WordCrafter’s New Beginnings Writer Conference next week, featuring me (and others)

Next week, WordCrafter is holding a virtual conference, the “New Beginnings Writer Conference.” The event will open on Monday the 3rd of May with a free virtual cocktail party from 10am-5pm Eastern time on the event’s Facebook page.

Then on the 4th and 5th, there will be a whole bunch of panels and workshops and things. You can either get a $50 all-events pass that gets you into everything, or you can pick and choose which events you want to go to for $5 per event.

The ones I’ll be doing include a Business of Writing workshop on Tuesday the 4th of May at 4pm Eastern, a Writing in Licensed Universes workshop on Wednesday the 5th of May at 1pm Eastern, and a panel on the Importance of Setting on Wednesday the 5th of May at 4pm Eastern alongside Mario Acevedo, Dan Alatorre, Russell Davis, and Jim Nesbitt.

Besides me, Mario, Dan, Russ, and Jim, the guests include Kevin J. Anderson, Chris Barili, Jeff Bowles, Anthony Dobranski, Paul Kane, Kevin Killiany, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Geoff LePard, Radha Marcum, Ellie Raine, Erin Robertson, and Rick Wilber.

Come join us!


It took a week longer than anticipated, but I have finally finished the first draft of All-the-Way House, the fourth volume in the Systema Paradoxa series of novellas about cryptids that’s being released by the NeoParadoxa imprint of eSpec Books, in association with Cryptid Crate.

I’m gonna let it sit for a day while I write Monday’s Voyager Rewatch and an article on WandaVision, both for Tor.com, and then and then look it over tomorrow before sending it to my editorial goddesses, GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido (a.k.a. The Mom) and Wrenn Simms (a.k.a. The Wife), both professional editors, and both invaluable helpmeets in my writing.

All-the-Way House is, as you might gather from the cover, about the Jersey Devil, and it was a lot of fun to dig into the various legends about the creature also known as the Leeds Devil in general, and the mass hysteria regarding the Devil during a weird winter week in January 1909. The novella takes place in three different time periods — the origin of the Leeds Devil in 1735, the aforementioned week in 1909, and in the present day. It takes place in central New Jersey (Camden, the Pine Barrens, Atlantic City, etc.) and eastern Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Chester). It takes place in the same milieu as the Adventures of Bram Gold (A Furnace Sealed, the upcoming Feat of Clay, “Under the King’s Bridge”) and the Yolanda Rodriguez short stories (“Materfamilias” in Bad Ass Moms and “Unguarded” in the upcoming Devilish and Divine).

It’s not up for preorder yet, but hopefully soon…..

Systema Paradoxa cover gallery

The fine folks at eSpec Books, in association with Cryptid Crate, have created the NeoParadoxa imprint, which will be publishing novellas that focus on various cryptids. The first one, When the Moon Shines by John L. French, is on sale now, and there are at least a dozen or so planned, including one by me! I’ll be doing Volume 4, which is entitled All-the-Way House, and which will feature several cryptids, but mainly the Jersey Devil. The novella will take place in the same universe as the Adventures of Bram Gold (the novels A Furnace Sealed and the forthcoming Feat of Clay, as well as the short stories “Under the King’s Bridge” in Liar Liar, “Materfamilias” in Bad Ass Moms, and “Unguarded” in the upcoming Horns and Halos), but feature new characters.

The books can be ordered directly from eSpec, or from your favorite online dealer….

Here are the absolutely stupendous covers that have been released so far:

Turning the Tied blog tour commences!

We’re doing a big-ass blog tour to promote Turning the Tied, the charity anthology being published next month by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers to benefit the World Literacy Foundation.

It actually started last month, so I’m catching up a bit, but we’ve got:

Here’s an excerpt from Jean’s interview with me:

What is the most difficult aspect of tie-in writing?

Being the first (or one of the first) projects in a new license when everyone’s trying to figure out what they can and can’t do and what works and what doesn’t. The first several projects in a tie-in license are always the most fraught as you go through the growing pains of working together.

There will be plenty more to come in our blog tour as we barrel toward the 13 March pub date, so keep an eye on this here blog…..

irons in the fire update

Buncha things in the creative frying pan, there are…..

