01 Jan

2017: A Year’s Wrap Up


What a year.

Well, the TL;DR is that:

I saw a new novel come out, HALO: ENVOY, which seems to have been well-received by fans.

My story High Awareness (written with David Brin) appeared in Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere.

My Patreon story Shoggoths in Traffic was reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine and reviewed by Locus Magazine.

My story Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance appeared in Cosmic Powers. This story is getting so many reprint requests, but the two (of many) that I can share with everyone are:
–The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 12
-The Year’s Best Science Fiction #35

I wrote a bunch more stories for my Patreon, and half a new Fantasy novel. And like every one else, I somehow managed to survive the year. Go us!

Here’s the more in-depth stuff…

World Events


I knew a whole year under the new administration here in the US would be challenging and it was. I saw it hit the creativity of many writers hard. And it wasn’t fun seeing so many people I value being harmed by the administration.

When the election happened, I sat down and wrote a journal entry to myself detailing all the concrete steps I was going to take to have what impact I could against it all. I decided that I wanted to retain my health and energy, something I would not sacrifice as this would be a fight that could take years. During the Bush administration I spent a lot of time blogging and in comments sections. For this round, I focused on calling senators, and then faxing when that became too stressful for me. I sent money, lots of it, to wherever I felt I could make a difference, even though this was a lean fiscal year. Whenever I got frustrated I would turn back to concrete ways to move the ball forward. I’m doing some small local volunteering as well.

So even though I feel I was less involved in the shouting matches online, I’ve done a lot of real life stuff compared to the last time around.

I also was horrified by the disaster response to the hurricanes that hit this year. The devastation is like nothing that had been seen before. I did some interviews and a blog post about how to help that was widely passed around and that I feel got money to some direct places where they needed to be. People who knew I was from the affected area reached out to me and I was able to connect some folk to each other. Again, I tried to focus on ways to help and not succumb to feeling personally helpless.

Even if I am just a drop of water, many of us together can make an ocean.

My Life

2017 was what I consider one of those years where there are no giant successes that leap out, but where the work you do lays the foundation for success that come later.

One, I decided that I would totally jump all in on Bullet Journalling officially just before the start of the year. I kept doing that and found it helpful for keeping the year going strong and organized. Turns out making lists when things go pear-shaped helps me a lot. I’ve been able to cope with this year much better than I had any right to.

Two, I cleaned up the basement and put my office in there, something I had been wanting to do since it had been flooded.

I also cleaned up a section and built a home gym. I also cleaned up another area for tools and lumber. Getting the basement mostly cleaned and organized felt like a major coup.

Three, I hand built a custom PC, something I had wanted to do since I was a kid. I use it to play Kerbal or Civilization. Mostly it sits and mines Ethereum when I don’t use if for a game.

Four, I kept playing Ultimate Frisbee and getting outside as much as I could and moving more, which I noticed was a great mood booster.

My resting heart rate is down dramatically. Like, scary dramatically. I went from the mid 80s as a resting heart rate to the mid 60s, with my Apple Watch claiming that at sleep I frequently now drop into the very low 50s.

Five, I have been experiencing some really bad RSI as a result of years of writing a ton, but also a lot of mousing was starting to wear on me. I decided to take serious steps to reducing the pain instead of just dealing. I finally ordered a Kinesis Keyboard after years of eyeing them. It’s really gone a long way toward reducing pain. But I also set out to learn a whole new keyboard layout called Colemak to help reduce pain from using the laptop keyboard. I’ll write about that more soon.

Meta career stuff

This is some neepery.

At the start of the year I learned that one of the most lucrative freelance gigs I had ever had was being shut down. But, to be honest, that gig had been eating up all my brain time. I had been putting money aside, so I knew that I could take some risks and spend the rest of the year living off savings.

While I hate losing the savings pile, I did need the time to really reset my writer mind. The words, I could drag them out, but they were getting harder and harder. I’d written two novels under a pseudonym and a HALO novel. I had spent three whole years away from living and breathing ideas that were one hundred percent my own, and I learned from that while doing a fun work for hire project once in a while was great, spending three years working hard at a freelance gig for money and putting all my creative work outside my own control really made me feel boxed in.

So I eased back to focus on writing short fiction. Trying to find more joy. And thinking of Tim Ferris’s challenge to himself about work “What would this look like if if were fun?” I decided that I would not work on things that weren’t looking like fun. That isn’t to say I avoided hard or challenging work, I just wanted to avoid a certain level of drudgery that I was starting to feel like was setting in.

