Walkaway and being rich

Early in my conversion to Marxist ideology, I would have “but what about…” discussions with the professor who guided me there. There was this one conversation we had where he had mentioned something about how the rich were always part of the problem, the capitalists. And I asked, well, what about rich philanthropists like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, who give millions to various charities and funds?

And Dr. Burling started to tell me about how that’s part of the problem as well, that that simply contributes to the wealth inequality and perpetuates the status quo . . . and wasn’t able to really explain before we got interrupted. We never did get back to that specific topic before he died, and while I could extrapolate an explanation from everything else I’ve learned from Marxist criticism, I’ve not seen much direct discussion on the exact issue.

Then, the other day, I read a passage in the new Cory Doctorow book, Walkaway. (See my last post, on seeing him talk recently) :

“What about being being richer than Scrooge McDuck and staging a Communist party?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“It’s not like you need to–”

“But I can. Remember, it’s not just ‘to each according to her need,’ it’s ‘from each according to her ability.’ I know how to find factories that are perfect for direct action. I know how to get into them. I know how to pwnify their machines. I know how to throw a hell of a party. I have all this unearned, undeserved privilege. Apart from killing myself as an enemy of the human species, can you think of anything better for me to do with it?”

“You could give money to–”

She froze him with a look. “Haven’t you figured it out? Giving money away doesn’t solve anything. Asking the zottarich to redeem themselves by giving money away acknowledges that they deserve it all, should be in charge of deciding where it goes. It’s pretending that you can get rich without being a bandit. Letting them decide what gets funded declares that the planet to be a giant corporation that the major shareholders get to direct. It says that government is just middle-management, hired or fired on the whim of the directors.”

I’m barely started in on the novel, but I know that much of the novel revolves around using the wealth of resources, knowledge, infrastructure, technology to step out of the current system: the wealth and money, the institutions and processes that justify the wealth inequality and exploitation, and creating a “utopian” society that isn’t perfect, but is just prepared for anything that can come, and can provide needs and wants better without wealth and scarcity markets.

So far, this novel feels a lot like the best of William Gibson during his post-cyberpunk stage of cultural criticism in his “Bridge trilogy,” except, with characters a little bit more relatable.

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Walking Away With Cory Doctorow

Cory on the right

Last week I saw Cory Doctorow, for my second time, at Powell’s City of Books. The first time was just about a month or two after moving to Oregon, not quite three years ago. (I write a bit about it in the blogpost Best Week Evar! On that tour, he was promoting his non-fiction work Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free.) This time, he’s touring his new adult fiction novel Walkaway. It’s a … well, he accepts that it’s a “utopian” novel. (And that sentence should prompt paragraphs of discussion because of everything “utopian novel” implied and leaves out. And I swear to god I wish I’d taken Professor Burling’s class on distopian/utopian fiction. In other classes I recall him discussing utopian fiction is usually ironic or is in opposition to the implied dis- or anti-utopian world that the work either is a reaction to or implies.)

I’ve not yet read far into Walkaway, but from what I gather at the talk, the book features a culture of people who have, in the near-future, walked away from the postmodern capitalist world. Have, instead of fought against the hegemony and the cultural logic, done the most efficient and effective thing and disengaged from it entirely to create a society that uses gift economy.

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After OryCon, first thoughts

Well, that was a humbling experience. I went into my first convention representing my writer role knowing that selling anything is unlikely. I head things from other that you’re doing pretty good if you sell two copies. Well, I didn’t sell a thing. I did witness a couple people pick up a copy of Singularity Deferred and put it back down… exactly like I do a million times at con dealers rooms. It’s very weird to be on the other end of that. I did my job in making a few other independent authors “do good” by buying some of their books, though. Including:

Tori Centanni’s Immortality Cure (my first real entry into urban fantasy, I have to admit. Not counting Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town…, and the TV version of “True Blood”); Toy Wars by Thomas Gondolfi; and Core of Confliction by Maquel A Jacob. They’re also all authors who are members of the incredibly supportive Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA).

Also picked up a copy of French and Cook’s Working the Table. Not that it really would have helped this weekend, it was NIWA’s table I had my titles on, and really only had my bodily presence there for an hour shift. But for when I get the opportunity to have my own table (or share one with only 1 or 2 other authors), it will be invaluable!

