Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To NaNoWriMo or Not NaNoWriMo?

The other day on Facebook, my friend Lauren Patrick posted a general call-out to several of her writer friends (me included) about whether we would be participating in National Novel-Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The gist of it is to write 50,000 words in a month. That's a complete novel by some people's metrics, albeit a bit on the short side.

I am seriously considering participating. While I wait to hear back from the first publisher I sent Battle for the Wastelands, my friend James R.Tuck from my Kennesaw writing group recommended that I work on an entirely new project. He said once he wrote the first Deacon Chalk novel Blood and Bullets, he sent it out to agents and publishers and worked on other stuff in the meantime. It wouldn't do to spend all that time writing a sequel and not be able to sell the first novel.

So I started pondering a new project, born out of thoughts I had on how the Star Trek canon could have gone differently. And so a new space opera came to be, a world born of electric cars and fusion power freeing the U.S. from dependence on Middle Eastern oil, of European unification and the fall of Pakistan, and the genetic engineering of humans came. Now the human realm is divided between five Great Powers, all of whom have nuclear and antimatter weapons, spacecraft using inertial confinement fusion, and offworld colonies. It is in that world that a prototype antimatter-propelled spacecraft is lost and an American warship races an Indian one to retrieve it.

(It's much, MUCH more "hard sci fi" than Star Trek will ever be, and it's not nearly as utopian.)

Battle for the Wastelands is 104,000 words long and took me one to two years to write most of it. 104,000 words is a little long for a first novel. Blood and Bullets is around 80,000 words long, as was Wicked as They Come,the debut novel of Delilah S. Dawson. Meanwhile, The Shifter, the debut novel of Janice Hardy, was 70,000 words. My new project, which doesn't yet have a title, would probably be this length if not somewhat shorter.

I told James the other day that if I made Escape from the Wastelands my NaNoWriMo project, I could write 50,000 words and still have a lot more to do. However, if I did my new project instead, I could, if not actually finish it, be pretty darn close. And a shorter novel would be an easier sell than a longer one.

And now that I've described the project in extensive detail on a well-traveled blog, that means I need to get started pronto, lest someone else steal the idea.

To NaNoWriMo! Let's hope I have time!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney, Star Wars, and An Idea for the "Sequel Trilogy"

I heard earlier today that Disney is buying LucasFilm and production on a new Star Wars movie, the beginning of a new trilogy, has begun. Although some people are skeptical of the project, given how Disney was ultimately behind the awesomeness that was The Avengers,I think this could go in some really good directions.

In particular, I'm hoping they adapt Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy--Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising,and The Last Command. The three books are especially beloved by the Star Wars fan community, which has oftentimes been greatly disappointed by the things Lucas has done to the SW universe.

Furthermore, the Thrawn trilogy has elements that would make it very attractive to the general audiences who loved the original films (and the prequels).

*We have Grand Admiral Thrawn as a powerful and threatening, but not wholly evil, villain. He's a man (sort of) who rose to a position of high honor and respect in Palpatine's Empire despite Palpatine's anti-alien racism and was entrusted with the Empire's continued military expansion in the outer regions of the galaxy while Palpatine and Vader ruled at home. He's someone who could provoke the same fascination/admiration that Vader did, and pose the same threat to our heroes.

*And we also have Joruus C'Boath, an insane Dark Jedi clone of a Jedi Master of the Old Republic, who can provide a Force-using villain and an opponent for Luke to have lightsaber duels with. He can also serve as a spiritual threat, much like how Vader and Palpatine were to Luke--his price for aiding Thrawn was that he would be given Luke Skywalker, the Princess Leia, and Han and Leia's two children to "mold."

*We have Mara Jade as a love interest for Luke, who never had one in the movies (except for Leia, who it turned out was his long-lost twin sister). Mara Jade was one of the Emperor's Hands, elite Dark Side-wielding assassins, and the last command she received from the dying Palpatine (this was via the Force) was to kill Luke Skywalker. This gnaws at her the entire trilogy, and leads to questions of loyalty. Character conflict is interesting too. :)

*It's set a decade after the original trilogy, much like how the prequels were set 20-30 years earlier. We'll get to see how Luke is reconstituting the Jedi Order and how Leia is putting together a New Republic. We can throw in other stuff, like how Han and Leia married and how the various warlords who emerged from the Empire's collapse were dealt with, as back-story.

