13 Mar

Everything old is new again

As I’m taking this new jump into building out a Patreon I’m reminded of how similar this all feels. So I went back through my blog to 2006, the last time I affected a massive change.

Back then I’d been working hard for many years toward the goal of becoming a writer. I had started writing stories and submitting them regularly in 8th grade, so 1992 or thereabouts, which is why I have my first Writers of the Future rejection. I really turned the gas up on that in 1996, when I was a senior in high school (which is when I got my first personal rejection from Stan Schmidt, back then the editor of Analog) and a freshman in college. I attended Clarion 3 years later as a junior in college in 1999. Started getting my first pro sales in 2000. When the first novel was about to come out in 2006 it was the end of a 10 year cycle of blasting away pretty hard at the writing. Many hundreds of rejections, short stories written, and so forth.

Back on February 3rd, 2006, I learned that my day job was going to be ended (and I was to train my replacement), after 10 years of being heavily involved in campus life (as a student and then staff member). Looking back on my blog at that time, I realize that I then thought about what to do for a month, and then firmly decided the play was to become a freelancer even though I had no idea how. I had lined up about 50% of the income I needed when I jumped.

It wasn’t an easy schedule, but it was mine. I worked really hard 2006-2007, and I didn’t let up to something resembling a regular 40 hour workweek until 2008 when the freelancing money improved and I started working on Halo: The Cole Protocol. Since then, I have boosted or lowered the amount of freelancing based on how well the writing is going, but used the freelancing to create a reliable base as writing income is super variable.

When I found out the biggest chunk of my freelancing income had folded up I was facing a similar dilemma, though I didn’t make the connection until a few days ago. I started out by looking for the same kind of freelance work all over again (much like I started out trying to replace the day job with another), but then come early March I made a similar decision as I did almost 11 years ago:


Trust that you can build wings on the way down.

Which is why I then created the Patreon. Jump and trust that, as I fell through savings and kept writing, that I could cobble it all together and get the wings.

I’ve tried this before, actually. In late 2011 when I did the Kickstarter for the Xenowealth novel The Apocalypse Ocean. I used that money to write the novel, seriously lower the freelancing down to a minimum, and spend a year trying to build the runway in 2012, as Kickstarter had given me an 7 month runway. I accepted some contracts that I had estimated would give me another 12 months, but the money and contracts took so long to firm up that they came 2 months after I ran out of savings, a business line of credit I use to smooth over lump periods, and I had to blink and go back to freelancing.

But out of that 7 month runaway I got two books and a number of short stories. It was a success, even if I had to reengage bigger freelance gigs and slow down on fiction.

So this time, I’m in the same spot, but feeling like I did back in 2006. Nervous, but excited. Knowing that I could fail (I tasted that in 2012) but I spent the years after 2012 maniacally paying down debt to prepare for a moment like this. Knowing that I could get back into more blogging, more interacting with folks again after a long while away as I lost more and more time.

It’s hard not to look at is ‘the one shot’ but I know that it’s a process. I was just struck at how uncanny it was that it matched the timeline of the first time I tried to change my life and career in 2006.

11 Mar

Who did the floor slide better, Tom Cruise or Jung-a Kim in that BBC family interview?

Who has the better slide?


The whole BBC clip of these kids wandering into an interview is gold.

I feel awful for the mom, particularly that moment where she’s crouching and trying to close the door at the very end. But that slide is pure awesome sauce. Cruise is just going in one direction. Jung-a Kim actually changes direction which, as someone who is a fan of wooden floor sock sliding, is really difficult to do. Respect.

But up until that point I was laughing so hard. Kid walks into the office like ‘up in the club!’

I hope the family is chill and Professor Kelly gets invited back on the air.

11 Mar

Check out the Cover for Halo: Envoy, Latest Halo Book Launching in April


The new cover came out not many days ago on a panel at Emerald City Comic Con for my next novel. It’s a Halo novel that I’ve been working on for over a year, and I hope any one who enjoys the video game will check it out. I’m digging the new look of the artwork.

Halo: Envoy gives us the return of Gray Team, the team of Spartans I fleshed out more fully in Halo: The Cole Protocol. It also explores the world of Carrow, which I first showcased in the long short story Oasis in Halo: Fractures.

It’s been a great deal of fun to return to the Halo universe for these two projects and I hope everyone enjoys the craziness that ensued. The book will be out April 25th, which is now almost a month away.

