Kevin J. Anderson’s Blog

i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
  • Mentats of Dune Banner resized photo z_export_done3_resize2.gif
  • December 2014
    M T W T F S S
    « Nov    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  

    Announcing Scholarship Winner for Superstars Writing Seminar

    Posted By on December 13, 2014

    At the last Superstars Writing Seminar in Feb 2014 we had a crackpot idea—we put together an anthology of Purple Unicorn stories, ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL, with original cover art by James Artimus Owen, edited by Lisa Mangum, with stories by Todd J. McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye, Peter S. Beagle, and the very best entries by alumni from previous Superstars. WordFire Press published the book—and all profits went to fund a scholarship for one student to attend the next Superstars, February 5-7 2015 in Colorado Springs.

    We posted entry details and opened the scholarship to submissions in November, and we received thirty applications. The intrepid hardworking scholarship committee has combed through all the essays and letters of recommendation—and they have selected the winner. CHRISTOPHER BAXTER will receive full tuition to Superstars this February in Colorado Springs.  Congratulations, Chris!

    558Cover

    Sales of ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL have been very good, and as of the last accounting we were *very close* to being able to fund a second scholarship as well. After we finish calculating WordFire Press royalties  in a few weeks, we *may* even have enough to give good news to the runner up! http://superstarswriting.com

    And for those of you with serious, career-minded writers in the family who still need that perfect holiday present, you can give your own in-home scholarship by signing them up.  Prices go up January 1.

    Final_Logo1

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    First Snowshoe Hike of the Season!

    Posted By on December 12, 2014

    Because of an avalanche of deadlines and obligations (so, what else is new?) I never managed to go out snowshoeing a single time last winter. I love to get out in the mountains in the pristine white silence and trudge along the snowshoe or cross-country ski trails and dictate new chapters. It’s hiking in the snow!  I was determined not to let this winter go by without a snowshoe trip, so I cleared my schedule last Saturday, got my notes ready for three more chapters in CLOCKWORK LIVES, winter gear…now, all I needed to do was find some SNOW.

    We’ve had a very warm fall in Colorado, not much snow even on 14,000 ft Pikes Peak nearby. But I checked out some other likely spots in the Rocky Mountains, using traffic cams on the highways, until I found Vail Pass (10,662 ft)—with plenty of snow and several nice snowshoe, ski, and snowmobile trails.  I chose a nice, quiet, 5 mile loop that (according to the guidebook) gets little traffic, and headed out for the two-hour drive and the snow.

    IMG_3506 IMG_3508

    At the trailhead parking area on the pass summit, I got my snow pants on, jacket, gloves, backpack, then trudged to the start of the trail, where I put on my snowshoes…which are like giant flip-flops that keep you, for the most part, on top of the snow.  The trail started steeply and I climbed up to the top of a ridge, following a well-traveled trail that had been used by other skiers and snowshoers.  I even found a large group of skiers who were taking a lunch break.

    IMG_3511

    But the main trail headed one direction, my loop took me down into the valley, where I had all the snow to myself. Utterly pristine, no other tracks (except for a coyote).  I broke trail, following the drainage and relying on my sense of direction to get all the way around the loop and back up to the parking area.

    IMG_3512 IMG_3517

    I left a nice trail for others to follow—and I dictated two complete chapters in CLOCKWORK LIVES, and another one on the drive home.  Great temperature, breathtaking scenery, wonderful exercise…and I think the writing was good, too.  A great day—and I hope to do it more often this winter.

    IMG_3518 IMG_3519

     

    IMG_3520 IMG_3521

    Don’t forget to order your 2015 Tales from the Trails calendar with more of my hiking photos and stories! See the link above, top left of the blog page.

    2015 calendar and TFTT

     

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Teaser Tuesday: 2015 Hiking Calendar

    Posted By on December 10, 2014

    As I posted yesterday, T. Duren Jones and I just released the new 2015 TALES FROM THE TRAILS calendar with some of our best wilderness photos and a monthly story of one of our hiking escapades.

    2015 Calendar FrontCover sm

    Here’s a sample of the January story and photo:

     Doing the Impossible, as a Matter of Course

     This year I turned 52, and Tim turned 60.  We started our main hiking season up in Steamboat Springs with a gruelling 21-mile loop through the Flattops Wilderness, and we followed that with a 22-mile hike near Durango, where we completed the Colorado Trail.  I climbed 14,286 foot Mount Lincoln via an obscure alternate route just so I could get my annual Fourteener climb in. Tim summited 14,433 foot Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado.  Even though we had each climbed those peaks before, why not do it again when you have the opportunity?

    When we finished the exhausting 21-mile Lost Lakes loop in a day—which the guide book calls a “three-day backpack trip,” Tim pointed out, “I don’t know anyone of all my friends, at any age, who could have done that with me.”  I thought long and hard through my circle of acquaintances and couldn’t come up with another name either.

    Several years ago Tim and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again in a day, despite signs warning hikers that this is not at all recommended.  I remember passing a particularly buff and tan German hiker on the trail who was huffing and puffing trying to keep up with us. The fact is, both of us dislikes backpacking and hauling our camp on our backs; if we can be “there and back again” in a day, we will do so, even if it means an extra push.

