Writing what I love for the fun of it

gallostI’ve written a few books now. I write because I love to write. Sometimes there’s the temptation to write into current trends. Someone even suggested that I should write some romances because they sell really well.

Hmm. It would be nice to have have a book sell really well. Absolutely.

I doubt, though, that I could write a convincing romance. I don’t really read in the genre. I’m sure that would show. Chasing sales based on trends feels like hard work.

Lately I’ve been coming back to writing the kinds of books I loved to read while growing up. I could list a whole lot – The Godwhale, Ice and Iron, Icerigger – and I wondered to myself what if I just wrote some things along those lines? Would it be fun? Would the novels work?

One way to find out: give it a go.

Turns out writing like that is a blast. It’s more than that old adage of ‘write what you know’ and kind of ‘write what you love’.

My novel Astjewel of jeroid Jumpers comes from playing with the ideas and tone of Gregory Kern’s Cap Kennedy/F.A.T.E. novels. The Jewel of Jarhen was one of my favorites (though back in the eighties, I only had the first six and now, thanks to the Internet, I’ve discovered there were many more in the series). I also loved the Tim White covers, though many of the volumes sported covers that looked much more like 1950s SF

So, in Asteroid Jumpers I have an investigative crew, including an alien, battling through against impossible odds. I don’t know that my Captain Arlon Stoddard would quite measure up against virtual superhero Cap Kennedy, and the novel is unlikely to ever be mistaken for one of Kern’s (Gregory Kern was one several pen names used by prolific English author Edwin Charles Tubb – back in the day I read several Space 1999 novels by E.C. Tubb, fully unaware the authors were one and the same). Asteroid Jumpers is not intended as a pastiche, or even an homage, more just a ‘this is what the kid in me enjoyed reading, this is what the kid in me likes writing’.

And I had a whole lot of fun in the writing of it.

Should I write more about where my novels come from? What do you think?

New story in Perihelion

asteroid jumpers thumbMy story “If You’re Listening, We’re Going to Try Something” will appear in the May 12th issue of Perihelion. “If You’re Listening…” features characters from my novel Asteroid Jumpers. (Which has a fabulous cover by Innovari/Luca Oleastri)

I’ve had a story set in a novel universe come out before (“Scour” in New Myths, is set in the world of my Karnish River Navigations novels), but “If You’re Listening…” is the first to include characters from the actual novel.

Trapped aboard the Zadie Captain Arlon Stoddard and navigator Eva Strong must make instant decisions if they’re going to get to safety.

The story is free to read at Perihelion.

Muscari TZ.-1 : New Venus Vulture album out now.

Venus VultureWhile for the most part I pursue writing as my main creative outlet, from time to time I also create ambient music.

With Kendall Keener of December Nightskies I make up one half of Shadows on the Snow. We exchange music back and forth, remixing snippets of each others work to create something new. Most of our combined music appears on archive.org, some on netlabels and  occasional pieces appearing on compilations.

Solo I make music as Venus Vulture. My latest release is Muscari TZ.-1. The long, ambient tracks, with deep levels of repetition. I’m a fan of FM3’s Buddha Machine, so much of my recent music has reflected some of that repetition aesthetic.

I first started writing music because I liked having something in the background while I wrote stories. I couldn’t find enough, so Venus Vulture was born.

Musicari TZ.-1 is available on Bandcamp. You can stream it there. If you’ve read this and it sounds like you might like a listen, PM me/comment and I’ll send you a free download link sometime in late May.

Latest novel: The City Builders – out on April 16th

City BuildersMy latest release continues the theme of strange and dangerous environments challenging the characters. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of vast cities so it I had fun taking free rein creating the world of Mackelle. The blurb goes like this:

Desra Parker loves investigating strange planets. But when missiles shoot her ship down over Mackelle, Desra and her crew find themselves in a desperate race for survival. Battling the elements and relentless building-sized robots, Desra needs to unravel the mysteries of Mackelle’s endless city if she’s going to keep anyone alive. And figure out a way to get home.
I was lucky enough to get this wonderful cover illustration by Bertrandb (Dreamstime.com) which perfectly conveys the setting.
Available from your usual retailers, including
ebook – $5.99
Print $17.99
Amazon

Writing a novel while traveling, some thoughts

Later this year I’m heading away for a trip into the wilds. Well, with some touches of cities and towns.  The trip will involve thirteen flights. I’m taking carry-on luggage only. I might need a subtitle: ‘while traveling light’.

