Caller Unknown: Book One of the Karen Wilson Chronicles!
Art by Amber Clark.
Is it not fab?
It captures everything I wanted in this book.
When you have had an active younger life with all the bumps and bruises therein, you get used to going through your day with pain. I have had back and knee pain for more than an decade now. Some of it due to injury, some of it due to my weight, and some of it due to getting older.
About a month ago, all that changed. My back pain flared up. Instead of being just part of life—background noise, if you would—it came front and center to the point of distraction. Also, I started having shooting pains down my legs in certain situations or my coccyx going numb after sitting for a while. This meant a doctor’s visit ASAP. Which turned into an MRI visit and painkillers/muscle relaxers.
Through it all, I had to keep working. I’m a fulltime freelancer. I don’t get sick days. Well, I do. It just means I don’t make money or advance my projects when I’m sick. September was scheduled to be stupidly busy and I knew it. This whole back pain thing was inconvenient at best. Fortunately, one of the best painkillers I know is writing. At least, until you stop writing and then everything is worse.
However, now that most of what I need to get done this month is done, I realize what kind of toll working through the pain has taken on me. I’m burned out and cranky because of it. I’m glad I’m recognizing it and have the opportunity to do something about it. I’m going to take the rest of the month off. I’m going to nap, read, watch movies, and only do what I want to do when I want to do it. That should help.
Just knowing that I’m giving myself permission not to work makes me feel better. I’ll still do email and phone calls and all that, but the rest of the time is mine to do with as I please.
Just a reminder, I have openings for my "Tell Me" blog posts for November and December.
There are two kickstarters I'm involved with:
Beyond the Sun - a sci-fi anthology about exploration. We need more sci-fi anthologies. Seriously.
One-Shot - I'm part of the stretch goals for this RPG product that is designed to be played with two people. It looks wonderful.
And then there are a number of reviews involving me. All of them pretty good. Really. I am grateful for the reviews and their positive tone.
Genre Reviews has a lovely review of my @dawbooks anthology, Human for a Day.
The Geek Girl Project reviews The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting and really likes it.
To the bone gives a four star review for Dangers Untold, one of my newest anthologies.
A reader reviews The Beast Within 2: Predator and Prey and likes it for the most part.
I first met Bryan at the Rainforest Village Writers Retreat. He is a great guy to work with and read. I’m looking forward to Beyond the Sun and that’s not just because I’m in it. It is, as he says, because the anthology is all about exploring the universe.
My mom says that, as a child, I never played with a toy the same way twice. And I think that's a pretty good summary of my approach to life, especially in creativity. I love adventure, exploration. I like to go to places I've never been, meet people unlike anyone I've ever known, get to know their culture, language, the way they think...And I'm fascinated by the idea of exploring the universe.
Is it any wonder that 35+ years after she said that, I'm still creating projects like Beyond The Sun? At its heart it's about exploration and the desire to know the unknown. Space colonization has been mankind's dream for generations; one that remains unfulfilled. And I'm just crazy enough to believe it'll happen one day. I really do.
So what better subject for an anthology than stories from fellow dreamers of what that might be like? I love working with other writers and helping them get published and noticed. I love introducing them to each other and to readers. It's why I started SFFWRTCHT and do so many author interviews and promotional aids. So why shouldn't my work reflect that desire as well?
I think Beyond The Sun is an example of that. It's me bringing together writers I like and admire and challenging them to inspire me, each other and readers around the world. It's the little curious kid who wanted adventure longing for new adventure stories to explore, new places to visit from the minds and imaginations of others, and new cultures and people to encounter.
And this time, with the Kickstarter, I've invited others to share in the dream. Let's help some writers get pro-rates for their work. Not just pros but up and coming talent. Let's give these writers and some awesome artists a chance to be a part of the adventure and explore with us and then we can all sit back and enjoy the resulting explosion of creativity for decades to come.
That's why I like editing anthologies. It's why I often like reading them. And it's why I created this Beyond the Sun Kickstarter project and anthology. And I can't wait to see what becomes of it!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Today I had an MRI for my back. I have always have back problems and am used to walking around in a minor bit of pain. About two weeks ago, things changed. The pain increased to the point of distraction. I have leg numbness or shooting pains down my right leg while I drive. After a lot of walking, my toes go numb. So, it was MRI time. I’m hoping it’s just a pinched nerve that can be fixed with physical therapy/massage instead of something that need surgery.
