Review of "Blood Picnic": "Delectable"

There's a new 5 star review of "Blood Picnic and other stories" up at It reads, in part:
Fans of horror and sci-fi will not be disappointed, and there is a liberal dose of spice sprinkled throughout.

This is a rich and satisfying collection to savour over several readings or to devour in one sitting.
The book is available at Amazon for Kindle, or at Smashwords for a variety of formats. At $2.99, that's only $0.10 per story - what a deal!

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, "Blood Picnic and other stories" got 3 stars at Goodreads (just the rating, no review). Would you give "Blood Picnic" 3 stars? 5 stars? 1 star? Buy the book yourself and post your own rating!

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Wednesday #Poetry: Drag, Mumble, Penetrate

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday.

Today's words are: Drag, Mumble, Penetrate.

"Don't mumble! Shut up and sit straight!"
Words to a child's heart penetrate.
Grown from such a drag,
With a heart of cold slag
Ne'er once fired by love... only hate.

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The best joke ever

Quentin Tarantino telling the best joke ever - hilarious:

... and a great way to show, not tell.

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The risks and rewards of posting NSFW content

My story for #FridayFlash last week, "Babbling Brooke", was uncharacteristically erotic, not just adult-themed with sexual content, but with material that is outside conventional romance/erotica. Needless to say, this was pretty far outside the kind of thing I usually post. I gave warning that it was NSFW (i.e. Not Safe For Work), and provided links that gave jumpcuts, so no one would unexpectedly find themselves face to face with the content unless they knew what they were in for.

I've since been informed that it was too far over the line dividing erotica and pornography. That line is an indistinct one; I thought I was skirting it, but apparently went clear over it. In previous stories, I've done horrible things to people. They've been shot, stabbed, incinerated, decapitated and eaten. Sensitive bits of anatomy have been sheared off, and people brought willingly (and unwillingly) to the heights of passion. This time, though, was different. I understand that, and I respect that judgment.

The question remains, though, why write such a thing in the first place? Because in an upcoming post for Write Anything, I discuss genre writing. In it, I noted that I write in lots of different genres, but have never written erotica. So, me being me, I thought I'd try it. I wanted to see what it was like to write, to revise, to read and re-read my own work. Such writing is intended to evoke a more basal emotional and physical response than, for example, science fiction. Could I do it?

I had fewer comments on that piece than on many other #FridayFlash stories. I interpret this as meaning that, for those that did stick around to read beyond the first five lines, the majority either didn't like it or didn't feel comfortable commenting on it. Comments ranged from noting that it was different than my usual fare to liking it. Responses on twitter ranged from "meh" to "not bad". For the first time out in a genre, that's an OK response.

That's one of the reasons why I wrote it. But why post it? If it's so far beyond the pale that links to it were taken down, why run the risk of posting something of that nature?

I've been thinking about myself as a writer, and I've come to the conclusion that I like to have my ducks in a row. I like to have order and precision. I like to analyze what works and what doesn't. The thing is, though, I don't just think things through... I have a nasty tendency to overthink things. This, I believe, has the potential to be a problem for the quality of my writing. I've decided that a writer who is perfectly unobjectionable is far too close to one who is perfectly acceptable, perfectly unexceptionable, perfectly bland.

Perfectly forgettable.

As a writer, can you see yourself striving to be acceptable? That's setting the bar a little low, don't you think?

The trick here is, of course, as it always is: how to avoid writing things purely for shock value and instead capture the emotions and power of "objectionable" writing for use in my more important, mainstream writing.

And if that sounds like even more of an analytical approach to writing... well, I wouldn't want to change too much, too fast.

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That was the night that was

Goodbye, Hurricane Irene. You could have been a lot worse for me. Do me a favor and show the same restraint to all other current and future "hosts", OK?

As of 11:30, it's still windy and raining. Flash flood warnings and watches remain up, and we could still lose trees or power in a wind gust, but the worst of it is over now.

I stayed up until about 4:00 to keep an ear out for tornadoes. Several scary moments, amid hours and hours of heavy, dangerous rain and wind. When the tornado watches expired, I finally called it a night, locked the place up, did a few final checks. Head hit the pillow at 4:30, was asleep by 4:33.

For the record, I did not spend those long hours writing anything at all. I watched "X-Files", finishing off the second season and getting deep into the third. I admire and envy anyone who could have worked on a novel, a screenplay, a story or anything else under similar circumstances. Anything I might have produced would have been incoherent busywork to be deleted in the morning light.

My thanks to all my Twitter and Facebook friends with whom I exchanged check-ins during the night. It made the vigil infinitely more bearable.

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Twitter, twitter, how do I love thee?

From Rebecca Brown comes a lovely poem, "Ode to Twitter". It reads, in part:

For far more lies in such small measures
Than at first appears to untrained eyes.
From links posted by those more wise
To marv’llous tips and witty treasures.

Go give it a read.

