Under a Brass Moon

Under a Brass Moon Cover

This Steampunk and Science Fiction anthology includes twenty-seven short stories. Four of them are mine! In addition, you can enjoy the works of Jordan Elizabeth, G. Miki Hayden, Benjamin Sperduto, D. J. Butler, Christine Baker, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, Jessica Gunn, Lorna Marie Larson, Quinn Southwick, Terri Karsten, W. K. Pomeroy, Ashley Pasco, Jeremy Mortis, Grant Eagar, Amberle Husbands, Nick Lofthouse, Perry McDaid, and S.A. Larsen.

I have two new and two reprinted stories in the book, including:

The Vault is about two children trapped in their family’s manor by an abusive butler. Is there any hope of escape?

Gearhead features the last in a line of techno-knights, being forced to repair a gigantic war machine created by his order. Will he choose honor or death?

Sheriff Anderson’s Steam Deputies is about a tinker who deals with Wild West outlaws in a new way– clockwork gunslingers.

The Dark Glass was created to contact Harold’s dead parents, but instead brings him a spirit, desperate for his help

If Steampunk is not you thing, you can find more of my short stories here.

Here are some of the other stories you’ll find in UNDER A BRASS MOON:

Maiden in the Clock Tower by Jordan Elizabeth: A young woman is trapped in a clock tower of her father’s doing to be held as a pawn in an evil merchant’s scheme. Can she escape to her true love?

The Queen of Cobwebs by Jeremy Mortis: Something is hunting people in the foggy streets, and the Professor and his assistant are about to meet it.
Vacant by Nick Lofthouse: Where does a dreamer fit into a world where ideas are a finite resource from any one person? Could free-thought be our savior, or just a sweet distraction from the inevitable?

Hour of Darkness by Ashley Pasco: Carissa Upton is just your average Victorian street urchin – little does she know that her life is about to change forever. Not only is her entire life a lie, but her future is uncertain.

Calliope by Terri Karsten: Roscoe Gordon dreams bringing back his dad’s Steam Calliope, but he’s hindered by a pair of prank-loving ghosts. With their help, will he lead the parade or blow the whole thing up?

The Balloon Thief by Jessica Gunn: Adeline has made a name for herself as Beltham’s Balloon Thief for stealing high-priced jewelry items and leaving only a balloon in their place. Adeline has been told the stolen rings and gems open a door on the mysterious Leikei, the temple in the air where she thinks her friend Colin is stranded. On her last robbery attempt, she’s arrested and forced to place her trust in the museum owner’s daughter who has her own reasons for wanting to get to Leikei. If she can trust her, Adeline just might be able to rescue Colin. If not, it might be the end for them all.

Ethereal Coil by S.A. Larsen: A new sin eater’s refusal to do her job of keeping balance between good and evil awakens Wrath – one of the Seven Deadly Sins – endangering those closest to her.

Fritz Finkel and the Marvelous Mechanical Thing by Lorna MacDonald Czarnota: Every era has to begin sometime, and every inventor starts someplace. For Fritz, it is the opportunity to impress the “apple of his eye,” the lovely, unobtainable Greta Spielmacher–the toymaker’s daughter. Fritz wants to be a toy designer, but he’s the janitor. Will his special toy be the key to winning his lady love?

Talking Metal by W. K. Pomeroy: Five years after piloting a zeppelin to the other side of the world to find the spark, Saskia is on the verge of inventing greatness, but her old professor appears to have beaten her to the patent office, or has he?

UNDER A BRASS MOON is available now from Curiosity Quills Press. Grab your copy from Amazon and make sure to check out reviews on GoodReads.

Help us celebrate the release with the chance to win a $30 Amazon gift card. All winners will be notified after verification of entry at the end of this promotion. Prizes have been supplied by and the responsibility of delivery are solely that of the author and/or their representatives. Blogs are not liable for non-delivery on the part of the author. No purchase necessary.

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Book Review: Death by Cliche by Bob Defendi

Death by Cliche cover

The first time I encountered this book, I listened to the audiobook. I laughed SO MUCH! Now I’ve read it, and it still cracks me up. Bob Defendi is some kind of genius. That must flow from his extensive writing, game designing, and gaming background.

My review: Dragged into an awful alternate fantasy reality by the hack DM who tried to murder him, Damico has to try and manipulate the real world through the tritely constructed game dimension. Defendi is a masterful writer, making you love characters you knew were one-dimensional just moments before and keeping the reader on the hook to the very end. Oh, and did I mention it’s funny?

