Boskone breakdown

This past weekend I traded biblical rains and landslides for ice, snow and surprisingly moderate temperatures at Boskone. This is my favorite East Coast con for several reasons, not the least of which is an opportunity to hobnob with Chia and George–the other coastal elites of the Unreliable Narrators–as well as other friends and cohorts.

A few highlights:

– The hotel. Westin Boston Waterfront is one of the best convention sites around: clean and modern rooms, a spacious lobby and bar, several decent restaurants and plenty of conference space. Relieves the downside of sitting in a quiet and uneventful part of town.

– Several lively panels. Hearing Brandon Sanderson, Charles Stross and Walter Jon Williams discuss their toughest books was highly entertaining. And moderator extraordinaire Julia Rios even plugged our podcast and drama series during her panel on podcasting.

– The horror contingent. A small but closeknit group of horror authors provided lively discussions of horror in literature and on the silver screen. They even showed up for each other at the Kaffeeklatches. Other genres, take note.

– The flash fiction slam. Three of the Narrators–George,Chia and I–participated in the contest, and George took second place with his tale of disease warfare. Three minutes is… not a lot of time to read a piece.

– Dinner with Walter, Julia and my fellow Narrators. Deconstructed shellfish and onion strings atop every dish (even the fish and chips!) Now we know why it’s called a test kitchen.

So very not a highlight: the three-hour delay into Boston and the two-hour delay returning home. This follows a four-hour stretch of boredom in Chicago on my last trip. Yeah, I think I’m done with United. This is not the sort of thing I’m interested in becoming business as usual.

Thanks, Boston. I’m sure we’ll meet again before long. And damn, was it nice not hearing about our orange dystopia for a few days.

Everything I know about audio drama I learned from E’ville

Today I published the final episode of my eight-part audio drama, E’ville, over on the Unreliable Narrators site. What began as a group project became my own mission to write, produce and edit a radio-style serial. Strictly amateur, and an answer to many what-if scenarios rattling around in my head. Could I piece together such an ambitious project using crowd-sourced voice acting from my friends and cohorts? Could I deliver a series of episodes on a self-imposed schedule, eight episodes in eight weeks? Would it be any good?

Happily, all answers are yes. Well, that last one I leave to you, dear listener. But I’m satisfied with the results, as grand experiments go.

I did learn a ton. Some observations, in case I feel the need to undertake something like this again:

Nothing like starting out big. Maybe I should have tried a nice, single-episode short for starters. But where would be the fun in that? I wanted a challenge that combined my many creative interests, and by god, that’s what I got. Every writer knows that nagging idea that takes hold of your brain and refuses to piss off while you finish that other shiny project on your desk. This wasn’t going anywhere until I delivered, so I did. Perhaps a few too many characters, perhaps a few too-busy scenes for audio only. The important thing is, it’s out of my mind and I can reclaim headspace for a few other deserving projects.

Crowd-sourcing voice performances via the internet has its own rewards. The talent involved represents old friends, new colleagues, people I don’t know (yet). And it was fun to stitch together those elements of my life in one place. The drawback, of course, is that you sacrifice a good deal of control over audio quality when most of the actors are miles away–not nestled in your own, soundproof studio and using the same microphones. Given the size and disparate schedules of the cast, table reads were right out as well. But hey, I lucked into a great group of people who were quite talented and quite game.

Ah, copyright law. U.S. copyright law, in particular. Such an ungainly beast. I learned more about copyright law than anyone ever wanted to, in the name of keeping this legit. Did you know that no works published after 1923 can be safely considered in the public domain? How about that even if copyright has expired on a song, the actual recording of the song is still protected? And that’s just the beginning of the headache. (Even worse, there’s a ton of misinformation out there, mainly because copyright law confuses everyone. I started out using a 20s jazz collection the Internet Archive itself marked as “public domain,” but the recordings themselves technically are not free to use. Oops.)

TL;DR on that last paragraph, for those whose eyes have glazed over: screw U.S. copyright law and its war on the public domain. Ahem. Moving on.

Crowd-sourced sound effects rock. I knew early on I didn’t want to spend hours recording my own foley work, whacking a side of beef with a baseball bat during every fight scene. That’s where freesound.org comes in, a lovely and CC-licensed collection of sounds recorded by people from all over the world. Of course, I still spent lots of time blending them into soundscapes. But it was enormous fun piecing together a street in 1920s Emeryville using sounds from a Japanese market, a Polish bar crowd, beaches in Venezuela. Technology is grand sometimes.

I used to play in bands and learned audio recording the old, multitrack magnetic-tape way. E’ville also served as an excuse to finally wade waist-deep into modern DAW technology. The covers and original compositions for the series are all 100% sampled and sequenced. Perhaps not entirely period-appropriate–they drift from 40s lounge to 50s rockabilly at times–but I never claimed to know shit about Jazz Age composition. And hey, I collaborated with a singer in Istanbul on one track. Again, technology rocks.

