Audio shorts

So, my friend Russ is getting into voice work.

This is great on a number of levels. He never has time to read as much as he’d like, and prefers audio books. He’s not alone.

I loved audiobooks when I used to commute. A great audiobook is, in some cases, better than the read version. There’s nuances and inflections that you might not have even imagined with your eyeholes. To have someone read these things aloud not only exposes certain angles of the prose, it also provides a flavor you might not always get when reading silently. Take for example, Stephen Briggs narrating any Terry Pratchett novel. Or take the audiobook of THE DIAMOND AGE.

Reading aloud is also one of the go-to suggestions when editing your own work. Your brain picks up things your eyes miss when you hear the words aloud.

The last and best part was that Russ chose one of my own short stories to read, my most recent one, in fact. This story.

You can check out his fledgling voice narration here.

worststory: A dot matrix printer as big as the moon

THE UMBRAL WAKE is coming along and should be up for preorder soon if you’re interested. In other news I am writing things. Which is maybe not really news, but some days getting words out there is like pulling teeth for me. It’s easy after a few million words to start feeling like you are just spinning your wheels writing the same crap day in day out.  So sometimes I spend time on reddit. That’s where I found /r/worststory.

 

Worststory is a subreddit where people provide the most terrible idea for a story and challenge people to write it. So a writing prompt grabbed me and I went with it. A dot matrix printer as big as the moon appears in orbit, driving everyone mad with its noise.

 

I figured what’s the point of writing it if I don’t share it.

Direct link here if you’d like to upvote and feed me karma:

http://www.reddit.com/r/worststory/comments/2h8mcr/a_giant_really_really_huge_like_as_big_as_the/ckqnjsq

 

Otherwise, enjoy.

Ginny was concerned. Not because of the fact that it was there, but because nobody seemed to be asking the right questions: How did it get there? Why can we hear it when it’s in space? Where did it get the paper?

The neighbors were to first to be effected as far as she knew. The Barkers had been usually pretty quiet, for the most part, an elderly couple who read their newspaper and sometimes drank lemonade out on the porch. Gerald drove an old MG which he babied for as long as Ginny could remember. Margaret liked to crochet.

When the tapping began, most people ignored it, listening to the news with mild curiosity, and taking to heart the news that despite the noise, the orbital object was really nothing to be worried about. Pictures had begun to arrive on the news feeds and aggregators–a large, blocky shape with a round nodule at one end. It was feeding on something wide and flat. Scientists estimated it was somewhere around the size of North Dakota. And there was the noise.

Thump! Thump!

And of course, the biggest realization of all. That we were not alone.

The tapping was thick, ponderous, like a jackhammer in slow motion. It wasn’t a consistent sound either, hammering an almost random pattern, making the birds panic and crash into windows, causing deer to run into traffic and whales to beach themselves, causing insects to sometimes be unusually active at night.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thumpity-Thump!

Ginny began to lose sleep.

As did the Barkers.

It’s funny, Ginny thought, how when something completely unusual happens, people seem to react in two ways: adapt and accept it as the New Normal, or blame something, anything, anyone.

In the case of the Barkers, she guessed Margaret was maybe a little of both. Maybe it was just one more thing to break the camel’s back.

Thump! Thump!

“DON’T TELL ME YOU DON’T SNORE!” The screams soared over the picket fence and into Ginny’s living room window. “YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN THE ORBITAL! YOU SNORE LOUDER THAN A BEAR!”

“And how would you know what a bear snores like?” Gerald said, his voice almost a whisper between Orbital thumps on the night air.

“YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN!”

Thump! Thumpity-Thump!

“Margaret–“

“DON’T MARGARET ME! FORTY THREE YEARS! FORTY THREE!”

“Margaret… Margaret! Put that down! Don’t be daft!”

There was a moment where Ginny thought maybe she had listened to him, putting down whatever it was, a moment where maybe the Barkers would go back to the New Normal the way they all had. But it was the gunshot that got Ginny to put her coat on.

Thump!