Dean Wesley Smith wrote a series of blog posts earlier this year about writing a novel in five days while traveling. Well, I won’t be managing a novel in five days. Much too much sightseeing to do-but it would be cool to get a whole novel through the trip.

Smith took his whole big writing computer, lugging it in the back seat of the car. On the basis that it’s easier to write with the same old regular writing set-up. I agree, but with air travel and boat travel and a whole lot of walking I’m leaving my hefty desktop behind. In fact, not even taking a laptop.

Instead I’m using a smartphone with a wordprocessing app, a bluetooth keyboard and a dinky little stand I designed and had 3D printed. The three pieces fit snugly into a kind of re-purposed travel wallet. I designed the stand to fit into the cavity in the keyboard – where the battery section forms sticks out. A couple of Velcro dots hold the pair together for packing.

Even with the charger, the whole package is way smaller than my laptop (as it turns out, smaller than my laptop charging brick and the cord combined).

Smith has some other good hints – be realistic, plan for the fiction writing and plan for the touristy stuff. To be honest I’m not sure that I’ll get through a novel in the time, but part of this is to keep up the momentum with the writing every day process. Even if I only get down a few hundred words in a day, I’ll know that I’m know that I’m on track with that.

Doubling on the packing light; that phone will also serve as my camera (I do have a nice camera which takes way better photos, but it’s kind of bulky; the phone will do). The phone also has an e-ink screen on the back, so I have reading material (without chewing through the battery), and, importantly, I’m taking a tiny OTG drive to back-up my work everyday. There’ll be some long stretches with no internet access, which is fine by me, but when I do get access I’ll back up through my email as well.

I’ve tried out the system to make sure it works for me – beyond just typing on the keys (given Smith’s point about writing on your regular set-up). I took a few days worth of writing time and wrote a short story – 6000 words – going to various places; home, other places at home, my lunchbreak space at work, Subway (where I’m sure I looked pretty geeky to other sandwich eaters and passersby). Completed the story. Got it backed up. Good to go.

Still, we’ll see how it all works out when I get underway to Easter Island and the Galapagos. I’ll keep you posted.

My schedule for LexiCon

Lexicon header

This year I’m attending two full days of the New Zealand Science Fiction Convention, LexiCon, in Taupo. I’m honored to have been asked to sit on two panels.

The State of Genre Publishing. Discussing the various publishing options for authors: traditional publishers, small presses, self publishing and more. With Marie Hodgkinson, Darian Smith, Sean Monaghan, and Leigh K Hunt.
Sat 9am in Hine-i-tīweka (Jupiter)

Hard SF – Where Engineers Go To Die… and how to open it up for the rest of us. With Art Protin, Sean Monaghan and Mark English.
Sun 5pm in Matawhero (Mars)

I’m looking forward to the convention and getting time to hang out with old friends.

 

 

Low Arc to appear in The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade

jbmassc-coverMy story “Low Arc”, which won the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Award, will appear among other winning and place-getting stories in a new volume due this autumn.

The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest is an annual award, run as an association between the National Space Society, and Baen Books. Winners attend the International Space Development Conference, including an awards dinner for the presentation.

The contest is administrated by Nebula Award Nominee William Ledbetter. He’s edited this volume. Thanks Bill.

The contest asks contestants to “write a short story of no more than 8,000 words, that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration”. My own story is an adventure piece, set on the moon in the near future. One of the times where I’ve gone for hard sci-fi.

This is my first pro anthology appearance, and I’m honoured to be among such company.

“A Better Sense of Direction” by Mjke Wood
“Letting Go” by David Walton
“Cathedral” by Mike Barretta
“Space Hero” by Patrick Lundrigan
“That Undiscovered Country” by Nancy Fulda
“Taking the High Road” by R.P.L. Johnson
“The Lamplighter Legacy” by Patrick O’Sullivan
“Low Arc” by Sean Monaghan
“We Fly” by K.B. Rylander
“Dear Ammi” by Aimee Ogden
“Citizen-Astronaut” by David D. Levine
“Gemini XVII” by Brad R. Torgersen
“Scramble” by Martin L. Shoemaker
“Balance” by Marina J. Lostetter
“To Lose the Stars” by Jennifer Brozek
“Cylinders” by Ronald D Ferguson

The cover is by the esteemed Bob Eggleton. Bob published a thumbnail of the cover minus the text on facebook, which is kind of cool.

jbmassc cover without text