Would I do it again? Perhaps, someday. But there’s a book that’s been fighting for gray matter real estate with this sucker, and its time has come.

Escape Pod and beyond!

What’s this? I narrated a very fun story for Escape Pod: Captain Drake Learns His Lines by Amy Sisson and Kate Suratt. Give it a listen. This is my first foray into narration, and why not? Thanks to EP for the opportunity.

Much has been happening, though you couldn’t tell from this site. I’ve been devoting a lion’s share of my time to Unreliable Narrators, and the results have been rewarding to say the least. Today is our one-year anniversary, in fact, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how that’s progressed. Oh, and did I mention that I wrote and am in the middle of producing an eight-episode audio drama for UN? E’ville episode one is up now, with a new episode each Monday through the end of January. A ton of work, but I can’t say it hasn’t been an absolute blast, combining my interests in writing, music and audio engineering. Methinks more of this will happen at some point.

And then there’s matter of the recent election. Perhaps you’ve heard about it? I thought about posting an epic screed and decided others have covered most of those bases. Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed in humanity right now. Still formulating my response, though if you’re interested in specifics they’re covered pretty well in my interview with Desiree Burch–which you should listen to regardless, as she’s highly entertaining.

So yeah, I’ve been heard more than seen–or read–lately. I’m fixing to change that, however, for it’s back to the grindstone on my work in progress. Stay tuned for details.

I’m on a boat! Well, I will be.

oasis-of-the-seas-royal-caribbean-international-cruise-ship-photos-2015-06-07-at-labadee-haitiAhoy, matey! Somehow, that trip to the Caribbean that had been lurking in the dim future has crept up on me and begins this weekend! No idea how that happened. I’ll be on board the Oasis of the Seas for the 2016 Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat, hobnobbing with writers and podcasters and other industry types. Should be fun. Our trip includes excursions to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten–and even an on-board Prohibition party. It’s a rough existence.

Meanwhile, the Unreliable Narrators have been hard at work on new releases, and you should certainly go and check out our last few shows. October promises to be bigger and better as plenty of crazy things are planned which may or may not relate to that most glorious of holidays, Halloween. But first, ocean. Islands. Cocktails. Seeing old friends, making new ones. And maybe, just maybe, commiting some words to screen and keyboard.

See you on the other side.

The City of the Future

CityoftheFuture_KindleFinalHey, will you look at this. SciFutures, an award-winning science fiction prototyping company–go look at their site, they explain it more easily than I could– have released their first anthology of sci-fi stories, The City of the Future. Even better, It features a tale by none other than yours truly! “L.A. Loves You” is my contribution to this terrific little collection of near-future speculative shorts. Once again, I’ll let SciFutures themselves set the scene:

Change is coming and it’s going to affect humans right where we live. By 2050, city living is going to look very different from what we know today. Across the globe, cities are going green and getting smarter. Artificial intelligence is playing a bigger role in our lives every day and the nomad generation is redefining what ‘home’ is.

This was a fun project and I’m proud to be a part of it. Check it out and let me know what you think. And be sure to check the Unreliable Narrators site within the next few days for an interview with the editor, Trina Marie Phillips, about the anthology and also her role with the company.

It’s out now on just about every device and in every conceivable format, as evinced below:

 

We are Unreliable

Hey, it’s been over two months since I checked in! How the hell did that happen? It’s not like nothing has happened since then. Paradise ICON was a success, as always, getting to hang out with writer pals as well as class acts like Joe and Gay Haldeman and Ann Leckie. Then there was NaNoWriMo, during which I knocked out a decent amount of words on my next book but will likely throw out 90% of them. And there’s also been the usual submit-and-query game that goes with writing fiction.

Then there’s the not trivial work of bootstrapping a new podcast and website with several writer friends. We’re up and running as the Unreliable Narrators! The first few episodes are available, and we are only gathering steam. It’s been a lot of fun, and it allows me to combine several favorite pastimes. Just need to make sure it doesn’t pull me too far away from finishing the next manuscript.

Happy holidays!

The Dark Age is here

forsakenI have received my contributor copies of Forsaken, the latest game manual for the Dark Age miniatures combat game from Cool Mini or Not. Woohoo! Oh, wait, did I not mention that I’ve been contributing freelance work to a game company? Yeah, guess I should have said something about that, this being my own blog and all. Okay, count this as the official announcement, for immediate release to all the Google site crawlers and spambots that comprise my readership.

Dark Age is a damned cool game from a damned cool company. They have successfully launched a variety of games like Zombicide and the forthcoming Xenoshyft Onslaught, both powered by wildly popular Kickstarter campaigns. And hey, I get to work with friends who are talented writers in their own right. Not bad!

Forsaken is out now and, as the name implies, details the Forsaken faction in the ongoing war for dominance on the planet Samaria. What’s more, I’m wrapping up work on a second volume that will follow in a few months. And there’s talk of more, but I’ll save that for another time.