In fact, January 2017 was the first time in 17 years of being published that I struggled with core questions about whether all the work was worth it. I did enjoy the wins, but the negative stuff was piling up throughout 2016 to the point where I wondered if it might not work out better to treat writing as a hobby and double down on freelancing to be a more responsible family guy and earner. I’d gotten a taste of what regular, decent income could look like, and it took a lot of stress out of the constant balancing of irregular income, delayed payments, contracts that take forever to negotiate, that come with writing.

Knowing that I was down, I returned to first principles: why did I want to be doing this? Because I loved books. I spent a chunk of time reading at the start of the year. I ripped through audiobooks, played frisbee, and read books at a rate I hadn’t since I was a kid on summer vacation. By the end of February I had my head coming back together and understood I’d been burned out. And while the freelance money had been great, I was seeing lots of people in that industry getting laid off or experiencing stress as bad as mine. So I found a headspace after some rest that let me reset.

I did a lot of writing down thoughts to myself about my mental state about writing. I’d achieved so many of my goals in terms of a career that I’d wanted since I was 13 by 30 that I did find it hard to figure out what the new ‘thing’ I should focus my aim at should be. I’d been dealing with so much business side stuff that all my new aims were contract, reader-sizes, and money related. All of which are good focuses, but in some ways, out of my control and stormy because the tide of how shiny the world finds you comes and goes.

I often tell people, don’t chain your goals to events you can’t control or you end up whipsawed around, feeling unsuccessful because success is out of your hands. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius.

A quote by Henry Miller ended up in my Bullet Journal. “Writing is its own reward.”

What would my daily writing look like if that were true to me? I wondered that at the start of the year. If I focused on writing for fun, and not for outside events, I figured I’d find that contentment again. I needed to follow my own advice and define success very carefully.

In March I decided that I would set out to solve two issues with one project: I created a short story Patreon (I wrote about some things I learned from launching it here) to bring in some steady money while writing stories that were just fun for me. I set a strict time rule for how long each one would take, and focused on joy and experimentation.

That was a confidence builder. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t hoping for the Patreon to get more backers than it did, but being able to write a pre-sold story every month that was just me riffing and cutting loose for fun really got me back into the places I needed.

Another quote from my Bullet Journal: “Anyone who keeps writing is not a failure.” – Ray Bradbury.

Three of the stories from the Patreon have been sold to great markets as reprints. Shoggoths in Traffic, a story I’d wanted to write forever now, ended up on Lightspeed SF.

Shoggoths got reviewed in Locus Magazine, a rare thing for a story created like that.

I started noodling around with some novel ideas in the middle of the year rescued from a fantasy novel proposal from a few years ago that just never left the back of my mind. By June I was building maps in Acorn, a Photoshop-like program, all based off some chapters I’d written up earlier in the year. I test wrote an early chapter and read it at a reading, and it went down well. I began to think that, yes, this was it.

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you want to say. It’s the on and only thing you have to offer.” Barbara Kingsolver

By September, I started working on outlines and ideas with excitement because after all the reading and time to think I found that I had things to say that consumed me fully, and that even if no one ever read the scenes they were once again forming in my head without my demanding them. I was having trouble sleeping because I would lay awake and scenes would play out in my mind’s eye. My old fried, creative insomnia, was back. I welcomed it.

It was time to start a big book again.

I am little over half way through a draft and there is no contract, no expectations or deadline. I found something I really want to see exist and I am making it.

What happens next I don’t know, but writing this Fantasy novel has just been fun, satisfying, and challenging in the all the right ways, and not the stressful ways. It has added to my daily routine, not dragged at it. I hope people get to read it sometime, and that they enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

So I end the year having written 12 short stories, one with a writer I was a big fan of in high school. I am enjoying the daily slog of writing books again, to a point where I feel much like I did when I got into this with passion and enthusiasm. I have half a book written as well.

I have no idea what 2018 holds, how much longer I’ll be able to keep the focus on writing this much before I will need to up the freelancing to balance income, but I found my back after the biggest slump I’ve had since starting this strange vocation.

There are still many things to navigate, and strong headwinds, but I feel like the compass started working again.

And that wasn’t something I felt at the start of 2017. It was just spinning.

05 Oct

Quick Book Review: A Red Peace by Spencer Ellingsworth

So, honestly, I have a to-read pile that could kill a small child. I’m currently looking at 25 books that I really, really want to get to on my to-read shelf in the office. I have 4 books to look at to possibly blurb on my iPad right now. It’s overwhelming.

I ended up getting sucked into A Red Peace even though it’s #26 on the list of books I’ve purchased to read and gotten in the mail because when it came in the mail, I cracked it open and started reading out of curiosity because it was on the table with mail and I had a few minutes. Then two hours later I finished it up before bed. I was a little uncertain of first person POV after a switch from the very quick prologue, but after a couple pages I sunk in and had a blast.

