Where Am I?

Obviously, this blog isn’t very active of late. I keep meaning to pay more attention to it, but it keeps not happening. Where should you go, then, to find out what I’m doing?

I publish a free newsletter called “The Misenchanted Newsletter” through Substack; it’s more or less monthly, and if I remember I usually repost it to my Patreon page within a day or two. It’s mostly about what I’m writing and publishing, since I assume that’s what most readers are interested in.

I’m active on social media, specifically Facebook and Bluesky. I also read Mastodon and CounterSocial for news, but don’t post much on Mastodon and don’t post anything on CounterSocial.

On Facebook I have two pages — a business one that’s strictly publishing news and sees very few posts because I don’t have much publishing news these days, and a personal one I post to a lot.

I have a zillion other accounts going back many years, but I don’t use ’em, I just don’t usually bother closing them when I abandon them. I haven’t kept track of them all. I have two Instagram accounts (by mistake), one of which I still read, but I never post to either of them. (I did post to one of them once or twice back in 2017; I think it was the one I’ve stopped following.) If you want to see pretty pictures of travel, family, and the like, you’d do better to follow my wife’s Instagram.

And that’s all I can think of right now.

Plans for 2023

Happy new year! May it be better than the last few.

I have a fair bit going on right now, in various media. First off, in case you haven’t noticed, Tom Derringer & the Electrical Empire has finally been published; I received the two delayed illustrations on Christmas Eve, and got the book out as quickly as I could. (Which resulted in a few issues that needed fixing in some versions, but they’re all good now.)

The anthology Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2022 didn’t actually make it into print in 2022, but is complete and should be out very soon — possibly next week. It includes my sword-and-sorcery tale “The House of the Spider.”

The Wildside Press edition of Charming Sharra should be out by spring.

The audiobook of The Ninth Talisman is under way; I’ve received and approved the introduction and first chapter. I don’t know how long it’ll be before the whole thing is ready to go. Once complete, it should be followed by The Summer Palace within another few months.

Seven of my books that were published by FoxAcre Press have been reverted to me. The FoxAcre editions are still on sale for the moment, but if you want any of them, don’t dawdle — they’re going to be withdrawn as FoxAcre gets things wrapped up.

Naturally, I don’t plan to leave them in limbo, they’ll all be coming back from Misenchanted Press, but it’ll take me some time to get the new editions ready. Here’s the order I intend to reprint them in, and where they stand as of the present:

Nightside City will remain unchanged except for a new cover, probably using reprint art by Luca Oleastri.

Realms of Light will also remain unchanged except for a new cover, again probably using reprint art by Luca Oleastri.

I hope to get audiobooks of both of those under way, if I can find a suitable narrator.

It’s possible I’ll also do an omnibus, The Cases of Carlisle Hsing, including both those novels and reprinting the essay “Setting the Stage,” about the creation of the Eta Cassiopeia system. It depends on how much fannish enthusiasm I see. If that happens I don’t know what I’ll use for the cover; I may re-use one of those Luca Oleastri images, or find another one.

Next after that, Shining Steel. I don’t plan on any changes except a new cover, and I don’t know yet what I’ll do for that cover.

The last novel will be Denner’s Wreck, also known as Among the Powers, but I couldn’t decide which title to use, so I plan to do two versions, one with each title but both using the same cover art. I don’t plan any interior changes, and I don’t yet have cover art.

Then there are the three collections. Crosstime Traffic may keep its present cover, but I may want to update the introductions or even add a third one. I don’t expect to change any of the stories.

Celestial Debris will get new cover art, but it’ll probably just be a stock image. I don’t expect to make any interior changes.

Unless someone talks me out of it, The Final Folly of Captain Dancy & Other Pseudo-Historical Fantasies is getting a major make-over and becoming The Final Folly of Captain Dancy & Other Tall Tales. At least two more short stories will be added, both unpublished as of now; the new cover art is being taken from a British children’s book from over a century back.

With luck, these will all be out by the end of the year.

And if I can find time to write with all that going on, I’m working on On A Field Sable, the next Bound Lands novel after Above His Proper Station, and on The Dragon’s Price, a new fantasy novel that may or may not be the start of a new series. Several other projects have been started but do not have a very high priority yet, including Tom Derringer & the Sinister Statue and two Ethshar novels, a short one called Kelder the Small and a long one that doesn’t really have a title yet. (The working file calls it “Dancing with Wizards,” but that won’t stay.)

Busy year. We have some travel planned, too.

Dusting off the blog

I see it’s been almost three years since I posted here. Buying a house, moving in, a pandemic, a new computer, another new computer, and other distractions led me to neglect the place. I’m finally getting caught up on stuff, though, and trying to revive neglected areas of my online life.

