Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving is coming

I enjoy books where people actually eat.

One of the things I’m giving thanks for right now is Chimes of Midnight, Seanan McGuire’s latest October Daye book. I bought it at Windycon, a few weeks ago, but I had a few library books to finish, so I only started reading it last night.

It’s a great book, of course. Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors, But one thing I really appreciate about her is the fact that, as busy as the heroes get, they manage to get something to eat. Burritos and sandwiches so far, but at least Toby Daye and her friends actually pause to have a meal from time to time.
It happens in books and movies and on TV all the time: The hero sits down to breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, takes one bite, and then the phone rings and he/she is off to deal with some emergency. Anytime someone (usually Mom, right?) makes a big breakfast with eggs and bacon and sausage and pancakes and even scones, the hero—whether it’s a cop or a high school kid—grabs a piece of toast, muttering “Sorry, no time for breakfast, gotta run,” and leaves.

Really, he or she should should get hit by a metal frying pan on the way out of the kitchen.           

I’m not saying I’ve never wasted any food at any time I my life. But I always make sure my fictional characters eat.


In other news, I’m working on a new novel, which some of you have read a chapter of. It features a demon-fighting ex-cop named Leo Burden, who’s sort of based on the mafia vigilantes I used to read about in high school.

(Some days I think I’m doing nothing but recycling my ideas from my reading in the 1970s.)

I need to be writing something all the time. I’m waiting to hear about A Bar Called Revelations (my other urban fantasy novel) that I’ve got out at a publisher—which reminds me, I need to send them another e-mail reminding them about my query from June. But I don’t want to start a sequel to that book until I know something definite about this one. I’ve done that before, and I’ve decided it’s better to go on to something completely different while I’m waiting. Having a story to work on is just generally conducive to my mental health, so I’m happy to have something going.

I did a thing where I broke the full document of Revelations into two documents, because at 600+ pages, Microsoft Word apparently can’t handle a complete spellcheck, and I keep finding typos. Some of them are mistakes that Word wouldn’t find anyway (“hair red” for “red hair”), so I need to go through it again.

So my challenge for the rest of the year is balancing those two out, at least until I’ve done a semi-thorough edit on Revelations again.

My other challenge is keeping up with this blog more consistently. And posting a new Prodigal Prince chapter at least once a week, or more often. So look! Over there! It’s a new chapter! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Windycon . . . one week later

So I had a fine time at Windycon last weekend. Got to meet Jim C. Hines, a fine fantasy author, hear him read a story, and get his autograph on my copy of Libriomancer. While I sort of prefer his "Princess" series, in which Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty team up to do battle against evil in a fairy tale kingdom (as others have said, it's Charlie's Angels with swords and magic), I do recommend Libriomancer highly, and can't wait to read the sequel.

Speaking of books, I bought a bunch! As I always do. I just need to get through one more of my library books before I can start the new October Daye book, Chimes at Midnight, by Seanan McGuire, an urban fantasy series that I enjoy greatly.

Went to two good panels: One on interstellar commerce, which produced lots of ideas for things that other races might trade, which will be useful for my Foxe stories, since the Aligned Worlds is mostly designed to facilitate interstellar trade more than anything else. The other was, "Should you self-publish?" And I think right now the answer for me is still "No." I still want to find an actual real-life publisher, mostly because marketing my work, which is the bulk of what you have to do when you self-publish, isn't really in my skill set. And as noted SF writer Eric Flint pointed out, when you're marketing your writing, you're not actually doing your writing. And when readers find an author they like, they want more, soon—or they'll go find someone else.

Other thoughts:

I planted my flyers for the site on the "freebie" table. Not sure how many con-goers (if any) picked them up, but it's the start of an experiment. I've got Capricon coming up in February.

On that note, I'll be posting the next chapter of Prodigal Son later today. Onward!

Also, I'm working on a new series—another urban fantasy story, with automatic weapons. And I'm looking for friends to read chapter one and give me feedback! Please?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I come in peace

Greetings. If you’re visiting this blog because you happened to pick up one of the flyers I left out at Windycon, that means I didn’t visit Kinko’s in vain.

I’m John. “Light Years Away” is my blog, designed to inflict some of my writing on the world in hopes of attracting a publisher, or an agent, or at least a few groupies. In “Stories,” over to the right, you’ll find chapters of Prodigal Prince, my SF action-adventure novel. I’ve moved Chapter One to the top so you can start in the right place.

You’ll also find a few short stories featuring my series character, an interstellar agent named Foxe—a sort of James Bond/Jack Bauer type who travels throughout the known galaxy. He’s armed and dangerous, but not always as ruthless as he pretends to be. You can find out about his origins (in my mind) here:

My newest short story about Foxe, “Meat,” should also be over there on the right.

I’ve also written an urban fantasy novel that I’m shopping around: A Bar Called Revelations, featuring bar owner Luther Kane, an ex-priest with the uncanny ability to detect demonic evil in the people around him—who always seem to wander into his bar at the wrong moment.

Me? I live in Chicago, where I write and edit newsletters on management and communication. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, so I must be doing something right.

Welcome to my blog. Enjoy.


I don’t think I do conventions right. I don’t go to parties, I’m not good at mingling, and I tend to keep to myself. I like the panel discussions: authors and fans talking about books and science and characters and movies, and, yeah, Doctor Who.

But I keep going to Windycon. And Capricon. Because they’re tons of fun, I get to buy way too many books, and I see authors I like. Sometimes I even get up my nerve to talk to them.

And I’m going to Windycon this weekend! Yay!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This is my flyer!

So I had a bunch of these printed up and I’m taking them to Windycon, the SF convention I go to every year, and I’ll dump them on the table next to all the other materials (cards, newsletters, pens) that other aspiring writers, publishers, and bloggers leave. My goal is to see if any con-goers pick one or two up—and then to see if there’s any surge in the traffic here as a result.

Realistically, I don’t expect to see an explosion of interest. I’ve picked these things up at past conventions and, yeah, I don’t always check them out later. Oops. I do like the pens. I’m still using two of them that I picked up at the convention last year. 

But there’s this famous quote from some advertising guy: “Fifty percent of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but the problem is, I don’t know which fifty percent.” And since I’ve done next to nothing to promote my blog up until now, anything I do has to be an improvement. Right? 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday update

So I saw Ender’s Game today. Spent the weekend waffling back and forth: Friday I definitely wanted to see it, Saturday I decided no, then today I woke up and wanted to go.

Indecision? Well, part of it was based on the fact that Orson Scott Card (who wrote the novel that the film is based on) is a homophobic twit. But mostly I worried that this would be another example of Hollywood’s idea of what a science fiction movie should be: A vague dystopian future, a few spaceships, a completely simplistic conflict between the haves and the have-nots, and a bunch of explosions in space. Put them all the elements together, bring Matt Damon or Tom Cruise or Will Smith into the mix, and release the film in time for summer. Or just call it Star Trek and hope nobody will notice that it’s nothing more than special effects, a plot twist, and someone yelling “KHAAAAN!”

But I finally decided I wanted to see the film, and I’m glad I did. I read the book many years ago, and the movie followed it pretty well. The performances are generally excellent. Asa Butterfield, playing Ender, was great, portraying a range of emotions from confusion, anger, determination, humor, and especially betrayal. Hailee Steinfield and Abigail Breslin were pretty wonderful. Harrison Ford was raspy, maybe a little too simplistic, but nicely balanced by Viola Davis, questioning the morality of everything Ford’s character is doing, even though he’s firmly (and in some ways legitimately) convinced that his actions are necessary in order to save the human race. But I’ve got to say I really liked Nonso Anozie, who played Ender’s sergeant throughout the film. You would definitely drop and give him 20 pushups, or 40, if he demanded it.

It’s a morally problematic story, but that’s the point. What’s justified when you feel everything you believe in is threatened with total destruction? What would you do? What should you never do? I’m sure not trying to make this into a 9/11 allegory—the book was written in the 1980s—but it does sort of open the door to thinking about how far we should be willing to go to ensure our safety.

Okay, that was little longer than I intended.

Other things:

The movie I most want to see from the previews is Mr. Peabody & Sherman:

The other one is I, Frankenstein—I gather it’s about some monster. And it’s got Yvonne Strahovsky!

(That's her on the right.)

I sent my novel A Bar Called Revelations to Ace in June. This is around the time they suggest I might have gotten a response from them, but so far I haven’t heard anything. Which is fine—obviously these things take time. I did send an email asking about the status a few days ago, but they haven’t responded yet. I may send it to Baen Books next—they publish a lot of urban fantasy, and Revelations may fit with their list, but the last time I sent them a submission to them I waited for over a year for a response. Which is also fine, but I’ve realized lately that I may have misunderstood the term “simultaneous submissions”—that may apply to sending a bunch of manuscripts at once to the same publisher, not sending them out to other publishers. So I may look at sending Revelations out to more than one publisher at a time after this.

And I’ve just recently started work on a new and different (sort of) urban fantasy-type novel. So far I only have about three or four chapters plotted out and I’ve learned from experience that without a clear path to an ending I need more than a good opening to make a book work. Still, I like this latest idea, and I’m happiest when I’m actually writing something.

My Internet connection? I don’t want to jinx anything by talking about it.

And finally, will my blog traffic rise because I talked about Ender’s Game, the way it did when I posted my thoughts on Gravity a few weeks ago? We’ll see.

PS: But what about Foxe, you wonder? The suspense mounts in the new chapter I’ve posted.