CONSUMPTION is about as far from CONVERGENCE as the speculative fiction genre could allow, I think, and the cover does a nice job of capturing that. I’m trying something really different with this short story as I take a very brief break from science fiction to dip my toes into the deep, dark waters of macabre horror fiction.
Read on for the description and request your free eReader ARC below, and stay tuned for more details soon!
Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.
What You Eat
While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.
Meat Is Murder
As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.
One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.
Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.
Consumption will release on all electronic formats Fall 2014, but you can sign up for a chance to read it before anyone else – for FREE!
Just note that Consumption is a short story and will only be available as an eBook. I’ll be mailing out the major formats to you – .mobi (kindle), epub (Nook/Kobo), and PDF – when they’re formatted and finalized.
Fill out the form below, drop a comment in the required text box asking for an electronic Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC), and it’s all yours. If you sign up for an ARC, you’ll get a copy of my short horror story at least two weeks before anyone else.
There’s no strings attached – again, this would be completely free for you – however, I would really appreciate you taking the time to provide an honest review when the title launches. I’ll let you know when and where, and you can revel in the glory of having read Consumption and passed judgement on it well before anyone else in the world.
I’ve been thinking a bit about the genre sometimes known as “weird western” of late. The concept is one that really strikes a chord with me and I love the idea of a low-tech frontier dealing with supernatural forces. I’d hoped for more from the movie Cowboys & Aliens; after all, six-shooters and horses vs. aliens and UFOs seemed ripe for a truly awesome story. Joe R. Lansdale’s Deadman’s Road is in my TBR pile, and Hunter Shea’s Hell Hole has certainly caught my eye.
Thanks to John Scalzi’s blog, I can now add One Night in Sixes to my list. It sounds dynamite!
Author Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson writes, “But as nervous as I am about this Big Idea and how it will be received, the even-bigger one behind it – that is, the push for a more inclusive bookshelf, and the importance of being able to re-imagine our own history without sweeping the uncomfortable bits under the rug – is one that I am really excited about. I hope you will be too.”
I certainly am. And the quote drawing a quick comparison to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower doesn’t hurt any, either! Be sure to check out the original post at Whatever.
When you introduce magic into a real-world setting, you don’t only have to deal with the problems that magic introduces — you have to deal with the problems that already existed in that real world setting. When Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson wanted to introduce magic to an American milieu in One Night in Sixes, she took all of those problems into consideration. Here’s how she made it work.
All I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“I’m tired of Euromedieval fantasy!” I thought. “I’m tired of swords and castles and straight white monocultures. I’m going to write a fantasy about MY country, and MY history, with eleventeen kinds of people rubbing shoulders – like in real life! – and it’s going to be AMAZING.”
And by “amazing”, I must have meant “an absolute landmine of racism, imperialism, slavery and genocide.” Because…
I’m fairly certain I stumbled upon J.S. Collyer thanks to some smart postings over at Chuck Wendig’s blog, smart enough to get me awfully curious about what was happening in her corner of the blogosphere. Good stuff, it turned out. She blogs, hosts her short fiction, some of which has been published in various collections, and generates some great Flash Fiction Fridays work. I liked what she had to say, and when I learned she had her first novel coming out soon, I knew ZERO would not only be making its way onto my to-read list, but that it would be jumping over a lot of other titles to become a next-read. Naturally, when she asked for some advanced readers at her site, I leaped at the chance. You may be asking yourself why, and my answer is simple: SPACE PIRATES.
I mean, seriously, what the hell else do you need to know? Well, OK, if you want a little bit more info, you can check out my review.
Over the last few weeks of coordinating for this post and figuring out my reading schedule so I could get to ZERO ASAP, her publishers, Dagda Publishing, ran an IndieGoGo campaign to off-set the marketing costs, and to help pay for the marketing of other future, fresh authors like J.S. That campaign took off like a bat out of hell and broke their $1500 funding goal in roughly 24 hours. When her publisher says, “Her vision for “Zero” is one of the best we have seen in the world of new SF authors in a long time,” and given what I know of her, her voice, and her work, I have to say, it is not just a bunch of PR fluff. She is a great new voice in realm of science fiction, and ZERO is most definitely a title to watch out for.
Below is the synopsis for ZERO, and then I’m turning the rest of this post over to J.S. Collyer with her article, “For The Love.”
Kaleb Hugo is everything an officer of the Service should be: loyal, expertly trained, unquestioning. He has done everything ever ordered of him and has done so with a pride that comes from knowing you are fighting for the good of humankind… until the day that he made a decision, as he has had to many times before, in order to ensure the best outcome for the Service, even though it was in direct violation of regulations.
A battle was won, but Hugo was condemned and dishonourably discharged by Service commanders for going against orders and risking himself and his unit to save an inhabited satellite that had been determined as an acceptable loss.
Unofficially, Hugo was re-assigned to captain the crew of the Zero, an eight-man craft that is classified in all Service records as, at best, a privateer ship and at worse a smuggling and borderline criminal enterprise vessel. What very few people in the Service know is that the Zero, and its crew, are contracted by the Service. Their role is to investigate and infiltrate the less savoury and unacknowledged levels of human society. They sell on, buy in, bargain, threaten and report back on everything the political levels the Service don’t officially want to know.
The Zero’s rag-tag crew look to their commander, Ezekiel Webb, as their leader and middleman between the regimented expectations of the Service and the harsh and unpredictable demands of the underworld of colonial space. He knows he is not captain material but has not managed to serve well under any that have been placed over him. Both Captain and Commander clash, but they will have to adapt and find a compromise if the Zero is to carry out her missions successfully and for the harmony of the crew.
As the Zero is assigned missions by Colonel Luscombe, her crew is pulled deeper into an orbit-wide game of politics, deceit and corruption which will threaten to tear them apart and throw Humanity back into a cycle of war and destruction. To stop this and preserve the fragile peace, Hugo, Webb and the crew will have to overcome personal tragedy, insurmountable odds and every cruel depraved twist of fate that the Orbit can throw at them.
As events escalate out of control, Hugo will have to go against everything he has ever believed in to save his crew and billions of innocent people. The outcome is always uncertain, but for the crew of the Zero, it was always this way. What will transpire will decide not just their fate, but the destiny of the entire Human Race.
For The Love
If writing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil has taught me anything is that you need to be in this game for the love of it. Writing is hard work. It takes commitment, time, sometimes money (courses, computers that crash, computers that don’t crash, retreats, workshops, books), blood, sweat and tears. It can really take a lot out of you, especially at those low moments when you look back at all you’ve done and wonder if you’ve done anything.
Fortunately, such moments are few and far between and always pass if you’re in it for the love. It’s the love of your craft that makes it all worth it.
So be true to it. Be good to it as you want it to be good to you. Give it time and attention and care. Be prepared that you’ll hit some rough patches but that it will always pan out. Don’t compare it to others’. Studying others’ techniques, processes and ideas is a great way to inform your own, but don’t use them as a yard stick by which to measure your own work short. Every relationship is different and only defined by those in it.
Be patient with your work. It may take you an afternoon to write a short story, or a week, or a year. You may write one haiku every Christmas or an epic novel every six months. Whatever it is you and your writing create together, it was what was meant to be.
Though it may sound like common sense, one of the hardest things I had to get my head round was writing what you enjoy, rather than what you think you should enjoy.
I struggled for many years trying to be the sort of writer I wasn’t. I did an under and post-graduate degree in Creative Writing. I worked with some really amazing writers whose work ranged from semi-autobiographical histories of their communities to literary drama and beyond. I was awed and humbled by them and felt I should try to be like them.
I failed. Of course I did. I haven’t got a literary bone in my body. I like swords, spaceships, ghosts and lasers. Other worlds and other possibilities are what spark my imagination and always have. They are what I seek out in the fiction I read and are always, always, the backdrop to the narratives in my head.
It may seem like a no-brainer to ditch the reflective prose and blast off in a rocket, but when you are wanting to make the best out of your opportunities, it is very easy to take the wrong path, perceiving it to be the best, the most promising, the most lucrative or the one recommended to you by others. I begrudge no one who does this and wins out. If I had been more determined I might have managed it. But the fact is, I wasn’t enjoying the fiction I was writing. And you can bet the last penny in the bank that if you’re not enjoying writing something, your audience are not going to enjoy reading it.
Shrug off your preconceptions and write what you enjoy. If you want to write space opera, epic poetry, noir crime with a paranormal twist, historical romance, do it. You will be far better at writing that than you would be at something you were not meant to. And, besides, even if there are a million other writers in that genre or none at all, no one, no one, will write it like you will.
Let other writers handle their own corners of the fictional world and you concentrate on your own. You and your writing….all you have is each other. And your audience.
And don’t say ‘what audience?’. There will be an audience for your fiction out there somewhere. If there’s an audience for Bigfoot erotica (it’s for real, Google it…though you might want to turn off the image search) there’s an audience for your story.
True, it’s the getting it from your head to audience that’s the tricky part.
Tricky, time consuming…but fun. Even when you want to cry or scream or throw you hard drive against the wall…part of you should still be having fun. Part of you should still be in love with what you’re doing.
Love is what makes the world go round and the relationship between you and your writing is precious and private and answerable only to the two of you. Do right by each other and just see what you can achieve.
J. S. Collyer is a science fiction writer from Lancaster, England. Her first novel, ‘Zero’is due for release by Dagda Pubishing August 2014.
