Archive for stout

Promotional Giveaway

I’m pleased to announce that my story, Phaethon’s Grace, will be appearing in the upcoming Of Gods and Globes II anthology. The anthology won’t be out for a while, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cool stuff for you in the meantime. The publisher is holding a mega giveaway in the leadup to the book release. Check it out here for the chance to win some neat (and even autographed) stuff: Mega Giveaway

Getting Back

A while ago, I wrote about the frustrations of writing and artistic output during the global Coronavirus pandemic. How the quarantine, while it gave many of us more free time and opportunity to write, also led to increased depression, anxiety, and other mental health distress for a lot of creative types. Creative output often went down when others assumed it would increase.

The good news is, I personally managed to push through to a point where I was getting words down on the page. Not as many as before the ‘Rona took over, but still. (Note: As a mental health professional, I am not advocating merely “pushing through” as any kind of treatment.) An older problem then reared its ugly head: I wasn’t meeting my overall writing goals even before social distancing became a thing. So, double whammy.

Well, this week, I returned to work at my actual work site. Thankfully, as an essential employee, I worked throughout the quarantine. Not only did I earn my wage, but I was able to do so from my recliner, with extra sleep. Which only reinforces how much I was affected by depression issues early on, stuck at home.

I’m happy to report that my writing is back to pre-Coronavirus levels, and have slowly, incrementally, begun to exceed them. Is getting back to my normal “work at work and write at home” routine the cause? Partly, although I was getting better before Monday. I think what helped a lot was knowing I was returning to work.

Still not nearly where I need to be as far as meeting my goals; at least I’m chipping away at those goals. I fervently wish at least the same level of progress for everyone else out there seeking to create. The more awesome we create, the better the world is.

Quarantine Ups and Downs

By now most creatives are familiar with the “But Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine!” argument that being stuck at home should increase creative output. And by now most creatives have gotten fed up with non-creatives expecting them to compartmentalize emotions during social distancing.  Well, we know it isn’t that simple.

What about when you get the chance to work from home? For many, doing so has resulted in a creative malaise, or too many distractions, from having their kids home 24/7 to having their work life creep into their creative space. Honestly, working from home has been a godsend for me. I have physical disabilities, and working from home has alleviated many of the distractions caused by them. No longer am I coming home in pain, with eye strain, struggling to get any word count. I mean, my home office is an easy chair, after all. I’m even giving the business side of things the proper attention, which I so rarely do. Damn querying!

The only logical conclusion is that the words are flowing and everything’s peaches and cream for me at the moment. Not so fast. My creative output IS up, as a direct result of social distancing, the quarantine, and working from home. No denying that. What IS suffering while my writing thrives is ME. After I close the computer, what is there? I make connections online, talk to friends and family, and…sit around and do nothing. Watch TV. Surf the ‘Net. Read. Get things done around the apartment. Watch TV, surf the ‘Net, watch TV, surf the ‘Net, become more of a hermit, forget the positive things I can do at home, watch TV, surf the ‘Net…

I’m falling into a vicious cycle because of this quarantine. For now, the writing is good. I don’t have the problem many creatives have, of finding it harder to create. For how long, though? There will come a breaking point, and if it is reached, I have no doubt I’ll be in a deeper rut than before. So I have to guard against that. Try to lift myself in these trying times. Work on coping strategies to deal with the difficulties. You know, the hard stuff.

We talk about the obvious problems, that it can be difficult for many to create in these circumstances. We also need to worry and take precautions when things are going WELL in these trying times. We need to recognize our own fragile mental states and balance our creative output against our mental needs. I’ve written this rambling post as a cathartic tool, not so much to find answers to my dilemma–because there are no easy answers here–but to process what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. Hopefully, in reading this, it will help a few other creatives do the same.

Chasing Your Tail in Traditional Publishing

If you’re like me, self-publishing your novels isn’t even remotely possible. At the very least, it isn’t a good idea. To be a successful self-publishing novelist–and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be successful?–you have to be able to promote yourself and promote your book. For someone who considers three likes and one reply on Facebook an enormous victory, I’ll never be able to sufficiently self-promote.

So, what do you do when you think you’ve finished what you consider a successful novel? Sign with an agent that will champion said novel, get it into the right hands, and land you a publishing deal. I won’t even get into the nuts and bolts of how difficult it is to succeed at that, as most of you already know. And most of you already know how brutal it is trying to write and assemble all the materials, especially the query letter, you’ll need along the way. That’s fine. If it were easy, everyone would do it. No, let’s talk a little about how, unless your first finished, polished manuscript is an instant success, you’ll be chasing your tail.

