Monthly Archives: May 2011

Meet Steve Simmons

Hi.  My name is Steve, and I tell lies to strangers for money.  Amanda asked me to do a guest-post for the blog as a way of infecting you — uh, I mean, introducing myself to you in preparation for Naked Reader publishing my work.

What then, to blog about?  Talking about myself seems gauche.  Which pretty much narrows the field to writing about writing, since that’s all I’m likely to have in common with folks reading a publisher’s blog.  So, though I suspect that me talking about writing is like asking a kid with training wheels to advise people on mountain-biking … here we go.

Who Are These People, And What Are They Doing In My Head?

What is it that turns a string of words into a “story”, exactly?  Is it an amazing scientific breakthrough, like maybe the replicators from Star Trek?  (Well, their larval form, at least.)   Or a convoluted international murder plot, preferably one involving a high-tech murder weapon?

No.  Those aren’t stories; they’re news articles.  Because they don’t give us Characters to relate to and care about.

Think about the stories you have loved – or hated – most strongly.  It wasn’t the sterile fact that Bag End was changing ownership that brought that lump to your throat; it was those blank pages at the end of Bilbo’s journal, driving home the realization that Sam’s story would somehow have to carry on without Mr. Frodo in it.  And readers don’t wax nostalgic over the details of how the Heart of Gold’s Infinite Improbability Drive was invented; we laugh about Arthur’s unshakable belief that things would all resolve themselves if he could just find that cup of tea.

That’s why we read those stories — “the old stories”, as Samwise called them.  To meet Characters like these, and to relish the experience of coming to love (or hate) them.  But where do such Characters come from?

I wish I knew.  All I know is I’m glad they stop by from time to time.  Even the rather-less-pleasant ones.  Because that’s more or less how it works, for me: they just “stop by”, usually just long enough to say “Hi.”

No, I don’t “hear voices”, in the classic pop-psychology sense.  But the Brownian motion in our hind-brain is constantly flinging together assorted bits and pieces of our experience in response to external stimuli, and sometimes the things that pop into my forebrain are feelings or attitudes complex enough to be viewed as Characters.  They typically arrive complete with settings and/or portraying very specific emotions or attitudes.  Allen L. Wold (a long-published writer of whom I’ve had the good fortune to translate from fan to friend and quasi-mentee) calls these “autonomous complexes”.

Which means that I get randomly interrupted by such things as:

             “If you did refuse to co-operate, things of which you would likely disapprove would almost certainly follow.”

             “Oh, I don’t know, milord.  I’m not a very judgmental person, all things taken together.”

            One eyebrow advanced purposefully up the magistrate’s forehead, as though to lay claim to area abdicated by his retreating hairline.  “Is that so?  Tell me, how do you feel about drawing and quartering, then?”

            Jack felt his Adam’s apple begin to bob, though it was yet several months shy of Hallowe’en.  “Uh, would you be meaning in a general, civic-theory sort o’ sense, sir?”

             “No, Master Kendall.  I would be meaning in a rather more specific and applied-science sort of manner.  Not that you would be in any position to record any findings, of course.”

             “Oh, well then.  Then I expect you’re right sir.  I find that I am quite judgmental, after all.”  Jack swallowed once more.  “What was it you had in mind then, milord?”

Or maybe:

            “Yes, Miss Dickenson, the art IS speaking to me.”

            “Wonderful, Timmy, wonderful.”

            “No, Miss Dickenson, you don’t understand.  Could you ask the art to STOP speaking to me, please?”

            “What ever do you mean, Timmy?”

            “I mean the art really is SPEAKING to me.  And what it’s saying is very scary …”

Or even:

            “But his eyes showed a smile that his heart never knew.  A smile that spoke of malice, of the diversions that might be found in harming those who strayed too near …”

I always make a point of jotting these little bits down, whenever they appear. Some of these visitors have gone on to become finished stories, like the Gremlin you’ll be meeting in Here There Be Faeries next month.  Others haven’t yet told me where they belong, and are languishing in the “Ideas” folder of my hard drive.  This boy turned out to be an extensive additional story-line in a book I had thought was already fully plotted:

            A change in his companion’s breathing attracted the burly teenager’s attention.  “Stop that, Father.  It wasn’t your fault.”

