Archives: Twilight Times Books

Under Strange Suns


Cue the fanfare. Commence drumroll. Ahem. Is this thing on?

Ladies and gentlemen, readers of all ages…well, readers of appropriate age, anyways. I’m please to announce that Under Strange Suns is available for purchase beginning August 25, digitally, and December 25 in print edition.

At it Again: Yet Another Post-Signing Report

I enjoyed another signing recently. And I mean enjoyed; beer featured prominently.

The accommodating publicans at Journeys Pub, Bob and Shannon, offered to host a signing of “Reunion.” Not only did they offer the venue, they advertised the event and held all night happy hour. So, to all those who enjoyed the discount on beverages, “You’re welcome.”

A pub provides a different atmosphere for a signing than does a bookstore. Not an improper or unpleasant atmosphere, just different. The sale of books is not the primary purpose of the establishment. Most of the people there are present to consume food and drink. They aren’t thinking foremost about books. But a pub is a convivial place, and what better topic of conversation than books? Especially when you just so happen to have some for sale.

I had a chance to chat with several people, savored a pint of a pretty decent red ale, and sold some copies of my novel. Not a shabby evening, by any stretch. In fact, I’m wondering if there are any other Portland area pubs interested in having me monopolize a table and peddle my papery wares. Drop me an email, I don’t take up much space.



My Second Novel, “Under Strange Suns”

No suspense, no buildup. Here’s the deal: I placed my novel Under Strange Suns with Twilight Times Books.

There, that’s out of the way. Details, then. It is a science fiction story. Or rather, planetary romance written with a twenty-first century audience in mind. That means, pace Burroughs, I cannot simply have my protagonist fall asleep on Earth then wake on an alien planet. While that works well for John Carter, and I’m not knocking ERB’s story-telling at all (perish the thought of such hubris), I don’t think it would go over well with contemporary audiences in a new novel. Meaning reliance on science fiction instead of fantasy. While the science may – from the perspective of today’s physicists –  be functionally equivalent to the John Carter dream transit in plausibility, at least it has the scaffolding of science to hang the implausibilities on. Spaceships! FTL!

Contest, Qui audet adipiscitur

A short story I wrote entitled “Resource” appears in the anthology “The Ways of Magic” released last week by Deepwood Publishing, which published another story of mine “Escapement” in the anthology “Ancient New.” So that’s pretty cool. Check it out.

But let’s switch things up a bit, do something a bit different in this web log. I’m going to present a contest in support of neither of the projects mentioned above. Instead let’s focus on my novel “Reunion” from Twilight Times Books. “Reunion” is available digitally now, with the print edition to follow in mid-June. I have a couple Advance Review Copies of the print edition sitting in a box in my library. I would like to send a signed copy to the contest winner. Here’s what I propose: anyone who purchases a digital copy between now and, oh, let’s say Wednesday, April 16th can enter the contest. To enter just send me an email with your digital receipt of purchase, that is, the email acknowledgment you received from Amazon or whatever digital store you bought “Reunion” from. On the 16th I will select a receipt at random (maybe using some polyhedron dice that are gathering dust since I don’t have a D&D game going at the moment) and will mail the winner a signed copy of “Reunion.” Hey, if you win, you get an advance review print edition for less than half the retail price and free shipping. If you don’t then you’ve still got a book to read.

Fine print. Contest limited to United States residents at least eighteen years old. Digital receipt must carry a date of sometime between April 6 and April 16. Odds of winning depend upon the number of valid entries received. Void where prohibited. Swim at your own risk. No life guard on duty.

So there you go. I told you I’d do something different with this post.


Romance and marriage are atypical subjects of speculative fiction, usually either consigned to the B-plot or give short-shrift if included at all.  That’s fine: not every book must contain every possible element.  Absence of a wooing, dalliance, or long-term relationship should not be grounds for legitimate criticism of a work.

Tolkien wrote a romance without a great deal of romance.  What romance did reach the page was chaste, the courtly romance of the troubadours.  This is perhaps better exemplified by Gimli’s love for Galadriel than the decades long trials and courtship of Aragorn and Arwen.  That is the story the Good Professor was writing and it worked.

Naming Characters

“What’s in a name? That which we call a  rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Well, sure, Juliet, but books communicate only through words, not smells.  The names chosen often must be capable of more than simply differentiating one character from another, they must be able to convey certain information, whether about the character or about the world the author has created.

And creating worlds is what speculative fiction authors do.  The aliens, elves, planets, or kingdoms invented need names.  There are many approaches to naming conventions.  Glen Cook, in his “Black Company” series employs common English words: “Opal,” “Juniper.”  Or relatively uncommon but still familiar names: “Elmo”, “Otto.”  Some readers, perhaps conditioned to expect that fantasy will adhere to certain conventions, find this hinders suspension of disbelief.  It works for me, however; it helps ground the stories, provides a sense of gritty reality.

Another option is to become a philologist, invent several languages, and provide appropriate names from word roots or compounds of those invented languages.  This option works best if your name is Tolkien.

Other writers seem to peck randomly at the keyboard and then go back and insert an apostrophe.  These writers don’t, apparently, attempt to pronounce the names or quite grasp what an apostrophe within a word is supposed to accomplish.  Vide “the Apostropocalypse” in Neal Stephenson’s “Reamde.”  His takedown of this particular naming convention is quite clever, as one would expect.

In my first novel – that has been consigned to a box in the closet, never to see the light of day – I resorted to the atlas.  Characters from certain invented lands were assigned countries from the atlas and I selected place names from the respective countries (e.g., Estonia) to repurpose as character names, ensuring a consistency, a sense of commonality among characters within the discrete lands.  At least that was the intent.  No one will ever know if I succeeded.

My second novel, “Reunion” (to be released by Twilight Times Books this October) is essentially a contemporary piece, so names presented little difficulty.  However, a couple of characters did require some thought.  For reasons that – I hope – make perfect sense to those who read the book, I modified ancient Babylonian names to tag these two characters with.

I am faced with a different challenge in the novel I am currently writing.  I want the names of the alien race to exemplify their language.  Thus most of the names feature ch, k, or g to indicate that the alien speech consists largely of gutturals and harsh consonants.

Names can help establish a sense of place, of verisimilitude.  They can also, of course, be allegorical or symbolic, if the author wants to go down that path.  Something to consider before assigning a moniker.

What’s in a name?  Maybe quite a bit.