Category: Writing (Page 1 of 4)

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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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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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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More stories made available

front-image-1cover-imagesword-remembers-cover

Just wanted to mention, I just added a few of the older stories on Smashwords (and, soon, all other ebook merchants like Kobo and Barnes and Noble). I’ve added new images and links over on the Fiction Page.

The ones I added were:

  • A Price in Every Box” — This story looks at what happens when Pandora finally finds what she released centuries ago, and locks him away in a suitcase. Can the world handle life without evil?
  • The End of the Beginning” — Where we’re taken along with the first human time traveler to the very end of the universe. Getting stuck there isn’t the only surprise he encounters. (This story was originally published in M-BRANE SF magazine.)
  • The Sword Remembers” — When a stranger from a modern land surprises Sarah and her adventuring companions mid-fight with a wizard, everyone gets more than they bargained for. Can he find his way back home? Can she find a way to deal with him?

These were stories that had been only available in the collection, First Hand of the Night. I’m working on an updated version of that, and formatting it as my first print book. It should end up around 40,000 words, which will make a nice, short novel-length book of stories. If that goes well, then Singularity Deferred goes to the print process!

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Making decisions

Continuing on from my previous post “Thoughts on CthulhuCon PDX, and getting going!,” I’ve been thinking a lot since that massive hit of self- and independent-published writing and game inspiration.

I don’t know how you’re reading this, Dear Visitor, whether it’s soon after its posting on a blog by a lazy writer, or maybe a year from now on the ancillary blog by the head of Tragic Sans Press — but the latter is what I’d always intended this blog to be at its inception. I have wanted very much so to start up my publishing imprint and get it going, but I have been easily distracted. First the move to Portland, then I have for a while been toying with returning to my scholarly pursuits (continuing my research on Philip K. Dick by finishing my comprehensive annotated bibliography and literary analysis, beginning my career as the foremost Steven Brust scholar….)

Sadly, like Nancy Kress, I’m not someone who can operate on little sleep, which cuts down my available time and energy per day even more. And I don’t do coke, so I have a hard time doing more than half a thing half of the time. I’ll be honest, I’m a touch lazy and did I mention easily distracted? So I can’t do it all; I have to make decisions on where to put my time and energy.

As much as I love my scholarship, and I so very much want to publish in peer-reviewed journals, and get a jump start on my eventual PhD, right now the thing that will give me the most satisfaction, the most enjoyment, is to focus on writing fiction and getting Tragic Sans Press going.

Now, exactly what form will Tragic Sans be? Will it focus on putting out a literary journal? If so, what will be the theme? Will it focus on publishing other peoples’ novels and non-fiction full-length works? For pay, even? These are things I’ve been thinking about and need to come to conclusions, soon.

I’ve also been thinking about re-trying to contact the agents that I found a few years ago, and a prominent writer suggested to me, to see about eschewing self-publishing and going traditional. That would be cool… but fun?

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Thoughts on CthulhuCon PDX, and getting going!

cthulhucon_poster_600Last weekend I attended the Portland CthulhuCon. It was a gathering of a few hundred fans of Lovecraft and related media for two days, featuring amazing and fascinating panels, art displays and competitions, readings, games, vendors…. It was amazing!

I myself am a moderate Lovecraft fan. I probably know more about the man and his work than I do of the stories themselves. I mean, sure, I’ve read his most popular stories and I’m familiar with his mythos, but I’m by no means hardcore. Even so, I held my own in a Lovecraftian Pictionary game!

The panels were simply fantastic! They really were quality, intellectual panels with some very prominent Lovecraft scholars and artists and writers, the quality of discussions I’d have seen a the ICFA. Cthulhu vs Dracula, compare and contrasting Lovecraft’s writing and style, and place in literary history, with that of Bram Stoker. One on Lovecraft’s life and internal demons and how that may have affected his writing. An analysis of the Lovecraft mythos and writing in mythos (his and in general). And more! I took so many notes.

One of the best parts was a performance by Leeman Kessler of “Ask Lovecraft.” He does a very funny, and honoring, not satirical, impersonation of a reanimated Lovecraft answering any and all questions from the audience, from the serious to the goofy — and every improvised response of his was great and humorous.

One of the highlights was definitely “Scotch with Scott.”

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My future plans for study and growth

scholarHaving just moved to Portland from the midwest, it’s obvious I’m looking to start a new life. Well, a new chapter. I like my life, and most of what’s in it, so I don’t want a new one. Just, improved. Full disclosure, a large part of the “deal” with moving here is so that my wife can find her own new life. I won’t go into detail as that’s her story to tell. But, suffice it to say, much of my role, at least initially here, is to support her in her search and discovery. And I’m happy to do so! But, while I’m looking for that elusive and decent-paying tech job, I do have some of my own goals — some I’m already working on. . . .

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on the sequel to Singularity Deferred. And, just moments ago, I finished two intense chapters of it and feel really good about where it’s going. I’m making a decision about its structure that fans of the first novel may find annoying, or really like — we’ll see. Anyway, that’s my main personal goal right now. But, ennui, dissatisfaction, the draw and tease of scholarly subjects, many influences have made me pine for grad school. I miss it. I miss the research, the studying, the reading, the papers, the learning and developing and widening and understanding of things…. I miss it something terrible.

