Category Archives: science fiction

News roundup

51DrIim07hL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_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.

indexSpeaking 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.

wraiths51Rj58GG+lL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_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!

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Upcoming multi-author book signing!

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.

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Underwater Fistfight, by Matt Betts; Steel Victory, by J.L. Gribble; and The Curiosity Killers, by K.W. Taylor

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.

collage

Left to Right: Authors Matt Betts, J.L. Gribble, and K.W. Taylor

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!

 

 

 

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The Curiosity Killers Now Available for Pre-Order!

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.

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The Curiosity Killers cover is here!

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!

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Two New Works in Progress

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.

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A Tribute to David Bowie: “Alter Ego,” a short story

I wrote this story, “Alter Ego,” many years ago as an experiment to try to integrate the narratives of several iconic characters David Bowie either created or portrayed. Bowie meant so much to me as a musician, actor, and artist, and the news of his passing today is deeply saddening. This story was first published in my 2012 limited edition chapbook, Ages and Aliens, and now appears in my collection Grinning Cracks, along with another story semi-inspired by Bowie called “Encounter.”

“Alter Ego” blends some backstory of Walter Tevis’ The Man Who Fell to Earth, the film version of which marked Bowie’s leading film role debut in 1976 and is my attempt to combine in with the Major Tom character that winds his way through several Bowie songs (“Space Oddity,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Hallo Spaceboy,” and, I think, “Blackstar,” as well as other artists songs like Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” and, arguably, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”). I also wanted to provide a hint of reference to Labyrinth, perhaps the favorite Bowie role and soundtrack for folks of my generation, as well as some hints of Ziggy Stardust and Bowie’s own life. Enjoy.

***

WITH MY HAND ON THE LEVER, I take one last gulp of precious air before flinging the panel up. The rushing, hissing sound fills my ears, and then just as I open my eyes wider to take in the beauty of the stars, I feel pulled, pushed, sucked, and beaten all at once. Full, inky blackness saturates my field of vision, and I lose consciousness.

When it finally dawned on me what to do, I was calm. Not the pre-occupied, lethargic calmness that I used to fake, but actual happiness. This time I had a plan, and it worked perfectly.
The hardest part was pretending with Jennifer. She was the only one who ever filtered through my haze, even a little bit. I had to actually lie to her, which I’d never done before. “When will you be back?” she asked before I boarded.
“In eight days.”
She waved. I smiled. Eight days from now, I thought, will be the worst day of her life. But because my pain was greater than my love for her, I went ahead.
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NaNoWriMo 2015: Success in Failure

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.

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