    We keep ourselves in shape and we maintain our endurance, but neither of us are “fitness gods” by any stretch of the imagination.  I couldn’t jog for more than five minutes without collapsing, and a long-distance bike ride is completely out of the question. But we have figured out how to hike, how to navigate trails, how to understand terrain—and to have the endurance necessary to walk, and keep walking, and keep walking.  It’s worth the effort.  That is how we can keep doing what we most want to do—and we hope to continue to do so for many years to come. —KJA

    Click here to order your copy of the limited TALES FROM THE TRAILS calendar for $20 plus postage

    Or click here to order the special bundle of the calendar plus Tim’s trade paperback (autographed) for only $5 more (a $15 value)  

    SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED

    2015 calendar and TFTT

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Tales from the Trails

    Posted By on December 9, 2014

    Do you have your special calendar for 2015 yet?  Do you have your KEVIN J. ANDERSON calendar yet?

    Many of you have read my blogs about my epic hikes and mountain climbs, and I’ve posted countless photos of the beautiful places I explore in the wilderness. Each year I do a very special limited calendar with my brother-in-law (and frequent hiking partner) T. Duren Jones. TALES FROM THE TRAILS, featuring some of our gorgeous photos from our epic hikes as well as anecdotes about our trail adventures (or misadventures). We’ve just received the 2015 TALES FROM THE TRAILS calendar—probably our most beautiful one yet.

    We do these calendars as special holiday gifts for our editors, publishers, and industry professionals, but we always keep a small supply to make available to fans. If you’re interested in having one of these limited calendars, the cost is $20 plus $5 shipping (in US, more for international).  At the link below.

    2015 Calendar FrontCover med

    Order Calendar—$20 plus shipping

    Last year, Tim also wrote an entire book of wilderness experiences, TALES FROM THE TRAILS, with many stories featuring our escapades as well as other hikes with his family. I wrote the introduction, and WordFire Press published the trade paperback and eBook.

    FINAL 1425 TFTT Cover

    That book is available in all eBook formats for $5 or in trade paperback for $15.  As a special holiday gift for all my readers, you can get the book  TALES FROM THE TRAILS for only an additional $5 (save ten bucks!)

    2015 calendar and TFTT

    Order Calendar and Tales from the Trails Bundle—$25 plus shipping

    This way you can vicariously explore the wilderness with Tim and me throughout the year. And we’ll keep hitting the trails.

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    The Final Edit: A Full Process Rundown

    Posted By on December 5, 2014

    Two days ago I delivered the final final FINAL manuscript of BLOOD OF THE COSMOS, the second book in the Saga of Shadows Trilogy—185,000 words long, 752 pages, 132 chapters…six drafts.  Yes, it was an enormous project, not just the length of the manuscript itself, but all the numerous characters, settings, plot lines, and the intricate choreography.

    I wanted to take you through everything that went on between Draft 5 and Draft 6.  It’s a lot more than just reading and polishing here and there.

    On September 1, I delivered the Draft 4 manuscript to my Tor editor, Pat LoBrutto, and my group of test readers. While they all pored over the manuscript, I appeared at several large pop culture shows, did a lot of WordFire Press publishing work, curated two bundles for storybundle.com, and wrote a good chunk of CLOCKWORK LIVES with Neil Peart.

    BLOOD OF THE COSMOS

     Cover painting for BLOOD OF THE COSMOS by Stephen Youll

    Finally, when the test readers were finished going over the giant manuscript, we all gathered around the long dining room table and spent five hours going over the manuscript. It was an intensive, free-form conversation as people brought up weak points, missed connections, questions, suggestions for strengthening scenes.  I took six pages of hand-written notes about changes I wanted to make. This wasn’t just a gripe session pointing out problems—it was also brainstorming to figure out solutions. Frequently, one new chapter or scene would provide a neat fix to several flaws. My head was spinning with all the work left to do. Fine-tuning can sometimes be more challenging than the broad strokes writing in the first place.

    Then I had a mountain of manuscripts after the test readers turned them back to me; this was detail work, with many misspellings or grammatical mistakes marked in the prose, line-by-line suggestions as they read through, notes in the margins. I took one manuscript at a time, page by page, and keyed in all the changes, getting rid of all the easy and straightforward ones, then setting aside the bigger-issue comments.  By the time I went through those manuscripts and pulled out the bigger stuff to fix, I had also received my editorial comments back from the Tor editor, so I fed those into the stack.

    I didn’t agree with everything from the readers, of course (they didn’t all agree with one another either), but I know which things I knew needed revision to make a stronger book.  I sorted out the marked pages and keyed them to my six pages of notes for changes; many things referred to the same general problem, and I had to come up with band-aids, new scenes, added shingles on the fictional roof. Looking at the problems, I tried to think of new chapters or scenes that would resolve them, other scenes that would tie the plot threads more tightly together.  In all, I had to write 13 new chapters or scenes, so I mapped those out, went back to my novel outline (I call it a “skeleton”—one or two lines of description on every single chapter, color-coded by the character.) I knew which scenes I had to write, but where to fit them into a complex novel that already had 120+ chapters?  One change would make a ripple effect, and it wasn’t as simple as just inserting a new event, because I had to refer to that event throughout the rest of the book, wherever it might have consequences.

    So I went back to the manuscript to do surgery. I had already input the easy fixes, so I worked my way down through the notes and comments, fixing one character or problem at a time. I dictated the new scenes and chapters and sent them off to the typist, and when they came back, they were still my first draft, so I had to edit those chapters a couple of times just to get them up to the same quality as the rest of the manuscript into which they would be inserted. Then I placed the scenes where they needed to go, filed away the pages of notes as I completed that fix.  I worked my way down, crossed off finished items on my 6 pages of notes, and after about a month I had made all the basic repairs.  That process had added 86 pages to the manuscript.

