Fly-By: brb, going on vacation and Worldcon

spirited-away

My blogging schedule may be all kinds of screwy the next few weeks, as we’ll be:

  1. Heading out to the UK for a week and a half, starting tomorrow.  We’ll be visiting many friends, shopping at numerous stores, enjoying the free museums, and ogling the royal palaces.  And taking loads of pictures.  I may make the occasional short fly-by post just to keep things updated, but since we’ll be in a completely different time zone, don’t be surprised if they pop up at strange times.
  2. Heading to Worldcon 76 down in San Jose as soon as we get back.  I’m still looking forward to meeting up with many writer friends and chatting meeting even more for the first time.  I may not be on any panels, but I’ll still be networking and having a lot of fun.

I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to get much writing done.  I’ll most likely be doing revision work for In My Blue World and doing a read-what-I-have-so-far of the Apartment Complex story.

But I’m not complaining…we’ve been looking forward to this vacation for quite some time!  I’m looking forward to just having fun and seeing all the fun things!

We’ll be back to normal hopefully by the 20th or so!  Thanks for your patience!

Conventions and Meeting People

hb cocktail party
I don’t think the Green Room is usually this fancy or lively.

I’m not exactly an introvert, but I’m not one that can easily insert myself into conversations in public places.  I tend to be more of a listener in mixed company, patiently waiting for a subject I can latch onto.  Sometimes it works, other times I’ll only passively jump in.  [There’s also the fact that I sometimes have trouble filtering noise when there’s multiple loud conversations going on.  It’s not that I’m hard of hearing, it’s that I hear every local conversation and noise at the same level, and need to do the classic hand-to-ear gesture and point it in your direction.  But that’s another blog entry altogether.]

Networking at conventions as a writer can be a daunting task, especially when you’re just starting out.  I certainly hate to come off as pushy or annoying.  And I’m certainly not a born salesman, so I feel like an idiot going up to complete strangers and foisting my books upon them.  I mean, sure, I can do the elevator pitch if I have to, and I don’t mind talking about writing at all, but that’s not how I am 24/7.  I’d rather talk about music, or the latest book I read or movie I watched, or any other mundane subject like we’re friends that met up at the bar.

On the other hand, there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years:  the convention is also full of pros who’ve been in the field quite a long time who feel the exact same way.  Many are already self-conscious and nervous in this kind of public situation.  We’d all rather just wave a quick hello and go back to hiding in our offices so we can write our novels!

In the end, the best way for all of us to break that feeling of mortification is to just jump in and go for it.  It takes practice, but you’ll get it after a while.  It took me a few cons before I finally steeled myself to talk to the pros.  Some of them are even my online friends now!  And as I’ve said, the best way for me to do so is to treat the connection like we were friends at a typical gathering.  I understand that the social link might not actually reach that far, but it helps for me to think of the conversations that way so I don’t feel as nervous.

[Mind you, I also understand there are those with certain anxieties that make this sort thing hard to achieve.  To that, I say: I gladly welcome you into the conversation, and I will try to understand what’s needed for you to feel comfortable while we hang out.]

For years I twitched at the word ‘networking’ because for me it drags up images of businessmen gathering at a fancy overpriced bar in the city center where they all talk about things that I have absolutely no interest in.  After years of social media and the occasional convention, however, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be that.  It can be the simple act of meeting a writer and getting to know them, they introduce you to their writer friends, and so on, until you find yourself knowing a surprisingly wide assortment of people, either as friends, associates, or acquaintances.  Social media has definitely helped this become easier for many, including myself.

 

 

On Worldcon 76

doctor who that can't be good

Well.  Nothing like waking up to a hot mess on Twitter.

I’ll start off by saying I have a very small pony in this horse race.   There are other writers out there, specifically writers of color, marginalized people, pro writers just starting out, and so on, that have a much bigger horse running right now.  I’m not trying to lump myself in with them or their issues regarding this convention, nor am I looking for sympathy.  I’m not saying my issues are more important than theirs; quite the opposite. This particular post is just about me.

First of all, I understand that there are more Worldcon attendees than there are panels and rooms to hold said panels.  Most of us are there as fans anyway.  I get that.  But a considerable segment of us are also writers, struggling to make a name for ourselves with minimal or no help from promotion departments.  We sign up for these conventions because it’s one of the few ways we writers know how to get our name out there.

The programming decision to leave out so many writers and professionals of all levels ‘because they’re not known’, on the other hand, is elitist, rude, and unprofessional.