            Himmer’s breathing grew more ragged, not less.  “A lot you know, boy.  She trusted me, and I failed her.”

            “He had three of your arrows in him, Father!  Three arrows, all to the mark, in less time than it took him to cross the garden.  What other hunter could have done that?  What more can you ask of yourself?  What more could anyone ask?”

            “I could ask to save my own wife!”  Himmer screamed, as the tears broke through the last vestiges of his resolve.  “I could ask to save my own babe,” he sobbed.  “Not stand useless while my half-grown son does what I wasn’t man enough to finish.”

Wherever you find your Characters, never forget that it is their story, not yours.

*   *   *   *

Steve is one of NRP’s new authors.  His short story, Here There Be Faeries, is now available at our site and will shortly be available from Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.


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New Titles are now available!

Despite rain and hail and a couple of technical issues, we now have five new titles available at our website.

The first, Flight of the Phoenix by Chris McMahon, is a prequel to The Jakirian Cycle which begins with The Calvanni, due out next month.

Belin has earned a comfortable retirement after years as a general in the service of the Bulvuran Empire.  But, as is often the case with warriors, it isn’t to be.  Beset by visions of the demise of the Emperor,Belin strikes off across the leagues from the Delta province to the capital Raynor to save Empress Evelyn and her newborn child from death at the hands of the Eathal  shapechanger and Sorcerer Geisel. The general’s legendary greatscythe skills will be put to the test against overwhelming opposition. He must overcome the treachery of those Suul who seek to profit from the fall of the Empire – and confront his own fears of Sorcery as he comes face-to-face with Geisel.

The second title is The Last Voiceby Robert A. Hoyt.   Science rushes headlong into a conflict with morality, love with duty.  An asteroid, a “planet killer”, threatens all life. Scientists rush to build the ships necessary to carry their people to the safety of the stars.  But at what cost?  Is it demanding too much when the removal of sentience is involved in the building process?  Robert takes these questions and looks at them in his own unique way. . . which means along with spaceships, there are dinosaurs and a love that may just be enough to justify the ultimate sacrifice.

Next up is Pam Uphoff’s novella, Lawyers of Mars.  It started simply enough.  Thanks to an over-confident prosecutor and easily twisted scientific theory, Xaero L’svages managed to get her client off on charges he’d been part of a terroristic plot.  Oh, she had no doubt Blozolli was part of the Red Ever Mars conspiracy.  But that wasn’t her concern.  She’d done her job and now it was time to move on to the next case, hopefully one that wouldn’t be quite so politically explosive.  Of course, that was before her nephew managed to get himself kidnapped by supporters of Red Ever Mars.  Now it’s up to Xaero to rescue him and, along the way, rescue a prince or two as well.  No one said practicing law on Mars would be dull.

Here There Be Faeries is Stephen Simmons’ take on what might happen if the United Nations one day found itself confronted by a delegation of the fantastical kind.  International relations take a strange twist when the U.N. finds a number of new delegates demanding recognition.  Faeries and elves, goblins and ents, and even Death himself make an appearance in this game of wits not only to save all Faeriekind but, quite possibly, humankind as well.

Finally we have Leslie Fish’s Revocare.  A lovers’ triangle leads to a life-and-death struggle deep beneath the Earth’s surface in a world of nightmares.  Will human determination and ingenuity be enough to defeat not only hunger and thirst but also creatures that should never exist?

Of course, these titles, like all our others, are DRM-free.


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Monday morning

Just a quick note to remind you to check the NRP site later today for our new releases.  They will be available this afternoon.  We’ll also be putting up a guest post by one of our new authors later today as well.  Until later!

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Release Day on Monday

As you can probably tell by the sparcity of posts this week, we’ve all been busy here at NRP.  One of the changes instituted this month and goes into effect starting Monday is a new publication schedule.  From Monday forward, we will be releasing new titles the first and third Monday of each month.  July will be the exception where we will have only one release date — so the folks here can have some much earned down time.

Monday’s titles will include Chris McMahon’s novella, Flight of the Phoenix, a prequel of sorts to his Calvanni trilogy (Book 1 comes out June 20th), Pam Uphoff’s novella, Lawyers of Mars, Leslie Fish’s short story, Revocare, and Stephen Simmons short story, Here There be Faeries.