The place itself was nice. However, the MRI machine, not so much. I never realized I would be claustrophobia in tight, confined spaces. They started to put me in and my Lizard Brain when “Whoa, WTF?!” When I expressed discomfort, they gave me something to cover my eyes. I have a great imagination. What could go wrong?
I am a large woman. The MRI machine is a small tube. As they put me in, I was okay until we got to my elbows. As soon as my elbows were squished against me and it was clear I was helpless to get myself out of the machine, the Lizard Brain turned on again and what it said was “No.” Over and over like a mantra. I went from rational thinking brain to get-me-the-heck-out-of-this-thing-must-escape Lizard Brain.
The technician, for her credit believed me as soon as the first “No.” erupted from my mouth. I didn’t even know I was speaking until the tray was in reverse. Really, all higher function got shunted asside in that terror I didn’t know I’d feel until I was out of the tube. I apologized and admitted I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
The tech told me not to worry. We’d just put me in feet first. That would leave my head mostly out of the machine. In the end, it was my head, shoulders, and arms out of the tube. I was much more comfortable. The MRI started. It was 7 periods of 1-3.5 minutes long when they would take pictures and need me to keep still. While this happened, my Writer Brain and Lizard Brain had an argument.
Writer Brain: Wow. I didn’t know you were claustrophobic.
Lizard Brain: I’m not. I’m just afraid of being trapped and helpless and feeling like I’m being buried alive. As soon as my elbows got pinned to my sides, I realized how much danger I was in.
Writer Brain: Wuss. But what a feeling. Now you know what real terror feels like.
Lizard Brain: Fuck you.
Writer Brain: No, seriously. It’s harmless. There’s nothing to actually hurt you in the tube. No moving parts. I can so use these sensations in writing horror. There’s lots of things I can extrapolate out of this.
Lizard Brain: Goodie for you.
Writer Brain: We should ask, after the test is done, to go back in, head first. You know, to really get a sense of that confinement and fear.
Lizard Brain: Fuck you and the pen you rode in on. I’m not going back in there for nothing.
Writer Brain: But…
Lizard Brain: I will kill you while you sleep. You’re already going to have nightmares about this new terror you didn’t know existed. So, just stop. Seriously. No.
This whole argument happened while I was listening to gorgeous classical music. In retrospect, I realized I was so much more comfortable in the second position because my arms were out of the tube, I could see light, and if needed, I could pull myself out of the tube. Head first, I wouldn’t have been able to do ANYTHING if something went wrong. It’s a control freak thing.
And I don’t even get into the noisiness of the machine.
However, Writer Brain is correct. I really can use this new, unexpected terror in my writing. The sudden discovery of being afraid of something intellectually I know I shouldn’t be afraid of. The sensation of being buried alive. The sensation of my arms pressed to my sides with no way to move or control my body. It is great writing fodder.
But dammed if I’ll willing go back into the MRI tube head first. I’ll think about it real hard if I need to have another MRI for my back. And only if I can go in feet first.
It is never too early to start planning for All Hallows Read. I did this last year to great success. It was great to hear the excited calls of kids, “Mom, they’re giving away books!” I plan to do it again this year. Also, the Husband is building me a custom Little Free Library. I will be tending to this all year round, cycling books in and out of the Little Free Library. Rumor has it, the Husband will make it look like a TARDIS.
But I need your help. I need your old books. In specific, I’m looking for good books for tweens and teens. Scary books, funny books, serious books, you name it. Adult books will be accepted, too, but as we live near a middle grade school and a high school bus drop is at the end of my street, I’m looking for books for the kids around here.
Send one or send a dozen, all books will be appreciated. Please send me your books here:
6830 NE Bothell Way, STE C #404
Kenmore, WA 98028
Thank you in advance. If you have questions, contact me through my contact page.
I met Bryan at Origins 2012 and found him to be a generous, personable guy. He read the opening chapter of Operation: Montauk and I was immediately hooked. ~JLB
My latest book, Operation: Montauk, started one night at bedtime. I was reading A Princess of Mars to my then 8 year old son at bedtime and we couldn’t get enough of it. “Just one more chapter, dad,” he’d tell me. “Just one more chapter.”
It really got me thinking.
I’d never really written anything for him. I couldn’t think of any fiction I’d written I’d be happy to have him read. That thought fueled me. Sitting here, reading these old pulp yarns to him, what kind of story could I tell that had all of the things we enjoyed together in a science fiction novel I’d be happy to read myself?
That’s where Operation: Montauk came from.
It tells the story of a World War II soldier sent back in time to kill Hitler, but instead finds himself 65 million years in the past. There, he finds an entire community of time travelers from different eras, all trying to find out why they’re there, how to survive against the dinosaurs, and, above all, how to get home. Things get even worse when a team of Nazis find themselves in the same temporal anomaly.
It has all of the things a geeky dad and his 10 year old son love, wrapped up in a 1930s pulp style. Spaceships, dinosaurs, time travel, soldiers, Nazis, scientists, cliffhangers at the end of every chapter...even a monkey.
The work came quickly and I wrote it to put a smile on his face and keep one on mine.
It worked. I read my opening chapters to him during my editing process and he loved it, couldn’t wait to read more. I wasn’t going to let him read it until it was done, but he stole one of my galleys copies and took it to school. I was told he started a bit of a sensation. The book was all his friends could talk about for weeks.
I’d won. I created a piece of art that satisfied me creatively as an adult that my son could enjoy.
At that point, I didn’t even feel like I needed to publish it. The intended audience loved it and my job was done. The fact that it was published (by Silence in the Library) and other people have been enjoying the book, too, is all icing on the already sweet slice of cake my boy gave me.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote that you need to write for just one person. “If you open the window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” I believe that. And if you’ve never written a story to please just one person, try it. You’ll benefit, your story will benefit, and you’re going to make someone important to you very, very happy.
If you want to check it out, Operation: Montauk is available from my website (www.bryanyoungfiction.com), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold.
It's my pleasure to announce the official Table of Contents for the Coins of Chaos anthology:
Silver and Copper, Iron and Ash by Nathaniel Lee
The Price of Serenity by Kelly Swails
Vinegar Pie by Andrew Penn Romine
The Fall of Jolly Tannum by Brandie Tarvin
Spendthrift by Jay Lake
Incubus Nickel by Erik Scott de Bie
In His Name by Martin Livings
Lies of the Flesh by Nate Crowder
Train Yard Blues by Seanan McGuire
Skull of Snakes by Glenn Rolfe
Searching for a Hero by Dylan Birtolo
Something in the Blood by Kelly Lagor
The Value of a Year of Tears and Sorrow by Jason Andrew
Definitely Dvořák by Mae Empson
Justice in Five Cents by Richard Dansky
Tithes by Peter M. Ball
With One Coin for Fee: An Invocation of Sorts by Gary A. Braunbeck
Cover art: Amber Clark
Interior art: John Ward
Publisher: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
Pub date: Oct 2013
Ken Hite is a friend of mine and a favorite game designer. I love his Cthuhlu based RPG books and his lyrical writing. In general, Ken is a fab guy to get to know. He is a master storyteller and someone you can learn from. ~JLB
The core scene of my vampire spy thriller RPG Night’s Black Agents flashed into my head while I was waiting for a train in on the way home from a gaming session. Standing there on the deserted platform at night in Chicago, with the rails and high-tension wires thrumming and the hot wind blowing on my neck, my mind turned quite naturally to vampires. I was looking for the next game to run for my game group, and I hadn’t even formulated the question into words before I had the answer. I was watching it unspool in my head, the escrima fight from the second Bourne movie, but my mind’s-eye Paul Greengrass had replaced Bourne’s rolled-up magazine with a wooden stake, and the German Treadstone agent with a vampire. Possibly before the train arrived, the fundamental story of the game had materialized: “Hunt or be hunted. Kill or be killed. Or worse.”
But what vampires? If all my vampires were the same, the game would rapidly devolve into garlic sprayers and UV flashlights. It wouldn’t be scary, or even exciting. Since I already had the core of who our heroes were – Jason Bourne types, burned or buried spies – I knew the game should feel like a modern spy thriller. What if the vampires were the mystery? I could run a playtest campaign for a game about hunting vampires, and about hunting answers about vampires. That meant it could use the GUMSHOE system, if I could amp its pacing up from mystery to thriller, toughen its sinews for the fighting and chases I’d need to add.
The alpha playtest was over about a year later, filling a spiral notebook with rules mods, tactics, and core play experiences. My alpha campaign presented a secret war of time-slips and Cathar conspiracy, led by a cult that worshipped extra-dimensional silicon entities modeled on the vampires and the djinn from Tim Powers’ novels The Stress of Her Regard and Declare, with just a touch of 30 Days of Night. But I couldn’t just replicate my campaign. (Although my alpha playtest vampires do appear in the Night’s Black Agents core book, as the “Perfecti Petrus” and “Alien Stones.”) Next step: take my specific campaign and pull out the general principles for an RPG modeling a thriller trilogy: revelation, confrontation, destruction.
I had to give every GM (or Director, the name I chose for its dual meaning in intelligence bureaucracy and movie-making) the power and tools to build her own mysteries and horrors. Add a modular system for building vampires, with lots of options and possibilities taken from every source I could find. Add another modular system for building vampire conspiracies, the mirror maze our spies could fight and find their way through. Notes on building cities for globe-trotting action. Notes on building action and tension, taken from screenwriting books and thriller beat analysis as much as from my own campaign. (I took the tools for my own thriller beat analysis from GUMSHOE designer Robin D. Laws’ book Hamlet’s Hit Points, a study of narrative in drama and RPGs.) Then more playtesting, by and for strangers this time. Then more revisions until every Director could play their game with my game.
All to get back to a lone hero on the run, killing a monster in verité close combat, who I saw on a hot night waiting for a train in Chicago.
Night’s Black Agents debuted this August from Pelgrane Press.
I just got back from Worldcon/Chicon 7 and I had a great time despite some travel excitement and some professional disappointments. As Chuck Wendig mentioned, Worldcon was like real life twitter. Thus, it is impossible to keep up with it all. I’m just going to mention some of the highlights and beg forgiveness of the people I forget to mention.
I finally met some online friends like Chuck Wendig, Stephen Blackmoore, Rose Fox, and Myke Cole that I had not met before. Of course, it always fabulous to meet up with friends I do know: John Scalzi, Patrick Hester, Saladin Ahmed, John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, David Brin, Ellen Datlow, Todd Gallowglass.
Some highlights of the convention included the following:
* Someone I’ve never even seen before came up to tell me they are a fan, that they loved and miss The Edge of Propinquity, that they nommed both the magazine and me for a Hugo and that they were sad neither made it to the ballot. I was floored. It was so nice.
* Someone coming up to the SFWA table with every anthology I have edited or contributed to and every fiction book I have out from Dark Quest Books asking for my signature on all of it—so many books.
* Meeting Brian Hades of EDGE and signing Rigor Amortis books.
* Having John Scalzi declare me a personal hero in the SFWA meeting for stepping up to the plate and volunteering my services. Despite losing the Western Regional Directorship, the fact that I was willing to make a go out at it made him happy.
* Having David Brin tell me I smelled good. (Odd compliment but still pleasing.)
* Meeting the entire crew from SFSignal. That is a great bunch of guys.
* Doing a “Literary Beer” with Paul Cornell and a koffeeklatch with Saladin Ahmed.
* Having lunch with Matt Forbeck and then wandering around with him.
* Having dinner with Ken Hite, Jed Hartman, and Maryanne Mohanraj.
* Hanging out with Kat Richardson.
* Watching Myke Cole react to seeing my mysterious bruise was fascinating. He grew like a foot taller. (The mysterious bruise is on my arm, is huge, looks like a defensive wound, and I have no idea how I got it.)
* Being mistaken for Kate Baker about four times – I need to pass on a couple of hugs and “congratulations” to her.
There is so much that happens at a convention with so many people you don’t normally get to interact with. It’s like life, condensed and put on fast forward. There was the SFWA suite (fab), parties (crowded), and BarCon (awesome). So many people, so little sleep, so little memory. The first couple of days after a convention, I run around in a fog and I remember the convention as if it were a particularly fabulous fever dream. The convention itself wasn’t perfect but I don’t regret going.
Here are a couple other perspectives on the convention from: