Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: writing (page 1 of 6)

Today–the last day of National Poetry Month–is the final day you’ll be able to get my poetry collection Bite Your Lip & other poems free at Amazon for Kindle–whether that Kindle is your Paperwhite or your iPad or your Android phone or whatever you’re using these days to read. Bite Your Lip & other poems contains 16 different pieces, some of which I wrote way the hell back in my undergrad days but more that I wrote far more recently, and even includes poems about both Doctor Who and Barack Obama. You can get it here.

Continue reading

It’s a way to help readers find new books.

Today, in keeping with celebrating National Poetry Month, The Inevitable Decay of Francis “Fitz-Pack” Fitzgerald is free, and will remain so for the week, but given that Exciting Press has more than 25 titles–at least 23 of which will be enrolled in free promotions over the next several months, and hopefully indefinitely, as well–it’s not really news that there’s a free title. Our hope is there will always be one, from here on out.

Continue reading

Back in February, using a free promotion through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program, my novel The Prodigal Hour attracted more than 8,000 downloads in a mere three and a half days. Enough to steadily climb Amazon’s rankings until it was the number one free science fiction novel on the site. And in the top five action & adventure novels. (You can get it, or any other title from Exciting Press, right here.)

Now, this was when it was free, but even after the $4.99 price tag returned, it stayed in the lists. Not as high, of course, but it sank rather slowly out of them. Moreover, its current ranking on Amazon is a couple hundred thousand higher than it used to be. More people have bought and borrowed it in the past month and a half than ever. The numbers aren’t astronomical, but they’re growing.

Continue reading

As many readers probably already know, April is National Poetry Month. Wikipedia notes:

National Poetry Month was inspired by the success of Black History Month, held each February, and Women’s History Month, held in March.

Neglecting for the moment that conflating poetry, as a genre, to either race or gender seems a little, well, off, celebrating poetry seems like a great idea. Perhaps due to its brevity or the fact that quality within it varies so greatly and is arguably so subjective, poetry is a difficult beast. Lots of people write it with varying degrees of success.

Like me, for example.

Continue reading

“For Cynthia,” the first story from my now-no-longer-exists debut collection Entrekin, is, today, free.

God, I love Kindle Select.

I know not everyone does. Barnes & Noble and IPG and the SFWA all have all used various methods–refusing distribution and bowing out of contract negotiations and, er, removing links to Amazon titles except where those titles are available only through Amazon, apparently, respectively–to express their distinct displeasure with Amazon and Kindle, but me, I’m a reader and a writer and a publisher and, to paraphrase a former colleague copywriting for one of the most famous advertising campaigns in history, I’m loving Amazon and Kindle Select.

But let’s focus on “For Cynthia” for the moment. When I was younger I always liked to read authors’ commentaries on their short stories, accounts of their geneses and executions. So here’s a bit about “For Cynthia.”

Continue reading

On March 1st, 2007, five years ago tomorrow, I published Entrekin, a self-titled debut collection of short stories, essays, and poetry. If you’ve ever been interested but put off picking up a copy, now’s the time to do so, as it’s your very final chance. I said that once, back when I pulled it from Lulu, but then Kindle made it more viable. And now, Kindle’s made a lot of other things more viable, too, which is why I’m pulling it from there, as well, finally. As of a few hours from now, Entrekin will no longer exist.

The stories and words, however, will. In new form.

Continue reading

I’ve noted several times how much I dislike the phrase “self-publishing,” even going so far as to note there’s no such thing. I’ve spoken often enough (arguably too often?) against corporations and conglomerations and the oft-neglected complexity that has come to color storytelling and writing. I’ve noted that people who call the late-twentieth century business model of publishing and distribution “traditional” are badly misusing the word. I realize, however, I’ve never really talked about what independence means to me, or how I’ve come to it, or why. I thought I would.

Continue reading

After careful consideration, I’ve removed my collection from Smashwords and enrolled all my books in Amazon’s new KDP Select program. I did it for both professional and moral reasons that disagree with most everything else people say about Amazon, so I thought I’d tell you about why, but first I wanted to mention that one benefit of doing so means that, for a very limited time (until December 27th, in fact, so just five days including today), all my short stories, essays, and collections will be available free.

Totally free. No catch. No caveat. You don’t have to be a Prime member.

You can find them all right here.

Now. Why am I going Amazon exclusive (if only for 90 days at a shot), when most people in the publishing industry are decrying the evil of the Seattle corporation–even though that’s kind of ironic, given that pretty much everyone who’s called them an evil corporation is either a corporation or deeply associated with one (or many)?

Because I don’t see them as evil. I’m a reader, first–I write because some of the books I want to read haven’t been written yet–and Amazon has done more for me as a reader than anyone else ever. It’s also done more for me as a writer than anyone save my editrix.

But let’s talk about Amazon. And evil. And corporations.

Continue reading

Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered several essays in which authors have enumerated reasons not to “self-publish.” I think that their use of the phrase implies some prejudice already–no lesser a source than Hachette (one of the big 6 publishers) notes in a leaked document that “Self-publishing is a misnomer.” When one major corporation acknowledges the phrase is misleading, another is tries to pawn off vanity services as “assisted self-publishing,” and more writers are discussing all the reasons not to do it, one possible implication is that it has become more viable.

That’s because it has.

Which means the big question is whether or not you should do it.

Continue reading

Just received an email that Amazon has made a special KDP Select option available on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which what many authors–including me–use to publish our work for Kindle. Which is awesome. I know a lot of corporate publishers, literary agents, retailers, and authors are wary of Amazon, its continued growth, and its possible dominance, but for many of us–again, myself included–it’s been uniquely empowering.

The new Select option is interesting; authors who agree to digital exclusivity with Amazon can both make their books available as part of Kindle’s new Lending Library and take advantage of free promotions.

I decided to try it out to see what I could see. I went ahead and enrolled “Jamais Plus: Explorations in the Curious Case of the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, while at the same time increasing its “normal” price to non-promotional level (and taking advantage of that free promotion). “Jamais Plus” is a choose-your-own-adventure noir, a twisting-winding throwback to the adventure novels so many of us grew up on, in which C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of the man who made him an infamous detective. It required substantial and specialized coding to make it work on Kindle, and it’s sort of even more a reading experience than a story.

Continue reading

Titles seem to be one of the elements of writing writers fret over most, and justifiably so. Chances are, titles are the first thing readers see, so they take on a lot of importance. Under ideal circumstances, they somehow carry the whole theme and story all in a quick phrase. My favorites include Needful Things, American Gods, Peace Like a River, and The Silence of the Lambs. All are not just effective but evocative; Stephen King’s Needful Things, in fact, begins with a character discussing the name of the new shop in town, which happens to be Needful Things–“What do you suppose something like that means? Why, a store like that might carry anything. Anything at all.”

And indeed it does. It’s where you can buy anything your heart desires–or at least the fantasy of it. For a price.

Knowing how important a title can be, I always fret over them. Which was why I was relieved when The Prodigal Hour finally came to me.

Continue reading

I never do anything today. Black Friday keeps me safely home, away from bargain-seeking crowds in the retail jungle.

Still, who doesn’t like a good deal, right?

Which is why, for a limited time only, all my books for Kindle are just 99 cents.

This includes the essays and short stories, of course, “Jamais Plus” and “Struck by the Light of the Son,” and “Blues’n How to Play’em.”

But it also includes both:

Meets Girl


The Prodigal Hour

Both of which have been consistently well received and so far well reviewed.

So if you’re looking for some Exciting books to give to people you love, filling up their digital readers or sending them a gift for their phone they can read during their morning commute, they make for a perfect gift. And just 99 cents for a very limited time only.

A long time ago, I dated (briefly) a girl whom I took out on the night before Thanksgiving. We went out with mutual friends to a bar, and we danced and drank and were young. At the end of the evening, I drove her home, and I kissed her goodnight. It was our first kiss, and I remember that cold November evening, the crunch of snow and crackle of ice, the sharp dark air full of possibility. I remember the feel of her lips against mine, the feel of her hair in my fingers, the skin of her cheek under my fingertips.

A brief kiss, as the universe goes. A defiant flicker in the darkness.

She told me, later, long after I’d turned and trudged back to my car and started it and driven home, that she’d melted against the door. Just like in the movies.

I’m grateful for that moment.

Continue reading

All the “versus” debates floating around recently have made me think about debates in the first place. Binary thinking.

Conceptual versus linear thinking. Which, of course, one could argue is just as binary.

Continue reading

Yesterday, I caught Chuck Wending’s post over at his Terrible Minds site, “Writers Are the 99%.” Interesting post about the marginalization of writers in industry and culture.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and especially with regard to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Continue reading

It’s that time of year again!

I’m surprised to realize I wrote “A Writer’s Alternative to NaNoWriMo” two years ago now.

Looking back, it’s fun, but I realize I’ve been reconsidering my opinion of it, especially in light of recent posts and novels.

Continue reading

A year ago today, I began to serialize Meets Girl, then published it in paperback and on Kindle over the Thanksgiving holiday, three weeks into its serialization. I refrained from writing about it for a couple of reasons, the most major being that I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone. However, given that a year–give or take–has passed, I feel the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired.

