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The Philosophy of This Blog

When I started this blog, my goal was to help and entertain people with interesting experiences and posts based on my experience and knowledge. I also made a commitment to post twice weekly, and soon my blog was getting several thousands hits a month, at its height reaching into the 10s of thousands. Then I ran into some trouble and burned out, so I took a break. But I have missed it and missed my subscribers and the interaction. So I decided the time was ripe to give it another try. But before I do, there’s something I need to address.

I have zero tolerance for anyone who reads a post, asks the poster for clarification of meaning, then, upon receiving it, refuses to accept it. That is tantamount to calling someone a liar. And frankly, unless you can read minds, you are not in a position to deny the veracity of their explanation. I have even less than zero tolerance for people who never ask the author to clarify, choosing instead to read things into stories and then hold authors accountable for them when the authors insist that interpretation or meaning was never intended. It is the source of a lot of online bullying and attacks against authors and creators, and it is ridiculous.

One of the amazing things about art is how it can touch individuals differently. You put a piece out there and it takes on a life of its own drawing out meanings and emotions you never expected from people. But those reactions are based on their personal experiences, their culture, their references, etc. so blaming an author for them is ridiculous. The assumption that the author is some sort of bigot or -phobe or -ist of some sort is arrogant and self-serving and more about the reader and his or her inclination to take easy offense and be overly sensitive than it ever is about the authors being blamed or attacked. This makes it very difficult for some authors and leads to slander and ongoing acrimony that can last years. Having been through this two or three times, I speak from experience.

I wish people would accept and realize that what they bring to art has as much to do with how they experience it as any subliminal thing they might suppose the author brought, and nine times out of ten, is way more responsible than author intent for their own reactions. And the others who then jump on the bandwagon at that author’s expense to elevate themselves and act like high moral authorities are even worse. Generally, all of them together are people who have never done anything but talk about what they believe. Rarely have they put it into genuine, meaningful action.

For example, I so believed in the cause of bringing arts education opportunities to the disadvantaged that I founded a nonprofit and lead teams of artists overseas for eight years to the developing world to teach workshops. It required me to take weeks at a time off from work and to raise thousands of dollars in funding. The reward was not monetary but spiritual: I learned as much from them as they did from me and made some friendships to last a lifetime. But I also stayed in cinderblock homes with no heat in winter the hottest of heat with no air conditioning, I suffered diarrhea and other consequences from unusual dietary changes and other circumstances, even dealt with lack of proper sanitary facilities. And I did it without complaint because I knew I was making a difference. To this day, I have students who have gone on to great success in the arts in Mexico, Ghana, and Brazil and do me proud, and I maintain lifelong friendships with dozens of them. Most of the online trolls perpetrating these attacks wouldn’t dream of such sacrifices nor have the willpower to found a nonprofit and actually make it happen, and it’s too bad, because if they did they’d learn there are a lot of people in the world they claim to support who don’t see the world the way they do about things either. Many of my students who are Facebook friends are aghast when They see me treated as I have been and accused of various biases that seem the opposite of their experience of me. That’s because they know the real me, not the manufactured one of my accusers.

So I am putting it out there clearly for all to see: if you have questions about the meaning of something I post, the onus is on you to click the contact link and ask me for clarification. If you can’t be bothered, neither will I. I won’t take responsibility for explaining myself, and I won’t entertain or interact with those who try and twist my words to use them against me because they perceive me to be “not one of them.” I just have better things to do with my time. I enjoy and value relationships with people of all backgrounds, cultures, races, religions or lack thereof, etc. and I appreciate the perspective it provides. This blog will continue to celebrate that. I am moderating comments but I will only disallow trolling. Everything else is fair game. No one has to agree with me or others it it must be done respectfully. Anyone who tries to engage in oneupmanship, insults, or trolling of any kind—including that described earlier in this post—will have their comments deleted and ignored.

My blog. My rules.

And I hope that helps make this a place people enjoy coming to. Not a place they and I dread. Because I’m still all about extending it forward and helping people so we can succeed and grow together, not wasting my time with those who want to cut people down or tear them apart.

To me that’s what life’s all about.

 

Write Tip: How To Structure A Scene

The following is an excerpt from my book How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, Chapter 3:

The scene is the basic building block of dramatic structure for any story. If written correctly, each scene leads to another scene and another. According to Jack M. Bickham, in his book Scene & Structure, all well-written scenes use the following pattern:

Statement of goal

Introduction and development of conflict

Failure of character to reach his goal or a tactical complication/disaster which creates a new goal

Notice how these parallels the three-act dramatic structure of the entire story. It is not an accident. Scenes have three acts just as the entire story will. Scenes are not static. At their heart lies conflict. One character or group has a goal and others have other goals, and these meets and create obstacles to be overcome. Hence, conflict. Most scenes start with the point-of-view (POV) character walking into a place with a clear goal in mind. (As discussed in Chapter 4 the point-of-view character is the character from whose vantage point a particular scene is told.) Success of the scene dramatically depends upon your ability to interpose obstacles between your hero/heroine and the obtainment of this goal. Sometimes the goal carries over from the previous scene. Sometimes it is the overall goal in the story. Other times, it is a sub-goal required as part of the many steps to reaching the overall story goal. In any case, usually the goal is stated early on either through internal monologue or dialogue of the character.

For example, Luke Skywalker enters the workshop and cleans the droids per Uncle Owen’s instructions (goal). In the process, he finds something jammed in a slot on R2-D2 and tries to free it, unleashing the video of Leia pleading for help. When the message is unclear, he asks R2 to play the whole message and R2 refuses by first pretending not to know what he is referring to, then saying that the restraining bolt is preventing it in order to get the bolt taken off (obstacles). The disaster comes as R2-D2 escapes, forcing Luke to chase him down.

To work well and increase dramatic tension, all scenes must end badly. Whatever the goal going in, whatever the action taken, the result must be a failure of some sort. It can be an actual failure, a twisty complication, or additional unexpected tasks, but it constitutes a delay to success regardless.

But there is another key element at play as well. When the character’s goal is stated, the reader asks a question.

Goal: To get the golden key to the temple where I can retrieve the sacred scroll.
Reader Question: Will (character) get the key?

Whatever the question, the resolution (or answer) must be a negative. Sometimes a character does the get the key, but other objects are required to find the temple or open the door, and the character must go seek them before getting the scroll. The answer to the question, the disaster, the end of the well-written scene, always creates further complication on the character’s journey through that story.

There are several key points to keep in mind when determining goal, conflict, and resolution:

1. The goal of each scene must clearly relate to the larger story question; the question evoked in readers by the stated goal of the character for the major story arc.
2. The conflict must be about the goal.
3. The conflict must be external, not within one’s self. Either with an object, animal, or person or more than one.
4. Point of view should be maintained from goal to resolution in the same scene. It is best not to break it up into different points of view to avoid confusion and loss of tension.
5. Disaster always works by pushing the character away from his or her goal.
6. Readers will tolerate much if you keep making things worse and worse in every scene. This is how you build tension and suspense and create a compelling read.
7. Since the end of each scene dictates what will happen after, scenes cannot be written in isolation from the overall arc, goals, conflict, etc. of the story itself if they are to work well.

Plots are made up of a series of interconnected scenes that create a larger story. Since a plot is the storyline arc of the overall book, and the book is a story that is like an argument with a premise, a plot consists of a series of questions asked and answered. What you ask when, and how soon you answer it, affects the tension and pacing of the overall story. Some questions get asked and answered in the same scene or chapter. Some carry over multiple scenes and chapters. Some may carry over to another book. Some carry from chapter 1 to the final chapter. The questions have various levels of stakes to them. More intense, important questions tend to take longer to answer. One great way to figure out if your story makes sense and has good pacing is to go through and identify all the questions asked and answered and when and where they are asked and answered. If you are missing any answers or questions, you have a problem that needs fixing.

Since some stories have several plots—usually an overarching main plot and subplots—and not all scenes relate to each plot, but all relate to the main arc in some way or affect it. All plots and subplots have three acts just like the overall story, so sometimes identifying which plot and subplot(s) relate to each scene is key to making them work and determining in what order the scenes need to occur to best tell the story. To be clear, a subplot is a lesser plot that is less important than the main driving plot and sometimes focuses around a specific character, location, or aspect of that larger plot and points readers back to it.

It is also important to know which characters are in a scene. Too many characters can make a scene confusing. And too few can make it ineffective. Most importantly, the person with the most to lose is usually the best POV character for that particular scene, so keep in mind whether you have multiple POV characters or not. That will determine your character use in each scene. Remember also that individual characters can have conflicting goals, and that can further complicate scenes by creating competing tensions or conflicts that add layers and depth to the scene and further obstacles to the resolution as well.

In Medias Res

The last point I’ll make is the number one rule of good dramatic writing I learned in film school: Get into a scene as late as possible in its action, and end the scene as soon as you can after that. The literary term for entering a scene when the action has already begun is in medias res.

Scenes are more dramatic when they start within tense moments of action or conflict, so skip all the slow buildup and setup like greetings and small talk, how the characters got there, etc. which would slow things down, and instead get right into it. Telephone scenes, scenes sitting around a table, on couches, or in a car, etc. have a casual, slow feel that does not lend itself well to drama, so these use sparingly. The pacing and power of your story will go up in spades, and your readers will thank you for it.

Here’s another example, one of my favorites: the opening scene from the film Lethal Weapon 2.

The film opens with Riggs yelling and pounding his palms on a dashboard as horns honk and traffic roars. Then he and Murtaugh are arguing about speed and strategy. They are in a car chase. We don’t yet know who they are chasing or why, but we are immediately thrust into the center of tense, fast-paced action, and the details will come. We soon learn there are two car chases with two teams of cops, and as they fight traffic and near misses with other vehicles and race to keep up with the fleeing criminals—Murtaugh driving his wife’s station wagon, which hardly seems up to the task—the bad guys start shooting and taking more and more chances. The goal is to catch the bad guys. The conflict comes from disagreements between cops and from all the obstacles.

