Saturday, May 29, 2010

Free at last

I've been in Paris for five days, working like crazy, and finally the conference I've been covering has ended. My wife arrived this morning and vacation has begun. Thank god.

It's been an interesting week. I've gotten a couple of rejections on stories I've submitted, one that was particularly crushing because I thought it was a shoe in. Just shows to go ya. Needless to say, I've resubmitted them.

I got some excellent writing done on the plane over here, wrote episode 9 of the Dark InSpectre, got edits back for episode 5, and wrote some more on the new novel I've been assigned. Also had a brainstorm for the story line, just need to figure out how to make it work.

And I got a proof of my story that's coming out in Abandoned Towers in July, so I've got to make sure to go over that. So a lot of stuff's going on. Did I mention I'm in Paris? More later...

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dark InSpectre, Episode 4

From Paris with love, Episode 4 of In Plain Sight, The Dark InSpectre series, is now up, in which our hero learns there's a new pecking order, and he's on the bottom looking up.

Here's an excerpt:
I kept my expression blank. Sinuous tendrils of thought brushed against my outer consciousness and for an instant, I lost focus and drifted. I gave myself a mental shake and firmed up my shields. My head cleared. No way was I trusting this guy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Off to Paris

My flight is tomorrow at about 5:30 pm. I'm looking forward to a lot of good writing time at the airport and on the 8-hour flight, or at least as long as my computer's batteries hold out. I already did some good writing this morning at my older boy's karate class, which was good since work has been so crazy lately that my mind has not been on my writing that much.

Of course, after I actually get to Paris, I'm going to be insanely busy for the next week until my wife arrives and vacation starts. But I've got this little 24-hour oasis starting tomorrow in which to write, so I will hopefully make the most of it. I plan on finishing off the next episode of The Dark InSpectre and then getting into the new crime novel.

Oh, and I'll still post the next episode of The Dark InSpectre, though it'll be on Paris time. :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest Bloggin'

Hey y'all, I'm guest bloggin' over at Abandoned Towers today, describing real-world events that could be excellent nuggets for fiction stories. check it:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Special Guest, Kelly A. Harmon!

Hello everyone! Today, I’m very pleased to have as my guest blogger award-winning author Kelly A. Harmon here to answer a few questions. Kelly is a former newspaper reporter who still writes non-fiction. In her fiction writing, Kelly’s short story, Lies, was short-listed for the 2008 Aeon Award and her novella, Blood Soup, won the July 2008 Fantasy Gazetteers Novella Contest. Eternal Press released Blood Soup in print and Ebook format in late 2009.

Jason: Kelly, when and how did you start writing fiction?

Kelly: I’ve always written fiction! I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer.

I scribbled constantly in a three-ring binder full of loose-leaf all through grade school. At home, I would use my Mom’s Royal manual typewriter, eking-out one or two typed pages a day before my fingers would smart from those sticky keys. I harangued my parents continually for an electric typewriter, which I finally received for my 12th birthday. That’s when I really started churning out the words. (That’s also when I taught myself to type—I still can’t use my right pinky to shift.)

Jason: What were some of your earliest influences?

Kelly: Several authors were influential in forming my literary tastes: Robert Heinlein, Carole Nelson Douglas, Katherine Kurtz, Terry Brooks. I was reading Heinlein in grade school, thanks to a librarian who steered me in that direction, and I LOVED Edward Eager’s Half Magic and Patricia Coffin’s The Gruesome Green Witch. I still re-read those.

I remember a friend handing me the hardback version of Brooks’ Sword of Shannara over the high-backed seat of the school bus. The dust jacket was missing, the black, cloth binding showed a lot of wear. Obviously, it was well-loved. I loved it, too. I can’t decide if it’s Brooks’ Shannara series, or Douglas’ Six of Swords (which I had to read with a dictionary by my side) that was most influential in steering me toward a life of fantasy.

Jason: I am also a full-time journalist. How do you find the one form (journalism) affects the other (fiction) and/or vice-a-versa?

Kelly: I was worried when took a full-time job as a reporter that writing non-fiction would suck the life out of my fiction. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’m not certain if it was the excitement of the job or the fact that I was already in some kind of “writing zone” by reporting all day, but I found that when I worked as a reporter my fiction output skyrocketed.

In the first three months of writing for the paper, I knocked out the first draft of a novel – about 120,000 words. It was impossible to keep up that output, but I still managed to write a significant amount while employed there. When I stopped reporting, I noticed my fiction output take a nosedive.

I think reporting also educates you about people: You get to meet folks from all walks of life–often in situations they never thought to find themselves in. Talking to people when they’re most vulnerable is a learning experience. Knowing how relationships work, how people react under pressure, and being able to write about it lends credibility to fictional accounts. I don’t think writing fiction affects writing non-fiction as much.