I’m a self-published author and proud of it, but this decision sent a message that to me felt like I was destined to stay at the community access channel level of SFF conventions.  (Not that that’s a bad thing — BayCon and FOGcon have done me extremely well the last few years and I can’t thank them enough.)  It felt as though I hit a glass ceiling.

And imagine how that feels to others — the women, the people of color, the LGBTQ writers and fans — who get hit with this bullshit every single fucking time.

Us early career writers (and career self-publishers for that matter) rely heavily on conventions to get our names out quickly and easily, and also to network.  We especially rely on a Big-Name convention like Worldcon as a major boost to our career because of the sheer number of attendees.  We hope to be on panels and readings, because this method of exposure works for us.

Furthermore, many writers, both self-published and professional, happen to self-publish because they’re not getting any help from the regular commercial avenues.  Or that they aren’t getting the proper (or any) promotion.  Cons are a HUGE help to combat that.  And leaving them off the panels is NOT the answer.

Especially if they’ve been nominated for a Hugo this year.

I’ve also seen tweets from a few authors stating that they saw their own panel suggestions on the programming but they are not part of the panel at all.*  That might be an oversight (and a gross one at that), but it also sends a similar message: it might be your idea, but someone else more popular is going to benefit from it instead. We writers create these panels because a) we think it’s interesting and want to share it, b) it’s something relevant to our own career, and c) again, it helps put our name out there.  Keeping us off our own panels essentially closes a door in our face.

* – I was unaware the programming had gone live on the website this weekend, and it has since been taken back down, so I do not know if any of my panel suggestions have been accepted or not.

I would have loved to have been on a few panels, especially those dealing with self-publishing so I could Pay It Forward.  And to be honest, I’d also would have liked to at least gotten a form rejection letter saying I wasn’t going to be on any panels.  To not get any response at all — not even a simple ‘check our website on (date) to see if we’ve accepted you as a panelist’ — sent the message that I wasn’t worth it in the first place.

That I was still labeled a fan and not a writer, despite having multiple books out.

[Yes, I do know how rejection works in the publishing biz.  Some houses don’t even respond back because they just don’t have enough people to do it.  But this is a convention, not a publishing house.  There’s room for creativity and covering bases here.]

We’re still going, of course.  Even though I won’t be on any panels, we’re still going.  We have friends we’d like to see.  There are writers we’d like to meet.  I have freebie cards to give out, and other writers to network with.  Despite the annual wave of ‘Worldcon done fucked up again’ tweetstorms, we still have a lot of fun in general.  It’s not a complete shitshow.  Not like some cons I’ve heard about.

I’m not asking Worldcon to be perfect, flawless and infallible.  We all fuck up now and again.  All I’m asking is that they be professional and have a better awareness of the variables.  It’s a big project with a lot of moving parts that need monitoring.  And this really felt like there were a lot of people sleeping at the switch, or worse, weren’t aware of it in the first place.

EDIT:  Earlier this afternoon the Worldcon 76 committee agreed to the numerous complaints that had been placed about this issue, and have decided to “[tear] the program apart and start over.”  Good on them.  Their Twitter message can be found here.

Working Vacations

anime vacation

Have I ever gone on a vacation and not done any writing work?  That’s a good question.  I highly doubt it.  I mean, even if I post a fly-by here and say that I haven’t been doing much of anything at all, chances are quite high that I’ve been doing something related to one of the projects I’m working on.

More often than not I use vacations to do a read-through of The Book So Far.  I’ll either pull it up via Dropbox or I’ll actually have it saved to my tablet or my Nook.  This is a perfect time for me to read what I have up to that point and make a few mental notes:  Is the flow of the prose consistent and balanced?  Does the continuity need work?  Did I forget a subplot?  Are there any gaping holes I need to fill?  These are things that I don’t necessarily need to work on that moment, but finding them at that point helps me remember them when I’m working on revision later on.

I don’t usually do any new writing during vacations, because that can take a while.  I’d rather be walking around the place we’re visiting rather than holed up in the hotel tapping away.  [The only exceptions to this are Just To Say I Did moments, such as when I did a bit of thumbnail sketching at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.]  I also don’t do that much new work because I only bring my midsized tablet and/or my Nook, which aren’t all that easy for typing.

And my favorite place to work while on vacation, oddly enough?  On the plane!  Our flights, depending on where we’re going, usually take a good couple of hours, so I can certainly keep myself busy with my reading/revision work.  With that, my mp3 player, and perhaps a beverage, I’m good to go.

I’ve also learned over the years not to overpack when it comes to bringing my writing on vacation with me; I’ll have less time to play around with it than I think I will, especially if we’re going somewhere like the Big Smoke where we’ll be hitting All the Bookstores and visiting friends and crossing Abbey Road and going on tours of royal locations.  Last time we were in London, I only brought my tablet, my Nook, and a small handful of index cards, all of which took up a tiny spot in my satchel.

I’ve also learned not to sweat it if I don’t get to it.  I purposely set my deadlines far enough in advance (and make them flexible at that), so I can spend these days properly enjoying our vacation and not feel guilty about it.

So yes…if you’re like me and you find yourself itching to get some writing work done while you’re kicking it in a tiny top floor bedsit in Earl’s Court while your significant other gets their recommended dose of Tony Robinson historical documentaries on the telly, by all means go for it.  But don’t forget to simply have fun and enjoy yourself!

Fly-By: two novels, finish my blueprint, begin my beguine

nowhere man typing

Yeah, I know, I used that subject line about this time last year.  I have a good reason, though — I’ve been quite busy this past weekend, attempting to get In My Blue World revised, create the freebie postcards for it (and get them ordered), and also go see Yellow Submarine at the Castro Theater!  I couldn’t pass up seeing one of my favorite movies from my childhood at a local theater I’ve been wanting to go to for ages.

On the plus side, I’m still relatively on schedule with this novel, which makes me happy.

Oh — and I may be making some pre-writing notes for a future Mendaihu Universe story that I will most likely start writing later in the year.  As if I don’t have enough to do right now…

See you on Friday!  🙂

On Writing a Positive Voice

Don’t get me wrong.  There are things going on in this world that rile me up, get me pissed off, want to dick-punch anyone who’s fucking it up for the rest of us.  It’s aggravating and it’s exhausting.

Back in my high school and college years, I’d write protests — poetry, lyrics, comics, stories — most of which hovered between rose-tinted self-righteousness and vague finger-pointing.  I kept most of it to myself, though; I didn’t share most of it with others for various reasons.  The biggest reason being that I always felt the end result was crap.

Sure, you say.  Everyone’s early writing is in fact crap, because you’re still learning. The only way out of that sludge is to keep working at it until you figure it out.  Thing is, I knew my vitriolic writing was misguided and not fully informed.  It was merely a release of all the pent-up anger and aggravation.  That’s why I rarely shared it with the outside world.

I forcibly shed my Angry Young Male Writer facade when I moved back home in 1995.  I knew that was a dangerous road for me, and would lead me nowhere.  It wasn’t where I wanted or needed to go.  Which is why, when I started writing The Phoenix Effect in 1997, I made sure the book never veered too far into dystopian doom.  I needed to write something with a positive edge to it.  I’m not talking about Shiny Happy People here… I’m merely talking about writing stories that have an uplifting theme somewhere in there.

I’ve been tempted to write dark and gloomy fiction now and again over the ensuing years, especially when world events intervene in my personal life.  But each time I’ll let the mood pass.  Again: it’s not the direction I want to go.

Writing both In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex story is partly a response to that.  The AC project, as I’ve said before, is my attempt at writing in the style of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki; something meaningful and emotional without being overwrought.  In My Blue World takes a slightly similar Ghibli road…there are moments of improbability in there, but that’s just the way that universe is, and the characters accept that as part of life.

Is this in response to the emotions and frustrations of Current Real Life for me?  Maybe, but I’m not making it a key component to the stories.  If anything, I think of it this way:  I’m writing positive stories because they’re needed right now, both for the reader and for myself.  The worst thing I can do right now is go back to my doomcrier days; those did nothing for me except make me miserable.  And if my writing is miserable, I’m making my reader feel the same.  And I definitely don’t want that.

Of course, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t write dark stories or angry songs.  In fact, I feel the exact opposite:  those are also needed right now!  It’s simply that there are many writers, musicians, etc, that can do it so much better than I ever could.  I’m leaving them up to the professionals.

I’m just better at Ac-Cent-U-Ating the Positive than I am at Fighting the Power, is all.

You go with your strengths.  That’s how you win the game.

Deadlines and Detox

dragonball fight
If only I could deal with my deadlines that way…

Hey all!

As you’ve noticed, it’s nearing the end of June and I’m ever so slightly off on my deadline to get In My Blue World finished.  And I’ve already decide that I’ll be spending most of July revising said novel and preparing it for self-publication.

Which means that I’ve decided to put myself in Do Not Disturb status on social media.  Or as I often call it, detox.  I’ll still be posting here at B-Town and over at WiS at my normal schedule, so never fear!  You’ll still be getting all the twice-weekly blathering I know you all enjoy from me.  I’m just going to be hiding from Twitter and Facebook for a while so I can focus purely on the novel revision and not get distracted.  Especially given the news cycles lately, it’s probably for the best that I back away from the fires and keep a cooler head while dealing with this deadline of mine.

