Brenda Cooper


Post #6: With a little help from my friends


postThis is the sixth entry in my series about POST, the novel that eSpecBooks is crowdfunding via Kickstarter.  For reference, we’re at $2796 out of $3500 at this moment, which is Friday morning.  18 days to go. I’m telling stories about POST….and this is a story about old and valued friendships.

One of the advantages of crowdfunding is that it’s often a great deal for the backers.  I support one or two Kickstarters a month, sometimes publishing Kickstarter like ours, sometimes a new tech toy. Note that the books are reliable – only a few of the publishing projects I’ve funded have even been late!  Ours won’t be – the books are written and copyedited and the covers designed.  Only about half of the tech toys actually seem to show up in a useful way and on time.

This Kickstarter is already a great deal.  The price for a single ebook is reasonable at $5.00. If you back at $5 or more, and we hit $3,000, you’ll get five great stories included, each of which is worth at least $1 all on it’s own…..and of course I think the two stories that are by my friends John and Ken are worth a million dollars each.

Let me explain….

As we were putting the campaign together, Danielle asked if I knew of any great writers we could get stories from. I immediately asked a few friends, and five said yes.  Pretty cool.  I hope I get to write about all five of them.  Let me tell you about two of them, Ken Scholes and  John Pitts.

Ken Scholes (Of Metal Men and Scarlett Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise)

lamentation-revised-jacket2-1Isn’t that a lovely title? If you haven’t discovered Ken’s work yet, you want to.  He generously asked me which story I wanted to use, and I chose this one on purpose.  It’s a seed story for one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. It’s a long series – five books, and the last of them is done, but not out yet.  Still, you know it won’t be left half-done and finished by someone else…

I personally can’t wait to binge read them all – the first three will be re-reads and then the last two will be fresh for me.  As soon as I finish my MFA….

Ken is one of the finest writers (and humans) I know. His work drips with authority and magic and creativity. If you back or have backed us, and we get to $3,000 (almost certain), you’ll get the story. Then you’ll want to buy the series.  Consider that warning — you’ll need to set aside some time to be enchanted. You’ll also want all of Ken’s other short fiction.  He’s up to three collections, and I had a really hard time choosing between this story and his Edward Bear story.

I’ve known Ken since before he started selling novels, maybe even since before he started writing novels. He sings at conventions. He has a huge, funny, loving heart. He’s overcome much and worked incredibly hard to become the brilliant being that he is.

John A. Pitts (Towfish Blues)

John and I were in the same writing group years ago, before either of us were published (with another friend who’s story might appear here). We’ve stayed friends ever since. He’s one of my best first readers, the guy who catches the plot problems and is always brave enoughblack-blade-blues to tell me when something doesn’t work.  He’s also a brilliant writer.  I love Towfish Blues, which you’ll get to read if you back or have backed us. It’s a dirigible story, and an adventure.  I also love his novel series that starts with Black Blade Blues.  Warning – both titles have “Blues” in them. Different worlds entirely.  John just likes the word blues.  His short story collection is Bravado’s House of Blues.

He’s currently serializing a set of novels as he writes it.  It’s called “Dear Father Mulcahey” and it’s pretty darned awesome. You can find it for free online.

In addition to being a fine writer and delivering great critique, John and his wife Kathy are two of the most fabulous people I know. They’re better humans than I am (and I think I’m a good human – I just think they are stellar role models for the rest of us. They have this intense and rare unselfish generosity).

Hopefully I’ll get to tell my stories about the next three — that will require funding and  hitting stretch goals.  So help us out if you have a moment.


Post #5: Why Crowdfunding, why eSpec?

post-ks-imageThis is the fifth entry in my series about POST, the novel that eSpecBooks is crowdfunding via Kickstarter.  For reference, we’re at $2240 out of $3500 at this moment, which is Saturday morning.  I’m telling stories about the book….and this is the promised story of why it’s coming out via a Kickstarter. It’s more than a story about crowdfunding – it’s also a story about new friendships.

The beginning of the story…..

POST was written a few years ago.  The New York houses chose not to buy it. This is not unusual.  Books from Harry Potter to Dune have been rejected over and over; publishing is hard.  Publishers want safe bets.  Authors want readers, and for their work to live. I like this story a lot, and I think there are people out there in the world who would enjoy meeting Sage and Monday and seeing their adventures. I like the topics it talks about – destruction and recovery, love and hope, a frisson of tragedy.  But what’s an author to do once a book fails in its first run through New York?  Well, there are choices.

  • I could keep trying New York houses. Dune and Harry Potter clearly came out, and did well.  But POST is probably not that big a book.
  • I could give up.
  • I could put it out myself. I have friends doing that. Some succeed. Some sell two copies.  I could learn the skills to do book design. But I don’t really have time. I paid for pretty wickedly good book design for my collection of fantasy stories, Beyond the Waterfall Door, and it cost me what we made on the Kickstarter for it. It’s pretty, but I’m not putting much marketing into it, and only a few people stumble on it via Amazon or Goodreads.
  • I could find someone else to publish it.

All of those seemed overwhelming….I still have my day job, and it’s a busy, big, meaningful job. So POST rested while I worked on Edge of Dark and Spear of Light. They succeeded, which made marketing POST in New York even less likely (it is quite different from my hard SF for adults, and different is scary for publishers).  Now, before anyone thinks I’m dissing New York, not at all. I LOVE working with the whole team at Pyr. My books there are doing well, and my editor, Renee Sears, bought two more. I hope that I have at least one book through a bigger publisher every year.

I also like smaller presses, such as Patrick Swenson’s Fairwood Press, which put out my collection Cracking the Sky. The author generally gets more say in the book design, and books stay in print far longer. I’m reissuing my Silver Ship series via Wordfire Press, and I’m really looking forward to that.

So here begins the rest of the story….danielle

Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail appeared in my life when I was writing my first series, which started with The Silver Ship and the Sea. They liked – and reviewed – the books and helped them out (reviews matter!).  They invited me to write stories in their military SF series, Defending the Future.  I did. I had fun, and some of the people who reviewed Cracking the Sky really liked those stories.  Yes, I’m a pacifist. Isn’t that who you want to write your military stories? Danielle and Mike and I live on different coasts and generally don’t cross paths, but once upon a time Danielle and I were at the same convention. She mentioned she was starting eSpecBooks and asked if I had any books she could Kickstart. “Well,” I said, “I have this YAish story I love called POST….”

So we’re doing this….

I don’t like marketing.  I’m spending a lot of time working alongside Danielle to get this funded, which is marketing.  I cringe when I see posts about the Kickstarter in my feeds. But what doesn’t kill you….Really, I need to get better at marketing.  I’ve had three reviewers this year wondering why more people don’t read my books.  Well, maybe I don’t market enough. So I’ve got the bit in my gritted teeth and I’m going to work to get this done.  The good news is I have a lot of help from my friends, which is the next story I’ll tell.  We have to fund before that matters – the help they gave starts after we fund. There is some very cool fiction in the stretch goals…

Linkish things

Direct lick to the Kickstarter

eSpecBooks has a related blog post about their view of crowdfunding.

The Geek Girl Project interviewed me.

The same campaign is crowdfunding The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell, so here’s his website.

And now that I’ve finished dinking with this post, we’re at $2,347.  Most of a weekend to inch up $107 dollars.  Crowdfunding is not for the faint of heart.




Post #4: On the Rising Part of the Curve

post-ks-imageI’ve already told a few stories about POST – how I finally got use Cynthia Radthorne’s art, how the story started, and how it’s partly a conversation with another author’s work.  I’m telling these stories because eSpecBooks is currently crowdfunding POST and another novel by Jack Campbell (The Sister Paradox) on Kickstarter.  More about that choice later, but in the meantime, if you haven’t backed us yet, I’d appreciate your support.

POST feels different than my other books – its set in a closer time, and it’s lower tech. There’s not a robot in sight, and no AI.  There’s even very little cell phone coverage. For those of you who have been reading me religiously, you’ll know this is a pretty big departure from the books I have been writing (although…as a hint…if you took POST and mashed it up with Edge of Dark and set it on Earth, you’d have something like the next book I’m writing. The characters and the situation are different, and the world building is drastically different, but the time frame is the same).

Post CoverI’m generally an optimist.  Most of my books are pretty much about technical optimism.  In some ways, POST is more about what might happen if the pessimists are right, and if really bad things happen.  How do you get optimistic after a time when many people dir, when storms and disease ravage the economy, etc?

It’s the optimist in me that got me started AFTER the worst is over.

POST is about restoring civil society if our economies get brought down by climate change.  The story begins just as the curve turns up from the bottom, as survival has happened (or not), and people are rebuilding.  That rebuilding, of course, doesn’t go evenly.  The world is not safe.  But there are friends along the way, and there are heroes, and there are saviors who were once needed, and who probably need to move on. Note that it is not graphically brutal or sexual, but its probably not for your seven year old.  I think of it for teen readers through ninety-year olds. My protagonists are female, but some of my heroes are men.

POST is not hopeless.  It’s set “Post” the really bad times, after “Before” and after “During.”

Like much of the good science fiction about the coming years on Earth, it shows our peril, and it also shows that we might get out of it.  I hope you back the book, and that you enjoy reading it.


Post #3: A Conversation with “The Road”

This is the third entry in a set of linked posts about my novel POST, which will be out soon from eSpecBooks.  Note – if you get in on the Kickstarter, that will help out greatly.

post-ks-imageWriters often write in conversation with other writers. That’s natural – we read, and what we read moves us, and we write about what moves us.  When I read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, I found myself thoroughly depressed. Sure, I was amazed by his wordsmithing – he’s a skilled and evocative writer. I would love to be that good with line by line writing. But the overall story left me deeply hopeless.

“Post” is my response to “The Road.”  It is set in a time when climate change has had an impact, when a society that broke pretty far down is on it’s way back to something better, but when success it remains uncertain. POST is a friendship book, and a book about putting hope inside of a hard world.  And like “The Road,” much of it is about a journey.  About half of it anyway — another part of the conversation is that as a reader, I want to eventually get somewhere.

Post CoverPOST is about a young woman – Sage – who leaves a very safe and antiseptic place (and don’t we all, as we grow up?) and sets out to find an airplane, which to her, is a symbol of hope.  She gathers friends and allies, has adventures, is confused about love and sexuality, gets her first kiss, and sees a great tragedy.  She lives, since I’d like to write more books about her.  It’s YA, but if you like The Silver Ship and the Sea (out again next year!) you’ll like this – there are mature themes, real dangers, but nothing your 10-year-old couldn’t read, or that you might not enjoy.  This of it as 9 to 90 writing.

I hope you’ll consider picking it up via the Kickstarter, and that you’ll enjoy it if you do.  It was fun to write.

A few more posts about POST are likely to show up…..


Post #2: A novel that started with zen gardens

Post CoverThis is tale #2 related to Post, which is being Kickstarted (along with The Sister Paradox, by Jack Campbell) by eSpec Books.  For those following along at home, just as I’m getting ready to publish this, the Kisktarter is two days in, and it’s reached $1135 dollars, or about a third of what it needs to fund. Over a month left. The last post was me talking about the Cynthia Radthorne cover, and now I’m going back to the very beginning.  So here is the origination story for POST…

I was just a week away from a short story writing workshop on the Oregon Coast. There, I planned to see  Sheila Williams (the editor for Asimov’s Science Fiction) and get pushed hard by workshop leaders Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.  I count Kris as one of the best craft teachers out there, and even though I was selling work regularly by then, I wanted to do an impressive job going into the workshop. Kris had given exercises in the past about specificity (The black mutt with the crooked tail and the broken tooth is better than the black dog).

The night this story started, I was in San Diego at one of the hotels vaguely near the convention center. I wandered up the street to a bookstore, which seemed like a good place for  writer to go think. I decided to find a book on a topic I knew little about. I browsed. I browsed some more. Finally, I picked up a book about zen gardens. I’d always enjoyed them, but I had no idea how they were created. It was a little green how-to manual, the kind you mightJapanese gardens find a Home Depot or any other garden store. How to Plant from Seed, How to Raise Goats.  But this one was Creating Japanese Gardens. This cover is actually the book that started it all.

I went back to the hotel room and I read about zen gardens. Twice.

Then I created a zen garden on the page. I gave it a character – an old man who likes gardening naked (not in a creepy way – in a 1960’s natural human way). Then I built a botanical garden around the zen garden. I gave it a character – a young woman who wanted OUT of the garden. I made her someone who noticed details, so that I had a plausible way to describe the zen garden.

I finished the first draft of a short story in about six hours over two days. It was quite specific.

The story generated a heated discussion in the workshop. Kris wanted more. She said it was the first chapter of a novel. Sheila liked it. She eventually bought it, and came out in Asimov’s as “In Their Garden.” David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer included it in their “Year’s Best 15” anthology. Clearly, it succeeded.

But I always remembered what Kris said, and at some level, it must have rung true. After all, here is a full-blown novel that grew out of a little story about Japanese gardens – the one written as specifically as possible.

Watch this space for three or four more stories about POST across the next few weeks. If you have a question, feel free to pose it in comments.


POST #1. POST! Really…my novel Post is now on Kickstarter!

I’m pleased to announce that eSpec Books is publishing my novel POST via Kickstarter. I wrote POST some time (pre-MFA) and I’m pleased to have it see a bright, shiny daylight right alongside a Jack Campbell novel.  I’ll talk about it here every few days to tell the story of how the book started, how it got picked up by eSpec, and how some of my friends are helping me out (go friends!). This little book has accumulated a few good stories already on its way out onto the world.

I’ll start with the story of the cover.  That’s beginning with one of the last things that happened, but covers are fun to talk about and so are friends….

I have enjoyed my friend Cynthia Radthorne‘s art for some time.  I’ve wanted to write a robot anthology to a piece of her art for years.  Maybe someday I’ll have that dream come true, and edit an anthology around Cynthia’s SF piece “A girl can dream.”  But none of my books have seemed like a good match for her art, until now.  So I’m really pleased to show off Cynthia’s original cover for POST.

I love how the piece turned out since it shows off the troubled world, and the hope that goes with it, and an airplane (which is central to the story).  The girls, by the way, are named Sage and Monday.

If you hurry up, Post is available in ebook for only $5 as an early backer bonus. More as the month winds on….

Post cover from KS



A Review of Four and Half Year’s Worth of Work

A review of my most recent four book series (in two duologies) came out yesterday.  Duology 1 is The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, and Duology 2 is Edge of Dark and Spear of Light. All of them came out from Pyr. The second two books came out because after I finished the first story, I wanted to explore the world more deeply (Worldbuilding is one main reason I write SF instead of contemporary fiction). So they are two complete and loosely linked stories in one world.

The-Creative-FireFirst a word on reviews in general:

As an author, I usually don’t talk a lot about reviews, except maybe to point people to good reviews in hopes it will encourage them to try my work. Good reviews make me happy.  Bad reviews make me sad, but if they’re thoughtful enough I can learn something about the reader experience from them.  I don’t argue with reviewers. I’ve seen writers do that, and I’ve never seen that turn out well.

So why do I want to talk about this one?

For the first time, I’ve had what feels like a review of a body of work, rather a point in time in my career, and:

  • That feels pretty special (there are moments when you realize you’ve taken a step in a writing career. Sometimes someone else notices first.  I finished that work under deadline and moved on, still slammed with deadlines, and this review reminds me to stop for a minute and take a breath).
  • Someone was interested enough in this work to really think about it. This is a fast paced, crazed world. So that’s a real compliment.
  • The reviewer (Paul Weimer), gets the series. He did review the first three books individually.

Here’s a link to the review, which is over at Skiffy and Fanty.


Reading Recommendation: Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life

E. O. Wilson’s Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life is one of the best books I’ve read on the future of Earth.

He states the problem clearly….after beginning with an apt description of what we (mankind) are like and then stating that we have little time to spend on the wrong trajectory, he says:

“Meanwhile, we thrash about, appallingly led, with no particular goal in mind than economic growth, unfettered consumption, good health, and personal happiness. The impact on the rest of the biosphere is everywhere negative, the environment becoming unstable and less pleasant, our long-term future less certain.”

Yet even though Wilson pulls no punches throughout the book (which is frightening on many levels), he is hopeful. He sets a huge goal. He means exactly what is in the title. Set aside half of Earth (landmass) for biodiversity. Leave it alone. Let it recover and grow. This is the moonshot solution for biodiversity.

It’s not impossible.

Unlike many authors with roots in the environmental wHalf Earth Coverorld, Wilson embraces technology and progress. He sees innovation as enhancing our ability to save the world. In short, in the future, we will know more about the other beings inhabiting the biosphere beside us, we will be able to monitor and understand them better, and we will have tools to build an economy that is not based heavily on the destruction of natural resources. He clearly understands the connected future we are moving into and the positives and challenges of the increasing rate of change. In chapter 16, he writes:

“The collective human mind, hyperconnected and digitized, will flow through the entirely of the life we have inherited far more quickly than was possible before. We will then understand the full meaning of extinction, and we will come to regret deeply every species humanity will have carelessly thrown away.”

In many ways, this is a futurist’s book about the ongoing loss of biodiversity. That doesn’t mean we need to (or can!) wait for the future before we act. Rather, we must do more of the conservation we are already doing. Much more.

We also need to spend a lot more time and resources on practical field science – I did not for example, realize how many species we haven’t even discovered yet (there is a great case made for this in the book).  I felt like I learned something, which is a reader cookie for me if I’m going to spend hours on a science book.  Note that it pairs well with The Sixth Extinction, which I read and recommended already, but which I intend to re-read this month.

I highly recommend that everyone read Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. It is readable – Wilson wrote this book for all of us to understand. His style is accessible and conversational.

Even if you think you understand the problem, and the solutions, the book should be owned by us all for the beautiful descriptions of the best places in the world that fill the center of book, in chapter 15. It reads like poetry. I listened to parts of it three times (chapter 15 and the last few chapters).  Yes, it’s a research book for my current novel, and I’m getting to use it as part of my MFA, but more importantly, it’s a very good book.


Worldcon Schedule – Kansas City!

I’m really excited about this programming.  It’s all great.  Please note that my reading is early in the convention.  But hey, it’s right after one of may favorite topics, Environmental Speculative Fiction. So drop by for the panel and stay for the reading.  I also get to moderate some of my favorite writers…..

The Re-emergence of Environmental Speculative Fiction

Thursday 18:00 – 19:00, 2503A (Kansas City Convention Center)

This used to be a booming field but has only recently re-emerged. Why is this and how do today’s tropes differ from the ecological dystopias of the 1970s?

Mr. Peadar O Guilin (M), Brenda Cooper, Alyx Dellamonica

Reading: Brenda Cooper 

Thursday 19:00 – 19:30, 2202 (Readings) (Kansas City Convention Center)

Brenda Cooper

Autographing: Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Rebecca Moesta, Martin Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith

Friday 10:00 – 11:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)

Rebecca Moesta, Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Martin L. Shoemaker, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith

Humans and Robots

Friday 13:00 – 14:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)

With advances in artificial Intelligence and human control of robots, will Asimov’s farmous laws be needed. How might programming the laws of robotics be approached? How does this relate to fuzzy sets and chaos theory?

Brenda Cooper (M), Walt Boyes, G. David Nordley, Jerry Pournelle, Mr Kevin Roche

Generation Starships

Friday 18:00 – 19:00, 2502B (Kansas City Convention Center)

What would life be like for those living on a Generation Spaceship? From water storage and greenhouses to dealing with the reprecussions of being always indoors, panellists will discuss the scientific, sociological and psychological aspects of building and living on a Generation Spaceship.

Gregory Benford, Ms Pat Cadigan, Jerry Pournelle, Brenda Cooper (M), Mark W. Tiedemann

The Future of the City

Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, 2209 (Kansas City Convention Center)

As part of “The Future of” series we look at Cities. We consider what makes a city, whether it is a place of 350,000 people (Utrecht, the Netherlands), somewhere with a cathedral (Chichester, UK – population 27,000), or something else entirely. Over the centuries and throughout the world, cities have been defined and understood very differently, so what changes do we expect to come in the next decades or centuries?

Gary Ehrlich, Alex Jablokow (M), Luke Peterson, Renée Sieber, Brenda Cooper

Space Technology Spinoffs

Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)

There have been some 2,000 technological products, inventions and ideas trasferred from NASA missions to commercial products and services. Of these, many have made life on Earth better in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity. Panelists discuss their favorite examples of space technology spinoffs.

Mrs. Laurel Anne Hill, Les Johnson, Janet Freeman-Daily (M), Joy Ward, Brenda Cooper

Kaffeeklatsch: Brenda Cooper, Larry Niven, Tui Sutherland

Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, 2211 (KKs) (Kansas City Convention Center)

Larry Niven, Tui Sutherland, Brenda Cooper


Reading Recommendation: Arabella of Mars, by David Levine

Arabella of MarsYou really need to pick up Arabella of Mars, by David Levine.  This is a great time to do it.  It’s a total escape from right now, right here, and a grand one at that!  It’s both surprising and familiar, and beautifully written. If you loved Fran Wilde’s Updraft you’ll love this.  Use it to fill in the moments between now and the time Fran’s Cloudbound comes out, which can fill in the time until David’s next book comes out….

More importantly, use it to give you a few moments of happiness while you settle in with a great heroine in a world you want to be part of. At least I wanted to be part of it.  David can just write me right into the next book!

Just in case a great escape and having a few happy hours isn’t enough, you can do good as well.  This is David’s debut novel (but don’t let that stop you — if you don’t know him, he’s a hugo-winning short story writer and he knows how to tell a tale).  Not only is it his debut novel, but right now  – as its coming out – he’s struggling with family health issues that really matter. So you can have a grand adventure, spend a few happy hours, and do a good deed if you buy a copy.

I promise you won’t regret it.