Other than the fact there's a new trilogy coming, nothing has been announced. I'll keep everyone posted on what I hear.

Joint Projects for Pro-Life and Pro-Choice People

I strongly suspect this thread is going to get a lot of people going, but on the other hand, that means more blog traffic, so here I go...

One of the most contentious moral-political debates in this country is the issue of abortion. For starters, it's one of the few issues that have provoked outright violence (bombings of abortion clinics and shootings of abortion doctors) and it certainly generates the most bellicose language. Furthermore, I've observed, based on reading the comments pages of both pro-life and pro-choice sites, that people on both sides of the issue simply do not understand why their opposite numbers hold the beliefs they do.

(Belligerent pro-choice people do not appear to believe pro-life people actually have humanitarian motives and instead attribute their beliefs to some sick desire to control women, while belligerent pro-life people accuse the pro-choice people of being callous baby-killers when no less than former President Bill Clinton said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare and, anecdotally, I've heard of women who've had abortions leaving clinics crying.)

One theory I've heard is that Roe vs. Wade united both Catholics and Protestants together in the pro-life movement and the increased contacts between the two groups led to a decline in sectarian prejudice that had previously been much stronger. After all, if you get to know people in a different group, you realize a lot of the negative ideas you've had about them are wrong.

By that logic, getting pro-life and pro-choice people to work on projects of mutual interest might help defuse some of the general nastiness characterizing the debate.

So here are two suggestions:

While doing research on pregnancies resulting from rape for my Wastelands projects (Catalina Merrill was captured by the villain Grendel, made a concubine, and bore a son whose legal name is Havarth Grendelsson but whom she privately calls Hayes Merrill), I found a pro-choice website (I can tell it's that because it calls pro-life people "anti-choice") describing how in 31 states, no law specifically forbids a rapist from attempting to assert parental rights. Given how there may well be thousands of children born every year as a result of rape, that's a big problem. The site posted a link to proposed legislation in South Carolina sponsored by pro-life people that would fix this situation and suggested forming a political alliance with them.

(I can't find the original link because the Akin and Mourdock controversies have filled up Google, but Shauna Prewitt's work on the subject has provided much of the same information. And I'd rather not run lots of Google searches for "rape.")

I suspect the law is based on the assumption no rapist would seek parental rights on the grounds this would open them up to legal consequences. That would apply to hooligans lurking in dark alleys, but most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, in circumstances ambiguous enough that proving a criminal case would be rather difficult and thus the perpetrator would not be deterred from making himself obnoxious.

Oftentimes this leads to rapists trying to get pregnant victims to drop charges in exchange for them renouncing their parental rights, which leaves them free to rape again. Furthermore, the more obsessive varieties of rapist might use the parental-rights excuse to continue to harass the victim for years to come.

(I can hardly imagine some sleazy stereotype of a frat boy who goes around plying women with alcohol and roofies in order to take advantage of them from caring enough to harass one victim for years when he can continue on his merry way preying on naive freshmen, but the article I just cited does reference that occurring.)

This isn't exactly incentive for women in this position to keep their babies, now is it? Furthermore, eliminating the ability of a perpetrator to use the parental-rights issue as a bargaining chip would help deal with the rather low arrest/prosecution/conviction rate of rapists.

Obviously the laws would need to be written in such a way that a man can't be denied access to his child or children on accusation alone, but that can be hammered out once the effort actually starts. The MJ article references one attempt to change the law using the "preponderance of evidence" standard used in civil cases, since child-custody is a civil matter. That seems like a sound standard.

Furthermore, here's an idea I had awhile ago that I've only posted on my alternate-history site, where it received little attention. The suggestion was that pro-life and pro-choice people should invest the efforts spent calling one another names into supporting research into artificial wombs and fetal transplantation, as well as in-utero surgery and genetic engineering.

Implemented together, these would render abortion obsolete. A healthy unwanted zygote/fetus/whatever could be transplanted to an artificial womb or a surrogate and then put up for adoption when born, while an unhealthy zygote/fetus/whatever could be more easily fixed. Genetic engineering to fix anomalies would actually be easier, since we already have had cases of gene therapy for diseases as well as genetic doping for athletes.