When the bad guys ditch them in airport traffic, Riggs jumps out and continues the chase on foot until Murtaugh untangles the station wagon and catches up. Riggs then insists on driving, and he pushes the car even more to its limits, practically destroying it in the process. So now they are fighting each other as well (more conflict). Then the other chase ends at an intersection, where cars collide and a helicopter comes in to rescue the bad guys with automatic gunfire leading to a shootout with cops (Failure 1). Riggs and Murtaugh, meanwhile, continue their chase until their baddie flips his car over a black-and-white cop car that blocks its path and crashes into a building. By the time Riggs and Murtaugh get to the car, the bad guy is gone (Failure 2), but they find Krugerrands, the currency of South Africa, and so their quest begins.

This is a great example of getting in as late as possible and out as soon as possible (in medias res) while still including all three core building blocks of a great scene.

To download a free copy of How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, click here.

Write Tip: Four Act Structure

The following is an excerpt from my book How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, Chapter 2:

The four-act structure is a more recent rethinking of three-act structure. Proponents claim it is much better and more effective because it more naturally follows the flow of dramatic story. I certainly agree that for motion pictures this is probably the case, but I am not sure about novels. Regardless, the rule in writing is to use what works for you, so I present it here as an option that might be more helpful to some of you than the three-act structure.


Fundamentally, the difference between the three-act and four-act structures is that act two is now two acts, with each ending in a plot point or establishing point. Act one ends with an establishing point where the hero has a life-changing event that spurs him or her to action, essentially enabling circumstances that lead the hero to launch into the quest or journey that makes up the rest of the story and results inevitably in a confrontation with the antagonist in act one. In act one, there is no midpoint but instead an establishing point that generally consists of a hero-ally confrontation in which the hero is forced to give up his or her flaw. Act two becomes about establishing a relationship with the ally while the hero tries to hold onto his or her flaw and still complete the quest. The establishing point here reveals that the flaw is an obstacle which must be overcome to achieve success.

After that establishing point, instead of a second half, we enter act three, which ends with an establishing point where the flaw is finally resolved, and the hero enters the ring against the opponent in preparation for act four’s final confrontation. Act three thus consists of the hero demonstrating the growth of overcoming the flaw or at least conquering and controlling it as he or she prepares with the ally to take on the antagonist. Act four is the climbing into the ring where the hero faces his or her opponent to see who will triumph.

In theory, using four acts makes writing the longer middle easier for writers by breaking it into two logical halves. It also puts more emphasis on a hero-ally confrontation where the flaw is confronted and overcoming begins. This can be a physical or emotional confrontation, but it is a key turning point that functions much like the midpoint in the three-act structure. This often serves to strengthen the relationship between the hero and his or her key ally.

A great example of this four-act structure can be found in the film Rocky, which is considered one of the best-structured films of all time. In act one, Rocky is on the mean streets of Philly and considers himself a loser, but is a nice, bright guy who won’t even stoop to breaking legs for work with loan sharks or other things. Then he gets the chance to fight for heavyweight champion of the world, his establishing point or life-changing event.

In act two, Rocky tries to react to this challenge but is dragged down by his lack of self-confidence. Allies come in the form of his wife, Adrian, and manager, Mickey, who push him to believe in himself, but he can’t do it until he finally confronts the memory of his father telling him he was too ugly and stupid to be anything but a boxer, so he’d better be good. Once he articulates and faces this, he regains a sense of purpose and confidence in an establishing point wherein he determines to prove his father wrong.

Act three is then the training surge when Rocky prepares for the fight with Apollo Creed and begins to think of himself as capable and strong and smart, not a loser, mentally changing and transforming into being ready for the fight.

Act four is the final fight against Creed.

As you can see here, the four-act structure depends more on character development for its turning points than the three-act structure does and really defines and clarifies the characters in a different way, which may be helpful to some of you in structuring your story and thinking it through before writing.

To download a free copy of How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, click here.

Write Tip: Three Act Structure

The following is an excerpt from my book How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, Chapter 2:

A sketch that will inform your outline, the three-act structure nonetheless identifies the core dramatic points of a story. Some of you may be discovery writers like me, preferring to let the story unfold organically. But at some point, you will be required to outline as a professional writer. And when faced with a tight deadline, the more organized you are, the more efficient you can be. The first thing you need to do is understand the dramatic structure that underpins your story. So we are going to talk about a very simple, basic way to identify key points that can help you write more quickly and efficiently to meet a deadline.


While outlines are multiple pages of detail, the structural diagram will be no more than a brief paragraph or a few sentences describing each required point accompanied perhaps by a paradigm sketch. The paradigm shown is based on Screenplay by Syd Field, a classic writing teaching book employed by many film schools, but in Western literature, the principles also apply to any dramatic story, including those told in prose. The outline is for three acts. In a screenplay, those are act one, which is 30 pages, or a quarter of the text; act two, which is 60 pages, or half; and act three, which is 30 pages, or a fourth. Your page numbers will vary, but the fractions for each portion should wind up roughly the same.

The key turning points between acts are called plot point 1 and plot point 2. These are events which force the protagonist, and sometimes the antagonist too, to turn in new directions and take new action in pursuit of resolving the conflict. Plot point 1, at the end of act one, will require agency, or action, from the protagonist in pursuit of finding the solution and determining what must be done. Plot point 1 propels the protagonist into act two, which is an ascending action involving discovery and a journey to find the solution and achieve the goal without yet knowing all that is required. In the course of act two, the questions will be answered until you reach plot point 2. Plot point 2, at the end of act two, will occur when the protagonist discovers what must be done and where, and with whom, to resolve the conflict and achieve the goal. And thus, it propels him or her into act two, which is the climactic, descending action to reach that point.

When I write any story, I always start with some idea of what my plot points will be and how it will end, to give me a sense of focus and direction as I write, even when allowing it to unfold organically. Now, just as the overall story has three acts, so will each plot and subplot, and each act. As such, each has a mini turning point called the midpoint or pinch that twists the action a bit and propels us into the second half. In the first act, this is called the inciting incident. This inciting incident often provokes a change in the protagonist’s routine—something new they experience that could either challenge or encourage them. In The Silence of the Lambs (1991), FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) meets with Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The confrontation of both parties is nerve-wracking. But it intrigues us and sucks in Clarice and leads to the rest of the story. Other examples are Indiana losing the golden idol to Belloq at the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which then sets up a rivalry that drives the later journey as Indiana Jones seeks to get the Ark before Belloq. Morpheus choosing Anderson in The Matrix sets up all that follows after. In The Sixth Sense, without the opening confrontation and gunshot, nothing else that follows could occur.

In act two, you have a pinch point for each half, and in act three, you have the climactic confrontation before the denouement. These may not be as dramatic as the inciting incident of act one, but they nonetheless inspire the protagonist or antagonist to take further action and move forward on the journey. Whereas the plot points are both major dramatic developments, the inciting incident, midpoint, and pinches can be more internal than external but of significance to the characters’ hearts and minds such that they cause them to change course and move in a new direction or with renewed vigor toward the goal. These are like lesser plot points, in a way, but nonetheless significant points in the framework of the overall dramatic arc that drives your story.

Let’s talk examples. In Star Wars: A New Hope, the inciting incident starts with Darth Vader’s ship attacking Princess Leia’s rebel ship and forcing her to load the Death Star plans into R2-D2, the droid, and send him to escape. He lands on the planet with his companion, C-3PO, and they wind up in the hands of the hero, Luke Skywalker. When Luke discovers a message from a princess that reports danger and points him to a mysterious figure named Obi-Wan Kenobi, he sets off to find out what it means, and that leads him to Old Ben Kenobi, whose shared surname is an obvious clue. Kenobi rescues Luke from Sand People at the midpoint of act one and takes him back to his own home. There, they view the message and Kenobi gives Luke a lightsaber and tells him about the murder of his father, a story Luke never knew. The Empire and a Rebellion, which until now have been mostly rumors far away, have entered Luke’s life, and when Kenobi takes him home, they find that the Jawas who sold Luke’s family the droids have been murdered and torched. Fearing the worst, they race to Luke’s home and find Luke’s aunt and uncle have been murdered and their homestead torched. Plot point 1 is when Kenobi tells Luke they must go rescue the princess together and find a way to deliver the plans hidden in R2-D2.

Act two starts with their trip to Mos Eisley spaceport where they must find passage, and they end up recruiting Han Solo, evading Stormtroopers searching for the droids, and head off for Alderaan. Then, we see Luke in training for the inevitable confrontation, while Vader and Tarkin attempt to extract information from Leia, and ultimately destroy Alderaan. Luke, Han, and Kenobi’s discovery of this is our pinch point for act one. That determines they must rescue Leia themselves and deliver the plans. Then they are caught in a tractor beam and pulled aboard the Death Star. The midpoint comes during the attempted rescue in the Detention Block when they are trapped. The pinch point for act two is when Kenobi confronts Vader to help his friends escape with the droids to the rebellion. Plot point 2 is after they fight their way clear and escape to the rebel base, where the plans reveal the Death Star’s flaw. The Rebels unveiling their attack plan propels us into act three. Act three is the Rebel attack and the Imperial counterattack, and the climax comes as Luke faces off against Vader in the trench run and ultimately destroys the Death Star with surprise help from Han.

So, now that we have seen how this plays out in a story we are all familiar with, it’s time to identify this structure for your story. Keep in mind that this is only a blueprint. Plans can change. As the story evolves, if required, your plot points, as well as pinches and midpoints, and even your climax, may change. The point of this is not to set anything in stone but to have goals to guide your work. It will help direct you as you write and set up each character and point required to reach each marker. If that ultimately requires the markers to change, it’s okay because these are tools to help you achieve a whole.

Here are the things you’ll need to know to develop this paradigm outline.
Who is your protagonist?
Who is your antagonist?
What are their goals?
What are the obstacles each faces in reaching that goal?
What growth must each undergo to make success possible?
And finally, what do you think the final confrontation needs to be?

Answering these questions is just a temporary means to an end. The answers may change, but the idea is to think through key elements of your story to allow you to write with blinders off and have some goal points along the way to work toward. That will allow you to write faster and spend less time wondering what the heck you should do next. As you actually write, these goal points may need to change, and that is okay.

To download a free copy of How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, click here.