I’m now thoroughly settled in our little house on Bainbridge Island, and enjoying life in the Pacific Northwest — mostly, anyway; the lack of sunlight in the winter can be a trifle wearing.

Since I last posted here I’ve had only a single novel published — Tom Derringer & the Steam-Powered Saurians. There have been a few short stories, though, and there’s more stuff coming soon (all of it unavoidably delayed):

Tom Derringer & the Electrical Empire is ready to go except for a couple of illustrations that are long overdue; it should go to press about a week after those are delivered.

Charming Sharra, a short Ethshar novel, should be out in a couple of months. Wildside’s chosen cover artist had to be replaced for health reasons, which set it back a little.

Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2022, featuring my story “The House of the Spider”, was originally scheduled for December 2022, but has encountered minor delays and may not be out until January.

And just recently I’ve finished two short stories, but I haven’t yet decided where to send them. “The Harvest” is a 7,300-word Ethshar story, and “Three Days Late for the Hanging” is a 6,800-word weird western.

So I may have neglected this blog, but I’ll still writing.

Collect Them All!

As of Wednesday of last week, I have now visited all fifty U.S. states. Here’s the complete list with the occasion for visiting that I best remember. It may not be the first visit, or the most recent; it’s just the one that comes to mind when I think of that state:

Alabama: Guest at SF convention in Huntsville.
Alaska: Cruise vacation in 2010.
Arizona: Vacationed in Scottsdale to attend several Spring Training baseball games.
Arkansas: Vacationed in Horseshoe Bend when Julie’s job was being really stressful and we needed somewhere quiet.
California: Attended the San Diego ComiCon a couple of times, among many other visits.
Colorado: World Science Fiction Convention in Denver.
Connecticut: Lived in New Haven one summer as a kid, when my father was on sabbatical and doing research at Yale.
Delaware: Day trips to Rehoboth Beach.
Florida: Disney World, Key West, other vacation destinations.
Georgia: Multiple conventions in Atlanta.
Hawaii: Two-week vacation celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary in 2017.
Idaho: Drove through it last week on the way to Seattle. Stopped in Coeur d’Alene for fuel and snacks.
Illinois: Chicago World Science Fiction Conventions, 1982, 1991, and 2000.
Indiana: Drove through it repeatedly on the way to Iowa or Illinois or Wisconsin; ate meals, bought gas, and I think I spent a night in a motel there once.
Iowa: Our daughter went to Drake University, so we visited Des Moines for orientation, graduation, etc.
Kansas: Was hired to speak to the librarians of Johnson County as part of their annual training session.
Kentucky: Lived there for nine years, in Fayette and Clark counties.
Louisiana: World Science Fiction Convention in New Orleans, 1988.
Maine: Honeymooned there in 1977.
Maryland: Lived there, 1986-2018.
Massachusetts: Born and raised there.
Michigan: Writer guest at a gaming convention.
Minnesota: Drove through it last week. Made a stop or two.
Mississippi: Guest at an SF convention in Biloxi.
Missouri: Vacationed in Branson.
Montana: Drove through it last week; stayed the night in Billings.
Nebraska: Drove almost the full length of the state delivering Julian to grad school in Boulder, CO. Ate lunch in Lincoln.
Nevada: Las Vegas, 2018.
New Hampshire: Many drives and vacations with family.
New Jersey: Attended Princeton University.
New Mexico: Day trip to Santa Fe when we were vacationing in Pagosa Springs, CO.
New York: The World’s Fair, 1965.
North Carolina: Owned a timeshare on the beach in Duck.
North Dakota: Rode the Empire Builder through, made a couple of brief stops.
Ohio: Watched the Cincinnati Reds play at Riverfront Stadium.
Oklahoma: Guest at an SF convention in Tulsa.
Oregon: Visited Portland to see friends and consider it as a retirement possibility.
Pennsylvania: Lived in Pittsburgh, 1974-1977.
Rhode Island: Toured Newport’s “cottages” on a brief vacation.
South Carolina: Port call in Charleston on a cruise in 1998.
South Dakota: Drove through it last week with stops at Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore.
Tennessee: Knoxville World’s Fair, 1982; Nashville vacation, 2017.
Texas: Visited Julie’s retired parents in Weslaco.
Utah: Visited Zion National Park on vacation.
Vermont: Summer camp, 1965.
Virginia: Vacationed at Colonial Williamsburg.
Washington: Visited Seattle in 2010 and 2016.
West Virginia: Went camping there. Also guest of honor at Munchcon, a convention at Marshall University.
Wisconsin: Visited Milwaukee a couple of times, once for a vacation and once as a convention guest.
Wyoming: Drove through it last week, admiring the scenery.

