Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Month: May 2012 (page 1 of 5)

New Interview And New News

So, it’s like this: recently, thanks to Gwenda Bond and Jeff Vandermeer, I was afforded the opportunity to interview one of my writing idols — horror and storytelling legend, Robert McCammon. There was, of course, no hesitation on my part; the guy tells amazing stories. I lay the blame of my decision to become a writer at his feet, in fact, thanks to books like Swan Song and Boy’s Life. He’s got a new book out — The Providence Rider — and we talked about that and his career and what he’s got coming up in the future.

You’ll find the interview over at Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog.

Also: checkout my review of The Providence Rider, while you’re at it.

Udder Noose

First up: I will be signing Blackbirds at the Doylestown Bookshop from 7-9pm.

If you are somewhere in the Northeast, YOU MUST COME. Or I will be suicidal with disappointment.

Also, I don’t think I linked to it at the blog yet, so…

Hey, did you see I got a kick-ass review of Blackbirds over at io9?

From that review: “In terms of style, Wendig reminds me most of Stephen King. There’s a way of using somewhat fevered, rugose prose to describe both the beauty and horror of the mundane, then switching to a plainer mode when describing the outer limits stuff, that brings to mind King’s 80s and 90s work.”

Also, a very lovely review of Blackbirds at The Guardian.

From that review: “Building a fast-paced story through clever interweaving of viewpoints and flashback, Blackbirds follows what Miriam does when she knows that fate can never be denied. It’s vivid and violent, with some pyrotechnic turns of phrase, if occasionally rough round the edges. If you’re looking for a sassy, hard-boiled thriller with a paranormal slant, Wendig has established himself as the go-to man.”

Also, the Guardian apparently thinks that I am part of the forefront of “New Pulp.”

From that article: “Then there’s Chuck Wendig. Some would be satisfied just to be the author of Dinocalypse Now – but not Wendig. The American author has built on his growing cult following with the crowd-funded and self-published Atlanta Burns novellas, and the outstanding urban fantasy novel Blackbirds from UK publisher Angry Robot. Wendig’s books, which blend noir and urban fantasy tropes with the gritty reality of contemporary America in a unique trailer-trash gothic style, are proof positive that pulp need not lack depth, emotion or originality. He’s also a prolific blogger; an essential criteria for today’s ambitious pulp fictioneer, when your readership are only ever a tweet away.”

Finally, literary bad-ass Seanan McGuire gives the book a very kind review.

From that review: “Miriam is like that. Her life is one long game of Penis. She swears, she’s inappropriately lewd (which is different from appropriately lewd, although she does that, too), she goes for the shock value, because she wants to keep people away. I think this book contained more instances of the word “fuck” than the unrated cut of Clerks. But here’s the kicker: Chuck Wendig isn’t playing Penis with you. He manages to write a protagonist who’s all about the shock, but the book never feels like the author is trying to shock you. He’s just telling you what happened. It’s a travelogue of tragedy, and it’s beautiful and terrible, and it couldn’t have happened any other way.”

And that’s all she wrote, folks.

Self-Publishing And The Burden Of Proof

“Whoever said that life is fair? Where is that written?”

— Grandpa, The Princess Bride

Last week I wrote a probably-too-cranky post about the bad apples bobbing around the self-publishing bucket, and that post got a little attention as it pinballed around Ye Olde Webnet, and as such, it received a number of interesting responses here and there and everywhere.

I thought it best to continue this discussion and, this time, tackle it with a little less, erm, invective on my part. Because I think we’re scratching at some very important topics here for DIY publishers.

The first and most troubling response is one I’ll get out of the way now: some folks seemed to believe I was giving all self-publishers the middle finger. Unless you’re looking to cherry-pick a bouquet of out-of-context quotes, you won’t find much evidence in that post of me smearing self-publishers. I’ve read many excellent books that exist only because the authors went that direction. I think self-publishing is part of what makes this time the best time ever to be a writer and a storyteller. I am, in fact, a self-publisher myself (though I favor a diverse “hybrid” approach). And in fact knowing self-publishers and being one myself is what makes me rail against the most poisoning voices. They may do themselves a service by getting attention, but they surely don’t do any other self-publishers a favor — and that leads to the second response.