So, anyway, I sold no copies. But like I said, that was pretty expected (though I really was hoping for 1 or 2 sales). The demoralizing part was the failure so far of what I was there half for: my post- and business cards appear to have hardly been picked up, I’ve seen no new sales or even sample downloads on Smashwords (by the way, you’re welcome to use coupon code ES78V to get 25% off). No Amazon Kindle sales. I think most of the traffic to the website is still bots.

This sounds maudlin and full of self-pity (and it is), but it’s not all bad. The other half of my goal for going as a writer and not just an attendee, was to network and meet people, and that I did — more than I thought my introversion and social anxiety would allow. Met NIWA people I could put faces to the names to, met new people, handed my card to some people, learned of new and upcoming projects, and really felt more a part of a community. That’s a win!

And of course, the part of the weekend that I would have done just as an attendee, the panels and discussions, were a gihugic success! I learned so very much; I took pages of notes! I’ll probably process those notes and share the best of the tips and resources and bits of advice later this week — there’s a lot of it! And, despite some significant doubts and fears, I am hopeful and excited about my writing career, and am eager to do more and bigger!

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On OryCon 38 and cons in general

I have been attending conventions since… well, actually, pretty late in life. I remember being in grade school and junior high, early /mid 80s, reading Dragon Magazine and dreaming of going to the conventions listed! Ah, GenCon! The Mecca of my people! (Gaming nerds.) “One day, you shall be mine! Oh yes, you shall be mine…” But it wasn’t until sometime around maybe 16 years ago I started actually going to conventions. First, any and all gaming conventions I could get to! (It helped that I was a product rep, or a “Bounty Hunter,” for AEG during much of that (they were primarily RPG and CCG company then), and earning very generous product for demoing and running games!) Finally, attending one GenCon! And then another!

I know, this is nothing to people who go every year, and I know people who do. But it’s a big deal for always broke people, er, people of modest means, like me.

But the real eye-opener for me was going to literary and scholarly conferences! I first attended the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) I think in 2009, while in grad school. (Aw, man! N.K. Jemesin is the guest of honor next year! It’s so expensive to go when you’re not a student/professor.) And it was mind-blowing! Days of panels and discussions and free books at catered meals and late night discussions with people galaxies smarter than me who were eager to talk with people like me, as a peer! I got to meet my favorite editor, Ellen Datlow, and runners up James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel…. and it’s where I first learned about intersectional feminism and privilege! And also how it connects to Marxist cultural criticism. And so much more! It was the first real hint at what it’s like to be a real, active, scholar.

Then, later fandom conventions, scifi conventions, I focused more on panels and the artists/writers tables and rooms, and learned a great deal about what it means to be a real, active creator and writer.

And so it is to cons and conferences I owe so very much of my desire, drive, meager skills and knowledge, regarding writing, publishing, scholarship, and living in that world. At least, the desire to live in those worlds.

Well, this weekend is OryCon 38, “The premiere Portland SciFi Convention.” This will be my first year at that one, and the schedule is simply flooded with some amazing-sounding panels! I’ve hardly been able to even begin to plan my time, there is at least one fascinating thing in every slot regarding writing, storytelling, the craft, the business, so much more.

But, and maybe I’m burying the lede, of all the cons I’ve attended the last decade and a half this will be the first con where I’m actually participating (in a small way) instead of being purely an attendee! (Well, aside from ICFAs where I presented papers. And gaming cons where I ran games, but that’s very different: I was just a facilitator of an activity at those, not featured as a person with a product and a voice!) Thanks to my membership with the absolutely amazing Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA), I’m getting to have books on sale at the table, and, I have a 1-hour slot as a “featured author”!

Of course, it’s at 2pm on Sunday, a couple of hours before the con ends, but that’s not a complaint! I am over the moon at the opportunity to sit at a table, hawk my wares, network and talk to potential new readers. That’ll be a nice time to have comfortable conversations with attendees, and while many people will be broke by that time, a lot of people are also at the end of the weekend deciding where they want to contribute their monies to a small or independent artist and discover something new.

Well, I still have a lot of preparation to do before I go here shortly: I got my first business cards, promotional postcards, copies of my books to sell, stuff for the table Sunday… and I am so ready to start putting out more content here, on Patron, the new newsletter, and make it valuable to people who want to follow my and Tragic Sans’ progress! So much wonderful work to do ahead!

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Fading Suns fanfic – Another Day in the Life

Here’s a little story I wrote as Fading Suns fanfiction. Thought I’d put it up for a bit, check out any comments, before I ebook it and put it up (for free) on Smashwords and the Writing page of this site.

Side note: Fading Suns just just moved publishing from FASA to a favorite game publisher of mine, Ulisses Spiele! I am very excited by this news! It will be the best thing to happen to Fading Suns since… not the move to FASA, uhm… certainly not the addition of d20 rules! Well, since the 2nd edition came out, I would guess.

Anyway, fanfic — what do you think? (Here’s a PDF, or click more/scroll down for the story…)

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Moleskine, the perfect pen, and other hipster issues

moleskine1I must have deliberated over what Moleskine I wanted to get yesterday more than anything in my life! I stood in Powell’s Bookstore for 30 minutes picking them up, putting them back, placing them next to each other, comparing line widths, making them kiss, checking features, until finally I decided on one that I thought I’d actually use. I’d then browsed Web pages for lists of ways in which people use Moleskines (is it really pronounced /mole-SKEEN/ and not /mole-SKIN/? That feels as pretentious as pronouncing it /nee-an-dur-TAL/), because I was already doubting if I’d ever want to actually use the thing more than my phone, which I am never without.

Interestingly (not really), just the day before, someone reminded me of Google Keep as a note taking tool. I’d checked it out and saw I’d already used it a couple of years ago, once, putting in it a solitary gumbo recipe. I told myself I use Evernote!

So, I looked t my Evernote account. Sure, maybe a dozen notes . . . over a period of nearly 10 years.

Funny thing is (not really), I am all the time wanting to take a note down and looking at my phone ineffectually, willing it to read my mind and figure out how to store the bit of info, the reminder, address, gift idea, website, whatever that is hanging tenuously to the front of my mind. I’ll generally not think of what I want to do to take said note, lie to myself and say ah, I’ll remember it! And then one shiny object later, I’d forgotten I’d even had something I wanted to save much less what it was. And no improvement made in my note taking ability.

So yesterday, I made the effort to learn how to use Google Keep effectively (why Keep over Evernote? Well, Evernote charges for decent features, and since I already use the Google empire for everything in my life from email to photo storage, I figured why not give a hacker one more part of my life should they get my Google password?), set up a widget on my phone for easy note taking, and even converted all my Evernote notes to Google docs to import into Keep.

So, once I was all set up and ready to use Keep for all my note taking needs, what did I do? I excitedly went out at bought the Moleskine, because I love the idea of sitting somewhere to write incoherent thoughts longhand.

I did find a cool Molehack (I just made that up) about segmenting your Moleskin into sections (like using labels in Keep) and using the back few pages as an index (like using Keep’s excellent search function — including text in images!)

The idea of having my Keep available all the time, and highly searchable, is paramount to my needs. But I still can’t shake the desire I have had all my life to write notes, write thoughts, story ideas, snippets, character and dialog ideas, the price of a USB drive, in a notebook I can date and file away.

Obviously I needed a new pen.

A few years now my mostest favoritest pen has been the Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm pen. I will go out of my way to find them. I have had to order them online before. I love those pens! But, it seemed like it might not cut it for being the best pen for a Moleskine, which seem to be kind of finicky. To the Googles!

Found a website where someone reviews a bootyton of pens specifically for Moleskine use! Gawd love obsessive-compulsive people. My EnerGel was in the list, ranked not bad. But I wanted better! I searched and found their highly suggested Uni-Ball Signo Micro 207. Turns out, love it! I just finished numbering every 190 pages of the Moleskiene.

Oh, that little tab out the side of the notebook in my pic? That’s an adhesive pen holder attachment. What?! Yes!

Does it matter to me that most of the sites I found advocating for and providing hacks for Moleskine use were from before smartphones became ubiquitous pocket computers? No, why, should it?

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Why you should research a bit before you write

(photo is Aaron Siskind's)

(photo is Aaron Siskind’s)

So during my writing retreat yesterday, I wrote a chapter involving a character in an escape pod that’s tumbling through space. A not bad chapter for a first draft, I think.

But I used my uneducated assumptions about what the occupant would or wouldn’t feel, perceive, of a tumbling craft in space, to create some tension and drama, and drive the plot forward. What I thought I knew, I made important to the action and actions further in the book. I did this without researching first the reality of the situation — and I was wrong.

