Affordable swashbuckling

When Brian Thomsen was managing editor at Wizards of the Coast, he liked to say, “If Dumas was writing today, he’d be writing for us.”

I grew up reading Alexandre Dumas and I’m a history geek, so I was intrigued when I saw The Black Count, a biography of his father, Alex Dumas, in a Barnes & Noble. It immediately went on my wish list, but Life intervened and I didn’t think of it again until I received this week’s BookBub update. The Kindle version is on sale for $1.99 until March 1.

A few words about BookBub might be in order. It’s a service for people who read ebooks. They curate online deals and send you updates listing reduced-price or free books in your areas of interest, with links to, B&N, and other online booksellers. I’ve not only gotten some great deals on books I’ve been wanting to buy and authors I usually read, but I’ve also discovered some unexpected treasures and a few new favorite authors.  If you’re a voracious reader, this is a great resource.

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Newsletter 2.0

I stopped sending out an email newsletter a few years back. The interactivity of social media and blogs made a newsletter seem outdated. As a writer, I didn’t see the point.

As a reader, however, newsletters make a great deal of sense to me. There are several authors whose books I’ll read on the day of release. Not all of them have newsletters, and I wish they would. I don’t always remember–or have time–to check for new releases, and would love to get a heads-up when a new release is on the horizon. To me, the ideal newsletter would be short and infrequent. Its primary focus should be upcoming releases, but I’d also like to hear about new projects and work in progress.

So. On the theory that you should write the sort of things you want to read, I’ll be starting a newsletter this spring. It will be sent via MailChip, so your contact info will be secure and spam-free. If you’d like to receive an occasional email newsletter, you can sign up in this post or on the Contact page.




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Writing for Star Wars

In the twelve years since the release of Dark Journey, my one and only Star Wars novel, I have received many emails from aspiring Star Wars writers who want to know how to break into the Extended Universe. With a new movie on the horizon, I expect that every writer who has ever visited the galaxy far, far away will be seeing an increase of these email queries. For what it’s worth, here’s my story.

Back in 1998, the people in charge of Star Wars fiction decided to Shake Things Up with “The New Jedi Order,” a big story arc that would be spread over 20+ novels. The broad strokes of the story arc were planned by a team that included some of the participating authors, the Del Rey editors, and the LucasFilm continuity team. Some of the novels would be Big Books that dealt with pivotal events in the war, others would be smaller, more personal tales. One of the smaller stories would focus on Jaina Solo at a painfully low point in her life, when she was reeling from the death of a loved one and dangerously drawn toward the dark side.

The Del Rey editor, Shelly Shapiro, wanted a female writer for this novel and asked author R.A. Salvatore, who wrote the first novel in this series (Vector Prime), for recommendations.  He was familiar with my work in the Forgotten Realms, a D&D setting. Since most of my novels in that setting featured strong female protagonists, Bob thought my writing style would be a good fit for Jaina’s story. I was invited to submit a proposal to Del Rey. This included a chapter-by-chapter outline of the plot I created to fit the parameters of the story arc, as well as a writing sample. The proposal was accepted (though it was substantially revised during the writing process) and I was offered a contract. At each step of the way, from outline to final draft, the Del Rey editor and the LucasFilm continuity team reviewed my work to ensure that it fit the New Jedi Order story arc and did not conflict with any of the “history” established in hundreds of novels, short fiction, comic books, and game products.

The contacts I made while writing in the Forgotten Realms also led to the opportunity to write three short stories for the Star Wars Gamer magazine.  This was owned by the Realms’ publisher, Wizards of the Coasts, and edited by Dave Gross. I’d written some short fiction for Dave when he was the editor of Dragon Magazine. As with the novels, these stories had to be reviewed and approved by Del Rey and LucasFilm for continuity issues.

As you’ve probably gathered from this, there’s a lot of planning involved in Star Wars storytelling. Several years have passed since I was involved with the EU, but I hear that Disney, who purchased Star Wars from LucasFilm a year or so back, is deeply involved in the planning process.  My heart always sinks when I get an email from someone who has already written a Star Wars novel and dreams of seeing it in print, because if someone doesn’t have the benefit of inside information, the odds of them writing a novel that fits the planned story direction is very slim indeed.

So what’s an aspiring writer to do?

Del Rey, a large New York publishing house, holds the license to publish Star Wars fiction. The only way any writer can publish a Star Wars novel is through this publisher. Generally speaking, Del Rey hires established writers with a proven track record. It is an incredibly competitive market and very tough to break into, but that’s the path you’ll need to take.

I realize that this may be disappointing news, but please don’t be discouraged. If you’ve already written a Star Wars novel, you’ve invested many hours into learning the craft of writing. You’ve proven that you have the passion and discipline needed to write a novel-length manuscript. So even if you don’t publish that particular story, you’re many steps closer to publication than you would be if you hadn’t written it.

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If you’ve been thinking about picking up this anthology but wanted to get more info first, this detailed, story-by-story review ought to do it.    Here’s a link.

The reviewer commented on the anthology’s diversity. This is a hallmark of Jim Lowder’s projects, all the more impressive when you consider the ven diagram suggested by TWO very specific themes: the Cthulhu mythos and the Orient Express luxury train.

Looking forward to Jim’s next project, whatever that may be!


Posted in Book reviews, Cthulhu mythos, Short Fiction | Leave a comment

2014 in review

In many ways, 2014 was like the second book of a trilogy.  The year had its own narrative arc, but its primary purpose was to move the story forward to the point where Important Stuff Happens.

Nevertheless, here’s a few highlights of 2014.

  • Walked over 2000 miles, approximately the length of the Appalachian Trail (minus the mountains and black bears…)
  • Started hiking the network of trails in southern New England. Climbed Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, walked part of the North South Trail in Rhode Island and part of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts.
  • Daily exercise has, for the first time, become a firmly entrenched habit.
  • Nonfiction:  Read stacks of books focusing on the the science of habit formation, wrote a considerable amount of web content.
  • Fiction:  Published 2 short stories, 3 poems, and the foreword to a poetry anthology.
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In fiction, as in real life, trains don’t always run on schedule. The Orient Express anthology has run into a few delays, but according to an update from editor Jim Lowder, the print version should be available before the end of 2014.

The publisher’s original intention was to use the same cover art for the short stories and the RPG book, but they decided to do a different cover for the anthology. This is the final cover design.  I like it, even though it makes me wonder how the squid thing got on the train, and whether or not it needed to purchase a ticket.

Posted in Cthulhu mythos, Short Fiction | Leave a comment