All posts by Mark

Game Interrupted

Game Interrupted
What is a game designer supposed to do when his net-junkie girlfriend is jacked in at a lavish party thrown by his old partner and is singled out by a woman with red-colored eyes?

I’ve always been interested in the terminology that doesn’t change, even when the technology does. For instance, my girl, she’s over there, sitting on the couch, oblivious to the world around her because she’s jacked in.
‘Jacked in’ used to be the term people used when they plugged their cranial implants into the network. People had jacks in the side of their head and just plugged in. The plug-in would charge the battery at the same time as giving them access.
For the most part, you’d look like a junky when you were jacked in. Your eyes would roll back into your head, and for those that were prone to additional loss of body control, they might drool down their chin, or worse.
That lasted a decade or more until the computer manufacturers figured out two things. The first involved shrinking the computer so that it could run off the electrical energy of your body while still providing the functionality people had come to expect. The second was the invention of a shield that was small enough to put in your head, but was still capable of keeping the radio antennae from frying your brain.
Even after these upgrades to the basic personal computer, people still called connecting to the net ‘being jacked in.’

For the next week, you can read the whole story here for free.

Mendleson Moony Cover

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony CoverHere’s the cover for Mendleson Moony. I’m currently working on reading the proof and the final edits. It should be available sometime in mid to late March in most formats from the major stores. Sometimes Sony takes a while (Questioner’s Shadow is STILL not available there for some reason).

And here’s the back cover copy, in case you’re interested.

Fisherman Mendleson Moony lost his family in a fire. Four years later, he still mourns and has given up the sea to farm his land.

Henrietta Swooth, the Seer that has lived across the road from him for the last three years, has a secret. She knows the time and place of her death, and she must soon leave to meet it.

A vision sends her to the summer festival where she and Mendleson talk for the first time. When he touches her hand, everything changes, and not for the better.

Mendleson comes away with a desire to save her. She comes away knowing his attempts to save her will see him dead at her side.

Can Mendleson overcome his loss to find love again? Is it already too late?

My Thoughts On KDP Select

By now, you might have heard of Amazon’s new program for Indie authors called KDP Select. It’s a program that allows authors to get their eBooks into the Kindle Lending Library, and also gives them 5 days out of every 90 in which they can give away the book for free.

There’s a catch, though. In order to participate, the author must remove the participating book from every other store that they are selling it in. This means they can’t sell it for the Nook, or for Kobo’s reader, or in Apple’s iBookStore. They can’t even sell it from their own site. Even crazier, they’re not allowed to have excerpts from the book anywhere.

This has led to thousands upon thousands of books being removed from eStores not named Amazon, and to a deluge of free titles on Amazon.

There is no doubt that Amazon is the #1 eBook store. Most indies make far more from Amazon than from other retailers, though for many, this number isn’t really that high. There are lots of stories of people giving away thousands of copies of their book during their free period, and then making significant money once it’s out of the free period because of its new visibility in various lists.

In the short term, this is good for the participating authors. I think that over the long term, it will prove self-defeating.

When you pull your book from every other store except Amazon, and you get more exposure on Amazon, this exposure won’t translate to other platforms. And, when Amazon stumbles, or when they change their algorithms, and your books all of a sudden nose dive in sales on Amazon no matter what you do, you won’t have any other stores in the world where people know your name. You will be screwed and you will cry “woe is me!”

One last thought, Indie Author. In the past, if you were published by a publisher and people couldn’t get your books, you could blame it on the publisher. When YOU are at the helm, you will only be able to tell them that YOU decided their platform of choice wasn’t worth selling on, and by extension, they weren’t worth selling to.

I don’t want to have to write that email, so I won’t be participating in KDP Select.

Moony Is Written

I finished the draft of Mendleson Moony today, which makes me very excited. It’s a bit of a departure from the other books, which makes me very unsure if I hit the target I was aiming for, but all in all, I’m pleased.

What’s next?