Why did I do this? Usually I research things before I write about them, at least a little bit. Well, I did promise myself yesterday that I would just get words on the page and not worry about anything else, I would keep myself offline and away from distractions. Which, in that sense, worked. I got a lot of writing done.

But now, having researched today (I’ll share the Reddit post I made on my Patreon feed, and the chapter draft itself to patrons at that level), I realize I absolutely can’t have it work that way and will need to rewrite the chapter and plan different later events.

Part of me wonders, can’t I just fudge it? I mean, I’m not writing hard SF, it’s an adventure story. I’m already doing impossible things regarding faster-than-light travel (of course, that’s a necessity in any SF story that’s going to take place beyond our solar system), how dark mater works (probably), space-time, relativity. . . . But, the thing is, a lot of that is mostly theoretical fields and the fudging has been necessary to even have a space adventure story at all! Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good at keeping with the integrity of classical physics: the danger of high-velocity objects in space, what exposure to space really does (or doesn’t do actually) on a person, etc. Whether or not a person inside a tumbling pod in space tumbles with and how, on the inside of it, falls right smack in the middle of basic classical physics. Like, junior high centrifugal and centripetal force, basic.

Well, I guess I have no choice. I have to be logically consistent, and definitely don’t want to be scoffed at by readers who paid attention in school, or have essentially ever ridden in a car. I better get creative. . . . (Gasp! The tragedy!)

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On your mark, get set. . . delay!

As a member of Willamette Writers (I’ll do a post on that later), I get access to renting a room for a day at their writer’s house, not far from where I live. It’s a memorial house where all the rooms have been converted to writing offices, a library, and a meeting room. Each writing room is themed, and right now, I am sitting in the “Narnia room” during a 15-hour writing retreat. Doing this is something I plan on doing at least monthly, in addition to finding . . . no, making, more time for my writing.

I’m having to vacillate back and forth on how much time and effort I need, and want, to put into my writing and on re-learning Web development skills (which have become nearly obsolete the last few years). The former is my passion and want, the latter is a “smart plan” for making me viable again for solid day jobs.

A lot of situations and decisions, of many sorts, personal and otherwise, have been smacking me in the face lately and I’ve been a slack-mouthed leaf on the wind (like that image?) with a lot less soaring and lot more impalement avoiding. (If you get the reference, you’re a member of my target audience.)  The last few weeks I’ve been making passes here and there at the groundwork of being an independent writer: research, getting ready for social media restart, setting up a Patreon, but little actual writing work lately — sort of the necessary component to being a writer, independent or otherwise, no?

I set up the Patreon rewards, and contribution, to help promote my making the time to do more. And I’m going to have a change in the day job that will also help promote my making that time. Unfortunately, my personal life, not to get too specific, is less than conducive to my focusing on being creative. I have yet to learn the skill of shutting everything off and away while I work on this Being Creative thing.

That’s where this 15-hour personal retreat comes in. I plan on using this “forced” writing day to kick myself in the pants and really focus on the actual writing. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to prepare . . . see, I’m a little stuck in the writing of the novel sequel (my number one writing priority right now). I’ve hit an exposition section that’s bogged me down. And the outline of the novel after this section isn’t fleshed out. So I’m in the middle of a slog I need to plow through and leave to later editing to make it less expository, but I don’t have the “I can’t wait to get to X action scene coming right up” to help me get through it. So I feel mired and unmotivated.

Often, I would move to working on another story, but I’ve delayed long enough. I’m writing this blog post as a necessary Get Words On Paper exercise to get my mind and fingers moving, and as part of my restarting my social media presence (yay multi-purpose distractions!), and then I’m not leaving this room until I’ve gotten past the slog and have the plot moving again. Because this sequel has been in the making far, far too long, and too much of my whole waiting to really push being an independent writer has waited on my getting this second, big novel out.

So, this is a test. I use this day and get the work done. I use the “opportunity” that my day job is affording me to also make the time and opportunity I need, I learn how to shut the personal distractions away to allow both of those opportunities to make a difference, and I know I can keep going.

If not, if I can’t, then I guess I finally give up and start re-teaching myself Web/app development coding. Wish me luck.

