A work-in-progress meme (Carrie Cuinn made me do this)

/ October 4th, 2012 / 5 Comments »

UPDATE 10/17: Claire Cooney’s response to this meme can be found here, and there’s a roundup by Rose Lemberg of several more here.

UPDATE 10/11: Juliette Wade’s response to this meme can be found here.

UPDATE 10/10: Nicole Kornher-Stace’s response to this meme can be found here.

UPDATE 10/6: Rose Lemberg’s response to this meme can be found here and here.

My future publisher (of The Button Bin and Other Stories,) Carrie Cuinn, filled out a “Next Big Thing” meme over at her blog, and then tagged me, among others. At the time she did the tagging, I was working on the final edits (perhaps,) for the novel I have coming out through Black Gate. The ms. is now turned in to other future publisher John O’Neill, but I ran with it as my work in progress. The idea, Carrie says, is to “to answer ten questions about your current work in progress. That might be a novel, a short story, an anthology … whatever. What are you working on? they asked me.”

So here goes:

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

1. What is the title of your book?

The Black Fire Concerto (formerly The Reed Player)

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Hoo boy. There isn’t a short answer to this question, though I will attempt it.

The Black Fire Concerto began life as a novelette called “The Reed Player.”

The “Reed Player” novelette starts from two completely different points of origin. The first, an idea for a character that’s been with me a long time, a tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired woman, deadly accurate with a firearm, who travels from town to town and has encounters along the dark fantasy and horror spectrum, only a few shades removed from Stephen King’s Roland.

The second: a fellow I know in Roanoke, Jonathan Overturf — when we were both regulars at the local No Shame Theatre skit/music/poetry/storytelling/unclassifiable/whatever venue — shared a dream with me that he’d had about a restaurant where the patrons eat zombies, and send unsuspecting tourists into the cellar, where the zombies are kept, to be bitten and then become dinner. He welcomed me to make use of it.

I am not sure what inspired me to apply the first to the second, but the result radically transformed both. The setting became a post-apocalyptic world where magic works. The restaurant became a moored riverboat modified into a fortress. The patrons became wealthy cultists and a black-clad crew. The gunslinger became a musician named Olyssa, who plays a unique sorcery-empowered pipe. This alchemy also required two new characters: a villain named the Chef — inspired by a figure in a nightmare I had as a teenager — who is my riff on Cormac McCarthy’s The Judge; as well as a young girl, a harpist, held prisoner in the riverboat after her parents are murdered. The girl, Erzelle, ended up being the story’s protagonist, the events that unfold seen through her eyes. The first draft was written in 2009. It underwent many beta readings and was bounced from many markets.

Fast forward to Autumn 2011. My buddy Claire Cooney approaches me with a mad idea to contribute to a line of e-books that John O’Neill of Black Gate wants to launch. After hemming and hawing I ask Claire to read “The Reed Player” and ask if it would work for her as an idea for a longer book. See, I always had this idea that Olyssa and Erzelle could have many more adventures — I’ve always wanted my own sword-and-sorcery style wanderers — though there seemed little point in generating more when their first adventure hadn’t seen daylight.

Claire called me after reading it, and I believe her exact words were, “Please, please, please, make this a novel for me, please?” OR something, awfully close to that. It’s also of note that Anita’s words on the matter were, “Oh, you’re doing that.”

In “The Reed Player,” Olyssa is searching for her lost sister. Not long after that early draft, my longtime buddy from Hollins University days, Cathy Reniere, suggested to me that in expanding that world further I should consider tying the story of the missing sibling to the story of how the entire world was transformed. There were also, in the original draft, later trimmed, references to a wolf-like people. I made them vulpine instead and decided to find out who these vulpines were. Those two threads fueled the next 61,000 words of what turned out to be a 69,000-word novel. I was originally shooting for a total of 40,000. Oops!

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Though some sf leaks in at the very edges, and there’s horror throughout, I’d say fantasy. There’s definitely sorcery. Even a sword!

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I never think about my work in these terms. That said, though she doesn’t look like how I picture Erzelle in my head, I think Jodelle Ferland could have played her quite effectively (I suppose now she’s too old unless you want to pull a Judy Garland.) Olyssa is much more difficult to cast. I know of no Hollywood actress that fits. A turn to Bollywood shows me Bipasha Basu, who is the closest I’ve spotted, though they would have to do some things with her stature along the lines of what was done for Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises. (Addendum 10/7: Having seen John Carter, I think Lynn Collins could probably do it, though Olyssa has dark eyes, is taller than most men, and would never dress like Dejah Thoris.)

