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7/13/16 01:33 pm - "White Rabbit Society Part One" out in two days!

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Getting right up to it now, folks. Here's a few more things about "White Rabbit Society".

*There are monsters! Boy howdy are there monsters. In addition to our cover girl Shadow (who folks who read my short story collection Beasts will have met already), we've got a lot of much less friendly critters running around, knocking over buildings and occasionally eating people's faces. My general design guideline for these things was "deep-sea creatures crossbred with geometry problems" and I think it worked out pretty well.

*One of the recurring themes of the story is people figuring out that their family situations are a lot more complicated than they thought they were, with Consequences for their own lives. I think this just short of being a universal experience, and people in the genre realm deal with it too often by having someone turn out to be the heir to something. Being fifteen and suddenly having to make conversation with the uncle you didn't know existed while everyone around you is trying to be polite feels more true-to-life for me.

*A famous bit of writing advice from Raymond Chandler (paraphrased) is that when you're not sure what should happen next, have a man with a gun walk into the room. On the surface, this is silly but still-not-half-bad advice for many genres. You can also go deeper with it. Long story short, many characters in WRS eventually become able to do things normal people can't do. It's a story about magic. Magic needs to be explained enough to not be transparently something that lets the author do whatever they want, but I'm not inclined to explain it so much that it ceases to be dangerous. My ground rules for "things human beings can do supernaturally" in WRS were:

A- A man walking into the room with a gun is still a problem.

and

B- Everything has a price. If it doesn't seem to have a price, it just hasn't come due yet.

And that's it for now. TWO DAYS. TWO DAYS.

7/11/16 11:06 am - "White Rabbit Society" out in four days!

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I just sent out the e-book of "White Rabbit Society Part One" out to my Patreon backers very early yesterday morning, and as of today it's available for preorder on Amazon. So we're getting pretty close.

Because this story is such a big hodgepodge of different genres and styles, I've had trouble nailing down landmarks to use when I'm describing it. There's a lot of "this one specific aspect of this one obscure thing, ripped out of its original context and welded together with this other specific aspect of this other obscure thing also ripped out of its original context". But there's one solid predecessor to many of the characters and themes in WRS, one I wasn't super familiar with when I started writing the story more than a decade ago but which quickly became a really big deal.



John Fucking Constantine. Created by Alan Moore, perfected by Garth Ennis, and executed terribly by a zillion other writers. Don't even get me started on the movie. Mention television if you've got some furniture you need destroyed.

I can't help but be a snob about this subject. If Urban Fantasy is a concept you think sounds good, you need to read every issue of Hellblazer written by Garth Ennis. Every other version of the character, and really every other treatment of the general concept, is weak tea in comparison.

That concept being "scary magic in the real world". HB by GE reaches the heights that it does by hitting every part of that statement as hard as it can. People look and talk like real people. They want things that real people want and have all the limitations that real people have, and they live in places that you could go and visit if you wanted to. When the magic comes in, it's not a convenient superpower or cheap power trip thrill. It's unpredictable and scary, and it's made only more unpredictable and scary by it's interaction with the aforementioned flawed human beings.

None of the characters in WRS are exact John Constantine analogues, but a couple come awfully close, and really the majority of the cast could be related to him in a second-cousin kind of way. If you need a good general description of WRS, one of them would be "scummed up Harry Potter with no safety net". Another would be "a dozen different variations of John Constantine get locked in a closet for a few years and then we open the door to see who survived."

That's it for now. More tomorrow. Love you all.

7/8/16 10:39 pm - Countdown to "White Rabbit Society" part three

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Hey folks! This post'll be a little shorter than I planned for Life Reasons. I talked a little bit more about WRS yesterday for my Patreon backers, who'll be getting their hands on the e-book this weekend. It'll be on sale for everybody else on the 15th.

