Category Archives: fiction

Terms and Conditions, people.

contestLloyd Metcalf is an illustrator, creator of some stunning images. He’s also pretty smart with regard to business, and how creatives make a living.

As in, getting paid for the work we do.
He has a great post on his site about avoiding a particular illustration contest. The contest he names has rules that give the contest organizers the rights to the entries.

Without payment.

Basically only the winner will get paid. Meanwhile many skilled but unwary illustrators are effectively giving away the license to their works.

As I’ve gone on at length about (here, here and here), a New Zealand writing contest does something similar. Their terms and conditions effectively give the contest organizers the right to publish any entry without payment.

In the context of Lloyd’s experience, though, this is minor. It seems that the illustration contest is run by a subsidiary of a major toy and game manufacturer, with its hands in movies and other media.

Imagine giving away the rights to your design and finding it turning into the next Transformers or My Little Pony or Pokemon.

All I can suggest for creative people is to read the terms and conditions. Read them. Understand them.

With creative work, we license. That license should be fair.

Be wary.

Take care out there.

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Blue Defender – finally

Blue Defender CoverMy daughter has watched me writing up a storm for the last few years. Her question, why didn’t I write a story about her? Fair question. After all, shouldn’t she always be uppermost in my thoughts? How could I be writing about strangers?

A tricky thing that. How could it be done right?

Some writers I notice write real people into their stories. Clive Cussler mentions himself as a car collector or a marine archeologist in several books. One I recall the characters even had a conversation with Cussler. David Baldacci auctions off the privilege to have your name used as a character with the proceeds going to charity.

So, putting various concerns aside, I started writing. In secret. I did have one issue, being that I while I have a dedicated writing computer in a nook, I do spend some time writing on a laptop at the breakfast table.

Chances were, she would glimpse her name on the screen. So I changed her name in the manuscript for the duration of the writing of the book. Matti-Jay became “Bleu”, in part because I decided to title this secret manuscript “Blue Harvest“. Some of you may know that title as the secret working title of a well-known movie from last century.

So, in Blue Harvest, fifteen year old (yes I gave my daughter a few extra years – kids like reading about kids older than themselves) Bleu set about her adventures. When she was done, the magic of search-replace change Bleu to Matti-Jay.  The title became Blue Defender.

Next step: would she like it? To try it out, I formatted and uploaded it through my usual channels, and obtained a proof copy. When that arrived, it became our bedtime read for a couple of weeks.

I must have done a few things right, because the end of a chapter was frequently met with a “Keep going” (usually reserved for books like “Mortal Engines” or “Homeroom Diaries”), and the end of the book was met with “start writing the sequel now”.

That’s heartwarming for a dad, let me tell you. Better than any five star review.

Blue Defender is available as an ebook and in print through usual outlets. $5.99 for the ebooks. $14.99 for print.

Print

Amazon Kindle

Smashwords

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Apple

 

 

Sunday Star Times short story contest – rules need an overhaul

sst-logo

Last year and the year before I posted about why I wouldn’t enter the Sunday Star Times short story contest. The same applies this year. Without going over the same old ground too much, it comes down to one clause in their rules (scroll down to T&C), where, by entering, you give them the right to publish your story “without fee”.

As I said before, writers get paid.

I write for the love of writing, but I also take myself seriously as a writer. I license my stories for remuneration. Kind of along the lines of how anyone with skills does work for remuneration. The bus driver, the plumber, the dairy owner where you buy your copy of the Sunday Star Times.

Goodness knows, most writers make little enough money as it is.

If you’re so inclined, by all means, enter. The entry details are here. Check those terms and conditions (I know we live in a world of clicking ‘agree’ to terms and conditions without having read them. Some T&Cs out there are as long as a few of my novels).

I would love to enter for the chance of winning. I know the thrill of winning a writing contest. I know the satisfaction of banking a cheque. But that clause is a step too far.

Of course many writers will enter the contest. The newspaper will find an excellent story and publish it and pay the writer the prize money (it’s pretty good prize money too). But then, the newspaper might publish some of the other entries “without fee”.

It’s simply no way to treat writers.

