Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

This year veered rather suddenly away from what I was expecting at this point a year ago. So hanging over it, especially over the early part of the year, was Musa's sudden closing. I was caught flat-footed by that, and it took a bit to figure out how best to proceed.

The other big change this year was that I took a part-time teaching job. I hadn't had any plans to do so at this point, at least not until my youngest was a little older, but decided to toss my name in when my kids' school said they needed a Spanish teacher. So that took up a significant portion of my writing time this fall.

Even so, it was a productive year. Here are my publications from the year:

Poetry

"Orthography in the Lands of Yahm" in Strange Horizons (also in audio)
"Seasons in a Moon Ocean" in Dreams & Nightmares #100
"The Alien Ruins" in The Pedestal (also in audio)
"The Exiles Pine for Home" sent exclusively to Spire City subscribers

Stories

"Among the Sighs of the Violoncellos" in Strange Horizons (also in audio)
"Apprentice in the Library of Steam" in Steampunk: the Other Worlds
"Seeds by a Hurricane Torn" in Ecotones Anthology
"The Gunpowder Resistance" in Every Day Fiction

Spire City

And of course this was the year for (re)releasing Spire City as a self-published venture, once Musa closed down. So, Spire City, Season One: Infected was re-released in its entirety, first as individual episodes and then as a full season bundle, in both print and ebook formats.

Spire City, Season Two: Pursued, which had reached episode 4 with Musa, wrapped up all thirteen episodes of its individual episode release this week (with the end of January as the goal for releasing the bundled version).

And also I released the Spire City novelette, "The Spire Singers," as an Amazon exclusive. Technically both "The Exiles Pine for Home," "Apprentice in the Library of Steam," and "The Gunpowder Resistance" fit here as well as Spire City-related releases this year.

So there you have it, 2015 in summary. Now go out and read some great writing, would you? (Doesn't have to be mine, either...but if it is, maybe consider reviewing it as well...) And get ready to read or write or otherwise create your own masterpiece in 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Spire City, Season Two finale!

Just under three months ago, Season Two began. And in that whirlwind span, thirteen episodes have all come out on time, without any glitches. Hurray! Have you been reading along, keeping up as they release? Or are you waiting until the whole thing is out? Well, it's all there, now, with a climactic ending that sets us up for Season Three: Unwoven in just a few months.

Either way, subscribers now have all episodes, and you can get each one separately from Amazon or B&N, as you prefer. And if you want to cut out the Amazon intermediary, why not just sign up directly here? Subscribe now at paypal.me/DanielAusema, and I'll simply send you each of the episodes immediately.

In fact, I'll even drop the price for this week: receive all the Season Two episodes right away for only $5 US, or for $8 US get the complete Season One bundle plus all the Season Two episodes. Check out the Spire City tab for more details.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Updates on two projects

In the midst of the season's festivities and assorted chaoses, just a quick note on some things that I've mentioned here:

First, my thanks to the Wyrm's Gauntlet folks for running an excellent event. I ended up in second place in the contest, which is cool itself, plus I'm very pleased with the two short stories I ended up writing for it and will definitely be taking them back out in another month or two to revise and submit.

Second, the Ecotones anthology with stories by Ken Liu, Lauren Beukes, Tobias Buckell, and many others not only met its Kickstarter goal but is now available to non-backers. So if you missed the whole campaign, you can order from Amazon (among other sites). And if you have read the anthology (whether you were a backer or not), don't forget to leave a review at Goodreads (and elsewhere, if you wish).

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Wyrm's Gauntlet

Note: I wrote this up a couple of days ago, hit publish, and walked away assuming it had done so. Turns out some glitch meant it hadn't. So now the deadline is this evening, but my thoughts on the contest remain the same. Do keep your eye out for it next September/October and think about signing up. You have to sign up before the first round is announced if you want to join in.

***
Original post:

Last year and this year I've had fun participating in an online contest called Wyrm's Gauntlet. It's a four-round, elimination contest that spans roughly two months (if you make it all the way to the end). Last year I did the first three rounds but missed out on the fourth--the winnowing is pretty intense, so by the time you get to round three, there are only five or so participating, and only three of those five make the final round.

They've hosted some fun, unconventional tasks for the contest. All writing related, but some are more focused on critiquing or reviewing works (by others or even by yourself), showing that you're able to think critically about writing. So it creates and odd but well balanced competition, which was a good way to push myself.

This year I made it to the final round and am really pleased with the story I turned in the other day. Can't wait to hear the results after Saturday's deadline (not sure exactly when they'll be announced, but probably a couple days after that). Wish me luck. But mostly I'm just glad to have been able to participate in all the rounds.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ecotour guest blog: Inundated


As the month of November winds down, there is still time to participate in our Kickstarter campaign for the Ecotones anthology. One of the cool things we've been doing is giving each of the participating authors a chance to talk a bit about where their story came from and what drew them to write for the anthology. You can check out all the posts that have already been posted (including mine about place in fiction) at the bottom of this essay. And be sure to stick around to the very end for info on how to win a free gift card!

Today, I am happy to introduce Jon Laidlow, contributing author in Ecotones. He’s here to tell us why he submitted a story of place to SFFWorld.com’s fourth anthology.


When the theme for the forum anthology was announced, I was still stuck writing fragments and ‘flash’-length fiction of about 1000 words or more for the forum challenges. I found constructing longer stories quite difficult, though I’d made a few half-hearted attempts.

I’d written a thousand words of a story, “Inundated,” about a man confronted by an apocalyptic flood, and his search for his wife and daughter while the world ended. I thought it was quite neat, but the story didn’t really hang together properly: it opened well, then faded a little.

The theme was announced, and then I had to shamefacedly Google what an “ecotone” was! I was a bit scared that it meant pure eco-SF/fantasy, which I’m just not knowledgeable enough to write well.

(Wikipedia: An ecotone is a transition area between two biomes. It is where two communities meet and integrate.)

But the quickie definition from Wikipedia gave me something to go on. My protagonist, Yuri, in that story, lived on the land, but had worked the sea. I had established that the land and the sea had been in an equilibrium, but now something had changed, something had broken an old pact, and the waters were rising.

But still, I’d never written a successful story at this length, and the forum is full of writers, like Daniel, who can do this in their sleep, so I twiddled my thumbs a bit, then toyed with an idea for a story that I called “Avocado Blue” which I still haven’t written.

Finally Andrew got in touch and said “Inundated” was pretty good. Can you make it longer?
Five times longer.

Gulp!

I decided to give it a go, and struggled through August to draft and then edit a new version of the story. I learned a lot while writing the longer version of “Inundated”. I then learned even more when Andrew pointed out to me that I had used flashbacks (I like to call it in media res) and a convoluted narrative scheme. He gently suggested telling the story, which was by this point seven thousand words - the upper limit for the anthology, but by no means a novel - in chronological order. Oh. Right. Yeah….

I acquiesced, and saw that it improved the story almost immediately.

Even then I didn’t expect the story to make it past the reading team. They had a lot of submissions and only a limited number of slots, and there are some good writers on the SFFworld forums. When they accepted the story (subject to fixing the timeline!), it felt like I’d crossed a threshold in my writing, I’d “levelled up” into someone who could write more than a thousand words. And now I’ve got several longer stories either finished or on the go.

Finally, this is how the new version of “Inundated” opens:

“Yuri woke up to the sound of waves breaking at the end of the street, and knew that the undines had breached the final defences.“


Thank you to Jon for his thoughts. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Want to read Jon’s story and find out what undines are? Want 13 other great, ecotoned stories from professional and amatuer writers from around the globe?


In fact our campaign has recently been chosen by Kickstarter as one of its coveted Staff Picks.

We’re over 70% funded! Can we reach 80% today? We can if you'll help us. You’ll get Jon’s story and much more.

Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card by posting a link to this post on Twitter or Facebook. Remember to use the hashtag #Ecotone and come back here to let us know you promoted our anthology (provide link). The winner will be contacted via the email address used to comment. And we’ll announce the winner at the end of the blog tour (December 2nd, 2015).

If you are curious, check out what other contributors have to say on this Ecotour:


Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Strangers and refugees...and a superhero

Out of all the stories I've written, I have exactly one that features a superhero. The story itself is in that limbo of having been accepted for publication but not yet released, so I won't get into the plot. I will mention, though, that his name is The Stranger, and his superpower involves changing his appearance so he always looks like a foreigner to those he meets, always matches whatever people group the locals currently fear.

The Stranger's mythos, such as it is in just a single short story, is that he was once a god of some sort (even he doesn't know) who cursed villages and encampments that refused to welcome him. Now he does that (on-the-surface) typical superhero thing of seeking out injustice and fighting it.

***

If there's one theme that goes through a lot of my writing, it's the idea of immigrants, exiles, and refugees. Some day some graduate student will go through my works and my life and come up with theories of why and places where that plays out even more than I'm aware. For now, though, I'll just say that I grew up very aware of the immigrant stories of my grandparents and great-grandparents and many others in the tight-knit Dutch-immigrant communities of West Michigan. The religious ideals of that community play into it as well, the idea that they as Christians were strangers in this land, these Shadowlands as C. S. Lewis called them. And certainly the many interactions I've had with immigrants from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries (I was working side-by-side with immigrants in the fields from a very early age, well before I decided to major in Spanish or worked at a Spanish-language newspaper or any of those later experiences) have had a huge role in shaping my views and interests.

It is no anomaly that the central character in the Spire City serial is a second generation immigrant. Nor that her circle of support has such a high concentration of immigrants. At this point in the series, the members of the Weave include not only Chels, whose mother immigrated, but Sairen, who is younger than Chels but immigrated himself a few years earlier. It also has two members who immigrated from a completely different city as adults. And really once you look at it, even those whose ancestry lies in the city, by the nature of their infection, they are exiles.

It is no anomaly that the novel I'm currently preparing to query (and/or submit to a publisher) is called Fugitives of the Avocet Road.

Even a look at my poems reveals "The Immigrant Looks Back" and "Exile, Self-selected" (which I see now is no longer available online, and even the Wayback Machine didn't find an archived copy, alas—I may have to do something about that... It is apparently still available in POD format).

And just over a month ago, I won a flash fiction contest with a rather surreal story of refugees boarding a train. I could go on, but it would mean little to anyone except those who've beta read my other novels and stories. Suffice it to say that this idea of being away from home in one way or another may well be more central to my writing than even I realize.

***

This is not meant to be a partisan, political post. I try to maintain contact with people from all over the political spectrum and never block people on Facebook, etc. for their views. Many of my friends who self identify as conservative (understandably given my upbringing) fit comfortably in the religious right label. (Though note that many even who shared that upbringing most definitely do not.) Many of my writing friends self identify as liberal, which is not surprising in an artistic field, but also doesn't encompass all of them.

What I'm seeing is that for the most part, these friends from all over the political spectrum are uncomfortable with the anti-refugee rhetoric going around. Certainly a month ago, few if any seemed to support the glimmers of anti-refugee rhetoric that were floating around. They either weren't commenting or were speaking out (often forcefully) for compassion. Post Paris...I'm seeing a bit more caving to that, as ethics become subordinate to fright, but for the most part the call remains strong to welcome the stranger, to put those religious ideals (for those that ascribe to them) into practice and not react out of hatred or misguided fear.

I'm heartened by this.

I'm disheartened by governors clamoring to shut their borders to refugees. I'm disheartened by presidential candidates threatening to send 'em all back. I'm disheartened that they haven't been called on this forcefully enough by those they might listen to.

But I'm especially heartened to see the glimmers of pushback that are there. And the many voices of friends and acquaintances from all kinds of backgrounds, religions, politics saying "Wait. This isn't right." Thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ecotones Kickstarter

A few days later than I'd intended coming to this, but the Kickstarter for this anthology is now live (and already approaching 50% funded). This is a really exciting project, with lots of great writers, so please check it out and consider reserving your copy (and even get copies of the earlier anthologies as well, if you wish!).

As part of the campaign, there will be a variety of interviews/roundtable discussions of a sort posted at the anthology's page. You can check out the first of those today, "Can you describe an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?" (Ecotone being a literal or metaphorical borderland where two different places come together.) And keep following the blog all month for the rest of the questions.

We're also organizing an ad-hoc blog tour among us. So coming up I'll have a guest here, and at some point I will be a guest elsewhere as well.

All of which means, there's lots of cool stuff coming associated with the anthology. And lots of great rewards available in the Kickstarter!

Monday, November 02, 2015

"A Brotherhood of Beetles" released at last (ne pas deja vu?)

Eight and a half months ago, "A Brotherhood of Beetles" was all queued up for release. Everything in place, all editing, copy-editing, galley approval, etc. And I had a clear image in mind of what the coming year-plus of my writing life would be, with a new episode every three weeks, a few-month break before season three, and then the same.

Then Thursday night before its release, I got an odd email. The episode would not come out as scheduled the next morning. Had I done something wrong? There had been times when I'd unintentionally put off approving the galley later than I was supposed to, but that hadn't been the case this time. Was there some technical glitch? The email was oddly worded but only said I'd hear more the next day.

There had been some other issues with over-booking some of the later release dates, so I'd heard they might be pushing back the following episode by a week or two, so I just figured the most likely explanation was that someone had decided to juggle this release date as well. Strange to wait until the night before though...

What I never guessed was that I would wake up the next morning to learn on Facebook (even before my email had fully downloaded) that Musa was closing. Episode 5 would not come out, nor the rest of the series at all.

Yikes. A complete change from what I'd been planning around. And not only would the new episodes not come out, but the already published episodes would be pulled from online stores within a few weeks.

You likely know the rest, how I decided to self-publish what had come out as well as the rest of the series. Well, here we are at last with "A Brotherhood of Beetles" released (Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble). For the first time, readers have the chance to read it. And from here on out all the episodes are completely new, never before released.

If all had gone according to plan, all of Season Two would be released now, and we'd be getting close to launching Season Three at the end of this month. In some ways, though, I think this is better. I like the weekly release and the quicker schedule. It won't be all that long before we've caught up to where the series would have been from Musa, and by the end, Season Three will still wrap up before it would have. And there's so much story to tell yet, between now and the end.

Eight episodes remain in Season Two: Pursued. Thirteen episodes in Season Three. Won't you join me in this ambitious project?

Sunday, November 01, 2015

99-cent November

I was approached a bit ago by Milo James Fowler with the idea of participating in a month-long promotion where a bunch of writers would be discounting a title (or more) to $0.99 for November. Sounds like a great idea to me, so my novelette "The Spire Singers" is now discounted to 99 cents. Get this Kafkaesque look at the Spire City from a very different perspective to what we see in the main series...and you know you want this amazing art from Worlds Beyond Art on your Kindle (/Kindle app) anyway. Now's your chance!

And please be sure to check out the full listing of 99 cent offerings over on Milo's site. Some excellent writers in there, with a great deal.


What's more, one good discount deserves another, right? Well, Spire City, Season One: Infected will also be on sale this month. For the month of November, you can get the entire first season for only $2.99 US. Don't wait!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ecotones Anthology: Cover Art

As the Ecotones Anthology gears up for its November Kickstarter, the project is now revealing its quite stunning full cover:

Also note that the anthology has a Twitter account, which you can follow for updates, @Ecotones_Ebook. Please do so!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Poem published in Grievous Angel

This week I'm thrilled to have a new poem of mine in Grievous Angel, "A Poem Sent Back Across Time-Space (a Ghazal)." As the editor mentions, the ghazal is a poetic form with a long tradition, though not a very prominent one in the English language. When I was writing this, I found a number of different approaches to adapting the form for English, so this mixes and matches some of those, and I did my best to keep it true to the spirit of how the form has been used in other languages.


One thing you'll note, if you're well versed in the form, is that it does not incorporate my name into the final couplet, as tradition would have it. ...Or does it? You may have to go to a name origins resource to see it. Whether that's worth the bother or not, give the poem itself a read and check out the other poem it shares a page with, "Eye-Witness, the Bronx" by Simon Williams.

Any day is made better by reading a good poem.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's new reader week for Spire City!

Are you new to Spire City? Maybe you've followed me here from the Wyrm's Gauntlet forums. Or from my guest post on the BTSE blog later this week. Or who knows what other twisting path you took to get here to these brambles.

Or maybe you've been vaguely aware of Spire City for a while but haven't quite gotten around to joining in.

Either way, this is a great week for you! For the next week, if you subscribe to Season Two: Pursued at the regular price of $8 US, I'll send you Season One completely free. Get a chance to catch up, and then you'll be able to stay right with us as the season two episodes are released. Episode 2, "Williver's Mistake," has just been released yesterday, so you still have time to join us.

Check out the Spire City tab if you want to know more about the series and how it works. Or simply subscribe now.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Final hours to get the reduced price on a Spire City subscription

Only a few hours remain to get your release-week price of $5 US on a subscription. You're not too late by any means to enjoy the story—I've processed a couple more in the past few days—so you can easily read episode 1 and be caught up by the time episode 2 comes out tomorrow. I've you've been wondering, wavering, considering, though, then sign up now before the price goes back up to normal!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Stormdancer Review

Someone who'd been part of Musa back in the day was asking around for reviewers for this new release, Stormdancer by Joshua Pantalleresco. It's narrative poetry, a science fictional story told all in verse. That sounded unique enough to pique my interest, so I said sure.

At the outset, let me say that I haven't read a lot of long poetry of this sort, except for older works that I read back in college. I love poetry, but I tend to prefer the shorter varieties, and works that emphasis rhythm and sound and elusive meanings more than straightforward narrative. So this was something new for me, a chance to dip into a different storytelling style.

Stormdancer begins with one narrator telling about something new that has begun and the small group of people he feels some sort of protective sense for: "this isn't just my story anymore / walking back to my own, I grow nervous / will they like the world I created?"

After two brief sections with him that ends with his disappearance, the poem switches to a new narrator. Kristen is one of that small group he'd gathered, and she now tells her story of chasing after the original narrator, trying to find where he's gone and rescue him if need be.

The journey, and the world itself, is full of mystery. There are science-fictional details in the background, while the more immediate details have a stronger fantasy feel. Bipedal dragons rule this world and keep most humans in complacent slavery. The original narrator, apparently, had set this group of three free from the dragons, so they are newly aware of things they never noticed before and see their own world with a mixture of fear and naiveté.

And so this is ultimately a story of coming of age. Kristen learns her own strength, now that she can't rely only on her liberator. The group learns how to take charge and how to work together, with the first narrator's absence always weighing on their actions. Each of them has strengths and abilities that no one guessed when the story first began.

The story reads quickly and smoothly. As poetry, it doesn't have a lot of the pyrotechnics I most enjoy...and yet it creates its own strengths through its free verse rhythm. The narrators, especially Kristen once she's our focus, evoke the sense of wonder and fear and desperation that they feel in this new-to-them world. It is a poetry, I suspect, that even readers who usually dislike poetry would enjoy. The line breaks and quick action only serve to propel the story along, not slow a disliking-poetry reader down.

If there's a complaint I have, I think it comes down to the fact that this is a sequel to an earlier work, The Watcher. Teasing out the clues in this work, I assume that work involved the initial narrator here breaking this group free from the dragons and setting them up for this new life. That history hangs over this story, leaving some of the details vague and some unexplained. I personally don't mind not knowing every such detail and enjoyed the chance to figure out what their background is. Even so, I think this could have done a better jump introducing readers to the people and the world, giving us a stronger image of what's going on and what's at stake.

All told, this is a strong story of a desperate search for a missing figure of authority, with all the layers of Jungian depth that implies. Of people stepping out from both the stern control of the dragons and the parental control of the Watcher to their own strengths and abilities. As long-form poetry, I appreciate its attempt to do something less common, to create its world and its narrator's internal conflicts through a fluid and rhythmic poetry.





The Storm is here...

About Stormdancer:

Days after the events featured in The Watcher, the Watcher is taken hostage by a dragon, leaving Kristen, Will and Nicki alone in a strange new world. With no choice but to try and rescue their friend, Kristen and the others must travel through ancient cities, forgotten burial grounds, and eventually into the heart of the great storm.

Faced with the unknown, will they be able to traverse the storms that stand before them as well as ones within their own hearts?



Book Details:

Title: Stormdancer (Sequel to The Watcher)

Author Name:  Joshua Pantalleresco

Genre(s): Poetry, Sci-Fi, Dystopian

Tags: Poetry, Epic, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, science-fiction, dragons

Length: Approx. 104 pages

E-book:  978-0-9947490-4-8
Paperback:  978-0-9947490-3-1

Release Date: October 1, 2015

Publisher:  Mirror World Publishing (http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/)

Appropriate for all ages from Young Adult to Adult.

Follow the Tour to Read Exclusive Excerpts, Guest Posts, and Reviews:

http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/2015/09/blog-tour-schedule-stormdancer-sequel.html
Read an Excerpt:

STORMS WITHIN

he ran
disappearing into the night
leaving us all alone

we tried to follow him
but were unsure of the trees and trails
we went slowly

we knew something had happened
when we found his blades in the forest
blackened and alone

he had come
like a force of nature
wrecking our lives
in the name of freedom
freedom from what?

the hollow embers and ashes we found
I didn't build them
those ruins were his story
not mine
never mine

I...was happy
yeah, I was happy
is there something wrong with that?

my parents loved me
I didn't care about anything else

the dragons were bastards
but I understood the game
the moves that could be made

with one flick of a blade
he changed all that
shattered the illusion with a roar of rebellion

now my life is here
in this forest
now he had vanished into the night
leaving me abandoned

leaving everything in shambles!

Purchase Links:

Amazon
http://amzn.to/1jjBlnY

Mirror World Publishing
http://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/products/stormdancer-e-book

Meet the Author:

Joshua Pantalleresco writes stuff. It's even on his business card. This is a succinct way of saying that in addition to writing poetry, he also does interviews, columns, comics, prose and anything possible with the written word. When he isn't writing, he's playing with podcasts, filming stuff, fiddling with alternative medicine, travelling, talking to people and pretending he is a rockstar. Stormdancer is his second book through Mirror World Publishing. He lives in Calgary.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Ecotones Anthology!

Very excited to be in this forthcoming anthology, Ecotones. Check out that Table of Contents! I'm thrilled to be appearing alongside such great writers, and I'm very proud of the story I have in it as well, "Seeds From a Hurricane Torn." They've had some good success with their past anthos as well, with award nominations and at least one story that later became a novel, which will be coming out soon from Angry Robot Books. So stay tuned for the Kickstarter and (whether it meets its goal or not) for publication in December.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Season Two: Pursued


Season Two begins today!

It was almost a year ago when we were at this same point, except with Musa publishing Season Two and with three (long) weeks between every episode. Now...Musa is no more, and I'm the one behind the scenes* getting files ready and all that. By the end of this month, episode 4 will be out, and we'll be ready at last to move on to the episodes that never came out before.

So strap yourself in, subscribe if you haven't yet, and be ready for the higher stakes, deeper tragedy, and even greater resistance against Orgood and his supporters, who hold all the power. The infections continue to spread (some of my favorite characters first make appearances here, though of course Chels remains the central focus) and to claim victims (alas), and Orgood steps up his efforts to eliminate Spire City's downtrodden.

I have decided to keep the early bird special going for one more week, to celebrate the first episode's premiere. So check the Spire City tab for more info on how to subscribe.

***

*Not that I am the only one, by any means. Many thanks go to my editor Damien Walters Grintalis, who has continued as freelance editor after Musa's shutdown. Also to Kelly Shorten of KMD Web Designs for the excellent cover art. And to Dianna L. Gunn, who is continuing the wonderful work she did for me with Musa to help with promotions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Final days to get the free "The Spire Singers"!

Don't miss out! On October 1 "The Spire Singers" switches over to an Amazon exclusive. So to get a free copy, you need to subscribe before then!

And if you want the early bird discount, do that soon, too. Episode 1, "Lady Janshi's Acolyte," comes out next week Monday already, and from then until the end of the year you can get a new episode every week. But to get the discount, subscribe before Episode 1 premiers.

How to do it? It's simple. Send the $5 US by Paypal here: http://paypal.me/DanielAusema (or for more information, check out the Spire City tab up top).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

More about "The Spire Singers"

As promised, here's a bit more about that novelette I'm giving away to subscribers who sign up this month:

Cartesz is a man of routine and propriety. The most important routine is the song of the singers, chained to the roofs of the city's spires, whose voices give him the pattern of how to conduct his life. When one of those singers is knocked to the cobbled street, it falls to Cartesz to help her. As his carefully counted life becomes an uncertain mess of bureaucracy and mystery, he realizes that he's never given thought to what it means that the city so callously chains the singers to its roofs. Trapped by the Kafkaesque bureaucracy that stifles so much of the city, what can he do to help the singer? Especially when his own grip on life seems to loosen...

This is not merely another story set in the same location as the Spire City series, but takes that city and gives a very different twist to how we see it. As a story should when it centers on a very different kind of person than Chels and the rest. Cartesz is not wealthy by any means, but neither is he destitute like those characters, and the city he experiences has its differences from what they see. Not that it contradicts anything from the main series, but it has its own, separate feel and mood. There is also one deeply-buried easter egg sort of detail for readers of the main series.

So subscribe today to get all of Season Two as it comes out as well as this bonus story!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Spire City, Season Two: Pursued open to subscribers!

The time has come for Season Two! I have updated all the information over on the Spire City tab, so you can subscribe now to be sure you're on the list right from the beginning.

What do you get as a subscriber? Thirteen episodes of steampunk fantasy, each one the perfect short-story length so you can read it in a single sitting (or stretched over a few, if you like to linger a little more) sometime during the following week. That way the story is still fresh in your mind when the next episode comes out the next Monday. The first few episodes of this season came out from Musa Publishing before it shut down, but they've been unavailable since then, and the rest of the episodes have never before been published.

But wait, there's more! If you subscribe in September, I'll also throw in a free copy of my novelette, "The Spire Singers." I'll have another post later this month with more details about the novelette, but this is where the entire idea of Spire City began. Before there was Chels or the mad scientist Orgood, before there was a deadly infection created in a lab, before there was any thought of producing a serialized story...there was "The Spire Singers."

The familiar sights of the city are there, the clockwork and the beetle-drawn carriages. The singers chained to their towers. And central to this story is the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the city itself, something only hinted at so far in the main series. If you're a fan of the series, you'll love this peek into a different face of the city.

The cover art is by the wonderful duo at Worlds Beyond Art.

This novelette will only be available to subscribers who sign up before the end of the month. After that it will be an Amazon exclusive for Kindle Unlimited.

And if that's not enough incentive to sign up now, the regular price of a subscription ($8 US) is being dropped as an early bird discount to $5 US. That's almost 40% off! So sign up through Paypal, at danielausema [at] gmail.com. Or email me at the same address with any questions.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Spire City, Season One: Infected available in many formats!

At last! Spire City, Season One: Infected is now out in both print and digital formats from a variety of sellers. So if you've been waiting for all the episodes to be available in a single format, now is the time. In case you've forgotten what this is all about...

Targeted by a mad scientist's deadly serum, these outcasts band together to uncover the truth and to fight back. 
Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.
You get all thirteen episodes of the first season, which together form what is essentially the first novel of this trilogy of books. So go check it out, and don't forget that Season Two: Pursued should be opening to subscriptions in the coming week!

Amazon (print and Kindle formats): http://www.amazon.com/Spire-City-Season-One-Infected-ebook/dp/B0147IRHHE/

Createspace (print-on-demand): https://www.createspace.com/5600524

Smashwords (multi-format digital book): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/571087

Barnes & Noble (print and epub formats): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spire-city-season-one-daniel-j-ausema/1122562191

Kobo (epub format): https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/spire-city-season-one-infected

Also available from ibooks for Apple devices and apps. The direct link varies according to whichever country you are in, so open ibooks and search for my name.

And now I'm off to get things set for Season Two: Pursued!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Another (brief,) late-ish announcement

Another thing that happened while I was traveling was that I sold a short story to Diabolical Plots. "The Blood Tree War" should be coming out sometime next year. Woo hoo!

(Even more announcements coming soon...)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A belated announcement..."The Gunpowder Resistance"

I've been traveling for most of this month and didn't always have great online access (nor time to even check if I did...). It was a very good family vacation, a chance to get back to Michigan for a few weeks and show the kids all kinds of things we have fond memories of but that they'd never seen. That's all I'll say about that here, but it is good to be back home, even among the chaos of unpacking and school starting.

One thing that I unfortunately didn't get much of a chance to do while traveling was point people to a new story publication! EveryDayFiction published "The Gunpowder Resistance" just a few days after we began our travels. I shared the link on Facebook, but that was the extent of my promoting. So if you missed the story, go on over there to read it! It's a Spire City story, though not connected at all with the characters of the serial. Not that anyone needs to know exactly how it fits to enjoy the story, but in my mind this takes place about thirty years after the serial, when the steampunk tech is evolving closer toward a WWI-era feel (though the way that effects this particular story is fairly small).

More announcements of a variety of sorts in the coming days. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How does AI dream of Spire City?

Have you heard of Google's DeepDream project? It basically takes images and runs them through algorithms to identify whatever patterns it perceives, then emphasizing those patterns and running the adjusted image through again and again. At least that's the simplified explanation for what it's doing.  The program at the moment apparently has a tendency to find eyes and dog shapes, as you can see. Well, I decided to run some Spire City images through the program to see what comes out...and it's suitably psychedelic. So without further comment, here are some images (from Worlds Beyond Art and KMD Designs originally), as seen by a dreaming artificial intelligence. (Click on the image to see it bigger.)






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Last chance to subscribe to Season One!

Episode 12 went out to subscribers and live on Amazon, etc. yesterday. That leaves only a single episode left, "Mint's Arrival." There is still time to subscribe, though. Sign up between now and next Monday, and I'll send you all thirteen episodes at once.

This is the perfect chance for those of you who prefer to read an entire season at once, instead of episode by episode. Get the entire season at one time and read through it at your own pace. But this is your last chance to be a subscriber. After next week, the only way to get the season will be to buy them individually from Amazon or B&N or wait for the full season bundle.

Now I'm planning on pricing the season bundle at $4.99 US, so you'll spend the same thing as if you subscribe, but you'll miss out on subscriber perks, including an exclusive Spire City poem and a special deal on a season two subscription. So subscribe today!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Duolingo update, Dutch

A half a year ago, I wrote an extensive post about my experience learning Portuguese with the Duolingo app. At the time I was just beginning to try to learn Dutch. As of this past weekend, I've completed all the lessons, so I thought I'd share a bit how that has gone.

First, the most obvious thing is that this took me only half the time it took me to get through Portuguese. Is there a learning curve to the app itself, and going through again with a new language is that much faster? I don't think so. Changes in the app itself? They made a few changes to how the app works--instead of running out of hearts and having to completely start a lesson over if you get more than three things wrong, it has a meter, which moves toward your goal with each correct answer and a step backward with each wrong answer. It's a good change, at least for how I learn, cutting back on the frustration of having to do an entire lesson over but forcing you to answer more questions when you do mess up.

So is it just that Dutch is so much easier than Portuguese? Actually the opposite. Portuguese was so similar to Spanish that it was easy for me to slack off, take my time. If I missed a day, no big deal. I could remember the vocabulary and grammar without much effort. I knew Dutch wouldn't be so easy to be casual about. So there was one weekend early on when I missed two days, but otherwise I've done at least one new lesson every day, usually two. I prefer not to do more than two new lessons each day. So if I had any extra time to do more (and more often than not, I made the time), I'd go through one or two review rounds ("Practice Weak Skills") as well.

That's still pretty casual, 10-15 minutes per day. If I were cramming to travel somewhere and wanted to have a good base before I arrived, the app would work for that. You'd just have to do a lot of lessons and have a good balance between reviewing weak skills and learning new.

(Worth mentioning that I think the total number of lessons for Dutch was fewer as well. Not way lower, but enough that it surely affects how fast I went through them.)

So how is my Dutch now? Well, there are really four ways to judge someone's ability in a language: speaking, writing, reading, listening. The app doesn't demand speaking. I do my best to say everything out loud that I can, so I think I could be understood, but it wouldn't be fluent, I'm sure. Of the rest, the lessons are split probably 50%-60% on reading, 30% on listening, and 10% on writing. Then with some basic vocabulary focus that could apply to any of those and bleeds into those categories here and there as well.

So that's probably reflected in how I'm doing on those skills--a pretty solid base for reading, some experience with listening (although it's always only one person doing the spoken parts, so it's specifically her accent and voice I'm used to--same thing with Portuguese when I did that), and a rudimentary base for writing. Probably not too far off how I was with French after a year of college classes or Portuguese after a year of Duolingo... Both of those being Romance languages, I could draw on Spanish to fill in many gaps. Dutch being Germanic, could I do the same with English? For some of it, but not as much.

Favorite sentences: "Vijfentwentig schildpadden zwemmen in het water." That sentence practically sings. And "De vriendschap dat ik had met de kooien koeien was heel special." I'm not sure I want to know the backstory of how that second sentence ended up in the app...

Of course, where am I going to use this? The vast majority of people in the Netherlands speak English anyway (not that I have any real potential to travel there any time soon, either...). It's really just a thing to learn, to connect with my ancestry. I'm hoping to dig around YouTube for videos just to broaden my familiarity with hearing it, and I may try to track down some written works to practice reading. In fact, I have a relative, Egbertus Ausema, who wrote some thrillers in Dutch. I discovered him a while back in Amazon and assumed he was some distant fifth cousin or something...and only just discovered the other day that he was actually my dad's first cousin. Huh. I may have to try to get a copy of one of those books...

And what's next? Not a new language at this point. I've been offered a job teaching Spanish this school year, so I'm going to be immersing myself in Spanish for a while at least. Hopefully still maintaining (and improving!) my Dutch and Portuguese, but not something new. I'd love someday to learn ASL or some non-European language (or both!). Re-try to learn Arabic? Learn Standard Chinese or Hindi or some other Asian language? Learn Quechua? Hmm, just typing it out makes me want to learn them all... But none are available in Duolingo at the moment, and it would be best not to tackle a new language for the time being. Much as I might like to...

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Bonus for Spire City subscribers!

Inspired by the poem in The Pedestal the other week, I decided this would be a great time to offer an exclusive bonus for Spire City subscribers. Eagle-eyed stalkers of this blog may have noticed a new poem listed on my bibliography, which I updated last weekend. Well, here's what that's about:

Next week Monday, subscribers will receive not only episode 11, but also a poem I first wrote about half a year ago called "The Exiles Pine for Home." It's a poem as written by the Neshini immigrants living in Spire City. (Some of you may remember a guest blog post I wrote last January, which appeared at The Oak Wheel, about using in-world poetry as a way to enrich a secondary world fantasy.) I have no plans at the moment for releasing this poem in any other format. It may eventually show up in a bundle of some sort, but the only way to be sure you get this poem is to be a subscriber.

Not a subscriber yet? I know a lot of you aren't keen on the whole waiting part of serials. If that's what's holding you back, then now is a great time to jump in and subscribe. Season 1 is 13 episodes long, so the two weeks between episode 11 and the season finale should give you a perfect amount of time to read them all--and get a bonus poem to boot.

So subscribe now and get your free poem, in addition to all the other benefits of being a subscriber!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"The Alien Ruins" at The Pedestal

Everyone needs a little poetry now and then, right? I know I do.

So on that note, go check out my poem "The Alien Ruins" in The Pedestal's latest issue. There's even a link at the bottom to listen to me read the poem. Give a listen to my dulcet voice, then, if that's your preference... The entire issue is full of speculative poems, all chosen by the legendary Marge Simon and Bruce Boston, so once you've finished reading mine, bop around to some of the others and get a feel for what's out there in speculative poetry.

Not a lot to say about the writing of this poem. It began with that opening image of an alien stairway that never feels right to the humans who come later, and simply grew from there.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Special deal for Spire City: Contagion readers

As I mentioned last weekend, the first six episodes of season one were, once upon a time (last fall) published as a separate collection, called Contagion. It was discounted at various times and even, for a one-day special, offered as a freebie from Musa's main page. I never got the exact figures from Musa, but I know many people took advantage of both. Episodes 7-13 were also published as a bundle about a month later, but what with time constraints and the like, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who bought the first bundle and never got around to the second before it was too late.

So...I don't want anyone to feel like I'm charging them twice or taking advantage. For anyone who wants to take this offer, you can get the rest of the season one episodes for just $3 US, by Paypal. What will you get for that? Every Monday from here on out, you'll get the latest episode by email. You will not receive the end-of-season bundle of all episodes, like the other subscription gets you, but you will receive any offers I give to other subscribers.

Is this only for those who bought Contagion? Do you have to somehow prove you bought the other edition? No and no. If you've been buying the episodes individually from Amazon or B&N or if you bought the episodes individually back when Musa was releasing them and only got this far, feel free to sign up as well. No questions asked. (I wouldn't suggest trying to just barrel in starting with episode 7 if you haven't read the first six, though...)

If you have any other questions, check out the Spire City tab above or contact me. Thanks, and happy reading!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Guest Post: Chris Wong Sick Hong

I invited one of the other writers from the anthology Steampunk: The Other Worlds to stop by here and tell us some background behind his story in the anthology. Chris Wong Sick Hong is a writer of slipstream, fantasy, and SF, and you can find more of his work at his website. So here is Chris's post

And a Story Begins

So. A behind the scenes/making of. “Under a Shattered Sky” from Steampunk: The Other Worlds. Let’s begin.

Opening tableau: an image of grey, broken dust-swept plains, lonely under a black sky. Bereft. Barren. When I closed my eyes, that was what I saw. An atmosphere humming with the oboe tones of desolation. Sunsets unwatched, a smaller light fading into oblivion.

Now we need people. Since this is steampunk, that constrains the tech level of any civilizations. It will be steam-based. Possibly British, or at least the American stereotype of British. Tea time marked by the anemic ticking of a dying clock. Cricket in space. Fabulous!

Perhaps nomads wandering the world, eking out survival, but not hope, between sandstorms and sullen oases. One mistake way from desiccation.

But no. Steampunk is gears, you fool. Gears and sand are mortal enemies! That would not be steampunk civilization. It would be a post-steampunk civilization. By the Unnamable Old Ones, what in the realms too fractured and disturbed to be called Hells were you thinking?!

Then again, apocalypses are cool. Cool with a Capital Bowtie and Fez. But with a gritty, streetwise, 90s superhero reboot vibe instead. (Anatomy optional.) Sometimes you need to be strong and dress in black pleather just to get up in the morning, because nothing says “survivor” like skin tight.

Still, that’s been done. And to have a proper apocalypse, one needs proper cities. A small band of post-industrial survivors struggling to survive amid the ruins of what they can now only dream—that’s piquant, disturbing, soulful. A small band of survivors struggling to survive because their environment is too harsh for them to develop metal forging is depressing.

Cities it is. Or rather, a city.

 And the one thing all viable cities need is a water source. So let’s put it on a lake. A deep one, for dramatic effect. Deep, cold, crystalline, pure.

But how did such a city and lake come to be on such an inhospitable planet? Not just how, but why?

Good thing this isn’t geology/meteorology/archeology pr0n. Human nature is strange. People will nitpick the tiniest details to death but leave the big, flying, robot elephants with laser tusks unremarked upon. Anything big enough fades into the background without question. Just make it awesome and move on.

So while we’re at it, let’s blow up the moon—no, two moons!—and crack the sky too. Two moons to make it clear this isn’t Earth. And jagged, purple, ugly scars sectioning off the sky.

Do I need to work out the complex dynamics of the tides that two moons would cause? No, because they’ve been explosively remodeled. Apocalypses are blank checks cashed in Hell by surly tellers in cheap suits. When even the laws of physics can change, everything can be normal.

Back to the city. Industrialization begets standardization. The only way a machine can stamp out millions of knickknacks that other machines combine into more complex thingamajigs is if all the knickknacks and thingamajigs are the same. And machines are notoriously finicky. They need maintenance, especially parts. The more machines that share a standardized part, the more profitable it is for both the machine owners (lower cost of replacement) and part-makers (economies of scale).

The steampunk ethos was born at the beginning of this, in heady times where the Victorian work ethic and fetish for classification were underpinned by copious use of laudanum and cocaine.

Let’s make this—the drive of classification and order, not the drugs—part of the city itself. Like the design of Washington, D.C., USA. All grids and geometric perfection. Then shatter that too. Echoing reminders of a broken world, broken city, broken lives.

Flesh out (or gear out) the steampunk innards and boom: setting.

Now for characters. I like one. One is simple.

Strong. Female. Alone. Survival horror maybe.

Sitting there, waiting to die isn’t very interesting. Simply struggling for survival, not so much either. The daily habits and activities of remote tribes is a National Geographic Special, not a SyFy Original Event! Get with the sharknado, people. This woman has goals.

To find other survivors, whatever it takes.

==

Pause for a moment. Stories are about people. Ellsbeth, our heroine, needs a dramatic arc. Since this is a short story, it must be compressed. A story centers on significant change or the lack thereof. (I think this is from Flannery O’Connor [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/flannery-oconnor-1925-1964], but I can’t confirm and Google is being singularly unhelpful.)

  1. 1) Ellsbeth can realize something important about herself, or fail to do so.
  2. 2) Ellsbeth can make a choice, for good or ill, that defines who she is and will become.
    1. a. Even if the choice is to maintain the status quo.

But the choice needs to be real. What is she doing. Why is she doing it? What adds depth to the choice? What makes Ellsbeth a real person?

A strange figure, stoically wandering a wasteland while refusing to give in. Why does she do it? Because she doesn’t have a choice. Bullshit. That’s not a story. That’s a cliché. Spaghetti western. No name, no horse, but trusty gun at your side (even though if only has three bullets left, they’re the best darn bullets a guy could have.)

People have issues. Living through an apocalypse is traumatic enough. Leaving the safety of a known area to strike out on what must seem like false hope? Even more mind scrambles. She’ll have issues. Serious ones.

Unfortunately, mentally wounded people are not very easy to relate to, or write. If she’s too broken, she won’t be functional. But she also can’t be a font of bubbling optimism. Any good humor would be forced. And if she’s been doing this for years, that’s certain to have been drilled out of her.

So a general plot. What does she have to do to survive? To make progress with her journey? Jot down a general sequence of events, and…then what?

This is not a story yet. Time to add issues. People isolated from society for extended periods of time start to break. Start talking to themselves and inanimate objects. Maybe hear voices back. That’s it! A Voice! Taunting, snide, rude. Trying to talk her into giving up. And possibly real! This is another planet, after all. We have an antagonist.

But what would the Voice taunt her with?

Any perceived weakness? Character flaws? The pointlessness of it all? Feels shallow.

I wrote lots of potential dialogue. It didn’t do much to deepen Ellsbeth’s character. It felt like B-movie boomstick witticisms. But what could do both?

*thinks*

Reminders of what she lost.

Cue flashback.

==

After that, more struggle in story present, and then the choice. With her entire world gone, even the ruins falling apart, and a miscalculation threatening to take her life, why continue? Even she doesn’t quite believe in her own hope.


What does she do? And whatever she decides, will she even know why?

To find out, order a copy of the anthology Steampunk: The Other Worlds today.