    But there were still a lot of rough edges, a lot of seams showing, a lot of loose ends.  Time to give it one final read, start to finish.  And I needed to be ruthless in trimming it down again. When you give a reader a 750-page book, you better make sure all of those pages are *necessary*—I don’t want any extra dead trees on my conscience. 

    Draft 5. Page 1, chapter 1. “The universe was vast and full of wonders—some too marvelous to understand, some too terrifying.” And I worked my way forward from there.  Throughout the read, I also built the Glossary, adding and updating from the Glossary in the previous novel, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS. (By now the Seven Suns universe has ten novels and is bursting with places, characters, names, concepts, and alien terminology—I don’t expect the reader to REMEMBER all that, so I make the effort to do the full Glossary for each volume. It’s a courtesy…and also a pain in the ass.  I did that as I trudged through with my final edit.  In order to get a lot of pages done in as little time as possible (with deadlines looming and other projects nibbling at my heels), I holed up in a cabin in Estes Park, Colorado—a beautiful mountain town on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, with very cheap off-season rates and (as it turned out) terrible weather for four days. I didn’t mind. I was sealed in a cabin with my laptop, my music, and a growler of microbrew IPA.  I got 350 pages edited in four days and finished the complete book the following week. I had managed to tighten it by 53 pages (after adding 86 during the rewrites).

    When I finally finished my last edit of BLOOD OF THE COSMOS, I turned over the manuscript to my wife Rebecca—who is herself a bestselling and award-winning author…and also my sharpest copy editor. Now it was her turn to comb over the novel, line by line. I set her up in the master bedroom with a worktable, a lamp, noise-cancelling headphones, and constant room service so she could read all day long, with as few interruptions as I could manage. She copy edited 100 pages a day, and I took each stack to perform the tedious core of keying in all those necessary changes. (I would sit for hours at the kitchen table with my laptop, open marked-up manuscript beside me, and watching Hell on Wheels and Boardwalk Empire on the TV—I got through most of a season of each!)

    As we finished that mammoth task, I turned to another piece I had been avoiding—writing “The Story So Far,” the summary I put at the beginning of each book, so that readers can get up to speed before they jump in. Again, with such a long and complex story, I think it’s an important thing to do. A courtesy to the reader…and again, a real pain in the ass. Imagine trying to summarize all the necessary details in a 700-page book in a few pages.  This time I took 12 pages to give everything a person needed to know about the previous Saga of Seven Suns series and THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS novel.

    DarkBetweenTheSta

    When I input the last of Rebecca’s copy edits, added the Glossary and The Story So Far, then I ran a complete spell check (that alone took almost two hours), I was done, DONE! Well, not quite. I still had to write a detailed letter to my Tor editor explaining all the major changes and improvements I had made, and THEN I sent it off to him.

    Next, I opened my file of notes for the third book in the trilogy, ETERNITY’S MIND, which I have to start soon. All the plot threads, chapter ideas, general outlines…better get started while it’s all fresh in my head.

    BLOOD OF THE COSMOS is scheduled to be published by Tor Books and Simon and Schuster UK in June 2015.

     

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Teaser Tuesday: FIVE BY FIVE 3

    Posted By on December 3, 2014

    We just released the third volume in our FIVE BY FIVE military SF series, five all-new novellas by five military SF authors.

    TARGETS ARE LOCKED!

    Five short novels by five masters of military SF capture the excitement, and hell, of fantastic future war—on and off the battlefield. Stories of terrifying monsters, dangerous aliens and staggering cosmic dreadnaughts march alongside far-flung courtroom dramas and cautionary tales involving man and his devices.

    Michael A. Stackpole—The Star Tigers are commandeered by a powerful alien overseer on a covert mission to a world long abandoned by an ancient species. There, the ruins of a forgotten war will tip the balance of their war, unless the Star Tigers can prevent it.

    Sarah A. Hoyt—Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva is a well-respected leader of the Usaian Revolution, but treason in the ranks can cost him everything that makes life worth living—unless he takes justice into his own hands and breaks every military regulation in its pursuit.

    Doug Dandridge—Faced with an enemy more than two hundred times her own size, Cinda Klerk has two options: hide, and let it destroy the planet she is supposed to protect, or find a way to even the odds and kill the enemy, even at the cost of her ship and crew.

    Eytan Kollin and Dani Kollin—As the Unincorporated War envelops the entire solar system, a father must come to the rescue of a daughter he never raised. But he’ll have to convince her to save herself first.

    Kevin J. Anderson—In the war against an alien menace, Earth’s greatest military commanders risk themselves on the front lines, but with an escape hatch: If the situation goes terribly wrong, they can switch places with a safe soldier far from the battlefield. But the cannon-fodder volunteers don’t consider that such a good deal.

    In print and in all eBook formats

    558Cover

    Here’s an excerpt from my novella, “Escape Hatch”

    The mass of alien tentacles writhed over the side of the Earth Planetary Navy destroyer. When the Far Horizon’s Admiral Bruce Haldane saw the vicious things crash onto the deck and scatter in all directions, he knew the battle was lost. There was no stopping the swarm of Sluggos.

    Rough seas rocked the destroyer, but the grim crew who manned the guns against the worm things were not worried about getting seasick.

