This spring has been a big one for new fiction from me, and I’m delighted to announce the release of the anthology The Secrets of Harrowgate Valley, which features my short story “Pressure Games.” This anthology also features stories from bestselling author Traci Douglass, Hieronymus Hawkes, Sheri Queen, J. Bigelow, S.R. Brown, Annika Sundberg, and the anthology’s editor Carrie Gessner (who is also my cohost on the podcast PosPop). This project was a long time coming and involved so much collaboration and work from each contributor. I am so honored to be in this collection, which is a shared world anthology set at a university in Pennsylvania where lots of strange things happen! My own story is about a succubus who feeds on her partner’s magic use, which leads then both down a dark path.
Category Archives: books
Big publication news, readers! I have released a new Sam Brody novella today. That’s right, a sequel to my urban fantasy series, which began with The Red Eye, is now out as a Kindle exclusive ebook. This novella is available for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and for only 99 cents otherwise.
This novella, entitled The Skittering, has been in the works for several years, but during our period of self-isolation and quarantine, I have managed to get a big writing push going and completed it just a couple of weeks ago. The Red Eye and its prequel, The House on Concordia Drive, were originally published by Alliteration Ink, which unfortunately has gone out of business. I had planned to bundle The Skittering with the previous Sam Brody adventures and release an omnibus edition, ideally shopping it around to new publishers. I may indeed still do that at a later date, but I also felt that releasing The Skittering now, while we’re all cloistered and in desperate need of reading material, felt like the right thing to do.
If you have not read the previous Sam Brody pieces, you don’t really need to know much to dive into The Skittering. Sam is a radio show host of a late night program called The Red Eye. His show is about debunking the supernatural, which becomes ironic when he discovers he is actually a telekinetic dragonslayer. His girlfriend, Heather, is the producer for his show, and he has a complicated relationship with a mysterious woman named Bridget, who is a seer and a witch. In The Skittering, Sam and Heather are attending a podcasting convention, when one of the organizers goes missing. Sam is called upon to help the convention investigate the disappearance.
I hope you enjoy this story! It’s definitely for fans of urban fantasy, quippy anti-heroes, and adventure. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!
The Curiosity Killers was released on May 5, and broke Amazon’s top 100 in the Steampunk category. Many thanks to those who pre-ordered! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, it’s now also available not only in paperback but in ebook format. You can find it from the publisher or at your favorite online book retailer. You can also purchase a copy at Blue Jacket Books on May 28th, when I’ll be signing copies and reading excerpts alongside my fellow Dog Star Books authors Matt Betts and J.L. Gribble.
Speaking of other fellow DSB authors, Heidi Ruby Miller has some news about The Curiosity Killers on her blog, and she’ll be appearing at Copyleft Gallery in Pittsburgh tomorrow, along with six other fabulous authors and an editor from Parsec Ink Books. If you’re in that area, you should absolutely attend! Miller’s novel Starrie was released in March.
From now until May 26, you can enter to win a Goodreads Giveaway for The Curiosity Killers, and even if you’ve already secured your own copy, you should still enter! This book makes a great gift, after all! Just hit “Enter Giveaway” from the Goodreads page.
Finally, some big news for Raw Dog Screaming Press: S. Craig Zahler’s Wraiths of the Broken Land will be adapted for film, helmed by Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard, the team behind The Martian. Zahler is also the co-author of the Dog Star title Corpus Chrome and several other titles. I feel very honored to have The Curiosity Killers in the same company as such shiny, successful works! Wraiths of the Broken Land has subsequently zoomed up to the top of the Kindle charts as a result! Way to go!
Dog Star Books authors Matt Betts, J.L. Gribble, and I will be reading and signing our latest releases at Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio on May 28th, 1-4 pm. This event is free and open to the public.
Dog Star Books is the science fiction adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press, and publishes smart, fun, evocative, and dynamic new voices in SF.
