Sunday, February 08, 2009

Changes Are Afoot

2009 is turning out to be a big year, writing wise. And the first of those changes deal with a new look for the blog. I hope you like it. More to come soon...

Monday, May 12, 2008


I would like to congratulate writer, podcaster, and contributer to my Voices for the Cure anthology Mur Lafferty on her news that Swarm Press, an imprint of small press publisher Permuted Press, is going to publish her book Playing for Keeps in August, just in time for Dragon*Con.

Mur's story "Barry Kolman, Hero", which takes place in the same universe as her novel, appears in my anthology. She joins my friend Van Allen Plexico, whose Sentinels series is also being published by Swarm. Van is the one who took my Voices anthology and placed it under his White Rocket Books imprint.

Congrats to them both!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fragments: Corporate Gods: A Novel

Here's another fragment of the beginning of the first chapter of a novel I've been fooling around with. Let me know what you think.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world
for you.”
–Walt Disney

Part One: When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

Chapter One
Jeremy is spying on you again.

He’s only been Acting Director for three days, and you’ve already gotten off on the wrong foot with him somehow. Though the way you figure it, anyone not going out of their way to overtly kiss his ass is likely to get on his bad side.

You quickly minimize your browser window containing an email full of job prospects. Too late; you know he’s seen you using company time and bandwidth, though you also know he has no idea what you were looking at. He nods knowingly and heads to the john, which until he arrived had been your own private domain, being the only male in this department.

You sigh and decide to get back to work. Even though it’s been mercifully slow, you’ve let your boredom get the better of you, and you know that this is just another hidden black mark that will be used against you when another position opens up, a position for which you’re overqualified and would mean a pay cut even if you somehow impressed the right people.

Checking over your shoulder, you close out the email window and go to work, consigning yourself to the fate of waiting until lunch to get on with the rest of your life. There’s not much you can do with company bandwidth anyway, and the place may as well be inside a Faraday cage without the free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi that will be available to you once you step outside these doors, wafting through the air from the park across the street.

Then you see Pamela walk in.

She’s got a shit-eating grin on her face a mile wide, and a fresh Halo of approval
encircling her head like the lone electron crazily orbiting a bottle blond hydrogen atom. You check her Popularity Rating, and find that it is up in the stratosphere, as usual. Heading up her own Special Project apparently agrees with her. She looks at you, smiling as is the custom when someone in Management looks at one of their underlings and finds them in that same moment looking back, then heads straight to her office. Your coworkers lean out of their cubicles to watch her pass like inmates in a prison movie. They felt it too, that electric presence of the Newly Converted and Popular.

“Has she gone Post?” says a buzz in your ear, and you wink your right eye to get the glare of your Instant Messenger out of your vision. “Not all the way,” you reply, typing in the air on an invisible keyboard. No, for now she’s just well on her way to becoming a middle management Demigorgon. She wasn’t quite near full-fledged Deity status yet. That was reserved only for the President and CEO, who for now is the same entity, a tightfisted Cerberus as feared as he was mostly unseen.

It appears research for your article on extrasolar planets will have to wait, as all the bosses have come home to roost, and you realize you’d better get back to doing what they will gladly tell you they are paying you good money to do. You think it’s a small price to be paid for your very soul. You’re too afraid to ping your own P-Rating, especially in light of recent events. The only thing that keeps it hovering above the danger zone is what you do when you’re not at work, and you’re not about to let that get out in the office Workspace.

Your Instant Messenger chimes again. This time you pick it up on your desktop. It’s from Pamela.

“Please come see me,” is the message.

You hastily type ‘OK’ and get up, a tiny knot of uncertainty and trepidation forming in your already beleaguered stomach. “What did I do this time?” you think.

You enter her office.

“Shut the door, please,” she says without looking up from her workstation. Her Results Halo has faded somewhat, but it still clearly circumnavigating her too-blond skull.

“Have a seat, John.”

You do so, feeling as welcome as Anton LaVey at a church BBQ.

“Your work lately is much improved.” She looks at you and smiles.

You try not to visibly sigh, and manage to stutter out a “Thank you.” You relax, sitting back in your chair.

Her eyes flick back and forth, no doubt reviewing an invisible spread sheet. “Your number of calls has increased, your accuracy rate is back up where it should be..”

“Thank you,” you say. “I-I’m really trying.”

Oh, that came out sounding so lame, and you wish you could take it back. Too late.
What’s done is done. The die is cast.

“I was wondering if you would like to help me on a little project.”

That one you didn’t see coming. The browbeating, the shellacking, all of that is the usual when you get called into the boss’s office. You didn’t expect this, and it’s freaking you out.

“Uh, sure,” you say, not even bothering to ask what it is. When the Powers That Be deign to let a lower level peon play in their sandbox, you don’t ask questions. You can imagine how high your Likeability Points will be after this.

“I know you have some experience in this, and that you have been looking for more
responsibility around here.” She casts her cold blue eyes on you, as if expecting some nonverbal confirmation of this.

You nod your head like a good corporate automaton, even though the last thing you need or want is more work piled on top of all your usual mind-numbing duties.

