Tor Richardson

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Sindie Slick and the Lamp Trick

As I mention in the post below, Grey Cat Press has been bundling my single stories into two-packs, and I’m going to take advantage of that by trying an experiment. I’ll be publishing the same story from two perspectives…

Actually, that’s not true. Only the situation will be the same. Story is in the eye of the beholder. The Fabulous Frank Furious, a retired uptight freelance assassin, will see the events of the day far differntly than will the semi-retired “Sindie Slick, Pole-Dancing Hit Chick.”

I’m finding this little experiment to be a lot of fun. I hope you are, too.

For Sindie Slick, Pole-Dancing Hit Chick, strangers mean trouble.

When a retired handyman moves in next door, she puts him to the test. But tests don’t always go according to plan, and plans can be upset by shades from the past…

But when Sindie’s past interferes with her little test, the only ones who can plan to be upset are her former mobsters associates who foolishly decide that now would be a good time to get in her way.

Visit my fiction page for the sample.

– Tor

Furious and the Nosey Neighbor

As you probaby noticed, Grey Cat Press has been bundling my single stories into two-packs… each story selling with a complete bonus story. I thought it might be fun to play with this idea a bit.

Furious and the Nosey Neighbor introduces a new town called Evergreen Junction, which well pretty much be populated entirely by retired assassins from all walks of life… mobsters assassins, government assassins, freelance assassins, soldiers of fortune… and none of them will know that they’re not the only retired assassin in town. If that was the only twist, I think it would make for a series of fun stories, but we’re going to take it a step further.

No two people see the same thing in quite the same way. I thought it might be kind of fun to have two similar stories in my two-packs. In fact, they’re really the same story, but from two different perspectives. Each person is the star of his or her own story, and then we put the shoe on the other foot and read that story from the other perspective to see how it changes.

Let’s kick it off with “Furious and the Nosey Neighbor” and see how we do…

For Frank Furious, the life of a retired assassin in a small town in the Pacific Northwest is enough to make him climb the walls, especially the part about needing to be nice to the nosey neighbor next door.

She’s always watching, always prying into his past, always testing his story. If he should ever fail any of her silly little tests—if she should ever discover his true history—his quiet little retirement may come crashing to a sudden end in some damp little jail cell.

Visit my fiction page for the sample.

– Tor

The Man in the Paper Mache Hat

This is a redemption story I wrote a while ago after watching the story of a bank robbery on the news. I don’t normally pay attention to the types of stories where people stand up to crazies with guns, but sometimes the redemption aspect of those actions stand out. When that happens, I tend to wonder at the thoughts that are crossing the minds of those people. Sometimes, I write about the story that plays through my mind when that happens.

A robbery gone wrong leaves the bank tellers safe behind their bullet-proof glass and one very angry robber in the lobby with his hostages. For one of those hostages, an old man in a paper mache hat, the afternoon is about to turn deadly.

Visit my fiction page for the sample.

– Tor

Randy’s Choice

Eleven-year-old Randy faces a hard choice: whether to stay in an unhappy home where he’s not wanted, or to run away to live with his friends from the lake.

…friends that nobody else can see.


Visit my fiction page for the sample.

– Tor

The Razor Files

A billion-dollar insurance company fails and a young Axel Crane, accounting clerk, loses his job. Called back by regulators to help look for clues to a scheme that may have bled it dry, Axel stumbles into an unfamiliar world of shell companies and corporate intrigue where everyone with any answers seems to meet with a fatal accident.

Aided by an attractive and very distracting colleague, Axel unwittingly misses the signs to his own danger as each new piece of the puzzle brings him closer to the truth, and to his own encounter with the secrets of…

The Razor Files.

One perfect scam. One billion reasons to keep the secret.

Visit my fiction page for the sample.




Executives once commuted to work on jetliners. The “jet-setting” crowd enjoyed many luxuries, but air travel has now become little more than a barely-tolerated necessity. If not for the speed of travel, the airline industry would have died at its own hands in the last few years — and rightly so.

This little essay follows one executive on his morning commute. Along the way, he remembers his life as a fun-loving kid, and searches to recall how he was tricked into going through life on Autopilot: caring only for the destination at the expense of the journey. Or, as he says, “Another day, another airliner. Just shoot me now.”

Visit my fiction page for the sample.



The Case of the Missing Mushrooms

I’ve been away on other projects for a few weeks, so I haven’t been able to do much with respect to the short stories. That’s been bothering me a little. A few nights ago (when I should have been getting ready for bed), I started typing out the idea for something I thought might become a novel. Instead, my fingers took a left turn, tightened the story arc, and came up with a fun little idea for a short story. I guess that was their way of telling me I need to make time in all those other projects to take care of a few new stories for you folks. So, this one’s for you. I hope you enjoy.

* * *

Roused from his warm bed, Stone-Arm Sam enters Fairy Town to investigate a burglary at Miss Moffett’s Mushroom Shop, a favor for a friend. Snubbed by the fairy police (s.o.p. for any dwarf), he soon learns that Moffett’s enchanted mushrooms have gone missing.

But nobody ever mentioned anything about magic mushrooms. Retrieving magic mushrooms won’t be a quick trip. And the burglar, once found, is sure to object.

Visit my fiction page to sample this Stone-Arm Sam short story.



Self-publish, or maybe not

It was an interesting week in publishing.  One traditional bestselling writer, Barry Eisler, turned down a $250,000 per book advance ($500K deal) from a major New York publisher to go the self-publishing route, while a bestselling self-published author, Amanda Hocking,  accepted a $500,000 per book advance ($2M deal) to have her next series published traditionally by that same major New York publisher.

Who’s right?  The answer is that this is not a hard question.  It’s an easy question with an easy answer:  they’re both right.  Each writer is a business.  In business, there’s no correct way to sell a product.

Ms. Hocking has never had a major New York book deal.  She believes that a major New York publisher may open distribution doors for her, among other things.  She’s right.  She knows that she might be giving up some freedoms, but hopes she will be gaining more in the long run.  And, if it doesn’t work out that way, it’ll be a lesson learned for future book deals.  Don’t forget that she will be making money during this current learning experience (her book deal will probably work out to be something like $708K this year, followed by $283K for the next three years, and $142K in 2015, although that’s just a guess).  It’s not like she’ll go broke.

Mr. Eisler, on the other hand, has come from that New York playing field and wants to explore some of the new freedoms that come with the Age of Electronic Distribution and Readership.  He wants to try a more hands-on approach in connecting with his customers.  This is not as big of a risk as most newspapers seem to be claiming, since he does already have a fan base and since Publisher’s Weekly just reported that e-book revenues have finally surpassed both the adult hardcover and mass market paperback sales revenues.  He’s exploring a legitimate market.  It’s a legitimate business strategy.

So, if this is not a difficult question, why all the fuss?  Why has this become such a heated issue that one of these two people must be right, while the other must be wrong?

Usually, when I see these kind of head-shaking arguments, I step back for a moment and wonder what’s really going on.  If you’ve read my bio, you know that I once liquidated failed companies for a living.  One of the common elements that I noticed while sifting through the figurative ashes of those empty buildings was how everyone seemed to lose focus right near the end… how they all started arguing and pointing fingers at the ones they felt were rocking the boat, changing the status quo, and chasing away the easy times.

In those last months, the decision makers completely forgot what was important to their respective companies.  In all their yelling and finger pointing, they never dug down to the hard issues — whether intentionally or otherwise — which made the rest of it inevitable.  (By contrast, other companies in those same positions may have asked the right questions… the hard questions… and avoided ever seeing me.)

In order to find the true issue, questions about rocking the boat and status quo need to be ignored… and people who insist on bringing those subjects up need to be marginalized.

The hard question here is not about self-publishing or traditional publishing.  The hard question is what to do about the titanic advances in electronic readership.

As I mentioned, Publisher’s Weekly had news about e-book sales figures.  Whenever you hear all the screaming about “New York” vs. “Self Publishing,” remind yourself that you’re really hearing reactions to all those e-readers that people can get for really, really cheap… and about how quickly and conveniently all those owners of all those e-readers want to read their books.

The New York model doesn’t feed books to those readers quickly.  Ms. Hocking’s new book won’t hit those readers for over a year.  That’s a long time for someone with a shiny new e-reader to sit by a pool and stare at a blank screen.  Mr. Eisler seems to agree.