Of course there’s no reason to stop learning and developing! Of course. But since graduating with my Masters, it’s felt like a demarcation, a transition from “scholar” back to working drone, and the old habits and floundering. (Although, like I said, I’m somewhat pleased that I’ve been writing semi-regularly, still!)

Today, it hit me hard. I was reminded of my work in mediated experience in a postmodern world, and the writers I used to research and use, and discovered new books by them… and I felt the need, the absolute need, to continue to study them, model them, and carry on my own scholarship and add to the discourse.

Part of me has been in wait. I’ve known since before I graduated in 2010 (oh my god!) that my next step was to be a PhD from Trent University in Ontario. Their Cultural Studies department is enviable and arguably the best in North America. Either their “culture and tech” or “culture and theory” course of study, I can’t yet decide. But, I figured that’d be something I’d do after our daughter graduated high school, three years from now. Sure, by that time I’d likely be one of the oldest PhD candidates they probably have (I was one of the oldest MA students MSU’s English department had), but I don’t care. I can’t let the unstoppable passage of time and my advancing age prevent me from seeking my goals. After all, how many people take up and climb mountains mid- and post-mid-life? Explore other countries? Take up diving and explore the ocean bottom? Why can’t my graduate degrees be my Mount Everest?

But will Trent happen? Even in three years? I’m in Portland now, and Portland is my home. Sure, I could move to Ontario for 2 to 3 years, then come back. But will I? Sure, if I want it enough, and can afford it….

But then, if I want it enough, why wait until then? Why not start now? Why wait until I enroll in a new school? Do Sherry Turkle or Katherine Hayles or Slavoj Zizek or Hardt and Negri wait to get yet another degree before they research and write their next books?! Of course not! They are scholars, and that’s what it means to be a scholar. You research, study, synthesize, and contribute now, despite where and when you are. Why can’t I do that now?

Soon I will have another mind and body sapping job in order to pay the bills, and I will have to conform and contort my writing and scholarship around that. To do that, I’ll have to give up other distractions: Facebook for the most part, TV and movies, sleep. But it’s not enough, for me, just just proclaim abstinence from distraction, find the latest book on posthuman cultural criticism and read… I need focus, goals, a program and a plan. I need to create my own doctorate program. No, I won’t get more letters I can put after my name from it, but that doesn’t matter. Zizek doesn’t get a new degree for every new topic he researches and then writes a book on. Just as I can’t in good conscience call myself “a writer” unless I’m actually writing, I can’t call myself “a scholar” unless I’m doing the work of scholarship. And I know myself well enough to know I’m unlikely to engage in actual scholarship (and commenting on Facebook articles is not scholarship), unless I have a plan and structure and goalposts.

And so, before work takes up most of my time and energy, I need to get to work creating my own personal PhD program. I feel excited, challenged…happy at the prospect!

…starting and editing a regular literary journal has been a goal of mine for a few years now–I wonder how to incorporate that.

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New year; new projects. And thoughts on Fading Suns

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Has it really been an entire year since my last post? Well, no John Scalzi am I! I plan to remedy the lack of communication issue in 2014, especially since I’m working on some projects this year that I can’t wait to talk about.

On the novel front, I’ve switched my focus. I had been working much of last year on my epic SF/fantasy trilogy. Some good research, some good outlining, and a decent amount of narrative written. But I reached a stopping point at the same time that thoughts of finally getting that sequel to Singularity Deferred out of my head started to peak. So, I’ve shelved the trilogy for now and picked up the sequel–which should make 6 people on Amazon and a couple on Smashwords happy.

Now, some truly awesome news: I just started working with FASA on one of my mostest favoritest role-playing games evar! Fading Suns. (Some additional info.) I’ve been into this system since the late 90s, ever since I got the “Emperor of the Fading Suns” strategy PC game, and then checked out the RPG it was based on. (That game has a truly amazing soundtrack that could be ripped off the CD! I’ve used it for years as part of my writing soundtrack.)

So they released a newly revised edition of the core rules about a year and a half ago, and a new game master’s guide this last December (with much old, revised material). Now, they’re working on redoing the supplemental source books. And that’s where I come in!

I can’t say much, but I’m working right now on a source book that’s going to contain a pretty big ratio of new content! It’s very exciting! And the fact that I get to have a role in the creation process really is like a dream come true.

As for the game itself, I’m quite pleased where it’s going. I won’t get into the messy details, but the original creators of the game were supposedly working on an entirely new 3rd edition of the game before Crazy Stuff Happened, and the line changed hands and people left…. And what happened instead was the Revised Edition was released. And as much as I was really looking forward to a new version, I think this is better. I mean, at the core of Fading Suns is a very good rules system that really did only need some fixing and enhancing. Which they did. It’s a much better system now.

Though, I’m still unsure about the physical copy of the new book. It’s a nice, portable size now, but it doesn’t lie open on the table anymore. Which is a shame. But I think I’ll live. 🙂 I’m excited to see what the source books end up looking like.

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