Stories should be fun to read

Back when I was in the Air Force, I found a book in the base book store by a guy of the name of “Dray Prescott”. The book was titled “Beasts of Antares.” Dray Prescott was actually the protagonist, the story was told first person, “As Told To” Alan Burt Akers who I much later learned was a pseudonym for the late Kenneth Bulmer.

I suppose it wasn’t “great literature” but it was fun, it had a moral hero whose primary motivation was devotion to his family (he gets thrown about the world by forces beyond his control and given tasks to complete–and complete them he does since that’s the only way he’s allowed to return back to wife and family), an effort to end slavery on his adopted world, and unite the “civilized” portion of the world to prepare to stave off a potentially civilization-destroying invasion that’s on the way.

Dray was a sailor from late 19th Century Earth, transported to the world of Kregan, around the double star system of Antares making this a tale in the “sword and planet” mold pioneered by Edgar Rice Burroughs and others.

Dray gets caught in a complicated rivalry between two forces, both nominally forces for “good”, the Savanti (humans with some advanced capabilities mixed with sword-swinging adventures) and the Everonye or “Star Lords” who are something else.

The “diffs” that populate Kregen are often little more than humans with an animal head or an extra pair of arms and given to being little more than “racial stereotypes” might make purists cringe. Still, when Bulmer pulled one of the various “diffs” out of the background and made them a character of significance the main characters often learned that there was more to them than just the stereotype of their race.

Although the science is dubious at best, with birds and related animals large enough to carry humans in flight and mixes of minerals that can be used to create anti-gravity airships, other aspects of the story show a remarkable degree of research and thought.

Beasts of Antares, my first exposure to the series, was the 23rd of 38 books that were originally released in the US. (Books originally released in Germany carried the series to 52 volumes.) I bought every book from #23 through to the end and, a few years ago, made a point of completing my collection with the US released versions. I learned at the time that a web site had been releasing ebooks of the later volumes in English but had gone defunct.

Well, just recently I discovered that most of the series (through volume 45) has been released in electronic and paper format. They had plans to do the rest but apparently that’s not happening

So, I have the first “cycle”, starting with volume 1, “Transit to Scorpio” on my iPod Touch and am thoroughly enjoying it.



Revisiting old stories

Spent some time today retyping old stories. At the recommendation of another friend of mine (Sarah A. Hoyt, to be specific) I’m looking to release some of my previously published shorts as ebooks. I had originally had them in Microsoft Works (I know. I know. It’s what came on the computer, Okay? I was too poor to buy anything else.) whichever version was out around ’92 or so. Unfortunately, that was half a dozen computers ago and my old backup files have long since been corrupted. I don’t have a scanner here at home, and we don’t have OCR for the scanner at work. So getting it into an editable format means retyping or spending money I can’t particularly spend at the moment–it’s funny how my expenses have gone up right along with my income.  Part of that, of course, is that a married, middle-aged man with children is not generally willing to live like an unmarried college student.

So, retyped “Match Point” a short of about 7000 words that was originally published in the February 1993 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact.

So now I need to come up with some cover art, get it properly formatted for publication and it can go up soon.

Sometimes things just click

Yesterday, while I was out shopping with my wife and daughter, well, I got inspired with a story idea.  In a matter of minutes I knew the setting, the main character, and the basic plot.  It was going to be a short fantasy piece.

It helped that I already had a setting I had used a couple of times, and some elements of that setting drove the plot.  There was a scene that was essentially already written because it involved certain things that had to happen a certain way because they were already established for that world.  Lift the scene from another work, tweak it for the different characters and details of specific location and there it is, ready to go.

My usual “comfort zone” in writing is the longer novelette to shorter novella lengths (10-20,000 words).  This one, however, I knew was going to be a short piece, probably around 2500-3000 words.

Well, as I got to writing, the story just flowed.  It came right in at about 2800 words using the “average full line” method* I learned when first starting. (I use this method because it gives the best estimate of how much space the story will take in print.)

And so first draft is done.  Next step will be to let it sit a few days and go back to it for another pass and revision.  After that, I’ll send it out to “beta readers” and then go back for a final pass before submitting it for possible publication.

*The “average full line” method works as follows.  You find the average length of a full line in your story.  You ignore short lines.  Just get the average number of characters in a complete full line.  (In most word processors this would simply be lines that wrap rather than terminating in a carriage return.) Divide the number of characters in that average line by 6 to get number of words per line.  Then multiply that number by the number of lines in your story.  That’s your word count.  This method counts short lines such as brief snatches of dialog as if they were full lines.  This is justified because even short lines take up a full line on the page.