The readers — our customers — don’t care how the book gets there.  They want it now, and they want it cheap.  And then they want the next one, now and cheap.  And the next.  And the next.

That’s the real problem.  That’s the real argument.  It’s not about the money.  It’s about what we — as a publishing community — intend to do to fill our customers’ voracious and changing demand.  When we consider that question, we might want to remember what happened to “that major computer manfacturer” and “that major console gaming company,” who were once unbelievable giants in their fields, but who (to all outward appearance) didn’t recognize the shifting demands of their customers.  We might especially want to consider the histories of those companies if we think that some kind of “status quo” might some day return.

When customers find a product that better fits their needs, they buy it.  When they find a better way to get that product, they leave.  Customers do not exist for the convenience of business.  It’s always the other way around.

So… that’s the hard question.  That’s what all the screaming is really about.  The world has changed.  The customers are doing something completely different.  We have to adapt, but change is a scary thing.  People don’t always like to face scary things.  And that’s why we ignore the hard questions and argue over the easy ones, instead.

Anyway, getting back to the easy issue, congratulations to both Ms. Hocking and Mr. Eisler.  It sounds like it was a good week for both of you.  Good luck in your respecitve endeavors.




I’ve been a backyard astronomer since I was a kid.  I started with one of those telescopes straight from the Sears catalog, along with a metal folding chair that got so cold in the winter that it was painful to sit down.  I’ve seen many sights up there, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a supermoon.

As I understand the hype, tonight’s moon is making one of its closest passes to us since around 1993, which is still filed away in recent memory for me.  Near pass or far pass, though, the moon is the moon.  It’s really bright.  Too bright, from a backyard astronomer’s point of view.  In fact, all the really cool features of the moon only come out when it’s dark.  And you know it, too.

Think about it.  When you actually pay attention to the moon — when you really notice that it’s up — is it that hard little white light shining down like a streetlight high overhead, or is it that wonderful orange orb hanging right above the horizon?

Chances are good that you either notice the moon as it clears the horizon on its way up, or you notice the moon on your way to work in the morning just before it goes down.  Remember that those are the times when the light travels farthest through our atmosphere.  All that travel scrubs away a lot of the brightness.  What you’re noticing is a darkened moon, not a bright one.

Remember that telescope I told you about?  I learned very quickly that I couldn’t just point it at the moon and see all the mountains and seas.  Magnifying the moon’s light with a telescope isn’t a good idea.  It doesn’t burn your eye like the sun, but it IS pretty much like looking into the bright end of a flashlight through a magnifying glass.

The best viewing with a telescope happens during the crescent phases — watching night after night as the lunar terminator walks across the moon’s surface.  That’s when the hills and valleys really shine… so to speak.  That’s when you really learn what the moon’s all about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I looked at the full moon plenty of times while staring up from that cold, metal chair.  I just learned that if I wanted to use my telescope, I needed to put a filter over the end to block some of that light.  Since the local telescope store was far away, and since I had better things to do with my allowance, I learned how to improvise.  A pair of nylons wrapped over the end of the telescope usually did the trick.  Embarrassing, perhaps, but there wasn’t much chance that any of my friends would happen by and see me in the dark.

Anyway, I would recommend that everyone get out there tonight and try to enjoy the event.  If it’s close, it’s gonna be big.  Get out there at sunset to watch it come up, or get up early in the morning to watch it go down.  See if you can spot that mysterious dark knight hiding inside (the one with all the hair who leans to his right as the moon’s coming up and stares out as if from the center of a crumbling eggshell).

And, as for the rest of you (the ones who decide to try watching the moon in the middle of the night), try not to stumble around and bang your shins in the dark when you’ve got those old nylons over your head.



Snows of the Oregon Coast

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been coming to winter workshops on the Oregon coast for a few years.  I’ve never even considered the possibility of snow down at sea level.  The foothills, maybe.  They’re up at 500 feet.  But the sandy beach?  Never.

This morning, I woke before dawn from a sound sleep… rare for a writer who didn’t get to bed until well after midnight.  It was quiet outside (yes, “too quiet”).  During the winter, that usually means it’s snowing (the blanket of new-fallen snow dampening the noise, etc.).  But, again, not here.

I’ve never walked along a sandy ocean beach that was covered in snow.  Very strange.