The other response has been, “Well, this is all inside baseball and it doesn’t affect readers and so who cares what the crazies say or do.” And I don’t agree with that sentiment one bit. Let’s talk about why.

Traditional publishing is, for better or for worse, the current status quo. A book goes through the onerous task of reaching an audience — agent to editor to publication to bookshelves — and that’s the way it’s been for decades. Self-publishing has always existed, sure, but over the last many years it has been a fringe act. This is no longer true, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that this current wave of self-publishing possibility is very new. It is not the status quo.

Which means the current “system” is geared toward traditional. What do I mean by that? I mean: Reviews. Interviews. Awards. Rights. They all lean toward traditional and in many cases exclude indie efforts entirely. Now, the easy, knee-jerk response is, “Fuck them! They don’t want me? I don’t want them.” Except, you do want them. Some self-publishers do very well but plenty more find themselves struggling — and, in many cases, struggling with a beautiful, brilliant novel. Those struggling would likely find themselves reaching a broader, deeper audience with — repeat after me — reviews, interviews, awards, and rights. With those you would in fact reach more readers. (And remember, it’s readers we’re talking about here.)

Next comes the question: “Why are self-publishers excluded?”

Well, the simplest answer is, again, the “indie” community does not represent the status quo, and those outside the status quo are the ones with the regrettable and unfortunate (and, yes, unfair) burden of proving their mettle. The champion in the arena gets to strut around like the cock of the walk. The underdog has to prove he can cleave the champion’s skull in twain.

But, the more realistic — and more troubling — answer is that self-publishing has a number of standard-bearers who are not, frankly, all that healthy for the overall community (such as it is). And so we return to the “fevered egos” post in question, which calls out bad apples who do bad-apple-things (can’t write, use sales numbers as a bludgeon, publish a shit-ton of crappy books, act like jerkoffs, and so on and so forth).

They act like that, they hurt me, they hurt you, they hurt self-publishers. Because they get attention — the wrong kind of attention. In self-publishing, there most certainly is such a thing as bad publicity. A meltdown on a popular book review blog has… what effect, exactly? Do you think it:

a) Endears the book review blog to self-published authors?


b) Makes them more standoffish to self-published authors?

I’m going to go with “b.”

Again your response may be, “Blah blah blah, screw them.”

No, not screw them. They do this of their own free will. They don’t get paid. They’re out there spending time and effort (and sometimes money) to put their love of books on the line. They should have to put up with this… why, exactly? (I can speak to this a little myself. I get a lot of email from self-published authors and while many are very nice, I receive a not insignificant number who are pushy and assumptive and often at the same time offering content that is far below the bare minimum level of quality offered by traditional publishing. I have not gotten one such email from a traditional author.)

Blogs like these can help you reach readers.

Ah! Yes. Readers. Remember them?

See, I don’t think readers are unaware of all this. We can hope it’s all inside baseball as much as we like, but when an indie author melts down on a book review blog, you need to understand that’s a blog for readers, not for publishing insiders. It’s not a blog for agents to snicker at one another about the rube who just covered himself in medical waste and tinfoil while ranting about the “conspiracy against his literary genius.” Readers read those blogs. I know they do. You know how many readers found Blackbirds that way?

Plenty. And I’m thankful for that fact.

Do we think readers aren’t on social media?

Twitter? Facebook? Your blog? My blog?

Are we willing to bet that readers aren’t savvy? Are we willing to dismiss them as a crowd of blissfully-ignorant yokels? Are we comfortable suggesting that readers never have blogs of their own? Or Twitter accounts? Or Facebook pages? If even 10% of readers are this savvy, are we willing to lose them?