Fixing a situation this extreme could prove rather difficult to say the least, but many situations aren't as bad. In Britain, for example, abortions have been undertaken for clubfoot and cleft palate, both of which can be fixed after birth. If those could be fixed before birth, that wouldn't have happened.

I'll end my post with a quote from the late President John F. Kennedy. He said the United States would go to the Moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Both the scientific research I suggested and getting two groups opposed to each other to the degree the pro-life and pro-choice movement are will not be easy, but the dividends in civil peace, increased convictions of perverted criminals, and scientific advancement will be well worth the effort.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Top Traffic Sources and Lessons Thereof

Was checking the stats on my blog this morning and took a look at the top traffic sources since the blog began in 2010.

My single biggest source was, with 5,379 hits. Meanwhile, has 753 hits. Given how my blog has 60,000 hits total, this represents around 10% of my total traffic. Also, I've noticed my blog traffic has gone down during the recent months I've had myself blocked from posting on the message-board to avoid being distracted from my personal writing. This indicates my strategy of putting blog links in the signature of every post I make has been a successful traffic draw.

(For the record, this is the alternate-history forum I often mention in conversation.)

Meanwhile, has brought in 5,043 hits, with bringing in 437, 408, and 169. That's combined around 6,000 hits, another 10% of my traffic total. This shows the power of the Google search engine and possibly why putting one's blog on Blogger (which is part of Google) is a good idea.

Facebook brought in 1,496 hits. I typically post blog links on my profile page and on my Facebook fan page Matthew W. Quinn, Speculative Fiction Writer. Although this doesn't seem to have been the hit-getter I thought it was, I do recall getting a lot of hits on my recent post on why I'm voting Libertarian this year. I'm going to keep this strategy up.

A surprisingly large source of hits was the Starcraft Wikia, with 1,302 hits. Here's how it happened. In the summer of 2011, I bought some Facebook advertising (I can't remember how much) and after some trial and error, decided to narrowly target it to a certain few things. One of those things was Starcraft, since I had been blogging a fair bit about Starcraft II, a tie-in novel I outlined and planned to propose to Blizzard, and some suggestions I had for the future of the Starcraft storyline. Some of these links ended up in the Starcraft Wikia and have been bearing fruit since. Lesson: Facebook advertising is good, as is narrowly targeting it. I considered buying some Facebook advertising for my two short stories available on, but I'd need to move some very large numbers in order to break even (for $50 worth of advertising, I'd need to sell 150 copies).

Last of these outside traffic sources is Wikipedia, with 158 hits. After DragonCon one year (I can't remember if it was 2011 or 2010), I put some links to my DragonCon blog posts there, in particular those relating to S.M. Stirling and his Draka, Island in the Sea of Time, and Emberverse novels. I think one of the links got purged, but others are still there.

Finally, last of all traffic sources period is the blog itself, with 149 hits. This seems to indicate that visitors to the blog visit one page or another but don't go from page to page very often.

One of the sources not listed at all was my personal Twitter feed. I have definitely gotten blog hits from tweeting my blog posts ( being the source listed), but it doesn't seem like I've gotten very many. I also haven't been getting many blog hits from guest blog posts. However, I haven't done very many of those and I haven't done those until recently, so that should be expected.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I'm Not Voting for Romney or Obama

As those who have known for while awhile know, I've been self-identifying as a Libertarian since a road-to-Damascus moment about how there is no moral difference between nonviolent ownership of "assault weapons" and nonviolent marijuana smoking when I was in high school. Although I was too young to vote in the 2000 presidential election, I voted for the Libertarian Badnarik in 2004.

In 2008, I voted rather reluctantly for John McCain. I can't remember why--either something the Libertarian candidate that year did got on my nerves or perhaps there was something about Obama I really didn't like and I didn't want to risk helping Obama win Georgia. Although I'm drifting away from Libertarianism (more because I support government spending on education, science, and infrastructure), my views are sufficiently different from the two major parties that I'm not inclined to vote for either of them and I'm not going to vote for hard-leftists like the Greens.

However, although I haven't voted yet, I'm probably going to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Although I have spoken out in favor of Republicans Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, here's why I'm not interested in supporting either candidate.


One thing I didn't like about Obama back in 2008 was the whole cult-of-personality thing that coalesced around him, with him being "the one" who would bring "change." I'll give Obama credit that he tried to make a joke out of it rather than use it for some more sinister purpose, but that did rub me the wrong way.