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#FridayFlash: Babbling Brooke (NSFW)

Note: This story contains erotic scenes not suitable for all readers. Story appears after the jump.

Read the story....

How to write faster... a LOT faster

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a writing tool that you SHOULD NOT be without.

It's a somewhat geeky one, though, and will require you to read the instructions. Are you listening, Laura Eno? Stick with me, though, and I can GUARANTEE that you will write faster. Seriously, you WILL write faster. I'm so confident of this that I will WRITE IN ALL CAPS again.

Are you ready? Want the magic mojo? Want the zombie juice, the secret sauce, the +5 Potion of Productivity?

It's called AutoHotKey. It's a free program that you can download from

So, you're thinking, enough with the hyperbole, Tony, what does it actually do?

AutoHotKey is a programmable automation utility. Now, calm down, you creative types... yes, I used the word "programmable". I didn't call it "customizable", because, although it certainly is customizable, you need to actually edit a script with some funky looking semicolons, colons, dashes and case-sensitive modifiers.

Is it worth the trouble? Oh, yes. Oh my sweet coffee-dripping loveliness, yes.

The program will let you launch programs, change window settings, perform complex actions and do all kinds of things with a single keystroke. But that's not important to you as a writer, is it? No, I know it's not. What I promised you is a way to write FASTER. Well, here it comes.

AutoHotKey will also serve as a customizable text expander. Any long string of text can be referenced by a very short string, which will auto-expand as you type. If your protagonist's name is Christopher, you could just type "C". No need to click a button, no need to do anything but keep typing. As soon as you press the space bar, AutoHotKey will expand "C" into "Christopher". You typed one character and eleven appeared - BOOM, you're 11X faster.

As you write your novel, how many times do you write your character's names? AutoHotKey would be worth it for that alone, but you can also replace other commonly used words, like this, said, you, will, that, and so on.

Here's part of the AutoHotKey script I have running right now:

:: y::you
:CR:tAG::the Avant Guardian
:R:tg::the Grammarian
:R:pv::Professor Verbosity
:R:PW::Parenthesis Woman
:R:lx::Lexicon City

This script will automatically turn this:

“Y’ll never get away w/ ts, pv!” tAG sa, “tg wi stop y!”

Pv laughed, his voice rasping. “Tg is doomed! Th trap I set for him wi rid me of th pestilential obstacle once and for all! Now, my dear,” he sa, turning to pw, “I believe y and I have some unfinished business…”

Into this:

“You’ll never get away with this, Professor Verbosity!” the Avant Guardian said, “the Grammarian will stop you!”
Professor Verbosity laughed, his voice rasping. “The Grammarian is doomed! That trap I set for him will rid me of that pestilential obstacle once and for all! Now, my dear,” he said, turning to Parenthesis Woman, “I believe you and I have some unfinished business…”

I actually typed 214 characters, but 317 characters appeared on the screen. Instantly, I typed 48% faster. Over the course of a long work, the ability to replace long strings of characters with short ones is a real time saver.

You can set up MS-Word to do auto-expansion, too, but if you don't use Word, you're stuck. Besides, you can use AutoHotKey for e.mails and other types of documents, too. Any word you type often is fair game to be automated. For example, this line in the script:

Means I only have to type "nt@" and "" magically appears. Three characters becomes 21. It works on webpages, in e.mails, documents, any text entry field on your screen.

Granted, it takes a little while to get used to it, and the coding requires a bit of patience to make the expanded text appear only when you want it. However, this is one writing tool that y shd nt B w/t.

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Wednesday #Poetry: Adapt, Glide, Lie

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday.

Today's words are: Adapt, Glide, Lie.

Sing in me, O golden muse
Adapt these, my cloddish sinews,
Let prosody fly
To a poetic lie
Thus glide beyond bare, bloody thews

... and I wouldn't say "no" to a winning lottery ticket, either.

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Using yWriter for novels, short stories and blog posts

After my blog post last week on story order in assembling an anthology, I had some comments specifically about yWriter. Here's the brief introduction to the yWriter software, from the developer's website:
yWriter is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind.

yWriter is a standalone application which runs on Windows PCs. It doesn't need or use an internet connection, and all data is stored on your own computer. The only time it uses the internet is if you use the inbuilt 'check for update' routine (in which case yWriter simply reads the latest available version number from, or the 'backup to ftp' feature (in which case you have to provide the server address and login details.)

(Although yWriter was designed for novels, enterprising users have created their own translation files to customise the program to work with plays, non-fiction and even sermons.)
I love yWriter, and I guess I'm one of those "enterprising users", since I use it for a lot more than novels. It does almost everything I need, helps to keep me organized and would even help me to be more productive and a faster writer if I used all of its features. Also, the program is free, as in beer; the download is the full program, with no registration, no time limits, no expiry. (See here for an explanation of why the developer made if free).

So how do I use it to write my short stories, blog posts and novel(s)? Pictures are worth a thousand words (click on any of them to enlarge):

The file for "Blood Picnic and other stories". Each chapter has multiple "scenes" - the stories themselves. Moving them around was a snap.

My WIP, "Goodbye Grammarian". I can edit each scene's text and instantly see how long each scene & chapter is. It's easy to make background notes on characters, places and objects, to map out plotting notes and to identify which scenes are at the stage of rough draft, 1st edit, 2nd edit, line edit or completed.

Almost all of my short stories are written in yWriter. I use a new "chapter" for each year's FridayFlash stories, with each story being a new "scene". Other chapters are for conventional short stories (~4K), poems, song lyrics, non-fiction pieces and other items.

I also use yWriter to keep track of my blog posts for Write Anything, to write and keep organized interviews and guest blog posts that I've done, and to do NaNoWriMo, of which "Goodbye Grammarian" is an example.

So there you have it. As you can see, I like yWriter a lot, so much so that I went ahead and donated some money to Simon Haynes, the developer of yWriter. In fact, I'll even plug his books, the Hal Spacejock series of funny science fiction novels.

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FridayFlash Reader's Choice award

I'm thrilled and honored that not one, but TWO of my stories have been nominated for the "Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2" Reader's Choice award:

"A Double Month of Dust in Whiskey Gulch", one of my rare forays into the Western fiction genre


"Where the Hell is Tony's #FridayFlash?", a silly little piece of wish fulfillment.

You can go to the website and vote for your favorite in the sidebar poll. They are all great stories, so I encourage you to read them all before voting. Thanks!

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How to assemble an anthology

Today over at, I have a guest post on one of the more wonky aspects of assembling an anthology: deciding on the order of the stories. It's not nearly as simple as you might think.

Go read my description of how I did it, then tell me your thoughts. Did I overthink this? Can you tell? Is this level of polish truly necessary, or is it something you don't even care about? Of course, you're welcome to buy and read "Blood Picnic and other stories" so you can track the behind-the-scenes detailing. It is $2.99 at Smashwords, Amazon and many other e-book outlets.

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Just Enough Power - 14

The First EpisodeThe Previous EpisodeThe Next Episode’All

"Ms. Lonnigan, you might as well take your hand off that knife. We'd like to have you in one piece, but it's not strictly necessary."

The man's eyes were as blue as ever, his manner as unhurried. Patricia Lonnigan resisted the urge to look around to confirm what he'd said about the snipers. She looked back at him instead, without taking her hand from the steak knife she'd been using on her porterhouse. The moment stretched, neither of them moving.

He sighed. "Unit Two," he said, apparently speaking into the air between them, "on my mark, light up Ms. Lonnigan's knife hand. If she doesn't stand down within two seconds, shoot her hand off. Mark."

On the back of Lonnigan's right hand, a red laser dot flared into life. Without hesitation, Lonnigan smoothly moved her hand away from the knife and went to put her hands in her lap.

"Where I can see them, please. Lace your fingers together and put your hands in the bread basket. No, leave it where it is in the middle of the table. That's fine. Now then... let's talk."

"I don't care how many guns you've got, pal, interrupting my lunch is pretty fucking rude." He made no reply, and gave little reaction. She kept the bravado on high and tried another angle. "What do you want? And who are you, anyway? Are you with the Russians out of New York? Are you part of the Mikhailovitch family? Or the Murphys? Are you Boston?"

The man clucked his tongue. "You're fishing, Ms. Lonnigan. My name is Mr. Jones. As it happens, I'm with the biggest gang of them all."

Lonnigan's eyes drew close, then she pursed her lips in thought. "So you're... F.B.I.?"

"Good guess, but wrong. I work for the Department of Justice, Ms. Lonnigan. And as of this moment, so do you."

Oh, damn, she thought. "Bullshit. Go fuck yourself, G-man." Oh, damn, damn, damn!

He smiled. "Aside from your long list of more pedestrian offenses, Lonnigan, by our count, you've killed at least four people. That's more than enough for us to seek the death penalty. No one would fight to save your life and no one would miss you when you're dead, Lonnigan. The fact is, I hold your life in my hands."

"I said, go fuck yourself."

Mr. Jones, or whatever his name was, leaned back in his chair and sipped from the glass of water he'd brought to her table. "Here's the deal, Lonnigan. I don't really give a shit about you or the lowlife bastards you capped. I want Meng-Shiu Tong. You're one of his killers, you're in the inner circle, or close to it, and I want him."

For the second time in ten minutes, Lonnigan felt as though reality was twisting around her. Could this guy possibly have his facts so wrong and not know it? He went on, "The Tong organization has been a cancer on the east coast for a long time, and it's time we burned it out. We've been watching him for a long time, but it's only recently we've been able to make some solid headway against it."

You mean, she thought, ever since Meng-Shiu took over after the Jade Prince died. Jesus, I knew the sloppy asshole was screwing things up, but I had no idea it was this bad!