For Moony, it goes to a few early readers for about a month. I’m hoping they can get back to me early because I’m really anxious to hear what they have to say. After that, it will take some time for me to fix any issues and prep it for publishing. Well, really, it will only take a month if I’m still writing Fragments. However, if Fragments goes well, I’ll do the work on Moony in between the time I finish Fragments and the start of work on the next book.

What’s the next book? I’m not exactly sure. I have an idea, but it will depend on what else is going on and how long it takes me to finish Fragments. More than likely, it’ll be another standalone novel like Mendleson Moony (though not LIKE MM).

Whatever the case, Fragments is next up, and I can’t wait to get started on it, though I have to wait a week or so. I have to reread Shattered, and then I have to do a quicky outline for fragments (I never bother to do extensive outlines because I end up changing them, anyway).

With any luck, there’s only a few months wait until you get to find out what happens next to Robert and Angela.

Questioner’s Shadow Is Done! (And An Excerpt)

Late Friday night, I uploaded Questioner’s Shadow to Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Smashwords followed on Saturday. The paper edition will be right along in a couple weeks, if all goes well, and I’ll have a package that includes a PDF, ePub and mobi edition at Drivethru Fiction once the paper edition is done (I make the PDF from the paper edition).

Questioner’s Shadow is NOT a sequel to Shattered (that is the upcoming book Fragments), but is instead the start of a whole new series called Lords of Genova. The reasons for this are explained in this previous post.

To give you a taste of the book, here’s the first scene of Questioner’s Shadow.



   In his service to the Empire, Petyr had seen any number of dead bodies. Most often, they had a bullet through the skull or a knife wound in the belly. He’d never seen anything like the body of the woman that hung naked from the trunk of a tree in front of him.

   A pair of iron spikes held it there, driven through the body just above her breasts and just below her shoulders. A third spike protruded from her gaping mouth.

   The spikes weren’t the source of the bile that threatened to erupt from his stomach. The woman seemed young, perhaps sixteen or seventeen. Her hair, dark but not quite black, fell mostly down onto her shoulders, framing high cheekbones that had once supported her eyes, and would still, but for the fact that her killer had removed her eyes leaving empty sockets.

   That wasn’t all. Whatever monster had done this to the young woman had managed to pull her arms off.

   Petyr had to turn away. He bent over and took a few deep breaths. They seemed to help for a moment, but the bile wouldn’t stay down. The contents of his stomach emptied onto the forest floor.

   He heard footsteps coming toward him, but he didn’t turn around. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and started wiping at his mouth. I wish I had some water.

   “Are you all right, Petyr?” Alec asked from behind him.

   No. “I’m fine.”

   Petyr finished wiping his mouth, stood up, and checked his clothes to make sure he hadn’t splashed vomit on them. When he was satisfied they were clean, he wrapped up the handkerchief as best he could so the contents of his stomach were safely inside, then turned back to face the body.

   “Whoever she was,” Alec said, “I can’t imagine what she did to deserve this.”

   Petyr looked at Alec. His friend’s face was pale. Apparently Alec has never seen anything to compare, either.

   “She didn’t do anything to deserve this, Alec. Some of the towns on the edge of the Empire have some brutal forms of justice, but this, the Empire wouldn’t tolerate.”

   “How would you know, Petyr?”

   How would I know? He didn’t have an answer for Alec.

   “Well, I’m going back to the carriage,” said Alec.

   Petyr looked away from his friend and back to the woman on the tree. His stomach still felt uneasy, but it had quieted. For better or worse, he was getting used to the sight.

   “Go on,” he said. “I’ll be right along.”

   Alec turned and left. His footsteps, muffled in the soft loam of the forest, soon faded to nothingness.

   Petyr moved within arm’s reach of the woman’s corpse. Blood stains descended from her wounds and empty eye sockets, the blood long washed away in the rain.

   What color eyes did she have?

   Her cheeks were thin and hollow, but the ghost of fullness lingered. Her nose sloped down to a petite point. From the tightness of her belly, it was clear she’d never borne children.

   Petyr examined the stumps where her arms had been. The flesh ran ragged around the wounds. The holes in her chest were larger than the spikes rammed through them, the skin around the edges torn. His first impression was accurate. Her arms had been pulled off, not cut or sawn or chopped. Who would, or even could, do such a thing?

   Something odd struck him. The body didn’t smell. No hint of putrefaction lingered in the air. He could smell the dampness of the forest, the aroma of the blackroot trees, the cloying scent of the moss that seemed to cover everything, but the stink of death was curiously absent. Judging by the lack of fresh blood, the body had hung from the tree long enough it should have started to decompose. It should have been ripe, crawling with bugs. But other than the wounds and the stains, it looked like a fresh kill.

   He shuddered. Something or someone committed evil here. He could feel it. Something so vile, even the agents of decay wouldn’t touch the body.

   He walked back to the carriage with careful steps, avoiding the shrubs and dead branches that lay across the path. Alec had already climbed up to the driver’s bench and had his head bowed down, studiously watching the pair of horses as they fidgeted in their harness. They apparently didn’t like waiting anywhere near that horror. Petyr wondered if they smelled something he couldn’t.

   “Alec,” he said as he approached. “What’s the nearest town?”

   “Dunsriver, I think. We passed it earlier today.”

   “Take us back there.”

   “Why? If we go back, we won’t make Rocktree by nightfall.”

   “We’re not going to Rocktree, Alec.”

   Alec jumped down from the driver’s bench and confronted Petyr. “What do you mean we’re not going to Rocktree? We have to keep moving.”

   Petyr sighed. Alec was right. They couldn’t afford to linger, not with the Empire on their trail. On my trail. Is this really any of my business, anyway? If I just went on to Rocktree, who would know besides Alec? He looked at his friend. Alec wouldn’t tell anyone. If I stay and put this town to Question, the Tribune will most definitely hear.

   But the vision of the girl on the tree haunted him. He had to know the truth. It wasn’t just his job.

   “It’s who I am, Alec. I have to find the truth of this. I promise, no more than a day or two. It shouldn’t take long.”

   They stood staring at each other for a few more moments, before Alec turned away without saying anything more and climbed back onto the bench.

   Petyr opened the door of the carriage, stepped up and in, then shut the door behind him. He took a seat on the hard bench, its velvet covered cushion long since compacted to a layer that felt more like stone than anything else.

   As the carriage started to move, he had a mind to lean out and tell Alec to keep on to Rocktree, but the vision of the woman’s body still haunted him. No matter how close his pursuers, he couldn’t let a crime like that go.

   Instead of reversing his decision, he leaned back and worked at committing everything he’d observed to memory.

   A threat existed here, and it was his job as Lord Questioner to root it out. Even if I am no longer a Lord Questioner.


Again, links to the right, or on the book page.

Website Changes and Questioner’s Shadow Trivia

I’ve made some changes to the site in anticipation of the release of Questioner’s Shadow, the first book in the Lords of Genova series.

What?! Another series?! Why don’t you finish A Wizard’s Work, first?!

That was my original plan. But if you know me at all, plans never work out the way I want them to. Here’s what happened.

I finished the draft of Shattered in the middle of September, 2010. I didn’t want to go right into the second book, because I didn’t want to have to make changes to the second book because I made changes to the first.

However, I needed something to work on at a workshop I had registered to attend. I spent weeks trying different things. First, it was a space opera type story (that I will write someday, it just wasn’t the time for it). Then, I came up with a story that I’m planning on writing, but I needed to do a lot of research to even get it off the ground, and I just didn’t have time.

One night, with about four weeks to go, I challenged myself to write the most provocative first sentence I could. I was pretty happy with it, but it didn’t have a story.

And then, with about a week and a half to go, I realized I could put that first line together with this other story idea of mixing Jack the Ripper and Beowulf together, and that’s what ultimately kicked off Questioner’s Shadow.

At this time, Questioner’s Shadow was only a single story, and I was really excited to write it. However, as I started to get into the first scene, and started to learn about my main character, I discovered that he was in real trouble that extended beyond the arc of this single story.

Thus, I ended up starting another series before Shattered had even seen the light of day.