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Archive for March, 2016

I am pleased to announce that my Revolutionary War-era fantasy “Hoskins’ War” has been chosen for publication in an upcoming issue of Cirsova magazine. You may recognize Cirsova because my “Rose by Any Other Name” is currently appearing in their issue #1 (currently available for free on Kindle).

 

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“Dead Guy Walking” has been reprinted at Digital Fantasy Fiction. This is my most-reprinted story, so people must like it… Tell your friends you heard about it here!

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Warning: This concerns the recurring fiasco of who/what/how/why we vote for the Hugo Awards. (At this point I’m not even sure exactly why people are fighting over it.) If you don’t care about the Hugos, then (a) good for you, and (b) see you next time. But if you do care, or if you are honestly confused, then perhaps the following will prove of some benefit.

Five Reasons Why the Hugo Kerfuffle is Like the Presidential Election.

1) It’s come down to people calling each other names. (Okay, the Hugo fight started that way.) Hugo partisans have called each other neo-Nazis, Social Justice Warriors, homophobes, liberals, and other terms I won’t repeat here. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides). In the election debates, people call each other neo-Nazis, closet liberals, RINOs, and small-handed. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides).

2) The Hugos are haunted by the specter of an outsider who has expressed his desire to burn the entire program to the ground. The election is haunted by the specter of at least one candidate who threatens by his very presence to burn his party’s entire program to the ground.

3) The Sad Puppies brag that they brought thousands of new voters to the Hugos last year. Donald Trump brags that he has brought millions of new voters to his party. Whether either of their successes proves long-term remains to be seen.

4) Last year, the “No Award” avalanche lead to threats that many will boycott the awards this year. This year, the idea that certain candidates may not receive their parties’ respective nominations have lead to threats that voters will boycott the general election.

5) The Hugo controversy has pitted fandom against itself, creating fissures and scars that may require decades to heal, if ever. The election controversy is splitting the American public against itself, revealing fissures and scars that have not healed in centuries, and may never do so.

6) Bonus! Both the Hugo controversy and the election are being conducted in the most childish, self-destructive, and futile manner possible. People screaming epithets at each other has never solved an issue. It only leads to violence, which leads to more violence, which leads to five years of bloodshed from Fort Sumter to Appomattox.

I have a solution. It’s very simple: Calm down. Use your indoor voices. Behave like adults. Set an example for your children that your parents would be proud of.

Because if you don’t, I’m going to have to start sending people to bed without supper. And nobody wants that.

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For the record, no one has ever asked me, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’m probably just not that famous (yet). But in the interest of keeping ahead of the curve, I’m going to tell you right now where I (and all of the other writers) get my ideas: The same place you do.

Very often an idea will come to me through a misspoken sentence, you know, when you mean to say one thing and something not quite right comes out. Then I think, “How neat. I can use that,” and I write it down in one of my little notebooks. (Not the one that’s been through the laundry. That one’s done. But one of the others.)

There’s no difference between where writers get their ideas and where everyone else does. It’s not like there’s a writer gene that you either have or you don’t, and if you don’t you can’t come up with ideas. The difference lies in what you do with those ideas. As I said, I write them down. And I think about them. If someone at Thanksgiving were to say, “Gee, Bob said he knew how to carve a turkey, but he doesn’t,” and someone else replied, “Yeah, he’s doing such a bad job I keep expecting the turkey to grab the knife and say, ‘Here’s how it’s done, jerk!’ and there goes Bob,” most people would chuckle and make a note about how Bob shouldn’t be allowed near the bird next year.

I, on the other hand, who ask myself, “What would happen then? Would the cops arrest the turkey for manslaughter? Would it be a case of self-defense?” And so on. The difference between writers and non-writers isn’t that we get these ideas, it’s that we use them.

Not all art is created the same way. It’s well-known that sculptors don’t create anything new; they chip away at a block of stone until they reveal the statue inside. They’re kind of like policemen that way, because they pull back layers of obscuring material to get to the truth. Writers, on the other hand, are like children, because we play with Legos. If you want to build a Lego Millennium Falcon, you start with one block. You add another, then another, and eventually you have the Millennium Falcon (if you’re good enough with Legos.) That’s what writing a story is like. You start with an idea, you add another that seems to fit, and you keep adding. Sometimes the pieces you add don’t look right, so you take them away and add different ones. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how many wrong turns you take, because nobody’s going to see it until you’re done anyway.

And that brings me to my oft-repeated belief that anyone can be a writer. If you have at least an adequate command of the language, you can build a story. It might take ten years, it might require fourteen revisions, but so what? Nobody’s going to say you’re doing it wrong.

But they might just ask you where you got your idea.

#SFWApro

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This article caught my eye today. It reminded me of the whole “women can’t write science fiction” kerfuffle that significantly raised the number of viewers to my blog a few months back. It appears that even though I was able to name some very talented authors who could put that whole myth to bed, there were other examples, perhaps even more pointed, that I could have cited.

Now, that original posting claiming that women could not be SF writers was thoroughly trashed, and the scene has been quiet since. But the rise of the Noxious Political Campaign (“NoPC”) this year reminds us that such sentiments still lurk below the surface. (For the purposes of my argument, I equate the NoPC people with those who think women can’t…well, just fill in the blank.) And so, I point to this article. Plainly, women can and always have been able to.

I happen to be found of saying that anyone can be a writer. If you have a basic vocabulary and grade-school grasp of grammar, you can write a story. Think you can’t? Have no ideas? Take your day–today–and write it down. Change the names. Change the scene to another city. There, you’ve written a story. Change the date to next week and make your boss an alien, and voila! You have a science fiction story.

Will it be a good story? Maybe not. Would it satisfy the rigorous definition of SF used by those who are invested in such definitions? Probably not. Are you a writer? Sure you are, just not necessarily a good one. But it takes time to be good at writing, like anything else. I’ve been writing since…well, let’s just say those clay tablets are drying out…and there’s precious little evidence I’ve learned to be good at it. But I’m a writer, nevertheless; you could be too, if you wanted. It doesn’t matter your gender, color, age, or religion. We all have a  need for self-expression. Some of us satisfy that need through writing. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t.

And neither will those women who wrote for Star Trek.

#SFWApro

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I get a lot of pitches for ways to get your self-published book noticed. Paid reviewers, unpaid reviewers, virtual libraries, PR companies, Amazon, Smashwords…everybody is out to help the poor writer get readers. What I can’t figure out is, with so many writers out there now, why do we need help? If all the indie writers simply read all the other indie writers, everybody would get rich (or at least sell respectably).

I do not claim not to be part of the problem: I don’t read my fellow indies, either. The problem is, I have little time to read anyone, and the few authors I like pretty much fill it. Now this, of course, is my problem. And it is most certainly a problem, since writers need to “feed their heads” more than most. I write better when I’ve been reading; I suspect most of us do. I should do a lot more of it.  (Of both, actually.)

So if writers aren’t reading, who is? And is that why indie writers can’t get readers, because nowadays so many people are busy self-publishing that no one has time to read?

We had dinner at a fish restaurant tonight. I am not terribly fond of fish, but I’ll eat some, and there’s always something else available. (After a detailed examination of the menu, and consultation with my wife and the very patient waitress, I chose the shrimp pasta. The waitress was very enthusiastic about the cheeseburger. I am nothing if not transparent.) But in talking of the choices afterward, my wife said, “You have to take some chances.” (To me, shrimp pasta with a spicy red sauce is taking a chance.)

It is not my intention to encourage reading more independent writers; I can hardly do that if I don’t know what I’m recommending. (I could recommend myself, but that would hardly be helpful, let alone objective.) But I would encourage people (myself included) to read more broadly, to branch out, take a chance.

If we can take chances with what we put into our mouths, why not with what we take in with our eyes? After all, a paperback (let alone an e-book) is a lot cheaper than a good fish dinner, and if you quit when you’re half-way finished, no one can see the leftovers on your plate and blame you for wasting food. (“There are illiterate children in China who would love to read that book!”)

A lot of people would choose the cheeseburger book. Others would go for the hazelnut-encrusted halibut novel. It doesn’t matter; they both go well with a glass of wine, and we all have to eat.

#SFWApro

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Or football, depending on where  you live. Like most Americans, up until relatively recently I had no knowledge of, or interest in, soccer. But a combination of factors, including the women’s team in the World Cup and finding a new favorite lunch restaurant  that shows soccer games on the big screen, have changed my attitude a bit. I’ve actually been to a soccer game! (Actually, I’ve been to two soccer matches in my life. One featured Pele. The other, Beckham. If I’m going to watch soccer, it had better be the best.)

Anyway, now that I have some appreciation for the game, it occurs to me how similar it is to something else near and dear to my heart that I don’t understand either, and that’s writing. Without further ado, here are five reasons why soccer is like writing.

  1. There are a lot of people running around getting nowhere fast. Believe me, this is a lot like writing.
  2. There is one guy in the middle trying to watch everyone at the same time to see if they’re doing anything interesting. The way all the houses are consolidating, pretty soon there will only be one editor in a tiny office somewhere watching all writers, everywhere, to see if anyone’s doing anything interesting.
  3. When someone scores, the place goes wild. Have you ever seen an author get an acceptance? Trust me, soccer fans aren’t the only crazy ones.
  4. If the gatekeeper (goalie) lets in someone he’s not supposed to, he gets all the blame. Publishing houses are big business. They’re getting more and more like the film companies, where nobody will take a risk because the penalty for failure is dire.
  5. Marketing is king. Have you seen the ads on soccer players’ jerseys? It’s hard to tell what team they’re on–unless it’s Fly Emirates. Writers spend half their writing time on Twitter, and Bookbub, and writing blogs…You think that’s not advertising?

Oh, and there’s one more reason (bonus!): Like hockey, nobody understands the rules. I’m sure hockey is a lot like writing, too, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you how. Unless it’s the way they’re all skating on thin ice…

#SFWApro

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