    The enormous cluster of alien creatures also attacked from beneath the surface, hammering the Far Horizon’s armored hull. The thunderous clang was even louder than the explosive artillery. How could something so soft and squishy sound so loud? he wondered, then stalked along the deck, a weapon in each hand as he shot the swarming slugs. Each creature exploded with a disgusting splat of oozing protoplasm. The ship’s crew were running up and down the open deck, wading through smashed Sluggos, but the things kept coming from below.

    Unstoppable.

    Each alien was the length and thickness of Haldane’s forearm, looking like a beige banana slug with teeth. The Sluggos combined and moved in concert, wrapping their wormlike bodies together to form a larger organism. Thousands of Sluggos braided into a giant tentacle that rose up from the rough seas to wrap around the destroyer, and then dissolving into countless ravenous components again. The Sluggos squirmed forward, mouths chomping. They were blind, but they were hungry, and there were so many of them that the doomed crew had no place to hide.

    Admiral Haldane was grim, but he drove back his panic. As their leader, he had to focus on the fight. His crew was yelling, some clearly fearful because they had just begun to realize they were all going to die. They didn’t have an escape hatch. Knowing he could give his all and still live to fight another day let Haldane concentrate on the crisis and do what was necessary, without being crippled by fear of his own mortality.

    “Keep shooting! By God, there’s no shortage of targets!”

    The lower decks had been infested, and evacuating sailors had come out into the open. One of the nearby seamen, his dungarees splotched with yellow-green ichor and bright red blood, fired his sidearm until it was empty, then snatched another still-hot weapon from the hands of a dying seaman on the deck. The wounded seaman’s abdomen had been ripped open, and his guts spilled out like another swarm of Sluggos. Without pause, the desperate seaman continued firing, each bullet exploding one—or more—of the squirming aliens.

    “Aye, sir. It’s not a shortage of targets we’re worried about, Admiral,” he shouted over his shoulder. “It’s running out of ammo.”

    Haldane kept firing his own sidearm, not even making a dent in the invasion. He shouted back, hoping he sounded encouraging, “According to the weapons locker manifest, we should have ten thousand rounds aboard the Far Horizon.” The number sounded impressive, objectively, but not in comparison to the million hungry Sluggos swarming over the destroyer. He had opened the armory and distributed weapons as widely and as swiftly as possible, to the Marines as well as to any other sailor with fingers and thumbs.

    Everyone aboard would be alien food before long. Haldane felt sorry for them, but he’d make sure they got a nice memorial ceremony back in La Diego.

    After humanity had ventured away from Earth and set up fledgling colonies on the Moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt, nobody ever guessed that an alien invasion would target Earth’s oceans. The invaders had landed in the Pacific, emerged from their interstellar spaceships, and began swarming through the seas.

    The slimy creatures moved like a gigantic school of fish, thousands of separate pieces that formed a sentient community organism—an incomprehensible alien creature that managed to build starships, travel across space, to plunge into Earth’s oceans, where they reproduced at a furious pace—whether by fission, or breeding, or eggs, no one knew—and swiftly became a terrible hazard.

    They attacked ships, sinking commercial freighters, cruise liners, fishing vessels. The Earth Planetary Navy was little more than a token force, peacekeepers and emergency responders. It had been a long time since battle fleets went on a full-scale war footing. Now, the EPN went on the hunt, combing the waters in search of the enemy.

    Sonar could detect the large clusters of Sluggos, which then vanished with each pulse and then re-formed elsewhere. Admiral Haldane had already led two preliminary engagements, each one disastrous. He was about to make it three for three.

    Reaching this point in the South Pacific, the suspected location of the original Sluggo starships, the Far Horizon had dropped dozens of depth pulsers hoping to destroy the underwater alien base. The explosions had been wonderful, creating rooster-tails of water like massive geysers. The shock waves should have ruined any Sluggo structures on the ocean floor.

    The excitement was short-lived, though. The individual aliens had combined into a monstrous body, countless squirming components adding together like cells. Then the community organism rose up like the most twisted nightmare of any sailor’s legend and attacked the Far Horizon.

    The shapeless beast shifted and rearranged its bodily blueprint, first engulfing the destroyer with tentacles and then smashing onto the deck in a huge flat mass like a manta, which then dissolved into an overwhelming slimy army of individual Sluggos that could attack—and devour.

    Constant gunfire continued to ring out, and even ten thousand rounds didn’t last very long. When the crew ran out of ammo, they used metal pipes, tools, even small storage pods, to smash the things. Someone had rigged a flamethrower and jetted fire that fried the wormlike aliens. When their protoplasm boiled, they exploded, but the Sluggos did not feel pain or fear, and more of them came forward. One young seaman thrashed as a dozen of the worm-things chewed into the meat of his thighs and calves, then tunneled through his chest. He kept screaming until one crawled down his throat.

    Other seamen had better luck with fire extinguishers, driving the Sluggos away, briefly, but there was no place to hide. Each extinguisher ran out within minutes, and the crew used the empty tanks to smash more Sluggos.

    “Turn the heavy-caliber guns down,” Haldane yelled. “Fire into the water!”

    “But, sir, that’ll do nothing!”

    “It’ll make some big explosions,” he shouted back. That was something at least.