June, probably middle to late June, will also see the release in hard copy of Kate Paulk’s novel, Impaler, as well as Dave Freer’s middle grade/early YA novella, Without a Trace.  Both are currently available through at our site or through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and will shortly be available through Smashwords and their affiliates.

Blogging will, hopefully, return to normal next week.


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Without a Trace

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Dave Freer’s  novella, Without a Trace ($2.99) is now available for purchase.  It will also be available later this week from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.  As with all our titles, there is NO DRM added.

In Without a Trace, Dave brings us the exciting new middle grade/early YA fantasy-adventure story of young Mike O’Hara and his quest to find out what happened to his grandfather.

*     *     *

Mike O’Hara has spent his life defending the family honor. His grandfather, Cap’n Al O’Hara, has been called everything from smuggler to coward and it is said he abandoned his family rather than pay his debts. Mike knows better, but what’s a boy to do?

When his father is injured in an automobile accident and the authorities threaten to take Mike from the family farm, Mike knows he has to do something. Spurred on by a radio transmission that just might be from Cap’n Al, Mike and his best friend, Amos, start out on a mission to find his grandfather. His journey takes him to an alternate South Africa inhabited by pirates and worse. Mike quickly finds himself in a race against time to rescue his grandfather and return home – before it’s too late.

 *     *     *

You’ve heard of the Bermuda triangle? You know, where compasses suddenly start to spin wildly, with a sudden darkness at noon, where ships and planes sometimes just disappear. When they’re gone, they’re just… gone, and nothing ever comes back. There are other places where this is supposed to happen too. There’s a spot deep in the Gobi, and another above the Java Trench. And then… there’s the Wild Coast…. some very strange things have happened there. Over the years Portuguese Carracks, British East Indiamen, and, in 1908, the Wahratah have disappeared off that coast.

On the 27th of July in 1981 my granddad flew his Piper Cherokee out from the little bumpy airstrip on our farm, in the direction of Port St. Johns. He flew off to go and take a swarm of bees out of a friend’s holiday cottage. He flew out of our lives, and for all anyone knew out of this world. He and his plane were “missing”. They’d just disappeared, disappeared without a trace. No wreckage was ever found.

Then the problems started.

For starters he was in trouble with the security police. Politics, guns. They reckoned Granddad was a gun-runner. My old man says it was quite possible. He says his dad was up to anything, provided it was totally lunatic. Everyone had thought he was a rich man, but it seemed he owed a lot of money. There was very little money in his bank account.

Then the story came out. He’d drawn out twenty thousand Rand the day before he flew, and bought Krugerrands with it. He’d been buying gold for years, it seemed. Suddenly, nobody believed he’d crashed anymore. Everyone said he’d cut and run. Everyone but my dad.

“My father never ran away from anything in his life!” That’s what he said to the papers then. That’s what he said to me maybe a thousand times since. My dad was twenty three then, not even married a year, and still having a grand old time at University. Me, I was three months old.

Suddenly he wasn’t a rich man’s son anymore. Suddenly he didn’t have any friends. Three days later he didn’t have a wife either. She left him with a baby boy, a stack of debts and no future.

He’d lost everything but the farm. Fortunately, my grandmother had left that to Dad. Granddad couldn’t be proved to be dead, so my father never got to see Granddad’s will. Granddad was well insured, but Dad couldn’t claim anything because Granddad wasn’t legally dead. The plane was insured too, but it was just “missing”.

*   *   *   *

Click here to see what Shiny Book Reviews had to say about Without a Trace.

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Friday Morning Links

I’m up to my elbows today in reviewing edits and such, so today’s post is going to be short.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back this afternoon and do a longer post.  Until then, here are a couple of links that caught my eye this morning:

Harper, Donnelley in Wide Ranging Supply Chain Deal — what this means in the long term for authors has yet to be explained.  However, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t another way to prevent a title from going out-of-print.  If so, authors, you need to make sure your agents are taking that into account in your contracts.

Borders is once again in the news — twice.  The first is this call from the CEO Mike Edwards once more telling publishers to “trust me” and start sending stock under reasonable terms.  In other words, we’ll pay when we’re good and ready.  And he doesn’t understand why they aren’t willing to run the risk.

The second is this article from PW where it is speculated that there has been an offer for Borders.  Note, however, that in the link in the previous paragraph, Edwards does his best to downplay that possibility.

Finally, there has been an e-mail sent by Edwards to the Borders Reward customers.  In the same metaphorical breath as he tells everyone he is confident Borders will emerge from bankruptcy as a “best-in-class” bookseller, he also says they are expanding children’s games as well as their stationary and gift offerings.  Hmm…bookseller….riiiiight.  And in what I’m sure is a great cost-cutting measure — yes, I’m being sarcastic here — they are offering, for a limited time, free priority shipping to the customer’s home any title not in stock.  All you have to do is come into your friendly neighborhood Borders to take advantage of the deal.  Well, I checked.  My friendly neighborhood Borders is at least half an hour away, without running into traffic delays.  I’d pass at least two Barnes & Noble stores.  Hmm….why am I going to Borders?

Okay, more later.


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The Prescience and Divergence of Disaster Manga

So, here we are, closing in on two months since the earthquake and tsunamis caused so much damage and chaos in Japan.  Honestly, it has taken me this long to shake off the dread and discomfort of what happened enough to comment on the topic of today’s Animanga Viewpoint.

The reality is, no matter how horrific the quakes, tsunami, and aftershocks were, the Japanese knew they were coming.  Japan is a first world nation and proud inhabitant of one of the most active seismic and volcanic zones on the planet.  They have had cities wiped out before because of these things and they know they will again.  Hell, they even lived through Curtis LeMay’s policy of firebombing cities from low altitude at night, let alone having two cities nuked.

The Japanese know disasters happen, both natural and man-made.

Knowing doesn’t make it any easier to actually live through, though, especially after a generation or two.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s manga discussion.  You see, disasters – man-made, natural, or alien-induced – are one of the more fundamental backdrops used by manga and anime creators in their world building.  I want to share an overview of three currently running manga, each of which has an eerie tie-in in form if not fact to the recent Japanese calamity.  These manga are: Kanojo wo Mamoru 51 no Houhou (51 Ways to Protect your Girlfriend),  The Meteor, and Coppelion.

All of these manga are not yet available via US distributors.  They can, however, be accessed at and other online readers.

We’ll start with Kanojo wo Mamoru 51 no Houhou by Furuya Usamaru.  The main characters are Mishima Jin, a young man seeking his first job with a Tokyo TV station and Okano Nanako, a young woman from Jin’s past who happens to be in the same area of Tokyo Odaiba when Jin arrives for his interview.  There are a host of other characters, as well, but I’ll just mention Jin and Nanako (who is referred to by her last name, Okano, in the manga).

So, the basic set-up is that fate has brought these two together again after some rather scarring incidents happened during their high school years.  They briefly meet in the street but the changes that have occurred in the intervening years immediately present a wall that Jin can’t cross even to just talk to Okano.

Time slips by, Jin finishes his interview, but on the way out of Odaiba, he runs across Okano being bullied by other groupies of the rock group she follows.  He chases off the abusers and then finally gets a chance to glimpse into the weird world that Okano has fallen into after the trauma she endured in high school.  One thing leads to another and Okano ends up stalking off in a huff.  After a moment’s reflection, Jin runs off to find her.

He catches up to her in the middle of a bridge, lost in praying to her made up rock-n-roll gods.  His memories and regrets catch up to him and he tries to apologize for not defending her in the past, but that’s when it happens.

Tokyo gets hit dead center by a major (8.0 or higher) earthquake.

This is where the story really begins.  Now, understand that Jin and Okano’s reunion is a backdrop, the empathy-building background we need to care about whether or not our viewpoint characters survive.  However, what Kanojo 51 is really about is showing a plausible extrapolation of what could happen to Tokyo and the people living there if the city were out and out smacked by the god-hammer.

The author has obviously done his research.  Liquifaction, structural distortion, fires, disruptions of key services, all the factors that go into what makes a disaster like an earthquake in a major city so horrible are all there.