One of the truths I hear spoken by countless amazing and successful authors is that it’s rarely your first book that gets published. Often, it’s the second, third, fourth, fifth…you get my drift. The more you write, and the more books you write, the better you get at it. Simple logic. So, what do you do after getting all your querying materials together and get to querying? Start another book!

Here’s where the seemingly impossible gets even more difficult. You’re itching to move on to your next project, eager to put those writer muscles back to work. Writing takes a lot of time as well as effort, and, with an assumed day job, time is at a premium. Well, you have to give yourself copious amounts of that precious commodity to query your finished manuscript. Querying is a volume task, too, meaning you don’t just want to query one or two agents. If you limit yourself like this, even a great manuscript may take years to land you an agent.

How long does it take to query each agent? Mileage varies here. Some agents use sites like Query Tracker that make the process quicker and easier. Some have easy-to-read sites with concise lists of what they want emailed to them. And some…don’t. Just figuring out who wants what sent how is a chore. Then there’s personalizing your query, inputting the agent’s data into your files, changing formats, copying chunks of your manuscript into files of four chapters instead of three, never mind finding the agent in the first place…you get the gist. Personally, I lay out half an hour minimum for each one, because I’m slow and prefer to be thorough.

Half an hour each? Submitting to as many as you can? When will I write? It’s an excellent question, and it leads many writers, myself prominent amongst them, to vacillate. I tried to split time for a while, querying a few agents a week while writing my current WIP. But, time being short, I ended up super behind on my WIP. I’ve previously finished three books that were polished enough for me to query with. The first I have since shelved, but I feel the other two have potential. I’m trying to query two novels and write a third one. Ai!

Take heart. It’s frustrating, it’s a lot of tail chasing, but if it leads to an agent, and that agent lands you a book deal, it’ll all be worth it. And while, yes, being a published and agented author working on future projects comes with its own challenges, guess what you won’t have to do from that point on? Query agents. It’s a ginormous, intimidating prospect, but one you only have to conquer once. Unless you have to change agents for one reason or another. Hey now, let’s not borrow trouble! And, who knows? At that point, you may be like Kameron Hurley, who had an agent solicit her for work 🙂

ConFusion 2020 Report (or the Also Report)

As reported, I attended ConFusion 2020 in Novi, Michigan last weekend. I enjoyed a confluence of wonderful coincidences, had a lot of fun, and met some fabulous new friends.

First, the coincidences. The week before the con I began reading “The Light Brigade” by Kameron Hurley, which I finished during the con and highly recommend. Kameron was a guest of honor, whom I shared coffee with in a small group at a kaffeeklatsch. Kameron’s a wonderful writer and person who encouraged me in my writing and showed genuine interest in what I had to say, and who shared a lot about her own journey. Also, in the days leading up to the con, Bogi Takács posted a series of intersex literature resources on Twitter, which I found immensely helpful, as a novel I am querying has an intersex main character. E was also a guest of honor, and I also had a kaffeeklatsch with em! Bogi shared anecdotes about events in Hungary, helped bring me up to speed on current controversies in the literary world, and was simply a delight to chat with.

John Scalzi was also in attendance as a guest of honor and hosted a DJ dance party on Saturday night. I’m usually one people must force to stay up late these days. All Scalzi had to do was put on some slammin’ tunes, and I was up until almost 2:00 in the morning playing the dancing fool.

ConFusion had outstanding programming, too, for a writer. Although I didn’t go to many of the panels on the craft, the one on training sequences inspired how I’m going to handle my main character’s initial training scenes in my current WIP. The Friday panels on the business side of things really dropped the knowledge bomb, though. I learned oodles at those. Might just be filing as a fiction writing for the first time this year. Ugh, itemizing! Ugh, receipts! lol

As for the people, I’m not going to try to name all the names, because there’s just not enough bandwidth to name them all. I reconnected with some folks, made plenty of new friends and connections, and even met a few authors I knew of but hadn’t seen in person. On the Border for the win for dinners we didn’t have to drive through the snow to get to! Was the con perfect? No, of course not. No con is. There were some coordination issues, and not all the logistics worked out. Also, I didn’t have any agents go goo-goo eyed over my books and offer representation–not that I was expecting even a chance to pitch, but you never know. Still and all, I will definitely attend again. Hopefully next year I’ll check in early enough to be a panelist, too.