    At central fire control, weapons officers tilted the large-bore the guns down, and the guns roared, but even the heavy shells did little more than stir up the Sluggos in the water. In response, a huge pseudopod composed of braided Sluggos lurched up, wavered in the air just long enough for Haldane to estimate the tens of thousands of hungry creatures that comprised it, then it dissociated in midair, creating a rain of hungry Sluggos that fell onto the Far Horizon.

    Haldane had found shelter under the bridge wing, but he watched the crew get slaughtered. He had emptied both of his sidearms, and he had no other defenses but his bare hands and his boot heels. The squirming aliens came at him like an unstoppable invertebrate tide.…

    No one in the EPN had had more direct experience with the Sluggos than Admiral Bruce Haldane. He had studied their movements firsthand in three engagements now, seen how they attacked. He made mental notes. Even though he didn’t understand what he saw, his knowledge was irreplaceable. If Earth was going to win this war against the undersea invasion, he had to survive.

    The overburdened destroyer was groaning, listing to starboard, clearly taking on water from belowdecks. The pounding Sluggos had chewed and torn through the lower hull and were even now swarming through the breach, infesting the ship even faster than seawater could fill it. Damage control crews had been devoured as they rushed to respond. The destroyer was going down.

    As he backed against the bulkhead, he watched hundreds of Sluggos burst through the hatches, huge maggots writhing up the ladders and spilling onto the deck. Even with the din of gunfire, explosions, and shouts, Haldane could hear them moving around in the compartments below, feasting.

    Then they came toward him.

    Most of the Far Horizon’s crew had been slaughtered already, but Haldane stood straight and proud, facing the alien enemy. He owed it to the brave men and women who perished here: He would stay until the very last as the hordes of fleshy bodies and chewing mouths squirmed toward him. He kicked at the Sluggos, but more and more came.

    The admiral raised his voice and announced to anyone left on deck who might be able to hear him, “I want to thank you all for your service. Your lives will not be lost in vain.”

    As the Sluggos swarmed over him, Haldane reached behind his head and hit the transfer pendant embedded at the base of his skull. His escape hatch.

    He was going to miss this body, which had served him well for the past six weeks, but he gave little thought to the volunteer seaman who would transfer with him at the last moment. If Admiral Haldane timed it right, the volunteer would feel only a few seconds of pain as the Sluggos devoured him.

    It was what the volunteer had signed up for: He was just cannon fodder, and he had played the odds. Haldane couldn’t even remember his name. Now it was time for the man to do his duty so that the valuable, experienced naval admiral could live to fight another day.

    Haldane felt the alien jaws rip into his flesh. The pain was horrific, and he was glad to be out of that body.

     AVAILABLE IN PRINT AND IN ALL EBOOK FORMATS

    Click to order in
    Print
    Kindle
    Kobo
    Nook
    All other eBook Formats

    And don’t miss the first two FIVE BY FIVE volumes

    Five_by_Five1  5x5x2cover

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Remembering Alan Lickiss

    Posted By on December 1, 2014

    Our long-time friend, fan, supporter, helper—and did I mention friend?–Alan Lickiss passed away a few weeks ago after a long and arduous journey through cancer. We will miss him greatly. We already do.

    When Rebecca and I moved out to Colorado more than 17 years ago, Alan and his wife Becky were among the first to welcome us and make us feel at home. (Actually, his wife also prefers to be called Rebecca, but to avoid confusion she accepted “Becky” instead, a nickname that my Rebecca hates.)  We saw Alan and Becky socially, saw them at conventions, saw them at book signings. In fact, Alan was one of the most reliable supporters ever—even on dreary, non-publicized, audience-free signings, we could always count on Alan to be there, whether it was in Denver or Colorado Springs, whether or not he already had the book. I think he sat through my same talk so many times he could mouth the words as I spoke them.

    He was a writer, too, and had an absolutely brilliant idea for what I was sure would be a blockbuster novel, but he circled the idea for a long time and never quite got it down; that great story was one for Alan alone.

    Whenever we had occasional movie nights and get-togethers at our castle, Alan and Becky would come, and we even had dinners at our favorite Moroccan restaurant (though Alan was not a particularly adventurous eater). He loved my Batman and Superman books, and my Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series. Alan was the one who volunteered to scan and OCR a bunch of my backlist novels when I decided to put them into eBook format, and he did the heavy-lifting when we launched a web store with hundreds of my books; he did the descriptions, found the cover images, assembled all the listings.

    When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, his health and energy level was on a roller coaster, sometimes worsening, sometimes bouncing back with a new experimental drug. We saw him in the hospital when things got really bad, and we saw him when he had recovered enough to meet us at the Barnes & Noble coffee shop—he was utterly delighted to be out of the house and among people again.

    In early November he went back into the hospital  for what would be the last time. Our friends Dan and Sarah Hoyt let us know that it would be a good time to go see him again. We went into the hospital on Friday night, November 7, where we had a chance to say goodbye. Alan was aware of very little, pumped with so many drugs, but we sat with him a while and talked. As Rebecca and I left the room, we felt that would be the last we would see him. Alan died the following day.

    Friends and family gathered later that week for a memorial celebration; I was out of town, but Rebecca went to share memories of our friend. We will miss you, Alan.  Thank you for all the love and support you shared over the years.

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    A Holiday Reading Feast

    Posted By on November 26, 2014

    It’s reading season, and here are nine novels all in a cozy bundle:

    Grandma gives a sweater she knitted, Dad receives a necktie he doesn’t really like, the kids get toys that make a variety of noises, most of them loud, all of them annoying. What do writers give for the holiday season? They give the gift of stories that take the reader away to fantastical times or places, tales that can be blood-curdling or heartwarming, adventures that capture the heart of the season.