New Interview for Sci-Fi July Redux

Barb Tarn, curator of the Sci-Fi July Redux bundle (ten books for $7.99 – a real deal), interviewed me for her website. Thanks Barb.

It’s great to promote the bundle (there are some bestsellers in there – with my little book sandwiched in between Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch – both major bestselling authors), and nice to talk about myself in a, hopefully, coherant way.

Book bundles are a great way for readers to pick up books by authors they love, and find some new authors along the way. It will be available for a limited time (I don’t know the end date, but there will be one), so grab it while it’s available.

My novel in the bundle, Raven Rising, usually retails for $5.99, so picking it up in the bundle is good value for money. The bundle is available directly from BundleRabbit, but also from Kobo, Amazon, B&N and Apple

The blurb for my novel goes like this: Light years from home, Starship Raven went down in an impossible blazing wreck. Crack investigator Angelie Gunnarson and her team love this kind of impossible mystery. But the Raven might have more secrets than even Angelie can handle. An action-packed short sci-fi novel from the award-winning author of The City Builders.

It was a fun novel to write, and I hope to read. It’s great to get it out there in the bundle for a bit more exposure.

And thanks for the interview Barb, and for selecting my book for the bundle.

Tombs Under Vaile – How to actually buy it.

tuv smI started my last post with the phrase “Despite the fact that I’m a fair writer… I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion”

And then went on about my new book.

Completely failing to mention anything like, oh, where to buy it, how much it costs, what it’s about, which formats or even a snippet so you could see if you might enjoy the book.

Sheesh. Proving myself right in a kind of very circular way.

So here we go.

ebook is $3.99. This link takes you through to a variety of retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.), where you can purchase the book. It’s one of those Universal Book Links provided through Draft2Digital. If you’re publishing books, D2D is a pretty good platform/aggregator.

Print book is $13.99, plus shipping, from various places, but Amazon is probably the easiest. Your local independent bookstore could even order you a copy. I’m a big advocate of supporting your local bookstore.

Tombs Under Vaile is the sixth in my Karnish River Navigations series (that link leads to a little page about the other books – you’ll see I have yet to update those other covers).

 

Tombs Under Vaile – blurb:

The giant stone block of Vaile Max prison stands on the Karnish plains. Impregnable and escape-proof. Prisoner Cole Dugald waits, release imminent. He wants no trouble. But when authorities demand help from investigator Flis Kupe, trouble looms. For everyone. On a collision course with deadly psychopaths, Cole and Flis must team up to survive. A Karnish River Navigations novel that expands the world with unexpected revelations.

 

And opening chapters

Tombs Under Vaile

Chapter One

Cole Dugald stared at the plasteen wall. Glints of light reflected back at him from myriad scratches. The same view he’d had for the last six years.

A view he might still have for another week. If luck played on his side.

Not that he’d had much luck. Not ever.

A cell. One high, barred window. A flat bunk that also served as his daytime seat. In the corner, a tiny commode, with a washbasin above.

A gray door with a tiny air vent. Air just a shade too cool. Some kind of stale smell hanging. The door had two circles where he had to place his hands anytime he needed escorting some place. He knew the drill.

Microscopic cameras embedded everywhere. Recording his every move, interpreting his every thought. Some AI somewhere breaking all his actions down into motivation and intent.

Even a hint of thinking of making an escape could bring three electro-lashes. The guards relished that kind of thing.

Three times a week he showered in the communal block, when all the other prisoners were back in their own cells. Dugald did not get to mix with the others. Not anymore.

He wore the same thing every day; orange overalls with black, soft-soled moccasins. The overalls had a silver PRISONER legend across the back, shoulder to shoulder.

Nothing ambiguous about the outfit.

From outside, through the window. came the clanking, whirring sounds of machinery. The prison’s refinery and power equipment. Not shielded nor sound insulated. Why bother? It was only prisoners who could hear it.

From the corridor outside the cell came the smells of collective humanity. Sweat and excrement. These people worked out–not much else to do here–and ate well.

Perhaps ate plenty was a better way to put it. No one in Vaile Max ate well. Maybe the governor and the guards. Not the prisoners. The slop they got served came from a recipe that had to date back thousands of years. Something like oatmeal, ground beef, oil and carrots. Maybe some herbs if the cooks got lucky.

Bland and disgusting. After two thousand two hundred and eighteen days, Dugald barely noticed anymore.

Dugald stood just over two meters tall. He worked out in the prison’s gym when he could. Worked out in his cell when he had to.

He weighed in at a hundred and forty kilos even. Some pockets of fat he couldn’t shift, but lean enough that people stayed out of his way.

Mostly.

Fewer than a hundred and fifty prisoners were housed here. Vaile Max’s capacity exceeded two thousand. That made for a whole lot of empty cells.

Dugald rolled his shoulders. A few tingles in there. Four days since he’d gotten to the gym. Punishment for failing to answer a question quickly enough.

Not many ways the guards could punish a prisoner, anyway. It wasn’t as if they had a lot left to lose already. Not the men and women incarcerated here.

It was the little things. Toilet paper. Gym time. A simple warm blanket. Easy privileges to remove.

One week left on his sentence. Dugald just had to make it through that.

Seven days.

One hundred and forty-seven hours.

Paulding’s day ran to twenty-one hours, which he still didn’t feel he’d adapted to. Back home on Kulanath the day was a shade over twenty-four hours. Closer to natural human biology.

People adapted. But Dugald had never planned on even needing that. The trip should have been a quick in and out. Less than a day on the surface. Collect the artifacts and depart.

Which all had made it look bad when the cops found him with a ship full of contraband.

And now here he was. Counting down to his release. One week. Seven days.

Assuming nothing went wrong.

And something always went wrong.

 

Chapter Two

Flis Kupe stood on the end of the short vatwood jetty, the wind flitting through her hair. The sun sent coruscating glints from ripples on the water’s surface, and warmed her back. The vatwood’s surface was gray and cracked with age. Still, it felt solid.

The water that lapped at the uprights was locked into a box a hundred meters on each side, with old pitted concrete b-walls holding it separate from the surrounding flat ground. This part of Karnth, the plains rolled on for dozens of kilometers, with only a few jacarandas and eucalypts in copses, breaking up the monotony, stretching for the sky.

Mostly the plains had old corn and wheat fields. The ancient crops were generations down and growing wild now. A haze of sweet pollen drifted above the plants’ tips.

Nearby, a new autotug cruised along the canal. Approaching the lock. The autotug had a bridge probably three meters above the waterline, painted bright yellow, with numerous antennas a connectors. Its engine hummed.

The canal had grassy banks along this section. Just five meters wide. The autotug would just fit. It should be pushing just one barge.

The boxed in water formed a quiet holding place for goods and supplies. Back in the day, the tiny harbor would have held several barges, all awaiting transport to the markets in Turneith, or smaller Vaile, which lay much closer.

Two sturdy lock gates separated the canal from the area. Both stood closed, the water level within the box three meters higher than the canals. It gave the homestead a degree of separation from the canal. More difficult for pirates to plunder the place.

The heightened water level also gave access to lifting for the transfers, and as a backup supply for irrigation. The land around here, to the east of the canal, was higher than to the west, but the canal ran parallel to the rise for another kilometer before entering transit locks for the more northern farms.

A retrofitted system here had allowed the farm to continue to operate. Back in the day.

Nowadays, with so little trade, there were only occasional visitors, and even fewer trade barges.

Behind Flis, up on a small graded rise, stood a two-story white-walled homestead. Steep roofed, with some attic windows, and a long veranda along the front. A few bright flowering potplants stood along the veranda’s front edge, between the railing uprights.

The home of her and Grae’s friends Angel Guthman and Dae Deacon, and their three kids, Ben, Koi and Idz. Friends by way of Flis and Grae having helped them out with a problem.

Angel’s brother Karl had found himself thrown in jail, alibi broken, after a couple of renegades had robbed his store. The renegades had wound up dead a few days later.

It had turned out that the other ‘friend’ who’d provided Karl’s alibi had been in on the robbery in the first place.

A complicated case, that took a whole lot of digging, but Karl had been released, and Flis and Grae now had new dinner party companions.

That first dinner party had been a doozy. Homesteaders from as far as a hundred kilometers away had come. They’d brought so much food and drink that Angel and Dae hadn’t had to synthesize anything for weeks.

The autotug’s engines changed pitch as it slowed to turn into the lock. A white bird took to the air, darting away from the canal’s edge and swooping by Flis. She ducked instinctively.

“Are you on edge over there?” someone said.

Flis turned and saw Grae, her business partner and occasional other, standing at the land end of the jetty. They had a complicated relationship, but it worked. Somehow they kept their personal relationship separate from the business relationship.

Their little investigative business did all right. It paid the bills and kept them both alert and engaged after their time offworld in the military.

Flis had grown up on Paulding, even deeper into the canal lands than Angel and Dae.

“On edge?” Flis said.

“Saw you duck for that bird.” Grae wore black trousers, work boots and a light casual shirt. They could have been twins.

“Funny. I’m relaxed. Just waiting for this delivery.” Angel and Dae had ordered some new pumping equipment their house couldn’t manufacture. They were off in Turneith, working on a new financial arrangement and had asked Flis and Grae to housemind for a couple of days.

“Only because this delivery’s coming,” Dae had said. “Otherwise things would be–”

“It’s fine,” Flis had told them. “We could use a break.”

The lock’s outer doors groaned as they swept open. The autotug slowed.

“Glad you’re relaxed,” Grae said, stepping onto the jetty. “It’s been a good break here.”

“‘Been’?”

“We’ve got a job.” Grae held up his rippletalk, the little handheld device that connected them to the outside world.

“A job? Couldn’t that wait?” The time at the homestead had been so relaxing. Quiet, dark at night, easy. She’d spent hours just reading in a recliner, shaded from the sun out on the house’s back verandah. Some moments it seemed like they should sell up and move to the country.

“It can’t wait,” Grae said. He handed over the rippletalk with its display wide open, showing all the details. “Escaped prisoner. They’re on a timeline to get him back.”

 

Chapter Three

Cole Dugald stared at the cell wall. Light sparkles reflected back at him from scratches in the plasteen.

The same view he’d had for the last six years.

A view he might still have for another six days.

If luck played on his side.

Not that he’d had much luck.

Not ever.

“Dugald!” a guard called from outside the cell. “Assume the position.”

 

You get the idea.  If you enjoyed this and want to keep reading find the book available here.

 

Thanks. Long post, I know. If you made it this far, let me know in the comments – I’ll send you a download code (which I’ll say I’ll limit to ten, and I’ll remove this if I give away ten. Pretty safe, last time I did this I gave away two. And one of those was to a good friend. Still, it’s probably good to fumble and stumble along this marketing thing. Eventually I might learn how to do it all proper like).

Tombs Under Vaile – new SF novel out

tuv smDespite the fact that I’m a fair writer (some say I should scream about all the awards and publications, but I still have so much to learn) and that I do get plenty of my stories and novels out there (eighteen indie publications this year, including six novels), I do still have so much to learn about self-promotion. Unlike say Kent Wayne, who is doing a brilliant job of self-promotion, with his Echo series. Or Terry Mixon, or Thomas K. Carpenter, or just about any author who isn’t me.

Still. I’ve put my new novel out. Sixth book in the Karnish River Navigation series (which can be read in any order). I’ve rebranded too – see my recent post on where I rebranded my Captain Arlon Stoddard series, though in this case I’ve yet to go back and redo the covers of the previous five Karnish novels.

So it’s a new layout, a slightly different concept with cover art (this one by Ilya Shalkov | Dreamstime.com). Not sure I know what I’m doing yet. There are professional designers always making fabulous covers for my contemporaries, and I’m just me, muddling along and slowly figuring things out.

I love the series. Flis is such a fun character to write. It’s neat to take it in new directions. I have another novel in the series complete, just needing that final tune up and tidy before getting it out.

Now that I’ve posted this, I’m feeling energized for the series again. I might even get started on another novel.

Bad Advice and knowing what’s coming next

blogtriteim1Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.