One of the big reasons I didn't like him in 2008 was the born-alive controversy in Illinois. This isn't a matter of abortion in the first trimester or so of pregnancy when the fetus doesn't really have much in the way of a brain. If there's the possibility the fetus can survive outside the womb, it must be fairly far along. See this. This isn't even abortion anymore.

Although I shed no tears for Gadhafi and have flat-out recommended Obama claim credit for Gadhafi's death to look tough on foreign policy, Obama has claimed the U.S. contribution to the overthrow of Gadhafi did not require congressional approval. I do not believe that to be the case.

Obama does not oppose indefinite-detention provisions that violate the Fifth and may infringe on the First amendments.

And then there's Gunwalker.


For starters, Mitt Romney flip-flops when it's politically convenient. I have no beef with changing one's opinions based on new evidence--after all, that's what science is all about--but the timing of Romney's changing views on issues like gun control and abortion smell.

It's not like Romney opposes the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens either. If someone is killed in battle and is a U.S. citizen that's one thing, but if they're arrested, that's something else. The U.S. Constitution specifically says people can be charged with treason for making war on the U.S. and that's how to handle American members of AQ who are taken alive.

Mitt Romney also opposes online gambling, using downright nanny-state arguments in favor of keeping the ban. I don't gamble for money, but I don't care if anyone else does. If someone causes their family to suffer because they can't control their gambling, that's unfortunate, but it's not justification for the government to ban everyone from doing it.

Romney vowed to fight marijuana legalization "tooth and nail." Considering how Colorado has greatly benefited from "medical marijuana" and several states are voting on legalizing marijuana this fall, we might well have a major state-federal clash. Considering how the GOP claims to support state and local control, the federal government being aggressive on this issue is rather hypocritical.

I'll get to why I support Gary Johnson later, since I generally believe in providing positive solutions rather than just complaining.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crossing "Gates of Vasharia" with HBO's "Rome"

A year or three ago, I brought several chapters of my unfinished novel The Gates of Vasharia to my Kennesaw writing group. The story is set in the world of Vasharia where over the course of millennia various human cultures have come in through permanent Stargate-type gates or wild tears in space-time, leading to a patchwork of different nations.

(The dominant political force is an empire founded by a lost Roman legion, while other cultures are descended from Viking expeditions or Nestorian missionary endeavors.)

The story takes place during a civil war between the Imperator Marduk Kabon and his father's former general Patrick Rassam, the latter of whom was cast into the dark spaces between worlds (inspired by the "Todash Darkness" of Stephen King's Dark Tower universe) and has returned with demonic forces from said realm. Adding to the fun is an invasion from a parallel world by a gigantic cyborg Russian despot.

The technology of this world is roughly at the level of the Persian Gulf War. However, all of the point-of-view (POV) characters (protagonist Calvin Grenville, anti-hero Patrick Rassam, the antagonistic Czar, and on-the-protagonist's-side-but-still-a-tool Marduk) who participate in battle are very high-ranking--they're either corps commanders if not outright commanders-in-chief. In a Gulf War-type setting, someone of that rank is not going to be participating in active combat unless something has gone very, very wrong.

I've tried to "hang a lampshade" on that issue by depicting Cal only participating in direct combat twice (once leading the reserve forward at a critical moment in person to inspire his men--and being chastened by Marduk for unnecessarily risking himself--and later when the Czar's army overruns his headquarters), depicting Patrick and the Czar as both being Blood Knights who simply don't give a rip, and Marduk getting caught in a Czarist raid on his headquarters rather than anything he sought out himself. However, some members of my writing group suggesting leaving the combat scenes to lower-ranking characters.

Although I was resistant to the concept because that would require rewriting much of what I've already written, I just had a realization that HBO's television program Romeoperated on the same principles. Legionaries Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus are the ones who, most of the time, are the ones getting their hands dirty. You might see someone like Mark Antony and Marcus Agrippa dusting it up, but even at that level of technology, they wouldn't be part of a shield wall like a common soldier would be.

Perhaps the revisions wouldn't be as radical as I fear. Like Rome, this can be a "buddy story" of two lower-ranking guys who keep finding themselves involved in power politics. This way I can save most of the already-written material and just add new stuff.

