3. Other Things Authoring Detours Writing Life

Life update: home again, home again, giggity-gig.

I had a lucky 7 things on my authoring to-do list for the week Spouseman & I were away:

1. Get a Gen Con hotel room issue fixed (NOPE)

2. Put a friend’s latest 2 kids books into Createspace. (NOPE)

3. Post the Restoration boxed set up onto Kindle (Yes)

4. Place Controlled Descent & Flight Plan into Overdrive for library borrows (Yes)

5. Finish two more scenes in Ghost Town (NOPE)

6. Get my edits back for Sharp Edge of Yesterday (NOPE)

7. Pick a title font & start back blurb for Sharp Edge (NOPE)

Not a great completion percentage. 😢 Lots of excellent family visiting happened and that was fantastic, but the time/energy/internet availability matrix didn’t work for anything more. Also, I always inderestimate how much travel will physically take out of me.

So now I’m tired and mentally drained facing a dauntingly busy August. (Excited, happy, thrilled, even, but also daunted.) Gen Con. Michigan Comic Con. Dragon Con. Plus all the to-do list things still to do.

On the + side, I did get halfway done with items 5&7, ordered more paperbacks for cons, and got a surprise convention opportunity wedged in between Gen Con & Dragon Con. So, YAY FOR GOOD THINGS!

While away I also re-read the Liaden Universe books in honor of a convention I couldn’t attend where the authors were Guests of Honor, and started a book called Freelance Familiars, by Daniel Potter, which is a nice treat so far. And I got Spouseman started on Tanya Huff’s Confederation books. Hee.

Movies? None, unless re-watching Thor: Ragnarok & Black Panther counts. It’s been a slow month for media consumption. Just. Too. Busy.

Lastly, have some random pictures from our trip. All taken near or around Seattle, WA.

Authoring Cons & Appearances Detours Writing Life

Doing Author Things

I know you’re all dying to know my plans for the year. Here this the summary:  I’m going to attend a bunch of conventions! Mostly in the Midwest, but a few further afield.

The spring schedule got full quickly:

  • CapriCon 38 Wheeling IL February 15-18. Attending as an author. Panels & reading confirmed.
  • Deep Dish Science Fiction Reading: Thursday March 1 at Volumes BookCafe. I’m penciled in, I’ll share more details as soon I get them.
  • ConCoction Cleveland OH March 9-11 Attending as an author. Panels & reading confirmed.
  • C2E2 Chicago IL April 6-8. I’ll be there Friday & Sunday, possibly part of Saturday as well. Doing what? not sure yet. My pro application is being processed. If that doesn’t get accepted, I’ll still go, just as a fan.
  • Nebula Awards Conference Pittsburgh PA May 17-20. No, I’m still not a member of SFWA. This one’s all about learning & professional development. And the Nebula  Awards ceremony of course.

I wanted to do MiniCon and/or WisCon too…but neither of those is in the scheduling cards this year. Family first, finances second, timing third. I can’t make it work.

At some point in the next week I must decide WHAT AM I GOING TO READ AT THESE READINGS?  I need multiple 5-7 min excerpts from either published works or works-in-progress. At 130 words per minute, that’s about 900-1000 words each.  Suggestions welcomed. First chapters are the default, but from panels & classes I’ve taken, I  would be better off pulling other scenes I can voice better.

Why do I have to decide so soon? So I can practice. Not because I’m nervous, no.  I am the weird introvert who is infinitely more comfortable standing up in front of groups than talking face-to-face. I have to practice because once upon a time I did competitive public speaking, and I was drilled to never EVER stand up unprepared. Dramatic Interpretation (Duo) and Original Oratory both required me to memorize 5-8 minutes worth of words. Reading should be a comparative cakewalk once I work through the material a few times.

ANYway. More author stuff. After my packed spring comes summer.

I’m aiming to attend GenCon in Indianapolis IN  August 2-5 as a pro or a vendor, and I WILL be back at DragonCon in Atlanta GA again this year. That’s August 29-September 4. I’ll be working in the Armory for certain and hopefully doing panels and selling books too.

I could possibly fit in one more summer convention. Not sure what, where or when. Or if, frankly.  Budgetary concerns come into play. And time. And brainspace.

There are family visit plans in the squishy-maybe stages, I’m still ambivalent about aiming for some fall conventions. Might or might not do WindyCon again.  I’m open to other ideas. (although as you all know, I am all about asking for suggestions and then ignoring them) plus I am dying to get out to NY to visit the fabulous Camp Little Notch someday and autumn might be a beautiful time for that…

I dunno. That’s a long way off. I have February through April planned. That’s a big step for me. One scary leap at a time.

In other author things:

My cozy-mystery-with-family-ghost manuscript is moving along well, working title Ghost Town. (don’t get attached to it. That will NOT be its final title, just like “Carl Finally Gets Some Action” became Turning The Work) It’s well behind schedule but progress is steady in its tortoise-like way.

Heartwood is in revision and shaping up nicely. Also behind schedule, but I would rather be late & good than early but unpolished.

And that is that.

Authoring Writing Life

In case anyone wondered…

My stories snowball. The plots begin slowly and slide down a four-act slope unfamiliar to most readers. Along the way they collect “unnecessary” sub-plots and huge cast lists, gather speed near the end to crash big, then roll to a slow halt.
 I also routinely defy the “Chekov’s Gun” rule, clutter my paragraphs with rhythmic repetition, adverbs, oddly-constructed dialogue, and scenes that don’t drive the plot forward. Yes, I do much of this by design. (Not all. Anything done can be overdone.) But I confess freely I write my prose the way I do on purpose.
Nobody needs that, right? That sort of writing  needs cutting, slicing, tightening, and revamping. Remove those extra descriptions. Pick one way to say a thing. If you show it, don’t tell it. Cut out the fat of phrasings and leave only the meaty core.
Sometimes yes. Sometimes, emphatically, no.  
 Go watch Hateful Eight. (but only if you have a strong stomach) Now speak to me of showing and telling, knotted plot threads, non sequiturs, slow progression, meandering dialogue, uneven scenes, and characters who do not “serve the story.”
Some excellent writing strays far from the path of easy consumption. Yet everywhere I turn, I see subversiveness rejected by consumers who view writing with a critic’s eye or an editor’s mindset.  Tarantino fans are clearly the exception. Alas, as far as I know, they aren’t reading my books.
Here’s a dirty truth: all reader value judgments are equally valid/invalid, no matter how much experience, how much gravitas, how much talent they bring to their evaluation. In many ways, the more familiar a reader is with the nuts and bolts of writing, the less objective their value judgments become.

Reading is a process deeply colored by unexamined elements. We bring our knowledge of the writer, our full and prior reading experience, and even our moods to the page with us.

Is Hateful Eight Tarantino’s best? I don’t think so. Is it good?  Its box office popularity is undeniable, but how would viewers and critics judge the same script from an unknown?   If it wasn’t written by Tarantino, whose weighty awards and critical acclaim give his vision critical momentum, would Hateful Eight have been green-lighted in the first place?
I have to wonder.
And that’s my point, as much as this post has one. I’ve been a misfit all my life. l can live with that status extending to my writing, even when it means being buried under an avalanche of disinterest.
Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy Writing Life

So…this might have happened.

 I went in for my seasonal haircut yesterday afternoon. It was time. Past time. I have conventions to attend this month. People to meet. Impressions to make.
Nothing says “mature 50-something professional writer” like a radioactive grape-colored buzz-cut. Right? Right?  I sure hope so…Here’s the result on center stage:
Guess I need to update my Powerpuff Girl profile pic.
The gory hairstyling details are as follows: #8 guard on the clippers and sideburns shaved, hair process-bleached to yellow, Pravana brand violet for the final color. Visuals on the steps involved included below. for posterity. I might have taken more than my year’s allotment of selfies. Oh, well.

1. The chop.                  2. The villain ‘do.             3. The serious grape.

For the record, I neither cut nor color my own hair. I leave those tasks to trained professionals who have expensive, high-quality tools and all the best chemical toys, and I do not begrudge a single penny of the substantial fees I pay for the services. I find this one weird trick saves me the time and expense of buying products for DIY, screwing up in some dire fashion, and then hiring those trained professionals to fix the mess. Also, I am lazy, and I love having my hair shampooed. True confession.

Scooter is in love with the new ‘do. There’s something about the scent of the hair color that drives him bonkers. He sits behind me on the couch and fawns on my head when I try to watch television. Bonus feature: sleeping on my hair with it’s this short produces a kewpie-doll style with all the hair pointing up in tufts. Looks fab in purple.

You can see my hair in person at these places this month!

Worldcon/MidAmericaCon: August 17-21,  Kansas City. Look for me at the WorldFire Press booth. I’ll sell you some books that aren’t mine (but which I guarantee are incredible, hilarious, jaw-dropping, or otherwise fabulous.)

Dragoncon: Labor Day Weekend, Atlanta. I’ll be hanging around in the Armory, down deep in the basement of one of the con hotels. Surrounded by as many sharp pointy things and unloaded boom-sticks as the rooms will hold.

 PS: I know I seem all cheery and pleased with this (and I am, really, I am, but…)
It is a Big and Startling change. That puts a dent in the credit rating of my confidence. I put on a super good front, but it’s a facade. All hollow underneath. Signs  & Stars of Approval go a long way towards making me less self-conscious and squirmy

Authoring Promotion

A Simple Man

I’ve been pondering the problem of Justin Wyatt as ideas for book 3 of Restoration Adventures simmer quietly on my brain’s back burner. (Don’t get too excited. It’s at least a couple of years away. Sorry-not-sorry.)

The man is the worst protagonist ever. I’m the loving author who created him and wouldn’t change a single one of his traits, but it’s true. My favorite POV character refuses to be the main character in his own stories, and that is one big rocky block to write around.

He was fun to create. What’s not to love about a genius billionaire philanthropist who isn’t a total asshole?   I liked the idea of taking everything away from someone who had it all–brains, money, fame, friends–and seeing what would happen. I made him a good guy, with simple tastes and a kind heart, two parts Doc Brown and one part Elon Musk or maybe Warren Buffet.  And then I broke him.

The result is a good “quest for justice” adventure (or so I choose to delude myself ) but it stopped being Justin’s story early on. He couldn’t carry the book alone. I broke him a little too much.

Most plot lines follow the protagonist’s development: the hero’s journey and all that. Their actions drive the story forward to its climax. Justin is physically and emotionally incapable of development. His brain was irreparably damaged. (Spoiler alert? Nah, it’s hinted in the cover blurb) He has a basket full of mental issues, indecisiveness among them, and he is unable to take care of himself. That makes him an impossible action hero.

Coming to terms with his losses could’ve been a hero’s journey, but that wasn’t the main story Justin wanted to tell. He wanted bloody retribution in Controlled Descent, so I gave it to him along with a lot of companions who carry most of the traditional plotting weight.

He’s at the center of the story, but it builds around him. His indecision has consequences as important as the deliberate choices others make. The inaction-is-an-action element is maddening to get onto the page, but I do love the way Justin’s simplicity complicates life for everyone else. He’s an awful protagonist, but a powerful plot generator.

My father compares Controlled Descent to a Russian novel. I haven’t had the courage to ask if that’s a compliment or a condemnation, but I can’t argue the description’s accuracy. It’s an ensemble piece with five main characters, four of whom have POV roles, plus half a dozen more people with major speaking parts, multiple antagonists and assorted extras. The time frame is also longer than most current commercial fiction guides recommend.  And do NOT get me started on it having a four-act plot when all the good stories are “supposed to” fit into three acts.

But I digress. Back to Justin and refusal to cooperate with dramatic traditions.

I think of him as a character like Angel or Bruce Banner in their respective television series: those shows proved that their stars don’t have to always be the point.  I’m sure there are other examples, from books even, but those are the first two that come to mind.

Justin is a lousy hero, but he makes other people into great ones. He’s a simple man but a good one, and that brings out the best in everyone around him.

And that’s why I will be giving him more stories even if he refuses to take the spotlight in any of them for long.

What’s that?  I should give you links? I should promote my books?

Here are links to Justin’s stories on Amazon, complete with free Look Inside features:

Controlled Descent

Flight Plan

And check the Free Reading tab for some excerpts that aren’t included in the Amazon features.


Artist credit: Daniel Govar