So, yeah. Definitely an awesome opportunity. Check out the section on Getting Started if you’re interested in the twisted world of Dark Age (the Core Rules are available for free!) or visit the store if you’re so inclined.

SFWC FTW

WP_20150212_13_29_46_Pro

OK, that’s a good sign.

Now that’s more like it.

Had a great time this past weekend at the San Francisco Writers Conference. 2015 marks my first appearance at said event, and in retrospect I have to wonder why. The sessions were overall useful, the staff friendly and helpful without exception and the hotel was top-notch. Best of all: Queen Calafia, goddess of California, lent a watchful eye to the proceedings from her perch in the Room of the Dons. Yes, the very same Calafia that made an appearance in my previous work, In Cahoots (as referenced in a previous post.) Even better, she was in position during the Agent Speed Dating session on Saturday. Bless the Goddess!

Right, the pitching. Without a doubt the best part of the conference was a pair of editorial consultations followed by several expressions of interest from said agents. The year is off to a rip roaring start. I’ll be busy shipping out words into the void and telling them not to come home without a request to send more.

This was one intense conference. I had the good fortune to meet up with Cath Schaff-Stump and Debbie Goelz, both of whom also had great success with pitches. (Cath has posted her own exceptional account of the goings-on at her own website.)  We scurried around town between sessions and helped each other refine our presentations. I can’t imagine attending one of these things without such stalwart support.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on this weekend soon. For now, let’s say it was well worth the time and effort and greenbacks to attend. And I’ll likely return next year.

 

PCH Playlist

Like many writers, I often turn to music to get me through a draft. Every project requires its own inspiration. Since I’ve found it fun to share playlists with other writers, here’s one for my most recent work, PCH Roadkill. It’s a California tale of sun, surf, aliens and shady dot-com startups. Needless to say, this one was a bit more esoteric than simply burning through a film soundtrack or looping ambient nature sounds. Enjoy.

DJ Shadow – Six Days (Soulwax Remix)
Modeselektor – Vote or Die
Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Tommy McCook & The Skatalites / Silver Dollar
Man or Astroman? – Bermuda Triangle Shorts
Mass Effect OST – Liara’s World
The Mermen – Scalp Salad
Mike Ladd – Housewives At Play
The Ventures – Moon Child
Aphex Twin – Shiny Metal Rods
Lene Lovich – What Will I Do Without You?
Descendents – Silly Girl
Mr. Bungle- Desert Search for Techno Allah
Modeselektor – Die Clubnummer
Dead Kennedys – Winnebago Warrior
Jack’s Mannequin – Miss Delaney
The Ventures – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue
Final Fantasy XI OST – Faded Memories – Promyvion
Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
Mass Effect OST – The Secret Labs [extended]
Man or Astroman? – Madness in the Streets 10
The Mermen – Brahms Symphony 3, Movement 3
Psykosonik – Secret LifeDJ Shadow – Six Days (Soulwax Remix)
Modeselektor – Vote or Die
Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Tommy McCook & The Skatalites / Silver Dollar
Man or Astroman? – Bermuda Triangle Shorts
Mass Effect OST – Liara’s World
The Mermen – Scalp Salad
Mike Ladd – Housewives At Play
The Ventures – Moon Child
Aphex Twin – Shiny Metal Rods
Lene Lovich – What Will I Do Without You?
Descendents – Silly Girl
Mr. Bungle- Desert Search for Techno Allah
Modeselektor – Die Clubnummer
Dead Kennedys – Winnebago Warrior
Jack’s Mannequin – Miss Delaney
The Ventures – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue
Final Fantasy XI OST – Faded Memories – Promyvion
Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
Mass Effect OST – The Secret Labs [extended]
Man or Astroman? – Madness in the Streets 10
The Mermen – Brahms Symphony 3, Movement 3
Psykosonik – Secret Life

Beware the ides of February

Hey, remember me? Yeah, I’m still around. Though you wouldn’t know from this blog. Happily, I have not been making updates because I’ve been busy at work on other projects. I finished a rough draft of my latest novel, polished up my last one (last time, honest) and completed about a half dozen short stories. Not bad after the post-Taos slump of late 2014. This new year shows promise.

Beginning with the San Francisco Writers Conference a week from now! I’m all signed up and looking forward to meeting up with several other writer pals at the fancy-schmancy Mark Hopkins International. I’m even signed up for the Agent Speed Dating Session on Saturday. This will be my first face to face encounter with the fabled literary agent. Wish me luck.

Interestingly, 2015 is shaping up to be the Year of the West Coast. I’ll be hanging out at a writers’ retreat in Portland this spring, then heading to Spokane for Sasquan (aka the 73rd Worldcon) during the summer. Too bad the Nebula Awards Weekend moves this year from San Jose to Chicago.

So, yeah. Lots going on. Just not here, so much.