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Eat Local

So we moved to Portland, Oregon not long ago, but I still haven’t explored all the area has to offer yet. Sadly, independent bookstores have taken a back-burner until recently — I’ve spent my time at Powell’s which is sort of indie… in the sense that they’re locally owned and are amazing at bringing in speakers and hosting events. But they’re still pretty large and semi-corporate.

I started doing a search for local small bookstores and visiting them, hoping to find one half as good as BookMarx (formerly Book Castle), that I could claim as “mine” and visit an annoying amount. Among the candidates I found was Longfellows, which will be its own post one day. Not a place my lungs can spend too much time in, but man, that will be the first place I will go for anything leatherbound, hard to find, first edition…. Went to another couple nice, but bland places. Then came across Another Read Through.

image grabbed off their web site without permission. All rights theirs. (Old pic as they look better currently.)

(Old pic of theirs as they look better currently.)

First, it’s set back in a gentrified but fun area of Portland’s Mississippi Ave, and sadly I’ve missed discovering it every time I’ve been on that road! So when it came up on Google Maps, I did a double-take — there’s a bookstore there?! But as soon as I walked in, I fell in love.

It’s small, but it’s stocked full of bookshelves boasting all genre. New and used. And the setup, cleanliness, layout, is all very welcoming. They have an upstairs for their mystery books, but also a reading lounge and honor-bar coffee cart. Very comfy!

One of the things that jumped out at me is they have one of the best queer lit and non-fiction section I’ve seen of any small bookstore. I love that they have that. And also, a pretty large selection of local and independent authors. That certainly jumped out to me.

My biggest (unintentional) test of if I’d like the place came as I browsed for sci-fi/fantasy books. A very decent selection of used books… but, sadly, not much that I was looking for, a lot of the kinds of books you’d have gotten from a SF book club in the 80s or will find in yard sales, and that made me a little sad. But when I asked the proprietor for some authors, she recognized each and every one: Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney, N.K. Jemisin, and a couple others…. Now, I know, to those of us who know SF as a field, will recognize those names, as well as many people who are interested in authors who inhabit places of non-privilege. Fortunately, I have my friends and peers who are familiar with both. but you’d be surprised how many booksellers have no idea who Octavia Butler or even Samuel Delaney are. So even though the store didn’t carry anything by them at that moment, the fact the proprietor knew them was a huge plus for me.

But not only that, she went out of her way and found and suggested a story anthology that included Butler and Nalo Hopkins and Ursula K. LeGuin and Vandana Singh and others, edited by favorite editors of mine (after Ellen Datlow), Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.

So, after another enjoyable visit, I went back recently and asked about carrying my books. Long story short, they’re sitting on their shelves now. And that makes me so happy! My new favorite bookstore has my books.

But that’s certainly not the reason to go visit them if you’re in the Portland area! (Although, you know, if you did want to go there to buy my book, who am I to stop you?) There big enough, friendly and helpful, and support local and indie authors… what could be better in a local bookstore?! http://www.anotherreadthrough.com

Their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnotherReadThrough

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Reports of print’s death are exaggerated

Okay, I never actually said print was dead, did I? Well, I did clarify, at least, yeah? So, to cease to dissemble, the big news is this:

My books are not in actual dead tree paper print! I’ve been spending the last… goodly amount of time in editing, formatting, proofing, cover creation, and the end results can be sent to your grubby but discerning and generous hands!

Singularity_Deferred_Cover_for_KindleSingularity Deferred: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

First Hand of the Night: Amazon

I’ll soon be hawking my wares to local bookstores friendly to local independent authors.

This is the next big benchmark of both my career as an independent author and as a hopeful publisher. Some inside baseball: My goals have been to fully grok ebook creation and distribution. Then, research, understand, and delve into the vagaries of print publishing my own works. I feel I should do at least one, maybe two, more works of my own before I feel competent in that regard. The next stage from there is to publish another’s work.

Then I have some choices to make regarding where to go from there. Do I want to continue solely publishing my own work and the occasional compatriot? Or do I want to expand and actually become a publisher legit, and pay proper fees and royalties to authors to publish? It’s one of my dreams, but how much might that take from my greatest goal and dream of “simply” being a writer? I’ve said before how Jason Sizemore and his Apex Publishing is a model for me, and in many ways still is. But, how far do I want to go down that road? I still have a lot of thinking to do.

In the meantime, buy my stuff? *cheesy grin* Spread the word? Meantime, I’m still working on that novel sequel, quit bugging me!

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