Tomorrow: Part 2-4 Act Structure
Friday: Part 3-How To Structure Scenes

Write Tip: Character Narrative As A Plot Device

Our tip for today regards using character narrative as a plot device. Now, to begin, let me define character narrative. In the present case I am defining it as the narrative embraced by a character or person as the lens through which they view the world. We see this all the time in politics. The Democrats have a narrative. So do the Republicans. And we hear accusations all the time, not all false, of media bias wherein reporters report angles on stories that match their narrative and leave out the rest. All characters have narratives too, and it is often the differences in narratives that cause conflicts between characters. That being the case, why shouldn’t writers consciously employ narrative as a plot device?

I think they should.

We often talk of the villains being the hero of their own story. This is narrative. The same is true of every character and where those narratives, or worldviews, clash, is where we find them coming into conflict with one another. So understanding your characters’ narratives and where they come from and how they differ can be a very useful device for helping you shape your stories. And the degree to which you get into the details of it will determine how useful it is.

Good stories have nuance and nuance is depth, so the more you know, the deeper you can go and the richer the results will be. With some minor characters, you may never know their narrative. With supporting characters, you will examine it only on the surface a bit. But with your major characters, the deeper you dig in, the better they will be and the better your story will be for the effort.

So how do you build a character’s narrative? It is similar to how you write a character history or bio. The easiest way is to develop a series of key questions to ask and answer about each character and build from there. The base questions will be the same initially for every character but as you go deeper, unique questions will arise that are unique to specific characters and demand answers. You answer one, another may crop up, rinse and repeat. But the result will be a deeper look inside your characters’ beliefs, motives, personalities, and more. And what you discover in the process will be useful for all kinds of things.

You can use what you glean to help shape your character’s personality, actions, and reactions, even their internal monologue. And the more information you glean, the more specific you are, the more interesting the results will be as you discover key differences between your characters and yourself you never suspected. Building the results into your story will add a lot of layers and depth and nuance that just adds to the experience for readers and makes the characters pop off the page and come more alive like real, unique individuals, not stereotypes or archetypes. There will be nothing run of the mill about characters examined so deeply.

So consider adding examine your characters’ narratives as a possible tool to add to your writer’s toolbox. It’s also a useful tool for interpersonal relationships, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post which poses a whole different set of potential conflicts, so we’ll leave that be for now. Regardless, I hope it’s a Write Tip that pushes you to think about your stories and characters with a new perspective. For my narrative, that would be very satisfying. For what it’s worth…

5 Days Of Comic Con

I took a break from blogging regularly for a few years now, but with the publication of my latest book How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals Of Fiction earlier this year, I have been wanting to revive my blog. In particular, the weekly Write Tips feature that was so popular.

So to celebrate San Diego Comic Con’s 50th, which I will be attending and participating in as a panelist, I thought what better time than now to relaunch Write Tips. So each day the rest of this week, I will feature a new Write Tip, and then every Wednesday that follows, will present another one. It is my hope these will stimulate and assist you in your writing process. I know they are things that help me.

As a bonus, Wednesday through Friday, I will be giving away free downloads of How To Write  Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction in each post.  So happy 50th to San Diego Comic Con, the original Comic Con that started it all, and happy writing to all of you.

Here’s the posting schedule for this week:

Tuesday- Character Narrative as a Plot Device

Wednesday – Three Act Structure

Thursday – Four Act Structure

Friday – How To Structure A Scene

Just look for the Write Tips logo starting tomorrow. For what it’s worth…

My San Diego Comic Con 50 Schedule

I have three panels and a signing this year as follows. My books will thereafter be available at Mysterious Galaxy, Booth 1119.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Green Book—A Message For Our Times

I just had the opportunity to watch the movie GREEN BOOK for the third time as I shared it with my parents (their first), and what continues to resonate with me is how much this film speaks into the divisiveness of modern American culture. We live in an age where people all too often regard people who disagree with them as enemies rather than friends, as people to avoid rather than to friend, as evil rather than ill-informed even, and the result has been a lot of hostility and anger with accusations of bullying from cyber attacks, accusations of this-phobia, that -ism and so on such that people feel they can’t exercise their right to free speech or even to be themselves freely anymore. And it’s a sad state of affairs.

GREEN BOOK is about the relationship between two men who come to discover how much they have in common and how the expectations and biases they imposed on each other at the start of the relationship are barriers that hindered, not helped their interactions. Tony Lip is a blue collar Italian-American bouncer who struggles to get by and feed his wife and kids, just survive in a dog eats dog world. As an Italian and lower class, less educated man, he is often looked down on by other whites, especially those of means. And he has learned to do what it takes to stand up for himself and get by. Doctor Don Shirley is an African American pianist who lives an elite life surrounded by the wealthy. His apartment is above Carnegie Hall, for example, and he finds himself distanced from his own people because he can’t relate to their daily lives and they can’t relate to his.

When Shirley decides to launch a tour of the Deep South, his record company puts out a call for a driver, and Lip—having been temporarily laid off when his club shut down for remodeling—responds. He’s rough, curses a lot, and even looks down on blacks similarly to how other whites look down on him. But he needs the work and Shirley needs a protector, so they wind up together. Of course, they clash. Ironically, Lip can’t understand Shirley’s lack of affinity for popular music and food often enjoyed by other African Americans, while Shirley tries to help Lip modify his own attitude and presentation to fit in better with the white upper crust they will encounter on their trip. Both resist, but through dialogue and continued determination, each starts to see wisdom and logic in how the other thinks. But only because they push through the discomfort and listen to each other.

By the end of the film, Shirley stands up for himself much as Lip has done for him, and he even learns to enjoy the popular music and food common to African American culture. Lip changes his attitude toward people of color and also begins learning how to communicate in more sophisticated, thoughtful, and polite ways as well as confront conflict with words not violence. The result is they forge a genuine friendship and respect for each other, despite their differences and each change a bit to be better men. Now, this movie is based on a real story, which makes it that much more moving to me because the possibility exists for all of us. All of us can come together with people who don’t see the world the way we do and don’t agree with us on important topics and, by listening and actually hearing and being open to what each other are saying, come to deeper understandings about the world and ourselves that can change us for the better. It’s a message of hope for those of us struggling in modern society, and much needed reminder, if you ask me, of times when disagreement was not automatic enmity and could be respected instead of scorned.

GREEN BOOK is nuances and subtle in its message, however. It does not slam you in the face with it. None of this is stated overtly. Instead it flows out of the story naturally and subtly over its course and the results are quite moving and powerful. In fact, each time I see it, I find something to think about that I’d missed the prior viewings. And to me, at least, that is the sign of a great film. We need more films that speak to this because our society is becoming more divided, not less, more hostile, not less, and more angry and resentful, not less. We compromise less than ever and so do lawmakers, with the result that we all pay a heavy price not just mentally but financially and physically as laws and decisions sorely needed fall by the wayside and nothing changes.

I have had several friendships similar to that of Tony Lip and Don Shirley, and they are among my most cherished relationships because those people are friends I can count on to hold me accountable and make me think through and question myself when I need it most. It’s so easy to shut one’s self off in a box and avoid conflict—surrounding one’s self instead with like minded friendlies—but the danger of that is when you are operating on half information and assumption, you may never correct your course and may carry on with false understandings that can do real harm. Instead, the Tony Lips to my Don Shirley are the very antidote needed to make sure this doesn’t happen to me, and I hope I am the same to them, because I think these kinds of relationships leave us better people for the results. And I don’t know about you but one of my goals in life is to constantly strive to be a better me.

For what it’s worth…

PRESS RELEASE: Schmidt Sells Film Rights To Novel Shortcut

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

National bestselling author and Hugo-nominated editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt has sold film rights to his hard science fiction thriller novel SHORTCUT to Roserock Films. Based on a story and characters by Hunt Lowry and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, SHORTCUT is the story of a math genius whose formula for speeding up space travel between planets in our solar system leads to the abduction of a loved one. Racing against time, he must not only perfect his formula but locate and launch a rescue to get her back and simultaneously convince NASA and the powers that be to support it.

Schmidt is the author of The Saga of Davi Rhii Trilogy, the John Simon thrillers, and official tie-ins in franchises including Fox’s Predator and The X-Files amongst others. He’s edited 13 anthologies and hundreds of novels, including being first editor on Andy Weir’s International phenomenon The Martian. His past credits also include television programs for NBC, A&E, and The History Channel.

Roserock Films partners Hunt Lowry and Patty Reed are attached to produce and will be developing the project. Lowry’s credits include A Time To Kill, A Walk To Remember, Donnie Darko, White Oleander, Striking Distance, and Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, amongst others. With Reed he’s produced Grind, Pure Country Pure Heart and they are in development on The Testament from John Grisham’s novel, amongst others.

Schmidt is currently shopping the novel to publishers. His screenplays The Art Teacher and Out Of Nowhere are also making the rounds. For information on Schmidt, contact Jay-Bry Productions at 818-275-4311 or make contact via his website www.bryanthomasschmidt.net.

INFINITE STARS: DARK FRONTIERS Cover Reveal

Titan released the cover of my next anthology, releasing November 5th I hardcover, at the Barnes and Noble blog today. The follow up to my bestselling Infinite Stars, this is another collection of the best space opera and military science fiction, a big, thick book titled Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers.

Again, it features 27 stories, 15 of them brand new, including authors writing in some of their most famous and bestselling universes alongside some of the genres most award-winning and classic tales. A complete list of contributors follows. Names marked with an asterisk have contributed new stories exclusive to this anthology.

*David Weber
*Jack Campbell
*Becky Chambers
Robert Heinlein
George R.R. Martin
*Susan R. Matthews
*Orson Scott Card
E.E. “Doc” Smith
*Tanya Huff
*Curtis C. Chen
Seanan McGuire
*Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
*Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
James Blish
Gardner Dozois
*David Farland
*Mike Shepherd
C.L. Moore
Neal Asher
*Weston Ochse
*Brenda Cooper
Alan Dean Foster
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
*Kevin J. Anderson
David Weber
Arthur C. Clarke
*C.J. Cherryh

This series is designed to be a must have for space opera and military science fiction fans or anyone looking for a good survey of the sub genres as well as libraries and educators wishing to teach on the topic. I was able to get a few stories I hadn’t managed for the prior volume, including the only known short piece from E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series. Considering he is regarded as the grandfather of the space opera sub genre, I am immensely pleased to finally include him. There’s another new Ender tale from Card, as well as a new Wayfarers from Becky Chambers, the newest star to space opera, alongside a number of other key writers (and franchises) not previously represented.

