Not-So-Cyberpunk 2020

The end of the year. Normally a time for reflection on the year. Honestly, though, my accomplishments can be boiled down to the following:

  • Published in two anthologies this year.
  • Completed draft of a full-length novel
  • Attended two (smaller scale) workshops
  • Kept my job for a full year
  • Kept my personal life relatively intact
  • Continued to appreciate how damn lucky I am to have found my wife

Things I did not get to do and wanted to included:

  • Drop a test podcast/video
  • Take more photographs
  • Promote myself more on social media

What is in store for 2020? Normally, I’d talk about our down-market, low-budget Cyberpunk future here but I’ve done a lot of that this year. Let’s just say any timeline which forces William Gibson to go back and rewrite a novel-in-progress because the current ‘fucked up’ factor in the real world outstrips his fictional one fairly gritty one.

I can only plan for myself. In addition to the three missed items above, I have the following on my list:

  • Read and revise novel
  • Find and attend more writing workshops, hopefully local.
  • Contacts, submissions, and other outreach attempts.

And the big one:

  • Revise that short story.

I wrote a draft last year for an on-line class. It drew from personal experience. Bad personal experience. After sending it about, and getting an editor to take a look at it (Birthday present thoughts for writers: hire an editor to read their short story), I knew I had to revise it.

The protagonist needed to take the lead, go to the forefront. They needed to be front and center. And the story had to be told from first person. Not the comfortable, distant third of the current draft. Which means walking down ugly roads in my head all over again.

I wasn’t ready, until PAX Unplugged. I was at the convention center, 8:15am to sign up for a miniature painting class. Turns out – they’d already gone to waitlist. Which was odd, as registration wasn’t supposed to begin for another 45 minutes. But that left me alone in the con, waiting for my wife to wake up and the expo hall to open.

I had my backpack. My notebook. My pen. And I had a short story to revise from word one.

The word count was unimportant; I wrote. I wrote and stepped back into an ugly, ugly memory. The rest of the story will probably be just as rough. But that’s how you know it’ll impact someone, yes? If it bleeds, it leads.

Or, to put it in true 2020 terms –

Got a bunch of small jobs, mostly routine, but there’s a big op staring me down right now. Wetwork, with legions of CyberPsychos and Black ICE between me and the prize. But there’s no room for winging, sabe? Got my rippers sharpened, smart-link tuned, and enough combat medication in my system for a tour in the last corp war. I’m chipping in…

That Voice – No, not that one. The other one!


Do you hear that voice? Just over your shoulder, at the edge of your hearing. No, not the one yelling about a Meat Bicycle! Or the one saying, “You’re the crunch, and I’m the Captain!” That voice we’re used to dealing with, because it’s the engineer on the Poop Train. Or Hamlet.

And I’m not talking about the Internal Editor. That bastard has been written about far too much.

No, this is the Inner Marketer.

This voice is looking at your first draft short story and saying, “Wait? You’re nearly at 4K words?? And you have two scenes left? You’ll never be able to market that! Shorter gives you a better chance of slipping in!”

Or, “So, this story about the android – where do you think that will get published? What’s your target market?”

Or, “When is the last time you did a blog post?”

“What was the last thing you put on twitter?”

“Have you tried to get your name out there more?”

“You need to work on that novel. No one will ever pay attention if you just keep writing short stories that only one market publishes!”

Notice one thing about this particular beast. Unlike the Inner Editor, the Inner Marketer doesn’t care about the quality of your story. It’s focused on the hustle. The sale. Everything except the quality of the story itself. In that way, it’s way worse than the Inner Editor.

When the two of them combine, they can completely tear your concentration apart.

Did writers of the past deal with the Inner Marketer? The Inner Editor was a bad enough. Adding this new psycho on the shoulder can be a bit much. It almost makes you want to go a little bonkers and say to both of them:

And play hopscotch on their rib cages.

Where’s Andrija? Or How to Get My Stuff

My third appearance in a ZNB anthology has been out in the world for quite a bit.  PORTALS features my story, “Hard Times in the Vancouver Continuum,” alongside an amazing array of authors.  The ZNB team specializes in making great theme anthologies and the next set of themes has been announced. I’ve got two stories I think will fit with their upcoming anthologies. You can learn more here.

With August gone, and September pretty much out, I’m working on a few more blog posts and also getting ready to start some structural edits to the novel I just finished.  So I figure this is a perfect time to answer my two most commonly asked questions:

“How can I get your stories?” or “What’s the best way to support you?”

The answer comes down to three things: Buy, Review, and Recommend. Buy the book – preferably a physical copy so if you bump into me, or another author, we can sign it. Review the book on, especially on Amazon. Do you know it takes 50 reviews for a book to get noticed by the great Amazon algorithm? If it’s not noticed, it won’t be spotted and recommended to others.  And that last R – Recommend – is key. Tell at least two others about the book. Encourage them to buy.