So I thought I’d take a moment to write about it. If you haven’t read it yet, pick it up here, for Kindle or in paperback, and come back.

If you have, more after the jump.

Continue reading

The other day, amusingly obscene penmonkey Chuck Wendig posted a prompt about Terrible Minds nicknames to Google+. His note at the time was that one’s first name was the object immediately to one’s right, while one’s surname was one’s greatest fear.

Which is where the title of this post comes from, as mine was Remote Control Mediocrity.

Because it got me thinking about success and how we define it. Years ago, I thought six-figure (or any-figure) book contracts were required for validation, because I thought for sure that if one wrote a “good enough” book–meaning a book that is technically competent in all ways–one could get an agent and attract a corporate publisher like Random House.

Continue reading

There are lots of ways to share a book and, in doing so, improve as a writer. Not all those ways are created equal, and some work better than others.

I’m pretty sure there are various websites that basically serve as online writing workshops, and I’m nearly certain that part of Richard Nash’s Red Lemonade has some of that functionality, wherein writers post chapters and stories and the best rise to the top. I’ve participated in both writing groups and online writing workshops in the past, and they all share one thing in common: all are best with a smaller amount of material, and honestly most effective for short stories.

Continue reading

The other day I mentioned you have to decide for yourself what “good enough” means to you. I want to elaborate.

I opened this “Add New Post” page with the intention of noting that I don’t mean it’s okay to be mediocre.

But then I got to thinking, “What’s mediocre?” Just like we wonder “What’s ‘good enough’?”

Continue reading

Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick in the numbers of writers (and agents) discussing when it’s time to give up on a book. Not in the sense of beginning to write a story and then realizing, at some point, that the meat of it isn’t there and it’s not meant to be a novel, but rather in the moment when it’s time to look at the finished product of a novel, acknowledge it’s not good enough, and move on. Such moments inevitably come after a long, slow process of submission and rejection. Sometimes the thought seems to be that if enough literary agents pass on a novel, it must not be good enough for publication and is better off trunked or drawered, ignored but never quite forgotten, dismissed but never quite put out of mind.

Other times, the time to shelve or drawer or trash or bury a book comes later, after an agent has already accepted a project for representation and taken it out on submission to editors, all of whom read the book but scratch their heads because they can’t figure out how to sell it or don’t have room in their lists to do so.

I don’t think you should ever give up on a story just because someone else doesn’t get it, and between the condescension of agents purporting to know when to start a novel and the outright masochism of writers kowtowing to business and commerce and market and all the other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with either writing a good book or telling a good story, I’m just not sure which is worse.

Should you give up on a story? I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you how to make that difficult choice. I know. I’ve done it before.

Continue reading

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to read–besides the Hardy Boys series–was Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels. Mostly, now, I remember their covers, with their white backgrounds, colorful graphics, and red highlights, as well as the note included in the front of every one of them I can remember: that the books weren’t meant to be read like regular books.

If you don’t remember the novels, or if you’ve never seen them, basically, each had a particular premise–pirates, or a mysterious island, or a haunted house, or . . . whatever, really. There were aliens and space travel and underwater adventures and treasure hunting. And each book started out with you–because the books were written in the rare second-person perspective–getting acquainted with the set-up and the setting. After a few pages, you’d encounter your first choice. Sometimes there were two or even three choices for each particular decision, and each one would ask you to flip to a certain page of the book to continue with the story.

I loved them, but it didn’t take long to grow out of them. I was always fairly ahead of the curve, reading-wise (I read Needful Things in sixth grade), and as I remember the novels, they were skewed more toward middle-grade readers, which I was doing fairly well by second grade or so. I remember another book, too, that seemed more advanced, and just now some quick research leads me to Mystery of Atlantis, which is apparently the eighth installment of the Time Machine series. Seeing that cover . . . that book is on the shelves in my parents’ basement, along with my old Star Wars figures and Construx. From Wikipedia:

The main difference between the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the Time Machine series was that Time Machine books featured only one ending, forcing the reader to try many different choices until they discovered it. Also, the series taught children basic history about many diverse subjects, from dinosaurs to World War II. Only the sixth book in the series, The Rings of Saturn, departed from actual history; it is set in the future, and features educational content about the solar system. Some books gave the reader their choice from a small list of equipment at the beginning, and this choice would affect events later in the book (e.g. “If you brought the pen knife, turn to page 52, if not turn to page 45.”). Another main difference between the Time Machine novels and the Choose Your Own Adventure counterparts was hints offered at certain junctures, where the reader was advised to look at hints at the back of the book. An example was in Mission to World War II about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where the reader was given the choice of starting the mission in the Jewish ghetto or the Aryan part of Warsaw, in which the hint read “Hitler may have had Jewish family members”, suggesting the reader should begin in the Jewish section of the city, but not ordering it, or it was possible for the hint to be missed.

I think maybe that’s why I remember that particular book as more advanced, but it’s also worth pointing out just how much things can influence you without your awareness. Meets Girl may be semi-autobiographical, but The Prodigal Hour is who I am.

But I digress.

Continue reading

The very first essay I wrote at USC was called “What I Saw That Day (9/11/01).” It was an essay I’d been trying to write successfully for several years but never pulled off, and I thought bringing it to my first non-fiction class and submitting it for workshopping would help to improve it.

And I was right. Thanks to Madelyn Cain-Inglese and my classmates, I finally felt as though I’d written something worthy. I think that’s the only way I can describe it. So much has been (and continues to be) written about that day, and my feeling’s always been that if I don’t have something to contribute I’d rather leave the discussion to others.

“What I Saw That Day (9/11/01)” was something I wanted to contribute to the collective cultural memory.

I wrote “The Come Back” the first time I visited New York after writing that essay to my own satisfaction.

In May, when I heard the news that American Special Forces had killed Osama Bin Laden, I started a new essay. I started it with the intention of posting it here, but it ultimately became something rather more. It became something of a discussion of how my life had changed after September 11th.

And as it did, I thought it would be fitting to create a new book for Kindle. Something specifically honoring and chronicling that day and discussing my experiences and memories of it.

So I did. Here’s the link. It’s a dollar.

When I first published Entrekin, I dedicated a portion of its proceeds to charities, including the United Way and the Red Cross. I’m doing the same with this new collection.

Part II

All Our Yesterdays

“It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction at which we arrive by means of the changes of things.”
-Ernst Mach

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change those I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
-Traditional Gaelic prayer

“The sole purpose of history is to be rewritten.”
-Oscar Wilde in “The Decay of Lying”

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession, a duty.”
-John D. Rockefeller


Every hair on Chance’s body had tensed as if it planned to jump from its follicle, and goosebumps singed up his back and around his arms and legs. Even his lips tingled.

The lightning blazed the sky around it electrostatic blue-white, which faded first to purple, then indigo, and then finally into darkness. Raindrops like crystal pebbles filled the air, and a giant smoke cloud, highlighted by orange flame, smudged the night where Chance’s house had been.

Hanley, Geisel, and Nazor all stood paused in the street like mannequins, pointing their guns at each like characters in comic-book panels, their faces stunned, angry. A tiny burst of white clung to the muzzle of Hanley’s gun, and a thin curlicue of smoke like a prehensile tail trailed upwards from it without ever moving at all.

Chance took everything in without ever moving his head. His gut had clenched, his hands bunched into frightened fists, and his whole body had locked up tight, not like it couldn’t move but rather like he was too petrified.

“What’d you do?” he whispered. He barely moved his lips when he did so, and he didn’t turn his head to look at her.

When she spoke, her voice shook between awed, desperate, defensive, and apologetic. “I had to. Everything you said would happen was—I needed to think.”

“So what, you paused time?” His attention focused on the millions of frozen raindrops, each like a glass bead. “Can we move? Is it safe?”

“Should be.”

Continue reading

Over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds site, the resident penmonkey extraordinaire was kind enough to chat with me and introduce me to his readers.

We discuss some thoughts about indie versus so-called “self-publishing,” but we also chat about writing advice, motivations, and beverage of choice.

Check it out.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention Chuck’s Irregular Creatures, a short story collection. He’s got two collections of writing advice worth checking out, as well.

Things in the story are heating up while at the same time standing utterly still. Cassie just started up the time machine. Meanwhile, at CIRTN, Leonard and Race watched the September 11th terrorist attacks occur.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that the next installment, Chapter 11, begins our second act, which is about as it should be; while a first act is about set-up, the second act is complication (and the third is resolution). I feel like there’s an ‘-ion’ word for the first act, but for the moment it eludes me.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned I intend to post the first twenty or so chapters here, on this site, and only those chapters, which bring the novel up to the midpoint of the second act.

So we’re about halfway there.

And here we are, at the end of summer, autumn in the near-distance already making her presence known. The air here in Pittsburgh is turning more mild. There’s a lot of autumn in The Prodigal Hour; it is–at least partly–set on October 31st, 2001. Only “at least partly” because, of course, it’s also set–

Well. Spoilers, as River Song would tell the Doctor.