Matt Betts is the author of the steampunk novel Odd Men Out, the dark urban fantasy Indelible Ink, and the brand new collection of subversive poetry, Underwater Fistfight.
J.L. Gribble made her debut with Dog Star with 2015’s urban fantasy Steel Victory. She will have advance copies of the second volume in this epic alternate history world, Steel Magic, available at Blue Jacket.
I’m appearing on the heels of the May 6th release of my steampunk time travel novel The Curiosity Killers, a work set partially in Dayton and featuring appearances by the Wright Brothers.
Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio, is the premiere Miami Valley retailer for a carefully selected inventory of used, rare, and out-of print books on a variety of subjects, with a new café space and frequent events. For updates and more information, see our Facebook event page, share it, and express interest or RSVP your attendance!
My first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, can now be pre-ordered. Release date is May 5, just 15 days away! I could not be more excited about my debut piece with Dog Star Books, who have been absolutely fabulous to work with.
Writing a time travel novel is no easy feat, and I tackled a lot in this book, but I think there’s really something here for everyone on the SF fan spectrum. What do SF fans like? To lump it all in as one amorphous genre is impossible, of course, but here are some fun trends I’ve seen in popular fiction and media lately that I managed to hit upon, though this is admittedly a bit tongue in cheek.
– Dudes in velvet: CHECK.
The Curiosity Killers is something I’m calling “dystopian steampunk,” stemming from a quasi-Victorian future with limited technology. Other parts are set in 1888 and 1910, so there is certainly more of legitimately Victorian/Edwardian vibe. And dudes in, yes, velvet. And bowler hats. And tweed. And ladies in long skirts. It’s all very fetching fashion, believe me.
– Time travel to stop Jack the Ripper: CHECK.
This is a bit of a trope. If it’s not saving JFK, it’s stopping or figuring out who Jack the Ripper is, right? But in The Curiosity Killers, I’ve taken this to a bit of a different place, and integrated several other famous unsolved murders into the mix.
– The threat of paradoxes: CHECK.
Some of the best time travel novels seem to ignore the concept of paradox problems, whereas I had a beta reader whose sole job was to find paradox problems for me and help me avoid them. Did I succeed? I hope so, and boy was it tough! There’s no Marty McFly getting erased from existence moments here!
– Weird X-Files creatures: CHECK.
Do you like cryptids? Do you wonder what lurks out in the darkness late at night? Do men in black and the thought that maybe–just maybe–the Mothman was an alien tickle at your subconscious? You will be delighted with a subplot that manages to link these mysterious creatures with one of the most famous mass disappearances in American history.
– Tough as cookies heroines: CHECK.
This book features several amazing women, from the Wright Brothers’ sister Katharine to FBI agent Violet Lessep and time travel agency assistants Kris Moto and Alison Keller, ladies hold their own in this novel, and perform admirably.
What else are you looking for in a SF novel? Comment away, and I’ll tell you why The Curiosity Killers is sure to fit your reading needs.
Head over to SF Signal to see Brad Sharp’s absolutely stunning cover for The Curiosity Killers! I’m honored and delighted and couldn’t be happier with this gorgeous depiction of all the crazy elements blending together. The Curiosity Killers is my first science fiction novel and will be out this spring from Dog Star Books. I’ll be at ConCoction in Cleveland in March to discuss it!
I’m hard at work these days on The Girl with Mechanical Wings, the second book in the Jonson’s Exotic Travel series that kicks off this spring with the release of The Curiosity Killers (Dog Star Books). But for 2016, I have a goal of completing at the very least two other works in progress:
- The Lugubrious Unknown is a collection of surreal, speculative poetry; and
- The Kite Bird is my first foray into high fantasy, with crossover appeal in paranormal romance and new adult fiction as well.
Both titles are subject to change. The poetry collection’s first draft is complete and in the editing stage right now, and The Kite Bird is fully outlined and about 20% done in the writing stage. Meanwhile, The Girl with Mechanical Wings is chugging along and should have its first draft done before summer.