As you can see, Julia Lloyd’s cover is quite stunning as well.

Shortcut Finished

The novel Shortcut is finished in first draft and we are negotiating the film rights contract now. This could take a while I am told by knowledgeable industry friends. In the meantime, I will be working on a new screenplay from an old idea called The Art Teacher so I will fill you all in when I can. Meanwhile, have a Happy 2019. I hope 2018 was a good one for you all!

New Project Commencing

I am currently launching a new novel in association with Hunt Lowry, a film producer who produced A Time To Kill, Donnie Darko, and is currently developing Grisham’s next movie adaptation, The Testament. It will be all consuming so I will likely not have much head space for the blog for a few months. But stay tuned. Will post some updates from time to time on my Facebook and Twitter.

Novel Writing Boot Camp Starring Me

Some of you know that in late 2017 and early 2o18, in association with Inkitt, a new young publisher that is still finding its way, I wrote and hosted a series of novel writing videos which were short versions of material I later wrote in How To Write A Novel: The Fundamentals of Fiction, my first nonfiction book which was published by Inkitt this Fall. Well, the videos—there are 10 of them—are now live and you can watch them for free. They are slickly produced and I am proud of them. They also tease material I develop more fully in How To Write A Novel, so you can check that out too here.

Here is the link to Inkitt’s Novel Writing Boot Camp.

Hold On To The Light: Escaping Toxic People

One of the biggest struggles of modern life for maintaining mental wellness is escaping toxic people. We’ve all seen them: people who choose to elevate themselves by cutting others down. These types are particularly prominent on social media. Some of them even post as part of this campaign. Their sympathy for themselves never extends to others. Instead, they choose to target others for various reasons:  mostly because someone disagrees with them or represents some group they object to. Their comments and attacks can be cruel and are mostly unwarranted and rarely based on truth. It can be very hard to ignore these people, and impossible to avoid them. But what you can control is engagement.

When I first encountered them, I thought I had to defend myself. But over time I’ve come to realize that defense is unnecessary. For one thing, mounting any defense lends credence to their slander. If you ignore it, it will go away faster and your silence tends to discredit it in most people’s eyes. Defending yourself, on the other hand, not only risks further slanderous attacks and expends negative energy that can be stressful but it gives ammo to these people to say what they said was true or why else would you bother defending yourself?

Toxic People are really cowards. They are insecure and wounded and feel they can appear strong by putting themselves above others. Borrowing from an old sermon, these people are like rotting meat looking for a place to stink. There’s something rotten inside and they just can’t wait to find a place to let it stink. But just because you can smell it, doesn’t mean you have to savor the smell. And you certainly don’t have to stink yourself. Whether motivated by hatred, jealousy, or some other combination thereof, Toxic People are a road hazard of modern life. But they are also speed bumps as opposed to barriers. If you let their words pass unchallenged and just continue focusing on putting out positive energy and contributions into the world, they will fade away. Yes, a few may believe what they say and continue attempting to perpetuate it, but these people ultimately appear small for attacking someone who rises above the fray and contributes positively to the community. The toxic person has nothing to offer but poison and negativity, but you are offering goodness and opportunities to learn or experience joy. In the end, people value the latter far more, and your time, stress level, and positive outlook will benefit greatly by ignoring the Toxic People and doing your thing.

If you’re like me and worked hard to get where you are, and did so by trying to help people and create opportunities alongside you, then you especially shouldn’t waste time giving them the satisfaction of responding. People can say what they want, but you can choose to not let it define you. Words are words, but actions are truth. After all, we’ve all been victims of bullies or gossipers from very early ages typically, and most of those people fade away with time and disappear into the nothingness from which they came. So too will the toxic people if you don’t empower them with engagement. Let them ramble. Let them poison. Be the antidote by being positive and a source of light. No one can extinguish your light if you hold onto it and nurture and cherish it, after all. And I’d rather be light in the world than dark any day, wouldn’t you?


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is a Hugo-nominated bestselling author and editor of 13 anthologies and hundreds of novels including The Martian by Andy Weir and books by Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Angie Fox, and more. His anthologies have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Baen Books, Titan Books and IDW and include official entries in The X-Files and Predator as well as Decipher’s Wars. His original anthologies include Infinite Stars, Galactic Games, and Mission: Tomorrow amongst others. His short stories and novels include Simon Says and The Saga of Davi Rhii trilogy.

Fall 2017 Book Tour Dates: INFINITE STARS, MONSTER HUNTER, PREDATOR, JOE LEDGER

For those wanting to connect, here are my confirmed tour dates so far for Fall 2017. Still trying to fill in open weekends in November with dates in either Arkansas, Nebraska, or Iowa. John Morris (aka Alexi), hope to see you there.

Oct. 5-8, 2017 New York Comic Con, Javits Center, New York City, NY, Guest, Book Launches: Predator: If It Bleeds (Titan) and Infinite Stars (Titan)

Oct. 18, 2017 Signing: Barnes and Noble, 11323 W 95th St, Overland Park, Kansas, 7-9 p.m.

Oct. 21, 2017 Signing: Barnes and Noble, 960 S. Colorado Blvd, Glenda, CO, 2-5 p.m. with Peter J. Wacks, David Boop, Julie Frost, and Holly Roberds

Oct. 28, 2017 Signing: Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 NW Expy Ste 135, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 3-5 p.m.

Oct. 29, 2017 Signing: Barnes and Noble, 5231 East 41st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1-4 p.m.

Nov. 1, 2017, Signing: Barnes and Noble, Columbia Mall,2208 Bernadette Dr, Columbia, Missouri, 6-8 p.m.

Nov. 3, 2017  Signing: Barnes and Noble, 6130 SW 17th St, Topeka, KS, 7-9 p.m.

Nov. 3-4, 2017 Writing Workshop: Science Fiction Worldbuilding, Johnson Country Library-Central Resource Branch, Overland Park, KS Critique and Lecture sessions plus signing (see link for details)

Nov. 5, 2017 Signing: Books-A-Million, Central Mall, Ninth Street, Salina, KS, 1-3:30 p.m.

Nov. 11, 2017, Signing: Maker Faire, Barnes and Noble, Oak Park Mall, 11323 W 95th St, Overland Park, Kansas, 12-4 p.m.

Nov. 12, 2017, Signing: Books-a-million, Legends Outlets, 1859 Village W Pkwy f101, Kansas City, KS 66111 1-4 p.m.

Nov. 25, 2017 Signing: Barnes and Noble, 6510 N. Illinois St., Fairview Heights, IL, 1-4 p.m.

Dec.2, 2017 Book Signing: Barnes and Noble, 6300 S. Main Street Suite N101, Aurora, CO, 2-5 p.m. with Peter J. Wacks, Holly Roberds, and David Boop

Dec. 2, 2017 Book Signing: Storybook Brewing, 3121 A North El Paso Street, Colorado Springs, CO, 6:30-9 p.m. with Peter J. Wacks, David Boop, Holly Roberds

Dec. 3, 2017 Signing: Barnes and Noble, 4045 S College Ave, Fort Collins, Colorado, 7-9 p.m. with Peter J. Wacks, David Boop, and Holly Roberds

ARCHON 41- TOASTMASTER Schedule

I have the honor of serving as Toastmaster for ARCHON in Collinsville, IL this year. It is a con I have attended on and off for years and enjoy. I really look forward to it. Here’s my schedule for the weekend. In between, find me at Bookseller’s Row, Table 16, outside the Dealer’s Room.

YOUR SCHEDULE:

Star Wars – Is It What We Hoped It Would Be?

Friday 12:00 – 12:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

With Episode VIII only months away, how do we feel about what we’ve gotten so far?  Have Episode VII and Rogue One lived up to our dreams – and did they make up for Episodes I-III?

David VonAllmen (M), Jimmy D. Gillentine, Mr Paul Hahn, Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

Friday 16:00 – 16:50, St. Clair A & B (DoubleTree – Collinsville)

How has our vision of the future changed as our culture has modernized and shed stereotypes and archaic norms?

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Ms Joy Ward, Michael Benjamin (M)

Opening Ceremonies

Friday 18:00 – 19:00, Center Hall B (Gateway Center)

Book Launch Party: The Exodus–Saga Of Davi Rhii by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Friday 19:00 – 19:50, St. Clair A & B (DoubleTree – Collinsville)

Come discover the trilogy Barnes and Noble named a Year’s Best and Jonathan Maberry, Mike Resnick and others said captures the feel of classic space opera like Star Wars! Buy signed books or 3 and enjoy pizza, soda, and snacks. Giveaways too!

Bryan Thomas Schmidt (M)

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream: Horror Beyond the Stars

Friday 21:00 – 21:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

Some of the scariest stories take place is space.  Some of our favorites are Alien, Event Horizon, Pandorum, and Riddick.  Come discuss the best and worst of horror in space (Jason X, anyone?).

Suzanne Cappelletti (M), Jim Yelton , Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Wyatt Weed

Editing: A Diamond in the Rough

Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)

What does it take to turn a project from trash to treasure?  An open discussion on the editing process.

Claire Ashgrove, Lettie Prell (M), Mr Michales Joy, Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Author Reading with Archon 41 Toastmaster Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Salon 4 (Gateway Center) Reading: from The X-Files SECRET AGENDAS– “Border Time”

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Tips For Writing About Things You Know Nothing About

Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)

Okay, we can’t know everything about everything. Listen to our experts reveal what they have done to become knowledgeable on a subject or at least what they did to make it seem like they were.

Marella Sands (M), Ms Joy Ward, Rachel Neumeier, Mr Mark Tiedemann , Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Problems and Questions from Young Writers

Saturday 18:00 – 18:50, Cahokian (Gateway Center)

Our pros share their wisdom with those who will eventually replace them.  Que sera sera.

Deborah Millitello, Christine Amsden (M) , Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lloyd Kropp, Glen Cook, Claire Ashgrove

Editing: Behind the Scenes

Sunday 13:00 – 13:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)

A chance for new authors to understand what happens to stories after they’re submitted.

Benjamin C. Kinney (M), Mr. Brian Katcher, Mr. Adrian Matthews, Rich Horton, Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Volunteer Pizza Party with the Pros!

Sunday 13:00 – 15:00, Madison C & D (DoubleTree – Collinsville)

Please join us as we thank our Archon 41 Volunteers!

Publishing Short Stories: Where and How

Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)

Our experts share different avenues and platforms on which to publish your short fiction.

Deborah Millitello, Bryan Thomas Schmidt (M) (bryan@bryanthomasschmidt.net) , Ethan Nahté , Shawntelle Madison, Guy Anthony De Marco

Closing Ceremonies

Sunday 15:00 – 16:00, Lasalle (Gateway Center)

ConQuest 48 Schedule – Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Amelie

This weekend is my annual trek to Kansas City for our local science fiction convention, ConQuest at the Downtown K.C. Sheraton. Guest of Honor is Robert J. Sawyer and Toastmaster Jonathan Maberry, and I will be spending time when not on panels at a dealer room table selling their books. So here’s where to find me outside the dealer room which is open as follows:

Fri 12-6
Sat 10-6
Sun 10-4

Special Guest: Amelie will be accompanying me much of the time.

MAY 26 • FRIDAY

  5:00pm –  5:50pm L Tales of the Weird West

Fremont (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

A discussion of speculative stories set in the Old West.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Rob Chilson, Christopher McKitterick

  6:00pm –  6:50pm M Opening Ceremonies

Chicago (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

Moderators: Margene S. Bahm
Speakers: Earline Beebe, Jonathan Maberry, Rachael Mayo, Robert J. Sawyer, Zac Zacarola

  9:00pm –  1:00am E Little Green Men–Attack! Kansas City

N/A (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

A launch party with editors Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Robin Wayne Bailey and authors like Selina Rosen and more.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt

MAY 27 • SATURDAY

 12:00pm –  12:50pm L Editors Are Not The Enemy

Empire B (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

Authors and editors discuss the invaluable relationship of working together.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Claire Ashgrove, Rich Horton, Jonathan Maberry, Robert J. Sawyer

  2:00pm –  2:50pm L Humor In Science Fiction and Fantasy

Fremont (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

A discussion of humorous tropes and stories down through SF history. Who are the key writers? What should you be reading? and more.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Robin Wayne Bailey, Selina Rosen

  4:00pm –  4:50pm U Little Green Men: Then And Now

Empire B (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

A discussion of the alien encounter trope through SF history in various media from literature to film and beyond.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Robin Wayne Bailey, James Gunn, Robert J. Sawyer, Ken Keller

  6:00pm –  6:50pm L Editing 101 For Writers

Benton (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

Popular annual workshop for writers on self-editing tips run by two successful editors.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Claire Ashgrove

MAY 28 • SUNDAY

 11:00am –  11:50am O One On One With Jonathan Maberry

Empire B (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

Come chat with Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Jonathan Maberry about Maberry’s life and work.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Jonathan Maberry

  1:00pm –  1:50pm L The Science Of Science Fiction

Empire B (2345 McGee St, Kansas City, MO 64108)

 

A discussion of science in science fiction: what are the key elements? Important writers and works? Etc.
Moderators: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Speakers: Kij Johnson, Robert J. Sawyer, H.G. Stratmann

Comicpalooza 2017 Schedule

Well, this weekend I make my first trip to Houston for COMICPALOOZA at the Convention Center in downtown.

This weekend, starting Friday at 3:30, see me at Comicpalooza booth #2632, Next to NASA in Hall C. (Click map to enlarge view.)

I will also participate in the following signings and panels:

FRIDAY MAY 12, 2017 2:30 PM TO 3:30 PM

**

Guest Post: Which Comes First—Character or World?

daysofdead_banner_v1-1

by Gail Z. Martin

Ask three writers how they do their worldbuilding, and you’ll get four opinions. Maybe more, if our characters get to give their own answers.

That is to say, there’s no wrong way to worldbuild as long as the final product ends up satisfactory to readers. The trick is to come up with an approach that works for you, that creates a realistically detailed and nuanced setting, and—most importantly–seamlessly and believably supports your plot and characters.

How detailed should your worldbuilding be? That reminds me of the old joke about how long a man’s legs should be—long enough to reach the ground. You want your world to have age and depth and weight to it. It should feel like it’s been thoroughly lived in and hard used, not like one of those false-front fake Wild West villages at amusement parks. Your characters and plot should feel as if they rise organically from your world, as if they couldn’t possibly happen anywhere else or be the same in any other setting.

If you’ve ever traveled somewhere unfamiliar, whether it’s across the state or across the world, it’s the little things that made you aware that you were someplace far from home. The menu choices were unfamiliar. The brands of soda were different. The money looked odd and came in strange colors and sizes. People went about their daily routines a bit differently than back home. Signs are not what you’re used to seeing. All those little details aren’t important by themselves, but collectively they are the stuff of authenticity, and to the extent that you have thoroughly thought these things out, your readers will have a richer, more immersive experience.

I believe that immersion was part of the genius of the Harry Potter books. In a million different little details, J.K. Rowling signaled that we weren’t in our own mundane world but someplace wondrous and frighteningly different. The best books give us enough of these nuanced details that we don’t feel infodumped or overwhelmed but we do grasp that we’ve been whisked away to somewhere new.

As for which comes first, character or world, that’s like the chicken/egg dilemma. If you think hard about the circumstances and experiences that shaped your character, you’ll know a lot about the world he/she came from. And if you build out your world convincingly, you’ll know what kinds of characters arise from its climate, history, culture and society. Start wherever you please; you’ll end up in the same place.

How do you drill down to those details? Some writers like to ‘interview’ their characters, sitting down and having a mental chat with their creations who proceed to spill their guts. I’ve used that successfully. Sometimes, either the world or the character just comes to you full-blown, and you have to figure out the rest around the edges. I’ve also built series that way as well. For me, I want my world to be a character in its own way. For example, in my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, things happen that are quintessentially Charleston, SC so that if the action were to happen somewhere else, it would have to be different. The city of Charleston is woven into the fabric of the story in a way that can’t be undone.

If you’re still struggling with worldbuilding, think about the places you’ve been (or go on a day trip somewhere new) and note the details. Jot them down and pay attention to everything you notice that differs from back home. Now think about how you might pull that kind of nuance into your fictional worldbuilding. It could be easier than you think!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat!  Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://bit.ly/2eC2pxP

holdontothelight-fb-bannerLet me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

Trick Or Treat with an excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story Buttons http://bit.ly/1v5t9Zf

A free excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story Coffin Box Deadly Curiosities short story http://bit.ly/SDCIjx

Trick Or Treat w excerpt from The Big Bad II anthology http://www.darkoakpress.com/bigbad2.html

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! Ice Forged Audible https://amzn.com/B00EP1C1HK

Trick Or Treat excerpt from Espec Books https://especbooks.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/winner-war-machines/

Try a free excerpt from my m Reign of Ash http://bit.ly/1oCEa5j


About the Author

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications
Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books) and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin. A brand new epic fantasy series debuts from Solaris Books in 2017.

ARCHON 40 SCHEDULE, Sept. 28 through Oct. 2

archon-logo

Here’s my schedule for ARCHON 40 in St. Louis, at the Collinsville, IL Convention Center, Friday September 30 – Sunday, October 2, 2016. Guests of Honor include Ellen Datlow, John Picacio, and Claudia Christian.

I am not sure if anyone else will carry my books but usually Larry Smith and Glen Cook have a few in the dealer’s room. I will have my own and sell them on my autographing time Saturday for sure.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt Fri 5:00 PM GC Marquette B Advice For New Writers
Mark W. Tiedemann (M), Ellen Datlow, Lynn Rosen, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Richard C. White
Bryan Thomas Schmidt Sat 12:00 PM GC Marquette B Editing 101
Ellen Datlow (M), Julia S. Mandala, Christine Amsden, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Claire Ashgrove
Bryan Thomas Schmidt Sat 2:00 PM GC Signing Table Autographs with Angie Fox, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and Ethan Nahté
Bryan Thomas Schmidt Sat 4:00 PM GC Salon 4 Classic Sci-Fi TV
Marella Sands (M), Van Allen Plexico, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, David Phelps
Bryan Thomas Schmidt Sun 10:00 AM GC Illini A Libraries of the Future
Susan Baugh (M), Paul Hahn, Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Bryan Thomas Schmidt Sun 11:00 AM GC Marquette B The First Five Pages: How to Hook Your Reader
Cindy Matthews (M), Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Michales Joy, Shawntelle Madison, Jimmy D. Gillentine

Hold On To The Light: What Is Normal?

normalI was first diagnosed in 3rd grade at the world-renowned Meninger’s Clinic in Topeka, Kansas: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For my physician and nurse parents, this was a huge relief. Finally an answer to their son’s odd and frustrating behavior. For me, it was the day I found out I would never be normal.

There’s nothing like slapping a label “disorder” on someone to make them feel like a freak. And for years it was “did you take your meds?” or “go chill out, you’re hyper” and other dismissive remarks whenever they found me annoying, odd, or difficult. It was never about celebrating and appreciating how these things made me unique–how the intense focus and energy bursts could result in huge bouts of productive creativity. How the racing mind could sort through so many more scenarios and options at a faster rate than anyone around me and keep juggling them all there even while discussing or writing–giving me a lot of info to utilize. It wasn’t about how I could get more done in a focused bout of 45 minutes than most people could do in 2 hours. It was always about the “disability.” No discussion of benefits. (My parents are not altogether bad or unsupportive people, by the way, I am talking about one particular circumstance only).

crazy-person-3As a result, it took me a while to identify these traits as having positive benefits. And to adjust my life to live in ways that utilized them and made the most of them, rather than just trying to medicate them away and hide my abnormality. That’s a terrible burden to live with, by the way. A terrible burden to put on a child.

Now don’t get me wrong. ADHD is a real thing and I always cringe at parents who both over diagnose with it or ignore it because they think it’s overdiagnosed. Let the experts really tell you. Get a second or third opinion if you must. For your child, knowing and helping them learn to cope is really important. I just wish my parents had handled that differently. It wasn’t until I got to be an adult that I discovered adjusting my working habits and lifestyle, diet, etc. would all be things I could use to make the most of my “unique gifts” and live more productively and get along better with others. Before that, I had “disorder” on the brain. It was a curse, some horrible burden God put on me for some unknown reason–why did he hate me?–not something I could overcome and use.

crazy-person-2It wasn’t until my early thirties that I really grasped the concept that no one is normal. Everyone has quirks and issues. The so-called “normal” people love to talk about and bandy about like a standard is really a matter of point of view, perspective. There is no catch-all, set absolutely, scientifically determined state that constitutes “normal.”