The core of "White Rabbit Society" is a response to something that is new and old at the same time. There are many, many, many stories about young people coming of age, and there are lots of stories that mix various kinds of supernatural metaphors into that process. WRS is one of those, but there's one thing that makes it different than most of the modern incarnations of those kinds of stories. The main character isn't the goddamn Chosen One. He doesn't have a Destiny. Initially, he is who is because of circumstance and luck. He only slowly becomes able to take control of his only life, and he does so in a world that isn't sitting still while he tries to figure things out. He doesn't have a Hogwarts to hide out in, and no one offering to help him is doing so purely with his best interest in mind. Just this one change is enough to move the bookmark from this story from fantasy part of the way towards horror.

And that's it for right now. More to come soon.

-B

7/6/16 10:32 pm - Countdown to "White Rabbit Society Part One"



New book is coming out on the 15th! Very excited about this one. I always am, but this book has more history behind it than anything else I've written. It's also the first book I've released since hitting the giant mad-scientist "It Lives!" switch and activating Patreon, which I'm hoping is going to play a big role in my writing career going forward.

Accordingly, during my "countdown to White Rabbit Society" blog series over the next few days, I'm going to be switching off between making posts here and making posts for my backers on Patreon. If you'd like in on the party, Patreon. A buck a month to get all my e-books as they come out (two bucks for paperbacks), and anybody who signs up before the 15th gets a copy of WRS to kick things off. It's a good deal.

A few facts about White Rabbit Society to get the ball moving.

*As a few clever folks have figured out from the cover (which is fantastic and by Wesley Wong, an amazing artist you should all go check out), White Rabbit Society is a psychotically long continuation of the short story "Shadow", which appears in the Beasts collection. At one point "Shadow" was actually the first chapter of the novel. Things are a little more complicated now but that's still basically the idea.

*This is "White Rabbit Society Part One", which is an e-book. The "White Rabbit Society Part Two" e-book will be coming out in a few months, simultaneously with the White Rabbit Society paperback. One and two together will tell a dandy and fairly epic complete story. My first impulse is to leave the universe alone at that point, but if people want more there are a couple of directions in which I could keep going.

*You might have notice I've managed to go on for a while now without actually talking about what the story's about. I'll be getting to that soon. For right now, here's the cover blurb:

"Andrew is fifteen years old. He's been sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer while his parents finish their divorce, but the summer's up and he's still stuck up in Wisconsin. And his best and only friend is a monster.

Shadow lives under a gazebo in the park. She has a body made of spare parts, she seems to be omnipotent, and she likes to play chess. Andrew doesn't tell anybody about Shadow. Nobody listens to him anyway.

Andrew's Uncle Paul comes to town. Andrew didn't know he had an Uncle Paul. Paul knows about Shadow. Paul knows lots of things. Some of them are things he shouldn't know; some of them are things no one should know. And he's interested in teaching.

Unfortunately, Paul isn't stopping by just to say hello. He's being pursued, by people interested in his secrets. People interested in Shadow. And soon, people interested in Andrew."

And that's it for now. I'll be talking more about the story tomorrow on Patreon, and circle back around here in a couple of days. Hope your fourth was awesome. See you all soon.

6/3/16 10:32 am - Patreon rough draft

So I've been giving Patreon some thought. Here's a rough draft of what I was picturing.

Backer rewards:

$1 per 10000 words- All the new e-books, before they get released to the general public. You get listed in the dedication for all the new books as they come out (for as long as that remains practically possible), and receive access to all the behind-the-scenes stuff I’ll posting. Some of it will be stuff you get to read before anybody else, some of it will backer-exclusive forever. You also get my profound gratitude. Anyone who’s chipping in at this level is making a real contribution to my ability to continue being a writer. You’re doing more than you had to and I appreciate it.

$2 per 10000 words- All the new paperbacks, and get listed in the dedication for all the new books as they come out, plus everything at the $1 level.

$5 per 10000 words- Everything above, plus I’ll be able to sign and personalize the books, PLUS I’ll shoot you a few extra copies of my paperbacks around holiday time to deploy as stocking stuffers.

$10 per 10000 words- Book club! I’m going to be talking a lot about writer friends of mine, from Bad Grammar Theater and elsewhere. Backers at this level will also be getting some free print and/or electronic copies of the books I’m talking about. Plus everything at lower tiers.