Here is the summary:

It has been six years since the end of the Covenant War…and yet on the planet Carrow, a world on the edge of the Joint Occupation Zone, a decisive new battle suddenly erupts. Human colonists and the alien Sangheili have already been living a tension-filled co-existence in this place, with Unified Earth Government envoy Melody Azikiwe attempting to broker a lasting peace between their two species. But as civil war now engulfs the Sangheili settlers, Melody must act on an additional covert assignment courtesy of the Office of Naval Intelligence: find a way to free the SPARTAN-IIs known as Gray Team, held in stasis since the end of the war by a cunning Elite fleetmaster consumed with vengeance. And none can anticipate the ongoing violence leading to the discovery of an even greater, unstoppable threat—one hidden for eons below the surface of the planet….

10 Mar

What’s a College Education For?

There’s a debate swirling around twitter about whether a writer should get an English degree.

I’m biased, I have an English degree.

But I found the conversation slightly offtrack because it contains within it a base assumption layer that I run up against. That’s the idea that a college degree’s purpose is solely to make you a better worker.

It’s an assumption that laces through the American social landscape. Work makes you a better human being. Moral and better human beings should therefore be richer. If you are poor, that means you probably aren’t a good human being, because the rhetoric in the USA is that if you work hard and are good you’ll make money.

Check out this ad by Fiverr:


Are you a doer? Are your bones sticking out of your typing fingers yet? Boing Boing has some thoughts.

Come on, work harder. Eat less. Not making enough is a personality failure.

You can see this pop up in Prosperity Theology as well, where it’s believed that if you truly believe in God you’ll get rewarded. Again, conflating moral goodness with success.

So again and again, I see lists of how much people earn based on their degree. Then you have gluts, where people follow careers into something like legal professions merely because it’s ‘a great degree for earning’ and then suddenly they’re unable to work because there are too many fucking lawyers.

As an undergrad, if you’re not in a specific trade school with a program that has job placement (I guess you could argue law schools are set up that way) education was classically set up to create more well-rounded individuals.

Look, I got an English degree because it allowed me to do some things that set the stage for me becoming a writer.

1) It gave me time to write fiction as a lot of it was structured around year-end tests and papers, so I filled time in between those moments with writing a shit tone of short stories.

2) It let me write some short stories for grades, letting me combine the two.

3) Critical theory allowed me to anticipate how different readers would read different texts. I’m not shocked like some writers when someone has a variant classical feminist critique of a novel I like or even wrote.

But, I wish I could have taken more history classes and business classes on managing micro-finance, things I had to self-educate on. I would have enjoyed a marketing class (well, not enjoyed it, but it would have been valuable to take and understand) and I wish I would have taken a graphic design course, but I couldn’t have known the impact of self-publishing on the field and eBooks in 1996.

I took courses to become more educated and well rounded, to open up my world.

The path to becoming a writer is convoluted and I have yet to hear a writer give the same path as an answer to ‘what is the way to become a writer?’

Now, in the US, college is vastly inflated as an expense and the debt students take on is crippling, but I’m thinking globally about he purpose of education.

I saw this STEM and jobs focus developing when I first moved to the States. It tends to get very strident when there are conservative administrations, as the neoliberal, libertarian judgement on education for mere self improvement is judged as immoral. Your worth is only the worth you can provide as a worker, and all things must flow into that, in many avenues of a corporate-oriented, corporate advertised world.

Go get the degree that’ll engage you. No matter what job you get, outside of CEO or financier, will leave you fucked for debt.

You might as well have fun with those four years if you’re in the US. Because you’ll spend the rest of your life paying it.

Life is short. Get the degree you want.

The path to what career you’re in, or writing in general, will be wonky enough getting it doesn’t guarantee anything, and getting something else doesn’t hurt.

09 Mar

Cover reveal and what the table of contents for my short story collection ‘System Reset’ will be

So I’m working on putting together my next short story collection, which I have titled System Reset.

In the past I’ve done successful Kickstarters for these. But this time I’m doing something different. System Reset will be available as a mobi, ePub and PDF to Patreon subscribers (at any level, from $1 all the way up) six months before anyone else can buy it.