What really brought it home to me was events that started in 2009, when my beloved wife, a Brazilian (who doesn’t like me to use her name about this so I am not) began acting very strangely in ways that were dangerous. When her flight to St. Louis got layed over in Chicago for a long delay, she called me in the middle of the night from downtown Chicago where she was wandering around pulling her suitcase just to “sightsee” alone. Yep. We knew no one in Chicago. She’d never been before. And she just went downtown to see the city alone, at night. With a suitcase. To say I was panicked is an understatement. I woke up a lot of people that night seeking help. And I didn’t hear from her again for several hours, making it worse.

crazy-person-1A few months later, she started being up at odd hours, running around hectically, cleaning obsessively, etc. all night. And then one day, while I went to Mexico to teach free music classes, I sent her off to the bus to attend a seminar for her new hospitality job at a hotel. Once I crossed the border, the phone went off so I could avoid the expensive “international roaming” cellular phones on the U.S.-Mexico Border struggle with at great expense for their owners. That night, I arrived home to multiple messages on both my voicemail and answering machine of an increasingly aggitated, worried, and then angry wife berating me for not calling her back and coming to get her.

Despite searching, calling her cell and friends, etc., I did not see her again for over 6 hours, until the El Paso PD brought her to my door at 5 a.m. It turns out she’d never made it to the bus and had wandered the city on foot, eventually discarding her shoes–which fell apart–her jewelry, ID (including key immigration documents like green card), and more and was found wandering on Interstate 10, dodging semis (she was actually struck on the shoulder by a semi’s mirror and stayed standing with only a scratch), babbling about trying to get home. The Police thought she was suicidal. The gibberish she was speaking scared the hell out of me.

crazy-jack-nicholson-shiningBy 2011, we were divorced and she had gone back to Brazil, but this was after 5 forced hospitalizations, dozens more incidents, my losing my day job and so much more that really made our life chaotic and turned it upside down. I lost the love of my life. I lost my partner, lover, and best friend. I lost a really well-paying job I enjoyed, a house we wanted to buy, and many friends who were alienated along the way not understanding the drama or the situation. I wound up on dozens of meds for heart rate, blood pressure, depression, and so much more. The doctors thought I’d have a heart attack at 45. For two years, the meds seemed to be doing nothing to help. A month after we divorced and my ex went home to Brazil with family, my levels went back to normal and the meds were no longer needed.

THAT, my friends, is stress.

Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because my ex’s biggest struggle with her illness was her frustration, fear, and pain of being told she was not “normal” anymore. That really destroyed her self-esteem. She didn’t want meds, she wanted a miracle. She wanted to be the normal person she’d been before, not some mentally ill person. What I had realized with my Ritalin was that sometimes the medicine IS the miracle, but that was a concept she was not ready to accept. Her self-identity was too threatened, her sense of esteem too violated. So she didn’t medicate consistently, she blamed and lashed out at those around her, and various side effects occurred that made things worse, not better.

Now as I watch another family member going through that 6 years later, my heart breaks for them daily. I want to reach out, hug them, impart all this wisdom, and tell them: “It is okay to be you. Normal is relative. You are awesome as you are.” To take away the fear, pain, paranoia, and more so they can just face up to their new reality, take the meds, and live a relatively similar life to what they did before. But they are not ready yet, just as my ex was. Then, as I said, it took me years to accept that I had my own “normal,” and I was fortunately diagnosed as a kid. These two people (my ex and relative) are adults. How much harder must it be for them to adjust to that idea?

happy-person-1So here’s the thing. No one is mainstream. No one is straight normal. No one. We are all unique. If you believe in God, He made us that way. Or perhaps you’d prefer to think of the amazing science of genetics and DNA. Either way, there is a reason DNA can identify people. We are all unique. And for the love of God, there is nothing wrong with being unique. There is nothing wrong with not being “normal.” Be yourself. THAT was the lesson I needed to learn, and the lesson all “mentally ill,” “disabled,” and family members of those afflicted must learn to accept. “Normal” for you is different than anyone else. And that is okay. It is not a disaster. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to figure out and adjust for and live happily and well with. And anyone can do it. You just have to believe, accept, and put in the work.

cropped-for-webI’m not saying I don’t still struggle. I am not saying ADHD does not still affect my life and relationships. It does. I still can’t always read others’ reactions to me well in social situations. My overabundant, hyper energy can still be offputting. It has made it hard to keep steady day jobs. But that is my “normal,” and I have adjusted by becoming freelance, by becoming more blunt and open about who I am in relationships, and by continuing to take whatever meds and dietary things help and adjusting my working style, etc. accordingly.

What is normal? It is that label that is the “disorder” or “disability” if you allow it to be one. But it is one you can overcome if you have the patience and determination to try, to do it. It takes time, yes. It is hard, yes. But it is accomplishable. It is possible. And realizing and accepting your unique you is a better way to live than under a label of “abnormal” or “disorder” will ever be. Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way and it took me almost 37 years. Hopefully, this post might help a few people get there faster and avoid a lot of heartache. That’s what I hope for, at least.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan s Headshots-bryan-0002 websizeBryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and Hugo-nominated editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online and include entries in The X-Files, Predator, and Decipher’s WARS, amongst others. As book editor for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s WordFire Press he edited books by such luminaries as Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Frank Herbert, Mike Resnick, Jean Rabe and more. He was also the first editor on Andy Weir’s bestseller The Martian. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek, Mission: Tomorrow, Galactic Games and Little Green Men–Attack! (forthcoming) all for Baen, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. He also coedited forthcoming anthologies with Larry Correia and Jonathan Maberry set in their New York Times Bestselling Monster Hunter International and Joe Ledger universes.

Website/Blog: www.bryanthomasschmidt.net
Twitter: @BryanThomasS
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bryanthomass?ref=hl
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3874125.Bryan_Thomas_Schmidt

DoDecaCon Schedule, September 16-18, Columbia, MO

dodecaconbtspicThis weekend, I will be a Special Guest at Columbia, Missouri’s ComicCon:  DoDecaCon. Fellow guests include New York Times bestselling author John Jackson Miller.

Here’s the layout of booths. I will be at Special Guests Table 2. (click to enlarge)

dodecancon16layout

My panel schedule is Saturday only, with the following two panels:
2:00 PM Special Guest Q&A with Bryan Thomas Schmidt, John Jackson Miller and D.A. Roberts-Main Stage
3:00 PM Writing in an Established Universe with John Jackson Miller-Panel Room A

Barnes and Noble, Columbia, will be selling my books and I will sell others at my table. To help me out, please buy my Baen books from B&N then come have me sign or personalize. I will likely do signing times each day at B&N as well (TBD). The rest of my books will be on sale at my own table, Special Guest Table 2.

Look forward to seeing you!

Bryan

Announcing: Final Table of Contents-Joe Ledger: Unstoppable Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Jonathan Maberry

With pleasure, we announce the final table of contents for the first anthology of stories written by others set in the New York Times bestselling Joe Ledger universe created by Jonathan Maberry. This will be released from St. Martin’s Press in 2017 (cover and details pending).

JOE LEDGER: UNSTOPPABLE
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Jonathan Maberry

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword by Tony Eldridge

Introduction by Jonathan Maberry

The Honey Pot by Steve Alten

Confusion by Nicholas Steven

Target Acquired by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

Vacation by Scott Sigler

Banshee by James A. Moore

Red Dirt by Mira Grant

Black Water by Weston Ochse

Instinct by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and G.P. Charles

No Guns at the Bar by Aaron Rosenberg

Strange Harvest by Jon McGoran

No Business at All by Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Ganbatte by Keith R.A. DeCandido

White Flame on Sunday by James Ray Tuck

Wet Tuesday by David Farland

Prince of Peace by Jeremy Robinson

Rookie by Joe McKinney

Three Times by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

Psych Eval by Larry Correia

Crash Course by Dana Fredsti

Atoll by Jonathan Maberry

In addition to the numerous New York Times bestsellers writing stories here, we have crossovers with Sigler’s Nocturnal, Tuck’s Deacon Chalk, McGoran’s Doyle Carrick, Robinson’s Chess Team and Fredsti’s Plague World novels. The anthology has a foreword by Ton Eldridge, the Hollywood producer developing Ledger for film and by Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, Charmed, Middleman) who wrote a previ0us Ledger pilot film.

Announcing: Final Table of Contents- THE MONSTER HUNTER FILES Edited by Larry Correia & Bryan Thomas Schmidt

With pleasure, I announce the final table of contents for the first anthology of works by other authors set in Larry Correia’s New York Times bestselling Monster Hunter International universe. This will release from Baen Books sometime next year (cover and details pending).

THE MONSTER HUNTER FILES
Edited by Larry Correia & Bryan Thomas Schmidt

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION by Albert Lee, MHI Archivist

“Thistle” by Larry Correia

“Small Problems” by Jim Butcher

“Darkness Under The Mountain” by Mike Kupari

“A Knight Of The Enchanted Forest” by Jessica Day George

“The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright

“The Dead Yard” by Maurice Broaddus

“The Bride” by Brad R. Torgersen

“She Bitch, Killer of Kits” (a Skinwalker Crossover Tale) by Faith Hunter

“Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye

“Sons Of The Father” by Quincy J. Allen

“The Troll Factory” by Alex Shvartsman

“Keep Kaiju Weird” by Kim May

“The Gift” by Steve Diamond

“The Case of the Ghastly Specter” by John Ringo

“Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Julie Frost

“Hunter Born” by Sarah A. Hoyt

“Hitler’s Dog” by Jonathan Maberry

BIOGRAPHIES

The stories involved not just Owen Z Pitt and his usual team, but Agent Franks and lesser known monster hunters from history, including stories set in the Revolutionary War and World War I periods as well as a crossover with Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Skinwalker series.

