Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: the prodigal hour

At the time of this writing, The Prodigal Hour is free on Kindle and has, in a day and a half, been downloaded more than 2000 times, and it currently ranks alongside George R.R. Martin’s latest novel atop Kindle’s list of top science fiction.

And me? I’m stunned.

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Hey, right now, my pre-/post-9/11 time-travel novel, The Prodigal Hour is free for Kindle.

I have to be honest with you: I have absolutely no idea how to feel about that.

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Self explanatory, isn’t it?

Over Christmas, I tried the free thing and saw stories and essays get downloaded more than 1200 times.

I’m interested to see what will happen with a novel.

For anyone new (as I’m hoping such a promotion will attract), The Prodigal Hour might well be the world’s only pre-/post-9/11 novel. It’s about time travel and alternate histories and trying to change the world one moment at a time.

For anyone not new who hasn’t yet picked it up, now’s the time. Hope you enjoy it.

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.

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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.

After debuting at $2.99 and having a 99-cent pre-/post-9/11 sale, The Prodigal Hour is now on sale for $4.99 at Amazon.

Now that Kindle’s Direct Publishing platform has allowed so many authors to bypass both literary agents and corporations’ acquisitions editors in favor of connecting directly with readers, many conventions long simply rotely accepted are being questioned.

One is pricing.

In a corporate-type situation, it’s not difficult to determine pricing. Probably due to a confluence of complicated factors too boring to really contemplate, we all know about how much a trade paperback costs: usually between $12.99 and $14.99, right? I think that’s about the upper limit. Hardcovers are, what, $27-ish? Maybe $30?

(Which prompts a question: who pays full price for a hardcover? Don’t all hardcovers [and most trade paperbacks, nowadays] come with some discount or other? Back when I was a proud carrier of a Barnes & Noble card Members Receive An Extra 10% Off books already discounted by 30% or more.)

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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New to the novel? Start here.

Southwark, England. 1606.

The first public performance of Shakespeare’s
The Tragedy of Macbeth


The Globe Theater was exactly as Leonard Kensington had expected: an open-air amphitheatre with three levels of gallery seats looming up and over him. Crushed hazelnut shells on the ground didn’t quite mask the body odor of 2,000 people who lived in a society that hadn’t yet discovered underarm deodorant.

Onstage, Richard Burbage, as Macbeth, began the fifth act to conclude the play. “Hang out our banners on the outward walls,” he pointed out over the audience as if he were seeing Inverness, and so the Globe pretended it was a centuries-old castle in Scotland, the river Thames pretended it was Ness. “The cry is still, ‘They come.’ Our castle’s strength will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie till famine and the ague eat them up. Were they not forced with those that should be ours, we might have met them dareful, beard to beard, and beat them backward home.”

The quantum implant in Leonard’s temporal lobe began to buzz. He squeezed his earlobe, quietly cleared his throat, which meant: wait. He looked around at the people standing beside him, all of whom were enthralled by that big man on the stage and his words.

Backstage, and so in the bowels of Castle Inverness, several women screamed. Macbeth turned toward the sound. “What is that noise?”

“It is the cry of women, my good lord,” Will Shakespeare, playing Macbeth’s attendant, Seyton, answered. Shakespeare was a small, pale man with fine features and quick, lively eyes. He hurried offstage to investigate.

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“It is not unknown to me that many have been and still are of the opinion that the affairs of this world are so under the direction of Fortune and of God that man’s prudence cannot control them; in fact that man has no resource against them. For this reason, many think there is no use in sweating much over such matters, but that one might as well let Chance take control.”

-Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince


Part I

Present Fears

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute, there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
-T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”



Chance Sowin hoped only for a new beginning.

Halloween 2001 found Chance driving the narrow streets of the development in which he’d grown up, headed home. Six weeks before, he’d hustled out the main entrance of the World Trade Center only an hour before it fell, taking all that business and life, along with Chance’s temp job at a law firm, down with it.

Chance hadn’t been sure what to do next. His father, Dennis, had suggested he come home. “Take some time,” his father had said. “Sort yourself out. All the time you need.”

Chance had been uncertain about it until he’d realized there was no longer anything keeping him in Manhattan, and familiar sounded good. Familiar sounded just about right. And so he’d packed everything he owned into a compact rental car and taken the Jersey Turnpike south, and now he pulled that car to the curb in front of his childhood home, a long, flat rancher. He squeezed the steering wheel as he took a deep breath, as if to steel himself, though for what he didn’t know, and then he got out of the car and stepped up the curb and was struck by déjà vu like sudden density goose-prickling up his neck: You’ve been here before.

Of course he had: he’d grown up here, after all, played stickball at the foot of the cul-de-sac, even tripped and busted his baby teeth on the very same curb he stepped up, but what crawled his skin was not simple familiarity. It was stronger, stranger, and it made the world seem hyper-intense, the October leaves speckling the lawn more vibrant, the afternoon light more glaring. It persisted as Chance crossed his lawn, until he saw the front door: brief space between the edge of the door and its jamb, wood splintered where the deadbolt had broken. Chance felt two simultaneous emotions collide.

First: uncanny familiarity—of infinite broken doors on infinite splintered days, over and over again—followed then, as lightning by thunder, by cold, brutal fear.
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You’ve known it’s coming.

I hope you’ve prepared.

I just went over the proof myself, and just handed it to my editrix, who’s informed me she’s attacked it with her red pen.

This summer, I’ll be releasing it to you.

I plan on a similar schedule as with Meets Girl, with some differences, the most notable being that The Prodigal Hour is a vastly different book with a vastly different structure, and I intend to post through to the end of the second act. That’ll be 30 chapters.

You won’t have to wait for each one, though.

I’m aiming to make it available in time for July 4th weekend. The Prodigal Hour has always been my huge, mainstream, uber-commercial, blockbuster of a time-travel novel, and with that in mind, at what better time to make it available than over a big summer weekend?

And for an independent author like myself, what better big summer weekend to do so than the one that celebrates independence?

To celebrate, I’m releasing the first teaser today:

When Simon Smithson and I published Sparks, the deal as we had discussed it always included a 6-week clause. When Sparks did so well at the outset–flying up the Amazon rankings in multiple categories and hanging in as a “Hot New Release” over Christmas–we briefly discussed keeping it live longer, but ultimately decided against it.

I think it was the right decision for Sparks. The 6-week window introduced an element of scarcity it didn’t otherwise have.

Digital publishing, however, seems to favor what many businessfolk call the long tail and I like to call the long game, mainly because even though I (mostly) have an MBA, I still like to play.

Now, just a week or so ago, Amazon announced a new Kindle Singles program, which Wired hailed as a beacon to “save long-form journalism.” Basically, it’s Kindle-original content that’s longer than a magazine piece but “much shorter than a novel,” clocking between 5,000 and 40,000 words, it seems. According to Wired. According to that press release, the lengths hew to approximately that midpoint.

I liked the idea. When I first published Entrekin, I used Lulu to implement what I called the iTunes publishing model; the collection was available, but each individual story was available as a 99-cent PDF.

It was a rousing success. It sold way more copies than I’d ever expected. When I made the digital content free, the downloads skyrocketed.

And now that Sparks‘ time has passed, and now that Amazon has announced this Kindle Singles–which is pretty much exactly the model I implemented nearly four years ago–well, it felt rather natural to published both of my Sparks stories the same way.

So I’m going to, and I’m going to start with “Struck by the Light of the Son,” and I thought, hey, what a great opportunity to talk about it a bit.

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So, how about Monday’s final chapter of Meets Girl? With the kissing and all? I don’t think I’m spoiling too much if I tell you that chapter thirteen is actually “Kissing Veronica Sawyer,” because how could our young hero narrator resist rhapsodizing about said making out?

Of course, if you want to read it, you’ll have to pick it up here. It’s still only $2.99. I’m keeping it there for the time being. I figure anyone who buys it right now has been following along, and keeping it inexpensive is my way of saying thanks for keeping up.

At this point, it doesn’t look like I’ll be posting any more of the story online. I mean, I won’t rule it out, if someone asks to run an excerpt or something, but here and now I like the cliffhanger, and really, three bucks for the rest of the story–which is really picking up–is a total bargain.

Already, it’s been a solidly positive experience. Reviews are good: Shannon Yarbrough of The LL Book Review said “So it’s romance and fairy tales. But it’s magic and whimsy too. It’s a writer’s lament and a coming-of-age tale (for lack of a better cliché.) It’s experimentation and taking chances. It’s poetry and music. It’s love and art. Boy says so himself…”

Which I thought was great. I liked that Shannon called it a coming-of-age tale, because while the hero-narrator of the story is in his mid-twenties, he still seems pretty immature, for the most part, for most of the story.

And there is a solid chunk left. Somewhere around twenty thousand words.

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Seems like this week is always rather retrospective. Years in review, all that. Lots of sites running “Top Stories of 2010” posts, as though what wouldn’t have been news again last week suddenly is solely by virtue of when it was news. It’s like the East Coast blizzard froze the whole world, which is stuck hoping for thaw to begin tomorrow.

I thought about doing some best-of posts. The decade-best lists are some of the most popular posts on this site. Yesterday, however, I glanced through a list of movies that came out in 2011 and found precisely two I thought were remarkable: How to Train Your Dragon and The Social Network. The former was a surprise; it had a lot of heart and was a lot of fun, and it managed that rare thing of being a movie aimed at a younger audience that appealed across a wider age range without using irreverent humor and other such innuendo-based means. With Shrek, one of the things that increased its appeal was jokes that kids wouldn’t have gotten; it worked on multiple levels; Dragon, on the other hand, stuck mainly consistent in just trying to tell its story, and I think it was a better movie for it.

The Social Network demonstrates that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Panic Room were flukes from a guy who’s been getting better since the beginning, by which I mean that David Fincher had shown signs of improvement over his career and development as a director in years previous by making movies that were consistently better than the ones before. Se7en was fantastic after Alien3. The Game is underrated, and then there’s Fight Club, and then, just when you think that he’s got a style, signature shots, all that, Zodiac, which was the first time he just turned the camera on and followed the story (which isn’t to say his obvious style didn’t serve his other movies). And now The Social Network the rise and continued rise of Zuckerberg and Facebook, which was, on all levels, fantastic.

I read other movies people were raving about, but didn’t much like them when I sat down to check them out. Inception, in particular . . . just didn’t do it for me. Funny: I remember when The Matrix came out, and all the people who claimed not to “get it,” that it just never made sense to them, all that, and then watching Inception . . . my initial thought was “So it’s The Matrix but with dreams and less action?”

That thought never went away. It eventually became more negative, in fact, but one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive. Exciting is not about negativity, after all.

Other things that were exciting:

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Meets Girl and its preorder is not the biggest news in books and writing this week.

I know! I’m as surprised as you are.

No, but seriously, I do hope you’ve been enjoying the serialization, and I hope you’re looking forward to launch day as much as I am. Or maybe even more; I’m looking forward to it with equal measures of excitement, hope, and terror. Especially considering that I’m a totally unknown writer, and especially especially given that what I’m doing flies against the conventional, the traditional, the Way Things Are Done.

Because let’s face it, this ain’t it.

The Way Things Are Done right now, really, is simple: if I wanted to go the conventional, traditional route I’d write up a nice, succinct query letter, and I’d go to Twitter and Agent Query dot com and literary agents’ websites, and I’d read their guidelines and I’d choose, say, ten agents to send that query letter, and the first chapter of Meets Girl, to. After which point, I’d hurry up and wait. I’d try to forget I’d sent anything out, because remembering so is a sure path to crazy, but mostly I’d be waiting for rejection emails if I got any responses at all, because so many agents, nowadays, don’t send them.

I’d do that because so many publishers–most especially the big six, but every day, others, too–don’t accept unagented manuscripts. Like there’s some sort of vetting. Kept gates, the theory goes.

Used to be–once upon a time–I followed that path, those rules. I queried out The Prodigal Hour, and before that Twilight Brilliance.

And maybe–onceuponatime–that system worked. It worked then, I sheepishly admit, because though I plan to do the same thing with The Prodigal Hour that I’m doing with Meets Girl, that’s only because I rewrote and revised and rewrote it again until it was actually a good novel.

You’ll probably never see Twilight Brilliance. Even my editrix had to wheedle and cajole it from my old hard drive.

But now?

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Last week, I found out about Galleycat’s Book Pitch Party about an hour before its deadline. I like Galleycat; I haven’t been able to keep up with it as much, lately, but when I can, I’m not sure there’s a more valuable resource for publishing.

The Pitch Party, the contest post announced, was held in the W Union Square’s Underbar, which is one of the swanky-hip sorts of rooms Manhattan is famous for. Reminded me a lot, in fact, of the Happy Ending Lounge, on Broome Street, which is where I read for The Nervous Breakdown.

We can argue the real validity of writers reading in a bar. Most, unfortunately, can’t. It’s not writers’ fault; writing is held as a solitary sort of profession, and even I get nervous enough my stage presence isn’t yet where I’d like it to be. Probably takes a lot more practice than I have, even though I stand before classrooms all the time. There’s something, too, about reading in a dim lounge; there are always clinks and murmurs, and it’s obvious in a way it never is when a band’s on.

When I heard it was in New York, and it was for pitches, I had to submit. So I went through my email and basically lifted my usual query for The Prodigal Hour and sent it in.

The following day, I was congratulated to be a finalist. I was going to pitch!

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I started working at Equinox Greenwich Avenue on June 1st of this year. After a few weeks of training and corporate policy, I got cleared to do fitness analyses and complimentary personal training sessions.

Ramping up a personal training business isn’t exactly easy. One starts from scratch, basically, in a new gym. The first few weeks are spent less meeting members than meeting colleagues, after which one becomes more comfortable and can start talking to more people. Offering to do sessions, bringing people in to establish fitness foundations and help them reach their goals.

I didn’t train my first actual client until mid-July, but after that I started to gain more traction, and just about two months later, I’ve had nearly a dozen clients. Several have come twice a week pretty consistently, even with vacation time off, and already we’re getting great results.

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I’ve mentioned before I’m currently in the submission process with my novel, The Prodigal Hour. So far it’s okay; not spectacular, but not terrible, either. Of course, “spectacular” would probably be defined as “offered representation,” and I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. I considered talking more about the submission process itself, but I think I’m going to do so more after I’ve been offered representation, and not before.

I’m going through the process as you’d expect; search the Internet and Writers’ Market and etc. for agents who are either actively seeking new clients or sound like they may be vaguely interested. And then I send a query, which looks pretty much as you’d expect a query to look: intro, synopsis, bio, and out. The intro gives me some trouble, though, because that’s where I mention the title, word count, and genre of my novel, and boyhow is that last characteristic ever a trouble spot. Many might think it’s easy: time travel automatically = science fiction.

But not so fast, I say.

Because I don’t feel like I wrote a science fiction novel. I don’t generally read science fiction novels. Science fiction is all wars among and treks across the stars, and it has a long and illustrious history I don’t feel a part of. Growing up, my choices for reading material were all Dean Koontz and Stephen King pretty much straight across the board, with digressions into Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff. Given that among my first experiences with Stephen King was a short story called “Strawberry Spring,” after which I read Different Seasons, I always had trouble thinking of him as a ‘horror’ writer. I never read It and never got to his straight-up horror until after I’d already read “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.”

Try showing someone with no previous knowledge of their origins the movie adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me and then explaining to them they were both based on books by a horror writer.

Because they certainly aren’t horror stories.

Admittedly, King is a bit of an exception; he himself is pretty much as much a genre as “horror”. People buy his books for his name, not for the genre.

Few people are going to buy The Prodigal Hour for my name, and you’re probably already reading this, anyway.

So far, I’ve been calling it a techno-thriller, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. It is thrilling (well. That’s the hope, at least), but character and plot work in pretty much equal measure, and it’s certainly not just about the thrills.

I sort of understand the requirement; it determines, basically, where your book is placed on bookstores’ shelves, which is key. I rarely venture to the scifi/fantasy shelves except to grab Neil Gaiman’s newest book, and again, I’m buying the name, not the genre.

I’m also thinking ahead. This one may be about time travel, but my next two big ones are about vampires and then werewolves, and both do things with those myths I’ve never seen nor heard done before. You can lump them all into science fiction/fantasy, I suppose, but I certainly wouldn’t, and I honestly think publishers and booksellers do more harm than good in categorizing books. Yesterday, Mitzi Szereto wrote about how publishers label books and how those labels can affect their sales, specifically related to erotica.

One of the things that’s gotten me thinking about this, too, are the writers who write stories that seem pretty categorically genre but whose books are not placed there. Lethem started out writing mostly weird science fiction tales. Crichton’s got Jurassic Park and Timeline, at least, not to mention Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was narrated by a dead girl, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife seems like science fantasy.

And then there’s Michael Chabon. He just won a Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. The Hugo is a major award so known for science fiction that, when a handful of fantasy novels won (including JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Gaiman’s American Gods), some controversy got stirred up.

I haven’t heard any such controversy about the award having gone to Chabon’s novel, which is mostly an alternate history set in the present (I haven’t read the book. I tried. Got about twenty pages in before I gave up on it). But Chabon is an author with both mass appeal and a Pulitzer under his belt, and, in fact, more so than controversy, the win has mainly stirred up discussion like here, where IO9 asks which mainstream authors its readers would like to see write science fiction.

Personally, I don’t want any mainstream authors to deign to write anything they don’t enjoy. Personally, I’d like someone to point out, hey, wait a minute, twenty of the twenty-five movies with the highest worldwide gross ever have been genre movies, and, arguably, science fiction or fantasy movies. The only exceptions are Titanic, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Da Vinci Code, the last two of which are certainly genre movies (adventure and thriller, respectively) even if not science fiction or fantasy.

Seems like it’s mainstream to me.

It’s like people expect good entertainment from all media until they hit books, and then some weirdo mechanism steps in and says that it must be “literature” to be any good while preventing the memory that the whole reason Shakespeare is awesome is because he wrote swordfights and fairies and witches so damned well into really exciting stories.

I’ve been reading more stories, lately, about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (its acronym refers to the French Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, which was its original provisional body before it became an organization in 1954). CERN is on the Franco-Swiss border in Geneva, and its reason for being is fundamental physics.

I’ve always been fascinated by physics, though in specific ways; I always sucked at math, and indeed nearly flunked physics in college, but I’ve always loved the study of black holes and relativity (at least, so nearly as I can understand them). When I was in high school, I read Leon Lederman’s The God Particle; I got through the first few chapters but then gave up when it started with its equations (which has always been where my brain shuts off. Numbers, fine, but I can’t handle letters if they’re not in writing and books).

The LHC is the latest in a series of 8 particle accelerators, which use electric fields to propel charged particles at high speeds. Basically, I think of it like if two bullets struck each other to explode and you studied the fragments, which is probably overly simplistic, but I’m no physicist. But the general idea, I think, is that, like, two protons or quarks or whathaveyou will collide to explode, thereby freeing the particles that make them up, and scientists are most excited about one theoretical particle in particular: the Higgs boson. It is, so far, theoretical, but it’s the only particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that hasn’t been observed; scientists hypothesize that it may be the particle behind the property of mass.

They are excited because, as it is the largest, most advanced, and most powerful accelerator ever, they believe that the LHC experiments might produce one.

Some, however, have speculated it’s not all the LHC might produce.

As with everything that very few people fully understand, one of the things I’ve been reading about the LHC is the catastrophic results that may or may not occur. Everything from some wild speculation that it might cause a microscopic blackhole that could, in turn, suck the planet through it to the wilder speculation that one of its explosions might release enough energy to cause a small tear in the fabric of spacetime that would actually be a doorway into Hell and allow Satan and his legions of demons through to initiate the endtimes. In his novel FlashForward, Robert Sawyer wrote a story in which, for 8 minutes, all of human consciousness flashed forward a certain amount of years (I’d link to it, but I ultimately thought it was pretty bad). Richard Cox explored the idea of the Higgs in his novel The God Particle, which is more of a technothriller (and, to my tastes, better [though not quite as good as Cox’s other book, Rift]).

But the coolest, most awesome speculation I’ve heard?

That the LHC won’t actually work.

Because apparently, if it does work when they fire it up, the effects it produces might cause backward ripples in time, which could prevent its previous self from properly functioning.

I’ll give you a second to read that sentence again.

Z. O. M. G.

It’s one of the most exciting ideas I’ve ever heard in my life.

Of course, admittedly, the chances of its occurring are probably slim to none, and Slim just left. But even still, just the fact that a couple of major scientists (one from the University of Copenhagen, the other from Kyoto University, so it ain’t like they’re academic slouches, or anything) think it’s possible just blows my frickin’ mind.

