Circle of book life

Tim Powers was signing his new book months ago at Mysterious Galaxy. I have most of his short stories in one form or another. But he’s one of my favorite authors and always a pleasure to hear him speak. During Q&A, he told a story from when his first book was published.
At a Los Angeles book fair, he spotted Kurt Vonnegut waiting alone between engagements. Tim rallied his courage, walked up to him, and said, “Excuse me, Mr Vonnegut? I just wanted to say your work has been a huge inspiration to me. I’m an author too. My first novel’s just been published, and it would be a great honor if I could give you this signed copy.” Vonnegut accepted the copy with a grunt and a nod.

Later that afternoon, Tim found that copy of his book stuffed in a planter. Tim made himself a promise: If he ever did throw out a fan’s book, he’d use a trash can with a lid.

Years ago, Tim Powers and I were on a Comic Fest panel. Afterward I told him, “Mr Powers. I just wanted to say your work has been a huge inspiration to me-”

If he did throw it out, at least I now know he used a trash can with a lid.

Dead Women Page 1

Here’s the roughs of the first page of the comic Dead Women, “Seven Samurai but instead of swordsmen it’s undead women, a vampire, a ghost, a skeleton, a zombie, etc.”
(My layouts are on the left, Freaky Vicky‘s are on the right)

Dead Women Page 1 roughs

I have the series outlined and the first issue scripted. Once the first 6 pages are drawn, colored, and lettered we’ll have a finished package for submissions.

Outlining The Bliss Gun, an iterative process

While Agent 97:4 deals with her fading faith and failing power. She and Dr Park cross paths with Jennifer and Josh, two teens abducted 34 years ago by astral aliens, twisted into monsters, and released on Earth. The Montauk Project meets Natural Born Killers.

I had a good conversation with my agent this morning about the outline. Which was a relief. Our previous conversation didn’t go so well. These were my mistakes:

  • The Title. MKIntra was a play on MKUltra, the US Army psychic warfare unit. A reference my agent didn’t get. More importantly, in a series the titles should have a theme. Following the [feeling] [device] template, I renamed the outline after the secondary antagonists’ weapon.
  • More Mind Control. Jennifer originally had mind control powers. So did 97:4’s primary antagonist, in The Faith Machine. No body wants to see the hero fight the same power back to back. I’ve tweaked her power. Now she’s capable of full body possession and astral projection instead of the old order people around kind of mind control.
  • Moth Men. I didn’t realize we’re coming out of a glut of giant insect monsters. At least, that’s what been being pitched. Cutting the Moth Men severs one connection to the Montauk lore, but that’s fine. I replaced that monster with a swarm of scarabs wearing a man’s suit. I may replace them again with stone-age style clowns. We’ll see.
  • Format. I’m used to writing outlines for myself. Scene by scene breakdowns of the entire book. Fine for me, a painful read for anyone else. Rather than bouncing back and forth between protagonists and antagonist every sentence, I collected the scenes into paragraphs. An outline isn’t a scale model of the book.

Fortunately, the second outline only had a few minor problems, mostly typos and clarity. Taking feedback gracefully works!

Also, my short story The Ginger Jar is available for free on Kindle until Friday. Download it now, before the price skyrockets to 99¢!


Stepping into the SDSU Writers’ Conference, I was sure it was The Faith Machine’s last chance at traditional publication. I spent the year querying agents by email, 163 of them, and over $2000 on editing. I hadn’t given up hope in the manuscript, but I was giving up on the process. Years of being a single guy have given me a thick skin for rejection, but I was running out of agents to query, and there’s only a handful of publishers with slush piles out there.

Four pitch sessions with editors were my last best chance at vaulting over the slush pile. Three of them requested the full manuscript. I thought I’d use these as leverage with my remaining open queries. Fortunately, Jonathan Maberry, host of the San Diego chapter of the Writers’ Coffeehouse at Mysterious Galaxy, had a better idea. He knew me from the Coffeehouse, and put me in touch with Cherry Weiner (she’s so good, she doesn’t need a homepage).

Days later, she’d read the manuscript and was working on the editors from the conference. My head was spinning. Until now, agents had only given me silence and form letters. Now I have one working on my behalf, and working hard.

If you’re an author seeking publication; email queries aren’t the end all and be all. In fact, they should be your plan B, maybe plan C. Get networking. Get to your local branch of the Writers’ Coffeehouse or such. It’s not a sure thing, but the odds are shorter.