Jason: Your latest release, Blood Soup, can be found at Eternal Press. Tell us a little about it and where the inspiration came from.

Kelly: Blood Soup is a story of murder, betrayal and comeuppance.

The story opens with a pregnant Queen Piacenza. Her husband, King Theodicar naturally hopes for a male heir. But the Queen is from Omera, where the first-born rules, no matter what the sex of the child. This causes no end of friction between them.

The Queen’s nursemaid, Salvagia, casts runes about the birth. Over and over, they yield the same message: “A girl child must rule or the kingdom will fall to ruin.” The women are convinced the baby will be a girl. When the queen finally gives birth, the nurse and the king are equally surprised, and Theodicar is faced with a terrible choice. His decision will determine the fate of his kingdom. Will he choose wisely, or will he doom Borgund to ruin?

I'm an avid genealogist. When I was writing Blood Soup, I was researching the Polish side of my family and putting together a family-recipe book. One of the recipes was for a special-occasion soup called "Czarnina" (char-NEE-nah). In English, it’s referred to as Blood Soup.

Despite the sound of its name, Blood Soup isn't such a sinister thing. There is some blood involved, but it only constitutes a small fraction of what is used to create the broth. The other ingredients are fairly routine and include cloves, peppercorn and fresh apples and pears, which create a sweet-and-sour soup.

As I worked through the plotting process, I acknowledged that blood is a requirement for life. Any great loss of it, and we perish. So, I considered ways by which blood could be used for healing or as a medicinal ingredient. Taking it a step further, I wondered at the efficacy of using blood to save the life of another person: Could blood from a well person pull a dying person back from the brink? Could it strengthen a weak constitution? I looked at whether or not a person could subsist on a diet of mostly blood...human or animal. And, what happens to someone who develops such a taste, so much so that it’s like an addition?

That line of questioning solidified Prince Amalric’s character: He was a weakling as a child and was fed blood to fortify him. He came to crave it as a youngster, often demanding it. He reveals his strong temper—like an addict—when someone has eaten the last bowl of soup which he considers his.

Although King Theodicar set in motion the events which lead to Amalric’s eventual rule, Blood Soup is actually about Amalric, whose blood lust was thrust upon him by a determined father and who must come to realize that he’s not the rightful heir to Borgund.

Jason: What else do you have coming out that you’d like to talk about?

Kelly: My story “Selk-Skin Deep” is available this month in the Bad Ass Fairies 3 anthology: In all Their Glory. It’s an alternate history about the Vietnam War. The hero, Cade Owen is a selke (a Scottish faerie who is a seal, but can shed his skin and become human) who is also a Navy SEAL. He’s assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin and has to...well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

I’ll be at Balticon over Memorial Day weekend for the launch party. I’m also teaching a seminar during the convention on How to Submit Short Work for Publication.

I have a non-fiction chapter coming out later this year in the book “The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal: Undead, Cursed and Inhuman.” It’s a piece about joining or forming a critique group, and how to give a good critique.

Jason: You recently re-published your short story The Dragon’s Clause as a single on Kindle after it appeared in the anthology Black Dragon, White Dragon. How did you go about doing that? Is this something you would recommend for other short story authors?

Kelly: Amazon is smart. They make it very easy for anyone to publish to Kindle: just format your story how you want it to appear and upload to their servers. I spent a few hours trying to make it perfect, but could have done a decent job in far less time.

When I was satisfied with the way it looked, I published it. The hardest part (for me) was waiting 48 hours for the file to wind its way through their servers and into the Amazon search engine.

I did have the cover artwork professionally done by an artist named Crystalwizard. Good artwork is important. It functions the same as the cover of a book in a traditional book shop: A good cover will catch someone’s interest and, perhaps, lead to a sale.

Do I recommend other authors do it? I think it depends on the situation. For me, it was a no-brainer: I’d written a one-off story (dragons not being my usual cup of tea) that I was having no luck selling on the re-print market. I could have held it for a while until the rights of some of my other shorts reverted and packaged them all as an anthology...but those stories are so different...I’m not sure that would have worked.

I’ve got several short stories under submission to various markets right now. If they don’t sell, I won’t put them on Kindle. I like the “legitimacy” of the story having had an editor’s approval first. Just like some buyers won’t purchase a self-published book, I think there will be some Kindle owners who won’t purchase a self-published e-book. But, the line is blurring. I may change my mind later.

Dragon’s Clause is also available at iFiction as HTML. I wanted to offer non-Kindle owners the opportunity to buy it, too. Since a large factor in selling books is “discoverability,” I’m looking for other venues to sell it, too. I think that makes smart business sense.

