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Conventions, Retreats, and Writing New Stuff

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Well, yes. I’ve not posted in a long while. Where the heck did the year go?? The Ultra Big Sleep came out, and then I went into hibernation myself.

The second book has done okay (not gangbusters, but I’ll certainly move forward with the third book in that story arc), and the companion novelette, Slightly Ruby, about the same. I go through a lot of copies at conventions, as it’s priced low. Sometimes I give them away when folks spend good money at the dealer table.

Speaking of conventions, besides Worldcon in Kansas City, in August, there was a trip to San Francisco in September for SF in SF, which saw Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Robert Silverberg talking about their Fairwood Press book TRAVELER OF WORLDS (which, by the way, as I write this, is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work!). October saw MileHiCon in Denver. Orycon in Portland fell in November. February and March saw three sessions of the annual Rainforest Writers Village, my writers retreat at Lake Quinault. Norwescon was in April, and just last weekend I was in Montana for Miscon. Looking forward: Cascade Writers and Locus Awards in June, Spocon in August, and World Fantasy in early November.

Right now, I’m working on a dark fantasy ghost mystery set out in the Olympic Rainforest, complete with magic and music. I’m enjoying this, and come summer (that is, once the school year is done), I’m expecting to throw a lot of words on the page. I’m over halfway done with it now. Tentatively, it’s titled Rain Music. I’ve not announced that widely, because I’m not sure if it’s a final title or a working title yet.


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Short and sweet:

Today is THE ULTRA BIG SLEEP’s book birthday! It’s out in the real world. Preorders went out and folks should be receiving those today or tomorrow, I would hope. It’s also the release day of SLIGHTLY RUBY, the prequel novelette.

There’s also a reading tonight at the University Book Store at 7 p.m.

Too much good stuff. Pick up some copies, and if you read them and like them, post some reviews? It really helps!

UBS FULL COVER.inddSlightly Ruby Cover.indd


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The Ultra Big Sleep, the sequel to The Ultra Thin Man, is raring to go out into the world! So is the prequel novelette Slightly Ruby. The pub date for both is next week, August 9th, but I have early copies of both. The Ultra Big Sleep will be available in hardcover and trade paperback (and ebook), and Slightly Ruby will be available as a small-size paperback (and ebook). A couple of pics are below! Orion has found a particularly surprising scene in the new novel.

It’s been a bit hectic trying to get these ready while getting four other books for Fairwood Press ready at the same time. But I’m happy with the results, and I have a number of opportunities coming up to promote the books and to give you, my readers, an opportunity to pick up some signed copies. Here’s the link, right on my website, that shows those venues:


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It’s been way past a month since I posted. Sorry, folks. And this isn’t a long post, but a quick note to take a look at the appearances page for an updated list of forthcoming appearances. It includes some conventions and it includes some bookstores where I’ll be reading in conjunction with the debut of THE ULTRA BIG SLEEP.

This coming weekend I’ll be at Westercon in Portland, OR, where I’ll have a table in the dealer room. I got in on a dealer’s cancellation, so it’s a bit last minute to prep for this one. But be on the lookout! I’ll also have a reading (Friday night, 7 pm), an autograph session on Saturday, and a panel on Sunday, but mostly I’ll be behind the table. Come and say hello!


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Here’s a look at the full cover … at least the full art. Naturally there will be more stuff on the back!  [click for larger]  And what a nice first blurb to have from the amazing Brenda Cooper!



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Estonia artist Kuldar Leement provided this gorgeous wraparound cover for the sequel! Click the image for a larger gorgeous. What do you think?


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Confusing headline, huh? I’ve been holding onto this news since early November (although some of you I’ve talked to in passing know about it).

Here’s the nutshell: Tor has decided not to publish The Ultra Big Sleep, the sequel to The Ultra Thin Man. Why? I mean, my first novel’s main page on my site shows it garnered some pretty damn good reviews. It sold okay, but not great, or even well, by big publisher standards. Ebook sales, were not so good, and as of yet, I don’t know about the trade paperback sales, since it only came out the end of July. But the powers-that-be at Tor would know them. There’s a very, very slim chance the book might be published in the small mass market paperback size. Maybe it does well there. Maybe ebook sales pick up. But I was told that any whisper of consideration for a 2nd based on those results would be a year to 18 months out…definitely too long to wait or to have them hold onto the manuscript.

I turned in the sequel this past summer, and I believe in many ways it’s a much better book. But it didn’t even get read.

And that’s the reality of New York publishing these days. These days, you’ve got to make a splash first time out, or it’s almost always a no-go for more. You don’t get to string along your career anymore, waiting for a breakout novel. This doesn’t include authors lucky enough to get get a 2- or 3-book deal up front. And believe me, I know a lot of them who have had their 3 books published, and then have been dropped. A lot of them are Tor authors. But this isn’t limited to Tor, or Macmillan. It happens a lot, everywhere in the biz. Bottom line: I was told it was all about the numbers. To the folks paying the bills there, the numbers didn’t add up. They weren’t close enough to even consider (or read) the second book.

Certainly, I was quite sad and depressed about this news. I heard about it from my agent one week before The World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. I was on the ballot for the World Fantasy Award for my work with Fairwood Press. My table in the dealer room was right next to the table run by my editor! That was not awkward. Okay…yeah, maybe a little. But we eventually chatted about it. I should also state that I am eternally grateful for my editor taking a chance on me and publishing my first novel. I have no animosity toward anyone who worked on my book and did what they could to position it in the marketplace, because that was all valuable, regardless of the monetary bottom line. The book was a much better book with my editor’s input, and I had a publicist who helped every way she could, and another editor who helped out big time.

Life long dream, achievement unlocked.

Immediately, I started bouncing around ideas. What to do, what to do? I had a completed novel that had gone through multiple drafts, and I’d received feedback from strong first readers. (As I type this, a few more writers are reading it.) Options very limited. No large, traditional publisher will take on a sequel to a first novel if they don’t own the rights to it (unless said first novel did really well, and in that case, why would they be passing on the sequel?). And this is a sequel, make no mistake. A very direct sequel. I believe it stands well enough on its own in that most folks could catch up without reading the first, but there’s definitely an interconnected tie-in to the first book that can’t be denied.

Most smaller, independent book presses are going to have the same difficulty with publishing a sequel without owning the first books’ rights. I had a few publishers mention some possibilities. Perhaps try re-branding the series, or take the sequel and mine it for smaller stories. Write something new in the world. (Even my editor told me to write a story set in my world as a way to promote the first book–which, by the way, I’ve been doing).

Many writers asked what I was going to do with the book. I flippantly said, “Well, I do know someone with a small press,”  thinking about my own press I’ve run for 15 years, publishing many other writers. They said, “Yeah, why don’t you just self-publish it?” A fair number of writers actually said: “Publish it yourself. Do it.”  Thanks to a fellow editor, I discovered a bunch of copies of the hardcover of The Ultra Thin Man on a site dealing with book remainders, selling them for about $3 a piece. I didn’t get any notice about this (although I think I was supposed to), but fellow editor said “Buy up a bunch of them. Use them as promo for your next book when you publish it.”

A number of writers and editors (and my agent) said there just isn’t the stigma attached to self-publishing that there used to be. Don’t even worry about a special imprint under the Fairwood banner, a number of them said. Even five years ago or so, I would’ve continued on my own philosophy that No…money should flow to the writer, and you shouldn’t self-publish and pay for our own costs, and

Well. To be fair, a few other writers said not to self-publish. Or do it under a separate imprint at least. I want you to know I heard from both sides.

And so.

The Ultra Big Sleep will be published. It will be a summer 2016 book, forthcoming along with five other Fairwood titles that will premier (at least domestically) at the Kansas City Worldcon.  I have a wonderful friend and editor who will be doing a hard-nose edit that I would’ve received from my editor at Tor otherwise. I have the talent and the know-how to put out a good-looking product. I’ll have input from writers in the know about other things that I don’t usually worry about on my end as a publisher. I’ll do my best not to shortchange myself when putting it together, heeding the advice of an editor who said he’s seen that sort of thing happen. I still need to be cognizant of my press’s other authors, whose books will have to get out on time, with no less fanfare on Fairwood’s side of things.

So watch this space. Website, blog, social media. There will be another book to add to my books section on the website, and at some point soon, a fresh cover image will grace the spot under “THE LATEST BOOK.” I’ve already got the ball rolling on this as well, and secured cover art after much searching and thinking about it. I hope that when it eventually goes up for pre-order, you’ll consider supporting this latest adventure in my Union of Worlds universe, and perhaps, if you’ve not read the first, you’ll consider both books.

Meanwhile, I plug along on a prequel novelette featuring my main characters from The Ultra Thin Man, Crowell & Brindos, when they first had their own detective agency. There will be another novel in the works (or two). I always planned at least a 3rd book in the Ultra series. While The Ultra Big Sleep does stand alone, like The Ultra Thin Man, there are threads there to tug on and unravel. There’s nothing in the rule book that says I can’t publish another book with Tor down the line. I’ve had interest from an editor and my agent about me doing smaller, single point-of-view potboiler mysteries in my world. Also, there’s a dark fantasy murder mystery with music and mysticism that I’m 20,000 words into.  Never a dull moment!