$25 per 10000 words- Everything at the lower tiers, plus an annual framed print of one of my photographs, probably something story-related, with a handwritten thank-you from me.

$50 per 10000 words- If you’re interested in this level of support please drop me a line and we can discuss. Me doing a reading for you and your guests sometime over the course of the year, short-story requests, something else? At the very least I’ll be sending something unique your way once a year.

Goals:

$250 per 10K words: At this level, I’m able to break even with my books as soon as I release them, which is a Very Big Deal. If we can get to here, expect my new books to start getting a lot weirder and less constrained by market forces. In that spirit, I’ll also start putting out a little once-a-year mini-book of short stories, all based on suggestions from my patrons.

$1000 per 10K words: This is firmly in pipe dream territory for now, but if we can get here then I’m a lot less worried about other employment and spending a lot more time at my keyboard getting weird. Definitely there would be a celebration, online and off. I’ll start talking to you guys about specifics if it looks like we’re in striking distance of this goal.


Still fiddling with the details. Feedback very much appreciated.

4/14/16 02:17 pm - "The Orphan Fleet" comes out tomorrow!

Book’s coming out tomorrow! Very excited, very nervous. For those of you just tuning in, it’s called “The Orphan Fleet” and it’s a fantasy novella, which is not a genre I’m known for at all. I’ve talked a little bit about the kinds of fantasy that I like and which I wanted to emulate. People who know me will not be surprised to hear that I also take issue with a lot of contemporary fantasy, and that there are certain aspects of TOF that are meant to pick a fight.

For starters, most fantasy novels, series, and stories are way too goddamn long for the stories they’re telling. This is a matter of taste, because I’ve come to understand that the sheer size is part of the appeal for people who like those kinds of books. Even physically, some people just like hauling a giant brick around with them. A comparison that helped me get my mind around the situation is Bollywood movies. Most people don’t want to watch a three hour film without much of a plot where the male and female love interests never kiss, but there is a specific audience who expects that and likes it. So if you like doorstopper fantasy that spends entire chapters exploring the genealogy of the noble house of the main character, then you might read TOF and wonder why I didn’t expand it to a trilogy or something.

But a quick examination of my other work will tell you pretty quickly that that isn’t my thing. Genre-hopping aside, all of my work is meant for a general, intelligent audience. (Not that the door-stopper fantasy audience isn’t intelligent, but it’s not really general either.) My horror short stories or my other longer work might have different wallpaper, but if you like my writing style in other contexts I’m pretty sure you’ll like it here too. My standing assumption is that my audience is smart and willing to figure things out, but easily bored if I go too long without giving it something interesting to do. If that describes you, rest assured that I’ve gone to great lengths to take care of you here, just like usual.

One thing that is different about “The Orphan Fleet” compared to my other stuff is that TOF is meant as a straight-up escapist fantasy. I wrote it at a time when I needed a back door to the real world, and that’s the spirit that it’s written in. It’s a fairy tale playing dress-up with grown up clothes, not a simulation of how I think politics, warfare, or anthropology work. There is some world-building going on (and things are already getting a little more complicated in the sequel I’m working on), but the level of detail scales up or down at different times depending on how well it happens to serve the story, and that’s not an accident.

Lots of fantasy adventure stories that are meant to be escapist fun don’t really do it for me. I don’t want to be a king, or take orders from one. I like the idea of fighting in the same way that little kids left alone in the woods will grab sticks and start running around and pretend to swordfight, but I know that the real thing has consequences that I’m happy to live without. And I like my love interests a little more prickly than some chick in a dress waiting to get saved. “The Orphan Fleet” is meant to take me to the kind of place I’d actually want to go and hang out.

And I think that’s a good stopping point. There are other things I could bring up, but I’d rather wait and see what you all think of the story I wrote. Thank you as always for your support— I have way too much fun doing this. More soon.

4/13/16 11:44 am - "The Orphan Fleet" blog part three

Hello everybody, this is part three of my rolling-out-the-red carpet blog series for “The Orphan Fleet”, my fantasy e-book that’s coming out Friday. My god-king Amazon pays close attention to how many people pre-order the book, so if you’re interested I hope you’ll consider swinging on by and grabbing a copy while they’re on sale.