Announcing “Border Time” by Myself & Kate Corcino in The X-Files: Secret Agendas Anthology

 

x-files_secret_agendas_fullcoverEditor Jonathan Maberry has announced the Table of Contents order for his third anthology of new officially sanctioned, canon stories from The X-Files, for which Kate Corcino and I wrote a fun story set in El Paso. Here it is:

  1. Seek and You Will Find by John Gilstrap
  2. Perithecia by Andy Mangels
  3. Give Up the Ghost by Jade Shames
  4. Transmissions by Marsheila Rockwell and Jeffrey Mariotte
  5. Desperately Seeking Mothman by Jim Beard
  6. Love Lost by Yvonne Navarro
  7. Thanks and Praise by Joe Harris
  8. Border Time by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Kate Corcino
  9. A Scandal in Moreauvia, or: The Adventure of the Empty Heart by Nancy Holder
  10. Stryzga by Lauren A. Forry
  11. An Eye for an Eye by George Ivanoff
  12. Kanashibari by Ryan Cady
  13. All Choked Up by Lois H. Gresh
  14. Along the Scenic Route by Lucy A. Snyder
  15. Grandmother Black Hands Weston Ochse

StoryBundle: The Returning is Starward Bound

The Returning WFP Final Full CoverSome of you know that WordFire Press is rereleasing new revised and expanded editions of my Saga of Davi Rhii debut novels and finishing the trilogy next year with the brand new 3rd novel, never before released. Anyway, book 2 comes out right after World Con but as with The Worker Prince, I have the privilege of The Returning appearing in a bundle and BEFORE release. Yep, you can get it early on ebook along with 9 other terrific space opera reads.

Here’s how:

 

 

 

 

Starbound Bundle covers

THE STARWARD BOUND BUNDLE

 

The Starward Bound Bundle – Curated by Martin Kee

Even in the most violent and darkest of timelines, space opera remains steadfast in its insistence that we as a species will eventually find our place among the stars. It’s the promise the subgenre makes to its fans, that we will one day leave this ball of dirt and water, and move on to more interesting things.

But more importantly, space opera is just plain fun as hell.

I’m curating a bundle this year that encapsulates the genre from one end of the spectrum to the other, from the gritty to the absurd, from the dark to the whimsical. The beauty of space opera is in its diversity, in its limitless imagination, and in its consistent vision of humanity living abroad in the cosmic sense of the word. Even at its darkest, space opera spins from a core of optimism.

Much like our charity, this bundle aims to inspire, excite, and educate. We’re offering novels and anthologies from world-famous Hugo and Nebula winners, updated collections of short fiction and essays, and novellas compiled specifically with this bundle in mind.

To start, legendary author, and several-times-over Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winner, David Brin offers up his timeless anthology OTHERNESS, with stories that begin on Earth and chronicle humanity’s ascension into space. This updated book also contains newer essays and thoughts from his perspective as futurist, scholar, writer, and scientist.

Hugo and Nebula nominee and winner, Mike Resnick, provided THE OUTPOST, a fantastically imaginative novel, filled with wildly epic characters, given names as big as their personalities. Marko Kloos is presenting his immensely popular TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, a crazy-good military scifi novel, that I fell in love with at the first chapter. Bryan Thomas Schmidt gives us a thrilling continuation of his debut novel with THE RETURNING. Hugo nominee and winner, Brad Torgersen’s book RACERS OF THE NIGHT runs the gamut from lunar NASCAR to interplanetary bricklayers.

This bundle also contains the first two of my novellas from my PATCHER universe, combined into one book, which I’ve compiled specifically for this bundle. Best-seller B.V. Larson submitted his novel STARFIRE, which centers around an alien artifact and a reignited Cold War to capture it. Moira Katsen’s CRUCIBLE is a fantastic beginning to her trilogy about alien genocide at the hands of humans. Edward W. Robertson’s OUTLAW follows a space janitor who becomes a reluctant pirate. And Erik Wecks offers up his space noir adventure AETNA ADRIFT.

As always, with StoryBundle, you pay what you want for the books and a portion goes to charity. For this bundle, our charity is the Challenger Space Center, a Smithsonian organization, which exists to help excite, educate, and inspire young people with an interest in science and space exploration. The center is a museum, simulator, and school, all rolled into one, offering space camps, hands-on learning experience, and science programs for economically challenged children, helping them dream a bigger future. We are thrilled to be able to help support them in their mission.

As with every bundle, you pay what you want. $5 or more gets you the basic bundle. All books are DRM-free, in multiple eBook formats. You can download them anywhere, anytime, worldwide, and they are yours to keep. Paying $15 (or more, if you are feeling generous) gets you the bonus books, written by award-winning masters of science fiction. You can also choose what percentage of your price goes directly to the charity.

It’s our pleasure, offering this bundle to help the Challenger Space Center. Optimism for the future is rare in these pessimistic and cynical times, and these books, no matter how dark or gritty, all share a common vision: Humanity’s true destiny is yet to come. We hope that you too will find this bundle to be a hopeful promise of our place in the cosmos. – Martin Kee

The initial titles in The Starward Bound Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Starfire by B. V. Larson
  • Outlaw by Edward W. Robertson
  • Aetna Adrift by Erik Wecks
  • Patcher: Books 1 & 2 by Martin Kee
  • The Novum Trilogy Book 1: Crucible by Moira Katson

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • Otherness by David Brin
  • Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
  • The Outpost by Mike Resnick
  • Racers of the Night by Brad R. Torgersen
  • The Returning by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Challenger Space Center
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Kaffeeklatsch Sign Up-MidAmeriCon II (WorldCon), Sat, Aug. 20, 2016

So, I was not given an official kaffeeklatsch. Not many were. So I am scheduling my own.

Saturday, August 20th, at 2 p.m. in the Downtown Marriott Lobby, 2nd level where the tables are, I will do a kaffeeklatsch. I will be giving away some signed cover flats, signed books, even a couple signed story manuscripts. Sign up here in comments to attend. I will take the first 20.

Bryan

My MidAmeriCon II Schedule (WorldCon)

August 18-21, 2o16 — Kansas City Convention Center/Bartle Hall

Here’s when and where to find me officially. I will be at the WordFire table signing at other times throughout the convention, so you will also find me there in the Dealer Room–booths 4, 5, and 6.

Dealer Room Hours:

 

Wednesday Aug 17th 12:00pm – 6:00pm

Thursday Aug 18th 10:00am – 6:00pm

Friday Aug 19th 10:00am-6:00pm

Saturday Aug 20th 10:00am-6:00pm

Sunday Aug 21st 10:00am-3:00pm

Thursday Aug 18, 2016

3:00PM

Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Moderator), Robin Wayne Bailey, Christine Taylor-Butler, Jennifer Boles

Friday Aug 19, 2016

1:00PM

George Lucas set Star Wars in a Galaxy far, far away, but also a long time ago.  What is the importance of setting his saga in the distant past?  How would our perceptions of it have been different if it were set in our time in a galaxy far, far away or if it had been set in the future?

Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Moderator), Kevin J. Anderson, Matthew S. Rotundo, Anna Raftery

 3:00PM

Come join Baen Executive Editor Jim Minz and an assortment of Baen authors for the Baen Traveling Road Show. Learn about their new and upcoming releases. See the pretty covers. Win fabulous prizes. There will be free books for a lucky few…

Jim Minz (Moderator), Dr. Charles Gannon, Joelle Presby, others–I will be attending in case my books are discussed and to sign free copies given away

 

Saturday Aug 20, 2016

2:00PM

  • Kaffeeklatsch: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • Downtown Marriott, Lobby-2nd level

I am offering my own unofficial kaffeeklatsch and will be giving away signed books and cover flats, maybe even a couple manuscripts. Sign up here.

 

Sunday Aug 21, 2016

2:00PM

Professionals talk shop about editing and publishing anthologies. What does it take to craft an anthology that people actually want to read? What are the dos and don’ts when pulling together stories into a single book? We’ll identify some examples of well-done anthologies and how the editing process differs between anthologies. Join us for an indepth discussion and find out what our panelists enjoy most when working with anthologies.

Ellen Datlow (Moderator), Erin Underwood, Jonathan Strahan, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Kathryn Cramer

Forthcoming Works & WIP Release Schedule 2016-2017

As I revise this site and get back to blogging and regular updates (soon, I hope), I thought I could start by updating you on my various forthcoming projects and works in progress and their release dates (as I know them).

So here they are. As you can see, 2017 will be my busiest year ever as not only editor but author, too.

Forthcoming works 2016:

the returning cover front WFPTHE RETURNING: Author’s Definitive Edition, (Saga of Davi Rhii Book 2) (WordFire Press), August 23, 2016

 

 

 

X-Files_Secret_Agendas“Border Time” by myself and Kate Corcino in THE X-FILES: SECRET AGENDAS, edited by Jonathan Maberry (IDW), September 27, 2016

 

 

 

Forthcoming in 2017:

Baen logoLITTLE GREEN MEN–ATTACK!, Coedited by Robin Wayne Bailey (Baen Books), March 7, 2017 includes “The First Million Contacts” by myself and Alex Shvartsman

 

st martins press logoJOE LEDGER: UNSTOPPABLE, Coedited by Jonathan Maberry (ST. MARTINS), 2017 includes “Instince (A Ghost Story)” by myself and Claire Ashgrove

 

Baen logoMONSTER HUNTER Anthology, Coedited by Larry Correia (Baen Books), 2017 includes “Hoffman Strikes Back” by myself and Julie C. Frost

 

Titan Books logoPREDATOR: THE HUNTED (Working Title) (Titan Books), October 2017 includes a story by myself with Holly Roberds

INFINITE STARS: A Definitive Space Opera Anthology (Titan Books), November 2017

THE EXODUS (Saga of Davi Rhii Book 3) (WordFire Press), TBD

“The Greatest Guns In The Galaxy” by myself and Ken Scholes in STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop, (Baen Books), TBD

Guest Post: The Prize in your Serial by Gail Z. Martin

Please welcome to my blog today on her latest blog tour, the talented Gail Z. Martin.

by Gail Z. Martin

Shadowed path cover MartinWhen I was a kid, I picked my breakfast cereal by the toy surprise in the bottom of the bag. That hidden treasure mattered to me a whole lot more than the flavor of the corn flakes.