A Red Peace is a fast-paced, rollicking soap opera that is just the sort of thing I love. It’s not a big fat galactic adventure with a thousand points of view, it’s a stiletto of a book that gives you two points of view, drops you into the middle of a story all wound up, and lets the story go.

Like space battles? Got it.

Like creepy aliens? Got it.

Love plucky, blue collar down on their luck types living in the garbage but going on to do great things? Jaqi is that.

There’s more, I promised a quick review, so I’ll wrap up.

Yes, I’m a little less excited about the ‘half-breed human star navigator’ description in the book flap copy, it almost kept me away from buying the book because the term has such a freighted history for me as a mixed race dude, but Spencer shows there is oppression in the world and doesn’t make a landmine of it. I think the publisher mis-artfully used it on the back. I know it’s a long SF tradition, but, meh.

That aside, I gobbled this book up and recommend it, and was bummed I couldn’t pre-order the second book right now because I kinda want to do that before I am given a chance to forget about it.

This was fun, and some escapism right now is really fucking welcome.

12 Sep

Read ‘High Awareness’ a story I co-wrote with David Brin for free online in Overview: Stories from the Stratosphere

I really was a huge fan of David Brin’s Startide Rising in high school. Enough so that when an opportunity came up to collaborate on a short story with Brin, I had to do it just as a way of sending a message back to my 15 year old self to say ‘see the cool shit you’ll be up to in your 30s?’

The opportunity to collaborate on a short story came through the Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination which created an anthology of stories imagining the future of stratospheric ballooning and sub-orbital communications and observation. I promise a rollicking ride.

You can read the story Brin and I wrote for free by going over to the Center’s book page for Overview: Stories in the Stratosphere.

Stratsphere cover bright 01

11 Sep

Cover for my next book ‘The Tangled Lands’ released

TangledLands crop2

Last week Saga released the cover and art for my and Paolo Bacigalupi’s next book project, The Tangled Lands, with a big cover reveal at Tor.com.

Krzysztof Domaradzki is the artist, who created some very evocative and cool art for this book.

TangledLands final

Here’s the official book description:

Khaim, the last great city of a decaying empire, clings to life. The living memory of the empire’s great city of Jhandpara is told in the hovels of the refugee camps across the river in Lesser Khaim; the other cities are buried under cloying, poisonous bramble.

It is a world where magic destroys. Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors’ roof beams, thrusts up from between cobblestones and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more—until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines, monuments to people who loved magic too much. Teams of workers fight a losing battle to preserve the environment against the growing bramble. To practice magic is to tempt death at the hands of the mob, yet the city of Khaim is ruled by a tyrant and the most powerful of defilers, the last great Majister of the world.

Award-winning authors Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell explore a shared world, told in four parts, where magic is forbidden and its use is rewarded with the headman’s axe—a world of glittering memories and a desperate present, where everyone uses a little magic, and someone else always pays the price.

The Tangled Lands will be released in February.

08 Sep

Devastation in the US and British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and How to Help

How to help the Caribbean islands hit hardest by Hurricane Irma:

Other links to local relief in comments appreciated. Some sites were down that I tried to access, so I didn’t link those. Here’s what I came up with.

How to help the US Virgin Islands:

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands raises funds for VI improvement projects and is a local organization. They are taking Irma donations if you type “FFVI” into the memo area when donating. [local US news article talking about CFVI here and USVI rep to congress encourages folks to donate here]

Money sent to St. John Rescue goes directly to first responders on St. John.

The St. John Community Foundation is a local, on the ground group that could use Irma donations for rebuilding St. John.

Many are concerned about animals. The Humane Society of St. Thomas can be found here. St. John animal shelter is here, the ACC.

St. Croix basketball phenom Tim Duncan is matching money up to a million dollars for St. Croix relief efforts. The link is here.

How to help British Virgin Islands:

The Director of Tourism issued a statement that the BVI government was partnering with Pledging to take money for the BVI recovery effort called the BVI Recovery Fund.

VISAR is the volunteer Marine search and rescue group in the BVI and takes donations here.

How to help Anguilla:

Anguilla Beaches has a page documenting all the damage and recommends a donation to Help Anguilla Rebuild Now, which will give all funds to LOCAL Red Cross only, and will audit the funs. You can get to that page here.

How to help Antigua & Barbuda:

The Halo Foundation, an Antigua & Barbuda registered non-profit, is basically an umbrella organization for charities local to the island. They’re taking donations here.