    As curator for storybundle.com, I put together nine books for your holiday reading cheer, from Mardi Gras to Thanksgiving, to Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Years—who knows, there may even be a Boxing Day story in there somewhere.  They are all in the Holiday Fantasy Bundle

    All Covers Large

    If you want short stories to sample one at a time, like taking candy out of a Christmas stocking, we have plenty of those, four anthologies with remarkable tales by Kevin J. Anderson, Jody Lynn Nye, Jonathan Maberry, Mercedes Lackey, Patricia Briggs, Heather Graham, David Farland, Larry Correia, Carole Nelson Douglas, Mary Jo Putney, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Dean Wesley Smith, M.L. Buchman, and others. Your brain will be as stuffed as the family after a Thanksgiving feast.

    If you want to sink your teeth into a longer work, try the epic SILVER AND GOLD by David Sakmyster, set in the gold and silver rushes of California and Nevada, with dogsled races and arctic monsters, vile industrialists and noble heroes. Or for lighter fare, Mark Teppo’s RUDOLPH is a first-person account of the behind-the-scenes workings of the North Pole, told by one of Santa’s elves. Carole Nelson Douglas reinvents A Christmas Cariol in A Wall $treet Christmas Carol, but don’t be scrooged! Kristine Grayson’s VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS is a charming romantic fantasy about an image specialist with the assignment of handling Santa’s “brand” in the face of an anti-obesity campaign. And Dean Wesley Smith presents his popular series character Poker Boy in a dire caper to save Christmas in HEAVEN PAINTED AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT.

    That’s enough great books to pile up under your electronic Christmas tree. In storybundle, you can get these Holiday Fantasy books for whatever price you name, and a portion of the proceeds goes to charity. For a minimum bid of $5, you’ll get the first four books; if you pay $12 or more, you get all nine.  All eBook formats, and available worldwide.

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Teaser Tuesday—A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON: THE GIFT OF STORIES

    Posted By on November 25, 2014

    With Thanksgiving coming right up, it seemed appropriate to feature the new FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON volume for Teaser Tuesday. This book is a wonderful collection of heartwarming (or bone-chilling) holiday stories for your good reading cheer. Includes tales by Patricia Briggs, Jonathan Maberry, Mercedes Lackey, Heather Graham, Kevin J. Anderson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Brad R. Torgersen, Quincy J. Allen, Ken Scholes, Sam Knight, Mike Resnick, David Boop, and Eric James Stone.

    And we just got a starred review in Publishers Weekly! “This often amusing and frequently compelling collection features Christmas-themed short stories from some of fantasy and science fiction’s brightest stars. This is the perfect escape for weary holiday shoppers.”

    558Cover

    Click to order:

    Print copies
    Kindle
    Kobo
    Nook
    all other eBook formats

    This teaser is from Ken Scholes’s hilarious story—which happens to be set on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, about a zombie apocalypse, a trailer park, Thanksgiving dinner, and a pig:

    A World Done In by Great Granny’s Grateful Pie

    Ken Scholes

    I

    t was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and everything was going to shit all at once, the way things usually like to. Of course it was a different kind of going to shit compared to, say, last year’s Thanksgiving in Iraq. That one started with flares and shots ricocheting off stone and ended with me slowly heading home on a medical discharge. This Thanksgiving started with the goddamn underpinning going missing and ended with burning Great Granny’s Grateful Pie. And somewhere in the middle was the matter of Mama’s plus one.

    “You know, Kay Ann,” Mama insisted in her most saccharine voice, “my plus one.”

    I put the pie in the oven. “Your plus one?” I pushed buttons that I assumed were the timer. It was my new stove. In my new kitchen. In my new trailer back home in Reynolds, Kentucky.

    “Yes, like them fancy folks do at their parties. A plus one.”

    “So you’re bringing a date to Thanksgiving dinner?” The oven beeped at me and I pushed more buttons.

    She gave one of her patented sighs of exasperation. “No, no, not a date.”

    I offered my own approximation of the same sigh. “Okay, what’s his name?”

    “Reverend Franklin T. Seymour. I’m sure you’ve met him.”

    Yes. I’d met him. The new youth pastor at her church. This wasn’t the first time he’d come up. “Christ, Mama, you’re bringing the boy preacher to Thanksgiving?”

    “Language, Kay Ann,” she said in her best somber tone. “And I thought it would be real Christianly with all his people in Oklahoma and him all alone out here.”

    “He’s not alone. He’s got the Lord, Mama. He’ll be fine.”

    “You know what I mean, Kay Ann.” I waited for her to say the rest. He had a steady job that wasn’t illegal, had a sense of purpose and decent personal hygiene. These moved most gentleman callers to the top of Mama’s list. Not for herself, mind you, but for her oldest daughter. I heard gravel crunching in the trailer park’s driveway and looked up to see August Cooper’s big Ford pulling up. When she didn’t say the rest, I saw my opportunity and took it. “Okay. Franklin Seymour is your plus one. Uncle Auggie’s here, Mama. Hopefully to see about my underpinning. I’ll see you Thursday.”

    I was off the phone and on the double-wide’s narrow porch before my uncle had grunted his way out of the truck, hiking up his torn Levis to help out his stretched red suspenders. “Sumbitch,” he said, pushing back his Cooper Construction ball-cap to scratch his head. “Where’s the goddam underpinning?”