Jason: What about writing do you find the most challenging, and how do you deal with these issues?

Kelly: Since I work full time and have more than a two-hour commute daily, finding time to write is my biggest problem. I’ve learned to use those little bits of loose time that crop up during the day. For instance, while waiting in line at the post office yesterday, I was able to write a few pages of prose in a small notebook I carry. I scribble away while pumping gas. The moments I love the best are when I’m waiting for someone else to arrive...because I like to arrive early for meetings, and most people I know are usually late. Lots of “found” time there!

I do get a chunk of time late in the evening to write. It’s hard to ignore my inner nag: Put in a load of laundry, dust the bureau, check your email. I turn on music and try to focus on the project at hand. Most of the time, I’m successful.

That’ll wind things up for now. Thanks Kelly for giving us some very interesting insight into your writing and creative process. Feel free to stop by any time. Good luck to you on all your future writing endeavors!

Feel free to check out all things Kelly at the following web locations:

--Twitter: @kellyaharmon
--Facebook Fan Page:
--Amazon Author Page:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Progress, such as it is...

Monday I finally sat down and wrote the opening scene for the novel I've agreed to write. The working title is Metro City, but that's just because I haven't thought of a real title yet. The scene felt good, threads started unraveling and wending their way through my head. I have a lot of elements, but not a clear, defined point A to B to C all the way through plot yet. But it'll come. The only problem is time. I'm going to Paris for two weeks at the end of next week. The first week will be completely exhausting work and the second week will be vacation. I honestly have no idea how much I'll be able to write while I'm there. At least I'll be able to write on the flights back and forth.

Interesting side note, I've found that going down to the gym in the basement of my apt. building represents really good thinking time for the various stories I'm working on. It requires total concentration and clearing my mind of all distractions (so I don't drop a weight on my head), and almost without conscious thought I find new plot elements and scenes playing themselves out in my mind.

Tomorrow is morning karate for my older boy. That means two hours of uninterrupted writing time for me. Yay! So what do I concentrate on? The new novel? Or the Dark InSpectre? Hmmm....

Monday, May 10, 2010

In Plain Sight, Episode 3

Episode 3 of In Plain Sight, the new story arc for The Dark InSpectre, is now online, in which our hero makes a special new friend.

Here's an excerpt:

I risked a quick scan, trying to get some sense of him. What I got made my skin crawl. It was like breathing in something greasy and foul. Oily tendrils of thought slid up against my shields and I started feeling lightheaded and dull. I shook my head, locked down my senses and waited for the sensations to pass.

What was this guy?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

For the second time in a week, a market I've submitted a story to has folded. My reaction? Unbe-f@#*ing-lievable! This one really pisses me off. The magazine, Something Wicked, had my story for a year, a whole goddamn year! The editor says the mag's going on hiatus for the rest of 2010 so he can figure out how to really make it work. He didn't even have the courtesy of e-mailing authors whose submissions he'd been sitting on. I learned about it over at That is just classless. And the notice doesn't even have any language saying something to the effect that all stories are hereby released. Just that submissions and the magazine are closing until futher notice, buh bye.

Yeah, well same to you. Come back, don't come back. I'm moving on. What a total waste. At least I have my story coming out in the July Abandoned Towers Magazine to look forward to. And maybe I'll get an acceptance to the Doomology: Dawning of the Apocolypse anthology I've submitted to. Oh well, what can you do...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Split Personality Writing and Sub Aggravation

At my older son's karate class yesterday morning I all but finished episode 8 of the new story arc for The Dark InSpectre. I was really getting into it and was fleshing a lot out in my head and salivating over all the wicked, nasty stuff I have in store for Jack Garrett and the Spook Squad. And then I stopped my brain and I said, hey brain, hold on there! You need to be thinking about the plot for the mystery/hard boiled crime novel that your incredibly generous editor asked you to write for her small press house. After it sulked for a bit, my brain acquiesced and started branching out along those lines. I have a decent framework and a very good first scene and main character, so things are still preliminary, but going well.

It does, though, illustrate what I foresee as being my primary dilemma, and that is writing and thinking about two distinct, separate but tonally similar stories at the same time. I think things will get a bit better when I get the nascent novel (I can't believe I just said the "n" word) more fleshed out and actually start writing it, but I predict this is something I'll just have to deal with.

In other news, a market I submitted a story to ( finally admitted that it got overwhelmed by submissions and couldn't handle all of them. It therefore cut its wordcount limit in half, thereby rendering most submissions ineligible, and said anybody who wants to re-submit may do so. Now, I have no problem with a publication re-trenching if it's having problems. What I do find aggravating is if it takes five months to figure this out, tying my story up for that long in the process. So now I have to find another market for my story. Oh well, one more thing to do...