Whether we’re talking meltdowns on blogs or ugly books with bad editing, readers know. Readers see. Readers are a lot fucking smarter than you realize. They may not be privy to every little bump of turbulence that authors and publishers experience so keenly, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bunch of hee-haw ignoramuses, either. And so we return to what I believe is the truth at hand: the burden of proof lies in the hands of self-publishers. And every poison pill and bad apple who has a public shit-fit or puts his worst foot forward might as well be urinating in the public drinking water.

They give all self-publishers a bad name.

They increase the burden; they do not lessen it.

That burden of proof is on the indies. That’s what it takes to disrupt the status quo.

Is that particularly fair? No.

But, as Grandpa notes above, whoever said life was fair?

* * *

Now, to finish up here: a call to action. What to do, then, about all this? The easy answer would be to ignore it — ignore the crazy people and they’ll go away. (One only hopes that everybody else will ignore it, too.) Or, maybe you go the other way. Maybe you talk about it. Just lending your voice to the conversation can help it go further — that doesn’t mean shouting it down, necessarily, or being quite as, erm, vociferous as I am here, but I feel this is a worthy conversation to have.

Beyond that? Just don’t be that guy. Don’t be the crazy person. Write well. Be cool. Put yourself out there. Work for the good of indie authors and not against it. Lead by example! “Independent” authors and publishers may be separate from one another, but that doesn’t mean they don’t affect one another.

The more good apples we have, the harder it is to see the bad ones.

25 Things To Know About Writing The First Chapter Of Your Novel

1. Every Book A Hook (And The First Chapter’s The Bait)

A reader walks into a bookstore. Spies an interesting book. What does she do? Picks it up. Flips to the first chapter before anything else. At least, that’s what I do. (Then I smell the book and rub it on my bare stomach in a circular motion and make mmmmmm noises.) Or, if I can find the first chapter online somewhere — Amazon, the author’s or publisher’s site, your Mom’s Myspace page — I’ll read it there. One way or another, I want to see that first chapter. Because that’s where you grab me by the balls or where you push me out the door. The first chapter is where you use me or lose me.

2. Fashionably Late To The Party

Bring the reader to the story as late you possibly can — we’re talking just before the flight leaves, just before the doors to the club are about to close, just before the shit’s gonna go down. Tension. Escalation. Right to the edge of understanding — no time to think, no time to worry, no time to ponder whether she wants to ride this ride or get off and go get a smoothie because too late, you’re mentally buckled in, motherfucker. The first chapter is the beginning of the book but it’s not the beginning of the whole story. (This is why origin stories are often the weakest iterations of the superhero tale.)

3. The Power Of A Kick-Ass Karate Chop Opening Line Kiyaaa!

A great first line is the collateral that grants the author a line of intellectual credit from the reader. The reader unconsciously commits: “That line was so damn good, I’m in for the next 50 pages.” I could probably do a whole “list of 25” on writing a strong opening line, but for now, I’ll say this: a good opening line is assertive. It’s lean and mean and cares nothing for fatty junk language or clumpy ten-gallon words. A good opening line is a promise, or a question, or an unproven idea. It says something interesting. It shows a shattered status quo. A good opening line is stone in our shoe that we cannot shake. Writing a killer first line to a novel is an art form in which there are a few masters and a great many apprentices.

4. The Gateway Drug To The Second Chapter

I’ve been to multiple Christopher Moore book talks, and each time he reveals something interesting about storytelling (and, occasionally, whale penises). At one such book talk — and this is me paraphrasing — he said something very interesting and a thing I’ve found true in my own reading experience: the more the reader reads, the more you can get them to read. Sounds obvious, maybe. But it goes like this: if you get them to read the first page, they’ll read to the second. If they can read to the first chapter, they’ll at least finish the second. If they read to page 10, they’ll go to 20, if they read to 40, they’ll stay to page 80, and so on and so forth. You’re hoping you can get them to the next breadcrumb, and as the novel’s story you space out the breadcrumbs — but early on, those first breadcrumbs (in the form of the first chapter) are in many ways the most important. Did I mention Christopher Moore knows a lot about whale penises?

