Sunday, October 27, 2013

New name, real name

You might have noticed that I've renamed the blog. "Experiment in Terror" reflected the fact that I knew nothing about putting together a blog when I started this process, and I was nervous about putting it out there. So terrified, in fact, that I didn't use my real name.

("Grant" was my father's middle name, and the name that he was frequently called by, especially by my mother. So I really am John Grant's Son).

But now, under "About Me," you can see not only my picture (and my award! I won an award once!) but my real name. So I guess the fear factor has gone down.

The new name reflects my interest in space opera: Star Trek/Star Wars-type interstellar action, with exotic aliens, strange planets, heroes and villains, and frequent explosions. Yes, I've been working on an urban fantasy series, complete with vampires, ghosts, and demons, but for right now I plan on keeping those two universes separate. We'll see.

Anyway, as a bonus, I'm adding a new Foxe story to the site. "Takeover strategies" isn't really new—I wrote it several years ago, but after a brisk edit, I think it works reasonably well. Feel free to tell my what you think.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Who is this strange woman named Valeria Lynd? And why is she making trouble for Foxe? Find out in Chapter Eight of Prodigal Prince!

I know, I know . . .

I need to do more than just post chapters of Prodigal Prince. No excuses. Explanations? Well, maybe.

• New Story. I've been working on a new Foxe short story. It's coming together, and I'll probably post it sometime this week. The thing with stories about Foxe is I'm not sure how meaningful they are if you don't know who Foxe is from the start, which (I suspect) makes them difficult to get published elsewhere. David Drake can send a Hammer's Slammers story (interstellar mercenaries, and a GREAT series, really, go out and read it now) to a top magazine and everyone will know what he's talking about. But so far only a handful of my loyal readers will really understand who Foxe is in the universe I'm trying to build for him. So the shorter stories about him are exercises—and also ideas I can't let go of. After "Mind Games," I've got only a few that I'm really happy with, although the upcoming one, "Meat," seems to hold some promise. And an earlier one, "Stay Angry," still feels good to me.

• Internet issues. AT&T "upgraded" my Internet connection to a Uverse system. I spent a few days freaking out about having to install a new modem, and although I was able to set it up and get it sort of working, it still sometimes goes in and out, particularly when I'm watching videos on Netflix. Sure, I can still get work done, and most of the time the Internet connection is fine, so I'm mostly just griping. But still. Hard to concentrate when you're wondering about when and if your broadband is going down.

• The government. Boy, it was hard to concentrate while wondering whether we were going to head into financial apocalypse.

• Stuff. Okay, sometimes I'm just lazy. That's probably the main reason. I do enjoy my job and the people at my office (and the fact that I can work at home whenever necessary), but it still consumes a certain amount of time and energy, and then there's taking care of stuff at home, trying to watch the occasional episode of Dr. Who, and getting up to do it all again after I've stayed up too late reading in bed. (Right now I hope to finish Peter Hamilton's new book, Great North Road, in the next night or two. Hamilton writes these incredibly lengthy SF novels, maybe longer than they need to be, but for fantastic, world-spinning science fiction/space opera, he's worth every page. Go set aside a few months to read his Void trilogy. Get them all at once, because you won't want to stop at the end of each book.)

• I think that's it. Coming attractions: I'm keeping a list of every book I've read this year, and in 2014 I'll post it, along with my ratings, and maybe some reviews.

• Bullet points. I love'em.

In the meantime, I am posting the latest chapter of Prodigal Prince. Right about . . . Now.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let the games commence

You've been patiently wondering, "When does the action start?" Well, the wait is over, for better or worse. Heroes and villains come together, with surprising and deadly results.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A meeting of enemies

Chapter 6 of Prodigal Prince: Foxe and Shrinn meet each other for the first time. In an elevator.


Trying to wrap my mind around some comments on the movie Gravity, but I kept going off on a tangent about Star Trek Into Darkness, which is the other movie I saw in theater this year. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness, despite my annoyance over the title (and other issues), but Gravity makes you really feel like what it must be like to be floating in space, with the Earth either over you or under you—and then spinning out of control like Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A real trek into darkness.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lunch and memories and confessions

I had lunch a few days ago with a friend who’s a published author. We met in the 1980s at meetings of the Mystery Writers of America (Midwest Chapter), which held monthly meetings in downtown Chicago.

I loved those meetings. I never missed them if I could help it all, and I dragged my friends, co-workers, and even my wife to them as often as I could for drinks, dinner, and discussions about the finer points of murder.

The world has changed a lot since then. The publishing industry has consolidated into a few big publishers and a lot of smaller, independent ones, e-books are now a force to be reckoned with (and don’t get me wrong—I love reading e-books on my iPad), and anyone can put out an e-book on Amazon.

But it sure seemed simpler when I went to my first MWA meeting. I was suddenly in the same room with a combination of wannabe writers like me and a bunch of successful, published authors. They may not have been making millions of dollars writing NY Times bestsellers (although some of them eventually did), but the formula for success they shared was basically this: Write a book, get some feedback, and find an agent—or maybe send it directly to a publisher. That worked for at least a few writers in the group. Keep doing it, and eventually you might see your books on the shelves of your local bookstore. Back when there were actual bookstores.

My friend has written a bunch of really good crime novels. They range from a series of books featuring a hard-boiled Chicago cab driver to a couple of novels about a reformed terrorist, and then to a sequence of police procedurals in the 1960s era. I confess that I haven’t read every single book he’s written, especially since I switched my focus from mysteries to science fiction in the mid-2000s, but he’s a fine writer. And right now he’s frustrated at not knowing how to sell the books he’s already published, and wondering how he’s going to get a publisher to put out his most recent works.

And me? After almost 30 years, I’m sort of nowhere. Lots of stuff written, none of it sold. One award for an SF story. One detective novel almost published, except that the publisher went out of business.

I could simply publish Prodigal Prince on Amazon. And that’s a serious option. I have another novel I’m sending around to actual publishers, an urban fantasy, and I have higher hopes for that than for my two Foxe novels because I think it’s more original, and it fits into an established niche without being too derivative.

But I sure hope someday I can find a publisher, because I don’t think I’m suited for a career of trying to market and promote my own work all by myself. I admit I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’m certainly going about this all wrong.

The problem is, I can’t stop. I read a story once about Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle In Time. One night after a lot of failure she decided to quit writing. Then, as she was walking upstairs to go to bed, she thought of a story about a writer who decided to quit writing, and by the time she reached the top of the stairs she realized that was her next story.

Or something like that. Maybe I remember it wrong. But even so, that’s me. For better or worse, I’m going to keep going.

Darn it.