What is Patreon? It’s a new of supporting a writer where you subscribe to them for varying amounts and you get fresh content in your inbox like brand new short stories, snippets of as of yet unpublished work that will come out much later, and other cool stuff.j

Here is the cover:


And here is the table of contents, featuring 9 stories and over 60,000 words of fiction:

Pale Blue Memories
On The Eve of the Fall of Habesh
Jungle Walkers (w/ David Klecha)
A Tinker of Warhoon
The Found Girl (w/ David Klecha)
A Pressure of Shadows
Ambassador to the Dinosaurs
System Reset

08 Mar

I Moved My Office Back Into My Basement: Here Are the Pictures and What I Did

I promised every one on twitter a comprehensive post about the basement office project. There are a few tweaks I want to do still, but now that I’ve spend a week working out of it, here you go:

My basement and I have a complicated relationship.

In 2007, it was mildly flooded during the great 2007 flood. Mold ended up taking off and it ended up costing us whatever was stored down there and paying a professional crew to rip out all the old wood paneling and do water damage remeditation and mold killing. They installed a sump in a canning room that kept seeping water and causing water to pool on the basement floor.

In 2008, while working on remodeling the basement to reclaim it I had a cardiac event that put me in the hospital for a bit and was how I found out I have a genetic heart defect. The damn basement almost killed me.

In 2012, I think, I hired someone to clean up the bare brick walls and floors and install some doors and lights in hopes of reclaiming the basement. But we mainly used it for storage and secondary space while I used a room upstairs for primary writing.

Spiders used the basement as an office, mainly.

Recently one of my daughters started advocating for a room of her own. She had a lot of good reasons, but we didn’t bite. It wasn’t until said daughter explained to me her plan to move into the spider-filled basement on her own (she explained how she planned to clean it up, and where she would keep her stuff, and how we could get the mattress down there) that I realized she really, really was all in on the room of her own department.

I told her I’d figure out what it would take to move out and give her the room, whether staying upstairs and carving space out of lesser-used living room. She started sleeping on my office couch right away.

I spent a couple hours staring at the basement. Some of the fluorescent tubes we’d installed five years ago had gone out. But last summer we spent a large chunk of money to have our front yard landscaping all pulled out, on the theory that the previous owners fancy large beds up against the front of the basement were keeping water against the basement, increasing the water seepage. Over the last year, as far as we could tell, the seepage had decreased a great deal.

Enough for me to make the basement not a storage place for stuff but my primary working environment again?

I like being up near the large windows as I work on sun. Being away from the sun depresses me.

But since regrading the front lawn, the windows along the sunward side of the basement were dropping more light into he basement. And if I put in some replacement fluorescents, even though I hated the flicker, I realized I could do something.

Another thing had been bugging me the last few years. I moved away from physical books to eBooks on my phone. But, as my kids were getting older they were assuming that time I spent reading books on the phone was me ‘playing’ on the phone. So I’d started ordering physical books to read so that they could see me reading a lot.

To my surprise, I found that I was enjoying being away from screens. No distractions or temptations, just a book and me and a moment of time.

Which meant that the 80% of my library that I’d donated I now missed. I wanted books on shelves again. And I wanted all my own books that I’d been published in, or published, to be around me. I’d had all those books stored away. With a large basement, I could have a lot of shelves.

Plus, now that I was playing frisbee outside and walking more I was getting sunlight. Maybe I could risk a basement office again. Then a friend of mine gifted me a 4K monitor large enough to display full editing documents side by side on, and a sitting to standing adjustable desk.

So three weeks ago I got busy and took a broom and cleaning supplies down into the basement to do battle with the spiders.

I scrubbed walls, attacked webs, and killed many spiders on day one.

I took out sixteen or so bags of things that could be put on the curb or donated.

In the canning room where the water seepage was the worst I purchased quick dry mortar repair and stuffed all the gaps I could find. I then painted two coats of DryLock paint over the walls in there. I also sealed the wooden ceiling of the canning room with Thompson’s water seal. So here we go from open cinder block and spider heaven to clean and dry to the touch:

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I went over the walls where I planned to put my office with primer and sealant where moisture had seeped through and discolored the paint.

Then I cleaned the windows. That actually boosted the light into the basement a bit, they hadn’t been cleaned in over a decade, I had to scrape dirt off the outer glass. So 50% more sunlight comes in now. I also went outside and pulled the metal wells free, giving more sun a chance to come through.

