Archives for June 2016

Progress report

Since inquiries have come from several of the 3.6 Loyal Readers, I answer at large:—

Tonight I finished compiling and formatting the essais that will go into the Superversive collection, and to my surprise, they seem to hang together pretty well, and add up to a sustained and forcible polemic. I still need to go through the drudgery of compiling the bibliography and endnotes (always the worst part of the job), and to write a valedictory piece, ‘Recovering the Tao of Story’. Then I have got to talk Sarah Dimento into doing a cover. I expect to have the new book out in July.

I have also, at long last, come within a few chapters of completing the first episode of Where Angels Die. I am reasonably pleased with the work so far. My original plan was to make the episodes about 60 manuscript pages apiece; that is, roughly as long as the screenplay for a one-hour television drama. But the first episode has a lot more work to do, introducing the main characters and setting up the central conflict; so it will be double that length. This is not without precedent; quite a lot of TV series have premiered as made-for-TV feature films, which were then cut up into two episodes for syndication.

I have sketched out the next three episodes, tentatively entitled ‘The Little Charter’, ‘The Bad Enough Brigade’, and ‘Luck’s Travelling Temple’. I should like to release all of them at once, and get some of the ‘Liliana Nirvana’ effect I referred to earlier. We shall see if this has a salutary effect on sales.

Meanwhile, I am formatting several paperback books for Wendy S. Delmater, and editing a translation of a stage play by Bruno Moreno Ramos. I am open for more commissions of both these kinds, at the right price.

Once all these things are taken care of, I intend to get back to work on the Magnificent Octopus. It is still my firm intention to get The Grey Death out for an autumn release; though at present it looks as if it may be later rather than earlier in that season.

The opposite of funny

Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else.


The question of whether a man expresses himself in a grotesque or laughable phraseology, or in a stately and restrained phraseology, is not a question of motive or of moral state, it is a question of instinctive language and self-expression. Whether a man chooses to tell the truth in long sentences or short jokes is a problem analogous to whether he chooses to tell the truth in French or German. Whether a man preaches his gospel grotesquely or gravely is merely like the question of whether he preaches it in prose or verse.

The question of whether Swift was funny in his irony is quite another sort of question to the question of whether Swift was serious in his pessimism. Surely even Mr. McCabe would not maintain that the more funny ‘Gulliver’ is in its method the less it can be sincere in its object. The truth is, as I have said, that in this sense the two qualities of fun and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other, they are no more comparable than black and triangular.

Mr. Bernard Shaw is funny and sincere. Mr. George Robey is funny and not sincere. Mr. McCabe is sincere and not funny. The average Cabinet Minister is not sincere and not funny.

—G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

Cover design: Your feedback, please?

Good news, everybody!

The formidable and talented Sarah Dimento has delivered the all-but-final cover design for Where Angels Die, based on my rough concept and rubbishy layout.

I always feel embarrassed when taking cover ideas to Sarah, because something about her puts me in mind of Edna Mode from The Incredibles: ‘This is a hobo suit, dahling, you can’t be seen in this, I won’t allow it!’ But she has a rather nifty way of turning those hobo suits into eye-catching book covers.

The current idea is to release each episode of Angels under separate cover, and then bundle them as a fix-up novel later. To minimize the amount of design work required, we have it in mind to reuse the same design with different background colours (and, of course, episode titles). The design follows the jump below.

[Read more…]

An embarrassment of not-riches

First, the news according to Truman: Last night, I did nothing.

This is because I worked during the day; but the Boneless Beast flaps a scornful pseudopod and replies, ‘Details, details.’ At any rate, I am back on the job with Where Angels Die, even if I am getting the work done outside of abnormal business hours.

Meanwhile, a difficulty arises.

When I sell books in June (as I am doing now, thanks to my Loyal Readers and some new faces), Amazon tots up the account at the end of the month and pays net 30 days – that is, at the end of July. If I keep the nose to the grindstone and so forth, I may be all right to pay my bills for August. But my usual source of income has been temporarily cut off, and I find myself with one foot hanging over the yawning chasm of July and nothing to build a bridge with.