5. Your Protagonist Has One Job: To Make Me Give A Fuck

If I get to the end of the first chapter and I don’t get a feel for your main character — if she and I are not connected via some gooey invisible psychic tether — I’m out. I don’t need to like her. I don’t need to know everything about her. But I damn sure need to care about her. Make me care! Crank up the volume knob on the give-a-fuck factor. Let me know who she is. Make me afraid for her. Speak to me of her quest. Whisper to me why her story matters. Give me that and I’ll follow her through the cankered bowels of Hell.

6. Give Her The Talking Stick

I want the character to talk. Give me dialogue. Dialogue is sugar. Dialogue is sweet. Dialogue is easy like Sunday morning. And dialogue is the fastest way to me getting to know the character. Look at it this way: when you meet a new person do you want to sit, watching them like Jane Goodall spying on a pair of rutting chimps from behind a duck blind? Or do you want to go up and have a conversation?

7. Conflict Is The Key That Unlocks A Reader’s Heart

Yeast thrives on sugar. Monkeys eat bananas. I guzzle gin-and-tonics. And conflict is what feeds the reader. Begin the book with conflict. Big, small, physical, emotional, whatever. Conflict disrupts the status quo. Conflict is drama. Conflict, above all else, is interesting. Your first chapter is not a straight horizontal line. It’s a jagged driveway leading up a dark mountainside — and the shadows are full of danger.

8. Steak’s On The Table

The reader will only keep reading if you provide them with an 8 oz porterhouse steak and — *checks notes* — oh. Ohhh. Right! Stakes. Stakes. Sorry. Let’s try this again: the conflict you introduce? It has to matter. We need to know the stakes — as in, what’s at play, here? What are the costs? What can be gained, what can be lost? Love? Money? One’s soul? Will someone die? Can someone be saved? Is there pie? The first chapter doesn’t demand that you spell out the stakes of the entire book in big blinky letters, but we do need a hint, a whiff of the meaty goodness that makes the conflict matter. And if all that fails, maybe try that “give the reader a steak” idea. Or pie. Did someone say I can have pie? I’ll have Key Lime, thanks.

9. Wuzza Wooza?

In the first chapter it’s essential to establish the where and the when of the story, just so the reader isn’t flailing around through time like a wine-sodden Doctor Who. But this also doesn’t mean hitting the reader over the head with it. You don’t need to spell it out if it’s fairly obvious, and you also don’t need to build paragraph wall after paragraph wall giving endless details to support the when and the where.

10. Mood Lighting

First impressions matter. Impressions are in many ways indelible — you can erase that thing you just wrote in pencil or tear up the page with the inky scribbles, but the soft wood of the table beneath still holds the impressions of what was written, and so it is that the first chapter is where the reader gets his first and perhaps strongest taste of mood. Make a concerted effort to ask, “What is the mood I want the reader to feel throughout this book? What first taste hits their emotional palate?” (Two words: PSYCHIC UMAMI. That is also the codeword that will get you into my super-secret super-sexy food-and-porn clubhouse.) That doesn’t mean you need to wring a sponge over their head and drown them in mood — you create mood with a few brushstrokes of strong color, not a hammer dipped in a bucket of clown paint.

11. Theme As Thesis

An academic paper needs a thesis — an assertion that the paper will then attempt to prove (“DONUTS ARE SUPERIOR TO MUFFINS. BEHOLD MY CONFECTIONERY DATA”). A story is very much like that. Every story is an argument. And the theme is the crystallization of that argument. Sometimes it’s plainly stated other times it lurks as subtext for the reader to suss out, but just the same, the theme of your story — the argument the tale is making — is critical. And just as the thesis of a paper goes right up front, so too must your theme be present in the first chapter.

12. The Mini-Arc Is Not Where All The Mini-Animals Go

Every story has a dramatic arc, right? The rise and fall of the tale. An inciting incident leads to rising tension which escalates and grows new conflict and the story pivots and then it reaches the narrative ejaculation and soon after demands a nap and a cookie. The first chapter is perhaps best when thought of as a microcosm of the macrocosm — the chapter should have its own rise and fall, its own conflict (which may become the larger conflict of the narrative). That’s not to say the first chapter concludes anything, but rather that you shouldn’t think of it solely as a ramp up but rather as a thing with a more complicated shape.

13. In Which I Contradict Popular Advice About Opening With Action

Opening with an action scene or sequence is tricky, and yet, that’s the advice you’ll get — “Open with action!” The problem with action is, action only works as a narrative driver when we have context for that action. Specifically, context for the characters involved in said action. Too many authors begin with, “Holy crap! Someone’s driving fast! And bullets! And there’s a robot-dragon chasing them! LAVA ERUPTION. And nano-bees! Aren’t you tense yet? Aren’t your genitals crawling up inside your body waiting for the resolution of this super-exciting exxxtreme action scene?” Not so much, no. Because I have no reason yet to care. Without depth of character and without context, an action scene is ultimately shallow and that’s how they often feel when leading off the first chapter. Now, if you can get us in there and make us care before throwing us into balls-to-the-wall action, fuck yeah.

14. Better To Lead With Mystery

You ever turn the television on and find a show you’ve never seen before but you catch like, 30 seconds of it and suddenly you’re hunkering down and watching the thing like you’re a long-time viewer? It’s the question that hooks you. “Wait, is Gary the secret father of Juniper’s baby? What does the symbol of the winged armadillo mean? WHO SHOT BOBO’S PONY?” (By the way, Who Shot Bobo’s Pony? is the phrase that destroys the universe. Do not say it aloud.) It’s mystery that grabs you. It’s the big swoop of the question mark that hooks you around the throat and forces you to sit. While action needs context, mystery doesn’t — in fact, one of mystery’s strengths is that it demands the reader wait for context.

15. Eschew Exposition, Bypass Backstory

The first chapter is not the place to tell us everything. Don’t be like a child overturning his bucket of toys — then it’s just a colorful clamor, an overindulgence of information. Exposition kills drama. Backstory is boring. Give us a reason to care about that stuff before you start droning on and on about it.

16. A Fine Balance Between Confusion, Mystery, And Illumination

It’s a tightrope walk, that first chapter. You want the reader drawn in by mystery but not eaten by the grue of confusion, and so you illuminate a little bit as you go — a flashlight beam on the wall or along the ground, just enough to keep them walking forward and not impaling themselves on a stalagmite.

17. Flung Off The Cliff

TV shows generally follow a multi-act structure, with each act punctuated (and separated) by commercial breaks. The trick to television is that it seems like a story-delivery medium that carries advertisements but really it’s an advertising medium that carries story: the networks need you to stay through the commercial break, not just to come back to the story but to sit through the advertisements. And the way they do this is often by ending each “act” with a cliffhanger of sorts — a moment of mystery, an introduction of conflict, a twist of the tale. Your eyes bulge and you offer a Scoobylicious “RUH ROH” and then sit down and wait (or, like me, you just fast forward on your DVR). This trick works at the end of the first chapter. A cliffhanger (mystery, conflict, twist) will help set the hook in the reader’s cheek.

18. K.I.T.

Keep it tight. Also, keep it short. Don’t go on and on and on. The first chapter is not a novel in and of itself.

19. Voice Like Bull

You never want your writing to feel limp and soggy like a leaf of lettuce that’s been sitting on the counter for days, but this is 1000% more true when it comes to the first chapter. Your voice in that chapter must be calm, confident, assertive — no wishy-washy language, no great big bloated passages, no slack-in-the-rope. Your voice must be fully present. All guns firing at once: the full brunt of your might used to sink the reader’s resistance to your writerly wiles. BADOOOOM. *splash*

20. On The Subject Of Prologues

The prevailing advice is, “Prologues can eat a sack of wombat cocks, and if you use one you will be ostracized and forced to eat dust and drink urine, you syphilitic charlatan.” Harsh, but there it is. Also, wrong — a prologue should never be an automatic, but hell, if you need one, you need one. Here’s how you know: if your prologue is better used as the first chapter, then it’s not a prologue. It’s a first chapter.