All of these works technically represent departures for me, experiments with new forms and genres. Even The Girl with Mechanical Wings is a little different, as it plays with dieselpunk and a different main protagonist than The Curiosity Killers. I look forward to seeing how productive I can be this year. So far, this first month of 2016 has somehow reinvigorated a prolific, energized creative spirit in me.
I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every few years since 2002. I wrote three Sam Brody books originally as NaNoWriMo projects, including The Red Eye, as well as a paranormal romance novel (Blood Makes Noise). A lot of these hastily written first drafts were side projects at the time, thus a few of them haven’t made it much past the first or second draft stage and are things I still consider “works in progress” rather than ready to go on submission. I’ve given workshops on NaNo tips and strategies, written posts on this very blog about it, and incorporated it into my teaching. I’m also at work on a non-fiction book about how to apply the NaNo writing binge model to writing even faster, with a goal of completing a first draft in as little as three days.
If you’re not familiar with the basic rules of NaNoWriMo, it’s an international challenge to write a work of fiction of 50,000 words or more in precisely thirty days. The challenge takes place in November, partly due to its high number of American federal holidays, allowing for catch-up and breaks in routine from one’s work and school obligations. There is no reward for “winning” at this challenge, other than bragging rights, although many NaNo authors have had their November works published. In addition to my own urban fantasy novel publication in 2014, lots of other pretty neat books originally written during NaNoWriMo.
But many have not, including those composed by NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. Though Baty has written a couple of great books on how to be successful at the challenge, even he himself hasn’t gotten his fiction published, which makes many folks wonder how useful the challenge really is for serious fiction authors.
Now that NNWM ’15 is officially over, and I’ve failed at it for the first time myself, I’m struggling to articulate the best and the worst of the challenge and what its grand purpose really best serves. Because, yes, I failed this year, and failed pretty spectacularly, but it matters not one whit in the grand scheme of my novel writing career.
My first attempts at NaNo were among the first times I’d ever written something longer than a short story. I did write one novel before my first NaNo, an experimental bindungsroman called Battlefield which I will likely never, ever revise or submit anywhere. And while this is currently my only “trunk novel” (a novel shoved into a proverbial trunk and never published, at least not during an author’s lifetime), it likely won’t be my last. After Battlefield failed to inspire me enough to continue working on it, I turned to short stories and essays and thought writing novels was scary. Short works were my primary public writing output until 2011, when Etopia Press released my first novella, We Shadows Have Offended, and in the background of it all, NaNoWriMo participation showed me that I was perhaps wrong to doubt my ability to write something longer.
To succeed at reaching the NaNo goal, you can go about it one of two ways: write in long stretches a few days of the week, or write a little bit every day. The latter method is better and usually requires only an hour or two daily commitment. By producing at least 1,667 words each day for thirty days, you will, indeed, have at least 50,000 words written on November 30th. You could also accomplish this solely on weekends if you had to, gluing yourself to your chair for about six hours each of a Saturday and Sunday all month and doing little else. Baty talks at length in No Plot? No Problem! about the reality that a first-draft really only takes between forty and fifty hours of work. This is also the premise of my own book discussing the three-day novel strategy.
But it sometimes isn’t the sheer perseverance required to sit and churn out likely not-very-good prose very quickly. Sometimes it’s a need to revise as you go, which is time consuming, a need to hit professional deadlines, or a need to work on something different from what you’ve been writing of late. I write because it’s my primary creative outlet, and as a creative outlet, I want to feel inspired by something before setting off on a particular new project (and only that project, eschewing all others). Still, even I have writing-based obligations, forthcoming releases to proofread, invitations to submit to anthologies, and the need to do at times high-level research or outlining before getting too far along with a very complicated work.