The night air was humid, the Thump! Thump! Thumpitty-Thump! of the orbital just loud enough to be heard, too deep to ignore. It rose in the evening sky, a second, boxy moon, its form swallowing a full quarter of the night sky. Ginny almost stopped there on the driveway just to stare at it, until she heard the sobbing.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” More sobs followed, obscuring the words as Ginny pushed the door open.

Gerald lay there on the floor, bathed in the glow of the TV, his eyes open, mildly surprised as he stared up at and beyond the ceiling.

“I’m sorry!” Margaret called, one hand on her mouth, the other hand hanging limply at her side. The gun hung from her finger, swaying just to the point of slipping. It fell, hitting the floor with a clatter, and Margaret looked at the door, at Ginny.

Thump!

“Margaret…” Ginny took a step inside, her throat closing on itself in fear as Margaret looked form her, to Gerald, to the TV.

CNN was on, the banner scrolling below, the anchor speaking about the Orbital, what it could mean.

“I don’t know why I did it,” Margaret said. “I just…”

Her voice trailed off then, her eyes fixated on the screen. Ginny turned too.

The thumping had ceased. A cameraphone pointed at the sky showed the giant sheet had emerged from the other side, slowly rotating into view. Ginny didn’t wait for the TV. She didn’t want to see it on TV. She wanted to see it for real.

Outside the sheet glowed like snow against the purple sky, the stars a backdrop to the image slowing working its way into view.

“What… what does it mean?” Margaret asked, her voice almost rising to a hysterical pitch. “What is it?”

Ginny knew. She’d known what it was for years. She took Margaret’s hand and whispered in her ear.

“Dickbutt.”

http://i.imgur.com/tzgxM5R.jpg

 

 

 

 

Free books and updates

 

So.

I am finally wrapping up production on the second book in the Skyla Traveler series, entitled THE UMBRAL WAKE. It should be out in the next month and I’m both relieved and a little exhausted. YOu can get the first book, A LATENT DARK for free this week.

You see, I’d never written a sequel before, and as it turns out, there are a lot of ways to massively fuck up a second book. I am guilty of a few of them, and as a consequence, the initial Beta read was not great. You see, sequels are weird in that you already have the universe laid out for you. If your big kick in the first book was in discovering the world, then I got news for you: the second book is going to feel like a chore. Sequels force us to dig deeper, try harder, and show the reader something they haven’t already seen. Here’s a few things I took away from writing my first sequel:

 

1. Every ending is a beginning – Did everyone end up with exactly what they wanted at the end of the first book? Well, then we have a problem. See, stories need to go somewhere and when you end your book on the happiest of endings, it doesn’t leave much room to improve upon things. Every solution has a problem, so what problems does the ending of your first book set you up for?

2. People need to be reminded of just who the characters are again – A LATENT DARK (currently free on Amazon until sept 12th) had a lot of characters. I found myself discovering characters faster than I knew what to do with them. THE UMBRAL WAKE even picks up on a few side characters readers might not even remember from the first book. You have to give some point of reference so that everyone knows who is who. This could be as simple as a sentence or two…

3. But don’t obsess with backstory – The biggest problem I had with THE UMBRAL WAKE was refraining from going overboard with backstory. Yes, Scribble was a side character in the first book, but that doesn’t mean we need an entire chapter dedicated to him that takes place before THE UMBRAL WAKE even really begins. Too much backstory takes away from the momentum of the book.

4. Keep the ball rolling – The point of a sequel is to give readers a continuation. It’s about keeping the momentum of the first book and letting it move along naturally, while at the same time providing deeper insights into the characters. Not to harp on backstory, but too much of that crap and you’ve just stopped your story cold.

5. Dig deeper – Sequels are your opportunity to show how your characters cope even when they think they’ve won. It’s a chance to blindside them (and the readers) into situations they hadn’t predicted.

6. Formula can be dangerous – Your hero defeated a dragon in the first book. Don’t just give them a bigger dragon in the second. There has to be a deeper threat, one that spans the theme of both books combined. Otherwise you’re just writing stories that become as predictable as an episode of HOUSE. The HARRY POTTER series is a good example of what to do. Even thought Rowling kept the theme consistent, the threats were both new and old. Sure it was a basilisk in book two, werewolves in book four, but the deeper, consistent threat was that Voldemort was growing stronger, giving us all that slow build of anticipation to the final battle. Sequels have to carry that momentum through and leave us wanting to read the next one as well.

