that. I was on my way to Worldcon. My first Worldcon!

Fast forward to August, and Patrick and I are off to Spokane to enjoy the convention. I should have written this blog post soon after returning, but it wasn’t in the books for me to have the spare time until now. This means I’ll bullet point some of the highlights and my thoughts at various points.

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Great panel of Violence in Writing with Rory Miller, Carol Berg, and a few other folks whose names are slipping my mind right now. All four on the panel did a wonderful job.
  • I ran into Dave and Teri Robison in the hallway. They had just arrived in town, and I got to welcome Dave and Teri to Worldcon before they even hit the reg desk! If you haven’t checked out Dave’s work, head over to the Round Table Podcast, or check out his other ventures at WonderThing Studios. Dave and Teri are incredibly energetic and enthusiastic about everything they do. Seeing them boosted me up from an energy slump just when I needed it.
  • I got to see Patrick read part of a novella (long short story?) he’d written a few years back. He did a good job of capturing the voice of the story during this reading.
  • I attended a reading for Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, and his playing around with prime numbers in his story captured my imagination.
  • I practically stalked Wesley Chu until he signed my books after his reading in which he more acted the parts rather than reading the prose. Of course, he has an acting background, so this did not surprise me as well. Wesley is an incredibly cool guy, and I’m overjoyed that he won the Campbell award (more on that later).
  • I got to meet Robert Silverberg and get him to sign my copy of The Man in the Maze. This was a great highlight of mine. I’ve loved the book since I was in junior high, and I’m pretty sure that one novel helped save me from myself back in the day.
  • I also landed (after some additional stalking) three autographs from Mike Resnick. I made sure to reach out to my old roommate (who introduced me to Mike’s writing) and let him know about the autographs to make him jealous. It worked.
  • I met so many great people who were incredibly gracious to me. Some I caught names of. Some I didn’t. If you remember my face/name from Worldcon, thank you for making it a wonderful experience!
  • I bought way too many books from some great authors and booksellers. I think I blew my budget on day #1.
  • I hung out with Alicia and Patrick at almost every meal, and the enthusiasm between the two kept me going.
  • Fantastic meals at the Saranac Public House! (Great gluten-free stuff, too!)
  • I ran into an acquisition editor with Edge Publishing while hanging out in the dealer room. I was trying to get a better look at some jewelry for my wife. She was waiting for someone to show up and give her the dealer badge she needed. While we did our respective waiting, I fired up a conversation with her (no, I’m not afraid to talk to strangers), and we chatted for a while about writing, publishing, reading, loving words, and so on. At some point during the conversation, she decided she liked what she heard about my writing and asked me to send her the first three chapters of both of my “first” novels (e.g.: the first book in two different series). Wow. I totally didn’t expect that! I’m still shocked at the request, but not so shocked that I didn’t follow-through.
  • I participated (as part of the audience shouting questions at the panel) in the live Ditch Diggers show.
  • I went to Worldcon with about 100 business cards. I came home with 4. My business cards mostly contain my information, but there is a bit on the side about Pikes Peak Writers since I’m the president of the organization. A vast majority of the cards were given away on behalf of PPW, not myself. Big names in writing, publishing, editing, and so on approached me (some of them even partially stalked me to track me done) to talk about coming to our conference in April to be on faculty. Me! I had people that are huge in the industry seeking little old me out. I’m still floored and flabbergasted by this. Even though the convention has been over for almost  month, I’m still trying to process this fact.
  • On one of the days (Friday?) there was a two-hour meetup with many of the Escape Artists crew. These are the fine folks that bring you stories from EscapePod, PseudoPod, and PodCastle. They also have big things coming soon, but I’m not going to post it here. They announced it (and recorded it) at the meetup, but I’m not sure they’re ready for the news to go public until they release it, so I’m sitting tight on the info. It was an immense pleasure to hang out with Dave, Teri, Wilson Fowlie, Alasdair Stuart, Marguerite Kenner, MK Hobson, Mur Lafferty, and so many more people that I’m forgetting names of right now. It was a blast. I had such a good time during those two hours looking up (short chair) at so many people that I look up (figuratively) to.
  • I took four decks of Magic: The Gathering cards with me. I played zero games. I had too much fun doing other things to pull them out. Next time, I take maybe one, probably zero decks with me.
  • Hanging out with the fellows from WordFire Press was a top-notch time. Thanks to Peter, Dave, Josh, Quincy, David, Alexi, and the others for the warmth and hospitality.
  • Congrats to Helsinki for winning the 2017 Worldcon bid.
  • I went to my very first Hugo award ceremony. It was a surreal experience because of the pre-drama, during drama, post-drama, five “No Award” awards given out in separate categories, and being in a room packed with literary madness. I’m not getting into the drama at all. I kind of wish my first live Hugo experience had been more normalized, but I was there for history. Let’s hope it’s history that doesn’t repeat itself, eh?
  • I got to hang out with Cat Rambo and “talk shop” for a brief bit about being president of a nonprofit organization. We swapped info with the promise to stay in touch and help each other out in times of needing advice or idea bouncing.

I’m certain I’m forgetting something. Something more. Someone else. I’m sorry if things have slipped my mind, but it’s been too long (my fault) since Worldcon for me to remember more details.

A final thanks goes out to Patrick for getting me to go to Worldcon and for making it such a fantastic experience.

I can’t wait for next year!