The Adventures of Bram Gold. I’m ten chapters and 37,450 words into Feat of Clay, the sequel to A Furnace Sealed. I’m taking a quick pause on it to do some other stuff, but I’m’na dive back in once the calendar flips to March. One of those “other stuffs” is All-the-Way House, a novella for the Systema Paradoxa series about cryptids. ATWH takes place in the same setting as the Bram Gold stories, but will focus on a couple of other Coursers, based in central New Jersey: Valentina Perrone (and her apprentice Sarah el-Guindi) in the present day and Josiah Clevenger in 1909. In addition, another Yolanda Rodriguez story, “Unguarded,” is set to be in the eSpec Books anthology Horns and Halos — just waiting for galleys to proofread on that one.

The “Precinct” series. The next book in the series is Phoenix Precinct. I hope to dive into that in the summer of this year and have it out either by the end of this year or the beginning of next.

Collaborations with Dr. Munish K. Batra. Our first book, Animal, is being marketed quite aggressively, which is fun to watch. We even got an ad in Times Square!

Pretty spiffy, huh? Meantime, I have to revise our second collaboration, a medical thriller tentatively titled Pigman, by the end of the month — gonna work on that this week — and we’re talking about what to do next, which may well be a sequel to Animal. And we’ve got some other notions in the hopper…

Tie-in fiction. These are all things I can’t be specific about: I’m working on three 100-page tie-in graphic novels (which will be released as five-issue miniseries initially). I’ve written the pitches for all three and a detailed outline for Book 1, and they’re with the licensor for approval right now. I’ve submitted a tie-in novel pitch to a publisher, and three pitches for tie-in short stories for an anthology to another publisher. Waiting to hear on all three of these projects. I can say that all three are universes I’ve worked in before.

Star Trek Adventures. I’ve turned in the first draft of a role-playing game adventure “Incident at Kraav III.” Still waiting for feedback from Modiphius.

Ayesha. I’ve written “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be,” my story for Turning the Tied, the charity anthology of public-domain tie-in stories for the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. My story features Ayesha, the titular She in H. Rider Haggard’s 19th-century adventure novel. Waiting for the galleys to come in for proofing.

The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66. I’ve written my essay for the second book in this series, BIFF! BAM! EEE-YOW!, which is on “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin.” For this, too, I’m awaiting galleys to proofread. And I’ve been officially invited to participate in the third book. Just gotta figure out which season three episode I want to ask to write about.

Short story. There was an open call for an anthology that I decided to write a story for. I just wrote it yesterday. It’s less than 2500 words, but it was fun to write. It’s with The Mom for her Editorial Red Pen of Doom, and once she’s torn it apart, I’ll submit it.

Tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet. I still have to write “Ragnarok and a Hard Place” for the late 2019 crowdfund I did for it and “The Gorvangin Rampages.” Sigh. Blame the current apocalypse. Anyhow, once that’s done I should have enough material for a second Cassie collection, which will also be called Ragnarok and a Hard Place, and will be published by Plus One Press.

Super City Cops. Still have four novellas under contract with Falstaff Books. Will write them at some point.

Patreon. I’ve got 16 TV shows to review for Patreon, still, plus I’m in the midst of watching ten others, so I’ve got my work cut out for me there. And I’ll be reviewing Space Sweepers for February’s review, plus I may throw in a bonus review of Big Night. Plus there will be the usual stuff on Patreon, including this month’s vignette, which I have no idea what it’ll be…..

Tor.com. The Voyager Rewatch will continue for most of this year, after which I will tackle Enterprise. If any Trek TV shows debut this year, I’ll review them as well. I was hoping to review each episode of WandaVision, but behind-the-scenes production issues are limiting me to writing a couple of think-pieces, one of which went up after episode 4, and the second of which will go up once the season is done. (Having said that, Emmett Asher-Perrin is, as always, doing a fantastic job with their reviews of the episodes.) I’m hoping to review each episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but we’ll see. I’m also hoping to review Justice League: The Snyder Cut when it comes out. And come June, I will revive “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” to cover whatever such movies actually get released (at the very least, I will cover Wonder Woman 1984).

Jonathan Franzen is a pretentious twatwaffle

Keith reading #1

So Jonathan Franzen, an author who has made more money than I will ever see, has decided to parlay his fame and fortune into a list of advice for writers, his 10 Rules For Novelists. It was published on LitHub, complete with a picture of Franzen in a blazer, manspreading on a big chair, with a bookcase behind him. Said bookcase looks like one of those ones full of encyclopedias that people put in their homes to make it look like they’re intellectuals. One of Franzen’s hands is on his head, which beautifully symbolizes the headache that his dumbshit list gave me when I read it.