The local chapter of the Antigua & Barbuda Red Cross is looking for donations here.

TickeTing is taking donations here. It’s an island local app.

How to help St. Martin:

The only resources I can find, due to my not speaking French or Dutch (the island is split between these two countries), are the respective regional Red Cross organizations:

Netherlands Red Cross Irma donation site.

French Red Cross Irma donation site.

General Caribbean IRMA disaster relief

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has a PDF for direct donations for IRMA relief at their website. Direct link to PDF here. [American readers, it uses direct transfer, as moving money around different countries is difficult and people tend to use transfers. This may be more useful into my readers who are not in the US]

Double the Donation is doing Irma relief and checks to see if your company matches your donation.

Unicef is also a big organization involved in IRMA relief.

The Red Cross is always involved, though many prefer to give more directly due to negative articles about them recently.

Oxfam is another large charity doing Irma and Jose relief.

About the damage to the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands:

The US Virgin Islands are a territory next to Puerto Rico at the top of the Caribbean Island chain. Most people in the US don’t know a lot about them. Most of the weather coverage hasn’t really pinpointed them because many of the folk working for US news agencies regard the VI as a curiosity.

Here is where they are:


The USVI was purchased almost 100 years ago exactly by the US. The BVI is a British territory. They’re just across from the USVI.


The islands contain some of the world’s most beautiful beaches like this:


And this:


Hurricane Irma is the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic, with winds sustained of 185 miles per hour.

The eye of this passed right over Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands.

Both the US and British Virgin Islands have been devastated on a level that is hard to both convey and imagine.

Here are some of the tweets I’ve posted over the last couple days of some of the information that has come out.

This is Carrot Bay in Tortola


And the latest picture:


More images sent out during the eye of the storm:

Video from Tortola:

Here is damage to Jost Van Dyke:

This is a video from Caribbean Buzz Helicopers that shows more damage in Tortola:

And then this video of The Bitter End Yacht Club area of Virgin Gorda was stunning:

The Virgin Islands aren’t the only ones hit. In Barbuda, a small island off Antigua, destruction was near total:

These islands are all often visited by folk on vacation, who enjoy their natural and curated beauty. Please consider giving back if you’ve ever visited.

05 Sep

Product Recommendation: Hot and Cold Icepack Wrist Braces

IMG 1063

I’ve been hitting the word mines pretty seriously of late, and my wrists have been less than thrilled. I started to think that maybe there was a better solution than just holding an ice pack to my wrist, maybe there was something I could strap on.

Sure enough, I found this on Amazon:

Wrist Support Brace with Gel Ice Pack for Hot and Cold Therapy | Adjustable Wrap, Multi-Purpose, Microwaveable and Reusable (if you click and buy I get a small commission, fyi).


The cooling reduces inflammation after a hard day of typing. The thing that usually gets my wrist is more editing. The use of mouse and keyboard together sometimes flares the wrists up, so I just get out ahead of it by icing to reduce any inflammation.

Weight lifting does more to stop any wrist issues, but I had to ease back due to a messed up shoulder, which then meant the wrists got a bit bothersome. The ice packs after each day of writing while I watch TV did the trick nicely.

I haven’t tried the microwaving heat yet, as that is the trick for getting blood and healing to a stressed area, but the fact that it can do double duty is useful.

04 Sep

Labor Day Cleanup

Today was mostly a day of cleaning up some stuff around my office. Since I put the standing desk in the back has been a mess of cables.

I purchased a cable run tray for under a desk off Amazon and screwed it in today, then started work last in the morning on organizing my million or so odd USB cables and power cables.

The goal was to get them off the floor. I really like the basement office and what I’ve done with it:

But the cables dragging off the back of the desk have been annoying because the concept behind my basement office is that everything is off the floor.

I did that because for one, I just hate anything being on the floor. It leads to chaos and mess for me. Secondly, the basement was flooded once by a half inch of water when Bluffton had one its 100 year floods. Having gone through that, or in the event that a water heater floods the basement (that happened once as well), I wanted my office to be able to be rapidly cleanable.

To that end, I’m slowly putting everything in my office on wheels. The large Ikea divider shelves that split the office from the rest of the basement are on wheels. One of my seven bookshelves are on wheels, I need to put the rest on wheels this month or so. It’ll make it easier to dust for cobwebs and dust, as well as keep walls clean or sweep under them.

So, my desk is easy enough to scoot without wheels if I need to, but the wires all dangling off the back were gathering dust and dirt and looked ugly.