Trust me, GET IT NOW! (Also, if you check his blog, I appear occasionally… most of it’s not true. Well… some of it’s exaggerated.)

How many words make a story?

 

I remember the first time I checked out a really big book from the library. Not just a novel, this thing was gargantuan. Noble House by James Clavell. I think half of my motivation was just to prove that I could read such a huge tomb. In retrospect, I wish somebody had caught me and recommended War and Peace instead. Still, I finished it, and that was important to me at the time.

Since then, I’ve read and written stories of all different sizes. Some of the most powerful, ideas that have endured in my memory to this day, were crafted with very few words. For a while, most of the industry seemed ready to declare short stories extinct. Only a few magazines held out against the falling market, and writers largely considered those venues resume builders. Then Amazon revolutionized publishing and opened a way for people to get anthologies (or even stand alone novellas) out with very low overhead. Luckily, the dying art was given new life.

It was especially fortunate for me, since I managed to get into some of those anthologies and build enough cred to sway a publisher to take a chance on my longer works. I believe if nobody made any more short stories, we’d lose something very important and valuable. While I like books for the journey they offer, I feel in many cases the books are inflated beyond the needs of the story. This might be to raise the price of the book, or to extend the escapism time it provides. However, I think we’ve all read a long book or series and thought, “That could have been done in half as many words (or books).” Fans may argue that they want 20 books set in their favorite world, but I feel those massive collections are only one facet of the many possibilities for transmitting stories via fiction. In fact, the most powerful ideas can only be shared in much smaller works.

I guess that’s why I knew the Actuator series had to be done with stories of many sizes. It isn’t only a study in the meaning of various genres, it’s a study on the impact of differing story lengths. Thus, it is over 20 authors, working in different story sizes with characters intertwined through the larger arc. I didn’t realize it when we organized the series and pitched it to Curiosity Quills Press, but the whole thing is not just a multi-genre thriller. It’s also an exploration of every facet of written story telling. It will be nearly half a million words by the end.

Book 3, Chaos Chronicles, is just a few months from release. It contains some of the most imaginative, unique stories in the series yet. It started out as another anthology in the same setting, but once I read the amazing work in it, I knew we had to bring those characters back in for the finale (book 4). I can’t wait for you to read it!

Want to have written…

i know kung fu

In the Matrix movie, there is an ionic moment when Neo wakes up after a neural uplink and says, “I know kung fu.” If they ever figure out how to upload knowledge and skill sets like that, I am pretty sure I will never get out of that machine. I want to know how to do everything.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the many people I’ve encountered who tell me, “I want to write a book some day,” or, “I wrote half a book a long time ago, but I’ve been too busy to get back to it.” What makes the difference between them and the people who actually write a book, or many books?

I remember as a kid, I took karate lessons for one month. I tried a lot of things for a little while until I lost interest and moved on to something else, but karate I remember specifically. I wanted to be tough and fast and a mean fighting machine if anybody messed with me. However, I didn’t really enjoy the lessons or do the practices and exercises. So I stopped and did other things. At the time, I didn’t think of it. Now, I understand it better.

I didn’t want to LEARN karate. I wanted to HAVE LEARNED karate. I wanted the results, but not the actual day to day actions leading to them. The same thing happened with piano lessons. I wanted to know how to play the piano, but I did not want to practice.

So I think it is with many people who want to HAVE WRITTEN a book. They want to be an author, but they don’t really want to write. That’s the difference. Unlike karate and piano, I love writing. I love to be in the middle of a scene hammering on the keyboard as fast as the words will arrange themselves in my mind. I enjoy going through the experience with the characters and imagining new worlds and exploring big ideas. I wrote over a dozen books before I had my first one published. And even if I never had any books published, I’d still write them.

At a book signing I attended, Terry Brooks said writers write because they have to. He went on to explain that writing takes a lot of time for no money and a very small return. If you have a choice, do something else. We only write if we have to.

I have to.

I’m hoping this insight will help people interested in writing to understand. If you want to be writing, then write. You will inevitably write many books. If you only want to have written a book, but don’t really prefer the act of writing to other activities in your life, then maybe the other things you do are what you really care about.

There are many authors who write just one book and stop. That’s great, but they clearly aren’t someone who wants to write. Rather, they are among those who succeeded, but only wanted to have written a book. Once they reached their goal, they had no motivation to write more.

This has significance for me, and anybody who really enjoys writing, too. I think of book ideas by the dozen. Some I write, others I don’t, for many reasons. Now I have a new way of deciding which ideas to invest in and which to leave alone. I write the books I want to be writing. I don’t write the books I only want, “to have written.”

Quirky Engine Games

Quirky Engine

I love games. I’ve played many and even made some. [Go see my free games.] So I wanted to feature a few here. These are all by a new company: Quirky Engine Games. So far they have three games out.

Panic Fire is also called “Shoot Your Friends.” Who doesn’t want to shoot their friends once in a while? See the YouTube video. Check out the reviews on Board Game Geek.

Admit it, if you had a junk yard, you’d get in a Trash War.  See the YouTube video. Check out the reviews on Board Game Geek.

And Hoagies are like my third favorite lunch. See the YouTube video. Check out the reviews on Board Game Geek.

Now you know you want them… or at least one of them. So head over to:

Quirky Engine Games!

Skill vs. Marketing

Tome

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time ruminating on books. What makes some books sell and others go nowhere? How important is it for a book to have “meaning?” What makes a book become a “classic?” What significance do I want books to have in my life?

A lot came together to cause such an internal inquiry. First, I realized I reached my initial writing goal. Once I had several books published and I found my place in the local writing community and with a good publisher, I fulfilled my plans. So I naturally wanted to re-evaluate what my next goal should be. Second, I observed that book sales at conventions and signings didn’t change whether I had one book to sell or half a dozen. I felt good about having more books written, but it didn’t seem to affect my overall numbers to have more books on the table in front of me. So I began to ask myself, “Why write the other books?” (Don’t worry, I write because I love it, and that won’t stop.) Finally, what do I want readers to take away from my books?

Obviously, any writer wants to sell more books. But as I’ve tried to examine what makes a book sell better than others, the variables get very convoluted. Sometimes a mediocre books is marketed so well, or referred by somebody so popular, that it becomes a best seller. Other times books that I love and seem masterfully written, will flop and find no readers at all. So there is some measure of luck involved. What seems to be the only discernable pattern is when an author writes one book that “breaks out” and is hugely popular. It gains momentum all its own, in excess of the marketing. It takes on a mythos greater than the content or skill by which it’s written. That’s really the “dream” of any author, to write something that becomes wildly popular. But how much control does anybody really have over such a system? Or is trying for such a thing like chasing a white whale?

Michaelbrent Collings said something profound. “Selling your own books won’t go anywhere. You need to write books so good that other people will sell them for you.”

I stepped back from writing for a while to internalize these things and come up with my next plan. I’m going to finish the Actuator series, of course. (Book 3 coming soon!) After that?

What I’ve come to realize is that much of this is out of my control. I can develop skills and invest in the stories I write. I plan to focus on better and less instead of faster and more. And deep down, I have to believe that a really good story will resonate with people and have a better chance of “going somewhere” than an average story. I love all the books I’ve written, and the people I’ve worked with. Now, I just need to take my art to the next level. It isn’t a quest to write a best seller. It’s just refocusing to make the best story I can. Thanks for sticking with me on the journey. I’m looking for brighter and more exotic destinations!

Interior Art

Cyber-Cowboy

Draconic King

I love short stories. Even though people sometimes say it’s a dying art, I really like reading and writing them. Sometimes a very short work can be extremely poignant. Here’s an example by one of my favorite authors: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I have a few free here, too.

I also love art. So covers are very important to me. (See my covers.) I often say how happy I’ve been with my publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, because they consistently do amazing covers.

So, I especially appreciate anybody who goes to the extra expense to do illustrations for each story in an anthology. The two at the top are the illustrations for my stories in the CQ anthologies. The artist, Ricky Gunawan, does amazing work. So, when I began editing the Borderlands Anthology for the Actuator series, I knew I wanted art for each story, but I wanted something unique to better match the feel of the story. We brainstormed several ideas. What we came up with was something I’ve really liked. In fact, we are using the same process for the upcoming anthology (which is what made me think of writing this post).

Ritual

We started by having each author select a stock photo they felt represented their story. This picture was chosen for  a ghost story set in Japan.

 

Then I took the color out of it (because they are printed in black & white) and applied a rendering process. I think it gives it a kind of computerized-painted look which goes well with the multi-genre nature of the Actuator series.

Ritual Titled

Finally, I put the title and authors name onto the picture. It gave them a kind of “old movie poster” feel that seemed to represent the various genre clichés the stories are set in.

The final product feels both artistically consistent with the series and true to the feel of each story in the collections. I liked it so well, I used the same method on all the art in the Actuator RPG. (The full version is coming soon from FINAL REDOUBT PRESS!)

What do you think?