I’ve been accumulating a nice collection of eBook ARCs lately, one of which was Jason Gurley’s fantastic Eleanor, which I read and reviewed here. It releases on June 27 and is available for pre-order. And, if you preorder, let Jason know and he’ll send you a beautiful bonus: The Eleanor Sketches. Gurley has already racked up 90 5-star reviews, and let me tell you, they are dead-on. It’s a great, great read. Up next on my reading docket are the following:
I’ve already started in on Othella, and I think you’re going to want to check this one out. It’ll be releasing soon, so keep an eye out for it and check out Therin’s blog for updates.
J.S. Collyer‘s publisher, Dagda Publishing, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to support her debut sci-fi novel and reached their goal in a single day, which is very good news for everyone! There’s still 40 days left to their campaign, so please go check it out. For five bucks, you can pre-order ZERO or throw in a little more and claim some of the other leftover goodies.
The Heretic is another one I’ve been looking forward to. I found out about this title from Lucas over at Kboards.com and he was generous enough to send a copy out to all of his mailing list subscribers. So, go sign up for that and check out the details on his book here.
Over on the always-expanding TBR front: I picked up the new Veronica Mars eBook, The Thousand Dollar Tan-Line, which follows hot on the heels of the recently released movie (sitting near the top of my to-watch list, once I finish up season two and three…). The Kindle copy is currently on sale for only $2.99, so why the hell not?
I’ve also been on a bit of a DarkFuse kick. This small independent publishing house puts out some terrific, top-notch horror and dark fiction. They’re one of the very few publishers that I really get excited about (even though I only just recently discovered them…). There looks to be a large, talented pool of authors here, with a lot of exciting projects, and I’m hoping to soon dig into their work, both new and old. I recently picked up Alan Leverone’s Mr. Midnight, which was on sale not too long ago, When We Fall by Peter Giglio, as well as Tim Curran’s Deadlock. Curran’s Blackout also sounds really, really promising, and comes out in August. I’m hugely looking forward to that one! I promised myself to find time to explore this author’s back-list after reading Dead Sea last year; wicked, terrific fun, that one.
So, what are you reading and what’s in your TBR pile? What books have caught your interest lately?
Facebook has become a bit of a headache lately, with the service opting to focus more heavily on filtered feed content, advertising, and promoting paid posts over basic updates and content.
As such, I started dabbling a little bit with Google+ recently and figured it might be a good time to post a comprehensive list of all the various ways you can find me online. It’s always nice to hear from readers, so hopefully those of you out there will connect and engage.
You can find me here at this blog, obviously: http://michaelpatrickhicks.com. You can subscribe to the site or follow by e-mail over on the right. Feel free to check out previous blog posts in the archives and drop a line in the comments at the bottom. There is also a Contact button in the upper menu that you can reach me at. In the future, I expect to be making greater use of my mailing list, so feel free to sign up on the upper right-hand side, or by clicking here.
Now that I’m neck-deep in editing duties for the rest of the summer (year?), I thought it a good time to talk about my approach to mining my awful first drafts for something a bit less reprehensible.
The ability to edit your own work is an empowering tool, but don’t dare to think that your own skills, single-handedly, are enough. Unless you have a ridiculous command of grammar, sentence structure, plot development, and character arcs, treat your own edits as nothing more than a first pass and then hand the manuscript over to the professionals.
You need multiple sets of eyes going over your work multiple times. When you’re editing, you need to be merciless, but, odds are, you’ll still be wearing your kid gloves and harboring some reticence over what scenes should be trimmed (or cut altogether) and how clunky the dialogue may be. You need a trained word-murderer on your side who lacks compassion and pity. That’s how final books are made – with tears, blood, and booze, on the wrong side of a pointed blade in a dark, stanky alley, next to the rotting corpses of dead beatniks.
So, editors, yeah. They’re pretty damn vital and very helpful.
When I’m writing the first draft of any work, I’m aware of the crutch-words I lean (way too) heavily on. The whole point of the first draft is just to get the story down and produce the work in full. Finishing the damn thing is the only goal a first draft has, and, by nature, it is going to suck. It will be imperfect and crass, but not impossible to salvage. You need to get some distance between yourself and that first draft. I tend to let the work sit for a while, maybe a month, before returning to it for the second draft. This gives me plenty of time to forget about the story and come back to it with fresh eyes, and as a more critical reader.
Now, one caveat – when I say I’m aware of my crutch-words, I mean I have a vague notion of what they are in general. It’s always a bit of a surprise when I learn how frequently I rely on any given crutch-word in that first draft. Sometimes, I even discover new ones depending on the nature of the work at hand. But, that’s why it’s a first draft.
While the work is festering, I’m working up a spreadsheet of known crutches and tallying up those heavily used filler words and constructs. You’ll have your own crutches, of course, and likely you’ve got crutches you aren’t even aware of (but a good editor will certainly make you aware of it!). After working with a content editor for CONVERGENCE, I came away with a much stronger grasp of my deficiencies as a writer, so I have a better idea of what I need to watch out for and what needs to be weeded out. Below is an example of one of the spreadsheets I keep between first and second draft for my own first-pass edits. This will be modified again between draft 2 and 3 when my editors come back with their notes, but it’s a solid place for me to begin. It’s also a measurable illustration of progress, in addition to the lovely red marks, slashes, and notations of Word’s Track Changes (another very valuable tool that I highly recommend using).
The numbers for some of those words and constructs, such as ‘there was’, ‘there were’, and ‘it was’, are still pretty high in draft two. I’ll be able to knock them down further as I go through the second draft and continue my first-pass edits, and further still with the help of a skilled line editor. With a handy thesaurus, a bottle of Jack, and a straight razor, I’ll be able to tighten things up even more. There’s no easier way of getting rid of shitty “There was…” sentences than by slashing and burning the whole damn page away. Or you could just, I dunno, figure out a more active construct for your phrasing. Whichever.
Another big stumbling block for me is the dreaded infodump, which is throwing a hell of a lot of dense information at a reader. It was a sticking point in earlier drafts of CONVERGENCE, and my content editor helped me overcome a lot of these problems. I was only vaguely aware of how serious the problem was as I worked solo on the first few drafts, but wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Of course, the biggest problem was in thinking that all of it was necessary to tell the story even though I knew it was problematic.
So, side point: trust your gut instincts and look at your work critically. If you get a tingling sensation telling you something isn’t quite right, then get to the bottom of it. Figure it out, manipulate it, see how things flow by deleting stuff. While it’s important for you to know the world you’re crafting as a writer, the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know every little detail. Odds are, your manuscript is a lot more flexible than you realize. This is also where that old adage of Show, don’t tell comes into play. Say your characters are walking a long distance in that epic fantasy behemoth you’re writing. Are you better off writing about their blood feet, starving bellies, and drop-dead exhaustion, or do you want to tell the reader that from Point A to Point B it is 111,578,357 kilometers and attempt to describe, in excruciating detail, soil composition, the shape of every freaking rock and plant along the way, the contents of each person’s rucksack, Bloshnarfrog’s love of pickles and how many rotting teeth he has, and the 11 millenniums of history between those two points? Be judicious, but also be smart; try to put yourself in the reader’s head and ask yourself, does any of this shit really matter to the story I’m serving?
OK, back to that infodump problem. Naturally, it turned out all those little details I was throwing in for page upon page? Damn near all of it got edited right the hell out of the manuscript. What little was left was more evenly distributed, broken up with dialogue, and heavily modified. So, if you read my book and found yourself frustrated by the infodump…be glad you didn’t read an earlier, unedited draft.
Infodump was big on my mind when writing EMERGENCE, and, given the nature of first drafts, I wasn’t quite sure how untamed it would be. It didn’t take me too long to discover how bad it was and to set about correcting it. A part of me thinks I wouldn’t have known to really be on the lookout for it if not for my previous hurdles with CONVERGENCE. Instead, it was at the forefront of my mind, and I was determined not to repeat some of those same huge mistakes.
And there’s the good news – editing is a cumulative, educational experience.
A few years ago, I had taken a copy editing course and was able to apply some of that knowledge to my own writing. While it helped, my own efforts paled in comparison to a professional editor. Before submitting my work to Red Adept, I’d probably gone through three or four drafts of CONVERGENCE and had read through it multiple times, marking it up and making lots and lots of changes. The sample edit I received from Red Adept when shopping for an editor contained nearly 250 revisions in a 1,000 word sample and 25 comments/notes in four pages of material. This bit of evisceration was humbling and entirely helpful. So, again, I must stress the importance of having a professional editor on your side.
I learned a lot just from that sample edit. Notes from the content editor and line editor made my weaknesses even more apparent, and gave me a great place to begin making corrections to build a stronger manuscript.
Those notes from CONVERGENCE helped me get through the first draft of my short story CONSUMPTION, and built a very solid foundation in preparing my first-pass edits on EMERGENCE. Of course, those notes are only a starting point. My new manuscripts are very different beasts than CONVERGENCE, and each will have their own unique flaws and problems and wrinkles that only an editing pro will help catch and correct.
Much like the first draft, the second draft’s goal is not to create a perfect, final manuscript. It’s only to get closer and closer to a far-flung, likely unreachable, ideal. These are baby steps of varying sizes. Even with some short-hand knowledge of the editing process under my belt, I know there is still a long road ahead of me before I can say this book is finally done, but I will, at least, be just a little bit closer.