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

Magic-wielding musicians battle the undead in a post-apocalyptic world.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

As if that’s an either/or question! Neither. It will be published as an e-book by Black Gate. At present it’s scheduled to appear before Christmas.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

That’s complicated. I no longer remember how long it took me to write the first draft of “The Reed Player,” though I recall it as being fairly painstaking. The first draft of the remainder of the novel, though, was written in two months. Though I’m pleased to know I’m capable of that level of word-gushing when the need arises … I definitely do not recommend this approach to anyone. Kids, don’t try this at home.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m sure similar books are out there somewhere, though I haven’t read one. There are certainly books I’ve read that inspired elements of this one — there’s some seriously, almost ridiculously over-the-top Eternal Champion-level magic in there, some blasts of raw magical force akin to the power of the white gold in Donaldson’s The Wounded Land, some madcap Zelazny weirdness, maybe a wan shadow of Wolfe’s wandering torturer.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See answer to #1.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hmm. Sly fox-people in hidden cities. An enchanted rifle that never misses. Some seriously troubled family histories. Spells woven through improvised music. War machines made out of the undead. Wooden horses that fly. The highest corpse count (not death toll, mind you, corpse count) of anything I’ve ever written.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

I did that in the beginning. Now, to do some tagging of my own. Hmm … Nicole Korner-Stace. Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney. Rose Lemberg. Juliette Wade. Alex Dally MacFarlane. Sonya Taaffe. Consider yourselves tagged.

That was fun!


/ October 1st, 2012 / 1 Comment »

Today Clockwork Phoenix 4 opens to submissions.

Today is also the final day you can submit to Mythic Delirium 28.

Did I mention today is also when the edits to my novel The Black Fire Concerto are due in to Black Gate?

Bring it on.

Bring it on.




My poem with Anita, “Unland, Unlife,” up for Dwarf Stars Award

/ September 24th, 2012 / 2 Comments »

I learned last night that my poem “Unland, Unlife,” co-written with Anita, has been selected to be one of the contenders for the 2012 Dwarf Stars Award. This is the first time we’ve been up for a writing award for something we’ve composed together. Way cool!

And even more mockup fun (cover in progress)

/ September 10th, 2012 / 2 Comments »

More fun with logos and mockups (work in progress)

/ September 9th, 2012 / No Comments »

I’ve also updated the Clockwork Phoenix guidelines. Though this too is still a bit of a work in progress.

Novel and short story collection news

/ September 7th, 2012 / No Comments »

So last night and this morning I got the go-ahead to share two very exciting bits of news that came to fruition in the month following the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter.

First, I’m pleased to announce the sale of my novel, tentatively titled The Black Fire Concerto, to Black Gate. The few and proud who have followed my blog entries this past year have heard me refer to this work as the “Claire-dare novel.” That’s because my wonderful friend and colleague Claire Cooney, who writes as C.S.E., solicited this work from me late last fall (and just spent the last four months editing it, bless her heart.)

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where magic works, ghouls walk and fox-people populate hidden cities, my book chronicles the adventures of a sorceress, musician and sharpshooter named Olyssa, told from the point of view of Erzelle, a young harpist whom Olyssa rescues from a death cult and ends up taking under her wing.

The book is an experiment on two fronts: Black Gate intends to tackle the e-book market, so that’s the form in which Black Fire Concerto will first appear. (No publication date’s set at the moment; there’s a lot still to do to reach that point.) Second, inspired by Black Gate’s sword and sorcery roots, Black Fire Concerto is an effort on my part to capture that Elric and Moonglum/Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser feel — filtered through my own dark and twisty sensibilities, of course — and thus it’s not a solid brick of a novel, but rather two episodes, a free standing novelette (The Red Empress) followed by a two-part short novel (Bone Mosaics/Burning Horses.) For those of you who know your Elric, the latter aspires to some of the same over-the-top magical extravagance that marks the “Sailing to the Future” episode that kicks off The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.

Of my published work, the novel’s probably closest to “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade” in style and tone … and yet, not really.

I’m grateful to Claire and to Black Gate overlord John O’Neill for giving me this opportunity. And I’m certainly grateful to Nicole Kornher-Stace, Elizabeth Campbell, Virginia Mohlere, and definitely Anita, who all gave me oodles of essential beta reading. More news as things develop.