So I find it interesting that in fiction, readers are discovering the allure of a new type of ‘serial’–serialized fiction.  Of course, serials aren’t new. Charles Dickens made his living writing for magazines, stretching his stories out in installments for a breathless reading public. Magazines in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ran a lot of serialized fiction, with readers awaiting the next installment in the forthcoming issue. And for a while, ‘penny dreadful’ writers cranked out lurid pulp fiction at a brisk rate, much like episodic TV does nowadays. Back in the day, radio shows also serialized stories, so that listeners would ‘tune in again next week’ for the next thrilling segment.

With the demise of many magazines, it took the internet and digital publishing to breathe new life into serialized fiction. Podcasters were quick to embrace the idea, with folks like Scott Sigler and JC Hutchins doing very well with the concept, and others like Christiana Ellis, Tee Morris, Rich Sigfrit and PG Holyfield bringing back the dramatic multi-actor radio drama format for serialized stories.

I took the leap into doing serialized novels with my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures ebook short stories and novellas a few years ago. The series focuses on the backstory for a favorite character in my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings series, someone with a dark past whom readers wanted to know more about. I began writing sequential short stories that will add up, eventually, to three full novels about Jonmarc.

The Shadowed Path, my new book from Solaris Books, is a collection of the first ten of those short stories (plus an exclusive eleventh story) that comprise the first third of Jonmarc’s story. Taken together, they form a novel with a full story arc. I’ve had a lot of fun writing the stories, and having the chance to share Jonmarc’s  background, since he’s a favorite of mine, too. There are eight additional stories available in ebook beyond those collected in The Shadowed Path, with three more novellas coming later this year.

Serializing a story requires a slightly different approach from writing a regular novel, because each individual ‘episode’ has to have its own internal arc to a greater degree than do chapters in a book. The stories need to be able to stand on their own, but also link together to build a greater whole. It’s an interesting writing challenge, and I’ve been enjoying working with it.

Readers and authors get some wins with a serialized story that are also different from a regular novel, or stand-alone short fiction. Readers don’t have to wait as long for the story to unfold, but still have the anticipation of the upcoming installment, which is familiar to people who watch episodic TV. For those who prefer to binge read like they binge watch, the sequential short stories will eventually be collected into a larger, cohesive whole.

For the author, it’s nice to get feedback throughout the process instead of only at the conclusion of a full novel. Bringing out episodic work on a regular basis maintains a relationship and an ongoing connection with readers, preserving that link between books. And it’s a great way for authors who may have contractual obstacles that restrict bringing out new ‘novels’ (due to publisher right of first refusal, etc.) to be able to still create larger, cohesive works. Personally, I’m a fan of bringing out additional, sequential stories that tie into my novels because there are a lot of smaller adventures I enjoy sharing with readers that involve the characters and setting and which happen outside the full novels and which introduce secondary characters or expand on the world building.

Modern Magic cover MartinMy Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories expand on the novels in my dark urban fantasy series with additional episodes featuring more cursed and haunted objects and supernatural threats. Readers get a chance to know the main and secondary characters better and spend more time in the modern-day Charleston, SC atmosphere. The first 10 of those stories with Cassidy, Teag and Sorren, are collected for the first time ever in Trifles and Folly, currently part of the Modern Magic ebook boxed set with 12 full-length books by 13 bestselling dark fantasy authors, just $1.99, only on Kindle for a limited time.

The Storm and Fury Adventures continue the Steampunk world of Iron & Blood, with Department of Supernatural Investigation agents Mitch Storm and Jacob Drangosavich fighting clockwork monsters and supernatural evil in 1898 alternate history Pittsburgh. And my Blaine McFadden Adventures will eventually provide six sequential, serialized novellas that fill a six-year gap in my novel Ice Forged. Three of those novellas are currently available, either individually or collected in King’s Convicts.

For me, the prize in the serial is the chance to tell more stories, explore more adventures, and keep readers on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next installment. So dig in!

From June 21-June 30 I’ll be doing my annual Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event blog tour, and I hope readers will stop over to my website, find out what all is going on and where to find the posts, giveaways, contests and fun events. And of course, please look for The Shadowed Path at your favorite bookseller!

The Hawthorn Moon Sneak Peek Event includes book giveaways, free excerpts, all-new guest blog posts and author Q&A on 22 awesome partner sites around the globe. I’ll also be hosting many of my Modern Magic co-authors guest posting on my DisquietingVisions.com blog during the tour.  For a full list of where to go to get the goodies, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

An Excerpt from Raider’s Curse, part of The Shadowed Path:

Jonmarc took off running. At fifteen, he was tall, just a bit over six feet. Years of working

alongside his father in the forge had given him a strong back and muscular arms. A mop of

chestnut-brown hair hung in his brown eyes, and he pushed it out of the way as he ran.

A worn path led to the open shed that was his father’s forge. Jonmarc could hear the steady

pounding of his father’s hammer on the anvil. The sound echoed from the hills, steady as a

heartbeat. He skidded to a stop just outside the doors.

 

Anselm Vahanian swung a heavy hammer in his right hand while his gloved left hand turned

the piece of metal on the anvil. Sparks flew around him, landing on the long sleeves of his rough-

woven shirt, his gloves, and his leather apron. The forge smelled of coal, iron, and sweat. To one

side lay two swords Anselm had completed for a client in the village. On a table lay a variety of

farm tools—iron pots and pans, and hoops for the cooper’s barrels. Jonmarc had helped to forge

several of the pieces, though he longed to work on swords, like his father.

 

“Mother said to tell you to wash up for dinner,” Jonmarc shouted above the clanging.

Anselm stopped and looked at him. “I’ll eat supper later. You know I can’t stop in the middle

of something when the iron is hot.”

 

Jonmarc nodded. “I know. I’ll tell her to put a plate aside for you.” He paused, and Anselm

looked at him quizzically, waiting for the unspoken question.

 

“Have you talked to any of the fishermen lately?” Jonmarc tried to make the question sound

off-handed, but Anselm frowned as if he caught the undercurrent of concern.

 

“You mean the talk about raiders,” Anselm replied, and struck the iron he was working.

“Do you think it’s more than just talk?”

 

Anselm didn’t answer until he put the iron bar back into the furnace to heat up. He was

Jonmarc’s height, with a head of wiry dark hair and brown eyes that glinted with intelligence. A

lifetime in the forge had given him broad shoulders and a powerful physique. His profession also

showed in the small white burns that marked his hands and arms, scars too numerous to count.

Jonmarc had gained a few of those burn scars too, but not nearly as many as his father. Not yet.

 

“Maybe,” Anselm replied. “The real people to talk to are the traders. Their ships go up and

down the Northern Sea coast, stopping at all the villages. I always get news when I trade iron

with them.”

 

“Have you heard anything?”

 

Anselm turned the iron rod in the furnace. “Some. One of the villages on the other side of the

bay burned. Everyone was gone when the traders came. No way to know why or how. Eiderford,

down the coast, did have a run-in with raiders a few months ago.” He eyed the iron, and turned it

one more time.

 

“So there are raiders,” Jonmarc replied.

 

Anselm shrugged. “There are always raiders. But there’s less to attract them here in

Lunsbetter than in Eiderford. We’re not a proper city, and we’re as like to barter as deal in coin,

so there’s less to steal.”

 

Unless they want food, livestock, or women, Jonmarc thought. And there are enough people

who trade with the ships that there’s probably more coin here than anyone wants to admit.

“There’s a garrison of the king’s soldiers beyond Ebbetshire,” Jonmarc replied. “Can’t they

stop the raiders?”

 

Anselm shrugged. “They can’t guard every village along the coast,” he said. “And they’d

have to know for certain when a raid was planned.” He shook his head. “No, we’re on our own.”

He paused.

 

“Don’t worry yourself about it,” Anselm said, drawing the rod out of the furnace and placing

it on the anvil. “We’ve doubled the patrols, and the fishermen are on alert.” He grinned. “And

tomorrow, those swords are going down to the constable and the sheriff. We’ll be fine. Pump the

bellows for me. The fire’s grown cold.”

 

Anselm stood in front of a large open furnace filled with glowing coals. Jonmarc pumped the

bellows that were attached to the back of the furnace, and the coals flared brighter, flames licking

across their surface. Anselm lifted his hammer to strike the iron. “Now get back up to the house.

Your mother’s waiting. Just save some for me.”

 

“I’ll make sure of it,” Jonmarc replied. The clatter of the hammer drowned out anything else

he might have asked. He stepped out into the cool night, and started back up the path to the

house. His stomach rumbled and he fancied that he could smell the stew. But the worry he felt

when he went to the forge had not lifted; if anything, his father’s comments increased Jonmarc’s

concern than the warnings about raiders were not mere tales.

 

If father says the men are keeping their eye out for trouble, then that’s the end of it, he

thought. Naught I can do. But he remembered his comment to Neil about keeping the axe

sharpened, and on the way back to the house, he detoured into the barn. Thanks to his father’s

craft, they were well-stocked with farm implements.

 

He walked over to the space his father used to butcher meat. Butchering wasn’t a pleasant

job, but it was necessary, and a task with which Jonmarc was well acquainted. He had learned

the craft from his father, practiced enough that it no longer made him lose his dinner to be awash

in blood and entrails. His father had taught him to strike swiftly and cleanly, to block out the

death cries of the terrified livestock, to go to a cold place inside himself until the job was done.

He had even learned a few tricks of the trade, like how to hamstring a panicked animal that was

likely to kick or buck. But nothing about how to fight men.

 

On the wall hung an impressive variety of knives. He selected a large butcher knife with a

wicked blade as well as a smaller boning knife, and made his way around to the back door,

hiding the knives among his mother’s herbs before going in for supper. Tonight, when everyone

was in bed, he would come back for them—one for him, and one for Neil. Just in case the men

were wrong.

 

If you want to see more stories about Jonmarc Vahanian, check out The Chronicles of the

Necromancer series and The Fallen Kings Cycle books, as well as the Jonmarc Vahanian

Adventures on ebook.

©2016 Gail Z. Martin all rights reserved. No duplication or reprint without written permission.

 

About the Author

Gail Z Martin headshotGail Z. Martin is the author of The Shadowed Path (Solaris Books), Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities.  Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Her work has appeared in over 30 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: Robots, The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Gaslight and Grimm, Baker Street Irregulars, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Find her at www.AscendantKingdoms.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and  free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin