Snippet: SOM

My novel, The Sands of Mime, is out with a final beta reader before going out on submission. Here’s a bit of the story you might enjoy.


“Good, you’re awake.”

 Alix blushed and stood still. Dr. Gasparelli paused in the doorway, obviously not expecting to see her there. Then he shrugged, stepped inside, and began speaking before they could ask him about the strange sounds that had heralded his arrival.

“You aren’t going to be surprised, I suppose, that MedGalaxy is using this as a reason to leave Mime?” Fort nodded and Alix reached for the doctor’s windbreaker, but Gasparelli hung it on Fort’s one empty door-hook, not seeing her hand extended. “Here’s your surprise then, Fort. It’s wrong, but they feel they can get away with it, legally.” The doctor unhooked his Nett and shook out his speckled hair with one hand. His jaw was clenched.

Fort’s dread grew. “Legally,” he repeated.

I just heard about the emergency administrative meeting last night, after it was over. MedGalaxy has decided to pull out, yet they are still charging MimeCo for the three-year balance of their contract. I checked for myself; on a technicality, they actually can. Unbelievable.”

What?” The rough monetary figure they’d be demanding spat itself out of Fort’s unwilling mind. It would more than ruin him, and destroy the planetary economy. Could his lawyer forestall it?

On motivating yourself to write

The following is an excerpt from my book on writing and marketing what you’ve written: Writing the Entertaining Story.

Writers? Parent yourselves.

Another technique to help yourself to do what you want to do, writing-wise, is to promise yourself rewards. In other words, bribe yourself. This is basically a form of parenting your inner child, and I heartily recommend motivating yourself in this way. For example, you could tell yourself that you will buy yourself some sort of small reward when you finish your short story, a larger reward if you finish a novel, and little interim rewards when you reach certain milestones in word count or finish other writing issues like doing an edit. These need not cost much. In fact, they need not cost you anything at all.

You know what motivates you. Whether it’s watching your favorite show on Netflix, buying yourself flowers, going for a long walk in a park, going out to dinner, or whatever else tickles your fancy… the main thing is it has to be something that you really want. Tell yourself that you will not allow yourself to have that thing until you’ve reached some sort of writing goal. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll be amazed at how much more writing you can get done!

I promised myself a reward when I finish writing this book. I’m not telling you what it is, but I can tell you that it is motivating the heck out of me. Go ye and do likewise.


Writing the Entertaining Story is free on Kindle Unlimited, and available as an ebook and paperback. You might want to pick up a copy with your holiday Amazon gift card, or for a writer friend.

Snippet! From book one of my SF series, MIME

Casablanca | film by Curtiz [1942] | Britannica

The brothers arrived at a new restaurant. Fort told him he had heard many good things about: Play it Again, Sam. While they waited for their table Sy fiddled with the VR glasses their hostess had provided. He glanced around and decided the room did not need yet another Humphrey Bogart. He chose a VR skin that looked like a black and white Peter Lorre. But then, everything he saw through the VR was black and white. And, aha! Fort had chosen had chosen Claude Raines’ character.

The hostess, who perhaps wore no VR skin at all but was also rendered in black and white and period clothes, informed them that their table was ready.

“After you, Captain Renault,” he grinned as he theatrically bowed and gestured for Fort to precede him.

“Why, thank you Ugarte,” Fort replied, in character.

Sy followed them, wryly hoping the place was not too authentic. The last time he’s been in North Africa he’d gotten a nasty gastrointestinal bug from some unboiled ice cubes in his iced tea. His colleagues had dubbed the results The Mau Mau Movement. Well, he’d soon be leaving Earth and it’s bacteria behind.

He wondered if he was jumping from the biological frying pan into the fire, but he was committed now.

They were seated and handed menus. Sy was impressed with the offerings. The food was ambitious, with appetizers like brandy-teriyaki lobster bites with hot peach compote and entrees such as rosemary lamb kebabs with candied roast sweet potatoes on garlic-peanut couscous. Sy did a double-take when he checked the prices: very reasonable. He looked up at Fort.

“So, what are you having?” he asked his brother.

But Fort was not reading his menu. “Um. Wow. Look at that.”

He followed Fort’s glance and saw that the actual food was the only thing here rendered in full color. And what was being delivered to the next table smelled and looked wonderful.

One of the Bogarts (and an Ingrid Bergman) were being served half a roasted chicken each, still sizzling on a cast iron platter, with a sauce spooned over it that made them nearly swoon due to its heavenly aroma. There seemed to be a side of some sort of pasta in a green sauce, and glazed baby carrots with their wilted tops still attached.

Their waiter asked for their drink orders. They both wanted iced tea. Pointing the other table, Fort asked, “And what is that dish?”

“Roast chicken in Bullit Rye sauce with pecans—“

Sy, looking down the menu, “—with mushroom ravioli in pesto. And gingered baby carrots!”

Fort just handed his menu to the server. “I’ll have what they’re having.”

Fear and Shadows: The Line Between Horror and Dark Fantasy

Fear and Shadows: The Line Between Horror and Dark Fantasy

Characters deal with horrid things: Lois McMaster Bujold puts Miles Vorkosigan’s brother through hell in her novel Mirror Dance. In Crystal Rain Tobias Buckell has “Azteca” warriors sacrifice people to bloodthirsty alien “gods.” C.J. Cherryh subjects a character to sexual abuse in the name of technological immortality, in Cyteen. Joe Haldeman (in “For White Hill”) lets aliens cause the stars to age prematurely in every human–inhabited system. Horrid things, really. Does skinning someone, killing all of humanity, sexual abuse of children make it horror? No, for in the end Mile’s brother makes peace with himself and finds a family, Cherryh’s young Justin Warrick breaks free of his conditioning, the Azteca are beaten back, and even in Haldeman’s piece the art and the beauty humanity created lives on.

So, abusing your character does not make it horror. Dark, perhaps, but not horror.

J.R.R. Tolkien once said that all the years when things go well don’t make for good tales. He’s right.

Let’s be honest: A lack of tension is boring. If the character has something to lose, and fights to keep it and fears loss… well, in a good story we are swept along with that character. We feel his fear. If the character is adeptly drawn we want her desperately to succeed. Of course in a happy ending, our character gets what they want. That’s obviously not horror. In a bittersweet story there are gains and losses. Something good comes out of it, if you will. But then does a, “Sorry, you lose” ending make a story horror? Not necessarily. What if losing something was the honorable thing to do?

Well, then, what of horror tropes? Ghosts, death, decay, withering loss… Abyss & Apex has them all. And there’s not a horror story in the lot.

Jim Van Pelt says that, to him, horror means ripping back the veil that nothing but horror underlies all the kind assumptions we make about life having meaning and making sense. It’s an “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” sort of grand revelation that all is destined to end in ruin and nothing matters. This sort of story is not an Abyss & Apex story.

Dawn always follows night? In Abyss & Apex it does. Even if it’s a cloudy dawn and the mood of the new day is bittersweet.