"I don't know what you're talking about, pal. I'm not in anybody's inner circle." She was hardly able to get the words out, she was thinking so fast.

"Don't be coy, Lonnigan. We already know that he sent you into the Kim organization as a mole. Oh, don't look so shocked. Of course we know about the game you're running for your boss, Mr. Tong. We've got ears everywhere."

This is unbelievable, she thought. They have it all so completely screwed up, it's like a bad movie. Lonnigan had never dealt directly with the Feds, but this was not what she'd expected. She'd always heard that, although they moved with a ponderous slowness, they were still to be treated with wary respect. But as she considered it, hadn't all the stories been about undercover F.B.I. agents?

Cautiously, she asked, "What does the Department of Justice want with Tong?"

"All in due time, Ms. Lonnigan. For now, just keep playing the role that Tong assigned you. Act naturally and tell no one that we contacted you. Keep doing whatever you're doing with Kim and his associates. At some point in the near future, we'll be back in touch with further instructions." The man made as if to get up, then, with a patently melodramatic pause, said, "Oh, and if you try to run or to tip anyone off, we'll come get you. We always know where you are, Lonnigan. Always."

After telling her to enjoy her lunch, he walked away from the table and left the patio of the restaurant. Lonnigan, aware that she was certainly still under surveillance, and perhaps still under sniper cover, picked up her knife and cut off a large piece of her cooled steak. She allowed the chewing motion to disguise the smile she wasn't able to hide. If the DOJ was truly as far off the mark as it seemed, then she now had two powerful allies that were going to help her destroy Meng-Shiu Tong, and maybe even rescue Uncle Simon.

She just had to play them both, and do it very, very carefully.

The First EpisodeThe Previous EpisodeThe Next Episode’All

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Procrastination is...

Procrastination from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

Graduation film from the Royal College of Art, 2007.

An investigative and exploratory hands-on gloves-off study into the practice of putting things ‘off”. Sometimes the only way to get something done is to do two dozen other things first.

Story, Animation, Direction: Johnny Kelly
Voice Over: Bryan Quinn
Sound Supervision: Mike Wyeld
Foley Artist: Sue Harding
Foley Engineer: John Mark
Foley recorded at Fonic Studios, London

The film is distributed by Dazzle Films

via Jesse Richardson

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Social media and the illusion of perfection

 This morning, Sean Platt sent out a link to the article, "Faking it : The art of perfection in social media", written by Lauren Fisher. It's an interesting discussion of how we present ourselves in the realm of online social media. In particular, it goes into the quest to be flawless: removing tags to embarrassing photos, muzzling our discourse, always staying on-message, etc. All of this is to prevent some future employer from Googling up something untoward at some point in our later careers.
But at every level of the content that we share about ourselves, we are making a fundamental change in the way that people perceive. We’re not so much sharing ‘fake’ content about ourselves, but the content that fits to support the life we want to portray. ... It’s not disingenuine, far from it. Rather, it is exercising a level of control that we have never had before, that allows anyone to ‘discover’ us online, whether we’ve met them offline or not, and instantly form an opinion about ourselves, our worthiness to be followed, or what category you fall into.
The article goes on to discuss the complications involved in managing a constructed life. Some real world examples are offered as well, including what happens to people when they live their lives knowing that all of their social interactions are being watched and judged.

Is it different for people who are online for purely social reasons vs. people who spend time in social media in order to get a career off the ground? Indie bands, small business owners, and maybe, oh, I don't know.... writers? These are people who draw a distinction between normal social activity (which can be spontaneous and directionless) and efforts to advance their specific intent of building a brand (which are supposed to be intentional).

There have been a number of writers online whom I've seen post something like, "This has been fun, guys, but I'm now setting up an Author Page on Facebook so I can keep my socializing separate from my interactions as a serious writer." I found these to be jarring, and perhaps others did as well. I suppose the social circle overlap of family-friends-church-neighbors-etc. with writers-editors-readers-agents-publishers-etc. got to be too messy. Ideally, we would think of everything in advance, so as to avoid the necessity of having to make such announcements. Alternatively, maybe technology will come to our rescue, like the way Google + allows you to set up circles of interest, so your book club doesn't have to listen to your political discussions.

And what happens when your perfectly constructed online life doesn't match up with the messiness of your real life? Is this a new societal phenomenon? Although the article presents it as such, I don't believe that it is. People have always been liable to show one face to the street while wearing another in the home. The goal of self-actualization is to be able to be the same person at work or church or on a camping trip that you are at home. "Just be yourself": it's a valid goal to strive for, if only because it takes a lot of work to switch back and forth among different masks and personalities.

I would think that for people prone to wearing such masks, the shelter of online social media could be a dangerous crutch. However, it's just as likely that the same sheltering aspects could allow people to let their true selves shine out, freed from the expectational baggage of past relationships.

