Hot Space Station Justice

Bought a self-pubbed book just the other day.


Being a self-published author myself, I thought I’d show some solidarity. I mean, why not? The book was ‘highly recommended’ on a site that reviewed mine, and I figured I’d help a brother out, ya know? I had this little vignette spool out in my head: we could promote each others work, trade Amazon reviews, cross link on our blogs/websites, become like brother writers in arms and hang out together at conventions. Do writing seminars together, talk shop… all that sort of gritty, street artist, Cinderella-story fantasy stuff.

There I go thinking again.

I wanted to like it. I tried to like it. Really. I was determined to like it. The first few pages were muddled, but I persevered. It didn’t get better, but I kept reading. I was going to like this book, by God. Every time I turned another page I willed it to improve.

I made it all the way to page 100.

It had a decent, if stock, post -apoc premise. Now that’s an over-used backdrop, but still a solid one because there’s bucket-loads of potential yet to be wrung out of it. Problem was the story bumped down the runway but never took off. The characters fell quickly into 2D stereotypes, the story meandered into a re-fried role playing game scenario. The writing was vague, redundant, verbose to the point of tediousness, and broke every rule of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”. As I slogged along, I found myself following the story less and less, and reaching for a red pencil more and more. Eventually, I couldn’t go on.

I think the worst thing was that most of the mistakes could have been easily avoided by a decent proofreader and running it through another draft. Even if the author had read some of the chapters out loud to himself, he’d have heard and cleaned up mucho clunkiness.

Now I know the excitement and pride of writing a book. You type those words “The End” and you think, “Oh my God. I did it. I wrote a flipping novel! I’m gonna be like, famous, and get an agent and an advance and maybe even movie rights and people are gonna email me and say how cool it is. And how cool I am. And, and, and…”

Problem is a good book isn’t so much written as it is re-written. You have to edit. Cut. Rearrange. Polish. Cut more. Re-work scenes until they line up lean and mean, ready to rock. And when that’s done, you hand it off to someone else who will catch the things you missed. The goal isn’t just finishing, but a finished product. That means quality.

I’m not trashing the guy for trying. A+ for effort, dude. We’re all at different places on the learning curve, figuring this out as we go along. Next time though, take a deep breath, count to ten, and hire an editor. You’ll be doing yourself, your readers, and fellow authors a huge favor.

And no, I’m not going to give you the title. Sorry.

I like Speculative Fiction

(Or, Why did SyFy drop Caprica?)

I’ve always found history fascinating, particularly military history, not just because there’s tanks and other cool, manly gadgets, but because history is really about people acting and reacting in the face of enormous social currents and events. I don’t mean to be cavalier in the face of war’s brutality and devastation, but it’s a crucible that brings out the best and worst in human nature.

I enjoy speculative fiction – mostly sci fi – for the same reason. There is immense creativity and detailed imagination that goes into “world building”. I can’t help but respect that. But good spec fiction does the same thing: it projects those huge currents forward, creates new cataclysmic events, then drops people in the middle. Take Gibson’s Mirrorshade Trilogy, the re-imagined BSG, Fringe, the current miniseries “The Walking Dead” or the fascinating BSG prequel “Caprica”… regardless of whether it’s emergent AIs and virtual reality, a robot rebellion, alternate dimensions, a zombie uprising, or social and religious tension, they were/are about people. The science, the tidal forces of nature and society, the events, are the backdrop, the catalyst, that brings out primal elements of their nature, and these characters either grow or shrivel according to their decisions.

SyFy dropped Caprica because of poor ratings. Come again? I found the show extremely well written and acted, very insightful, and thoroughly engaging. Characters struggling with family tensions, death, grief, religion, advanced technologies, terrorism, corporate intrigue, organized crime… what’s not to draw you in? Being a Christian, the monotheist/polytheist tension certainly got my attention, but I found it’s one of the few shows that actually stimulates cerebral activity. Supposedly there wasn’t enough space ships and explosions, (and sexy blonds) for the “young adult male demographic”. What a shame.

Thankfully, a Canadian network, SPACE, will be carrying the rest of the season.

Conan – the musical

Arnold was the epitome of testosterone-drenched action flicks when I was growing up. I remember watching this film and thinking I needed to pump more iron. And learn how to sword fight. And find a way to get a battle axe. Found this today and thought I’d share.

Review at SFBook.com

Antony over at SFBook.com graciously agreed to review “Running Black”. I’m honored that he read it at all, let alone gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Many thanks. And if you’re looking for new books to read, head over and go through the recommendations. Well worth it.

Read it here

Another (good) review.

Illustrated Running Black

Hired another excellent artist, Javier Garcia, who will be providing illustrations for various chapters. I’ll post these as I get them, and will keep commissioning him as long as the money lasts. (so buy the book, please)

Check out the “Illustrated Excerpts”.

Here’s a link to his personal website:

Mixed Content part II: Cloistered or Realism?

Someone asked recently why I couldn’t write “nice Christian stories”. Answer: because I can’t.

There’s a tendency of modern western evangelicals to cloister, or enclave. Christians only associate with other Christians, go the Christian Schools (or home school) work for Christian companies, live in Christian communities, shop at Christian stores, read Christian books, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV… It’s safe, it’s predictable, controllable to some extent, and it’s a fantasy. The salt stays in the saltshaker and the light is safe under its bushel basket.

Life isn’t Disneyland. For most of the world, life isn’t even America, and for much of America, life isn’t suburbia. This is my Father’s world but it is not Christian. The real world is a messy, dangerous, beautiful place. Now I believe God has a passionate concern for His creation and the Gospel is the mind-blowing news that He offers genuine forgiveness to real people who have committed real sins in our real world. The struggle is to accept that with all it’s brutal ugliness and awesome wonder, and effectively pass it on.

“Running Black” is fiction, but I made an effort to include Christian characters in an organic way in realistic settings. I wanted to avoid creating a “scary but safe” adventure, as if it were some sort of theme-park ride where you’re titillated but not touched as you wind towards the happy ending. I wanted more “gritty realism” than goose bumps. I included a bit, a tiny bit, of abrasion and discomfort; not gratuitously, but because I felt (believe it or not) a conviction to do so. This conviction of realism factored in everything from my decision to avoid light sabers, aliens, FTL space-travel, to name real cities and companies, as well as to let my non-Christian characters say and do non-Christian things. Explicitly. But I wanted the Christianity to be just as explicit.

Did I execute that conviction in my first novel perfectly? No. But my inability to do it perfect wasn’t an excuse to leave the task undone. I’ve got more stories inside and I pray to get better as I continue.

Final Cover

Went with the fade bar and subtitle ’cause it just seemed right. I’m waiting on the final mechanical edit that hunts down typos and backwards apostrophes, then the manuscript will be formatted, uploaded and released. I’m told it takes 6-8 weeks to wend it’s way thru distribution channels before it appears on Amazon and B&N, so I’ll be working furiously towards a pre-Christmas release. The final, final version will also include a teaser chapter from the sequel “Shift Tense.”
Thanks to everyone for their support.

Running Black at Lulu

Advance copies available at Lulu if anyone’s interested. See link on right.
Thank you.

Second Read and Review

I’ve been sending Advance copies to review sites in anticipation of November’s release. I’m told as a writer I need rhino skin because not everyone is going to love my book (tasteless cretins) but it’s nice the second read and review was positive too. Here’s the link, this time from Shelly Bryant at a Christian fiction site:

HERE