    “In the back of your truck, Uncle Auggie, I hope.”

    His face registered surprise and he actually checked the bed, bless his heart, before answering. “Nope. I thought Ernie put them up Sunday.”

    Ernie was my cousin, his youngest and about as shiftless as you could get. “It appears,” I said, “that he was waylaid.”

    Way baked was more likely, I suspected.

    “It does appear so,” he said. He leaned over and looked under the trailer. “How’s the rest of it seem?”

    “Sturdy,” I said.

    Uncle Auggie nodded. “Good.”

    “So any chance I’ll have my skirting up before Thanksgiving?

    He scowled. “I sure can try. Have to find it first.”

    My phone started vibrating and I checked it, expecting it to be my mother again. It was my sister. I gave my uncle an apologetic glance. “I have to take this.”

    “I’ll take a quick walk about, see what’s what, then go see if I can scare up Ernie and your underpinning.”

    “Thanks, Uncle Auggie.” I transitioned smoothly into the call. “Hey Sis.”

    “Hey,” she said. “Where you been? I’ve been calling.”

    “I’ve been moving,” I reminded her.

    “Oh yeah. All done?”

    “Nope. And Uncle Auggie’s lost my underpinning.”

    She laughed. “Ernie sold it to buy weed, I’m sure.”

    I laughed with her. “Probably so. Or traded it straight across.”

    Then her voice changed and I should’ve known what was coming. “So … what time’s dinner Thursday?”

    “I told Mama two but to come whenever.”

    “Okay. I’ve got my plus one sorted out.”

    I felt the front end of my exasperation sigh coming on. “You’re bringing a plus one, too?”

    And how she answered it, her tone of voice and even the volume, told me everything I needed to know. I was being plotted against by my own family. “Oh, are Mama and Bobby bringing plus ones, too? I hadn’t heard.”

    “Mama is.” Bobby was too but I wasn’t supposed to know that yet. He’d call next. She’d just given it away.

    “Oh goodness,” she said, as if she hadn’t known all along.

    “Yes,” I said. “So who are you bringing?”

    “Johnny Alvin. Remember him?”

    I did, vaguely. He was a few years ahead of us in high school. He drove a sky-blue 1973 Ford Maverick with a 351 Windsor engine and glass pack muffler and listened to a lot of Rush. “Is he still delivering pizzas for the Pizza Shack?”

    I could hear the pride in her voice. “No, ma’am. He’s assistant manager now. Though he’s studying mortuary science at night and interning down at Drummond’s Funeral Parlor.”

    “Mortuary science?”

    My sister sometimes mistook surprise for ignorance and answered accordingly. “You know, dead people stuff. Embalming. Funeral directing.”

    I wasn’t sure what to say. She’d gotten the first two in there. Steady work. Ambition. I decided to help her out. “I’m sure he cleans up well, too. Probably has himself a black suit.”

    “Oh yes,” she said.

    “Good. You’ll both be very happy together. And I just want you to know I’m fine with you bringing your new boyfriend to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m sure we’ll all love him.”

    She was still sputtering when I told her I’d see them Thursday and hung up.

    Uncle Auggie let himself out of the trailer as I slipped the phone back into my pocket. “Everything’s working,” he said. “Heat, water, electric.” He took a light jump on the porch. “Everything’s solid, too.”

    He’d put half the trailers into the Shady Grove Mobile Home Park over the last thirty years. Mine was the newest, though it wasn’t brand new. Just new to me and new to the park. He’d helped me find it and then he’d moved it for me at a price we both could live with. “I sure do appreciate it, Uncle Auggie.”

    He tipped his hat. “Thank you for your service to our great nation.”

    I tipped my own ballcap back. “And yours.” He’d served in Vietnam. He’d not been excited to see a niece joining up, much less going overseas into that clusterfuck but now that I was home, he talked to me differently, looked at me differently. Respectfully.

    “I’ll see to that underpinning,” he said as he climbed into his truck.

    The phone vibrated in my pocket again. But I knew who it was. My brother. Calling about his plus one. Though I don’t think Mama or my sister had any idea just how different a direction my brother had taken things.

    By the time we were off the phone, I was pretty sure Thursday was going to be both hysterically fun and maybe the worst Thanksgiving of my life all at the same time. I had no idea, truly.

    When I got back into the trailer, it was already filling with smoke and a terrible stench that made my eyes water as I ran into the kitchen gagging.

    Something had gone badly wrong with great Granny’s pie.

    Of course, I saw that as the least of my problems and fed the burnt offering to the park’s community pig before locking up and heading back into town for another load of boxes.

    And again, I had no idea, truly. But that damn pig sure was happy about his pie.

    [sorry, you'll have to get the book to read the rest of the story!!!]

    AND DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE FIRST FANTASTIC HOLIDAY SEASON VOLUME

    Kindle

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

    Brainstorming NAVIGATORS OF DUNE

    Posted By on November 25, 2014

    It’s the grand finale of the Great Schools of Dune trilogy, which we launched with SISTERHOOD OF DUNE in fall of 2011 then followed up with MENTATS OF DUNE in March 2014, and now we will complete with NAVIGATORS OF DUNE.