*GOV begins with Cal awarding medal to survivors of a failed campaign across the Inner Sea against Patrick's stronghold in the western continent of Mahonistan. One of them can be a low-ranked POV character. I can keep the first scene where Cal and his entourage are heading to the arena on a train and have the second half of the scene from the low-ranked guy's POV.

*The other low-ranked POV character can be present when the Czar invades the eastern continent of Trydonia and be among the survivors that retreat. That would require redoing about the first two-thirds of the chapter.

*At the first big battle with the Czarist forces, the two characters can get thrown together. Maybe they're part of a mishmash of survivors that are about to get curb-stomped by the Czar when suddenly Cal and the armor reserve have a Big Damn Heroes moment and kick the Czarist forces in their metaphorical groin. The chapter begins with Cal POV doing the battle-planning and high-level management stuff, then the actual combat can be from the lower-ranking guy's POV. We switch back to Cal's POV for the aftermath of the fighting and then back to the lower-ranking guy's POV for some post-battle leave.

*A major part of the story involves Marduk dispatching Cal (and his wife Eva, who has a bit of a history with Patrick) to territories under Patrick's control in hopes of negotiating an alliance against the Czar. One of them is assigned to be part of Cal's escort, while the other stays behind to fight the Czar. The one who travels can provide a lower-ranked POV (while Cal parleys with Patrick, he can see the armies building for Patrick's planned invasion of Trydonia and the reader will think Patrick will stab Marduk in the back), while the other can be part of the breakout where the bloodied Czarist forces shatter part of the Imperial army and march for the sea, toward the area Patrick's planned invasion will land.

*When Patrick's army lands and Cal returns to command of his army, the two characters are reunited. They'll be part of the counteroffensive that pushes the Czar back toward his incursion zone. They can be present when the Czar overruns Cal's headquarters and is about to personally dispatch him when he's set upon by Patrick. That particular fight would be a seven-alarm SNAFU--three corps commanders, their respective bodyguards and whatever equivalent to "household troops" would exist in this world (I'm thinking Patrick would have a force nicknamed "Rassam's Fist" in the style of the 501st Legion), and significant quantities of three armies' air power going at it in an area maybe about 1-2 square miles.

You all probably won't be seeing this anytime soon. This story deals with issues that I don't really have a lot of personal experience in, so I figured I'd set it aside and return to it once I've written some more books and have lived more.

(There's also the possibility I might simply put together the Patrick-POV parts of it into a new first-person fake-memoir entitled I, Dark Lord, but I've written some very good character moments that aren't from his POV and I'd rather not waste those.)

Hmm...if it weren't for the budget costs of Patrick's demonic henchmen, armies of tanks, etc., this might make a spiffy television series. Maybe it could be animated?

Games Workshop City Walk Celebrates First Anniversary

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.--Games Workshop City Walk celebrated its first anniversary Sept. 29 with cake and a gaming tournament.

Kenneth Meade, who operates the store, said the shop was part of Games Workshop's expansion in the United States. Games Workshop is a British gaming company known for its Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40,000, and Lord of the Rings tabletop games. The Warhammer 40,000 property have been adapted into books, video games, and even an animated movie.

"It's one of the better-performing one-man stores," Meade said when asked how business had been during the prior year. Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy are the two most popular properties, but Meade anticipated the Lord of the Rings games selling better as the release of The Hobbit drew near. The best-selling items were the "core sets" that introduce players to the setting and come with enough miniatures to allow two people to play. The store also stocks the many tie-in novels set in both the 40k and Fantasy universes, many of which will be released there weeks before they appear in more general bookstores like Barnes and Noble.

The event lasted from noon until 9 p.m. Meade described the turnout as "great." Part of the event was a gaming tournament using the newly-released sixth editionof Warhammer 40,000. By 3:40 p.m., 12 people had played a game using the Dark Vengeancestarter set. Meade expected more to play as the day went on.

In addition to the gaming tournament, the celebration featured miniature-painting, special items on sale,  giveaways of promotional items like backpacks, and even a cake from Henri's Bakery.

Hutch Jackson came up from his home near Emory University for the event. A 40k player, he has a Chaos Space Marine army he purchased with the sixth edition as well as Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Necron forces. During the three games he had played before 4 p.m., he played as the Chaos Space Marines. Jackson enjoys the game's extensive back-story and collecting and painting the models.

Jackson gets most of his Games Workshop materials from Games Workshop City Walk. If he needs something, there's a good chance Meade has it.

