Blimprider Times, No. 11

Featured Site of the Week

Good morning, all, and welcome back to the exciting world of whatever this is…  This week, I’m going to introduce you all to Richie Billing, a fairly new friend I met in a Facebook group, The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing CollectiveHe is the administrator of said group, a collection of like-minded writers of various levels of experience who get together daily to discuss our Craft.  As anyone who has spent time in an internet group knows, its success or failure rides on the attitude of the admin, and Richie is proving to be a most admirable example of that particular life form.  We hit it off immediately, and I have joined his website, Richie Billing.  His approach to his web page is very much like my own:  He talks about his writing projects and offers insights into the various lessons he has learned in pursuit of the Craft.

I don’t have much personal information on Richie.  He’s from Liverpool, though whether he’s still there is an unknown.  He comes across as being about half my age, and my current understanding is that he has several short stories out there in anthologies while he edits his 47-chapter novel.  He has some very good ideas about the Craft, and is friendly and open with his opinions about the same.  My recommendation, if you have an interest in writing or writers, is to read his work at the group or his page, then drop him a line and get acquainted.  This young man is fun to talk with, and a worthwhile contact.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to meet him.

View From the Blimp

Regular readers will be aware that I completed A Visit of State, the first novella of the first collection of Darklighter stories, and that it is available to read for free by clicking the corresponding tab below the blog’s title above.  Think of it as lightly steampunked alternative history concerning a Victorian-era organization similar in concept to The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  If that sounds in any way interesting to you, read the story above, and when you come back, I have an offer for you.

All right, finished?  Good.  Here’s the offer:  Over the course of the next eight to twelve months, I plan to be writing four more similar stories connected by a story arc which will become a book titled The Darklighters: Hong Kong.  Those four stories will only be released to the public when they are published for sale on Amazon.  But I’m offering a select few people the chance to read them free as they are being written.

Writers need extra eyes on their stories as they are under construction.  You may be shocked to hear this, but writers aren’t always infallible.  We make typos, use erroneous grammar, even leave gaping plot holes in our haste to complete that all-important first draft, and one of the most important tools we have to combat those shortcomings is a pool of beta-readers.  I would like to have about a half-dozen knowledgeable readers for this task, and here’s what I’m offering to anyone who would like to join my team:

  • Obviously, you’ll be the first people to read these stories, as I’ll be sending them to you for comments and suggestions before publication.
  • You’ll be mentioned by name with your web addresses, for those who have blogs or other sorts of pages, on the book’s acknowledgement page.
  • When the book is published, you’ll receive a signed copy for your library.

I’d love to pay $100 per chapter, but I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around.  I’m hoping that this offer can attract a half-dozen readers with some experience in the action, spy, or steampunk genres.  Interested parties may use the contact form or my Facebook page to set it up.

In other news, I recently blogged about the upcoming Port Reprieve anthology, and posted the beautiful map that we can’t use because I don’t know who owns it, nor how to apply for permission.  Factually, we couldn’t use it anyway, because any map we attach to our book has to be in black-and-white, so I put this together:


Primitive though it is, it shows all the pertinent locations around the port that might appear in the stories.  We’re hoping to produce stories with a wide assortment of styles, tones, and moods, so keep an eye on the Blimp; I’ll be announcing its release here.

Yesterday, the 17th, this site sailed past the 1,000 visitor mark.  That’s over the first three months, which puts it on track for 4,000 in the first year.  Not much in the grand scheme of things, but that’s a better pace than any site I’ve had yet.  Now all that remains to be seen is where the balance lies; will more people find it and speed the pace, or will the people who found it and didn’t find it interesting enough to come back predominate?  Guess which outcome I’m hoping for…

Finally, in the Ain’t it a Small World department, I went to the clinic yesterday to leave a blood sample; can’t be too careful when you have pre-diabetes.  Well, I wore my patrol cap with goggles, as I always do when I go out in public, and one of the technicians asked if I was a steampunk.  She was an older lady, so I was a little surprised, but always happy to answer.  “Yes,” I said, “I’m actually a steampunk author.”  She replied that she is the mother of one of the members of Steam Powered Giraffe, so no surprise she knew about the punk; she has better cred than I do!  I was suddenly answering questions about being an author, and I won’t pretend that it was in any way annoying, but between the conversations and having a needle stuck into my elbow joint, I’ve lost the name of which member it was, but I gave her one of my classy cards, and hopefully, she or her son will stop by soon and get me sorted on that.


In Other News…

Regular followers will know that one of my favorite authors, Karen Carlisle, is about to launch a new book series, Aunt Enid, Protector Extraordinaire.


I’ve posted about the subject matter a couple of times, but what I want to tip you off to here is that Karen is having a Facebook launch party on the 29th of this month.  She’s in Australia, so she’ll be coming to US and European audiences from the future.  I’ll leave you each to work out your local parameters, but this will be the 28th in the US.  She’ll be on Facebook all day, chatting, answering questions, and making new friends, so drop in at your convenience and get to know a great person who really knows how to write.  There are some other associated events listed on the announcement, so you don’t have to wait for the main event.  Click the link and go visiting!

And that’s thirty for today.  Join me again Tuesday when I’ll be looking at the words we use to deceive one another.  I promise I won’t use them on you though, so be sure to drop in and add some new tools to your writer’s bag of tricks.  Now, get out there and live life like you mean it!

What Did You Write That For?

“Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.”


I have had a long and preponderantly happy life, and a good deal of that happiness has come from my writing, and the response of both friends and strangers to it.  I’m a guy who dropped out of school after 11th grade, joined the military and had a big adventure while learning what they could teach me.  Returning to civilian life, I continued to write, my four years in the navy providing a rich mine of characters, locations, and situations as grist for my mill.  As an author, I am technically, I suppose, self-taught, as I couldn’t afford college or writing retreats.  I did have the wherewithal to discover, seek out, and filter what spoke to my developing style into a concise library from among the thousands of how-to-write-books books that are available, so in that sense, you could say that I’ve been taught by the best, from Evan Marshall to Stephen King.  In spite of all this, when I began to finish books and seek publication, America’s acquisition editors proved to be the one group that I couldn’t crack, and I managed to collect rejection slips from more publishers than most people know exist.

Apparently, reading instructional manuals written by great authors isn’t quite the same as sitting in their classrooms, reacting to their lessons and being able to ask pertinent questions, yet in spite of this, with the exception of those editors, virtually everyone I have been able to get my work in front of professes to like it a great deal.  It began with friends, family, and coworkers, when I would hand them a manuscript and say, “Tell me what you think.”  I found an extended audience in, when I joined back around 2011.  I began the construction of Beyond the Rails, shared every story there, and scores of strangers loved it.  When I discovered CreateSpace in 2013, I published the first six stories as a book.  Reviewers and critics ate it up, and that was all the encouragement I needed.  I have since stepped away from, and I’ll concede that that could be a mistake, but I felt like I needed a professional-looking “me-only” web page to represent me to the world, so here I am with four books published and more on the way, and with the kind assistance of WordPress, a most professional-looking page to represent me to the world.

So, given my background, what is the secret of my success?

“Success?” you ask.  “But you never inked that big contract with a publisher.  Where is this success you speak of?”

Well, success has as many different meanings as there are people seeking it, and my success has been vindication, validation of the fact that I really can tell a good story that can hold a reader’s interest from the first hook to the final victory.  I get three or four Emails a day about my work; Stephen King gets three or four thousand, but I’m happy.  Like most writers, I’m essentially a private person, and I’m not sure I’d do well if thousands of people were clamoring for interviews, TV appearances, convention panels and the like.  Monetarily, sure, but there are other measures of success besides money, and to me, having that little intimate group of fans, and a few book sales each month lights my heart with joy.  In essence, I had a long, productive career, I have a better-than-adequate retirement package, and my days are devoted to my loving family; I’m not sure I’d enjoy being yanked out of here to put on a Halloween costume and strut around some hot, crowded convention over a long weekend.  But being appreciated as a writer?  There are few rewards that approach that feeling.

So how did a barely-educated high school dropout reach this point?  I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I think the answer has to be by writing what I love.  I was a child in the 1950s, and we weren’t well-off.  One of the things I vividly remember was a near-weekly trip downtown to hit the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores.  As a young child, I always picked over the toy bin to see what treasure some anonymous little kid had parted with, but as I got a little older, I developed a love of reading, and if there’s one thing that thrift stores have in burgeoning abundance, it’s books.  Back in the 50s, I was poring over shelves and bins of books written in the 30s and 40s, and even then, I loved action and adventure.  But books in those days, even books aimed at adults, could be read by children, because they weren’t dripping with gore and torture scenes, the women didn’t fall into someone’s bed every time they tripped, the heroes were heroic, and the villains didn’t have to have some redeeming quality.  I began to miss those books as I grew to adulthood and they fell out of favor with whoever decides what books make it to our bookstores, and since no one else was going to write them, I decided I would write them myself.  My surprise was complete when my modest modern audience embraced them like they had never seen them before!

I think there’s a moral here somewhere, something that writers can take away and use, and I think it might be to write what you love.  Not what you know, what you love.  If you write the stories you love, and let that love of your chosen type and genre show through on the page, you will have won 90% of the battle…  At least, that’s my experience.

In Other News…

I have already mentioned the fine work of Bryce Raffle and David Lee Summers in the short life of this site.  Today I have the pleasure of directing you to the place where you can find both of these upright gentlemen together and interacting.  Allow me to present the latest edition of Dead Steam, Bryce’s blog, where he interviews David about his career as an author.  Very much worth getting to know these two, and as an added bonus, you might find a new read or two among his eleven novels, eighty-five short stories, and fifty-five poems.

Well, that’s it for me.  Join me again Friday for a Blimprider Times where I’ll feature a site that I’ve found entertaining, and bring you up to date on what’s been happening around the intergalactic airship of your mind.  See you then!

Blimprider Times, No. 10

Featured Site of the Week

Naomi Rawle

This week, I’m spotlighting an old friend, Naomi Rawle, or more precisely, her web page.  Naomi, who goes by Noa (which I think might be tied to her initials), is a writer who has learned to make the most of the slivers of time available to her.  You see, she teaches English as a second language in Greece, and I can’t imagine how time-consuming that must be!  Still, she finds time to write short stories that are routinely accepted by anthologies, and she blogs on occasion.  “Occasion” meaning that she’ll go a month or more between posts, then get out two or three right on top of each other.  She always makes them count, though, blogging about her projects and progress, promoting her anthologies, and even having the occasional guest, such as last month’s guest post by David Wiley, author of Monster Huntress.

I’ve known Noa for several years, having first met her in the now-defunct Scribblers’ Den writing group of the old Steampunk Empire.  She is a knowledgeable author and a deep conversationalist, and I highly recommend that you take a few moments to pay her a visit.  You’ll find this multi-talented lady holding court on her blog, Through the Eyes of a Stranger.

View from the Blimp

The aforementioned Scribblers’ Den was hands-down the greatest writing group I’ve even been associated with.  It was everything I wanted a group to be, in some part because I created it.  It lasted for two years and had 180+ members who were constantly chattering about Things Book, making our message board look more like a chatroom forum.  Then one morning, a steaming pile of rancid horse shit (sorry, I’d spin that some other way if I could) woke up in a foul mood and deleted the whole site!  Over 20,000 members lost stories, diagrams, blogs, blueprints, videos, sheet music, photographs, game prototypes, thousands of pieces of personal material, tens of thousands, gone on one asshole’s whim.

My good friend William Jackson, with the support of Lee Jahn, Steven Moore, and a few others, has attempted to recreate it on a new social media site.  Me, I don’t think a group like that comes along more than once in a lifetime, but I’m over there as an ordinary member, hoping against hope.  The fact is that only twenty-seven of us have found our way back, and some of them aren’t original members.  Still, they’re a courteous and enthusiastic lot, so perhaps…

So, why all this babble about Scribbler’s Den?  Aside from the fact that I’m still angry about our shabby treatment from a year ago, there is an upcoming project I want to get you all thinking about.  You see, each fall to celebrate the anniversary of our founding, members of Scribblers’ Den have produced an anthology with a theme.  This year’s theme is Port Reprieve.

Port Reprieve is an alternate reality we created which sees the Civil War end in 1864 by European intervention.  Mobile AL was under siege at the time, and has been battered to rubble by the Union mortar boats.  A new settlement called Port Reprieve has been established on the west side of the bay.  It is now 20 years on, Port Reprieve rivals Charleston and New Orleans for the title of “Queen of the South,” and Yankees are very much persona non grata.  The port is a melting pot of Europeans, Africans, and Asians, is very steampunk in flavor, and is populated by everything from conniving dowagers to mad scientists, dangerous street urchins to exotic prostitutes and spies.  The swamps and forests behind the town are believed to be inhabited by cryptozoological creatures from human/animal hybrids to loup-garou.  Are they really, or do people’s imaginations get the better of them on dark, lonely nights?  We writers have found the mysterious and multi-layered city a fabulous locale to let imagination off the leash to hunt, and we’re gambling that readers will share in the mystique.  We’ll all find out together this fall, I suppose…

In support of the original project, I modified this map and posted it on the group’s page.  I found no copyright info attached to it, though I’m sure belongs to someone:


My next task, before I begin the second Darklighters story, is to create a new map, owned by me, that rivals this one, and infringes no copyright so that it can be used in the new anthology.  No telling how long I’ll be on this one, but there is one rule known and respected by all serious indie authors:  If you want to get support, you have to give support!  This is just part of the dues…

Most of you probably don’t know that I have another blog called Jack’s Hideout where I blog about non-writing activities.  It doesn’t see much action anymore, but last night I saw the most scathingly brilliant movie, and felt compelled to tell the world…  And, no, it isn’t an Avengers movie!  Come check it out when you’re ready for a truly imaginative treat.

In Other News…



Speaking of William Jackson, he has re-released From an Irradiated Crypt, the third book of the Rail Legacy series, with a new cover by Bryce Raffle Designs.  William’s original cover is on the left, Bryce’s update on the right.  I’ll leave them to speak for themselves…



And we’re done here!  Join me next Monday when I’ll try to start the workweek off right with a discussion of what your motivation should be to write compelling fiction.  See you then!