I really would appreciate your comments, here, or on the social media site you saw the announcement.

Oh, and Happy New Year!


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Here’s where I’ll be during Portland’s Orycon convention! The panel names and fellow panelists. I leave my school where I teach right after my last class, and get right on the road, and arrive just a little ahead of my first event: my reading.

Sunday afternoon, at 4 pm., I’ll also be at Powell’s Books (Cedar Hills location) AuthorFest 9.


Friday, 7 p.m.    Reading. Patrick Swenson reads from The Ultra Big Sleep, the follow-up novel to The Ultra Thin Man.

Satuday, 2 p.m.   First Page Idol. Submit the first page of your novel to our talented author panelists, and listen to them read aloud that first page(keeping the writer’s identity anonymous) and give thoughtful reactions.

Saturday, 3 p.m.  Synopses, Summaries, and Blurbs, Oh My!  Few things exasperate writers more than condensing their masterworks into a single page synopsis–or worse, a 150 word book description! What to include, what to exclude, and strategies to keep it fresh and reveal your voice without sounding unprofessional.

Saturday, 5 p.m.  Planners vs. Pantsers. Some writers have everything outlined and plotted before they put their fingers on the keyboard. Others insist on flying by the seat of their pants. If you’re one, come learn the techniques of the other, and why you should pay attention.

Sunday, 11 a.m.  Publishing Ethics.  What should the relationship between publishers and writers look like, as well as writers and readers? Both situations require respect. What does that look like?


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Yesterday I found out I’d made the final ballot of this year’s World Fantasy Awards, to be presented in Saratoga Springs, NY, later this year. The World Fantasy Award has been described as one of the three most prestigious speculative fiction awards, along with the Hugo and the Nebula Awards.

But The Ultra Thin Man is science fiction, you say!

Yeah. This isn’t about MY writing. This is about my small press, Fairwood Press. The award category is “Special Award: Nonprofessional.” (Note: not Unprofessional.) There’s also a “Special Award: Professional” category. Meaning, I don’t make a living off this venture, or pay certain pro rates to writers (although some of my writers’ books have made more money than some pro books out there, for the press and writer both). The full ballot is listed right here. What’s great is that I have a lot of friends on this list in other categories! Congrats (and good luck) to all of them.

This is an award in recognition for my work with Fairwood, which spans about 20 years, starting back in the Talebones magazine days. Back then, Fairwood was a basic umbrella company and I was throwing out some specialty chapbooks, such as the original edition of Ken Rand’s The 10% Solution. In 2000, I incorporated, and Fairwood Press, Inc. was born.  As of this year, there exists some 70 book titles, which includes the four new books coming out this summer.

For all of that time, with the exception of the earliest Talebones years, when we were producing some of those first Fairwood books, I’ve worn all the hats at Fairwood Press.  It’s a lot of work, and typically there’s not a lot of recognition. This is the first nod, award-wise, in 20 years, except for a short story in Talebones, “Still Life with Boobs” by Anne Harris, which was on the final Nebula Award ballot for best short story. But that was an award nomination for Anne.

I’m thrilled beyond belief, of course. Mind you, there are a lot of worthy names on that ballot for this category, and I would consider it a bit of an upset if I pulled it off and won the thing. But I wouldn’t mind, of course. The award trophy itself is . . . interesting! It’s a bust of H.P. Lovecraft, designed by cartoonist Gahan Wilson, all in honor of Lovecraft’s work and contributions to the world of fantasy. The downloadaward has a nickname, too: A “Howard,” Lovecraft’s first name. It’s not one of the best looking awards, but you know? Looking at it from my position now? It looks damn beautiful. I can think of an instance in November when it would look even more beautiful.

Now I must make plans to somehow get to the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs. A convention that’s been sold out for a while now. Where there’s a will . . .


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First: Has it really been THAT long since I posted last? Yeesh. Must. Do. Better.

This quick note explains that the trade paperback edition of The Ultra Thin Man will be out on July 28! It’s already up on sites for preorder, such as Amazon and Barnes &, sans cover art. I’m looking forward to seeing physical copies of this edition!

Meanwhile, I’m putting the final touches on The Ultra Big Sleep, the sequel, and should soon be giving my agent a looksee. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s turning out.