Divide and Conquer

Many years ago I got tired of dealing with ordinary comic book storage boxes, especially after some minor flooding in the room where I stored a lot of mine. I built myself a great big waterproof box that held a significant portion of my collections, as seen in the picture here, and set it up on some shelving: The Comic Book Box

(That picture was taken when I was in the middle of emptying it. Notice that it even had a Masonite lid I could set on top — that’s what’s behind it, against the wall, in the picture.)

It was useful. I overflowed it almost immediately, of course, but it definitely helped keep everything in order and manageable.

In 2009 we moved from Gaithersburg to Takoma Park, and I sold off 12,000 of my 14,000 comics, and once again the box could hold most (but not all) of my collection. It was equivalent, I eventually figured out, to about nine standard long boxes.

Then this year, 2018, we started preparing to move again, but this time we’re going across the continent instead of across Montgomery County, and we expect to wind up in a much smaller home. So I had to prune the collection again, and sold off four long boxes, and trashed a few that were seriously damaged.

That actually got us to the point where I could fit all my comic books in the box and even have a little space left (maybe half a slot).

But it also brought up the question of what to do with the box. Taking it with us didn’t seem very practical. Julie didn’t even want to consider keeping it, and I had to admit she had a point.

So I started talking to people I thought might be able to use it. My local comics shop didn’t want it; they already had enough storage. They asked a few customers, but no one was interested. We talked to some neighbors, but got no takers. It was just too big and awkward for most comic collectors.

But I had an inspiration. If I stood it on end, it could be a bookcase!

The only problem was that it would be eight feet tall, and since most people have eight-foot ceilings, or less, that was an issue.

But then I had what I think was a really clever idea.

I cut it in half, and had two four-foot bookcases, with shelves exactly the right height for paperbacks. See?


Of course, they’re kind of deep, but that just means you can shelve books two rows deep and still have a little room in front for knicknacks. One End

Now that it’s a pair of fairly normal bookcases, it’s much easier to re-home. If we don’t find anyone who wants them, we can just donate them as if they were ordinary furniture.

Problem solved! And my comics are (at least for now) back in standard boxes, ready to be shipped to the west coast.

Works in Progress

I decided it was past time I organized my various works in progress, so I gathered together all the incomplete story files I could find on my computer. I didn’t do anything about hardcopy stuff, only files on the computer.

I initially found 388, but a surprising number of them were actually alternate names — that is, I’d have the same story filed under two or three different titles. There were also several that were finished and sold and therefore no longer “in progress,” and some that were additional material for projects in another file.

And then there were titles I had listed where I couldn’t actually find any story — more on that below.

There were also some I turned up elsewhere that weren’t in the 388.

Anyway, after sorting, removing duplicate or otherwise irrelevant files, and generally getting them in order, I have 337 “work in progress” files.

222 files are now labeled short fiction, though in several cases they could easily turn into novels or entire series. Four of these are George Pinkerton stories, and three of those four are effectively complete — complete enough that I’ve posted them to my Patreon page and the subscriber-only portion of my website. The fourth (which had existed under two different titles) is woefully incomplete, and is based on a bedtime story Julie told the kids when I was traveling.

There are five non-fiction projects in various stages of development, about genre fiction, horror comics, trivia, music (that one’s probably just a short article, not a book or even close), and Christmas traditions.

There are eighty-six novels, ranging from a few vague notes to a 60,000-word fragment. Eight of them are Ethshar stories, ten are set in or around the Bound Lands, three continue the Tom Derringer series, one is about Tom’s son Johnny Derringer, two are sequels to Vika’s Avenger, one’s a sequel to “The Lords of Dus,” and one’s set in the same world as the Lords of Dus but takes place elsewhere at the same time Garth is having his adventures.

I haven’t counted how many are fantasy, how many are SF, how many are horror, how many are mysteries, or how many are romances, but I do have all those genres represented, and probably others.

There are three proposals for comic book series. One of them was originally planned as a collaboration with Kurt Busiek, but we both got busy and it never happened, and it’s based on public-domain stuff so we can each write our own versions without conflict. Another is a superhero project that will probably never go anywhere. And the third… well, it’s sort of cheating, because there’s a chapter and a half of the same story as a novel in another file.

I actually had a fourth comic book proposal… well, no. I actually had a couple of other proposals that I decided would work better as novels, so that’s where they wound up. In fact, all three of these might yet wind up as prose. I’m better at prose than at comics.

