Somehow, I’ve Become Scary Again


For most of my adult life, women crossed the street when they saw me walking toward them.

Not crowded city streets, but in residential areas, where it’s just me heading in one direction reading a library book and them coming in the other direction, often walking a dog, by the time I got within half a block of them, I’d look up and notice that they’d crossed to the other side.

Which is fine. I know there are guys who take this shit personally (I’ve argued with them) but I don’t. People should do what they need to do to make themselves feel safe. What does it matter to me if a neighbor looks me over and thinks “I don’t think so”? It doesn’t. I just wish I didn’t make them feel uncomfortable.

Then, a few years back, I noticed it had stopped happening. I would pass people on the sidewalk–women, men, couples, whatever–and say hello, then move on with our day.

Finally, I thought, I’ve gotten old.

But recently, I’ve made an effort to get out into the neighborhood and walk as much as possible, and it’s happening again. I’m not sure why. I’m fatter than I was during the pandemic. My clothes are a little older. So am I.

So, to the folks in my neighborhood, I’m sorry for making you feel unsafe. I’d stop if I knew what to do. Hopefully, I’ll go back to looking old and harmless and we can go back to saying hello again.

Writing update: I started a new novel that is not 20 Palaces. I told myself that this time I was going to start it off right and write the whole book without ditching the opening chapters and starting over, as I usually do.

I’ve already ditched the opening chapters twice.

Third time’s the charm, right?

How Not To Do It: Why I’m Not Much of a Publisher


Friday was the release date of my newest novel, The Iron Gate. It was my return to the Twenty Palaces series, the books that landed me a publisher and a fanbase, and it’s the first new novel in that series since 2011.

And I have really borked the release.

Did you preorder a copy of the book? Did that preorder never show up?

That was my fault.

Let me back up.

After I ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 for The Great Way, I told myself I was never going to run a crowdfunding campaign again.

I’m not what you would call an organized person. I can never keep a calendar or a journal. Even a to-do list can be a challenge. So, when I published that epic fantasy trilogy, I made a bunch of mistakes, missed important deadlines and paperwork, and generally made life harder for the people I was working with. And myself, too.

I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again.

Then 2019 came along and up popped an opportunity to do things differently. I thought This new Kickstarter will be different. It’ll be simple in the extreme. No pledge levels. No stretch goals. I’ll put together some ebooks and email them around.

I thought that would be so simple that even I couldn’t screw it up.

Cut to this week and my attempt to get The Iron Gate on sale. I was dealing with one ebook vendor that would not upload my book, would not tell me that it had not worked, would not tell me why it wouldn’t work, would not tell me what I had to change to fix the problem. I’m usually pretty good with Googling up answers to my problems, but this took way longer than it should have to fix.

I also discovered several ebook vendors had more than one copy of the book, even though I’d only uploaded it once. I had problems with the cover art that had never cropped up before, and I wasn’t sure if standards at the printer had changed or if this time I’d done something different.

All these problems got handled, thanks to some totally normal and non-frantic wtf google what should I do? activity, but it was still frustrating as hell and wasted a bunch of my time.

I also found myself locked out of my Kindle Direct account the day before the book launched because Amazon decided to impose two-factor authentication. They wanted to send a special code to a landline I don’t even have any more. Was there an alternate to the special code to a non-existent number? Sure. All I had to do was upload a picture of my ID and wait 1-2 business days for someone there to look at it.

That was not how I wanted to discover I had yet another online account that I should have updated with my correct contact information when I moved more than 15 months ago. And yeah, two-factor authentication is great. But they need to let me set it up, not drop it on me.

But what about those preorders?

Here’s the deal. I fucked that up. There’s no other way to say it. I arranged for the books to be available for preorder. I asked people to preorder them, because the publication date was Sept 30, and vendors usually wait sixty days to pay the author, and I was hoping to get a decent chunk of sales revenue to arrive in the same tax year as my expenses.

But I fucked up. I was trying to do something else (at this point I can’t even remember what it was), I was not being careful and I was all click click click until I realized I had inadvertently cancelled more than 150 preorders from the Amazon listing.

Did you preorder from Amazon? Did that order never arrive? Well, it’s never going to, because of my error. You won’t be charged for it, but you won’t get it, either. If you still want the book from Amazon, please buy it from this working link.

Here’s another fun fact: after I stupidly cancelled those preorders, I got on the help chat with Amazon and spent more than two hours trying to get straight answers out of two different people. What I really wanted to know was whether the book I’d uploaded, and had set to publish at midnight that night, would still come out as scheduled even though I’d cancelled the preorders.