Of six four-foot flourescent tubes, four were still working. I found out that LED lights are being made for those same fixtures. I ordered them off Amazon.com. Not only did I get a boost in light from getting the two missing light tubes installed, but the LED lights are like 20% or so brighter than the fluorescents were. It feels like the artificial light doubled. Also, the light doesn’t flicker and feels ‘bright’ to me. On days when it’s dark and gloomy in Ohio outside, I’m often not noticing in the basement until I look out the window.

I was on a tight budget for this, I had been hoping to get the entire remodel done for under $500. That was my goal. But as I looked at bookcases everywhere I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able to get rows of shelving for books and all the things in my office to sit on easily for that.

After wracking my brains for a while I started thinking of affordable shelving that people wouldn’t anticipate for books. I spent some time in food service, and I knew that NSF certified chrome shelving was sturdy, easy to assemble, and cheap. Further, the chrome shelving would fit with the industrial look of the basement, with the exposed ductwork and brick walls. I could get a sort of aesthetic that all fit together.

Along the 13″ back wall I decided to use an eighteen inch wide NSF chrome shelf that was almost as high as the basement ceiling, which came with six shelves. I would use two shelves to create an ego shelf and one shelf to create a desk area against the wall. I then figured out I could use pieces of a shorter fourteen inch wide shelf to create the legs that two of the other shelves left over could create another desk and general storage area on the right. Then I could use some hooks to create a desk in the middle.

Here it is:

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I then had four shelves left over from using the legs to create that eighteen inch deep area, that meant I could take the four shelf, fourteen inch chrome shelves and make them all five shelf shelves perfect for books:

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The wires run the length of the shelves, so books sit very nicely on them. If I do get worried, I can eventually cut and stain wood planks to add some warmth and sit over the wires: just drill a one-inch wide circular hole on each corner of the plank.

Here’s a closer look at the desk behind my computer desk:

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I purchased some cheap plastic sheets that sit on top of the wires for these shelves, as the wires run in the same direction as the books. They can fall through on the eighteen inch deep wire shelves, so that’s necessary.

On the first shelf I have books that I have published an original story in for the first time. They’re in order of year. Underneath are my novels, book ended by bookends made out of Bermuda Cedar, which is rare to get. Those were a gift from the government of Bermuda Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, and I’m super proud of them. Under the shelf I have hooks and binder clips holding some quickly drawn art that says “CREATE.” Emily is designing some more colorful letters for me shortly!

To the right is an extra desk where I keep some office stuff, a spare chrome book that the kids use, my iPad, and hanging above it is art from my first novel, Crystal Rain, that Todd Lockwood gifted me a print of and that I’ve always wanted to have hanging but didn’t have a place for. Until now!

Okay, so here’s the office as you entire the basement and turn to the right:

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I created a little area for reading, thinking, and editing on work. I have a surprisingly comfortable slatted (not uncomfortable rods) futon that converts into a queen for visitors or passing through family. It used to be upstairs, but now splits the office into two different parts and functions. My friend Ross Kaufmann came over to help me move it downstairs. A cheap $15 rug from a dollar store really ties the room together. At that point I had been over budget, so I don’t have a rug for the computer desk area or for along the bookshelves. One day, though!

Again, a Todd Lockwood print hangs by the futon.

Here’s the angle from the walkthrough area:

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I’m hoping to get a tiny dorm fridge to put soda water and protein bars in that little space along the wall there down the road.

I keep all my currently reading and magazines on the little red table that I appropriated from the kids. One of the kids is reading Muse and left it down there, so I’m not the only one using this is a reading zone.

I was super psyched to get this extra shelf from my friend Brandon Rhodes, python programmer extraordinare:

I unpacked all my extra author’s copies and loaded the shelf up. Again, this was stuff all packed away in storage that I had no idea what I had and what I didn’t.

The basement is divided into half with the use of a Kallax four cubby by four cubby shelf on casters (I will be getting casters for all the other chrome shelves, so that walls are easy to get to and clean, spider kill, and dust, but again, I went over budget slightly and will get to that in a month or so) next to another two by four Kallax on casters.

I ordered a sheet of Shoji paper to cover the back of the Kallax and let some light through as it’s translucent.

Side note. I had always thought rice paper was made of actual rice, why else call it that? Turns out it’s ‘rice’ paper like a Japanese car is a ‘ricer.’ It’s seems to be a western ‘we use rice to describe anything Japanese’ thing. Ugh. So it’s actually called Shoji paper, I found after a minute or two of looking for the paper, and it’s made of mulberry bush (Kozo). It should be called Mulberry paper, if anything.