So after an hour or so of puttering around all the cables are nicely wrapped with velcro tie cords and slipped into the cable run, and all the power cords and power outlets are in the tray as well. Only one cable from the outlet runs to a cord, and now it’s easy to sweep around the back of the desk. It’ll also be easy to unplug one cord and pull the desk away from the wall if I need to do anything.

Tidied cables. For some reason I have the biggest sense of accomplishment about that.

Hope all your three day weekends are as exciting.

02 Sep

Shoggoths in Traffic is now available in the September issue of Lightspeed Magazine


So this is cool. Lightspeed Magazine has my first ever Patreon reprinted short story running in their September issue out now. It’s April’s “Shoggoth’s in Traffic.”

This is the story that Rich Horton reviewed in Locus Magazine and called “a clever Lovecraftian crime story” in a complimentary review and call out of my Patreon. He also said “you’ll not think of cloverleafs and other traffic patterns quite the same way after this!”

This issue of Lightspeed contains stories by Marissa Lingen, Timothy Mudie, Genevieve Valentine, Giovanni De Feo, Jaymee Got, Tamsyn Muir, Tony Ballantyne and nonfiction by Amal El-Mohtar, Joseph Allen Hill and has an interview with Theodora Goss. Exclusive paid content is a novella by Elizabeth Hand and a novel excerpt of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, which is a book I’m very much lucking forward to.

I’m really excited about this because it’s a new audience for the story I wrote that would not have existed if not for the folk backing my Patreon. And with both a nice review of the story all by itself from Locus *and* a reprint in one of the top science fiction and fantasy short story magazines out there, I think it demonstrates the stories I’m writing for the Patreon are worth checking out.

01 Sep

August Patreon Short Story: Sunset

Patreon lets me run a monthly short story subscription service for readers. Over 100 of my readers have subscribed to have a short story a month delivered to their inboxes for as little as $1.

The August Patreon short story came out last night, a 6,300 word long classic science fiction story about a headstrong young boy who encounters a starship bent for retirement on his out-of-the-way world.

Here’s a snippet of the story for you:



The starship crash-landed somewhere in the dark and early hours of morning. The thunderclap sound of it striking the East Bay woke Tamuel up, heart racing and confused. He glanced out his window, but didn’t see anything. He stumbled out into the common room to see if he could see anything different from the balcony.

“What was that?” One of his siblings also was apparently out and looking around for the cause of the sound. “There’s no storm.”

Outside, through the windows opened to allow the cool land breeze rushing out toward the ocean to pass through the foundling dorm’s corridors, Tamuel saw only stars and the looming dark of the Berenthais Mountains.

Tamuel squinted through the dark to see that it was Shau who had woken with him. Several of the other boys grunted and swore from in their rooms, annoyed at the late interruption to their sleep. Group classes would start early in the morning, this was an unwelcome event.

“I—” Tamuel stopped as the horrid wail of the tsunami sirens pierced the night.

Everyone woke up and streamed out of their doors, sleep forgotten as fear jolted them awake. There was a mass of panic before some of the prefects, older and well-drilled, asserted order. “Line up! Those of you near the east corridor, march to the stairs and head to the third floor. West corridor, march! Do not go back to your rooms to take anything with you. Move now!”

The thirty boys fell into lines and the entire common room split right near Tamuel into two groups that streamed out into the two stairwells. Emergency lighting, red and calm, dappled their worried faces as they rushed upwards.

Minutes later the water struck. It rushed up Watt Street, just several inches of foaming sea, lapped at the wheels of the carts parked around the dorm, then gently poured out through the storm drains and retreated back down the street leaving only some confused small fish behind.

The warning sirens stopped, leaving a strange quiet to fall over all of Weatherly, from the distant East Bay to the Callum Docks.

They all waited for whatever came next. Some of the second floor girls started to complain about Tamuel’s siblings staring at them in nightdresses. It was creepy. Tamuel understood. They were not all really siblings, they’d all been raised in the foundling dorm together. Go stare at some other girl from Summerstown’s foundling dorm.

“Hey, get off the balcony,” one of the prefects shouted from the back. “We don’t know if something else is coming.”

Shau was pressed against a railing, looking out toward East Bay with night vision binoculars. “Nothing else is coming,” he announced. “It’s a fucking starship crashed into the bay!”

“Language!” snapped Tosha, one of the prefects. Tamuel shivered when he heard her voice. She’d been singling him out for any dorm infractions and worse for the last year. “Who was that, is that Shau? Get over here. And what are you doing with binoculars? You’re supposed to leave everything in place during a drill.”

Tamuel decided to take a chance and shoved past siblings to get to the balcony. Shau was his closest sibling. Shau would let him use the binoculars.

“Shau, let me look!” he demanded.