In short, I am scrambling for a few bucks to pay the bills.

If anybody wants either ebooks or print books laid out, typeset, and proofread, I am available for such jobs at the most reasonable rates. Wendy S. Delmater of Abyss & Apex (where I serve as Editor-at-Large) can vouch for my skills in these areas; or you can look at any of my own books and judge of my work for yourself. If you know anybody who is looking for such a service, it couldn’t hurt to mention my name. I can be most easily reached by email through the CONTACT link at the top of this page.

And if you haven’t got any work to send my way – though it pains me to ask – if you happened to drop a few bucks in the tip jar by clicking on the Donate button, it would be received with blessings and gratitude.

I want to get Where Angels Die out, and the Superversive collection, and the McStudge book, and resume publishing The Eye of the Maker, all of which my Loyal Readers have asked me to do; I am here to entertain you, and perhaps give you somewhat to think about. But I need to buy the time to do it.

Your support and good wishes are greatly appreciated. Thank you all,

The equitable division of shirking labour

Last night, I did nothing.

That is, I got no work done on Where Angels Die, which it had been my firm intention to do when I applied the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Instead, I sifted through the archives to choose the right essais for the Superversive collection, and whittled my list down to ten. (But ten of my longer pieces; the book will be slightly longer than Writing Down the Dragon, which will make it my largest collection yet.) Then I imported them into Word, made some necessary edits (mostly to eliminate repetitive bits), and formatted them for submission to Amazon’s Magic Ebook Gonkulator.

‘But you did nothing!’ cried Truman the Boneless Beast. I have introduced you to Truman before, I think. He is a fat little sluglike creature, boneless and quite possibly brainless, who inhabits the subbasement of my mind. His function, such as it is, is to criticize everything I do, and everything I omit to do, and make it out that I am a complete and miserable failure as a human being. I call him Truman because it helps me to imagine him talking in the voice of Truman Capote, who had a voice that nobody could possibly take seriously. (He sounded very much like Droopy, the sad little dog from the Tex Avery cartoons.)

Of course, Truman meant that I wrote no original copy – ignoring the fact that I did several hours of solid work, editing and formatting and so forth, amounting to about half the labour of putting out a new book. (The other half: I shall have to write a new essai especially for the collection, my standard nefarious plot to make my 3.6 Loyal Readers buy it instead of just reading it all here for free.)

So Truman and I have struck a deal; or rather, I have made Truman an offer that he can’t refuse. Every night, when I go to work, I shall do nothing on one particular project; and Truman can castigate me as much as he likes for that. And I shall sneak away and play hooky, and spend my time working on something else, so that I can feel a sense of virtuous accomplishment about the ‘nothing’ that I did.

I regard this as a very fair way to divide up the shirking of labour.

If any of you are afflicted with minor chores or big jobs that you don’t much want to do, and your own inner screamer (miscalled your conscience) is riding you illogically whether you do them or not, I can only humbly suggest that you give this method a try. It seems to be working for me, so far.

And now I hope you will excuse me. The hour draws nigh, and I have my lack of work cut out for me.

Here comes another one: STYLE IS THE ROCKET in paperback

Order your copy!

With this latest release, all my books are now available in print editions from CreateSpace, except The End of Earth and Sky. That one will have to wait until I have a press-quality map ready. I plan to re-release it (with map) along with The Grey Death, some time later this year, if I am able to work regularly. We shall see.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Keep spreading the word!


Now available from Amazon!

(And a handsome volume it is, too, apart from a slightly anorexic quality about the cover model. Thanks again to Sarah Dimento for her design.)

Get yours today! Confound the Curators of Culture! Flabbergast the professional critics! Hoist the Jolly Roger! (A close relative of the model, by the way.)

In other news, work continues on the Superversive essay collection, and Where Angels Die (‘the Orchard of Dis-Pear’) is once again growing and taking form. It was unfortunate that I wrote the first chapters of the ‘Orchard’ just as my parents were dying; the pain of those memories, I think, discouraged me from taking the project up again. I am very glad to be able to return to work on it.

My thanks to all who left comments on the ‘Suggestions’ post. Your continued interest in all of my work bears me up and gives me hope and courage.

Your suggestions, please!

Our 3.6 Loyal Readers will have noticed two new books out from Yr. Obt. Svt. I am happy to report that my health is unusually good so far this month, except for stubbed toes and similar trifles. While this good fortune holds, I want to see what else I can finish and get out the door, to hold the interest of the Amazon ‘also-bot’ now that I have attracted its attention.

What I am hoping to do is a variation of the so-called Liliana Nirvana technique, so named by Hugh Howey. The original technique was used by romance writer Liliana Hart, with great success, and has been successfully replicated by a number of other authors. Ms. Hart, who is perhaps less inclined to be wilfully silly than Mr. Howey, calls it her ‘five down, one in the hole’ technique. It works like this:

Annual releases are too slow to build on one another. And not just in the repetition of getting eyeballs on your works, but in how online recommendation algorithms work. Liliana suggests publishing 5 works all at once. Same day. And she thinks you should have another work sitting there ready to go a month later. While these works are gaining steam, write the next work, which if you write and edit in two months, will hit a month after the ‘hole’ work.

This technique catapulted Ms. Hart from unpublished to earning a living in a few months.

There’s just one problem: I can’t use it.

You see, the purebred Liliana Nirvana requires that these be your first five books, and that they all be published on the same day. I haven’t got five books ready to go at once, and at this point, I can’t afford to wait until I do have. Also, my existing books have attracted some readers and acquired some reviews, and I don’t want to lose that by unpublishing and re-releasing them (which, apparently, is a variation of the Technique that has been successfully tried.

What I can do, though, is build on the momentum started by The Worm of the Ages and Style is the Rocket, and put out several more books as quickly as I can. It’s a question of which projects are closest to completion, and which ones are likely to yield the best return on a small investment of time.

Going over my stuff in drydock, I see the following unfinished ships, roughly in order of how close they are to completion:

  1. Another essai collection, more general in nature than my previous ones. Tentative title, Superversive: Essays on Life, Language, and Literature.
  2. The ‘pilot episode’ (novella length) of Where Angels Die, samples of which have previously appeared in these pages.
  3. A collection of pieces by H. Smiggy McStudge – if he will consent to write two more of his snarks, which, I think, will be required to fill out a book.
  4. A novella called The Stone Sword, which is set in the same world as The Eye of the Maker, and reveals the previous history of a few of the characters that you will (eventually) meet in volume 2, The Grey Death.
  5. The Grey Death itself, resuming (at long last) the forward motion of the Magnificent Octopus itself, The Eye of the Maker.

This last project will take at least a couple of months to finish. The first four can be done in a matter of days or weeks; and if I work very hard and luck holds, I may be able to put three of them out by the end of June – which would give me a sort of soft-pedalled Liliana Nirvana, spread out over a full month.

I invite the Loyal 3.6, and all and sundry, to offer your suggestions. Which of these books would you like to see me release, and which do you think I should concentrate on? Or do you have another idea, involving something I have overlooked? All comments are most welcome.


At long last, it’s here!

My long-promised collection of essais, Style is the Rocket, is going live today, exclusively on Amazon. It contains nine pieces that have previously appeared on this blog:



Style is the rocket
The drudge and the architect
The immersive writer
Sturgeon’s law school
Heinlein’s rules vs Amazon’s game
Clock share: Writers vs the competition
Why I write

Plus ‘The Emperor’s new prose’, a revised and updated version of a piece from 2006, and the all-new and exclusive ‘Quality vs quality’.

Buy the ebook of Style is the Rocket on Amazon today!

Get yours for $2.99 U.S., or an equivalent amount in your go-to currency.