Do we live for ourselves or for others? What do we want out of life? Who are we, really? These are not questions that have arisen concurrently with Facebook and Twitter. They come from us being human, in all our frailties and finery.

Update: Click here for "Spit and Polish or Spit and Scowl?", a response to this blog post by Zoe Whitten, looking at this issue of social media presence from the standpoint of someone with a message people don't want to hear.

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Wednesday #Poetry: Gasp, Mute, Viable

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday.

Today's words are Gasp, Mute, Viable.

She asked with a gasp, "Viable?
Und vy is dat bottle haf-full?"
I stood stupid and mute
With my sketch of a brute,
So sloshed that I saw it duh-bull.

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Smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go

Your little bit of inspiration for the day. Stan Rogers, performing "The Mary Ellen Carter"

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Choose Your Own Adventure - science fantasy

September 15 is fast approaching as the official launch date for the science fantasy Choose Your Own Adventure story, "History's Keeper". The heart-pounding blurb:

The beautiful and mysterious Selene, one of the beings charged with managing the flow of events through time, has a terrible secret: she once used the fundamental forces of the universe for her own illicit purposes. Now, the crime that she thought she had buried away forever has been unearthed to be used against her by someone she once loved. Left unchecked, the terrible power will threaten not merely her own destruction, but that of the entire world. Can she outrace her own colleagues to track down the evidence of her crime and contain the damage before it's too late? In a wild ride that spans centuries and cultures, "History's Keeper" is a science fantasy adventure with thousands of permutations. Save the world, fall in love, rescue a princess or see all of existence shattered and destroyed.... where will your choices take you?

Along with being an associate editor of this CYOA story and helping to guide some of the decision trees, I contributed several of the stories it contains. The team of authors was an exceptionally talented one, with many names you'll recognize. The whole package is well worth the $1.99 price of admission.

More details will come later, with prizes including free access to "History's Keeper" and a contest where you, yes, YOU can win a cameo appearance in the story.

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Sunday fiction

"I brought you here so I could show you the world," said the King.

"I can see more in my crystal than you could ever show me, more than
the eyes of any normal man could understand," said the Sage.

"I brought you here so I could tell you about the world," said the King.

"I can hear more from my whispering bells than you could ever tell me,
more than the ears of any normal man could parse," said the Sage.

"I brought you here so I could bring you Death," said the King.

"I can feel more pain from my blades than you could ever inflict upon
me, more than the heart of any normal man could withstand," said the

"Pain, yes, but not Death," responded the King.

The Sage said nothing, but looked out over the Valley of Kings, saw
the sunlight refracted and reflected among the walls and halls of
diamond, alabaster and jasper. He heard the music of the north wind as
the fluted streets sang and rang below.

"Bestow your gift, then, O gracious Sovereign, upon me, your servant.
For if any normal man can take me from this world, let it be you. Let
it be here. Let it be now."

So saying, the Sage closed his eyes and stopped his ears, as he had
done so many, many times before with so many, many Kings of the earth.

Flash fiction anthology now available: "Blood Picnic and other stories"
Just $2.99 at Smashwords <> and
Amazon <> Buy your copy today!

Buy my books:
Read my blog:
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Top 100 Sci-Fi & Fantasy books

Via Alan Baxter comes NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books. These were chosen by reader nominations and voting, so take that crowd-sourcing for what it's worth. In particular, more recent books always score higher in this sort of thing.

The big question is, though, how many of the books on this list (which is copyright NPR, 2011, thank you very much) have I read?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien YES

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams YES

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card YES

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert Only first book - tiresome

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin NO

6. 1984, by George Orwell YES

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury YES

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov YES

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley YES

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman NO

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman YES

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan NO

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell YES

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson YES

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore YES

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov YES

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein YES

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss NO

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut YES

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley YES

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick NO

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood Only the first 150 pages - tedious

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King NO

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke YES

25. The Stand, by Stephen King YES

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson YES

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury YES

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut YES

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman Only first book - excellent

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess NO

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein YES

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams YES

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey YES

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein NO

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller YES

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells YES

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne YES

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys YES

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells YES

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny YES

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings NO

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley NO

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson Only the first book

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven YES

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin NO

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien NO

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White Was assigned in freshman year back in high school, never got around to it. Since I'm a stubborn bastard who doesn't like doing what I'm told, probably won't read this anytime soon. Take that, Mr. Schlemmermier!

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman NO

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke YES

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan YES

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons NO

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman NO

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson YES

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks NO

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle NO

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman YES

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett NO

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson NO

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold YES

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett NO

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle YES

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind NO

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy NO

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke YES

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson NO

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist NO

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks NO

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard Read a few of the old comics

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb NO

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger NO

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson NO

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne YES

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore NO

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi YES

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson YES

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke YES

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey NO

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin NO

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury YES

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire YES

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson NO

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde YES

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks NO

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart YES

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson YES

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher NO

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe Have read books 1 & 2, reading 3

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn NO

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan NO

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock NO

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury YES

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley NO

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge YES

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov YES

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson Read first book, abandoned Blue Mars 75 pages in.