Shau passed the binoculars over. Tamuel looked out over Weatherly to the curve of East Bay, skipping over the roofs of hundreds of structures in grainy green, and he gasped. There it was, a shark-fin shaped mass squatting in the dark pool of water where they normally sailed their tiny catamarans on weekends.

He recognized the shape. “It’s an Interstellar. It’s a Shatter Dart.” Thousands of tons of bio-organic, semi-sentient starship. With a crew of hundreds, it could leap between the stars. Hundreds of light years with each carefully planned gulp of the void-mouth contained deep in the belly buried under the water in East Bay.

“What the hell’s it doing here?” Shau asked.

“That’s it!” Tosha had pushed through and stood right behind them both. “I gave you a language warning, and asked you to get off the balcony.”

She grabbed Tamuel from behind. It was a violation, broaching someone’s physical space like this. The last time Tamuel had formally complained there’d been a disciplinary board hearing. No one would step forward as a witness. Tosha was six years older than him. A respected prefect who had the ear of the adult board. He’d learned to try and stay invisible to her since then. He’d wished for cameras inside, like the street cams, but that would be a violation of dorm privacy.

Tamuel twisted loose from her and shoved the binoculars into her hands. “It’s a starship.”

Tosha couldn’t help but raise the binoculars. Tamuel, as he’d hoped, had completely yanked the prefect’s attention elsewhere as she succumbed to curiosity and looked out toward East Bay.

He yanked Shau away from her. “Nothing like this ever happens in Weatherly,” he said as they pushed through the crowds of siblings toward a stairwell.

“My binoculars!” Shau protested.

Fuck your binoculars,” Tamuel hissed, just low enough none of the prefects would hear him. “Nothing like this happens in Weatherly. Or in Summerstown.” Or even, for that matter, Yelekene. Their entire world, all the archipelagos scattered across it, were far from the Core. Ships of this size had last visited Yelekene a hundred years ago, to ship terraforming equipment and raw materials here. Even the original Founders had come via smaller cargo skip-planers that had been disassembled upon arrival.

This… this was something different.

“What are you doing?” Shau asked as Tamuel pulled him down the stairwell.

“We’re going to be first to see it,” Tamuel said.

“We’ll get our asses handed to us.”

“All the prefects are upstairs herding us. We won’t get a better chance.”

Shau stopped. “You know how many demerits I have? No, I have to stay put.”

Tamuel paused. He really didn’t want to do this alone. Going out into the town at dark, it wasn’t scary, they’d snuck out before. But he’d rather have some company if he was going to head out onto the open ocean in the dark.

He briefly reconsidered, then bit his lip. “Then just cover for me as long as you can. Tell them I went to use the bathroom or something.”

“Yeah, sure,” Shau said. “Good luck, Tam. I hope it’s worth it, you’re going to be pulling weeds in the garden for weeks if you’re lucky.”

Tamuel grimaced.

Continue reading this story in text, PDF, MOBI or ePub for your ebook reader of choice by becoming a patron here for as little as $1.:


04 Aug

My Whirlwind July: NASFIC 2017, Puerto Rico Vacation, and then teaching at Shared Worlds

Sometimes life moves so fast you look up and a whole month has passed. Sometimes you look up and then you realize two whole months has gone by and you haven’t posted a single blog post. And then your mother is like ‘is your website dead?’ and you realize you have neglected the site.

I’m still alive!

In the last couple of weeks of June I tried to clean on the other side of the basement across from my office with intent to turn it into a gym when I got back from my July travels. I even rented a dumpster for this purpose. I got everything cleared out and most of it cleaned, but in the process of moving an old entertainment cabinet up the stair I twisted, turned, and blew my back out. I couldn’t get off the floor for a day, it was horrific.

When I told my doctor I was going to be driving eight hours to see my family in Virginia, then fly five hours with my wife to Puerto Rico, he all but laughed and said “do you know what you’re getting yourself into?”

I did not.

But on July 1st drive out we did. Every couple hours I stopped to re-apply Icy-Hot to my back. I slept a lot at my parents, but in my defense, I was in a lot of pain.

Surprise ER VISIT!

The night before we flew out to Puerto Rico where I was to be the Guest of Honor at NASFIC 2017 (I mean, woah, right?), I was in a hotel near the airport trying to finish up edits to a story that was commissioned from me at the last minute. Halfway through the edits I was struck by a pain so intense I ended up curled up next to Emily almost unable to speak. It wasn’t lower back pain, but a kidney stone.

We went to the ER late in the night, with the flight scheduled for early in the next morning. I got fluids and painkillers, and thankfully, passed the stone while I was there and we got back to our hotel room with hours to spare before our flight!

