Category Archives: ya

Seaborn Books Timeline

Several readers have asked for details on how the “seaborn books” are connected, and in what ways. Most of the books and stories I have written over the last ten years are tied together in one timeline, sharing characters, a couple of them extending over a generation. A few clearly share the same setting–our near-future world, with seaborn characters, but without Kassandra making much of an appearance–or not at all (Salvage).

You may have noticed that there’s a genre mix, from what would neatly fall into fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, etc. to stories that could legitimately be categorized as science fiction or tech-thriller (Nanowhere, Salvage), to stories that may not clearly fall into any bucket (Winterdim). Futuristic fantasy?

You may have noticed that most of these stories take place in the future. That’s on purpose. You could also look at the stories in this timeline and see the advance of technology from one to the next–especially when you get twenty or ninety years into the future, from Nanowhere to Teller and finally to Winterdim. I am a software engineer and technologist, so I am always interested in the progress of technology, where it will lead us, and where it will be applied in the fields of health, culture, military, and–very important to me–in or on the ocean, in support of preserving ocean wildlife as well as how we will continue to provide enough seafood for the world’s every growing market for it.

Want to print out the timeline, or get a closer look?

Let me know if you see typos, problems with the order or dates. I threw this together quickly, a lot of of it coming out of long email discussions with Georg (, Lorena (, and others. Also, I mention characters, plot direction for future books, and other details that you may consider spoilers, so read some of the longer blocks of fine print at your own risk!


Nanowhere – Comic Edition

Did I tell you there’s a comic edition of Nanowhere in the works? (Right now it looks like a December 2014 release for Vol. 1). Here’s a concept sketch for the opening page, with Kaffia breaking the top panel to flip off the annoyingly loud gunships going overhead. They’re on their way to capture Straff, who’s hiding in the woods that surround the skatepark.  In the book (Get it at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, etc.) Kaffia and Alex come in on the second scene of the first chapter, but I want a mood-setting intro into the story.  This may be it, or It may not be it.

Nanowhere… it’s a love story with all the usual elements: rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech ghosts. Oh, and Kassandra from Saltwater Witch makes a couple appearances.

Kaffia and Alex, Opening Page of Nanowhere Comic

Kaffia and Alex, Opening Page of Nanowhere Comic


Wing Girl – character study

I did some sketching in my journal this morning, including this one of a character in an old idea for a story of mine–I was telling my son the story.  Scanned this one in tonight and did some shading in Art Rage.  I'm 35k words into my current book, the first in a new series.  It's a near-future thriller, and I've been saying I don't think I'll write fantasy again.  I've moved on–to the future. (I think I said those exact words several times at Boskone).  But you know how it is, a good story grabs you and won't let you go, demanding to be written. So, I'd put money on seeing this character in a book in the…near-future.


Category: art, steampunk, words, Writing, ya

233 pages of Saltwater Witch are back up

With updated pages! I put these back up last night but forgot to tell anyone. I haven't put up the new pages I'm working on–the rest of chapter 12, but you should notice some updates through the first couple chapters.  I'm still a bit embarrassed about a lot of the art and lettering in chapters 2 through 8, and I'm working on new panels for 12, and redrawing existing pages as I get time.

See Saltwater Witch chapters 1 – 11 + the first page of chapter 12 here.

Here's a new page from chapter 2 followed by the old page–I just realized Kassandra is pointing the wrong way in the old page.  The windows should be to her right:



Saltwater Witch graphic novel is a Go

Again. After serveral months on "holiday", Kassandra is back–or will soon be back. I'm certainly back, working on new art, repainting a dozen pages over the last four days.  Some things are going to change, like how often I post new pages. It's just not going to be every week. For a few reasons, the main ones being time and quality.  I tried to race against the weekly deadlines and failed. It became all about the shortcuts, how to draw, paint faster, use whatever tools I thought could help me get Saltwater Witch pages out faster, and I think the art suffered for it. So, it's going to go slower, but I am hoping you see much higher quality.  Those of you have already seen my pre-holiday updates to the first ten pages or so, won't be seeing entirely new pages at first–although I repainted faces, clothing, and backgrounds in some.

Here's the current cover art–front and back, reusing existing cover themes. Still working on it, but what do you think? Click for the full view.


Writing process at a high level

I sent off the final manuscript today.  I can't tell you the title…because it's a secret.   I can tell you this is my sixth novel, it took me a little over three months to write, it's YA contemporary fantasy, set mostly in California–and it's very California.  Except for that bit in Nova Scotia. 

I finished this book in June, put it away for a couple weeks, and then picked it up again for an edit pass in the middle of July, handing out copies to a few readers, including my daughter Chloe, who is like a reading machine. She reads twice as a fast as I can, with complete comprehension.  So, when I give her a book, she'll have it done in one day with feedback the following day.  Crazy.  I think she should be an editor.  Or a lawyer.  She's pretty good at arguing her points and suggestions. 

I wrote this book almost entirely in the Pages app on my iPad, using the dockable keyboard.  (Yes, the on screen keyboard is impressive for what it is, but it would be torture to have to write a book on it).  This was an experiment, and I have to say it was completely successful.

At a high level, here are the steps I take to write a book. 

1. Idea.  We all have story ideas, and they can spring into our heads at any time.  I keep a journal so I don't lose them.  Story ideas are all around us.  Look at this (Mystery trader buys all Europe's cocoa beans) and this (Man detained at airport with 18 monkeys) and you try to convince me the news isn't full of stories.  You don't even have to look very hard.

2. Characters.  I always–always–draw or paint my main characters at least once (See my painting at the end of this post for a typical character study).  I think it's necessary to see what your characters look like.  If you don't want to draw them, find people in the world who look like your characters, and use those–cut them out of magazines, do a google images search and print them out.  I also interviewed my primary characters in this book, which really helps to nail down personality and motive–which then drive the plot. Here's
a tip: if you're stuck on a particular scene, stop writing the story
and interview the characters involved in the scene, pretend you're the
director of a movie and you've said "cut" to take dinner break. Even better, pretend you're an outsider who's wandered onto the set and doesn't know anything about the story. Write it all down. Ask
them questions, and answer in the characters' voices–why do you have blood on
your hands, what's with that ridiculous t-shirt–don't you ever wear
anything nice?

3. Plotting.  I usually write my query at this phase of the process–and I always write a query, at least a paragraph in language that sells the story.  Even if you have an agent who will do his or her own pitching, or you're writing this for a proposal that's already signed, it's important to give everyone including yourself the means to briefly tell your story to someone else. 

4. Writing.  This also includes some plotting because unless you're an outline god who can document every footstep of every character before the first line goes on the paper, there's just no way the concrete of your plot is entirely dry when you start writing.  (At least that's the case with me).  I always leave some sea room to maneuver in the outline.  That said, I started this book with a mostly clear and complete plot, with less room to wiggle than I've ever left before. 

5. Put the manuscript away for a little while.  Go off and write a short story or two.

6. Do an edit pass.  Read your story all the way through, make corrections, cut, move, expand scenes, scratch your head over that paragraph that makes no sense.  Every book I've written has at least one of these.

7. Print out some reading copies.  Get some feedback on plot, characters, everything.  Print out the book because you will see and read your words differently on paper.  My standard reading format is two columns per page.  I usually do this in Word.  I'll format the whole thing into two columns with a .2 inch gutter, Times Roman, italics, no underlining.  I guarantee that you will find textual problems that would go right by on the screen.

8. Read aloud.  To yourself, or even better to your friends, spouse, kids, complete strangers.

9. Second edit pass. 

10. Format the manuscript.

11. Send to your agent, editor, submit query to publisher, all that other good stuff.

12.  Go back to step one.

Here's the original sketch and painting I did for this book, with my POV character in the middle:


Go tell a story!

Finished another book!

This one’s young adult, part of a completely new series for me, coming in around 61k words–about half of what I typically write for a mainstream book.  It’s first person POV with a male protag–which is different.  Last three books have had female leads.  I’m going to put it away for a week, do an edit pass, and then send it along for proof reading.  Told my agent I’d get it to him early August.  I’ll tell you more when I can!

Oh, and you want to know something crazy?  I wrote most of this book on my iPad (dockable keyboard, not the screen keyboard).

Category: Writing, ya

Nanowhere – updated!

AlexAndKaffia-Nanowhere Nanowhere…it's a love story with all the usual
rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious
skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech

Here's a clip of Cory Doctorow's kind words on Boing Boing in May of 2006.  Hard to believe that was four years ago!

Chris Howard has released a young adult sf thriller called "Nanowhere" … along with a bunch of supplementary
materials that purports to be the lab notes and publications of one of
the book's characters. I just read the first couple pages and they're
interesting and well-written …

Download and read the entire book with illustrations and "collateral material"–journal articles on artificial consciousness and "how to create a new order of being" all in one doc:


Saltwater Witch – three new pages

I spent half the afternoon painting pages 201 through 203.  Kassandra finally gets a good look at the Nine-cities, but they’re not hanging around.

Check out all of Saltwater Witch!

Saltwater Witch - Chris Howard

Saltwater Witch - Chris Howard

Saltwater Witch - Chris Howard

Saltwater Witch – Some books are bad for your health

I just painted and posted the next set of pages (3 of them) for Saltwater Witch.  Go check it all out here, and as always I'd love to hear what you think!  Here's a detail crop from the second page–Kassandra already looking fierce: