Archive for the ‘General Info’ Category

Subject to change, of course!

Under the gentle prodding of other Indie authors, I have finally put together a launch schedule for the rest of the year.  All of these dates are subject to change, of course, and it’s always a good idea to sign up for my newsletter (http://SmartURL.it/BillsWorlds) to get all of the latest info.

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apollo11_liftoff_clearslaunchtowerAfter months of intensive preparation, it has happened!
Chronicle Worlds: Paradisi has cleared the launch tower! 

The Road to Indie has finally reached its first waypoint with my first ebook only story release.   From the Amazon description:

From Samuel Peralta, creator of the bestselling ‘Future Chronicles’ speculative fiction anthology series, comes a line of anthologies charting new territories within a shared universe, within already-existing worlds.paradisi-cover

In the last decades of the twenty-first century, ten families seeking to escape a devastated Earth focus on constructing spaceships to colonize the world they call New Eden, in the Paradisi System. But the world they claim for their own is already inhabited, and the Ddaerans, although human in appearance, possess abilities that the Founders and their descendants do not…

In this latest title in the acclaimed ‘Future Chronicles’ series of speculative fiction anthologies, twelve authors take us on that incredible journey with adventurers, scientists and colonists, as they push the boundaries against the unknown, against alien civilization, and themselves.

Discover Chronicle Worlds. Discover Paradisi.


CW:P is also special to me for another reason:  “Nuking the Noomies,” my story, was selected as the first story in the anthology.  I want to thank Samuel Peralta for his trust in my story to lead off this excellent anthology.

godsandbox_snipSince, occasionally, people want to see more of my writing, I wrote a second short story set within the Paradisi Universe.   It was published today, and I urge you to check it out.

Ten Foundering Families exploit the intersection between digital copies of human brains and virtual reality, ‘running’ brains to more efficiently manage their global empires. All seems well, but some of the living humans are having some horrible dreams.

“God’s Sandbox” is available for purchase, but if you attend The Chronicle Worlds:Paradisi Launch Party on November 3rd, I will be giving away copies when I am running the party.  Just be there at 7pm (Eastern Time), and check out the party!

All readers who purchase “God’s Sandbox,” receive a free download, “Sciencing God’s Sandbox” where I discuss the various science-related elements of the story.

Wow!  It’s been a blast figuring out this new space.  Thanks for being there with me, every step of the way.




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So, I have been looking at a couple of story contests while the Alpha readers are spilling red ink on THT.  Cool one: SF with a strong element of medicine, health, illness.  You can submit TWO stories!  Woot–very nice!

I read the contest rules, and they are giving examples of stories that they would like.  All the classics.  Cyborgs, new drugs, bad vaccines.  The gamut.  Then it hit me.  What if I took one of those examples, inverted the story question, and wrote that?  (sorry to be coy, but they’re pretty strict on the judges not knowing the author, so I won’t say what I wrote).

Example:  Star Trek’s premise is to visit strange new worlds, boldly go, and such.  The inverse of that is ‘what is life like for the technologically hyper-advanced world of Earth?  Pretty sure there aren’t oil workers, mechanics, or paper-pushers.  So….what do people do all day?’

Wrote the work in about four days, three beta readers gave me feedback, I buffed it to about 300 grit, and sent it in.  Now it’s the 24th, and the contest ends on the 29th, and I have found a treasure.  From 2007–an unfinished short story left on my hard drive.  It’s so old that it isn’t even written in Standard Manuscript Format.  So I get to work on it, re-reading what I had written, way back in the dawn of my career.  And wouldn’t you know, it can be a great story when I finish it!

Spent last night and this morning thinking about it.  I had been dumping text, and re-reading cringe-inducing lines from the old days.  The MC is a columnist, and the BSF is a nurse.  I hover over these introductions, wondering if I should change them.  I decide not to, and move on.  I come to a line from the nurse, something like “I could use this my research paper topic.”  Wow, that’s got to go.  Except, I never really get around to deleting it.

Fast forward to this morning’s commute.  I realize that these two characters have exactly the right jobs to solve the medical issue in the story.  Even the research paper is the most plausible reason for the nurse to involve herself in the issue.  Good thing I hadn’t erased the lines!

Lesson: Don’t be too quick to slash and burn aspects to a partial story.  Your brain has been working on that story ever since you abandoned it.  Maybe it has a great reveal in the wings for you.

Keep writing!


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As promised, here are some Happenings since July.

Agent Search:  Still going on.  No new queries since October, of course.  I should restart this.

Three Day Novel:  Yes, I took part in this one.  We’re still waiting on the results.

Paradisi Chronicles:  This one deserves its own post.  An open universe, tied to a Future Chronicles anthology by the incomparable Samuel Peralta.  I was invited to write a short story and submit it.  The story has survived canonical review, and is awaiting Sam’s approval.

National Novel Writing Month:  As previously reported, I am one of two Municipal Liaisons for this fantastic organization.  In November, one is challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  That I did, despite being out of state for about half the month.  Although the novel degenerated badly, at the end, I did write two very nice treatments of hard SF topics which I will extract and polish.  So it was worthwhile.

StarShipSofa:  I was offered the chance to narrate one of their stories, which I jumped on.  SSSofa is a Hugo-Award winning weekly podcast heard by thousands.  I recorded the narration before my brother passed away, did most of the editing, and then John died.  I couldn’t focus enough to revoice the MC, but they liked the product anyway.  They also added a nice tribute to my brother in the intro, which I found very touching.  Click the link and listen.

Princeton Writing Group:  Every Tuesday, I lead the meetings at the local Panera Bread.  This is where I got most of my writing and editing done.

Speaking of editing, I have finished the First Flensing of The Honorable Thing.  I cut it down from 221,000 words to just under 106,000.  The Second Flensing will whittle that down further to 85,000 or less.  It’s now out to Alpha Readers, so that I know it is at least somewhat readable before I invest more time in it.

Oh, and I’ve submitted stories in a few spots.

And…that’s about it.  Sorry it seems like I’ve been dogging it.  John’s Estate sucks up a lot of time.  I really miss him.

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So, you thought the blog was defunct, right?  No–only my posting behavior to this blog was off.  However, several things have occurred that further put me off my feed since July.  Brief list:

  1. My brother, John Patterson, passed away with no warning, on October 18th, 2015.

That affected everything.  He was not married (although he tried mightily), and had no children (because he was a responsible man).  My two remaining siblings live on the West Coast, and my mother is in her 80s and not doing well.  Thus, I am the executor of his estate.  Big job, it is.

Then came November and NaNoWriMo hit.  As the Municipal Liaison, I had a duty to make my 50,000 words, come hell or high water.  I did.  Oh, it was utter crap, but I still did it.  Why?  I had a perfect out–14 of the 30 days of November, I was down at my brother’s house, working on estate stuff.   I was counseled to take the pass and concentrate on estate stuff.

Nope.  Two reasons:  John would not have wanted me to slough off NaNo and my ML (and ML Mentor) responsibilities–he was not an author himself, but he used to send me all kinds of encouragement to keep writing.  Second, I had a golden opportunity to demonstrate that it is possible to write 50k even when a major life event has occurred.

December came, and the estate stuff got worse (if possible).  It’s January now, and I have a bit more breathing room.  Then I read Hugh Howey’s extremely excellent blog post:  So You Want to be a Writer…  In that, one of his mandatory steps is to write a blog entry every day.  I will ramp up to that, this is the first step.  Things will be busy the next two days, then I’ll post to catch everyone up.  There have been Happenings.


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Third in the Brainstorming Series

TL;DR:  I am brainstorming with an acquaintance, at her request, about a novel that she is trying to write, inspired by several dream sequences.  This writer is having a tough time formulating a story line.

OK—time for some tough talk.  From my point of view, you are going to have an exceptionally difficult time crafting this work to completion, because you may not have formulated an essential story line.  I get that [redacted], and gets captured by the rebels, but that’s all I know.  What are the rebels trying to do?  Be left alone?  Take over the government?  I have already given you a whole lot of plot-related questions that should be considered.  [see The Beginning post]


Much of the [shiny objects] are not central to the essential plot—the human story of X and Y.  Sometimes, the best way to work forward is to minimize, initially, all the [shiny object] stuff.  You have a whole lot of moving parts.  Yes, they may be integral parts of the story, but they are secondary to X&Y


Consider this:


Act I:  [here, I write a generic plot line that I cannot reproduce for a public blog] 


First, outline your story in completely banal, general terms like what I did above.  It will vastly clarify the story.  Up to now, we have been discussing the gargoyles and finials on the cathedral façade….and I am trying to get you to concentrate on the foundations and columns that will hold the whole thing up.  It is only against this backdrop of essential story that you can judge such details as the [redacted].


OK, here’s a concrete example from one of my stories.  I needed a ball of neutronium, one meter in diameter, traveling half the speed of light, to hit the Moon.  I spent a lot of time and effort writing a prologue  of a long-ago war between two alien species, exactly how the aliens consumed asteroidal rubble, compressed it, and made their neutronium balls for ammunition.  There was a great scene about how the battle raged, and a bunch of salvos cut loose without the stasis cut-off timer being set, meaning the neutronium was going to travel forever until it hit something, like the Moon.  The alien war was never referred to again.


I’m tired just writing that synopsis.  Instead, I trashed the entire segment, employed Authorial Fiat, and just had the ball hit the Moon.  I realized that, from the point of view of the human race, they would never know or care just WTF happened to the Moon, just that there was some kind of massive explosion on it..


So, why tell you this?  I get the feeling that the several aspects of your world, like [redacted], are a lot like my ball of neutronium: essential to the story, but whose origin is besides the point.  You, as the author, must absolutely have the backstory worked out so the continuity works, but you must never burden your readers with it.  If Y is never going to open the [secret item], does it really matter HOW it works?


One of the hardest aspects of SF is the sheer desire to ‘make research pay’ through writing pages of exposition on the thermomagnetohydrodynamic origins of artificially compressed neutronium ammunition, the stasis field that keeps it stable, how the mass driver flings the ball free of the alien battleship, and the safety systems that allow for the ammo’s eventual self-destruct capability.  Does it really matter where it came from?  No.  The only thing that mattered in my story is that it blew a big chunk of Lunar crust into Earth-Lunar space.


The [backstory].  Does it really matter?  Sure, it [made something happen in the past].  But I get the idea that the humans have been there for a generation or two.  X and Y don’t seem to have any memories of Earth or the desperate flight to the new world.  They merely take the world as it is.  They’re born on this new planet, that’s all they know.  The reader should be afforded the same—and discover their world through the X&Y story, not through a history lesson.  Yes, I know the urge to do a little datadump will be inescapable, but if it must happen, make it as a side conversation during something else that’s going on.


If you were my student, I would give you the following homework assignment:

Three paragraphs, no more.  I’ve already written a chunk of the first one above (it starts with “Act I”).  Round it out, then write Acts II and III.  When you find yourself getting specific about something, step back like it’s kryptonite.  Resist mightily the urge to go down side streets.  Just lay out the bare, essential tale.  That is your building framework.  We’ll get to the finials and gargoyles soon enough.


This is a good assignment because in the end, those three paragraphs will form the core of your eventual pitch, query, and cover letter.  That is why I always ask for them whenever someone wants to brainstorm with me.  Know your story.  It always comes back to the story.



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Second in the Brainstorming Series.  Read Brainstorming: The Beginning where this all began.

Whenever we first conceive of a work, there’s something that grabs our attention.  The central conflict, or a great battle scene, or the microblackhole that passed in front of his eyes, distorting the world as it passed.  (hey……!)  Whatever it is, it’s shiny and wonderful, and we’ve got to have it in the story.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  Most of my works retain the SO that triggered the entire plot exercise.  Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle once rearranged the entire orbit of a planet in order to keep one line with which they both were smitten.

However, shiny objects can have a deadly allure.  they cause you to forget plotting, or do poor plotting, just because they are so shiny.  Worse, like that microblackhole, they begin to accrete other SOs towards them.  Suppose that you have a five-legged alien that runs off of an organic atomic battery.  Sounds way cool (and theoretically possible).  But you can’t leave the idea alone.  Where does the shielding come from?  Well, the alien has to ingest rock to get lead for shielding…but maybe they have the equivalent of cows that also run off of atomic batteries.  Hmmm…maybe the process is cumulative throughout life, with death occurring when the atomic battery finally generates so much energy that the organism is cooked from within.  Yeah–go with that!  Scenes of aliens walking (how do you walk with five legs?) down the street and very occasionally one bursts into flames.  Heh!  That’s a shiny scene–how can we incorporate that into the work?  Wait, they’re in space.  Maybe a flashback?

Then the guy in the striped shirt runs out, blows the whistle, and signals ‘delay of game’.  After all, there’s supposed to be a PLOT happening, and all we’re doing is wondering if we should glue this chromed bike sprocket or that blue flower onto our shiny object.

Here’s how I put it to my brainstorming partner over the course of a few emails:

Consider this:  Perhaps you don’t have to include everything from your dream sequence.  Dreams are, by their very nature, somewhat chaotic.  Maybe you could discard aspects that are difficult to fit into the remainder of the narrative (“Yes, doc, but in my dream, I had a colander strapped to my head.  It doesn’t make sense, what does that mean?”)

Resist the lure of the shiny object.  Sure, it’s fascinating, but the story is always more important than technology.

Cool technology is like cake icing: it’s the last thing considered when crafting the story, but the first thing often imagined.   What’s the story?  Worry later about the tech, craft the story.  Bake the cake first, THEN ice it.

She had been trapped by the lure of the Shiny Object, and was neglecting the creation of the central story.  It reminded me of the Epic Death Scene for one of my 3 Day Novel entries.  I have the evil alien thrown against the busbars of an electrical substation.  Fun!  Sparks, sizzling, epic deathedness.  But the compressed timetable of 3 Day does not allow a writer to wallow around in a vat of shiny–you have to be writing the rest of the story!  It was a point I have not forgotten.

The lesson here?  Love your shiny object, then put it away and concentrate on the story, the plot, and those essential questions I asked in the previous post.  Or you’re never going to get the essential stuff done.





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