Paul Jarvis of Milton has shopped at Games Workshop City Walk since February 2012.

"I was online and I found there was a store in Georgia," he said. "I decided I would go check it out."

He said the people who frequent the shop are very friendly and helped him out. Because of that, he's come back for more.

Jarvis plays both 40k and Fantasy. In 40k, he plays as the Ultramarines and has an attached Imperial Guard unit. In Fantasy, he plays as the Dwarfs.

"It's fun to put [them] together, to make your own models," he said. "It's just fun playing around, meeting nice people."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Star Trek Eugenics Wars Timeline, With a Joke

On my alternate-history forum, the user whose handle is JSmith started a project to create a fan timeline of the Eugenics Wars from the Star Trek universe. Different board members contributed written material, with others (like me) offering suggestions.

Here's the link. Nobody liked the "secret Eugenics wars" book series written by Greg Cox, so it's a full-blown alternate history starting in the 1930s that builds to the Eugenics Wars as a nuclear Third World War (with another worldwide conflict a generation later as a spinoff) rather than a "secret history" depicting various events of the 1990s as part of a covert war by the Augments against the rest of the world. It's got some really interesting stuff, like excerpts from memoirs of the illegitimate daughter of one of Khan's inner circle (who can basically be described as an evil Bono) who was part of the Australian army fighting against the Augments and an explanation for why, although Khan is Indian, the other Augments aboard the Botany Bay were all white people.

I am seriously considering submitting original material of my own--in the show Enterprise, Captain Archer references a great-grandfather who fought in North Africa during the Eugenics Wars. Apparently he parleyed with an Augment commander to get a bunch of kids who were trapped in a crossfire zone out of harm's way. I know I'd vowed not to do anymore fan-fiction and focus on real work, but this wouldn't take very long.

(However, there's a short story in a Star Trek anthology depicting the incident, so maybe I won't.)

Now for the joke. One of the later posts is the prison memoir of a member of Khan's inner circle who was not sentenced to death--someone resembling Albert Speer of our own world. I disagreed with the assessment of Khan as a man who had no friends, only servants and rivals, based on how fiercely he became attached to Lt. Marla McGivers, the Starfleet officer who turned traitor out of love for him and eventually became his wife.

Some of the other board members said the writing was from a limited point-of-view and like real history, it has its biases. McGivers' diary would paint a rather different picture of Khan.

My response: Would McGivers' diary, if published in book form, be titled...


Fifty Shades of Red(shirt)?

For those of you who don't get it, Marla can be credibly described as a redshirt based on her uniform, her limited appearance, and her ultimate demise, while both she and the female lead of 50 Shades of Grey are both weak women in thrall to dominant, unusual men. I think it works.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Character Interview: The Wendigo

(I sit on a moss-covered log deep in the Canadian woods. Across the clearing from me, on another log, sits the Wendigo. He reaches into his mouth with a foot-long finger and picks some meat from between his fangs with a black claw. He greedily licks it off with his long tongue.)

Author: So, how are you feeling today?

Wendigo: Hungry, as always. You're lucky I've just fed and can talk with you without risking your safety.

Author: What is a typical day like in your life?

Wendigo: I don't sleep much. I spend most of the day hunting. I can run as fast as one of your, what's that word, automobiles, so I cover a lot of territory.

Author: You don't know what a car is?

Wendigo: When I was a man, people walked or rode horses. There were ships that sailed on the seas using steam engines, but these "cars" of yours were a distant dream. These "all terrain vehicles" even more so.


Someone actually got away from me on an "ATV." That was embarrassing. The authorities no doubt thought he was drunk, but I had to hunt elsewhere for awhile lest men with guns come looking.

Author: You fear guns?

Wendigo: Of course! What predator doesn't fear guns? Guns make even the smallest and weakest prey able to hurt or kill the greatest manqueller. There are only two ways to kill a Wendigo, and a firearm can manage one.

Author: What are those ways?

(The wendigo snorts.)

Wendigo: I was most assuredly not born yesterday.

Author: You're the boss. Are there any other creatures like you?

Wendigo: There were, once. Long ago, it was a lot easier to get snowed in out in the woods and have to feed on your fellow humans to survive. We can sense that. If we don't find you and kill you, there's a good chance you'll end up becoming one of us.