Chuck Wendig on Twitter and John Hartness on Facebook have already taken their shots at Franzen, and I’m sure others have too that I haven’t seen. I am on vacation in Italy, so my Internet reading has been sporadic, but Franzen’s outpouring of stupidity was so vacuous, so offensive that I needed to provide a riposte of my own.

Franzen’s first rule is “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” Um, okay. Seems to me that most readers fall a lot more on the spectator side of things, and I’ve had a share that I would consider adversaries, but whatever. I certainly prefer to approach my readers in as friendly a manner as possible, so I’ll give him that one.

#2 is where we start getting my blood pressure up. “Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.” Y’know, I’ve never had any patience with the belief that art should be for art’s sake, and that writing for money is somehow low and base and beneath the consideration of a real artist. I just last week stared up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo didn’t do that for the sake of making great art, he did it because the Pope paid him a fuckton of cash for it. Hell, he hated doing frescoes, preferring to sculpt — but he hated starving to death more, so he took the commission. William Shakespeare wanted to be a poet. Instead, he wrote plays because he was paid for that. Artists make their living by selling their art. Always have, always will, and unless Franzen is donating all the money he’s made writing his fictional output to charity, this rule can go fuck itself in the face.

After giving us a couple of demi-profound bits of gobbledygook, Franzen suddenly veers with #3 into actual writing advice: “Never use the word then as a conjunction — we have and for this purpose. Substituting then is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many ands on the page.” Any writing advice that starts with the word never is bad advice. There are no hard and fast rules with writing and there is nothing you should never do. Also, then isn’t always a substitute for and, because the two words actually mean two different things — and simply links two clauses, while then provides a more specific progression of one thing to the next thing. Then can absolutely be overused. But this rule is too extreme in the other direction.

“Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.” Rule #4 can also fuck itself in the face, says the guy who has three separate ongoing original narratives that are first person (the Cassie Zukav stories, the Shirley Holmes/Jack Watson stories, and the upcoming Bram Gold adventures). Again, no hard and fast rules, and this is one of those bits of currently trendy wisdom (like “never have a prologue”) that are utter horseshit. Write in whichever person makes your story work the best. Period.

#5 is total elitist nonsense, so I’m’na enjoy trashing it: “When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.” No, shit-for-brains, free accessible information means voluminous research is available to everyone. The fact that only intellectuals in their ivory towers with their large libraries like that fake one you’re sitting in front of no longer have the exclusive ability to research shit doesn’t make it devalued, it makes it much more awesome. What this rule should be, and is for writers whose heads aren’t lodged in their rectums, is “When information becomes free and universally accessible, you have no excuse not to do voluminous research, especially since your readers will call you on your bullshit.”

According to #6, “The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than The Metamorphosis.” First off, I’ve never bought the notion that Die Verwandlung is autobiographical, though plenty of literary scholars disagree with me. Second, lots of stories are more autobiographical than Franz Kafka’s work. By the way, you should hire a copy editor for your rules, as you use pure twice in one sentence. Maybe use then somewhere in there?

With #7 we go back to sub-fortune-cookie-level nonsense: “You see more sitting still than chasing after.” In bed.

And then we come to our “hey you kids, get off my lawn” moment with rule #8: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” These kids today, with their music and their hair…. Seriously, this is the sort of railing against modern times that always makes me shake my head and wonder what the fuck is wrong with people. Also, having the Internet connection on the same laptop you’re writing on makes it way easier to do research — and answer dumb questions quickly. (“Shit, what kind of clothes would they be wearing in 1874?” “Dammit, what’s that thing at the front of the boat called?” “Who threw that perfect game in the 1956 World Series?”) The Internet is a tool like any other, and smart writers use all the tools at their disposal.

“Interesting verbs,” quoth rule #9, “are seldom very interesting.” Righteo. Let’s just use “to be” all the time. That won’t be boring at all. And hey, who defines what “interesting” is? What’s the solution to uninteresting interesting verbs? (Or is it interesting uninteresting verbs?) Or did Franzen realize that he only had nine rules and so made up some piece of bullshit on the spot to fill it out?

Finally, we close with something that I’m sure sounded profound when it fell, unformed, into Franzen’s gray matter, but I have no idea what it has to do with writing. Or, y’know, the English language: “You have to love before you can be relentless.” Remember, kids, even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.