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle YES

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis NO

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville NO

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony YES

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis NO

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#FridayFlash: God's Holy Fire

God's Holy Fire

by Tony Noland

The truth is, my church was having trouble paying the oil bill. That's what started the whole thing. I was already tithing, so it was pretty hard for me to come up with a way to give any more money than I already was. Besides, I didn't make very much as a new hire in the engineering department over at RayTech. If I'd been an engineer, I'd have made more, but as a shop technician in a non-union firm, I wasn't pulling down that much.

Anyway, God calls on you to give abundantly of your treasure, time and talent. The tithe took care of "treasure". As for "time", I was already on the property committee, the worship and music committee and the cemetery management committee. Plus, I taught Sunday school, took meals to the shut-ins once a month, and drove the truck for our Habitat for Humanity team. But what about "talents"?

I had to pray about that for a long time. To be honest, it didn't take much talent to serve on the committees; a willingness to listen to people and to think things through was enough. An open heart and a bit of patience was all that was needed for the other things. For months, I thought and prayed about what talents I might have that God could use, and how best to offer them to His service.

It was when the boiler cracked a seal that I saw what God had been leading me to. That old thing was a relic of the 1950s: cast iron walls as thick as your wrist, built at a time when oil was cheap. Good stewardship over the years had helped it to last, but in its sixty-third year of heating the church, from sanctuary and narthex all the way up to the classrooms and new office suite added in 1982, it finally started to go. It began to burn a lot more oil, and put out only as much heat as a kerosene stove. This was during a time when attendance was low and the church accounts were running dry, too.

No, it wasn't clear to me at the time that it was the light of God shining on me when Pastor asked me if I could do something about it, get it back up to speed. I don't feel bad about not recognizing it right away. After all, the disciples on the road walked with Jesus for a full day before they knew who they were walking with. Pastor asked me because he knew I was handy. I said I'd try, and went down to look on the old girl.

I wasn't an official engineer at the time, no degrees either earned or honorary. My grades were never good, mostly because I could never make my teachers and college professors understand the things I saw in their equations and graphs and readouts. Anyway, I thought long and hard about how I could make that old boiler use less oil to heat the same amount of water.

There's no other explanation for it - the Holy Spirit sat with me in the basement and said, "Now is when the Church needs your talent, boy. Think, and think hard." I did, and it came to me as though scales had fallen from my eyes, like St. Paul. If you just burn oil, no matter how efficiently, you get out whatever energy the oil has in it, but only the chemical energy. Instead, if you use a magnetohydrodynamic flux-field to pinch back the flame and contain it, then you can treat the burning oil like a self-inducing resonant plasmon, and extract energy from the standing wave directly. Once you do that, the slow conversion of matter into energy gives you plenty to work with.

Through the grace of God, it only took me two weeks to make and tune the flux-field resonance extractor. That winter, instead of burning eight hundred gallons of oil, we only needed six. Not six hundred, mind you... six gallons. The church made the budget with room to spare, thanks to the savings.

And after I filed the patent, and the licensing money started to come in from the railroads, auto manufactures and aerospace industry companies, you can bet the first fruits of it went to the church. And they always have, every year since. Whether you tithe out of an income of twenty-two thousand dollars a year, or out of fourteen billion dollars a year, give thanks to God in all things. That's the way of salvation.

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20 predictions about the future of writing and publishing

Today over at Write Anything, I make 20 predictions about the future of writing and publishing, and my place therein. I know for a fact that two of them are correct. Go check them out and see how I did.

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Cosplay sex

Had to get this out of my head before it polluted the rest of my writing.

What I want you to do is so simple
You just need a habit and wimple
Our sex will be fun
With you as a nun
And me as a teenager pimpled


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Wednesday #Poetry: Drench, Immune, Radiate

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday.

Today's words are Drench, Immune, Radiate.

Reed's ship hit a bad monkey wrench:
A big cosmic radiate drench
Ben's changes ensued
Nor immune was poor Sue
  With Johnny ne'er more to be quenched

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The honor of your presence

In the last month, I've been gone a lot, doing lots of things. Some fun, some less so. One thing I have not been able to do much of is work on my novel.

Oh, I wrote my weekly stories for FridayFlash, and wrote blog posts for Write Anything (on the future of publishing) and Amwriting (on line editing). I wrote several little pieces for Landless to keep it from being completely blank while I was away.

And yet...

Things were crazy enough in the run-up to my departure and during all my comings and goings that these things were written more quickly than I'd like, auto-posted without my being here, comments necessarily went unanswered, and I was mostly unable to go read anything written by anyone else. Not good, I know, but I console myself with the thin comfort that being an unresponsive, substandard blogger is better than leaving the blog with nothing but dead air for a month solid.