And there’s a computer game, except it was originally designed for 1980s tech, mostly text with 8-bit graphics. The premise of the game could still be fun, but I’d need to upgrade it a lot.

There are two plays. One of them exists as a complete detailed outline but no actual text; it’s a Shakespearean comedy, and uses several of his favorite gimmicks (cross-dressing characters, mistaken identity, people turning up after having been lost for years, etc.), and honestly, I think it could be a fun show. The title is “A Maid’s Merry Measures, or, Modesty Mislaid.”

The other play is a thought experiment, not anything that could ever go anywhere — a collaboration between William Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien.

There are four works in verse — I hesitate to call all of them poems. I didn’t bother including any of my limericks, which all seem to be either very fannish or very obscene. (Oddly, never both.)

There are four descriptions for settings or concepts that don’t yet have stories to go with them, though I could easily come up with some.

There’s a single file for an entire series of short stories, two of which have been written and published — “The Hole Above the Parking Lot,” which gave me “An Infinity of Karen” and “Revised Edition.”

There are six titles that have concepts, but no real stories, to go with them.

There’s a list of literally hundreds more titles that don’t have stories attached, and that I didn’t feel deserved individual files yet. Twelve of these were included on some of my lists of unfinished stories, but I can’t find any record of what the stories were supposed to be, and I don’t remember them. One such title is the very appropriate “Gone Missing.”

And finally, there’s a compilation of stuff that had previously been recorded as “untitled story idea” or “opening fragment” or “two SF ideas” or whatever. This is five single-spaced pages of small print; I haven’t counted how many ideas are on the list. Some of them may have been incorporated elsewhere.

I can think of at least two stories I started that I can’t find anywhere, and I suspect it’s because they date back before I computerized. One of them I know dates back to the 1970s; the other I thought was much more recent, but I still can’t find it.

This is what I’ve accumulated since I got my first computer in August, 1984. When you think about it, I’m only generating about ten a year, which seems very reasonable, but they do add up after all this time.

Meet the Authors!

I don’t know whether anyone actually reads this; that last post, about audiobooks, got absolutely zero reaction. But I’ll go on posting, if only for my own amusement.

I’m cleaning my office to get it tidy enough to be seen by prospective buyers, and this has meant turning up lots of long-forgotten memorabilia. (Yes, I recognize the inherent conflict in “forgotten memorabilia.”) Some of these items resulted in a rush of nostalgia, a flood of fond memories.Meet the Authors!

Other items brought me to say, “What the heck was that about?”

In this latter category is a flyer for a “Meet the Authors!” event at the Winchester Public Library some long-ago April. Winchester is the county seat of Clark County, Kentucky, where we lived from 1983 to 1986, so presumably this event occurred in that time period.

I don’t remember it at all.

There were three authors scheduled to appear, quite likely the only three who lived in Clark County: R. Gerald Alvey, author of Dulcimer Maker: The Craft of Homer Ledford; A. Goff Bedford, author of The Proud Land: A History of Clark County, Kentucky; and me, author of, it says here, several fantasy novels.

Also in attendance: Homer Ledford, the subject of Mr. Alvey’s book, playing dulcimer.

I have attended many local book fairs of one sort or another, but honestly, I don’t know why; they’re never my natural audience. Whether it’s as small-scale as the Takoma Park book fair held every year in a church basement, or as large as the Kentucky State Book Fair that took over the armory in Frankfort one year, I’m always out of place at such events, wasting my time by participating.

Local book fairs don’t attract people interested in books; those folks go to bookstores. They attract people interested in the place holding the event. Messrs. Alvey and Bedford and Ledford presumably drew crowds who wanted to learn more about their own little corner of the world: Clark County, home to a famous dulcimer-maker. Someone writing about fantasy worlds, wizards, and dragons was utterly out of place.

At the Kentucky State Book Fair the writers who had brought illustrated volumes about Kentucky’s landscapes or Kentucky’s horses or Kentucky’s role in the War Between the States drew enthusiastic crowds, while I sat there bored and ignored, chatting in a desultory fashion with the almost equally bored poet in the next seat. No one knew what to make of us; we lived in Kentucky, but our books weren’t about Kentucky.

In Gaithersburg or Takoma Park the crowds (such as there were) weren’t quite so parochial; since both cities are in the suburban portions of Greater Washington, books about politics or American history in general were greeted with some enthusiasm. Even a murder mystery or historical novel might garner some attention. But fantasy? No.

Even when I tried to focus heavily on One-Eyed Jack, a horror/dark fantasy novel whose protagonist lives in on Maple Avenue in Takoma Park, at a Takoma Park Book Fair, no one was interested. Too weird.