ConFusion

Let there be no confusion (pun very, very much intended): I will be attending ConFusion in Detroit this upcoming weekend. Well, it’s in Novi, Michigan, but close enough, right? If you want to ask about the novels I have to query or submit, chat about geekery and nerdy things, say hello, or just plain want to chill out with me, cool! I’m easy to approach and love making new friends and business contacts, as well as catching up with old ones.

World Fantasy Con 2019

*–I’ll post the same caveat at the beginning of this report as I did last year. Too many names, too little time (and blog space!) to mention.

Once again, I ventured out to World Fantasy Con. This time, rather than rambling across Pennsylvania and dropping into Baltimore, I had to take flight and cross the country to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, due to aircraft problems, Southwest withdrew their nonstop flights to and fro LAX. It wasn’t to be the only travel problem–the decision to do an Airbnb instead of the host hotel didn’t pay off, and the final leg of the trip home was a pain-in-the-ass delay–mitigated by a great flight-mate–but none of that mattered. Like last year, WFC was one hell of a time. 

So, I had the same sub-agenda as I did last year: to find representation for a novel. Well, novels, this time, as I have two manuscripts ready to go. This time around, I made it a sub-agenda, because I learned that WFC is so much more than tasteless trolling for agents. Not that I would ever act like that, but still, there’s more to life than selling books. My main agenda was simply to have fun networking and catching up with those already in my network. And, you know what? I ended up garnering a few requests to check out my manuscripts anyway.

When I think about what I found best about WFC, I can only reply “Yes!” There were wonderful panels on professional development in all aspects of the industry. I went to a fair few of these, adding to my knowledge base and writing tool box, but these by far weren’t the highlight of the con. There were great chance meetings with new folks, with whom I enjoyed rich conversation, yet this wasn’t the best part either. Brandon and Brandon against the world rocked California like Hans Gruber blitzing into Nakatomi Tower, but that wasn’t it. Hitting up the con suite, relaxing with the friends, new and old, that washed up there, was marvelous, as was lingering in the lobby and ballroom lobby doing the same, but neither was it the best part of the week. I just can’t separate one of these from the other. Everything about WFC was the best part of the con, because the sum of WFC IS its parts.

Okay, so maybe I’m getting too philosophical about the experience. In simplest terms, I loved it last year, and loved it this year, too. LA was different than Baltimore, sure. No two experiences can be the same, no matter how wonderful they are individually. I hope I come to enjoy many more WFC’s in the future.

Next year is in doubt. It’s in Salt Lake City, and sounds a tad more expensive than I may be comfortable with. Regardless, I’ll do my utmost to continue connecting with all of you beautiful people I met and renewed connections with at WFC, whether it be online or at other cons, or maybe even in Salt Lake City. Ya never know. Until then, I’ll ride the energy wave this trip infused me with to jumpstart a few projects.

Stay frosty, my friends!

World Fantasy Con 2019

I am pleased to announce that I will be attending World Fantasy Con this week in Los Angeles. While there, I will be a part of the autographing session. You say you don’t have any of my books? Never fear–I’ll have a nice selection available!

Some of the biggest names in fantasy history will be in attendance this week, and I’m honored to be autographing alongside them. Top guests include Tad Williams, Reiko Murakami, Sheree Renée Thomas, Margo Lanagan, Beth Meacham and Robert Silverberg as Toastmaster. And wait’ll you get a load of some of the folks reading and on panels!

Sharpen Your Mind at the Table

People lament it all the time, this fascination we have with technology. The dumbing down of America, I’ve heard it called. I can’t throw stones myself, because my smart phone is indispensable and I’m constantly surfing the Internet. I also have a hobby that many might consider a waste of time, dooming me to eternal geekdom. To that I say thank you for the geek label, and that board games are anything but a waste of time.

Everyone played games like Monopoly as a child, and many progressed to Risk. While those kinds of games are fun pastimes, they’re not what I’m describing here (although Scrabble, without the falsified “official” dictionary, certainly fits the bill). I’m referencing the massive amounts of advanced board games that people are bringing to the table, games that sharpen as well as entertain the mind.

Take Terraforming Mars. It appears simple enough on the surface: when the oxygen and temperature are both maxed, and the oceans are all placed, the game ends, with the victor the individual with the most victory points. TM lists all the types of actions, many leading to those valuable victory points, in the guise of terraforming rating. Yet to win TM takes the mastery of engine building, finding the right combination of cards, standard actions, and other avenues to build up the best point-scoring approach. Should I fund this award, or will an opponent overtake me to snag the points from it? If I sell out to get this milestone, what do I do if someone beats me to it? Additionally, though I love getting the perfect cards to fuel my engine, I find it even more fun and challenging to build a winning engine out of components that don’t, on first blush, fit together. This allows me to exercise my mind while having a hell of a good time.

Then there are games that I suck at, that bend my brain, but that I love anyway. Goa is this kind of game. I’ve played upwards of thirty times and won maybe four or five. I certainly didn’t win within my first ten plays. I should hate it, except it’s such a great game that the challenge of getting better keeps me coming back for more. How much should I bid for which tiles? Will I take the money action and eschew other valuable choices to prepare for the next auction round? With a strict amount of actions in the game, you must figure out where to focus your efforts. Sure, maybe I’m getting better, but I’ll never master it. And I’d play Goa every day of the year, if I had the time and opportunity.

There ARE an increasing amount of board and card games that integrate technology, like One Night Werewolf. Heck, I use Chwazi to determine start player for many games. None of the games I have in mind use technology, but I won’t disqualify them because they mostly use it not to change the game, but to simplify things like accounting and DMing secret knowledge for the players. I don’t get into games like this, but don’t condemn board gamers who do.

Finally, really cool people play board games. Well, they’re MY kind of cool, and that’s all that counts! What else can you do that’s loads of fun, that you get to do with cool people, AND sharpen your mind? Well, you may come up with some ideas, but I’m sticking with board games.

To check out the games I mentioned, and many hundreds of thousands more, go to www.boardgamegeek.com.

Read These Writers Now!

This website, and the sort-of blog I sometimes post on it, is usually dedicated solely to moi. As it should be, since it’s named after me, and I’m kind of a big deal, right? Well, I’m rather tired of tooting my own horn all the time, and I reckon you, my readers, are as well. In order to spice it up around here, I’ve decided to let you in on some fabulous writers I know who are working on and have published some wonderful things. Read these writers now!

FRANK JASON ORETO

I know Frank well, sharing a writing group with him (Write-or-Die, or WorD), and have beta read a novel he’s working on getting out. Not only is Frank a great writer, but the man can cook! You can read about it on his social media pages. Frank’s a horror maestro with lots of creative, deviously wonderful short stories out there to find. In fact, he has a new story, “The Worm Turns,” out in Corpus Press’s “Creatures of the Night,” that just dropped recently. You can find Frank on Twitter (@FrankOreto) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/frank.oreto) Read Frank Jason Oreto now!

SHANNON EICHORN

I first met Shannon at the Nebulas in Pittsburgh, and it’s always nice running into her at events. She’s a freaking scientist with NASA–how cool is that? We even ran a kaffeeklatsch together at Confluence last month. Shannon was selling her book “Rights of Use,” which is book 1 in her Project Black Book series, at Confluence. She sold so many copies the first day, her husband had to drive several hours to deliver even more books. Get this one while it’s hot, folks! You can find Shannon on Twitter (@ShannonEichorn) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/shannoneichornscifi) Read Shannon Eichorn now!

LARRY IVKOVICH

I know Larry from the WorD group as well, and we just shared a dealer’s table at Confluence. Larry’s a great guy that’s fun to hang around with. Get him to laugh, because he has one of the most entertaining laughs you’ll ever encounter. And he has a lot of stuff out. His recent book, “Magus Star Rising: A Tale of the Galactic Nexia” has been getting great reviews. He also has an anthology of short stories out, called “Beyond the Numinous: Tales of the Galactic Nexia.” You can find Larry on Twitter (@LarryIvkovich) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/larry.ivkovich.3) Read Larry Ivkovich now!

ALFRED “AJ” SMITH

AJ is a relatively new writer with some fabulous credentials coming right out of the gate. He’s a good friend of mine, and a member of the writing group I run (https://www.meetup.com/pittsburghwritersmeetupgroup/). When he’s not rowing, or coaching rowers, he’s writing. AJ’s first short story got professionally published in Deep Magic. Another story, “Graveyard’s Whistle,” just won the 2019 PARSEC Short Story Contest and was published in the Confluence program. It might be more difficult to find that one, but imagine how valuable it’ll be when he’s a famous writer! You can find AJ on Twitter (@HarmonicAuthor) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Smity652) Read AJ Smith now!

There you have it, dear followers. I plugged some fantastic writer friends instead of plugging myself this time around. What’s that, you say? I did kind of mention myself a few times? Sh! I won’t tell if you don’t. Forget about that, and read those writers now!