    Sisterhood

    Right after we delivered the final manuscript of MENTATS OF DUNE in March 2013, Brian and I were together in Seattle doing promotion for HELLHOLE AWAKENING. We did a book signing at University Books and also appeared at the NorWescon science fiction convention. But because we had just delivered book 2 and had all the storylines in our heads,  we didn’t want to miss the rare opportunity of being in the same city at the same time. So, we carved out an afternoon, sat down in a diner not too far from the NorWescon convention, and spent hours figuring out how we were going to wrap up all those plotlines. We had a great, invigorating session, throwing around a lot of ideas, and took copious notes in the broad strokes of the plot for NAVIGATORS OF DUNE.

    HHawakemm

    But that novel wasn’t next on our plate. Later that year we also had to write the epic finale to our Hellhole trilogy, HELLHOLE INFERNO—but we were smart to get those NAVIGATORS ideas down on paper while everything was fresh.  We finished HELLHOLE INFERNO and delivered it, and we also had plenty of other projects to focus on. Brian had THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF CHAIRMAN RAHMA, and I had THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS and my Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series. HELLHOLE INFERNO was published in August 2014, and we got caught up in promoting that novel.

    LittleGreen DarkBetweenTheSta  Hellhole-Inferno

    But it was time to get to work on our next important project: NAVIGATORS OF DUNE, and for that we needed some good solid time to brainstorm. Brian and I compared calendars and found a time when we could get together in October, four days 20-23. I flew in to Seattle, reviewing all of those Norwescon diner notes during the plane trip; we had each previously skimmed over MENTATS OF DUNE to refresh our memories. Brian called me while I was waiting to board the ferry, and he was eager to start brainstorming already, so we tossed some new ideas back and forth. When he picked me up from the terminal, we were talking about the book from the moment I got in the car. With our notes, we stopped at a brand new local microbrewery for an IPA and initial brainstorming, then off to Brian’s house for more brainstorming.

    Mentats Cover

    We already had the broad strokes of the story, from the diner conversation more than a year earlier, but we started to fill in the details, coming up with more cool ideas to connect plot lines. To avoid burnout too soon, we went out to dinner at our favorite local Thai restaurant with Brian’s wife Jan, then back to the house for more brainstorming, then we called it a night. Next morning with a fresh (and large) pot of coffee, we started in again. We took advantage of the clear, sunny day (a rarity in the Pacific Northwest this time of year) and went out for a nice hike, because we find that’s an excellent way to get the creative energies flowing.  More great ideas.  Then dinner at a local pub, and back to the house for a break—our brains were mush by then!—to watch a movie.  Brian loves classic movies and he always convinces me to watch some old black-and-white classic.  I usually grumble, but I usually end up enjoying the movie (because Brian has good recommendations). For the first night, he suggested a John Wayne classic “Red River” (yes, I liked it), and the following night we agreed on “The Grapes of Wrath” (I liked that one, too).

    For our second full day of brainstorming, we started breaking down the big story into chapters, characters, story lines, separating them into broad plots, and then started the hard detail work of dividing the big plots into discrete chapters, and then to interweave them.  How to wrap up the grand story of Vorian Atreides, one of our most popular characters ever, and his blood-feud with Valya Harkonnen? What will Valya do with the Sisterhood?  Emperor Roderick Corrino in his crisis, caught in the titanic struggle between the barbarian fanatics led by Manford Torondo and Anari Idaho and the enlightened but ruthless forces of Josef Venport and his Navigators. And the evil robot Erasmus…the slightly insane Anna Corrino, the hellish research lab on poisonous Denali, the new cymeks…  It’s a lot to organize!

    Sometimes Brian would type furiously on the laptop, sometimes I would.  By the time we played “The Grapes of Wrath” that evening, with a nice bottle of red wine open, we were again drained, but feeling pretty good—we had a solid, dramatic story that just needed to be fine tuned.

    Next morning, we went out to another diner for breakfast, still working on some of the finer plot points, connecting some strands, but we already had a lot keyed in, and it just needed to be organized and broken down.  Brian drove me to the ferry after a quick lunch, and I was on my way home. NAVIGATORS OF DUNE is our *eighteenth* book together since 1996—so we’ve really figured out how to get the best out of each other.

    On the flight back home I mulled over the notes, with noise-cancelling headphones on, just with good solid concentration time. I organized the notes and outlines more, and then when I got home for the next few days I worked on it more.  About a week later, I sent Brian my first cut breakdown, about 70 chapters, and then sent it back to him for his editing.  Brian dove into the outline for several weeks while I buried myself in the final revisions and edit of my 750-page novel BLOOD OF THE COSMOS. He expanded the outline to about 82 chapters and did some sanding and polishing to make the pieces fit together better, then sent it back to me.

    I had to let it cool off while I finished my BLOOD OF THE COSMOS edit, and last week I gave that final manuscript to my wife Rebecca for her detailed copy-edit on the prose. That gave me the chance to work on the NAVIGATORS OF DUNE outline again.  I’d had about a month to clear my head, so I could approach the story fresh.  Brian made copious notes about his changes and other ideas he added.  I worked on it, talked with Brian on the phone, then worked on it more. I expanded the outline to 96 chapters, but then went back with a more ruthless mindset to see what could be combined. Why use two chapters if the same story-needs can be delivered in one chapter?  As of this afternoon, as I finished this draft of an outline that is near final (though still subject to more rounds of changes—and even more when we do the actual writing).  85 chapters so far.

    Now it goes back to Brian. We’re getting close, and we hope to start writing by the first of the year.  No idea when it will be scheduled for publication.

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share