So I no longer do book fairs, or bookstore signings. Why waste everyone’s time?

And this flyer for the Winchester event is going in the recycling bin, not moving on to our next home with us.

Ear Candy

Awhile back I noticed that I still controlled the audio rights to some of my books — specifically, the Obsidian Chronicles. And someone pointed me at ACX, where I could self-publish audiobooks.
audiobook of Dragon Weather

So in 2016 I decided to give it a shot, and signed up to produce an audiobook of Dragon Weather. I held auditions and found a guy named Shawn Saavedra who seemed to do a fine job, and while it took longer than I’d expected, the audiobook of Dragon Weather came out last summer, and has done better than I expected.

So of course I signed Shawn up to continue the series. The Dragon Society has just been completed and delivered to ACX/Audible, and should be available for purchase in a week or two.

And now we’ve just contracted for Dragon Venom — not sure how long it’ll take, but it’s under way.
audiobook of The Dragon Society

For all three, Bob Eggleton was kind enough to let me use the original cover art for a modest fee, which made it possible to put together some decent covers.

Anyway, that will finish the series — so what’s next?

I already knew I controlled the audio rights to Touched by the Gods, which I think would be a good fit for Shawn’s voice and style; he says he’d be interested in tackling it, but not immediately after the current series. So that’s a long-term prospect.

But tonight a thought struck me, and I checked some contracts, and discovered I also control Night of Madness. I’ve had people asking for more Ethshar, and while Wildside Press controls most of the series and is very gradually releasing them (The Misenchanted Sword and The Vondish Ambassador are available, and With A Single Spell is allegedly in the works), I could do Night of Madness myself.
audiobook of Dragon Venom

I also still have the rights to the Annals of the Chosen. That might be interesting.

So would those be worth doing?

P.S. …and today I realize I still have the audio rights to everything published by FoxAcre Press, too.

Dark Universe details: The Wolfman and the rest

The wolfman is a bit tricky. The original movie isn’t very good, though it has its moments. It also isn’t based on a novel (although there had been a few werewolf novels), nor is it faithful to actual werewolf legends; screenwriter Curt Siodmak just made up all that stuff about magic pentagrams and blooming wolfbane and so on. Technically, Universal might own that stuff.

But they don’t own werewolves.

Thing is, to some extent I think “An American Werewolf in London” [I originally typed “Paris,” but I meant the 1981 film, not the 1997 one] already reinvented the wolfman in much the way I would have. And there have been lots of other good werewolf stories by the likes of Stephen King and Anthony Boucher and Alan Moore and Joss Whedon. I’ve already written a couple of werewolf stories myself.

So what do I do for my version that would make it anything other than a generic werewolf story without infringing on Universal’s rights? About all I can think of is to tie it in with the rest of the universe right from the start by making the werewolf one of the Harker clan, and remembering that Dracula can control wolves.

I dunno; that’s not very satisfactory. I think I may need to let this one stew for awhile.

That leaves two more Universal monsters who are only occasionally included in the set. One is the creature from the Black Lagoon, and that was an original by Universal, not based on previous legends or novels (though allegedly there really were stories about fish-men in the Amazon), so they own it outright and I can’t use it. This was released in 1954, after the other monsters had been retired.

And the other is the Phantom of the Opera, based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel; the novel is in the public domain and can therefore be used. The Universal movies were not part of the classic period of the 1930s; the first was in 1925, before “talkies” were invented, and is notable for several cool gimmicks, including Lon Chaney’s grotesque make-up and the use of painted-in red in one scene of the black-&-white film. The second was in 1943, when the Universal monster franchise was in decline, so that associating the new movie with the established series was seen as undesirable. Instead it was treated as a big Technicolor spectacle rather than a horror film. (And SF/fantasy fans, note: Fritz Leiber Sr., the father of the beloved writer, has a role in it.)

I don’t have the details worked out; for one thing, I don’t know enough about the current status of the Paris opera house. I envision a story where the Phantom has control of computer and video tech in the opera house — Brian de Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” where Swan has video cameras everywhere, probably influenced this decision.

I’m tempted to swipe a lot of ideas from “Phantom of the Paradise,” actually. De Palma… well, I’ve read the novelization based on the original shooting script, and either the writer mutilated the story, or most of the good stuff was added by de Palma. The movie is obviously based on “The Phantom of the Opera,” but de Palma (and Paul Williams, who wrote the music and played Swan) added Faust, Frankenstein, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and anything else they could jam in.

But I don’t have either the wolfman or the phantom developed yet, and I don’t need to, since the first three will keep me busy for years if I ever write any of this stuff at all.