Now, second — I’ve already announced the sale of my first short story collection, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, which contains, among other things, the novella “The Quiltmaker,” which is the sequel to my Nebula Award-nominated short story “The Button Bin.” I was excited to sell this to Apex Books earlier this year, with a planned release of later summer/early fall.

Well, you might note what time of year it is. As things shook out, for reasons it wouldn’t be my place to divulge, Apex wound up unable to provide any sort of timetable for when the book actually would appear, and we had an amicable parting of the ways.

But now here’s the great news … within a day(!!!) I resold the collection to Carrie Cuinn of Dagan Books. Carrie is just coming off her own successful Kickstarter, that will let her finish two new anthologies, Fish and Bibliotheca Fantastica, and launch a line of e-book novellas.

Dagan Books editor Don Pizarro has attended my poetry workshops at ReaderCon in Boston, and I had my first substantial conversation with Carrie there this past summer, with no clue at the time that she and her crew would end up becoming my publishers. They’re a dynamic bunch and I’m delighted to be on board.

The Button Bin and Other Stories will have cover art by frequent Mythic Delirium contributing artist Paula Friedlander and an introduction by Laird Barron. Thomas Ligotti has written a blurb that says, among other things, this:

“…there’s one thing that I feel especially urged to say: these stories are fun. Not “good” fun, and certainly not “good clean” fun. They are too unnerving for those modifiers, too serious, like laughter in the dark—unnerving, serious laughter that leads you through Mr. Allen’s funhouse.”

More as things develop. This is going to be fun.

New “Tour of the Abattoir” at Tales to Terrify, with book reviews

/ September 5th, 2012 / No Comments »

In the latest edition of Larry Santoro’s Tales to Terrify podcast, I talk about the Weird Tales/Save the Pearls controversy and review two new novels, Ennis Drake’s 28 Teeth of Rage and Laird Barron’s The Croning.

Fun with logos (work in progress)

/ September 1st, 2012 / No Comments »

An update on everything

/ September 1st, 2012 / No Comments »

This coming Wednesday at The Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, I’ll be giving a presentation, “How to Run a Successful Kickstarter,” as part of PechaKucha Night Volume 3. The music starts at 6 p.m., the show at 7 p.m., space and tickets are limited. (The organizers would no doubt appreciate it if I finished my overdue PowerPoint and turned it in. I’m working on it, guys!)

Speaking of Kickstarters, there are a handful of pledge levels that required the corresponding reward be given out in August. I wasn’t quite able to get this completed, not because I didn’t have the reward ready — I most definitely did — but because, I’ve learned, and I suppose this is a consequence of being so successful and having such a wide net cast, there seems to be a percentage of Kickstarter backers that just won’t respond to any message, even when the message is, “Hi, I want to give you the thing you paid for, how do I get it to you?” (So anyway, if you’re a backer who’s supposed to get an August 2012 prize and you haven’t yet, check your e-mail or the Kickstarter site.)

Mythic Delirium 27, which I’m unofficially dubbing the “romance” issue, is at the moment in the process of being proofread. I’m hopeful to have it out this month, though I’m still waiting on cover art. (And, as above, subscriptions to Mythic Delirium are a Kickstarter prize, too, and I’m hopeful that set of backers will tell me where to mail their issues, hee. Messages still going out regarding this.)

This past week has seen some very cool developments regarding the project I’ve been calling “the Claire-dare novel” (a tribute to Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney, C.S.E. for short, who is the reason it exists.) It’s not clear to me how much I can say yet, as the Person Ultimately In Charge is currently living it up at WorldCon, but hopefully things will be clearer in the coming week.

Speaking of things I can’t share quite yet, I have a new web site in progress (finally!) that will, when it’s done, take the place of both mythicdelirium.com and clockworkphoenix.com. When exactly that will happen, I can’t say, because I’m nowhere close to finished yet. But it will happen.

And speaking of web sites, I can say with certainly that the reading period for Clockwork Phoenix 4 will be Oct. 1 through Dec. 14. I haven’t updated the actual guidelines on the Clockwork Phoenix website yet because there’s a couple other details I want to work out. But that’s coming soon too.

That’s me these days, in a perpetual state of “Stay tuned.”

Trying to play

/ August 25th, 2012 / 1 Comment »

With LJ Crossposter

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As publisher and editor

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