For those who prefer to eschew electrons, a handy paperback edition will be on sale within a few days.

In other news, The Worm of the Ages and Other Tails has been our most successful ebook launch so far, thanks partly to signal boosts by L. Jagi Lamplighter, John C. Wright, Ben Zwycky, Anthony Marchetta, Wendy S. Delmater, and others. Your help in spreading the word is deeply appreciated. Yr. Obt. Svt. is touched and honoured.

So what happens next? I have several projects on the go, including another essai collection, two pieces of short fiction, and (just possibly) a collection of pieces by our Evil Alter Blogger, H. Smiggy McStudge. Keep watching this space!

Quality vs quality (A teaser)

A new essai written especially for my new collection, Style is the Rocket.

In a certain town that you have never heard of, though you may have lived there all your life, two restaurants face each other across a busy street. Both pride themselves upon the quality of their cookery; but if you read the menus posted beside their respective doors, and the little blurb at the head of each, you may come away with the idea that they are not using the word quality in precisely the same way.

The restaurant on the north side of the street has a bare white exterior and a bare white signboard, very chic in a thoroughly minimalist way; and on the signboard you will find this notice:

A Quality Restaurant

Minus Sugar
Minus Fat
Minus Sodium
Minus Cholesterol
Minus Gluten
Minus MSG
Minus Additives
Minus Preservatives
Minus Pesticides
Minus Impurities of Any Kind

The same bare white aesthetic is continued inside, with bare white tables and hard white chairs; and it is rather emphasized by the fact that most of the tables are empty. There are a couple of health-food cranks in one corner, and a lonely old man with digestive trouble sits near the kitchen door. In the middle of the room, a party of avant-garde restaurant critics are talking loudly, praising the wonderful geometric arrangement of the food on their plates, but not actually eating any of it. They can perhaps be excused for this omission.

For in truth, the food at the House of Minus is rather unappealing. The only thing on the menu is a special kind of digestive biscuit, manufactured on the premises, and carefully designed to contain nothing that could injure anybody’s health or offend anybody’s palate. The recipe was dictated by the owner, a self-made man who piled up millions in another line of work, and has convinced himself that sickness and death would depart from the world if only everybody could be made to live on an exclusive diet of these biscuits. Needless to say, he himself never eats there.

On the south side of the street is a bizarre building, as rococo as a wedding-cake, painted in all the colours of a fluorescent nightmare. If you shade your eyes carefully, you will be able to read the sign:

A Quality Dining Experience

Fusion Cuisine From Anywhere and Everywhere!
Thrill Your Taste Buds!
Astonish Your Friends!
Every Meal an Original Creation!

This, at any rate, sounds more promising than the Spartan fare across the street; but something seems not quite right, though Positive Delights is considerably busier than the House of Minus. Some of the customers are university students, visiting the place on drunken dares; some are tourists, steered this way by leg-pulling locals. A lot of people eat here once; but the place gets hardly any repeat business, for the delights, sad to say, are booby-trapped.

The cooking is skilful enough, for those of adventurous tastes. The chef has a way of combining the most unlikely ingredients and somehow making it work: it is the only place in the town, or perhaps any other town, where you can get barbecued sardines with a side of chocolate-coated garlic. And there are no words sufficient to describe the ice cream vindaloo.

But there is some question about the ingredients that he uses. Customers have a disturbing tendency to develop food poisoning, or go into anaphylactic shock. The meat dishes are rather suspicious. Small domestic animals go missing in the neighbourhood, and several customers have found dog-licences or bits of collar cooked into their dinners. It is a red-letter day when someone gets a salad that hasn’t got insects in it. Nobody quite knows how the restaurant avoids the wrath of the local health inspector, but somehow it has stayed in business for several years.

Now, the really odd thing about these two establishments is that they actually exist. I have altered the truth in just one detail. The ‘House of Minus’ and ‘Positive Delights’ are not actually restaurants: they are writers.

Read the rest in Style is the Rocket. Now available!