Brain Games for the Un-clinically Un-sane

Some time ago, a fellow found me somewhat by accident on Facebook. I suspect he was doing what many writers do these days, namely seeking writing contacts and fellow lunatics gifted and cursed by the compulsion to write. He was (and is) a fellow writer who looks at the writing business both pragmatically and with what I have to describe as insightful vision. As a result of his introduction, I can draw a straight line from that first conversation to 7DS publishing my first short story collection as well as Twisted Core’s interest in one of my novels.

Mr. A.T. Russell has had a significant hand in what is turning out to be a great year for me, and I’m grateful for all the things he does. On top of that, he’s both a great writer and a snappy dresser.  😉

Recently, he brought me into another one of those writing games that non-writers probably won’t understand. But such is the life of the un-clinically un-sane. We’re a strange lot, where the keyboard is mightier that the sword or plasma rifle, and it is my pleasure to call A.T. both a friend and fellow lunatic.

The game is to simply blog about a short list of questions about writing and then pass the madness on, like some communicable virus, to three other writers so that we can all share in the insanity rather than stop it. So here I sit, feeding the need and listening to Cream, whilst I play another brain game.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on several projects—as usual—and hoping I can fit everything in. My first priority right now is to wrap up the fourth volume of Penny Dread Tales. It’s turned into a annual collection of steampunk short stories that are slowly gaining momentum. I basically have to get contracts done and the volume assembled, edited, and put in both print and eBook formats by the end of June. No pressure.

Along side that I need to finalize an outline for the novel I owe Twisted Core press. That’s a military sci-fi novel with powered armor, mercenaries, and a healthy dose of both oligarchical corporate overlords and revenge. Once I finalize that outline, I need to write the novel and have that to the publisher by the end of June. Again, no pressure.

I’ll be applying edits for Chemical Burn, my first novel, which has been picked up by Word Fire Press and should be out (again and in a significantly better edition) this summer. That will lead into writing the trilogy for Word Fire, and if I really push myself, could perhaps see the second book in that series out by the end of the year.

Finally, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on yet another manuscript, Jake Lasater: Blood Curse, which will also be going through Word Fire Press if I play my cards right. As I mentioned above, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good year, and my goal is to transition to full-time writer by the end of 2014 or mid-2015.

There are other side-projects, of course. I just got my first pro sale, and I need another to make my entry into SWFA. I’ll be writing a purple unicorn story that I hope will make the cut for an anthology being edited by none other than Lisa Mangum, who just became the Editorial Manager over at Shadow Mountain.

Ultimately, I’ve got about five fires lit under my butt right now, and I have more than enough to handle.

How do your stories differ from others in its genre?

This question is a bit of a tricky one for me. I don’t just write in one genre. As it says on the door, I bill myself as a cross-genre writer, which means I pretty much play in them all. I’ve crossed horror with sci-fi, paranormal with steampunk, romance with speculative fiction. I’ve dabbled in literary and done detective stories. I’ve crossed fantasy with western and noir. I’m pretty much all over the board—or nowhere near it—which I suppose is what separates me from a lot of the folks in the business.

What I love is a good yarn. Sometimes it’s pulpy. Sometimes it’s gut-wrenching or heart rending. Sometimes it’s just good, clean fun. It’s like the mohawk says, I don’t like rules, and I abhor boxes. Boxes are for juice and cats.

I guess my writing is something like that confection described by Forest Gump. It’s a box of chocolates, and you never know what you’re going to get.

Why do I write what I do?

Well, not long ago, I was writing what sort of came out of my brain based on what I hoped would be well received. That’s part of the reason I got into steampunk and wrote Blood Curse, but it’s not the reason I stayed there. I write what I like to read. Perhaps that’s a bit narcissistic… well, there’s no “perhaps” about it. It is narcissistic. The up-side there is that what I’ve written has been fairly well received, so I have no complaints.

However, of late my writing has been a bit more focused. I’m writing to task. The publisher over at Twisted Core wanted sci-fi, so that’s what I’m writing. Kevin J. Anderson over at Word Fire wanted a holiday story, so I wrote that. There’s the purple unicorn anthology, so I’m going to write a story about pixie mafia and how they deal with deadbeat dwarf politicians.

Sometimes an idea will hit me… an emotion or a moment I want to convey, and that will drive the plotline of a story. Sometimes there’s a gag I want to play on the reader, and I can honestly say that the book Chemical Burn came from wanting to drop a detective out of an airplane, make a joke about cannibalism in the Sunset Grill, and wrap it up with a joke about a police captain eating bacon from pigs that ate a perp.

Did I mention that I have a certain irreverence for, well, damn near everything. You’ll find that the only things in this world I hold as sacred are children and Truth (yes, with a capital T).

How does the writing process work?

I generally write in bursts. My recent pro sale was a 4k-word story written in two days, and I can say with pride that the only thing the publisher wanted me to change was the title… after all, “Precipacrystalistivator” is a mouthful.

Historically, I’ve been more of a pantser than a plotter, but of late I’ve been relying more and more upon outlines. It’s not because I like outlines, it’s because whenever I sit down to write a 100k-word novel, it always turns into 144k. Don’t ask me why, it just turns out that way. My motivation for shortening my novels is two-fold. First of all, the marketplace generally wants shorter works when you’re a newbie author. I don’t yet have the street-creds to justify a publisher’s investment in longer works. Secondly, because of all the projects I am and will be working on, I’ll be able to accomplish more with shorter works—particularly as a hybrid author—than I would if producing longer works of fiction.

At this point, my writing is more about business and career than it is just putting together stories. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything. I like to think that I still write some passable stuff, it’s that writing is a career, and my career is more important to me than just the process of writing by itself.

I want to retire a writer. I want to buy a place in Roatan or some other equatorial region where I need never see a snowflake again. I have goals, and in order to achieve them I have to ply my writing craft in a way that furthers that agenda. Mercenary? Yes. Without question. And it’s very deliberate.

The truth is, I’m a bit long in the tooth to be starting a new career, so I better keep putting ducks in a row until I get where I want to be.


So that’s it—my little contribution to the lunatic writer’s brain game. I’m passing this particular torch on to:

Be sure to stop by their blogs and check out what they’re working on. You won’t be sorry you did, and you just might find a new favorite indie-author. And for god’s sake, if you like an author’s novel, write a review. It’s the best thank you can give him or her.


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