21. Fly Or Die, And Why

Since you’re a writer, you probably have bookshelves choked with novels. So, grab ten off the shelf. Read their opening chapters. Find out what works. Find out what sucks. What’s missing? What’s present?

22. Sometimes The First Chapter Is The Hardest To Write

Writing the first chapter can feel like you’re trying to artificially inseminate a stampeding mastodon with one hand duct taped to your leg. That’s okay. That’s normal. Do it and get through it.

23. More Time Under The Knife

What that ultimately means is, a first chapter may see more attention — writing, editing, rewriting, and rewriting, and then rewriting some more — than any other chapter (outside maybe the last). That’s okay. Take the time to get it right. It’s also okay if the “Chapter One” you end up with looks nothing like the “Chapter One” you started with many moons before.

24. An Emblem Of The Whole

You’ll notice a pattern in this list, and that pattern is: the first chapter serves as an emblem of the whole. It’s got to have a bit of everything. It needs to be representative of the story you’re telling — other chapters deeper in the fat layers and muscle tissue of the story may stray from this, but the first chapter can’t. It’s got to have all the key stuff: the main character, the motive, the conflict, the mood, the theme, the setting, the timeframe, mystery, movement, dialogue, pie. That’s why it’s so important — and so difficult — to get right. Because the first chapter, like the last chapter, must have it all.

25. For The Sake Of Sweet Saint Fuck, Don’t Be Boring

Above all else, don’t be boring. That’s the cardinal sin of storytelling. If you ignore most of the things on this list: fine. Don’t ignore this one. Be interesting. Engage the reader’s curiosity. The greatest crime a writer can commit is by telling a boring story with boring characters and boring circumstances: a trip to Dullsvile, a ticket to Staleopolis, an interminable journey to the heart of PLANET MONOTONOUS. Open big. Open strong. Open in a way that commands the reader’s interest. Fuck boring.

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It’s A Great Time To Be A Storyteller

Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

Very short post today:

It’s a great time to be a writer and a storyteller.

It’s not the easiest time, no.

But it is a great time, just the same.

We have more options than ever.

The Internet has given us tools and connectedness.

Our stories can travel lickety-split with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger.

We can connect with other creators and collaborate.

The audience can collaborate with us.

We can publish big, small, or by ourselves.

We have artists and editors and audio techs all within digital reach.

The crowd can fund our efforts.

The web can push them out to millions.

Word-of-mouth carries our signal to circles overlapping circles overlapping circles — many pebbles thrown, infinite ripples colliding, a creative chaos theory given life and form.

None of this is simple.

All of it takes work.

The level of work we have to do is greater — and there remains oh-so-much to learn.

But while the key is heavy and the lock is stubborn, the door that it opens is profound.

It’s a great time to be a writer and a storyteller.

Go write.

Go tell stories.

Go and find your audience.

Flash Fiction Challenge: One Random Sentence

Last week’s challenge — “The Paint Color Title Scheme.”


Click here right now.

That is a random sentence generator.

You will get a random sentence and you will use it as either the first or the last sentence of your up-to-1000-word flash fiction entry in this week’s challenge. For instance, I got the sentence: “The textual silence swallows against the geometry.” I have no idea what the fuck that means, but it’s great.

Write in any genre.

You have one week. Due by June 1st, noon EST (Friday).

IN ADDITION, I’ll buy a random participant a copy of BLACKBIRDS — mass market paperback or Kindle (your choice). EDIT: Courtesy of the fine cyborgs at Angry Robot Books, this contest is extended to all international participants and shipping handled no matter where you live. Except the moon. We won’t ship to the moon because that shit gets expensive.

Go and write!

In Which You Interview Me, Part One

It’s high time to finally answer the 80+ questions you crazy people asked me way back when.

I may shorten some of your questions or correct your typos/spelling errors because I am an ass. Accept it.

I will answer a chunkful of these at a time.

Let us begin.