What I'm trying to say is, I missed you, dear reader.

Furthermore, the immediacy of being around the social media landscape and being present is something I missed. This is not to say I spent the last five weeks off by myself, letting my beard grow out while building pipe bombs in a cave. No, I was quite social and active, engaging with people in the real world. What I'm talking about missing is the engagement with my writer friends on twitter and other places online - the virtual world. Also, of course, there's the engagement with the completely fictitious world(s) I create in my head. I missed that, too.

Don't get me wrong. I like the real world, and the people in it. The real world has all sorts of things to recommend it: friends, challenges, sensations, commitments, purpose. I'm a blessed individual in that my own corner of the real world is a generally happy one, filled with people whom I can care for and who care for me.

I don't want my virtual world(s) instead of my real world, or vice versa. I want them both.

So, here I am, back home again and looking forward to reestablishing the balance in my life. One thing my time away has taught me is that in striking this balance, I have to make more time for the writing on my novel. A thousand other things can creep in push it down the list, simply because it's a long term project. I need to pull it back to the forefront; it deserves a better effort that I've been giving it.


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Novel excerpt: Goodbye Grammarian

*** an excerpt of my WIP, "Goodbye Grammarian". A gang of would-be thieves has just been thwarted, thanks to the timely intervention of a couple of Lexicon City's superheroes. Alex Graham, a.k.a. the Grammarian, was forced to watch from the sidelines.***

Finally, as they were at last dismissed by the police, Alex said good night to Kate.

"Oh," he said, remembering one of the only bright spots of the evening, "I forgot. We were going to get together sometime this week, weren't we? For coffee?" Alex smiled at the mild absurdity of such a mundane thing as a coffee date among the excitement of the evening.

"Ah. Yes, we were, weren't we?" Kate shook her head. "With the attempted robbery and the way those two superheroes, ElectroMan and... and..."

"The other one is called Mr. Midnight. He's one of Lexicon City's finest heroes."

"Right, Mr. Midnight. Well, with all the excitement of how they captured those men, I'd forgotten our conversation."

Alex nodded and said, "This has been an unusually eventful night." He fished in a pocket and pulled out one of his business cards: Polaris Antiques: Brokerage and Restorations. Alexander I. Graham, owner. "Give me a call sometime. My schedule is pretty flexible, especially in the mornings. I'd love to get together and talk about some of those furniture dealers I mentioned."

She looked at the card, turned it over and looked at the back before meeting his eye. "Thanks, I'll do that. I'm pretty busy the next few days, so I'll give you a call later this week." She held out her hand. "It's been a trying evening overall, but it's been a pleasure to meet you, Alex." They shook hands and, in a swirl of dark hair and a perfume he didn't recognize, she left.

Without being too obvious about it, Alex watched her go. Either as the Grammarian or in normal life, she was one of the most intriguing women he'd met in a long time. A scientist in a materials science department, but also an attractive woman who came to society benefit functions? What was she researching that made LPU work so hard to hire her away from her previous position? Who did she know on the museum board that got her the invitation to tonight's party, and so soon after arriving in town? More importantly, where should he take her for coffee? He wondered if it would be rushing it to suggest lunch instead. Meeting for coffee was an ambiguous thing, but taking her out to lunch would be a clear signal that he found her... interesting. In his experience, lunch was a much better first date than dinner. Lunch had a built-in time limit, so there was never any uncertainty about when to wrap things up. It made things much more relaxed, much better to set the stage for future dates. Whereas dinners sometimes got awkward, because of the uncertainties about what kind of expectations each person had. Yes, lunch would be much better than coffee. But where?

As he mulled over different options, he saw that Kate had reached the exit. She paused by the door and dropped his business card into a trash can before she walked out into the night.

Alex sighed. He waited another few minutes to make sure he wouldn't bump into her in the parking lot, then he also left the museum. There was work to do; he made his way home to get changed into costume and hit the streets.

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#FridayFlash: Who sent you?

"Who sent you?"

by Tony Noland

For the third time, my hand went numb as I again reached inside it and squeezed. When I did it the first time, its face became a crowded mass of fangs, barbed and bloody. Its neck elongated and it whipped the gaping maw downward. I felt cold pinpricks as it struck at my arm like a nightmarish cobra, again and again, biting and snapping. Soon, though, I'd found what I was looking for inside it. When I squeezed the spectre's heart, it screamed, yanking its head back in an agony that it had not only never felt, but had never even conceived of being able to feel.

Stupid piece of shit.

I gave it a solid working over, just to let it know I meant business. I mean, you'd think the fact that I'd captured it mid-flight would have been enough to tip the damned thing off that I wasn't a man to be screwed over, but no. Ghosts aren't the stupidest creatures in the world, but they are all as arrogant as any stuck-up Harvard rich kid, every single damned one of them. Furthermore, I've yet to meet a ghost who didn't think he was the meanest, scariest son of a bitch that ever floated across the face of the earth.