“How can I get your stories?”

Well, you can go to the link behind the amazing cover for PORTALS to the Amazon order page. But I recommend you go straight to the source: ZNB LLC.  You can get the Ebook edition, the limited Kickstarter mass-market paperback, or the trade paperback edition.   When you do get a copy, read it, review it on Amazon (even if you hate it – a review is a review and gets us noticed), and recommend it to a friend. Again, if you like it. And given the folks in the table of content, you’re bound to find something you like.

Then, do the same for the other anthologies.

 

You can still get copies of THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS from these sources: Trade PaperbackKindleNookKickstarter Edition (limited)

and you can also get my first appearance in the anthology ALIEN ARTIFACTS from here as well: Trade PaperbackKindleNookKickstarter Edition (limited).  And while you’re at it, if you are admiring some of the absolutely amazing artwork here, you can get the covers as prints!  All three covers are by the amazing Justin Adams.  You can get art prints. You can find the cover for PORTALS, THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS, and ALIEN ARTIFACTS right on the ZNB page, along with the other amazing work for anthologies which, alas, do not feature my writing.

Oh, and for those  who are interested, my story under the name A.J. Harris in the STRANDED anthology is still available. Watching all the authors come together to help write the back copy and log-lines for their stories is a cherished memory.

 

“What’s the best way to support you?”

 

Buy, Review, and Recommend.  Buy is the easy concept. I do get a cut of every copy sold. Review intimidates folks but don’t worry – even just adding in some stars on Amazon or Goodreads will help. If we get 50 reviews on an anthology, Amazon’s algorithms (all hail the algorithm) will start recommending the book to others. And, one star reviews count to that as well. Feel free to slag off on my stories, and tell your friends that the best way to ‘own the libs’ is to buy a copy, burn it, and then give it a one star rating on Amazon. It all helps me.

 

Last, but not least, recommend. If you actually like the work put in by all the authors in the anthology, recommend it to at least two new folks.  Keep the cycle going, and we thank you for your support.

 

Now You’re Thinking with PORTALS

Three days from now, my third appearance in a ZNB anthology will be published.  PORTALS features my story, “Hard Times in the Vancouver Continuum,” alongside an amazing array of authors.  The ZNB team specializes in making great theme anthologies, and I honestly wait to hear when the next round of anthologies will be announced.  Writing to a prompt, or taking an idea thrown out at random and crafting it into a story, is a fun challenge for me.

But the real challenge is to make sure small presses like this can keep going.

Every time a book comes out I’m asked, “How can I get it?” or “What’s the best way to support you?”

The answer comes down to three things: Buy, Review, and Recommend. Buy the book – preferably a physical copy so if you bump into me, or another author, we can sign it. Review the book on, especially on Amazon. Do you know it takes 50 reviews for a book to get noticed by the great Amazon algorithm? If it’s not noticed, it won’t be spotted and recommended to others.  And that last R – Recommend – is key. Tell at least two others about the book. Encourage them to buy.

“Where do I get a copy?”

Well, you can go to the link behind the amazing cover for PORTALS to the Amazon pre-order page for the Kindle Edition. But I recommend you go straight to the source: ZNB LLC.  You can get the Ebook edition, the limited Kickstarter mass-market paperback, or the trade paperback edition.   When you do get a copy, read it, review it on Amazon (even if you hate it – a review is a review and gets us noticed), and recommend it to a friend. Again, if you like it. And given the folks in the table of content, you’re bound to find something you like.

But what about the other anthologies?

 

You can still get copies of THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS from these sources: Trade PaperbackKindleNookKickstarter Edition (limited)

and you can also get my first appearance in the anthology ALIEN ARTIFACTS from here as well: Trade PaperbackKindleNookKickstarter Edition (limited).  And while you’re at it, if you are admiring some of the absolutely amazing artwork here, you can get the covers as prints!  All three covers are by the amazing Justin Adams.  You can get art prints. You can find the cover for PORTALS, THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS, and ALIEN ARTIFACTS right on the ZNB page, along with the other amazing work for anthologies which, alas, do not feature my writing.

Oh, and for those  who are interested, my story under the name A.J. Harris in the STRANDED anthology is still available. Watching all the authors come together to help write the back copy and log-lines for their stories is a cherished memory.

Now, go forth. And remember, for any author you want to support: Buy, Review, and Recommend!

Introducing A.J. Harris

I was going to write a completely different post. I wanted to tell folks that my short story “Shelter From the Storm” has just been published in a new anthology: Stranded. The editor, Delilah Devlin, had a great post up about the anthology.