Anyway! I left off yesterday talking about how I wanted to avoid making my main character Jiaire either a Neurotic Hero or a Sociopathic Asshole Hero, two molds that I think have been getting way too much use lately. But I didn’t want some kind of a fake compromise between those two archetypes, and I didn’t want to write a story where the hero gets to avoid both extremes by virtue of never having to make any tough decisions.

What I hope I’ve done with Jiaire might seem either old or new depending on where you’re coming from. I wanted him to be a caring, compassionate human being who has feelings and vulnerabilities and all that stuff, but who doesn’t screw around when it does come time to act. I wanted someone for whom doing whatever it takes to protect his community means something other than torturing a dude in a basement until they cough up where the bomb is hidden. Jiaire’s genuinely not looking for trouble. He doesn’t walk around with a shadow hanging over him. He likes kids. He tries to cheer people up when they’re sad, and when people around him are disagreeing with each other he does what he can to solve the problem using the same resources that most of would employ.

When a situation gets violent, on the other hand, he doesn’t hem and haw very much. He does what the situation calls for, and he doesn’t second guess himself. But violence is not his heart. Even more importantly, it’s not what the people around him respect him for. Jiaire becomes more important over the course of the story, but it’s not because of who his parents were, or a constellation that was in the sky the night he was born, or any of that crap. And it isn’t because he’s surrounded by innocent people who need someone who can do terrible things to protect them. Jiaire gets respect from the people around him by being the kind of person people trust and want to have around.

All of that was on my mind as I wrote the story. Even given that framework, Jiaire did a lot of things that surprised me. “The Orphan Fleet” is a coming of age story. Jiaire starts out as a child who is protected from certain realities, and ends the story as an adult who has a lot more to deal with than he used to. I’d planned on having him become at least somewhat disillusioned. There’s one scene in the story where Jiaire finds out that his friends, people he loves and believes in, have done a bad thing, something he wouldn’t have thought they’d be capable of. I planned that scene expecting Jiaire to lower his opinion of his friends, which is a thing that happens sometimes as you get older. But Jiaire’s reaction to that situation surprised me (and I’m not someone who usually subscribes to the “characters are magical spirits that have a life independent from me” theory). If you read the story you can probably figure out the part I mean.

That’s it for now. I’ll be wrapping things up tomorrow with a brief discussion of the fantasy genre generally, and then it’ll be time for the book to come out. Thanks for reading.

4/12/16 12:24 pm - "The Orphan Fleet" blog part two

Hello everybody. This is the second of the short series of blogs I’m doing to lead up to the release of my new e-book “The Orphan Fleet”. It’s coming out Friday, and you can pre-order it for a buck any time between now and then, so if any of this sounds interesting I hope you’ll consider taking a look.

The handsome devil on the cover of the book is my protagonist. His name’s Jiaire, and the main twist for someone who’s the main character of one of my stories is that he’s not actually any kind of a devil at all. Jiaire is, pretty straightwardly, a nice guy. He fits his community like a glove, he’s well respected by the people around him, he helps people out when he sees an opportunity to do so, he’s happy, and he’s healthy. He is very much unlike a character in a Brendan Detzner story.

Part of that is by design. I already mentioned the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood as an inspiration for the general mood of the story, but part of what makes that character work is that EF is living in a world that favors him as the hero. I think that works better in a movie than in a book, and in any case one problem I have with a lot of contemporary fantasy that I’ve read is that the main characters feel invulnerable. I think this is my horror background showing a little bit too— when there’s a risk, I instinctively want to convince the audience that it’s a real risk that they need to take seriously. So I didn’t want my hero to be too carefree in the face of danger.

But there was another pitfall I wanted to avoid too. Most young adult protagonists in many genres owe their inner lives to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Spider-Man comics from the sixties. Stan and Jack didn’t invent the neurotic hero, but their version of the idea— a young person thrust into a position of power and importance but still mostly preoccupied with inner conflicts and unsure if they can juggle all the different things they suddenly have to deal with— has been incredibly influential. Katniss Everdeem is only a few steps removed from Peter Parker. So is Ender Wiggum. So are lots of kids-in-books.

