It Appears It Is a Good Time To Remind All and Sundry of My Blurbing Policy

And it is thus (scroll down on that page just a little). If you’re an author who wants me to blurb your book — or an editor/publisher/publicist who considering telling an author to ask me to blurb a book — you really really really really really need to read that link. Because, and this is not a joke, I automatically turn down authors who ask me for a blurb, whereas I will at least consider blurbing if I am asked by editors/publishers/publicists.

Yeah, I know, this makes me a dick. Still this is the way I do it, so work with it, please. There’s a link to the policy on every page of this blog, so it’s not like I’m trying to hide it from you. Still, the occasional shout-out to it via front page post seems to help. Here it is.

Your 2013 SF/F Award Nomination Awareness Post: Readers and Fans

The nomination period for the Hugo Awards comes to a close in just under two weeks (March 10th, to be precise), and there are other awards out there still to be considered, so more people are beginning to think seriously about what works and people they should nominate as the best in the science fiction and fantasy genre. I’m a big fan of making sure people consider as many works as they can before putting their nominations down in a permanent fashion, so today I want to offer space here on Whatever to readers and fans to offer up their suggestions for Hugo Award nomination consideration. If there’s a work (or person) you as a fan and/or reader want people to think about, here’s your chance to let the 50K or so Whatever readers — many of them Hugo and other award nominators and voters — know about it.

If you want to participate, here are the rules:

1. Please make sure that what you’re suggesting, work or person, is actually eligible for awards consideration this year. Generally speaking that means the work was published (or otherwise produced) in the last calendar year (i.e., 2012). If you’re not sure what you’re suggesting is eligible, please check. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and the time of everyone reading the thread for recommendations.

Also, it’s helpful if, when making a suggestion, you identify the category the work would be eligible for; so if you were going to suggest a novel, writing “Best Novel: [name of work, author of work]” up front would be awesome. This is especially useful in short fiction categories, where there are short stories, novelettes and novellas.

2. If the work you’re suggesting is (legally) readable online, feel free to provide a link, but note that too many links in one post (usually three or more) might send your post into the moderation queue, from whence I will have to free it in order for it to show up. If this happens, don’t panic, I’ll be going through the moderation queue frequently today to let posts out.

3. Only suggest the work of others. Self-suggestions will be deleted from the thread. If you want to suggest something you created, use the creators thread instead, which I posted earlier in the year.

4. Don’t suggest my work, please. I’ve already posted here about what of mine is eligible; this thread is for everything else.

5. The comment thread is only for making recommendations, not for commentary on the suggestions others are making or anything else. Extraneous, not-on-topic posts will be snipped out of the thread.

So, readers and fans: This year, for the Hugos and other science fiction and fantasy-related awards, what (and who) would you suggest other people keep in mind when they fill out their nomination ballots? Please tell us in the comments!

The Big Idea: Francis Knight

Not every Big Idea works for a book — but just because a Big Idea fails in that way does mean it can’t inspire other big ideas, some of which might fare better. Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black, explains this concept further.


Fade to Black wasn’t born of one Big Idea, or rather it was, but that got shot down in flames fairly early on (and rightly so). But this book, which was one of the first I ever started, but which simmered on and off on a back burner for three years, is where I began to learn my writing process – that is, I write best with a cascade of small ideas that turn up organically as I go, born from what I’ve already got down.

The original Big Idea was fairly simple – I’d been reading a lot of Philip K Dick and other noiry SF, watching too much Bladerunner and The Crow, and thought, hey, I should give that a try. A futuristic dystopia, should be fun. With a cynical protagonist, yeah. SF, no problem. Ha blinking ha.

But I gave it a go, and wrote out my Shiny New Idea in the blaze of words that occurs at such times, and I gave it, with trepidations, to my writers’ group. Who quite fairly pointed out that my ‘future tech’ was…implausible. In a way that reduced at least one to stifled giggles.