Now there aren't many trappers or Indians left. A lot more tourists, but they don't stick around when the hard winters come. I doubt if there've been any new wendigowak born since that "Second World War" I've heard of. And even we can be killed or simply die of old age, even though we generally live many of your lifetimes.

Author: You said earlier you fear guns. If men with guns can kill you, wouldn't a body be proof of your existence?

Wendigo: We tend to crumble away quickly after our deaths. As you can see, there's not really much substance to us.

(The wendigo rises to his feet. Although he's around ten to twelve feet tall, he's absolutely emaciated. Each muscle stands out beneath pale skin and I can count each rib. Through his abdomen, I can see the faintest traces of his spine.)

If some lucky shot was able to bring a wendigo down, he'd fall apart when someone tried to drag him away.

Author: That would explain the lack of physical evidence.

(The wendigo steps forward. Drool trickles past ruined, chewed-away lips.)

Author: Could you please sit back down?

(The wendigo closes his huge eyes for a moment, then retreats back to his log.)

Wendigo: I would leave soon, if I were you. My hunger sometimes makes it hard to control myself.

Author: Thank you for your time.

Wendigo: You're most welcome.

The Wendigo is the protagonist of my short horror story "I am the Wendigo," which is available here from I got the idea of a character interview from Malissa Thomas.

My eBook Experiment, Success and Predictions...

Per my earlier post, I posted two pieces of my short fiction on for the Kindle.

They are "Melon Heads" and "I am the Wendigo", both of which had cover art done by Udo Wooten. One of the reasons self-published works don't do well is because they often have really bad cover art, and thanks to Udo, that wasn't a problem.

Here's what I've learned so far. Both sales and free giveaways were highest in September, the month they were released. I made 16 sales of "Melon Heads" and 6 sales of "Wendigo," gaining me $7.70 in total revenue, along with a combined 300-ish in giveaways. However, come October, "Melon Heads" sales had drastically declined, with one sale (and a refund) and "Wendigo" sales had vanished entirely. I've set them to be given away free today (Oct. 14) and tomorrow (Oct. 15), and so far I've given away five copies of "Wendigo" and eleven of "Melon Heads" (the latter mostly in Britain for some reason). Hopefully word of mouth would generate some sales after the free period ends.

My friends Jeff Baker and James R. Tuck both had offered advice on the matter. Jeff said people he knew who were living off self-published eBook revenues made money on volume. James agreed with his point--his advice on making money by Kindle-publishing short fiction was "churn and burn."

(I have seen at least one cross-purchase--someone who purchased "I am the Wendigo" also purchased "Melon Heads." I imagine the more I write, the greater this effect will be.)

I do have a fair bit of unsold short fiction inventory, although some of it is unsold for a reason. I've got a Lovecraftian Western called "Old Daniels' Mine," for example, which is a mess whose length makes it problematic to revise. I've heard short stories aren't really worth the time you put into them, so I would probably be better-served working on my longer stuff rather than tinkering with this even if I could make a few bucks in the short run on the Kindle.

However, I do have some unsold stories that are in much better shape.

1. "The Beast of the Bosporus"-The Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire decides to think outside the box after the Battle of Lepanto, and gets involved with the affairs of the Great Old Ones. I wrote the earliest version in 2004 and have been cutting it since then, removing excessive description--an earlier version was described as "Toynbee with monsters"--and even one entire character. Like "Melon Heads," although it's now a much stronger work, I don't have many places left to send it.

2. "Illegal Alien"-Also a college story, this one tells the tale of a group of undocumented immigrants who stumble into the middle of an alien war in the Arizona desert. It also shows off my propensity for awful puns. I've been revising this one for awhile and have been running out of markets to send it.

3. "Breeding Pair"-The title alludes to the practice of collecting male-female pairs of endangered species to ensure there's a safe, viable breeding population somewhere. As applied to humans, this risks venturing into rather raunchy territory, although since I have no interest in writing trash, things don't get very far. The story also ventures into the idea that Christ visited alien races as well, as expressed in C.S. Lewis's essay "Religion and Rocketry," which is contained in his book The World's Last Night, and Alice Meynell's poem "Christ in the Universe."

I've never even sent this to my critique groups, so this might be a bit premature. However, it is set in the same universe as "Illegal Alien," which I'm much more likely to Kindle-publish, and given the content and subject matter, it risks being too risque for the Christian markets and too Christian for the secular markets (on Critters, someone complained about "alien snake Jesus"), leaving self-publishing my only option.