But it’s worth noting that when I say The Prodigal Hour is a pre-/post-9/11 novel, I don’t just mean that it begins both afterward and in Elizabethan England. I mean “pre-/post-9/11” in a very literal way, as we discovered last installment, when Leonard requested to travel to September 10th, 2001.

One of the major reasons I chose to publish The Prodigal Hour independently was that I wanted it to be available right now, so close to the tenth anniversary of that day. For me, personally, that felt important. Probably because of my experiences that day. I’m not sure, to be candid.

I’m also not sure, precisely, why it feels right to offer the novel on sale for the next two weeks, but it does. So I’m going to. For a limited time–probably the next two weeks–you can pick up The Prodigal Hour for just 99 cents on Kindle.

In November 1913, Nils Granlund, a manager at a theater in Marcus Loew’s chain, produced a promotional video for an upcoming musical, which he intended to show after other movies had already finished, which was why such short promotional videos were called trailers. The Marcus Loew chain ultimately became Loew’s Theaters (now AMC), and savvy theater managers began to run trailers before movies, rather than after.

Now, of course, the trailers/previews/coming attractions are one of the highlights of going to the theater.

And they’re not just for movies anymore.

It was easy to appropriate the idea for television. Trailers were just commercials for movies, anyway, so previews for new and upcoming episodes and shows were just that. And then came MTV, which was basically trailers for albums in the form of music videos.

In recent years, authors and publishers have taken up the idea. James Patterson, who was successful in advertising before he became the brand-name author he has become, was pretty much the first author to use the idea successfully in 1993 to support the launch of Along Came a Spider. His publisher wasn’t exactly for it, but Patterson wrote, produced, and paid for the commercial himself, and if it wasn’t the first-ever commercial for a novel, it was certainly a milestone in the current big-name publishing landscape and brand-name authors. Now, the internet, YouTube, and digital cameras have made it simple for authors to make and distribute promotional videos for their books even more easily.

Now that the idea is more popular and more authors are using it, however, more people are wondering about how effective teasers are (I like to call them teasers. They’re not trailing after anything, after all). Should authors really be worrying about them, or are they a waste of time?

To answer those questions, we have to back up a ways.

Continue reading

New to the story? Start here.

Geneva, Switzerland. October 31, 2001.

Conseil Internationale pour la Recherche Temporel et Nucleaire
(CIRTN, pronounced ‘certain’).
The Safe.

Hundreds of meters below the Operations Center, Leonard strode across the Schrodinger Chamber at the core of the Large Hadron Collider. Behind him, the Safe looked like a gunmetal cigar resting on its unlit tip, rising twenty feet before its tapered top intersected with the bottom of a down-pointing, porcelain white cone. Because the entire room was brilliant white as a laser-treated smile, its exact dimensions were elusive; its only visible feature besides the semi-cylindrical chamber was a small, dark-glassed screen next to a large door.

Leonard placed his palm on the screen, and a bright blue laser scanned his palm. It sped his fingerprints through CIRTN’s electronic databases before the door next to it whirred open. Leonard stepped through, into a long, white corridor where a man wearing the CIRTN uniform, khaki fatigues and dark shoes, waited.

The man half-raised his arm to salute, but paused at Leonard’s outfit. “Lieutenant Kensington,” he said, with an accent Leonard couldn’t identify.

“At ease,” Leonard said as he strode past.

The man fell into step behind him. “Grand Marshall Atropos asked me to brief you,” he said. “I’m Private Madison—.”

Leonard nodded. “There’s a problem.”

Continue reading

New to the novel? Start here.

Chance awoke to bumps and shudders, a wailing, backward-rushing cacophony and the furtive rustle of crinkling plastic. Something clung over his nose and mouth, and pain throbbed in his head. His first thought was of his father and the gunman. His first emotion was panic. His first action was to sit up as he reached toward his face, where his fingertips brushed a mask.

Quick movement. A man to his left crouched over him. He wore a crisp, white shirt with a gold-and-black patch and put a latex-gloved hand on Chance’s chest. “Take it easy.”

“My dad.” Chance’s breath fogged the mask. His voice didn’t make it past the plastic.

“We’re taking you to County.”

Chance tried to rise, but the man pressed back against his chest, whispered something about sedation if necessary, and then, when Chance wouldn’t calm down, when Chance couldn’t calm down, made good on the warning. Chance felt a pinch near his elbow, looked down to see a clear plastic syringe with numbers on its side jammed to its hilt into his arm. He didn’t see the man depress the plunger, only felt calm, warm indifference spread like infection through his body before he sank slowly again into the darkness.

Continue reading

Older posts