In other words, did I need to upload a new copy of the book?

After all that time, I couldn’t get a direct answer. Eventually, I was promised a call back which never came. The midnight publication time came and went without an actual publication, and I did in fact have to upload the book again to a new listing so people could buy it. Which meant the book was published late on that site and that the people who had preordered had to buy the book elsewhere.

I think I’d be better at publishing if I did it more often. The last thing I released was One Man, which was three years ago. There’s no way I’m going to remember all the little everythings I need to do to get this done. I mean, maybe if I journaled the process, I’d… oh shit. Nevermind.

Sometimes I think my chaotic, jump-around brain is helpful for my writing. Sure, it makes me slower than most, but a lot of my readers tell me my work feels different/ unusual/ original, and that’s great. To me, the stories feel like they’re playing out the only way they could, but other people are surprised and that pleases and startles and confounds me a little.

But if I had a more organized thought process, wouldn’t I be able to publish these books better? And write cleaner first drafts? And plot everything out in advance? And make a menu for the week when I’m getting my grocery list together? And go to the gym, wear shorts that can’t be described with the word “cargo”, and grow a full head of hair? The answers are unclear.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you enjoy my books, thank you for your support. As for my publishing process, I apologize for putting hurdles in your way to getting these books. I hate that I make these mistakes, find them both embarrassing and dispiriting, and am incredibly grateful to anyone who perseveres and buys a copy anyway. You guys are the best.

I have failed my book in the worst possible way


Today was supposed to be a chill fucking day. My agent has the revised version of EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS. Last night I sent KING KHAN, my game tie-in novel, to Evil Hat. I hope they like it because Christmas is coming and I could use the money. Next I’m supposed to work on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS and a Twenty Palaces short story I’ve been kicking around.

But today was for relaxing, people. Today was meant to chill and read through an old manuscript.

It was just about a year ago that I put the “final” touches on A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK and sent it to my agent. After reading my revised draft, she didn’t want to try to sell it; she didn’t think it was ready.

Some writers would be all outraged by that, but I shelved the book and worked on something else. I knew I could revisit it later after taking some time away from it.

Today, I took a printed copy out to the coffee shop to give it a read.

It’s really a failure. Like, full of an amazing amount of fail. It’s so off that I have a hard time reading it. It’s embarrassing.

What happened is pretty clear: I had something in my head that did not get onto the page. The tone is wrong, the POV has no specific voice, the important emotional moments glide right by without any effort to acknowledge their power…

Fuck. I had this idea for a book in my head and I thought I was writing it. I wasn’t. Maybe I loved the idea of the book too much, because I didn’t take the time to address the problems those ideas would present. Maybe I’m hadn’t studied other works with that tone carefully enough.

Maybe the problem was all that and more. I’m going to have to think on this carefully. Someday. For right now I’m putting this book aside and working on something else.

Damn. Just when I become too confident, I find new reasons for humility. What the hell. It’ll just make me a better writer tomorrow.

“We’re entering the era of the social artist.” (Warning: ranty)


If I paid any attention to the internet and the general zeitgeist, I’d think I was screwed.

Obviously, I’ve been working pretty hard on this new book, and epic fantasy it tough right now. So is urban fantasy. And what makes it even harder? Well, this is the era of the social artist.

That link gives the background to the latest overnight Kickstarter success story, which of course wasn’t overnight at all. We live in an era when artists of every kind are deeply engaged with their audiences–in fact, where artists are supposed to cultivate a fanbase by giving of their personal life and their privacy, and where the fans get to be right up in close to the artistic process and really feel part of things.

But I’m not doing that.

I have nothing against Palmer: I think she’s talented as hell, I like her music, and I admire what she’s done with her career. Unfortunately for me, I’m not her and I could never be like her. Nevermind that she’s making music and I’m writing books; I don’t want to share that much with you. Seriously. I have my private life and I like it that way. She can say that The ivory tower of the mysterious artist has crumbled she’s welcome to, but I’m not interested in the alternative.

On the days I write, I will often not talk to any living person outside my family except to order a coffee (although the local librarians have learned my name so we will exchange pleasantries occasionally). That’s fine. I like that. It gives me focus and it saves my energy. But I can’t be on Twitter several hours a day, and I long ago gave up the idea that this blog would be a nexus of activity.

But apparently this is what people expect now. I sometimes get emails from people who claim I make it hard to contact me. Yes, my email is on my website, but it’s a little buried. Yeah, comments are off. But I still have LJ, Facebook, and Twitter. Anyone who wants to can contact me there. Or they could turn up my email address. I do respond to everyone, even though that is not enough for some people, apparently. Once you get enough blog posts and Salon articles about the Way Things Are Done Now, everyone starts to expect it. I get readers telling me online, in their most patient tone, what’s expected of me as an author.