To provide cover art, I may expand my repertoire of artists to include Alex Claw, whose work can be found here. Alex seems more focused on depicting human beings than Udo is, and I've already put some thought into what he might be able to do for "Illegal Alien" and "Breeding Pair."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Selling Online: and

When I was in college, I joined, using it to buy my textbooks more cheaply and sell them for more than I'd get if I relied exclusively on the UGA bookstore or the off-campus bookstores in Athens. This was largely a success, even with fairly obscure books like At Thy Call We Did Not Falter and 32 Battalion, which I used for my senior thesis on the end of apartheid and the role played by the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

Since then, I've bought and sold a few items here and there. Among other things, I've learned the lesson that if you want to keep more of the money gives you for shipping, ship as cheaply as possible. For small books, it's better to take a big manila envelope and pack the book into it with a lot of plastic grocery bags for cushioning rather than buy an expensive mailer from the Post Office. I actually lost money on shipping on my most recent transaction because of that.

I recently tried to post the BattleTech source-book Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents, which I purchased in order to learn the (possible) fate of Clan Wolverine, a renegade Clan that was supposedly exterminated by the other Clans but in all likelihood managed to escape back to the Inner Sphere. Although I'm interested once more in writing BattleTech fiction, I'm not interested in the Word of Blake Jihad or the FedCom Civil War, so I figured it'd be better to make some money selling the book to someone who'd appreciate it more than letting it gather dust.

However, for some reason would not accept the ISBN number. Rather than let that get me down, I decided to post it for sale on

Here is my seller page on Amazon. So far it's just Jihad Secrets that's available, but I might post other items that have been sitting on forever without selling. If you're interested in the Word of Blake Jihad and Clan Wolverine, I'd recommend buying it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Back To BattleTech

This morning I ordered the Wars of Reaving BattleTech source-book from Barnes and Noble's website, finally remembering to use one of those e-mail coupons my membership entitles me to. Between the 20 percent off and the free express shipping, I saved $10. That covers around a fifth of the two years I've had a membership there, a lot more than 10 percent off an in-store purchase would.

Why am I discussing this purchase? Because I've decided to try my hand at BattleTech fiction once more. In 2009, I sold a short story entitled "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge," which covers one of the early battles of the Clan Wolf invasion of the Inner Sphere, to BattleCorps, the official tie-in site for BattleTech fiction. However, due to some matters I'm not going to discuss, I set aside some partially-written stories and focused on other work.

However, things changed and I decided to give one of those stories a look. The BattleCorps guidelines advise new writers to stay away from established characters and well-known areas of the BT universe, lest a good story be rejected for conflicting with established canon. "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge" describes part of the Battle of the Jallington Vale, which took place during Clan Wolf's invasion of the Oberon Confederation world of Drask's Den. That conquest is described in the 1990s Clan Wolf manual I own as being something resembling the Persian Gulf War--much of the Oberon army was destroyed from the air before ground combat even took place--and I'd researched the Gulf War a fair bit for other projects. There also appeared to be no mention of it beyond the entry in the Clan Wolf book, so it was fair game. And considering how they bought it, it all worked out.

My next story, "El Hijo de Hermano Abdullah," takes places in the Deep Periphery, in the wars between the Ummayyads and the Castilians. That aspect of BattleTech canon is also not well-developed, at least in comparison to the Inner Sphere. I pitched the idea to one of the BattleCorps editors, who suggested I purchase War of Reaving to see what's been going on in the Deep Periphery since then. Given how the Clan worlds are considered part of the Deep Periphery and I had heard there'd be some major doings related to the Ummayyads and the Castilians not mentioned in the Periphery source-book I bought for "Skirmish," I figured it would be a wise investment.

Plus the Wars of Reaving that ravaged Clan Space at the same time as the Word of Blake Jihad trashed the Inner Sphere could be a good source of stories. I am not a fan of the FedCom Civil War and WOB storylines and figured I'd center my BattleTech stories on the Clan Invasion Era in the Inner Sphere and the Periphery other times, but the WoR, which take place outside the Inner Sphere, would also work.

"Free express shipping" means 1-3 business days. Maybe when I get it, I'll review it here.