Some folk consider it a bit archaic in this day of clicking a menu item and getting a “word count” but it’s the method I learned and it’s the method I use.

Dreamers in Hell out now.

I’m a bit late in getting back to this, but Dreamers in Hell, containing my story “The Knife Edge Bridge” is out now:

You can also find a great review of Dreamers in Hell at Black Gate.
And let me just go ahead and add in other products you might want to look at:

Books and other things by The Writer in Black that you can buy:

Rogues in Hell (Heroes in Hell 13)

Sword & Sorceress 26

Lawyers in Hell (Heroes in Hell 12)

Analog Science Fiction & Fact April ’91

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, Winter 1991

Books by Janet and Chris Morris (Editors of the Heroes in Hell series):

Interview with the Devil (Heroes in Hell series)

The Fish, the Fighters, and the Song Girl

The Sacred Band

Wake of the Riddler

Mage Blood


LibertyCon 26 Schedule

I’ll be attending LibertyCon in Chattanooga June 28-30th.  My schedule is as follows:

Scheduled Programming Events Featuring David L. Burkhead

Day Time Name of Event
Fri 05:00PM Opening Ceremonies
Opportunity to meet the Con Guests and Staff
Fri 09:00PM Reading: David Burkhead & John Manning
Come out and have a seat as our author guests read passages of their works
Gallery B
(60 min)
Sat 10:00AM Dreamers in Hell Roundtable
Perseid Publishing is releasing book sixteen of the “Heroes in Hell” series, and 15 of the Hell Authors will be there to charm you with their tales and autograph your copies as well.
Sat 11:00AM Autograph Session
Autograph sessions will be located in the Dealer’s Room. Authors will cycle through hourly and will be either at the Autograph table or the Perseid Table, except for the author’s that have their own tables who will be available when they are not scheduled in the program.
Sat 01:00PM Yarl vs. Argh!
Rocky Perry moderates the next installment of the Yarl vs. Argh! tour (Vikings vs. Pirates) with a panel of other Viking & Pirate authors to assist
Sat 02:00PM Nanotechnology Now and To Come
David Burkhead moderates a panel on the science and promise of nanotech
Sat 10:00PM “Dreamers in Hell”, “Tomb of Kochun” Launch Parties; IOH and Fictioneers Parties
Hosted by the Hellions and the Bielaczyc Bros. in the Con Suite – come on down!
Sat 11:00PM Mad Scientist Roundtable
Roundtable discussion of various and timely topics moderated by Les Johnson. This is a remarkable panel dating back to the earliest LibertyCons. Everyone gets a say but no one gets to say too much.
Sun 10:00AM Autograph Session
Autograph sessions will be located in the Dealer’s Room. Authors will cycle through hourly and will be either at the Autograph table or the Perseid Table, except for the author’s that have their own tables who will be available when they are not scheduled in the program.

 It should be exciting.

Novel WIP Status

The novel I’ve been writing is on hold a bit.  It’s gotten too complex for me to keep the details I need in my head.  Too many characters, too many ship classes, ranks of different alien species.  That sort of things.  I have an outline, but, like most outlines from which I work, it’s rather loose and general.

As a result, I’m having to take time to sort out some of these details including:

  • build a detailed character list:  who they are, key identifying features, what their basic roll is, when they were introduced (I can just use chapters for that since I’m using rather short chapters here), and especially, where they were when last we saw them.
  • Build a list of ship classes, particularly for the non-human races.  For human ships, I can use terms like “Cruiser” or “destroyer” and most people (at least among fans of mil-SF) will have a reasonable idea where they fit in the scheme of things.  A “second claw” or a “least fang” on the other hand?  That’s a whole other ballgame.
  • Politics is starting to become important to the story.  I was expecting this, but not at this level of detail.  I’m going to have to work out, at least, the structure of the government, maybe even write up a “Constitution” for it.  For the non-humans I can be a bit looser.  After all, that they “don’t always make sense” from a human perspective is a feature, not a bug.  “The thing about aliens is, they’re alien.”
  • I’m not significantly worrying about astrocartography.  The scales are big enough that I don’t have to worry about the details so much.  A “typical” cruise speed for a liner or military vessel using short-jump technology (let’s just say it’s complicated and that there is more than one way to exceed C in the physics of the fictional world) is 1 light year per hour so the volumes covered by spacefaring polities are simply huge and the vast majority of stars within them would be (in current astronomy) nothing more than catalog numbers if that much.