Announcing WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME anthology!

I’m extremely happy to announce I have a story in the coming sequel to the award-nominated anthology WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME, titled WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME. Congrats to all my fellow authors! Details below!

From Gabrielle Harbowy’s blog:

Ed Greenwood and I are also pleased to announce the table of contents for our follow-up anthology, WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME – forthcoming August 1, 2012 from Dragon Moon Press.

Heroes can save the world, but villains can change it.

We’ve assembled a great mix of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. Come with us while we explore villains of all stripes — sons and daughters, lovers and fighters, minions and masterminds, in this giant volume of thirty great stories by award winners, rising stars, and bold new voices.

Camille Alexa – Pinktastic and the End of the World
Erik Scott de Bie – Hunger of the Blood Reaver
Chaz Brenchley – Villainelle
Eugie Foster – Oranges, Lemons, and Thou Beside Me
David Sakmyster – Prometheus Found
Marie Bilodeau – Happily Ever After
Richard Lee Byers – Little Things
K.D. McEntire – Heels
Peadar Ó Guilín – The Sunshine Baron
Jim C. Hines – Daddy’s Little Girl
Ari Marmell – Than to Serve in Heaven
Karin Lowachee – The Bleach
Jay Lake – The Woman Who Shattered the Moon
Julie Czerneda – Charity
J.M. Frey – Maddening Science
Clint Talbert – Birthright
Rachel Swirsky – Broken Clouds
Tony Pi – The Miscible Imp
Leah Petersen – Manmade
J.P. Moore – Lord of the Southern Sky
Ryan McFadden – Back in the Day
Todd McCaffrey – Robin Redbreast
Erik Buchanan – Cycle of Revenge
Gregory A. Wilson – The Presuil’s Call
Rosemary Jones – The Man With Looking-Glass Eyes
Gabrielle Harbowy – Starkeep
Ed Greenwood – A Lot of Sly Work Ahead
Mercedes Lackey / Larry Dixon – Heir Apparent
Chris A. Jackson – Home Again, Home Again
Steve Bornstein – The Best Laid Plans

…and another fantastic cover by Scott Purdy.

Preorder information will be available soon on the Dragon Moon Press website.

WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME up for ForeWord Book Of The Year!

WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME, co-edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood, is a finalist for ForeWord Book Of The Year in the Anthologies category! Congrats to all my fellow authors!

HEROES come in a thousand guises, and so do stories about them. The only survivor of a war struggles to return to a home that doesn’t exist anymore. A rebel leader loses everything she fought for and must start from scratch. A hero who has fought for her village her whole life must retire into obscurity without ever being known for her deeds. A starship returns to an Earth that is much changed, yet too much the same. A soldier is haunted by the very thing that saved his life. And King Arthur returns in Albion’s hour of need. Dark fantasy. Urban fantasy. Political intrigue. Science fiction. From the horrific to the heartwarming. Introducing 19 pulse-pounding tales, by luminaries and great new voices. Co-edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood. Featuring an introduction by Susan J. Morris. Stories by Marie Bilodeau, Steve Bornstein, Xander Briggs, Erik Buchanan, Brian Cortijo, Erik Scott de Bie, J.M. Frey, Ed Greenwood, Gabrielle Harbowy, Jim C. Hines, Chris A. Jackson, Rosemary Jones, Julie Kagawa, Jay Lake, Todd McCaffrey, J.P. Moore, Peadar Ó Guilín, Shannon Page, Tony Pi, Phil Rossi

 

Good luck everyone!

Reflections and Projections

It’s been far too long since I got in here. 2011 was a pretty good year for me, all told. I lost 30 pounds and got down to my target weight. I sold my first story. I got a nice promotion at work. I finally went to Gencon after years of wanting to go. I got to know a lot of great people in writing and publishing. When the year began, almost none of that was on the radar. Hell, most of it was squarely in the “wouldn’t it be cool if…” box. There were downsides too, of course, but I think I can safely say that 2011 was the best year I’ve had in quite a while.

So as 2012 begins (I know, I know, we’re already 2 months into it…), I have to wonder what life has in store for me. I’m not resting on my laurels, though. I sold one story last year; this year I’m going to try for at least two sales. I’ve already got my tickets for Gencon. And I’m sure as hell not about to gain back the weight I lost. 🙂

Giving Thanks

I’m on the rig for Thanksgiving this year. It happens. I missed both Thanksgiving and Xmas in 2009, was home for them both last year, and this year it’s Thanksgiving again. It’s always a drag being away from home for a major holiday, especially a family oriented one, but the catering crew always does a great job. This year the menu was:

Assorted Fruit, Vegetable Tray, Deviled Eggs, Hot Crab Dip, Cocktail Smokies, Cocktail Meatballs, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Cold Cut Tray, Cheese Tray, Shrimp Cocktail, Crackers, Mixed Nuts, Egg Nog, Broiled Lobster Tails and Steamed Crab Legs with Drawn Butter, Glazed Ham, Baked Turducken, Duck Tasso Gumbo, Dressing, Gravy, Mac and Cheese, Rice, Green Bean Casserole, Candied Yams, Holiday Cake, Fruit Cake, Candies, Carrot Cake, Assorted Cheesecakes, Cookies, Fudge, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Banana Pudding, Strawberry Shortcake, and Pralines.

So yeah, we weren’t hurting for good food. 🙂

Work doesn’t stop on the rig, of course, but only the essential work continues. The guys on the rig floor have to keep drilling, but for us guys down in the technical and maintenance jobs, we pretty much just kick back unless there’s essential repairs needed somewhere. Today I had one little thing to take care of the first hour of my 12-hour shift, so I spent the other 11 hours eating food and playing through Mass Effect on my laptop. Good times.

It also gave me some time to relax and reflect on the past year. So, in the spirit of the holiday…

I’m thankful for my health. I turned 42 this year. There are a couple of things I’m still working on, and there are mornings when I’m a little more stiff than I’d like, but by and large I’m in excellent health. I’ve lost over 30 pounds this year (only ten more pounds to my “ideal weight”); thanks to that and my work on the rig, I can confidently say that I’m in the best shape of my life.

I’m thankful for my job. There were times when I was working for Applied when I despaired of ever getting out of the hand-to-mouth financial plan. I loved working there when I started, but the work environment steadily worsened until it was just grinding me down. In the end, I worked there because I needed the money and that was it. When I took their buyout, it was more out of desperation than anything else. What I got into was better than I could have ever guessed. Working on the rig is tough, don’t get me wrong. Being away from my friends and family for three weeks at a time isn’t fun, it’s a pretty rough environment to work in much less live in, and it’s not like I can run out to a movie or something to take a break from it all. But it’s interesting, it’s challenging, the pay is great, and I only work six months out of the year. I can’t think of any other job I’d rather have.

I’m thankful for the reception my writing has received. I’ve written for years, but this year I was finally published and got some pretty good reviews. It’s been a wonderful introduction to a world I’ve only looked at from the sidelines. Half the fun of it’s been just getting to know people and make new friends. The other half is writing more. 🙂

I’m thankful for my family and friends, the close and extended relationships I have that keep me going. It may seem counterintuitive, but working on the rig has actually strengthened those bonds. When I’m home I have the free time to do the things I want without having to worry about work the next day or deal with an on-call phone, so I can consciously spend time with the people important to me rather than trying to fit them into the cracks of time between work and sleep. I can go to movies in the middle of the week. I can get together for gaming all day Saturday without having to fret over using my only day off for two weeks. They support me, share in my successes, and tolerate my oddities. I’m so much more relaxed and happy now than I ever was before, and I have them all to thank for it.

Yeah, it’s been a pretty good year, and I’m thankful for it.

Working, In More Ways Than One

I work on an oil rig, specifically the West Sirius, owned by Seadrill and under contract to BP. On April 20, 2010, we were getting ready to begin drilling a well for Exxon-Mobil when the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank. The government instituted a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while they investigated the cause of the disaster and instituted new policies to help to prevent a recurrence.

We never did drill that well for Exxon. They cancelled their sublease and instead we spent a few months out at the Horizon spill site helping to get the well under control and clean up the oil. Since then, for about the last year, we’ve been patiently waiting for the moratorium to lift. It’s given us plenty of time to get a lot of upgrades done that we don’t normally have time to do. That, and get into compliance with all the new post-Horizon regulations.

Now we’re finally on the eve of going back to drilling. We’re currently on station at Keathley Canyon block 292, about 250 miles southwest of New Orleans and 200 miles off the Louisiana coast. We’re drilling in the Kaskida oil field. We drilled the first well out here in 2009 for Devon (it was the well the rig was drilling when I first arrived onboard), now we’re going to drill four or five more wells, each taking the better part of a year. The Gulf is about to get seriously busy over the next few years. It’s nice to have some job security.

On the opposite end of my interests, I’m seriously considering taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year, or as it’s known online, NaNoWriMo, or simply Nano. In years past, I never got the point of it. It seemed like a waste of time to just basically write as fast as you can for a whole month. Surely the result would be unintelligible gibberish, a mish-mash of half-baked ideas, cardboard characters, and stilted dialogue, right?

Then last week I read an article by George Angus titled, “NaNoWriMo: The Right Rite of Passage for Writers” and I changed my mind. I’ve had a few ideas for novella-length stories floating around for several years now but none of them ever really developed past the general outline stage. I think it’s time I try to squeeze one of them and see what it’s really made of.

I’ve no doubt it’s going to be crap, at least at first. I tend to take my time with my short stories, writing for a bit before stopping and letting the ideas percolate in my head, going back and editing a bit, then writing some more. To complete Nano, you have to write an average of 1,667 words a day, every day for 30 days. I don’t have time to edit, and I think that’s the point. Screw editing, just get the words on the screen and let the ideas flow.

So, here’s to a month of fluid ideas.

Unlikely Writing Resources – Online Roleplaying

A Game That Honed the Skills of Writers

I’ve played roleplaying games in one form or another for close to three decades. When the online services started opening, I inevitably found message forums dedicated to roleplaying and ended up getting sucked into storylines. The first one I remember was a forum on CompuServe back in early 1991. I let my CompuServe subscription lapse as my Navy duty stations changed, but in 1994, at the dawn of the modern internet, I found a text-based online RP game and got back into it again.

Online text-based RP games are a completely different animal from paper-and-pencils or forum-based RP. When you’re sitting around a table with friends and dice, RP is more of an acting exercise. You’re playing the part of your character, deciding what they do in various situations and talking as them when there’s dialogue. When you shift to written RP, it becomes more of a writing exercise. You still have to communicate actions and dialogue, but instead of just speaking it now you’re writing a little tiny piece of a story. On message forums you have the luxury of taking your time and thinking about your post, but when it’s online and in real-time you’re under the gun. You’ve got to get your “pose” out in just a few minutes because other people are waiting for you to take your turn so they can take theirs. People are going to be reading what you have to say as soon as you hit the Enter key. There’s no backsies. You have to be interesting and engaging, spell everything right, and have decent grammar and sentence structure all while roleplaying your wizard/pirate/hero.

And, just as people say you have to write terribly before you can write well, so it goes with online RP. I have logs from the mid-90s that are just painful to read because I was so, so bad. Telling rather than showing, cliché characterization, all the things they tell you to not do, I did. But I kept at it, saw what others were doing and aspired to reach their level, and got better. It’s a tough row to hoe, but the immediate feedback you get makes it a great crucible to practice your craft. You get to see a broad range of writing styles, things that work and things to avoid. It can even help with character development. One of the things I like to do to figure out how my characters work is drop them into various situations and see what they do. Online RP gives you that opportunity without you having to play the rest of the cast too. When you can concentrate on just one character, it’s easier to get into their head and learn who they are.

It’s not for everyone, and it tends to gobble up a lot of time, but if you get involved in online roleplaying it can be a big help in your craft.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out 0: Origins

This week is Speak Out With Your Geek Out, an online effort to pull the curtain aside on all things geeky. As its Facebook page says:

“Let us invite those who would stereotype us to sit at our table and share our interests. Let us combat being used as pawns for internet gaffes with the reasons why we’re awesome, why we love what we love, and why it’s good to be a geek.”

Hi. My name is Steve, and I’m a geek. (Hi Steve!)

I’m old-school geek. I was a geek before computers even entered the picture. I was that stereotypical kid that didn’t fit in, got picked on in school, and got picked last in gym. I think geekery has its origins in those marginalized kids. Shunned by their peers, they retreat into books, movies, anything that provides an escape or gives them some semblance of control over their lives. Tolkien’s books sucked you in because you wanted to be there, inside that world so different from yours where even chubby little dudes with hairy feet could be heroes. When D&D first came out, I think that was its main appeal. Get your ass kicked at school? Here, you can be a fireball-slinging wizard or an axe-wielding barbarian who doesn’t take shit from anyone!

When computers started to enter the scene, it was a natural draw. Here was this new gizmo that nobody really knew what to do with, but if you could program it then you could bend it to your will. (I know the programmers out there might be laughing right now, but work with me.) You could make and do things that nobody had seen before and that was empowering.

But playing role-playing games and getting into computers only served to distance geeks further from their peers. If you were fortunate, there were other geeks and you could commiserate with them, play your games together and such, but when you were out in public you had to hide all that. You were still driven by the need to fit in and be accepted, even if you weren’t being accepted for your personal truth. It rarely worked, of course. You didn’t fool anyone, but it never stopped you from trying, from trying to hide who and what you were.

So geekery became this sort of “hidden shame.” You didn’t discuss it with outsiders. In trying to find a place for ourselves, we ended up distancing ourselves from the places we wanted to fit into most. It wasn’t until the advent of BBSes in the late 80s and early 90s that geeks really began to meet each other. Suddenly it wasn’t just you and your buddies at school. It turned out there were other geeks across town that liked the same kind of stuff, and it helped to know there were other bastions of geekery out there.

And once the internet burst onto the scene, it turned out there were other geeks across the state, then the nation, then the world. Increased communication started exposing everyone to the way of the geek. On the internet, we were finally somebody. Everyone knew Bill Gates, what he did, and how much money he made doing it. He was proof that we could be more than just skinny dudes wearing lame clothes who had our lunch money stolen, proof to others and proof to ourselves. Even today he still looks like the quintessential geek.

But language is a funny thing. It describes, and in doing so it perpetuates. Geeky things are a lot more popular nowadays, but culture changes slowly and geeky things are still strange to a lot of people. Even today, geek is still a derogatory term at times. The word geek is being reclaimed by the geeks, worn proudly even, but there’s still a ways to go. Acceptance comes from exposure. Don’t hide what you geek out on. Show it, share it. Joy isn’t something to be ashamed of. Let your geek flag fly.

Ten Years On

So here we are, ten years on. It’s a convenient place for people, us, to stop and reflect. Ten fingers, ten toes, ten years. We’re decimal, it’s part of being human.

I’m not going to ask you where you were on that day. I think it’s safe to say that everyone alive on 9/11/01 knows precisely where they were and what they were doing before, during, and after the attacks. For some, it continues to be a traumatic memory of an event that has no place in a sane world. For others, it’s just a conversation starter, a thing where they compare notes and shake their heads before changing the subject and moving on. For most, it’s a particular memory that they’ll never be rid of simply because of its part in the collective consciousness of America, and maybe the world.

I’m not going to fill this space with my thoughts on the politics of what happened then and since then. Every pundit that can put finger to keyboard is sounding off on that today, sharing their opinions with you, wanted or not. You’ll agree with some of them and disagree with others, just like you would with me. If you know me, you probably know my feelings on the matter. Politics has become a greasy sport in America, getting all over everything it touches and staining it. I’d prefer to keep spots, at least those spots, from tarnishing this blog.

Instead I’m going to talk about progress, and hope. There are times I despair for humanity. I watch the news, I read about some crazy thing in some corner of the world where two groups of people are in conflict over something ridiculous and trivial. They don’t worship the same god, or the right god, or they were born on this side of the river or that side of the river, or they think things should be run by this guy in a funny hat or that guy in a funnier hat. And I look around at the world at all we still have to do, all the hungry mouths to feed, the poverty, the resource depletion and I think, “Man, we’re screwed.” How are we ever going to realize our potential and become better than we are when we can’t overcome our basic Neanderthal nature? Why are we still fighting for scraps around the campfire and bashing each other with antelope bones to have the biggest cave?

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture out here on the rig. Your attention is always turned inwards, at things on the rig, and you tend to lose track of what’s going on around it. I try to take a little time out of each day to enjoy the scenery though, and I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty amazing things. This morning I was up on the drill floor and as I came around the corner I saw this:

Sunrise over Grand Isle 91

I’ve learned in my time out here that sunrises and sunsets are something pretty special. You have to be in the right place at the right time with the weather cooperating, but when it all comes together it’s a real treat. It’s Mother Earth putting on a show for you, a one-woman show, one day/night only. I always try to stop and enjoy it when I see it. No matter how busy I am, I’ll take at least a moment to stand at the railing and just bask in the glory of it all spread out before me, the reds and golds spilling across the sky, the black brightening to blue or the bright blue fading out. That’s where we come from, in that picture up there, and when we see that it flips a little switch buried in our hindbrains that reminds us of how our distant ancestors gazed in amazement from the mouth of the cave as the Sun returned to warm us after the cold, dark, frightening night. That’s the Source, and we’re all just little critters scrambling around on a big rock trying to make sense of it all while the Sun wheels above us, as oblivious of us as we so often are of it.

I was about to head back to work when I looked down and saw this:

Roustabouts enjoying the sunrise, 9/11/11

Three roustabouts on their way to work, stopping to enjoy the sunrise too. I could probably count on one hand the number of things I have in common with those guys. We’re all American and speak English, but the similarities end not too far from there. We grew up in totally different environments. We live in totally different communities. We have different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, different family structures. And yet there they were, partaking in one of the most basic of human things, enjoying the beauty of the sunrise.

It gave me pause, and it made me think, “Maybe there’s hope for us yet.” We’ve come a long way in the last ten years, and the last ten thousand years. There’s still problems around the world. There always will be. There’ll always be something beyond the ability of people to deal with and it’ll take more people, or even other people, to come together and make things right again. We don’t always know how it will turn out, but we do the best we can. Even when we’re so different from each other there’s always things that can bring us together, even something as simple as the beauty of the sunrise. We’re all created alike; our differences we manufacture ourselves, and because of that we can manufacture bridges to get past those differences and bring ourselves closer to each other. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be that change. Build your little piece of the bridge and when someone else wants to add their piece to yours, hold it in place so they can bolt it on.

If you take anything away from this post, take that. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

First!

So, my first post on WordPress. I’m setting this up from the rig, so WordPress is helpfully letting me know it’s also available in Norwegian.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with this blog. I’ve been looking for an avenue to lay down thoughts and ideas for a while now. I thought to start using my old LiveJournal account again, but in my absence it’s kinda devolved into a bit of a social dustbowl. I hear people mention LJ’s decline offhandedly but I haven’t heard about it in detail yet.

Then I thought I’d start using Google+ for that function and for a while it looked like it’d be awesome, but then Google got stupid with the whole pseudonym thing and some of my friends started leaving/getting thrown out. As time’s gone on, I’ve become less and less enamored of Google’s identity policies and their plans for expanding that across their services. I’m not going to be leaving the Google ecosystem anytime soon, but I’m a lot more wary now of what I do there. At any rate, the thought of using it for blogging (via public/protected posts) is a non-starter. If blogging is a way to get your message out as widely as possible, it’s hardly productive to use a platform that won’t let some people participate. Then I found out that Google+ only saves your last 250 posts; at post #251, you need the direct link to the post to see it. That was the last nail in Google+’s blogging coffin as far as I’m concerned. Blogger’s not going to happen either. That’s so 2002.

So, here I am. I may yet move this to my own site with WordPress.org, but either way I’m going to do my best to make it work. I used LiveJournal for about eight years. Let’s see if I can beat my old high score.