“I really liked Double Dead. Any chance of a sequel?  — A. Wallace

BOOM. It’s called Bad Blood. And it’s outtie like a belly button, yo. I probably shouldn’t ever say that last part again, should I? Hm. Anyway! The book — which is a novella, or rather, an e-novella — is available at Amazon and B&N. It will cost you a mere $3.14.

My crime genre novel ‘London’s Falling’ is going to be published (By UK based Caffeine Nights Publishing) in August this year. I have been trying to promote it on my website can you think of any ways I can really spread the word (even going viral) about the book in the time leading up to publication? — David Byerlee

Damn, David, this is supposed to be all about me! ME I TELL YOU ME *kicks over a lamp, punches a cow, throws a mug of whiskey at a passing motorcyclist, kills a mythological being and feasts on its heart in public nom nom nom*

Anyway, to answer your question:

I have seriously no idea. If you figure out a good answer, let me know. You may want to wrestle author Paul Cornell on television, though, because his novel is also London Falling.

(And it has a very lovely cover.)

About how much money do you make per book per month? I’m just curious just how little or how much money I’ll get. A bad book tends to rank in the millions, whereas an ok book (like yours) ranks in the 100,000s, and an awesome book ranks from 10,000-1. I would just like to know so I can size up my income. — M. Chapman

Aww, thanks for calling my books “ok,” M. Chapman! You really know how to tickle a guy’s heart. As to how much money I make per book per month — well, I’m not really compelled to be that transparent, business-wise. Further, each book earns differently than each other book, and that monthly total goes up and down. And I can’t speak to my traditional releases.

What is the best animation software when making sprites for video games? I have a game I’m developing (we’re currently trying to finding our team of crack game designers), called Aerwood. It’s an RPG, so there’s going to be a lot of Sprite recycling. I have Gimp, so I can create awesomely detailed sprites, but I need to find a good software to make my sprites move. Oh, and anyone who is reading this, there are still jobs in the animation and programming departments. Contact me at (that includes you, Chuck). I’m trying to pay people in %s of the total profits, that way they only get paid well if they work hard, and it eliminates BSing altogether. — M. Chapman

Hey again, Mitch. Um, you do know that I’m a writer, right? As in I don’t… animate… sprites? That sounds like something you do on really good drugs, though. DUDE I’M ANIMATING THE SHIT OUT OF SOME SPRITES UNDER THE WATERTOWER FUUUUUCK.


As a sidenote, Mitch wrote me an email recently, and I feel like reproducing it here because a) it’s contains questions and b) it’s sort of insane.

Hey Chuck I’ve seen you have broken into the gaming industry. But what the fuck do you actually make? The description of your gaming books confuses me. So what are they, guides, dress-up games, how to masterbate on a magical chain saw and live guides? What the fuck is White Wolf? They don’t seem to make actual games, so I don’t think they can call their products ‘video games’ Are they just some lame roleplaying dress-up game like Dungeons and Dragons? Please be hasty answering, as I’m about to lose interest and have much masterbating to do. Don’t judge me! — M. Chapman

Multiple answers: I write things, or, put differently, I make stories. Sometimes those stories are games, which is to say, pen-and-paper roleplaying games like D&D (which is not… a dress-up game). Sometimes I also work on video games or transmedia gameplay. None of this involves “masterbating” or… magical chainsaws? Are you high? Am I high? Also, I hate to judge, but I’m going to judge anyway because that’s just how I roll: it’s spelled “masturbating.” Not “master,” but rather like, “Hastur.” So, if you were wanking it to The Unspeakable God, you might be “Hasturbating.” Hope that helps!

Where can I find that awesome Blackbirds cover as a giant-sized poster for my wall? — Michael

I’ve hidden one in a bunker far below Wichita.

You will have to dig for it.

You may have to kill a man.

You will encounter a three-headed alpaca and each head will ask you an impossible-to-answer riddle.

Only then will you find the Blackbirds poster.

Or you could bug Angry Robot or Joey Hi-Fi about making one.

Or you could pray to Hastur!