Then he goes after the societal break down.  Once people start to realize that the strictures of society are gone, the abuses start.  Theft, murder, and especially rape start to run rampant.  I think, frankly, that the author focuses too much on rape.  In fact, my impression is that the author honestly has little to no belief in the ability of human beings to attempt to do much good for each other and it comes out in the story.

Then again, he’s not exactly alone.

The Meteor, by Hayashi Fumino, is another cataclysmic disaster manga, this time set in an undesignated city in the mountains of Japan.  This story is different from Kanojo 51 in that the cast of characters is better defined at the beginning.  The titular main character is Kawana Tomoko, a girl currently being ostracized within her school due to a relationship she had with a  teacher.  She does her best to ignore the rumors and jibes directed at her, but just as her temper grows short and she turns to snap at her tormentors, something massive falls out of the sky and smashes their city.

The structure of The Meteor is one of a mixture of personal back stories mixed with current events in the plot line.  Each character has a tale to tale preceding the event and their stories move forward within the framework of the disaster that the whole group must overcome.  The result is a noir adventure story with every viewpoint character’s trials and tribulations preceding the disaster greatly influencing their actions during the crisis.

The Meteor also features extrapolations of the difficulties inherent in surviving a massive disaster, this time a sizable meteor impact with an added pandemic of unknown origin.  It moves more quickly into the “breakdown of society” meme than Kanojo 51, though, and that’s where the real focus of the story lies.  The technical details that populate Kanojo 51 are more or less absent from The Meteor, but both works share a view that humanity will immediately balkanize and begin turning feral once the cuffs of civilization are off.

Frankly, I haven’t heard those kinds of stories coming out of Japan following the recent tsunami.  Instead, we heard about the problems with the one reactor that caused a great deal of panic and consternation, but we also heard tertiary stories of how people were attempting to work together to deal with the various hardships and emergencies.  Perhaps this is more indicative of the nature of the rural areas that the tsunami hit.  If Tokyo had actually been significantly traumatized, maybe there would have been a massive amount of civil disorder and violence.  Hopefully we’ll never know.

Speaking of the nuclear plant issues, the last manga I’ll mention is Coppelion by Inoue Tomonori.  Coppelion is the story of a group of school girls, Narusae, Aoi, and Taeko as they go on an outing to Tokyo.  (Yes, Tokyo again.)

Now, what’s a bit different here is that nobody generally goes to Tokyo anymore.  This is because 25 years ago, Tokyo was contaminated by a major nuclear disaster and has been flooded with lethal levels of radiation ever since.

The girls in actuality are genetically engineered clones created with a specific body chemistry that allows them to survive in high-radiation environments.  Their “outing” is actually a graduation mission from their training school to locate and rescue “survivors” still populating the area.  (The survivors live in regions of lesser radiation but still have to wear survival suits.)

To be honest, Coppelion’s  prognostications are little more than anti-nuclear scaremongering.  The disaster at the nuke plant in Japan is not anything to laugh at, but it’s not exactly Chernobyl, either, and even Chernobyl isn’t as bad as the nightmare of contamination that Coppelion calls down upon chicken little’s head.  Still, it makes a sufficient backdrop for the story and it’s a far more palatable story than either of the other two manga I mentioned.  In fact, the idea of people helping others to the best of their ability is core to Coppelion.  The girls are there to help and what they find are people who are also working together to get by in increasingly difficult times.  Whereas the first two manga I mentioned expect the worse of people, Coppelion offers up the best (so long as your Japanese, that is.  A negative foreign influence is hinted at recently in none too subtle a tone.)

And I think that a hopeful element is important.  Yes, people can be shallow and selfish and cruel.  They can also be noble and selfless and caring.  Authors present what they expect people to be, whether they intend to or not.  Either that or most authors think that stories of people doing their best in difficult times are boring.  My personal tastes, though, are to root for people facing great difficulties together and overcoming.  Ergo, of these three views of possible disaster in Japan, I prefer Coppelion over Kanojo 51 or The Meteor.

That having been said, all three eerily parallel what has transpired in Japan this year in terms of potential disasters become reality.  Let’s hope the majority of what the posit remains fiction.

–Darwin Garrison

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