NaNo worked great for The Red Eye, because a) I didn’t outline it first, b) it required zero research beyond very, very minor things, and c) it has a contemporary setting and centers around a character in a career field similar to work I myself had done before (the radio show hosting, not the dragonslaying and telekinetic powers, of course). Thus, it could essentially flow freely as inspiration struck with little in the way of all the things that can stall a book. The other successful attempts I made at this endeavor were in a similar vein: sequels to The Red Eye, thus also with the easy setting and characters, and Blood Makes Noise, which (though not officially) basically takes place in the same universe and is also contemporary fantasy. With BMN, I did have to do some research, but it was travel-based; my protagonists are on the run from a baddie and basically drive around the country to avoid him. Thus, the most I did was some map searches and calculations of gas mileage and travel speed in different weather conditions, all of which was pretty painless and interesting.
So why did I fail this year? I tried to deviate from this model too much. Instead of working on a writable-out-of-the-box idea, I started working on the sequel to my admittedly complex time travel novel, The Curiosity Killers, the bulk of which I wrote over a period of about three years. I did research, both historical and scientific, and probably spent just as much time reading or actively researching as I did writing. Though I aimed to scale back the necessary amount of research required for its sequel, The Girl with Mechanical Wings, when I spent an entire day making a database of members of the Roanoke Colony and another day reading the released Project Mogul reports about the Roswell incident, I knew I was in trouble—there was no way, without leaving great swaths of the book unwritten pending research, that I could complete this undertaking in just a month. Even toward the end, I deluded myself, but upon realizing I was still lacking important research on the status of interracial marriage laws in the 1940s (yes, as you can tell, this is a book about a lot of things), I knew I had to throw in the towel. With just over 21,000 words completed mid-month, I had to rethink my strategy.
About that time, an editor I met at a convention announced an anthology call on a subject I’ve long been fascinated by. The deadline wasn’t for a few months, and the length requirement sounded feasible. I set my novel aside and decided to permit myself some leeway—if I couldn’t finish 50,000 words on one piece, I would see if I could work on multiple projects and complete the required number of words cumulatively between them. And, while I wound up the month having written a total of 29,329 words on both pieces together, this was still too short to “win.” I am, on paper, a failure.
Seriously? This isn’t what failure looks like, not by a long shot.
I’m about 25% of the way through a sequel to my first science fiction novel, and I’ve completed the first draft of an almost-novelette-length horror story close to 7,000 words long. Nearly 30,000 words in a month when I’ve worked full-time and had multiple family and extracurricular obligations is pretty darn impressive. In between all that, I did proofreading on two separate works and released both a print and ebook second editions of a short story collection. The only failure here is in the arbitrary, prize-less contest which, even if I’d “won,” would have still required massive amounts of revision. If anything, November was one of my most successful writing months in recent memory, yet I don’t get to claim bragging rights for this contest. I’m extremely proud of my friends and colleagues who did reach their goals, but I think what I accomplished isn’t too shabby, either.
I like writing quickly, don’t get me wrong, and I think practicing writing quickly at a steady clip is an important training exercise for new and aspiring novelists. But what really got The Curiosity Killers complete during its drafting was a slow and steady pace with revision and research done along the way rather than in a big, anxiety-riddled flurry at the end. With projects needing a lot of research, especially, it may not be that you have to spend three or four years on a single book, but trying to cram it into thirty days will leave it shoddy and unsupported. If you skimp on research up front, you’re likely to need to make bigger revisions once you’ve had a chance to go back and figure out if you were correct in your assumptions and placeholders. My goal is still to get The Girl with Mechanical Wings done relatively soon and definitely before 2016 is over, but I’m glad I didn’t try to dash through it so fast.
My advice for anyone else who “failed” at NaNo this year is, in sum, this: some projects fit quick writing very well, and some simply do not. Know which kind of book you want to write before you begin. If you want to have 50,000 words completed on November 30th, put your truly ambitious project aside and work on something a little simpler. Both the simple book and the harder one will thank you for understanding the differences between them, and they will both be better in the end.