What was the approximate timeline from your finishing your premiere novel, being taken on by an agent, selling the title, and seeing it on shelves? — J.V. Capri

Do you mean Blackbirds? Oof. That’s not going to be a fun answer, but it will be illuminating — I’ve been working on Blackbirds since 2007, I think. So, between then and now is the writing, the rewriting, the destroying-and-rewriting again, the getting an agent, the submission to publishers, the publication. Five years. Now, the sequel, I literally wrote the first draft in a month. Second draft took me a couple weeks. Finishing a final edit now which will be a few days of work, mostly very light. And it’ll be out in August. So the timeline on that book is hella tighter. But that feels right to me. That first book was my “fumbling around in the darkness trying to find my way” book. It was my Shit Or Get Off The Pot book.

How long does it take for you to write a novel – from rough draft to submitted draft? — Amber Gardner

A related question! Answer: different for every book. Blackbirds took several years. The sequel less than two months. Popcorn (book one of the Heartland Trilogy, my recently sold YA series) saw a first draft last May, and a fourth (final) submission-ready draft in… February or March of this year.

Do you, as many penmonkeys seem to do, have a bit of a stationery fetish? — Bex

I do not strop up against stationary like a randy pony, no. In fact, I don’t have much interest in stationary or pens. I appreciate them as objects of beauty and for that I exclude them from my process. They’re too nice to be mucked up with my spatters and sputum.

Did you make a deliberate decision to go balls to wall– say whatever the fuck you want in your social media and writing advice — because it works with the genres that you write, or would it have been impossible for you to rope it in and play quietly? In other words, do you think authors should attempt to match their social media style to their publishing audience or just be themselves? — Sheryl Kee

It’s a little deliberate, and it’s also a little bit who I really am. There came a point when I realized that it was just easier to go with it and accept that I am my voice and my voice is me and that sometimes includes profanity or inappropriate metaphors using unicorns or other glittery creatures of yore. I think authors should match their social media style to their This Is What I’m Like As A Human Being style. Unless that style is, “I’m a snarging douche-swab,” in which case I’d say to maybe roll up a nicer character sheet.

That, by the way, is a reference to the lame dress-up game known as D&D.

Which flash fiction story response to your challenges over the years is your favourite? — James Clark

I apologize, James, but you gotta understand something about my brain: it’s basically a rusty colander. It catches certain big things like, say, the birth of my son or what kind of pie I like to eat, but it misses a great many details, like phone numbers or the names of my thirteen ex-wives or who wrote what flash fiction here at the site. What I will say is, I am often surprised at the quality of flash fiction here. And I’ll also add that any time Dan O’Shea or Tommy Pluck write a piece of flash, I’m going to seek it out as if my eyes were Awesome-Seeking Missiles.

The zombie apocalypse is finally here. You’ve beaten your way into a blessedly full armoury. Weapon/ammunition is needed, fast. Which do you choose?

It’s probably impractical given that it uses a depletable resource, but dang I love me a good shotgun. A nice autoloader — I’ve got a Remington 1100 with a real light synthetic stock that would blow some holes through some zombie meat. Ejecting their pudding brains left and room.

CHOOM CHOOM splurch.

When you edit, do you have a checklist? I.e. something like, search fo ‘ly’, search for ‘to be’ verbs, etc? — Shawn McGee

Nope. I just feel my way along and read it out loud and if it sounds good aloud, then I believe it reads well on the page. That’s just the writing part though — story demands a far longer, harder, weirder look. But again, no checklist there, either. It’s mostly ingrained by now. I poll my intestinal flora.

Have you seen my car keys? — Alan Baxter

I have. And I’m not going to tell you where unless you give me my goat back. And that goat better be unharmed. I don’t mind if he’s covered in lipstick like last time — I can look the other way on that. Return my goat to me and we can have a discussion about where I saw the keys.

Hint: they were laying in a urinal somewhere.

And that’s a good place to end.

Part Two, coming soon.

*crash of thunder*

*dramatic musical chord*

*delighted goat squeal*