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Exhausted, now with all sorts of interesting new residual pain, I flew down to Puerto Rico early the next morning. When we got to our hotel I did my best impression of a body pillow and spent my time watching TV.

Because… fuuuuuuuck.

I got to see Arecibo!

Early that Thursday I got up because I had tickets for a tour of the Arecibo space telescope set up by (if I can recall something that happened a month ago properly) Leane Verhulst. I’d really wanted to see this when I was in Puerto Rico with my family many years ago, but I was out-nerd-voted. Again, my back protesting much, I sat in a bus seat for the one and hour drive. Then walked up a ton of steps. Thrown out back wasn’t too happy about that, either.

It was worth it.

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As I said on twitter, this motherfucker is huge! I mean, you know it’s big from pictures and videos, and from seeing it in Golden Eye when Sean Bean is (yet again) killed.

But in person, scale can be appreciated.

What’s even wilder is that the telescope is not a giant concrete bowl. It looks like that. In the movie it even sort of acts like that. But it’s really a mesh suspended by wires over a giant sinkhole. In fact, workers who maintain it have to wear these giant snowshoe-looking shoes to not fall through it.

Underneath the mesh is foliage, and there’s this big gap between the very bottom and the ground.

I got lucky enough to be on a VIP tour and snag a photo of the underside:

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And here’s a video I took of that:

NASFIC 2017!

After some time to rest up, NASFIC 2017 formally began for me with a panel ‘Working toward Social Equity in Speculative Fiction’ which I moderated and shared with Diana Pho.

Opening ceremonies featured me walking in behind an honor guard of Puerto Rico’s own Starfleet crew with other guests of honor. Science GoH Guy Consolmagno joined my selfie here:

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It was really wild to be the Guest of Honor at a NASFIC. I never expected such a thing to happen. I was quite honored to both be in the Caribbean and at a major science fiction convention and to be the guest. I spent my high school years just ninety or so miles away to the east in the Virgin Islands. So to have known when I first started dreaming of being an SF/F author, that I would be honored by SF readers by being a guest of honor at a NASFIC just miles away from where I spent part of my childhood, that’s cool.

Here’s a Guest of Honor exhibit that Bruce Farr put together at NASFIC. He was very patient and quick to assemble this, as I had been struggling to finish a last-minute commission and deal with a thrown out back that left me on the floor when requests for material came in:

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On Friday I gave a reading which was a sneak peek of some stuff that would be coming out next year. Shaun Duke interviewed me for the convention, and also taped (we still use that word, which lives on after it’s literal meaning) it for his podcast, so hopefully I can link that sometime. I also gave a presentation on English language Caribbean Science Fiction that I hope gave the audience some new titles to read and avenues to explore.

Then, in one of the more unexpected, ‘this is really happening’ moments, went to a presentation where I was given a trading card of myself. Yes, I’m now a science fiction trading card:

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An early panel about the realities of living in extreme climate started my Saturday off. At lunch, ‘The practicalities of crowdfunding’ was accidentally chopped off the panels booklet, so we only had one person show up, but my 2pm ‘Space Access via the Caribbean’ panel, a history of space-related stuff that had happened in the Caribbean, seemed a hit. The projector and my laptop refused to talk, so the AV team was able to quickly get me a spare laptop, I pulled up pictures of the stuff I was talking about as we went along, and I used my iPhone as a hotspot to get us online.

I covered the HARP project which I wrote about for Tor/Forge’s blog here, talked a little about Beal Aerospace’s plan to launch rockets from Sombrero Island and headquarter out of the USVI for a little while in the late 1990s, back when my interest in private space launches was way out of the mainstream. I also talked about the Tektite 1 habitat in St. John, where underwater haps were built to let astronauts practice space missions.

Another panel about the singularity, and then to the last day of NASFIC where I was able to steal some time with Javier Grillo-Marxuach over coffee. I’ve been a fan of him since The Middleman, a before it’s time ABC Family show with all manner of inside geek references.

Then we held closing ceremonies by the pool, and it was all done. So thanks to con chair Pablo Vasquez (who also took us out to a Thursday night street party) and my liaison Debi Chowdry and all the other organizers and volunteers down in Puerto Rico.


After NASFIC, I tacked on some extra time to re-explore Puerto Rico as an adult, as the last time I’d come through I’d either been with a class in high school or with my parents.

First things first, Emily and I passed through Old San Juan on our way to see El Morro, the great fort guarding the bay. Old San Juan has been around since the early 1500s, so the architecture is amazing. But even more amazing was that in Old San Juan, in a baker, I solved a puzzle that had been bedeviling me since I first moved to the USA.