“Good.” Pamela shuffles the few physical papers that litter her desk. “Congratulations, Josh. You’re getting a Clearance Upgrade.”

“What?” you say before you realize you should have kept that to yourself.

“That’s right. It’s part of my special project. And I could really use your help. Still in?”

The offhanded flattery catches you off guard as much as it works to massage your failing ego, and you say, “Of course. Whatever you need me to do.”

Ugh. Did you really just say that? You sound another corporate kiss-up. But whatever.
You knew you sold your soul to Satan when you signed up for this gig. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“That’s great, Josh. I’m really glad you’re being such a team player on this.”

You nod, knowing full well that in Corporate Speak, ‘team player’ means ‘mindless drone that does whatever he or she is told’.

“Great. I’ll get the paperwork started. In the meantime, come with me. I have something to show you that I think you’ll find quite interesting.”

You get up and follow her out of the room, knowing full well that in Corporate Speak,
‘very interesting’ means ‘something that middle management screwed up so badly that it could get half the company laid off in favor of six dollar an hour labor in India, moments after it incinerates your nuts.

You think this has to be some kind of trick to screw with you. Maybe you’re caught in
some weird power play. There’s no way that Pamela, that pompous jerk Jeffery, or anyone higher on the food chain here than Janitor would ever condescend to allow a mid-level tech support geek like you to help them with anything. For all you know, Pam could be setting you up as a patsy to take the blame for some incompetence she somehow can’t sweet-talk her way out of. But until you figure out what’s going on, you figure it’s better to play along. Maybe you can turn this to your advantage. Maybe. Besides, it beats trying to solve computer problems for people who are
hard pressed to turn one on.

That sends your mind going back to the disastrous chain of events that brought you to this place, at this time. While you were being handed your college diploma, the economy was falling like a Stuka divebomber with a kamikaze pilot at the yoke, and you found yourself pounding pavement and aspiring to mediocrity with not only twenty or so thousand of your fellow graduates, but people with years of experience and better qualifications who had been laid off from the same job you wanted.

And then you found the beloved Company.

After telling them everything you thought they wanted to hear in order to get the job so you could get paid and finally eat, they send you to your physical, which was as humiliating as the interview and much more violating. First it’s all that RFID shit they pump you full of: Telemetry tracking and biometrics so the gates and doors will open at your approach, and gods know what else insidious, barely ethical, but perfectly legal nanotech and semisentient software gleefully busted through your personal firewall like a cheap condom to prowl not only your PAN, but your
very bloodstream.

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Friday, May 02, 2008


I started a file on my laptop recently simply entitled "Fragments". I intend to fill it with story starters: First paragraphs and odd bits of dialogue that suddenly come to me, look good structurally, and just basically sound cool but have no story to be a part of. Below is the first one I came up with, after reading Harlan Ellison's introduction to his collection An Edge in My Voice:

As he hung there, David Atherton remembered the words of the American playwright
Irwin Shaw: “He is engaged in the long process of putting his whole life on paper. He is on a journey and he is reporting in: ‘This is where I think I am and this is what this place looks like today.’

So Atherton began subvocalizing to his LifeJournal, “This is where I think I am and this is what this place looks like today: Cold, pus-white things hold my feet in place over a round, gunmetal-colored emptiness, while unseen gibbering things surge in the gloom below, a moist chittering that is starting to drive me insane.”

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For: Adventures with the Law of Attraction

Although I didn't know it at the time, I attracted my laptop using the Law of Attraction.

Back in early November of last year, the Dell desktop my wife won at her company Christmas party died. Not with a whimper, but with a bang. Literally.

It had caught about nine viruses, including a particularly insidious form of spyware whose modus operandi was to pop up ads for phony antivirus software.

Well, in the course of trying to fix the problem, the Dell's power supply blew a fuse, and with a loud pop, a tiny flash of flame from the back, and the smell of burnt plastic, she was gone. And so was my livelihood, for the time being.

It was time to go computer shopping. We had to. There were projects to finish, and more yet to take on.

Here's where my first experience with the Law of Attraction came into play.

For months I had been wanting a laptop. I would sit and think about it during my less busy moments, imagining what it would be like. How I could write from remote, exotic locations like coffee shops and parks. How my wife could surf while I got some work done.

Well, I got my wish, but at the expense of our desktop. This wasn't what I wanted, I thought. My point in having a laptop was so that we could have TWO computers!

Well, long story short, but the Dell is all better now, and for the moment, virus free. And I am happily typing this missive on my Gateway laptop.

If there is a lesson on the Law of Attraction here, it is this:

Think about what you want. I wanted a laptop.

Act as if you have already received it. I imagined myself typing on that thing almost every day for months.

Feel what it would be like to have this thing. I imagined how great it would be and how much it could help me leverage my limited time every day.

Take advantage of opportunities as they arise. The "opportunity" here was that our desktop died, and we had to do something. I was a little angry that the fates had not given me the laptop in some specifically pleasing way, but it all worked out. But be careful here. You don't want to be too general in what you ask for, but you don't want to get hung up on specifics either.