Here’s the other side:

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Anyway, here’s the desk where I work:

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I’m hoping to add some art, cool books to the cubbies. I also have five plastic stands along the top of the divider, and I’m hoping to add W R I T E in colorful letters to them. Behind them is some Ivy, known for helping clean the air. To the left the other side of the basement is peeking out, a bunch of stuff is stored there that I need get to the curb/donate and clean out so that I can start to use other side for a small gym.

Here is the writing area with the standing desk up. I’m going to put in a glass dry erase board along that wall under the window there when the budget gets back in my favor. And a rug for my cold feet.

I’m pretty excited about the desk, as Skype sessions should be more fun. I can stand for them, and the area behind me will be framed by my written books and some colorful art. CREATE!

Another thing I might toy with is seeing if that one duct by the window can be flattened with a rectangular duct there to give me a little head room and allow more light in through that window.

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I pulled this together in a little over a week and a half. It’s full of light, clean space, and I’m really happy with it. I spent a day going around smearing essential peppermint oil and spraying it wherever there had been spiders two weeks ago, and they’ve taken the hint. Plus, it smells very refreshing down here! I also purchased an ozone generator and have run it to kill anything down here like mold, mildew, annoying small insects. I’ll run every once in a while to keep the air fresh.

I’m hoping to make this the center of my operation to launch a whole new act of writing great things from down here. I’m surrounded by books, my achievements, and lots of great creative space.

07 Mar

Patreon: end of the first day, into the second and some changes to the goal bonuses

I just launched a Patreon. I’d been hoping to hit $500 in the first forty eight hours of the big push and we’re at $290. Last night I right away saw that I should have set up the goals to begin at $500, not $1,000. I need $1,500 to replace the lost freelancing income and survive with book contracts. But for $1,000 I can take the jump. I over estimated the velocity, which is egg on my face. I had no idea how my Kickstarter campaigns would translate over to Patreon, which is a bigger ask and does not have as much a profile, whereas the Kickstarter thing is embedded (and gets some signal boost from Kickstarter due to past success).

It’s amazing that over 50 people have signed up already and are psyched to get stories from me and we’re slowly ticking toward 100. Always, crowdfunding is amazing to me.

I was trying to wrap my head around whether we had conditions for a success in the future of this or whether I’d miscalculated badly and should have just done two kickstarters for my collection System Reset and Just a Draft, my book collecting things I’ve written about writing.

Still, I’m roughly 30% to where I minimum need to survive, which means I can envision how to get to 50%. And once you have half of something, you have half the job of getting to the whole thing. I went back and looked at my old Kickstarter launch for the novel The Apocalypse Ocean, where I realized that it was a hard long slog. We launched and only had 20% of the funding at start. Everyone was worried I’d fallen on my face hard in public. But, we kept at it and it happened:


I believe I can provide stories with characters of diverse backgrounds that are thrilling and through provoking and entertaining for people. I’m super committed to trying to spend the next five months making this Patreon work, so that I’ll never look back on this moment and say “hey, I didn’t try everything I could have.” It’s a leap of faith, but, I’ve never regretted trying a thing.

To that end, with some feedback from folks, I reshaped the goal bonuses of the Patron:

At $500 a month, I’ll start writing the stories. Period. So we’re well over halfway to that point. We’re 60% of the way to that point as I write this.

At $750 a month, using some deep savings and some judicious credit on the business side, I don’t have to start looking for new freelance work and the stories are going to keep coming for sure. We’re 30% of the way there, and the moment we hit it I’ll release the collection ‘System Reset’ to backers.

At $1,000 a month I’ll release my collection of thoughts about writing called ‘Just a Draft’ to Patrons and I’ll start designing covers for the work.

At $1,500 a month I’ll begin creating audio versions and podcasting the stories to you.

At $2,000, you get an original Xenowealth novella.

I’m learning in public here. There’s a reason most choose $500 for the first goal set and I just learned that the hard way!

06 Mar

I’m Gearing Up To Write a Story a Month on Patreon, With Your Help!

This morning on twitter I announced that I was launching a Patreon to write a short story every month for supporters.

I’ll be honest, it’s nerve wracking to do crowdfunding projects. I’ve done a Kickstarter for the 4th Xenowealth novel The Apocalypse Ocean when I changed career directions to do Arctic Rising. I also followed up with two short story collections that did really well.

But it’s a wild ride to walk out on stage to see if there are enough fans on the spot to make something happen. When I first did The Apocalypse Ocean Kickstarter back in October of 2011 I got a lot of concerned emails from folks that asked if I wasn’t worried about failing in public.

Well, of course I was.

But, the upside was that I would get to write more things that people were asking me to write.

In this case, I’m trying to do something a little more ambitious: I’m trying to get enough of a Patreon off the ground that I can overall focus on creating more fiction and doing less freelance work.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I am lucky with my fiction, but the money is so irregular that I have always used freelancing to create a monthly income stream to balance the long delays in publishing. I could get the greatest news about a book out on submission today, and maybe not see a check after the contract is negotiated and money sent for 7-12 months.

For the last couple years the freelancing opportunities really increased and I took advantage of that. I started working longer days and using more of my creativity and emotional energy. By December the fiction was getting harder to juggle, and when my largest client cut me back by 80% in January I took the time to examine what to do next and what offers to accept.

But since I set aside money and live simply here in Northwest Ohio (as much as the weather isn’t all that fun or the rural life that stimulating) it allows me to make gambles. Being a freelancer was one of them. Having some time to try something different is another. I was exhausted from freelancing on a variety of different fronts and some accelerated deadlines. I took the time to work on moving into a new office, recovering from being sick, and thinking about how to make a go of the next year or so.

Six months ago I’d polled twitter, thinking about how a Patreon may or may not work. A couple hundred folk indicated interest in a short story Patreon, where I pledge to write a short story a month and if the story is delivered they’ll pay a certain amount per story.

So I’m back to crowdfunding.

I’m willing to write a story a month in that place I had been doing freelancing, even if it means a solid pay cut. I’d love to focus harder on the fiction and go all in. The last time I did it, it was because supporters got behind the novel The Apocalypse Ocean and I spent a year writing fiction.

I set up the Patreon so that at $5 a month everyone gets a short story, based on successful Patreons by writers, though I do worry that maybe everyone getting a story would be more successful. I’m second-guessing myself a lot there. I’m certainly nervous about this, as I’m sure I will ‘less successful’ in some people’s eyes. But I’ve enjoyed the direct projects for fans that I’ve done since 2011.

If we can get to $1,000 on the Patreon, I’m willing to take the leap on this and start doing the writing to see where I can take this over the next six months before making a decision on whether to stop it.

I’ve also tried to sweeten the pot by offering rewards for different levels. If we reach $1,500 in the first month I’ll give out my 3rd short story collection, as of yet unpublished (System Reset). I may have to tweak those bonuses after we see whether this Patreon does well.

If I can’t reach $1,000 in the first month, I’ll write a thank you story and shut this down, with thanks for everyone giving it a try. I’m honored that we’re already 11% of the way there here on the day of the first launch. I’m nervous about stepping out into public like this to try something different, something new. I’ve been doing the freelance on one side, novels on the other, for so long it’s become the easy path.

But I stand at a fork in the road over the next few months. And forks like that are usually opportunities. The last time I stood somewhere similar, I was laid off from my day job, looking at not being able to write novels again for years, and thinking ‘maybe I can try freelancing to replace 70% of my day job income and keep writing.’ And I built that freelancing/writing combination over a touch and go year following that.

If there is ever a time for us to build something new, to get more fiction out of me, to create more stories, then this is another one of those years, I think.

But like then, it’s scary.

I hope you’ll join me in jumping off this cliff and take a look at my Patreon.

Become a Patron!

01 Mar

Quick Book Review: City of Stairs


I have to admit to being a bit late to post this, as I read City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet earlier last month but during my three weeks of being sick as a dog. So I didn’t get a review up.

This is a great example of what I would have called, prior to the early 2000s, “Urban Fantasy.” That is to say, a fantasy novel set in a city and influenced by historical cities. The genre label of Urban Fantasy was rebadged by publishers taking paranormal romance into a wider market a while back, so Urban Fantasy became something very different.

But City of Stairs is a great example of that sort of fantasy that resists the countryside and bucolic pastoralism that affects some fantasy. The city of Bulikov, a place ravaged by the impact of colonialism and war and once-great magic is as much a character as anyone else in the book.

Technology, magic’s side effects and implications, all of that is explored thoroughly, making for a book that reminds me of China Mievelle’s landscapes, or K.J. Parker’s rationalist worldbuilding.

Definitely worth a read.