As much as I love those old comics, this idea has been beaten to death over the course of the last half-century. That would be enough reason all by itself to want to do something else. There are other reasons too, not the least of which is the virulent and nasty cross breeding in lots of YA literature of the Neurotic Hero and the One True Hero of Destiny. The combination of a power/importance fantasy with a self-pity fantasy can pack a lot of punch, but it also has a lot of scary implications, even in books like “Ender’s Game” that are self-conscious about what they’re doing. The prevalence of the Neurotic Hero has also led to an equal and opposite cultural reaction, the Complete Asshole Hero. This guy (sometimes girl, I guess) can take many forms, from Jack Bauer and his many descendents to the innumerable Asshole Boyfriends starting from Twilight onwards. These are the guys who know what needs to be done, don’t care what anybody thinks, don’t need to listen to anybody, and ultimately think that collateral damage is someone else’s problem.

A common theme in Complete Asshole Hero stories is that they are dealing with Serious Grown-Up Situations, about people who Do What Must Be Done, even if What Must Be Done seems pretty fucked up from normal human standards. I’m not usually a fan of these kinds of stories, and I didn’t want to to that extreme in the process of avoiding Peter Parker.

So with Jiaire I tried something else. More tomorrow. Thanks for reading, everybody.

4/11/16 11:46 am - "The Orphan Fleet" comes out in T-minus 5 days

So how did you get it in your head to write a fantasy story, Brendan?

“The Orphan Fleet” was originally meant to be a short story. My short story ideas usually come from a bunch of different things colliding from different directions, and so it was here.

First up, I’d never done an alternate-world fantasy story before. At least not since the fourth grade. I’d written a couple of longer Alice-through-the-lookingglass type stories in high school, but none of those are ever going to see the light of day, and they ended up being more surreal than anything else. So this was new territory for me, which was a good enough reason to do it all by itself. More specifically, I thought it would be fun to write something that might be appropriate for my friend John O’Neill’s magazine Black Gate, which I’ve always enjoyed, and I’ve always been a fan of a certain strain of action/adventure fantasy as written by folks like Roger Zelazny and Robert E. Howard. Stories that were intelligent, but also lean-and-mean and short on inspirational speeches or “destiny”. The kind of stuff I used to read from old seventies paperbacks from the bookshelves in my parents basement (as opposed to the more respectable bookshelves upstairs).

So I wanted to try something new, but it wasn’t just a matter of picking something at random. At the time that I started putting the ideas for TOF together, I was still teaching on the lovely south side, burning through my inner resources faster than I could replenish them, and my big writing project for the past couple of years had been a novel about the maximum security prison for teenage girls were I’d taught previously. It was a big I’m still proud of (it’s called Millersville, it’s been released and you should go read it), but producing it had turned out to be a bit of a busman’s holiday. I was really tired. I was in the mood for an escapist fantasy. Roger Ebert wrote a review for the old Robin Hood movie starring Errol Flynn, where he talked about how Flynn always seemed completely fearless and alive and childlike in his action scenes, unlike modern actors who would feel obligated to act more realistically. That was a place I wanted to visit.

At the same time, I didn’t want to turn my brain off either, and I had some ideas that I wanted to explore. Gene Wolfe probably doesn’t belong in quite the same category as the other authors I mentioned, but he was on the same bookshelf and I discovered him at the same time and in the same way. In his story “The Island of Doctor Death And Other Stories” there’s a part where the hero and the villian of the story the main character has been reading talk about how they are actually friends just acting out their conflict for the sake of the audience. Because this is Gene Wolfe we’re talking about the situation is actually more complicated than that, but the basic idea always tickled my imagination. So as long as I was getting my fantasy-paperback on anyway, I thought this would be a good chance to finally play around with that concept. I figured all that would be enough fuel for a longer-than-usual short story. 23,000 words later…

More to come tomorrow. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I hope you’ll consider pre-ordering “The Orphan Fleet” e-book while it’s still 99 cents cheap. Pre-orders do a lot to tell the Amazon brain-in-a-jar that it should go to the trouble to show people my story, so I appreciate them very much. That’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about my main character a little bit.

3/3/16 02:19 pm - A bunch of things I now know about self publishing and a bunch of things I don't know part twelve

Wrapping things up. I hope people find this series useful. If you've got questions, please feel free to message/comment and I'll be happy to either answer or plead ignorance.

THING FOURTEEN: MARKETING STUFF YOU SHOULD BE DOING ALL THE TIME, EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT.

Because it's 2016, we're mostly but not entirely talking about social media. One prominent exception are genre-specific conventions, which mostly means science-fiction conventions. I've already talked/bitched extensively on that topic on this here blog here without coming to many firm conclusions. I'm sticking with the go-to-the-two-local-cons-and-forget-the-others plan for right now, with some lapses. Lots of people have luck with other approaches, sometimes way more luck than me, so please feel free to try other things and let me know how they work.

There are other events in meatspace that are worth doing. Support your local indie bookstores and libraries. Do everything you can to introduce yourself to those people and make yourself useful to them. (Go shop at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, it's awesome!) If your local giant-ass chain bookstore happens to be doing cool stuff, support them too. At the same time, if you knock on the door and nobody answers, don't wait out all night in the rain. Sometimes what you're doing just isn't a match for what they're doing and they're just not that into you. And hey, sometimes people who run indie bookstores are jerks and not worth dealing with, especially in light of the fact that your single biggest sales opportunity is still selling e-books online.

For the record, librarians are never jerks. Librarians are the most magical and special of all god's creatures and I will not tolerate a single disparaging word about them.

Anyway, there are also reading series! Dirty little secret- despite running my own (fucking awesome) reading series, I'm not sure how much it helps me sell books. That's not a big deal. I love doing Bad Grammar and not everything is about money. And reading stories in front of an audience has made me a much better writer, and I love the community that has sprung up around BGT. There are also some side benefits- a lot of the folks that attend and perform at BGT left reviews of "Beasts" (although not of "Millersville" for the most part), and having "creative director" of something on my resume has opened doors for me. Having BGT around also gives me the chance to get in front of an audience on a regular basis, which is a good skill to have and one that has come in handy doing other things. So absolutely perform at reading series, put on literary salons, meet people, have fun. Just understand that none of these things are the golden road to fame and fortune in and of themselves.

Now that we have the real world out of the way, we can talk internet. You could read articles online for a month about how authors should behave online and not scratch the surface of all the advice that's out there, so I'm going to try to not add to the pile too much. One thing I will beat the drum for is INDEPENDENT MAILING LIST. I try not to beat myself up for past mistakes but I really wish I had gotten going on this sooner. Basically, any followers you have on any social media platform can be taken away from you at any time for any reason. Or, more likely, you can be charged for access to them. So you want your own list. Go over to Mailchimp, get a free account, and get cracking.

Aside from that, I pretty much use Facebook. When there's a big announcement like a book release, I drop twenty bucks to make sure that people see it. Aside from that, I try to post something amusing every couple of days or so. I have Twitter hooked up to my Author FG account, Tumblr scares the hell out of me, I've already talked about Goodreads and Librarything... and that's really it for me, aside from this blog, which is mostly inside baseball for my friends.

Other people do more, to great success. People podcast (which I've dabbled in but not extensively), people write non-fiction articles (Daniel Jose Elder has gotten a lot of attention that way), people do youtube videos (I'm not really a fan but John Greene is a good example if you want a baseline), people blog about their cats, and people pick fights with each other about everything under the sun. My pet opinion is that once you've gotten to the point where anyone googling your name can figure out what you're about in ten minutes or so, you get diminishing returns. Again, I might be wrong.

And that's all I've got, folks. If people have questions, I might do another entry trying to address them, but otherwise I've got a book coming out and will be shifting my attention towards that for the near future. I hope you all find this helpful. Keep writing, keep reading, don't forget to have fun.

-B
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