I’ll admit I’m also excited for a rather selfish reason. You see, both the Higgs boson and CERN figure into The Prodigal Hour as major plot points. And yes, I tell you that to tease.

You can read more about CERN and the LHC here.

Two nice spots of news today.

The first is that I got a request for a partial of The Prodigal Hour. I sent along the first fifty pages, which, nicely, end on what I think is a rather awesome chapter-break-cliffhanger.

Interestingly, the request came yesterday. Which the observant among you will notice was a Sunday, because, apparently, the Internet and e-mail and the digital age have rendered the five day workweek quaint, at best. In fact, the agent in question came to my attention via Twitter.

Brave new world indeed.

The other is totally geeky but something I was relieved about: Google. After I deleted my MySpace page, the first Google hit on my name linked to the PODler’s review, which was an excellent review, except for some reason Google excerpted a portion of the comments to the search results, so that what came up, rather than that my book was “poetic” and “cinematic” and “the writing of bestsellers” and “a stellar collection by a writer of promise,” was that I was a great writer who was full of myself.

I guess the traffic link, or whatever determines Google ranking, expired recently, because now my website is the first thing that comes up. No mention of my being full of myself.

Which is nice.

Anyway, I’m obviously far more excited about the partial request. Also: hopeful. You should be, too; The Prodigal Hour is just a little bit closer to you.

So wish it luck, because the more luck it has, the sooner you’re going to get it.

And come on: you know you want it.

When I first started the new blog, I meant Imagery to be not just pictures but videos as well, and not just videos like my cousin playing his guitar. I’ve gotten sidetracked lately, admittedly; I have lots of pictures to post, but my first and greatest priority for the past two months was revising The Prodigal Hour.

Now that I’m done, though, and now that I’m even in the process of submitting for representation, I can do more of what I originally intended.

Including videos like this:

This is “How the World Will End,” from my debut collection Entrekin, and honestly, it’s much how I envisioned it in my head.

So now you get to see it.

Hopefully, this will reduce the ambiguity Emily Veinglory complained of in her review of the freeview. I generally tried to be as explicit as I could without becoming actually graphic, but I was trying to capture something simple: if the world were to end right now, if the news were interrupted to report Iran had launched a nuclear attack on the US and there really was no hope for survival, well, I’d want to spend my remaining time makin’ love.

Anyway, that’s the story and its Imagery; as this is the first one, I’m cross-posting it to both blogs. Mostly to announce it.

I have plans for more, I think. But this, as well as the usual pictures, is what to expect.

Hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

(edit: unfortunately, I was informed that one of the images I had used was actually the work of an artist who hadn’t licensed his work under Creative Commons, which was the impression I had been working with. While I sort the issue out, I’m pulling the link and the video itself. I’ll repost if I can.



So, when I handed it in as my thesis, my novel, The Prodigal Hour, clocked in at roughly 104,000 words.

Besides some job hunting and basic settling in during the past two weeks, I’ve been doing pretty much nothing besides revising. I bound a few copies using Lulu, then cracked it open with some notes from some trusted friends . . .

I’m proud of this, for the first time. I read the whole book pretty fresh, trying to see it as a new reader might despite that I wrote the damned thing (arguably the single greatest stumbling block to revision), but the thing I keep noticing is that I like it.

I try to avoid “good.” Or “great.” Or “fucking rad.” But I’m so psyched that I can just about say, “Wow, I wrote a book I like.”

I’ve been cutting like mad. So far, I’ve hacked nearly 10,000 words off, and I’m hoping for another several thousand. But the cool thing is that I’ve noticed, after cutting the extraneous words, that the words that remain are shiny.

And I’m having fun. Oh, boyhow.

I thought I’d share a bit with you:

Chance laughed. “I’m not sure you could’ve, Cass.” He thought of all those traveling men with their quills and parchments, with their boats and their spears, and if he had possessed a compass, he would have taken it up to rechart the world before him, tygers be damned. This place was his. He claimed it. The present we share, but the past and the future belong to Chance.

Made me smile, anyway.

So, off to finish. My goal is this weekend. And then: submissions, as well as maybe a few sleeve-tricks. I’ve got nothing up them, but you should know by now I might just produce a rabbit, anyway.

Abracadabra, motherfucker.