7. There still has to be theme- Just because you don’t want to be boring doesn’t mean you can throw curveball after curveball. You’re writing a larger chapter of a bigger story. You still have to keep things within plausibility.

8. Every solution has a problem – Your character sealed that door to the netherworld, but she borrowed the nails from a spectral hardware salesman who wants them back. Or maybe you blew up the enemy city which was about to unleash a doomsday device. Well, good job; now that city is in ruins and overrun by mutants. Maybe you finally saved the last unicorn from poachers and it’s living happily on your ranch. You’re in for a shock when that unicorn goes into rutt. Fixing one problem doesn’t mean you’ve fixed all problems.

9. It ends when it ends – The good and bad thing about sequels is that they don’t have resolve the entire story arc. They can be bridges, but they still have to lead somewhere. You don’t have to cram five books of story into it, but at the same time, you have to give the readers some degree of closure. Endings don’t have to be final, or happy, but they have to be satisfying and interesting.

10. Character is still king – Your characters are the vehicles of your story. If you are driving your readers around in an uncomfortable, stinky, shitbox of a car, or a boring beige sedan, it will matter. People stick with stories because they care about the characters. If you’ve given them nothing to care about, they are under no obligation to care about your book.

11. It must, MUST be interesting – This is maybe the vaguest and most honest rule in fiction writing. It can be a five page run-on sentence, it can be an army of prepubescent bear cubs in New York, it can be the self-discovery of a cricket finding itself on the back of a naked gigolo. None of that matters. All that matters is that it’s interesting, whether it be the writing, the prose, the structure, the character, the ideas. Boredom is death for a novel.

 

Anyway, I’ll be promoting THE UMBRAL WAKE a lot more in the upcoming weeks, including a cover reveal soon. I hope the five of you reading this blog finds this list somewhat helpful.

So I curated a story bundle at StoryBundle

 

I got approached a few months back to not only participate in a horror bundle but to curate it as well. Seeing as I’ve never done bundle curation before, I found the task somewhat daunting at first. Where do you even start? We received dozens of submissions, some of them amazing, many of them difficult to choose from. We managed to narrow it down to these nine books, some of them by authors you’ve no doubt heard of.

http://storybundle.com/horror

All Covers Large

A couple of great things about storybundle is that the books are all DRM free, meaning you’re free to move them from device to device, or share them with friends–though it would be awesome if they bought in as well. The bundle also gives you the option to donate a portion to charity, which makes everyone feel good about capitalism.

 

So swing by if you want to take advantage of it and get yourself some really great books.

STEAMPUNK EXTRAVAGANZA!

 

 

steampunklit

 

 

So there’s this thing going on this week, a steampunk fest, where a bunch of steampunk authors are going to tempt you with their steampunk books. It’s an impressive collection by plenty of solid authors. I had the opportunity to interview one of these authors.

Pauline Creeden is the author of ARMORED HEARTS,  a Victorian era steampunk novel. You can see it there on the graphic next to ALD.

 

1. First, who are you? Introduce yourself.

I’m Pauline Creeden ~ A horse trainer from Virginia who writes for therapy. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, because I have a degree in Creative Writing, and working with horses happens to be very stressful…but it gives me a unique level of expertise when dealing with the Victorian era of Steampunk.

2. As far back as you can remember, what were the first authors who inspired you to decide to become a writer?

The book that sparked my love for reading was Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. When I finished that book, I was so enthralled, that I asked the librarian to recommend me another. She recommended The Secret Garden, which, I’m sad to say I found IMMENSELY boring. But this misfortune lead me to decide then, in the third or fourth grade that I wanted to be an author and write books that weren’t so boring. Through high school, I absorbed all things Poe and Stephen King, and in college, I loved Anne Rice and Oscar Wilde. Overall, I discovered that I enjoyed things dark and fanciful. And that is what I write.

3. Let’s talk process real fast. Would you say you’re more of a gardener or an architect when constructing a story?

Typically I’m a gardener. I nurture and pull weeds, but I hardly even plant what’s there. It just sprouts up and I keep the pretty bits.

4. Tell us a little about ARMORED HEARTS? What’s it about?

When Melissa Turner Lee and I got together to pen Armored Hearts, we wanted to create a Steampunk Fantasy that would introduce the genre to an audience who may not even know what it was. I have written short stories in the genre and have another completed novel that is undergoing edits, so Melissa came to me with her story ideas and we hashed things out together. In general, Armored Hearts is a romance – fae fantasy – set in a Victorian retrofuturistic parallel to our own history.

5. The hero of your story, Gareth, is disabled and faces certain physical and emotional challenges. What challenges as an author, did you find yourself running into, writing a main character in Gareth’s situation? 

Gareth is a sourpuss. He’s surly and spoiled, and tends to hate life and nearly everyone in it. The hardest thing to do? Make him likeable. We did our best…and according to the reviews, some felt we succeeded, others, failed.

6. How do you feel a steampunk setting affected decisions made in the story? Did you set out to write a “steampunk novel” or did the story simply demand that it exist in a steamdriven universe?

For the story to fit properly, it had to be right at the turn of the century. Gareth is a nobleman and needed to be in a time when nobleman mattered. Jessamine is a forward thinking American woman whose intelligence is only supported by her intellectually set parents. The characters demanded the time period, and the freedom added to the period by the use of steampunk technofantasy? Makes the genre unparalleled.

7. Of all the characters in this book, who would you most like to meet/least like to meet and why?

I’d want to meet Thompton. Because in our collective imaginations, he looks like David Tennant. And why? Two words. David Tennant.

8. Tell us a little about the Steampunk Lit Extravaganza and what it means to readers?

Steampunk, like children’s literature, can be as wide and varying as Little Witch and The Secret Garden. Mind you, only one of these two books is considered a literary classic, and it wasn’t the one that I enjoyed reading. Tastes vary as much as there are tongues…or rather minds to do the tasting. So this Extravaganza, to me, was created to take the one genre we all enjoy and expose as many people to it as possible to create new fans of the period.

 

ARMORED HEARTS is available on Amazon.

 

Version

Flash fiction is a story told usually in 1000 words or less.

Version

© 2013 Martin Kee

1.1

And here we are. Jennings is still taking the condensers out of the back compartment, but once he gets those situated, I think we’ll be ready to check in with colony prime and have our first official meeting away from home.

Gotta go grab a shower before the meeting. I feel gross.

1.2

Meeting went well, but Jennings laid it on a little thick. I’m sure the supervisor wasn’t thrilled when he mentioned we’re a week off schedule. She made it clear we need to hustle now if we’re going to be ready for that supply drop. Those drones punch through the fabric of space pretty fast, and we’re easy to miss. Hopefully, we’ll have the beacon ready. Cracker rations only go so far. There isn’t enough mustard in the world…

1.3

As far as colonies go, Ragnarok is small, about three hundred folks, which is a good manageable number. I heard Beta-Nine was packed into their chambers like sardines when they colonized. We’ve come a long way.

Jennings is overseeing the comm deployment, which is good news. That beacon is key.

There are thirty-six human colonies, all founded within the last fifty years. I remember hearing that biological evolution moves in jumps, and I’m inclined to believe technology works the same. They’d only just found a way to punch through to another solar system, and a year later people were building ships. I think it’s fair to say nobody could fucking stand Earth anymore, and who could blame them?

We’d known about this place almost ten years before we could visit. Man, does it feel good to get away from all Earth’s problems.

Hold on, Jennings is here.

1.4

Slight hiccup in the comm array, but you know the saying: tell God your plans for a laugh. Jennings says it fell in the night, but I looked at the tower and there’s clearly some incompetence afoot. Thing was bent like a vine when I went out to it. Solar flares or not, it takes a lot more to bend plasteel than “a fall”. I’ll see if I can get to the bottom of it.

In the mean time, they’re throwing a meet-and-greet tonight with the rest of the rations. I’ve advised against it, but Jennings says, “With the beacon up and running, we’ll have more food than we can eat in our lifetimes this time tomorrow.”

Maybe I can sneak away during the dance and double-check that comm array…

1.5

I could only take a few minutes of that music. Ran off to check on the comm array on the hill. I’d asked if they’d scanned the strats before erecting it this time. Jennings confirmed that it’s solid.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“We looked,” he said. “Nothing but dirt and rock. It’s solid.”

So I figured everything was fine. Well, it’s not.

There’s a cable missing, the cable that connects the beacon to the comm array. Am I making sense now? Yes? The beacon was hooked up, but it was just talking to itself. I’m going to have to figure out how to break the news to everyone. Probably need to go tell them now before they eat all the rations. Then I need to wash up and talk to Jennings…

1.6

People are disappointed, but they understand. We’ll start from scratch with what we have now, maybe send out parties to find edible plants. The fauna here is scarce, and they assured us there’s nothing much bigger than a housecat out in those woods, but we’ll send weapons with them just the same.

In the meantime I’m going to discuss our situation with the supervisor tonight and hopefully they’ll send another supply drone.

Fucking Jennings…

1.7

Jennings was found dead today at the comm tower. We’re not sure what it is, but his hands are bleeding and covered in some kind of infection, small slivers of black can be seen under the nails, like he’s been clawing at something, but we aren’t sure what. Doctors should have an answer by the end of the day.

The scouting party returned and with good news. They brought some berries and fruit. We’ll have those tested asap.

I’m also getting a headache from all this stress. I could use a shower.

1.8

The fibers found under Jennings’s fingernails seems to be a kind of fungus. It’s not from Earth. Definitely from here, but they can’t figure out where. Maybe I need to head back to the comm array again.

The good news is that the fruit checks out. People are eating and happy, so that’s good.

Still, I hate the air here. Sticks to you.

1.9

The array is broken again. This time twisted and laying in pieces. There’s no way we’ll get it repaired now. I explained to Phillips, who took over after Jennings.

He just gave me this look. Not sure what that meant.

I washed up and… here’s the thing…

My shower head is filthy, black mold coming off the nozzle in long strands. Also, I found marks after I shaved my head this morning, like someone was clawing at the back of my head. The hairs look an awful lot like those tendrils under Jennings’s nails. Dark. Wiry. I think I’ll take them in to the doc in the morning… on second thought, better not.

2.0

I found the body today, crammed into the cooling duct above my bunk.

I’ve suspected most of the night, and I imagine the crew has too, otherwise they wouldn’t have locked me in my room. But they’re in for a treat once it takes them too. There’s no way to tell when it’s happening. None. Hell, I didn’t even know until I found my own face, staring back at me from this cooling duct.

It’s fine though. We’ll all be better adapted to life here in the end.

For now I’ll just wait.

A new review for A LATENT DARK

Patricia Eddy of Author Alliance gave ALD a 4.5 star review, which makes me feel all fuzzy inside. Or it could be the whiskey.

Read it here if you like.

In other news, things are moving along. The space opera novella (currently titled PATCHER) is due to be back from beta readers and into the hands of editors in the next few weeks, and ALD2 is heading off to an editor hopefully by the end of the month.

In other other news, this current project is killing me. KILLING. ME. I am at the point now where I see very clearly that I will need to once again, re-outline and rewrite from the beginning, perhaps throw out the current world as well, just like I did with BLOOM at around revision 8.  I’m on the third revision of this one, and yeah, I can see the signs. So no I’m torn between the feelings of “I have to finish this no matter what” and “I know now what I have to do to make it better, so do it.” And it’s not a fun place to be.

This book also covers a lot of familiar tropes as well, which I think, is part of the problem. I don’t want this to be “another science fiction book about X that reminds you of that other book that did it better.” I want to break some new ground on this, and that birthing process is often painful and destructive. But my wife is gone all this week, so I might find myself with nothing to do but write. Which could be fun, assuming I can stay away from the video games. Maybe I’ll play DISGAEA and just call it research.