Well, then this kinda happened:

And then this:

Which brings me to A.J. Harris. Why did I choose to have another name for my romantic/erotic fiction? Well, two reasons. The first is really marketing – I wanted a distinction between the brands.

The second reason is my sister. She calls me A.J., all the time. She’s also one of the two big romance readers in my house when growing up. The other was my Baba Ivanna. We’d always find old-school Harlequin romances in her room. And then, there was the chest of drawers in the laundry room, filled with novels. I still remember the one about wearing Highland clans…

So, when my sister asked me if I was getting published under this name, I smiled.

Check it out. Everyone’s done an amazing job, and I’m chuffed to think one day, a copy may end up in the chest of drawers belonging to the grandma of a young writer…

News & More News

I can now make this official. My short story “Hard Times in the Vancouver Continuum” will be featured in the upcoming ZNB anthology PORTALS. This is the third ZNB anthology I’ve appeared in along with ALIEN ARTIFACTS and THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS.

You can click on the image above or the link here to pre-order, or pick up the other anthologies. You’ll be helping me out, and helping keep small press anthologies from a great company going. Oh, and that picture? Yeah, you can get an art print of it. You’re welcome.

This year, my short story “The Pumpkin Spice Revolt” is scheduled for inclusion in ChiZine’s The War on Christmas anthology. This means two Andrija Popovic publications coming up.

And there will be a first this year. I’ve submitted stories under another name – A.J. Harris – to a few anthologies of a steamier nature. Well, looks like I’m going to see print (virtually) in one. The A.J. Harris story of transhuman romance in a flooded world, “Shelter from the Storm,” will be in Stranded: A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology.

Why a romance anthology? Honestly, my first publication was in a (now out of print) collection of erotic ghost stories. And I’ve always written steamier items. Ask me about the book line proposal I’ve always had in my pocket. “Imagine Pathfinder Tales but with sexy bits.”

Why A.J. Harris? My sister calls me AJ. Figured it would be a good name for an alter ego. And I chose Harris because H seems to be a good spot in the alphabet.

Wait, you mean, why the pseudonym? Well, half of it is marketing. I want to establish a separate brand for that name (should it ever come to it). The other half is about, um, making sure that my family and friends know they can stay away from those short stories if they don’t like that sort of thing.

Here’s hoping I can get more news to post like this.

Unemployed in Greenland

I can see the moment in my head like a film sequence. Or a script.

***

INT. Office. Morning.

ANDY walks in, shoulder bag jingling. He turns on the lights and heads to his desk. He only pauses when he sees his BOSS and the DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS (DOPS) seated in the glass fishbowl conference room.

He approaches his desk and drops his bag into this chair. SLOW REVEAL – Andy looks down and sees a FEDEX BOX, open and empty, sitting right beside his desk.

Andy takes a deep breath. His hands start to shake, but he quiets his nerves and puts on a smile just as the Boss comes out of the conference room.

BOSS: Hey, Andy, can we speak with you for a minute?

Andy nods and keeps up his fake smile. He knows what’s coming. But he straightens out his cuffs and turns around.

ANDY: Sure! How can I help?

***

After three months at my new job I, and four others at the company, including the CEO, were given walking papers. In an irony only found in life, and badly scripted films, it was the 2nd anniversary of my marriage that day and this kind of corporate turnover was exactly why I wanted out of my last job.

What lessons? First – you can build a lot of dread and suspense with common items in just the right context. Anyone who sees a moving box on their desk one morning knows what it means. There’s one of two things coming. Either you’re being let go, or someone is running an elaborate Borderlands / Se7en in joke.

“Awww. What’s in the box? What’s in the BOX???”

Second – time is a blessing. It allows you to do things, yes, but it also gives you too much room to get lost in thought. Best to keep busy. Make a schedule. Stick to it. Shave every day. But keep in the back of your mind – you are still in shock. You need to have time to cope.

Third lesson – times like this reveal a lot about folks. The moment my departure hit social media, in addition to the waves of sympathy I also received a half dozen “Call me when you’re ready! Let’s talk!” Good folks react to a problem by running towards it and saying, “How can I help?”

So what do I do? First, take a vacation. I did not take off between my final day with my previous company and joining my last one. So, I’m rectifying this. Will start working towards a job at Memorial Day.

Now? Now I focus on the small things that need doing around the house and on my Litreactor course with the inimitable Gemma Files as my teacher. I will enjoy the vacation weekend I have scheduled with my wife in a secluded part of the Chesapeake Bay. And then I will get back to the job search.

One day, the scene I just wrote out will make it into a story. Just not today. Today, I need to focus on a few other things.