Wish me luck!

As If I Don’t Already Have Enough to Do…

ghibli poppy hill shun
Source: From Up on Poppy Hill

I was looking through my two blogs and I realized that a lot of the subpages — the links, the Buy Stuff and Newsletter pages in particular — are woefully out of date.  I haven’t touched them for at least seven or eight months.  And to add to that, I haven’t set up a newsletter in probably well over a year.

That’s gonna change.  Not right now, and not overnight, but soon enough.  Over the course of the next couple of months I’ll be updating those blog subpages and restarting a newsletter.  That will most likely be a monthly thing, a cross between a link aggregator for my blog entries and any news and upcoming events, and maybe a special passage or two.

So how am I going to update this?  Good question.  Between finishing off a novel, writing a second one, revising that first one, heading to the UK for a week and a half in August and following that up with Worldcon — not to mention juggling all that with my Day Job — I’m going to be ridiculously busy.  But I think I can do it.

It’ll take time, and I’ll probably be exhausted by the end of it, but I’ll do it anyway.  Because come on — I’m trying to be somewhat professional here, folks!  I can do better than the bare minimum here.  Y’all deserve it.

When Distraction Is a GOOD Thing…?

anime-pull-yourself-together

The downside to having a full schedule, especially when multiple social events are added to it, is that physical and mental exhaustion (and maybe illness) can sometimes kick in, screwing things up even worse.  Right now I’m trying to fight off a sore throat and exhaustion from too many things going on over the last few week.

That’s probably the best time for me to remind myself: It’s okay to take a day or two off from writing, you know.   Or even more importantly:  It’s also okay to call in sick to the Day Job now and again…that’s what your sick days are for.  Between my stubborn will to keep to my writing schedule and my Catholic guilt for not letting my coworkers down, I can be my own worst enemy sometimes.

Sometimes all I want to do is play an entire afternoon of PC card games, watch silly cat videos, and noodle around with my mp3 collection.  Is that too much to ask?

Well, no, not really.  I’m not on a strict writing deadline.  I can afford a day off from the Day Job now and again.  As long as I don’t make it a habit.  I can — and should — take a day or two off from reality now and again.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m jealous of those people who spend the entire afternoon binge-watching TV series or playing video games.  Why shouldn’t I be able to take a day off as well?

As long as I get back on track once I’m recharged, right?

anime sleeping
COME ON LAZYBUTT, WAKE UP YOU’VE GOT WRITING TO DO

Don’t forget *not* to write

pbc reading
Souce: Polar Bear Café

I know, I know, I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s always worth repeating, because we writers are often our own worst enemies.

Sometimes I get so into the groove of writing or revising one of my projects that I just keep going for weeks on end, and let other things fall by the wayside.  Which is fine, especially if I really want to make a significant dent in my progress.  Thing is, sometimes I do this for a little too long, and I’ll either burn out or I’ll lose track of other important things.

So this past Saturday, instead of doing any writing, we went on a short road trip down the coast to Half Moon Bay for brunch and a little bit of shopping, and followed it up with watching the first two Star Wars prequels.  We hadn’t seen The Phantom Menace since it came out, and neither of us had seen Attack of the Clones.  [Our post-movie thoughts: TPM had promise but suffered from horrifically bad dialogue and lifeless acting; AotC was miles better and actually quite enjoyable, if overlong and with a few questionable plot choices.  We plan on watching Revenge of the Sith sometime this week.  Noted, we’re watching these for a panel we’ve devised for BayCon in a few weeks!]

Taking a day off from writing is always a good choice, for multiple reasons.  One, every now and again it feels good not to have to worry about hitting a self-imposed deadline or word count.  I’m allowed a fun day off now and again, right?  Two, this is a perfect time for me to switch from Writer/Editor Brain over to Reader Brain.  Time to kick back, enjoy a story.  Be moved or inspired by a novel or movie.  Three, I get to be social with other people, including my wife.  Four, it reminds me that even though I might find the writing process thrilling and immensely enjoyable, there are other things out there that are equally as enjoyable.  Like going to the local zoo!

IMG_20180506_125129_958
Well, hello to you too!

I think I’ve managed to get the the point in my life where I’m okay if I take a day off now and again.  Writer that I am, I’ll most likely still think about whatever I’m working on, but in a passive way, making mental notes for later.  It’ll still be there when I get back in a day or so.