The definitive second edition of my short story collection Grinning Cracks is now out in both paperback and Kindle editions. The Kindle edition is $3.99 if you don’t already have the paperback, but is offered at a deep discount if you do, and it’s FREE if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber! How cool is that?
If you like old-fashioned paper things, though, totally do check out the hard copy. At $9.99, yet filled with thirty-three stories and two poems, it is less than 30 cents per piece! It’s less than 7 cents a page! And it’s got horror, fairytale, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, bleakness, romance, despair, and comedy. So, really, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.
Big news! For several months now, I’ve been working on a second, definitive edition of my short story collection, Grinning Cracks, and I’m delighted to say it’s now available in print (with a delightfully gritty new cover, to boot)! Kindle edition is forthcoming next week.
This new edition collects thirty-five pieces, primarily flash and short fiction, as well as a couple of poems. Some of these pieces have never before been published, though some have appeared elsewhere and gone out of print.
From the back cover blurb:
Thirty-five short works filled with the upsetting and uncanny, from the author of the urban fantasy Sam Brody series (Alliteration Ink) and the horror novella We Shadows Have Offended (Etopia Press). This newly revised and updated second edition includes eight pieces not found in the first release, featuring the never before published stories “The Apple Box,” “Colleagues,” and the poems “Floater” and “Il Necromantiosmo.” Taylor reimagines both classic, familiar fairytales and superstitions (“Abaddon,” “The Apple Box,” “Rabbit Rabbit,” “Trichotomy”) and a sequence of Breton folk stories (“The Ankou,” “Bugul Noz,” “Dahut and the Destruction of Ys,” “Gradlon,” “Iannic-ann-ôd,” “The Korrigan,” “Les Lavandières,” “The Lovers,” “The Morgen,” and “Yan-Gant-Y-Tan”). She experiments with surrealist science fiction (“Alter Ego,” “Arcus Senilis,” “Encounter,” “Eden”) as well as gruesome body horror (“Ornithology,” “Pseudanor”), crime noir (the multi-chapter “Christmas Wrapping”), and a literary fiction cycle based on the concept of the four humors of Hipprocratic medicine (“Choleric,” “Melancholic,” “Phlegmatic,” and “Sanguine”). Every story deals with the gray zone between wonder and disaster and people on the fringe of society, magic, or their own damaged psyches.
If you like liminal, cross-genre fiction that’s hard to define; if you like surrealism; if you like horror that’s more of the psychological sort, then you will likely enjoy this collection. It also makes a great gift for the speculative fiction fan in your life, if you’d like to start your holiday shopping a little early!
News on the Kindle edition when it’s available. Ordering directly from Createspace earns me a little extra royalty, but it should show up on B&N in the next 3-5 business days and is now also available from Amazon, should you prefer to use a loyalty/Prime membership or need gift wrapping.
Some other perks of this collection:
- Several stories feature cats, either magical ones or completely normal and adorable ones, and nothing bad happens to any of them, even in the scary stories.
- If you like “The Three Little Pigs” but think to yourself with any frequency, “I wish instead of pigs these were Brat Pack-style yuppy triplets who commit fraud and encounter werewolves,” then you will definitely enjoy the story “Trichotomy.”
- If you wonder what I Love Lucy would be like if it starred Lana del Rey and was set in the Twin Peaks universe, you’ll enjoy “The Apple Box.”
- The expanded second edition now features 23% more noir crime stories with dark fantasy undercurrents!*
So what are you waiting for? Snap this puppy up! Even if you have the first edition, you’ll want this for its bonus material, and you can now revel in the fact that your first edition is a collectors’ item.
Want to see (or rather, hear) this title in audiobook format? Let me know. I’m planning out my release schedule for 2016 and would love to know if there’s demand.
*Disclaimer: I have not actually counted the amount of noir crime stories with dark fantasy undercurrents in either edition. But, indeed, there is plenty of it here, guaranteed!