Maybe thaaaaaaangs will be better… in Chicago… [personal | pictures]

Chicago from Navy Pier

Last weekend Kristyn and I went to Chicago for our wedding anniversary. We had a good deal of fun, making it to a Blue Man Group performance, to the Museum of Science and Industry, and, (as you may be able to tell from the above photo), Navy Pier. I always like visiting Chicago, in spite of how pricey it sometimes seems.

This time around, we went via Amtrak–me for the first time. I understand that Amtrak pales compared to rail travel in other countries, but I rather liked it. It was maybe a little bit more expensive than driving (or less, given how much I would have been driving around during the weekend), but it was also a lot less stressful. Instead of watching the road all the time, I could plug in my phone and read or catch up on social media stuff. I didn’t get my junk scanned or fondled by the TSA, and could move about more easily than on an aircraft. (Wonder how long that’s gonna last…) I think that, whenever I need to travel within the U.S. (excluding Alaska and/or Hawaii) and I don’t have a pressing need to get there lickety split, trains are how I’m gonna go.


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Gary W. Olson.

Not so much a plan as a sort of lining up of things [personal | writing]

PersonalI’ve been on vacation this past week, and in fact still am. Last week involved a trip up to Torch Lake, Michigan, and my aunt and uncle’s place there. Had a great time, managed to get by with no great sunburn (unlike other years). Visited some wineries up in Leelenau County there and picked up a few bottles.

Yesterday was my birthday. The original plan was for Kristyn and I to go to Cedar Point for the day, but rainy weather reports made us postpone that (to tomorrow, in fact). So we largely spent the day amusing ourselves with mini-golf, go-karting, arcade games, pancake-house-visiting, and wine-imbibing. Not all at the same time, mind.

So, that’s been my week. Unfortunately, not a lot of it has involved writing, though I have spent a good deal of time thinking through what I’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months. I’m hesitant to call it a plan, as that involves a rather optimistic idea that no fresh shiny ideas will barge to the head of the queue and take over my fingers. Since that’s pretty much been the story of my writing so far this year, I’ve got to be realistic.

WritingBut. I think I’ve more-or-less worked out how things are going to go through the rest of the year. Starting with my Untitled Mad Science Novel. Untitled mainly because all the ideas I come up with for the title turn out, upon a quick Google search, to already have been used. Fortunately, that’s about the only thing that’s stopped at the moment, as the writing itself for it is going very well, with about 13k (of a projected 80-90k) words first-drafted. The genre, broadly, is Humorous Weird Dark Science Fantasy with a side of WTF. My goal is to finish the first quarter of the first draft by mid-September, then move on to…

The rewriting of The Morpheist. I have a very rough draft of this 29k biopunk novella, which needs to have multiple things fixed, some detail added to the description of people and places, and some adjustment to make it look like the things I came up with for my main characters during writing were intended all along. You know how it is. My goal here is to get this to a point where it’s coherent, polished, and maybe ready for a few beta readers to tear into it. Then I’ll return to UMSN and tackle the second quarter of the first draft, which should take me to the end of the year.

At the same time all this is going on, I’ve had a notion to dig deep into my past and revisit my old Nihil Nations stories, starting with Electricity in the Rain. It was my first publication, serialized in the pages of Mythic Heroes (the first four parts, anyway–the fifth never saw publication as the magazine died out from under it). It’s a dark science fiction take on the emergence of people with super abilities, and how the world reacts (closer in spirit to The 4400 than Heroes, though it predates them both by a long shot). With some heavy rewriting (my style at that time was still (cough) evolving) and new material, it could make novella size. If I decide to go ahead with this, it’ll likely be at the same time as the other two projects above.

Sometime in there as well, I hope to bash out a short story or two. Maybe some short-short flash fiction; it’s been quite a while since I attempted any, and that may be the only way anything gets done with everything else I’m trying to work on. Quite possibly something with bugs in it. I’m thinking bugs.

How’s by you?


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. First photo: Elena Ray/ Second photo: Andres/

Blog: Death, too close today [personal]

PersonalMy grandmother, Doris, passed away today, after many days in a hospice. I’d been expecting for days to hear that she’s passed; every day that went by without the news was a blessing and a sadness. A blessing because she was a wonderful person–generous, kind, and caring–and every day she was still alive was a day I did not have to mourn. A sadness because she was in pain, and her body was slowly and inexorably shutting down. After watching her cope with multiple strokes, assorted respiratory illnesses, dementia and the like, I cannot help but be a little glad that she is no longer suffering.

I received the news today against the backdrop of a national tragedy. My country is reeling with the news of the deaths of twelve people, and the injuries of numerous others, from a murderous rampage in a movie theater in Colorado. I am sad for the victims and their families, and my heartfelt sympathies go out to them. No blessings here, only sadness.

There have been other happenings–matters of life and death affecting people close to me. Thankfully, life has held sway in these instances. For this I am glad. The specter of death is hovering too close right now.


Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Elena Ray/

On The Speaking in The Public

It will not come as a shock to anyone who has met me in person that I am not a natural talker. I am comfortable in silence, or at least in staying silent while the world surrounds me with its endless noise. In conversations, I typically end up following the lead of a more talkative person, quite happy to listen while occasionally commenting, asking questions, making puns, or interjecting random sympathetic noises. When it is down to me to take the lead in conversing, I’m hesitant, sometimes stuttery, and often my sentences wander off when I realize I have no idea how they’re supposed to end.

So you’d think that there are certain aspects of self-promotion that would be more difficult for me–doing interviews and participating on panels at conventions, for instance. These do, in fact, elevate my anxiety levels, and I’m usually looking forward most to the experience being over, so that I can scuttle back to my silent comfort zone. But then the weirdest thing happens — I’m doing the interview or participating on the panel, and I find I’m enjoying it. I’m chattering away–still hesitant, stuttery, and sometimes meandering–but I don’t care because I’m talking about things that I love–the strange places I find ideas, my influences, and things I’m writing.

Take the interview I did with Greg Walker on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book a couple days ago. Between a desire to be ‘on’ and sound like I actually had something to say, my usual pre-speaking anxieties, and a couple large mugs of coffee, I was dialed up toward the high end of my talking abilities. (It also helped that Greg’s a good conversationalist, keeping me going while keeping me from meandering too far afield from talking about Brutal Light. People like me are helped a lot by people like him.) We probably could have gone on for a lot longer than the half-hour of the show.

As for panels, the four I was on for ConClave helped ease my mind on the prospect of my clamming up in the presence of other writers who were better talkers who could gab at length. I was less caffeinated at these events, but was determined to put in my commentary and not be That Guy. To my surprise, I enjoyed the give-and-take, and had fun. (Though, being that they were ninety minute panels, as opposed to the usual sixty, I can’t say they would have gone on for a lot longer than the assigned time.)

The key for me in both situations was preparation. A couple of the panels–the ones on social media marketing and the future of publishing–I did some advance reading on, to give myself a better idea of what the issues and sub-issues were, and to get me thinking on things I’d only nebulously thought about before, if at all. For the interview, I went over the guest interviews and guest blogs I’d done for my virtual book tour, just to refresh myself on how I’d answered some questions and to get me in an expositional frame of mind. (One thing I added that was not in the blog tour–my relating of dark fantasy to noir films and fiction.) It’s a lot easier for me to be ‘on’ when I’m prepared to be ‘on.’

So… it turns out that The Public Speaking is not quite so vexing for me as I’d expected it to be. Of course, it still stirs anxiety, in roughly inverse proportion to the amount of time until I have to do it. But now I also feel like I’m looking forward to it as well… and that’s a good feeling.

Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.

Gettin’ Merry With It

The publication of Brutal Light just 23 days ago was undoubtedly the high point of my year. I had a lot of stressful things going on outside of my writing life this year, and while the work on the novel and the promotion thereof got a bit crazy as well, it was the kind of ‘good stress’ that I needed to counteract the not-so-good kind. I learned a lot this year, met a lot of new friends, pushed myself out of my comfort zone for the first time in a long time… and I’m looking forward to next year.

Like I wrote last week, I’m going to be taking next week off from blogging and the other social media venues. No blitherings shall I blog; no statuses shall I update; no tweets shall I twit. I’m also putting off the next issue of the newsletter until January. I’ll be reading everything, of course, but unless I’m really moved to say something (most likely because I’ve thought of a bad pun), it’ll be eerie silence from me until January 2012.

Which is not to say I won’t be busy! I’m on vacation from my day job as well, and am determined to get cranking on my next project, a dark science fiction novella called Entering Cadence. You may have read me going on about it in some of the interviews during my virtual book tour; naturally, the story has mutated further from what I then described. But I’m itching to start it, and next week is a perfect time to do so.

So from me and mine to you and yours, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a festive New Year!

(And if you like snow, you can have my share, when we get some.)

Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.

As the Day Gets Closer…

It doesn’t seem real yet. It may not seem real even after 12/1 gets here. I think, because I’m still of a generation that associates ‘real’ publication with a physical artifact, that it won’t seem real until me until I’m holding a paperback edition. Publication day for Brutal Light is very nearly here.

I don’t know if I can clearly convey what all is going through my head at this moment. Maybe I shouldn’t try. There’s excitement, sure, but also a fair amount of trepidation. I wonder what the response to the book will be. Will it be liked? Loathed? Will I encounter a vast sea of indifference?

You may not be a writer, but chances are you know what this sort of anticipation is like. If you’ve ever taken a chance in expressing something to someone, something that opened yourself up to potential hurt… you know. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at once.

I have no words of wisdom on how to deal with it. Maybe next time. In the meantime, I’m keepin’ busy and getting closer to the day…

Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.