In other words, be careful what you wish for and how you wish for it.

I'm studying the Law of Attraction in earnest now, and hopefully, as time permits, I'll be able to share more of what I've learned with everyone who reads this blog.

Best of Continued Success,



Monday, September 03, 2007

Dragon*Con 2007: The Aftermath

Dragon*Con. Whew!

I'm tired, and my legs are sore, but I thoroughly had a blast this year.

The Highlights

Auctioning off a copy of Voices in this year's Charity Auction, autographed by myself, as well as my contributors and fellow convention attendees Eugie Foster, Mur Lafferty, Davey Beauchamp, and cover artist Fox Gradin. The book sold for $40 for the American Diabetes Association.

I also learned from Mur that Greg van Eekhout blogged about the anthology, stating that he didn't know about it until after the fact, even though he is an insulin-dependent diabetic. I'm sorry I didn't know this, and even more sorry I didn't think to ask him for a story, as he is a terrific writer.

Panels! I love talking about all things SF in a couple of the conventions many programming tracks. The big ones this year were Manimal and Friends: One Season Wonders for the SF Classics track, starring my friend, the always entertaining Joe Crowe of RevolutionSF fame. Joining us was his fellow Revolutionary Gary Mitchel, as we talked about some of the best and worst one season shows in recent, and not so recent, memory. We also talked Simian Sci-Fi, about all the monkeys in SF and Fantasy, and why everything is better with a monkey.

Following on the heels of that was Saturday Night Games: Stump the Geeks, and Are You Smarter Than A Staff Member? Joe, Gary and I filled in for absent staff members on that last one, as track director Ron Nastrom doled out questions about movies and television of the 60's through the 80's. Joe was hilarious, as always, the audience participated beautifully, and a good time was had by all, especially since everyone walked away with a prize, since Ron's wife didn't want to see any of the DVDs, movie posters, and other swag ever again. And Joe brought his personal treasure trove as well, from which I scored a free copy of Mark Finn's adept biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood & Thunder.

Over at the SF Lit track, I discussed the role of religion in SF and Fantasy, as well as the decline of SF in favor of Fantasy. Lots of audience participation, and so much discussion that the religion panel could have easily gone two hours. Fun stuff.

Seeing people I only get to see once a year, like the aforementioned contributors to my anthology, as well as Joe Crowe, Shane Ivey and Van Allen Plexico.

The Dealer's Room! One Dragon*Con must-see is always the Dealer's Room and Exhibitor's Halls. Though I didn't spend as much as I would have had my wife not been there to reign me in, I got some quality stuff this year. I picked up a volume collecting Paul Chadwick's Concrete: Fragile Creature and several other stories featuring his wonderful creation, and the piece de resistance, a Weta King Kong statue entitled Kong's Last Stand, which features the giant ape grasping the wing of a biplane to keep from falling to his death. It now resides atop the small bookshelf in my office. I'll post a picture when I can.

The Lowlights

Being scheduled for two events Friday night that I really wanted to do, but not being able to attend the convention until Saturday. This often happens to me, but it is somewhat irritating nonetheless. I was scheduled for a reading Friday night--which I had an absolute blast doing last year--followed by a panel that I suggested to the SF Lit folks that we did last year entitled The Dead Authors Society. I was going to channel H.P. Lovecraft, and someone told me that a few people showed up for my reading. Oh well. A more careful schedule prep on my part should help next year.

The crowds. There were easily in excess of 30 thousand people there this weekend, which made getting where you needed to be difficult at times. Catching an elevator is always a nightmare, and we missed out on a panel because the room was full to capacity by the time we got there. I was told by two other attendees that on Friday night, the Fire Marshall shut things down temporarily by not letting one else in.

All in all though, it was a good convention. We stayed down there this year for the first time, though not in one of the host hotels. And my wife is even talking about booking a room at the Hyatt, the main hotel, early for next year. She's even thinking about dressing up. And this from a decidedly non-fan. It's a Dragon*Con miracle.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Voices for the Cure

Also, the charity anthology I edited entitled Voices for the Cure is now out and available on Proceeds go to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Dragon*Con's charity this year is the ADA. It includes work by Robert J. Sawyer, Cory Doctorow, Mike Resnick, Ernest Hogan, Lucy A. Snyder, Gary A. Braunbeck, Eugie Foster, Mur Lafferty, Davey Beauchamp, and yours truly.

Check it out!

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Wow, it's been a really long time since I've posted to this blog, and I thought this year's Dragon*Con being held this Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia was as good a time as any for a long overdue post. Here's my panel schedule for the weekend.

1:00pm Manimal and Friends: One Season Wonders

4:00pm Simian Sci-Fi

5:30pm Saturday Night Games: Stump the Geeks and Are You Smarter than a Staff Member?

7:00pm Ye Gods and Little Fishes

8:30pm Star Trek XI: The Search for (A New) Spock?

11am Charity Auction

11:30am Wanted Alive . . .or Dead?

I'm also scheduled for a reading Friday night, but I won't get down there until Saturday. But all in all, it looks to be another great time! If you're down there, drop by one of my panels and say hi!