But I can’t be everyone’s friend. I’m just not made for it. Yes, I went to a convention once, as a member, and hung around for a few hours. No, I’ve never done a reading. No, I don’t have some kind of crippling anxiety that makes me a gibbering wreck in public. The truth is that I’m not that glib, not that clever, and I don’t back and forth with strangers very well.

And when you compare that to this article in the Guardian which dropped this little bombshell:

Because what fans want above all else – what in fact defines the very essence of fandom – is ownership of that which we adore.

Well, fuck that.

Here’s the thing: I don’t much like the idea of fans taking ownership of the things they like, not in the way that article states it. I’ll talk about this in the future maybe, but my ivory tower comes with a pleasant little desk and I like to sit at it and think about characters and sentences. When I go on Twitter I’m not planting bamboo, I’m hoping that someone posts something that will make me laugh. And when they do, I feel no obligation to run out and buy whatever stuff they made.

Yeah, sometimes I feel invisible. Sometimes I think my reticence is the reason the Twenty Palaces books got cancelled. Maybe that’s true (people have certainly tried to convince me so) but I seriously doubt it. I shake that kind of thinking off, because the only actions I do that really matter are the words I put on the page.

So here’s the deal with me, okay? I will write books. Sometimes they will not be very pleasant or happy, but they will always be the best I can manage. You, if you want, will read them. We can share funny stuff on Twitter, or you can drop me a note about whether you liked it on Facebook, or we can discuss whatever on LiveJournal. That’s all cool.

But I won’t be cultivating you. I won’t be growing your numbers like flies drawn in to a trap. And in return, you’ll understand that I’m just this guy with a job he really likes, and that I keep a certain distance because I have to guard my time and energy for my family, my health, and my work. I don’t have an assistant to read my emails or search my spam filters. I don’t have an interesting life.

And that’s all. If my books alone aren’t enough to make me successful, then I don’t think it’s worth having.

Brandon Sanderson gets a video game adaptation of his books?


First of all, I’m glad for him. I don’t know the dude and to be frank I bounced off the first Mistborn book. But his books have been selling very well, and this is a happy thing for him.

But I have the envy, too. The deep, deep envy.

Ah well. It’s not something I can control, but I can go back to my own WIP. Here’s more details:

Mistborn: Birthright announced for XBOX, PS3, and PC — A Dribble of Ink.

Did I mention? (advice needed)


Hey, did I mention that Circle of Enemies earned me another starred review from Publishers Weekly? I did? In my birthday gift report post? Oops. Sorry.

Well how about this, then? The Science Fiction Book Club’s omnibus edition of all three books has a page on line, and I think the cover is pretty cool. I look forward to receiving my copy, so I can see it a little bigger.

In other news, I have some pretty cool things coming up in two weeks or so, including an auction of an ARC of Circle of Enemies. The auction will benefit charity, of course, and I’m wondering what’s the best way to do this: Should I put it on ebay (do people still use ebay?) and turn over the money after I collect it? Should I have people donate, like, ten bucks and forward the receipts to me so they’re entered into a raffle?

I’ve never done this before, so I’m grateful for any advice you can offer.

Birthday Gift Report!


So Friday was my birthday. I woke up at my usual 5am work time and did my pages. What’s more, I added even more cool stuff to the end of A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark–it sounds self-serving to say this, I know, but I’m getting really excited about this book (and I can’t wait to be done with it and move on to a new thing).

What did I find when I arrived home? A giant gift-wrapped box on my dining room table. My son, naturally, was super-excited to have me open it, but I was exhausted from several long days and begged a nap (gift one).

After we had our fruit salad and I did the whole wish/candle thing, I tore it open. It turned out to be a George Foreman Grill (gift two).

Now, I’m skeptical of electric cooking appliances. I use our food processor and stand mixer all the time, but specific gadgets for cooking? Too fussy, too messy, too much trouble to take out and put away. Especially that last one. I use the crock pot about once a week, and even though it’s fine for the first two, it’s a pain in the ass for third. We just don’t have that much counter space or storage.

But this gadget? The cooking plates come out and fit in the dishwasher, it has no controls beyond an on/off switch, and it folds up pretty compactly.

What’s more, my wife had picked out a beautiful steak for me to have for dinner (gift three) and it cooked up beautifully. I can’t wait to try potatoes, asparagus, and (naturally) burgers in it. My son is eager to put a personal pizza in it, and I’m game for that.

One other birthday gift turned up at the end of the night. Google Alerts brought me this: Publishers Weekly gave Circle of Enemies a starred review. (gift four) That means I’m 3 for 3 for PW reviews. :) I’m seriously pleased about this.

Anyway, I’m back to making donuts. At this point, it’s a sprint to the end of the draft. I just wish it wasn’t so damn gorgeous outside, which is like a gift I can’t play with. Local temp for July 2nd: 78F. Sunday the second is expected to be ten degrees cooler.

Today is my birthday


Well, really it’s my not-birthday (ob repetitive explanation: My wife and I share a Bday, which sucks, so I bumped mine back a month). But that doesn’t matter, right? It’s just a date, and I’m supposed to celebrate the new year.

You don’t have to ask. I’m 46.

Anyway, I was up way, way too early to write, and write I did. After having almost zero idea how I was going to end A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark yesterday I bumped against the frontier of my synopsis and started brainstorming ideas. Within an hour, I had the end all worked out, and as I was smoothing it out this morning (connecting the plot points clearly, I mean) I had several more good ideas.

That’s all recorded, and at this point it’s a race to the end of the draft. I’ve already made today’s long-goal; hopefully I’ll be able to do another thousand words or so before I go home.

There will be no cake tonight. I don’t like it, and neither does anyone else in the family. We’ll be having melon-free fruit salad, instead, which is the tradition for my bday. What other efforts will be made on my behalf I do not know. I just hope I get a nap.

Anyway, I get a little more time to goof around online, then it’s back to the word mines. Have a great Friday and Happy Canada Day, you wonderful Canadians.

Five things make a Friday post, even though it’s Sunday


1. Congratulations to the residents of New York state! A while ago someone asked, if someone from the mid-1960s were transported to today, what would be the most surprised change, and I suggested the gay rights movement. Marriage Equality in New York and in other countries and states is the result of focused, dedicated political action; I admire the hell out of the work they’ve done and wish their work was finished already. It’s sad that they have to keep fighting.

2. R.I.P. Martin Greenburg. Thanks for all the stories.

3. R.I.P. Peter Falk. I never understood the appeal of Columbo when I was a kid–they always showed the killer at the start of the show! It was only later that recognized the class aspect of the show (like Kolchak) and started to get into it. Yes, he was wonderful in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, but I was honestly startled (pleasantly) by his turn in WINGS OF DESIRE. That role could have been smug and tedious, but he rocked it.

4. The Locus Awards have been announced. (no link) Like the Nebulas, they only reinforce my decision to ignore awards entirely.

5. Have I mentioned here that I’m working on getting my short fiction for sale on the Kindle, et al? I am. The rights to most of my Black Gate stories (except the one that’s out right now) have reverted, plus I have a number of Pald stories that I never sold or even submitted anywhere. They go further into the setting and background than earlier books did, especially how the city is run. I’m hoping to convince my wife and son to whip up cover art for them as a homeschool project. We’ll see.

Bonus, secret sixth thing: Because of travel, we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day last week. Instead we’re celebrating today. I get brunch at a really nice restaurant (Portage Bay Cafe in Ballard) then library/bookstore, and finally, after my wife has gone to work, a movie with my son. Yay!

New York Trip Report (parts of which are even true!)


In my previous post I mentioned that we’d already done the Empire State Building. One thing I forgot to mention is that the whole place still smells faintly of ape-feet. Neither time nor bleach can take out some odors, lemme tell you.

Afterwards, we couldn’t get into the American Museum of Natural History because it was going to close so we ended up chatting with people, eating pizza and generally taking it easy because Wednesday started early.

We’d been told to arrive by 7:30 at Battery Park to avoid the line for the ferry to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. This meant we got up at 5:30, found breakfast, rode the subway, etc etc. Of course we were there way early, and my son and I had a chance to wander around the park a little while my wife waited in line (the tickets were in her name).

Did you know there’s a labyrinth you can walk in the park? I do now. Turns out that walking the whole thing transports you to Amber, the one true city. Weirdly, Amber looks exactly like Manhattan, except that the souvenir T-shirts all read: “I [cloudy yellow block] NY”. Luckily, walking the pattern in reverse transported me back.

Did I mention we got up at 5:30 am? That’s 2:30 Seattle time, and my son, who went to bed way early the night before, still didn’t get enough sleep. You know how you get a whole bunch of people together, there’s always one family with a whiny, inconsolable child? That was us.

Anyway, the statue itself was pretty awesome–I have pictures I’ll post later. Being right next to it, looking up, was overpowering. What’s more, it’s gorgeous as a physical object. Sadly, we didn’t buy our tickets early enough to get up to the crown so we didn’t have a close-up view of the stunt show all the way up on the torch. We didn’t see the whole thing, since it started while we were on the ferry to Ellis Island, but some folks nearby told us it was about communists in some way and we saw the big fall, so that was cool.

Ellis Island was amazing (for grownups). I got to stand where countless immigrants (possibly my own) waited on line to be allowed into the country. Kids, it turns out, don’t give a crap. Not too surprising, I guess, but I was glad to be the one who kept him occupied while my wife looked into her ancestry.

Wednesday night was the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading. I met Rose Fox and Josh Jasper there. Also Nick Kaufmann and his wife Alexa (who may have a blog, but I don’t know what it is) were both there, as was Priscilla (known to me as @priscellie on Twitter).

Did you know New Yorkers are all eight-feet tall? Even sitting, they blocked my view of the readers, but that only helped me focus in. Both authors were terrific, but Glen Hirshberg was really startlingly good.

Me, I was feeling my usual discomfort about being in a large group of people I didn’t really know, but folks were very nice and helped me acclimate at both the bar (which was crowded and loud–but not as much as usual) and the meal afterward.

The big deal for Thursday was that we’d set it aside to simply walk around the city, and we were lucky enough to have Rose and Josh to show us around. If the first two days were for big tourist attractions, this was a chance to visit a particular Malaysian restaurant, shop at the last remaining pickle sellers on the Lower East Side, stroll through Greenwich Village and stopping at a little mystery bookstore where I was able to pick up Nick Kaufmann’s Gabe Hunter novel (I’d already read his Chasing the Dragon, but not this.) In the end we watched a routine by Organized CHAOS at High Line Park–and while that may sound like one of my jokes, it’s not.

The visit to the High Line Park and the Meatpacking District lead to a more general discussion of the changes the city has undergone since my wife lived there in the seventies and eighties. The places that used to be havens for prostitutes and drug addicts are now fancy parks and sidewalk cafes. We rode the subways for most of a week and never felt unsafe. Rose explained that the C.H.U.D.s all live aboveground now (making them “C.H.A.D.s” now). And while we were passing a wine bar, who did I see sitting inside at one of the tables? A half-dozen Baseball Furies.

I guess I stared at them a little too long while we were waiting to cross the street, because a couple of them started reaching for their bats. At that point I raised my fist and said “Jeeeeeettteerrrrrrr!” and then everything was golden.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful city, nothing at all like the hellhole of the movies of my youth. It’s filled with people, activity, and life. I saw young people of different races sitting together on the subway talking like close friends (something I almost never see in Seattle, I’m sorry to say). The public transit system is fantastic and comprehensive, and best of all the city isn’t built to accommodate cars; it’s made for people. Lots of them.

And everything they say about the pizza? It’s all true! Bagels, too, omg.

Friday I visited the offices at Del Rey. I stupidly forgot to bring the address with me, although I knew the street and general location. I told my wife “The address has a five in it,” which did not amuse her as much as I’d hoped. Luckily, the building had been remodeled into a gigantic replica of George R.R. Martin’s face.

Lemme tell you, the security there was something else. As we entered the lobby, some security personnel were standing over a bloody corpse with a crayon-scrawled manuscript scattered around it. The woman who checked us in explained several times how we should use our badges to keep the elevator gas vents shut, and the actual doors out of the elevator lobby had a machine gun next to it.

Luckily, we were approved to pass through. Much Secret Writer Talk went on, and then we snuck out to Central Park for a picnic lunch and a ride on the carousel.

Actually, come to think of it I met my editor, her boss, and one of their marketing folks… and that’s it. There was, like, no one else there. Remember that Star Trek episode when Kirk beams a space gangster to the Enterprise and the gangster is all “I only saw one guy!” Well, I think about that big office building and that handful of people and… Nah, that’d be crazy!

After that we spent some time at the playground, then tried the natural history museum again. We got in this time, and I learned that Ben Stiller movies truly do not prepare us for the awesomeness of the real world.

We did other things, too, of course. I had lunch with my agent, saw something strung between midtown traffic lights that I took to be fishing line but which I now realize was Spider-webbing, ate incredible smoked salmon, signed copies of my books on bookshelves (btw reader of this post: buy my books), and sweltered on subway platforms waiting to be let into the cool, comfy subway cars themselves. God, it’s the first real vacation we’ve taken in years.

It’s a fantastic city. I wish we lived closer so my son wouldn’t get violently ill on the long plane ride.

Pictures in a future post.