It pleaded and begged when I started to go in for the second time. Yeah, the threats and the snarling were old news after it had gotten its first taste of what I could do, but it still thought I was a regular human, the usual kind of dumb ass who was impressed by a little razzle-dazzle magic. It reshaped its body into a real knockout, a melon-breasted blond with wide, childbearing hips, exactly the kind of girl I liked. It was just like a ghost to think that because I had real blood in my veins, I could be led around by the dick.

Even so, I might not have given the treatment to it so hard the second time if it hadn't offered me three wishes to let it go. That was just a goddamn insult to my intelligence, that was. Oh yeah, it blubbered and cried even before I reached in, but when I took things up a notch? Hoo boy. With my hand wrapped around its frozen heart, squeezing and kneading, it was practically going berzerk with pain. I could feel the ichorous vapor pulsing as the heart tried to keep beating inside my clenching fist. But when I started digging my fingernails in? It completely lost shape and was just a mass of vapor for a while. Man, did it get a little taste of the kind of thing I could do to it, or what? Welcome to Agonyville - population: one shitbag ghost assassin.

More than half an hour I had to wait for it to regain consciousness. When it finally came to, the first thing it sees is me standing there. That same look of shock... I don't care if it's a spectre, a spirit or a hoodoo, they all look the same at that moment. And then, to feel that it was still pinned to the wall with that mop handle I'd shoved through it? I know you've never heard a ghost cry, I mean REALLY heard a ghost weep in despair and fear. I know it for two reasons. First, because people generally can't hear that sort of thing without going insane and taking their own lives the first chance they get. It's one of the sick little games ghosts play with us. Secondly... well, like I said, ghosts almost always think they're gonna win. In the normal course of events, they never feel fear or have reason to despair.

I get to hear 'em cry like that a lot, especially after a little softening up. It's a disgusting sound, to tell you the truth.

When its cries started to rise to the level of shrieks, I reached my hand out, as though to go in again. The cries turned back to histrionic pleading.

"Shut up," I said. It stifled the wailing down to a continuous moan. "I asked you this before and you gave me a line of bullshit," I said, "which made me angry. I hurt you because you lied to me. You said you weren't acting on orders from anyone."

It started to speak, but I cut it off. "If you tell me that again, I'm going to hurt you again. It gets a lot worse from here on in, you smoky-faced fuck, and I'm already in a bad mood. So don't try to bullshit me again. Clear?" Its whole body was trembling, but it nodded its head. "Now then, let's recap the evening. You came in here to kill me, but you decided to have a little fun first. While you were busy practicing for Halloween, I got the drop on you with the sharpened hunk of mistletoe on that mop handle. Any real ghostkiller would have been on guard against the ancient magic instead of assuming I was going to be easy pickings. Your boss must not think much of me to send someone like you to do the job.

"And speaking of your boss..." I put a hand on the end of the mop handle and started to drum my fingers. It quivered and flinched with every flex of the wood. "Who sent you? Who's your boss?"

Glowing tears made moonlight tracks down its face as it shook its head from side to side.

"Who. Sent. You." I flicked the wood with every syllable. The impaled ghost writhed, but still shook its head, refusing to say who wanted me not just dead, but soul-consumed.

I stepped back and laced my fingers together, giving it plenty of chance to see me crack my knuckles. It started to cry again.

"Oh, you'll tell me," I said. "I've got all night, and all day tomorrow to get it out of you."

And that was when I went in for the third time.

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Wednesday #Poetry: Appear, Dose, Pierce

Welcome to my regular Wednesday poetry corner, brought to you by Three Word Wednesday.

Today's words are Appear, Dose, Pierce.

I saw you appear at the show
With his hand lightly on your elbow
My heart felt a pierce
Like a poison dose fierce
And all I could think was, "Please, no."

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Take comfort, dear reader

I know how sad and bereft you are, dear readers. Any day without a blog post from me is hard to take, but to have come to this point after such a difficult few weeks would test the strength of anyone. What with my pressing obligations - work and travel and all - poor Landless has been more like Contentless, hasn't it? I don't mean to cause you such pain and heartbreak, dear readers, especially since we...


You're... not sad? Not bereft?


No, that's fine. That's good, actually. Very good.

So you're completely OK? Feeling fine, and all? Happy, contented, etc., etc.?

I mean, even though I don't have a blog post today, you're still fine?

Oh. Well, that's cool. I mean, that's great! I'm so happy for you.

I'll have a new blog post at some point, though, so be sure to come back!

Right, see you then!


Or it might be a poem, or a story. So, y'know...

Well. Anyway, see you later, OK!


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Line editing - a guide

Today over on, I'm talking about that essential final hurdle in producing a long work, LINE EDITING. It's different from beta reading, content editing and correction of galley proofs. Pop on over and give it a read.

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