See, in St. Thomas when I lived there, I enjoyed bread pudding that I purchased at local bakeries. It was usually cut into a cube, it was solid (you could pick it up with your fingers and none of it broke off) and almost cake-like. It was unbelievably dense. It was very tasty.

When I came to the USA and got bread pudding, it was like bread, with sweet stuff poured over it. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t USVI bread pudding.

But in Puerto Rico, I spotted BREAD PUDDING in the window of a bakery. It looked right. It looked like this:

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It’s called Budín in Puerto Rico.

I’m not sure if they gave it us or we to them, but I ate a piece almost every day I was in Puerto Rico from then on. I almost wept tears of joy, because it was the solution to a gastronomical puzzle I’d not solved in over 20 years. The consistency comes from soaking the stale bread in evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.

And there are lots of recipes for the stuff on Puerto Rico sites, so when I get home sick and can afford the carbs, we’ll be able to recreate it.

On that note, I could have left Puerto Rico a happy man, but there was more excitement yet to be had.

We spent a day exploring El Morro:

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Which was great, because it had been a while since I’d been in a fort, and I had forgotten home much they dominate legends, landscape, and economics of an area, and it played in to some gaps I had for some worldbuilding I was doing. I’d wanted to use some of the symbology and setting of a castle, but re-experiencing El Morro helped shoot my thoughts down some new paths.

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We changed our hotels to a hotel closer to Rio Grande, near the foothills of El Yunque. I spent some time in a hammock nestled in between some rocks and near the ocean.

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We also went horseback riding on the beach, which was wild. It was my first time on a horse, I experience walking, trotting, and cantering. Cantering felt like a gallop!

Again, with the thrown out back, this was a reach, but it was fun nonetheless.

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I then worked on editing a short story:

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We also took the time out to rent a Jeep and go explore El Yunque, the rain forest. It was as beautiful as I remember from high school.

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The visitor center for the parks is architecturally amazing, built up so that it’s above the canopy:

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Lots of waterfalls and hiking:

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We finished our exploration of El Yunque with dinner at Luquillo Beach, where 60 or so kiosks run along the beach with all different kinds of food.

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I packed on a few pounds eating lots and lots of good food and lots of budín. We flew back to my parents in Virginia, exhausted. I was also pretty stressed, because at the airport in Puerto Rico a TSA agent accidentally dropped my laptop onto the tile floor, shattering the screen and warping the chassis. I spent the first day at home of a few days with my parents filling out claim reports for the TSA claim.

Because I had a non-working laptop I spent a day at the Apple Store buying a new one, which hadn’t been planned (but neither had an expensive ER visit, so there we go) because I had work to do.

After a few days with my parents, we drove home. I had three days to do laundry and find out that an electrical storm had knocked out the cable modem, our stove, and my monitor. Welcome home.

Then it was back on the road, to Dayton, to fly out to South Carolina where I taught at the Shared Worlds Writing Camp for the next week.

The campers were creative and amazing, as always, I was honored that I was invited back. This was the 7th time in 10 years I’ve been an instructor there. I did, as a result of all the travel right up to the camp, have a bit of a fight with exhaustion and dehydration through the whole week. That had a big impact on my energy levels.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed a little bit of social time with the other writers there this year. That included long time friends Gwenda Bond and Ekaterina Sedia. Kathe Koja was there, I’d met her briefly many moons ago at a Detroit event when I was a sprout of an author. Terra McVoy returned from last year and was fun to hang out with again, and I was super jazzed to get to meet Sofia Samatar for a longer set of chats as we’d only ever had a quick meeting a World Fantasy Con and it turns out that we share some social circles that overlap outside of science fiction.

I roomed with Will Hindmarch, the games designer and writer, as well as Jeremy Zerfoss, the talented artist behind the illustrations in one of my favorite books about writing, Wonderbook. I’ve known Jeff Vandermeer for so long, and it has always seemed like Jeremy was a great artistic collaborator of his. It was a total treat to spend time getting to know Jeremy.

And then, just as abruptly, as I was home and needed to finish a short story for my Patreon. I managed to get it posted just in time for the month, and as I did so I could feel I was coming down with a fever. A horrible fever. I could feel myself fighting it, that scratchy feeling on the back of the throat, since I flew out of South Carolina.

Once I had a new story posted I succumbed and spent most of this week in bed, sick, watching Netflix and catching up on a couple of movies on iTunes that I had wanted to see (neither of them, alas, adding insult to injury, were any good. I’m looking at you, Alien Covenant).

So that gets you current.

Hopefully I’ll start blogging again more regularly.