Damn. So I put the MS on the back burner for a bit and wrote other things, but my mind kept coming back to it, turning it over whenever I was between projects. I mean, I had a setting, some basic tech I could use, and I had Rojan who’d turned up out of nowhere in a spew of bile and lechery and was actually quite fun to write.

And little ideas kept coming, a bit more each time I spent a week or so on it. What if…what if instead of the future, this was an alternate world? One where magic and tech had progressed simultaneously? How would that work?

What if the techies had grown tired of the mages lording it over everyone and in a sudden coup, egged on by the local church, executed most of them and banned the rest on pain of, well, pain?

What if the mages had been powering everything, so now the techies and their church friends had to find something else to power the city quick? What if the thing they came up with wasn’t quite as benign as they first thought and ended up poisoning everyone?

What if they tried to hide their mistake, or at least one of the results of that mistake?

What if the techies weren’t just techies now, but in charge and getting a bit power hungry? Not to mention twisted by the local theologists so that they could lord it over everyone.

What if some years later, Rojan, physical coward (he prefers to call it ‘Not Stupidly Masochistic’) and feckless womaniser, had a magic that he really didn’t want to use, because it would hurt, a lot? No to mention get him executed. But what if he then had to use it? Worse than that, what if it meant he had to be *gulp* responsible? Can a feckless womaniser, liar and cynic really be the guy to take the “hero” role when he’d rather be at home in bed with a warm woman and lots of booze?

And that’s when the whole story came together – when all those what ifs ganged up on me. Rojan the feckless met pain magic, and realised it screwed with his life in ways he’d didn’t realise he could be screwed.

Each time I wrote a bit more, a few more what ifs would turn up, and those what ifs would party and get drunk and do naughty things in the bedroom, or possibly in the Jacuzzi, and breed more what ifs. And with each one, the story and the world grew more alive. And lo, it came to pass that I realised, about half way through, that this is how I write best. Letting the writing carry me along and bubble up more ideas – that the act of writing begets ideas, and more writing.

It still took me a while to finish, between other projects, but those other projects went better and faster because I’d realised how to write the best way for me. Because, let’s face it, there’s as many ways to write a book as there are writers. Possibly more, because not every book works the same, but knowing your own basic process – I need to get words down to ferment ideas – helps tremendously.

So Fade to Black may have started with a Big Idea that died an early death, but it gave me a Big Idea that’s become invaluable to me. It taught me how I write.


Fade to Black: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

The Human Division, Episode Seven: The Dog King is Now Live

This Tuesday marks the mid-point of The Human Division’s 13-week run, and it also marks the release of one of my favorite episodes in the series, “The Dog King.” Here’s the description:

CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson has one simple task: Watch an ambassador’s dog while the diplomat is conducting sensitive negotiations with an alien race. But you know dogs—always getting into something. And when this dog gets into something that could launch an alien civil war, Wilson has to find a way to solve the conflict, fast, or be the one in the Colonial Union’s doghouse.

That’s right, the story has a dog — an adorable Lhasa Apso in fact — as a major plot device. Because that’s how I roll, y’all.  I thought the mid-point of the series would be a nice place to have a bit of a lighter episode, while still moving the plot and characters forward. The work this one has most in common with is actually “After the Coup,” the first story I wrote to feature many of the characters that appear as principals in The Human Division. So if you enjoyed that story, this episode should likewise jangle your bells.

It’s one of my favorite episodes in the series mostly because I do one of my favorite things to do, which is to put my characters into a fairly ridiculous situation, and then have fun watching them get out of it. I love it! I think you’ll enjoy it too.

As always, there will be a discussion of the episode over at; I’ll post the link for that as soon as it goes up (update: Here’s the link!). And if you feel like rating or reviewing the episode; feel free to do that on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter or wherever you prefer — even on your own blog (you remember blogs? Man, those were the days).

Things get rather more serious again next week in “The Sound of Rebellion,” so remember to tune in again then!

The Dog King: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBookstore|Google Play|Kobo|Audible (audiobook) (All links US)