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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Heard somewhere or other recently: “There are two kinds of people in the world. Writers, and those who are never heard from.”

Well, I thought first, that seems kind of pretentious. And mean. Then I thought, and it’s wrong, first because there aren’t only two kinds of people no matter how you divide them, and second because it’s just wrong. Writers aren’t the only people you ever hear from.

Painters, dancers, photographers…you hear from all of them, if not in words. And it’s not just artists you hear from, it can be anybody. Especially today, when shouting out to the world is just a matter of typing on your keyboard–case in point: “Hello.”

So what is it about writers that they have to be heard? I mean, if you ask any writer, the real reason he writes is because he can’t not write.* (I suspect painters and dancers and such feel the same way, but I can only speak to writers.) And why is that? I mean, for writers it’s not a matter of, “Hey, I can post on Facebook and everybody can read it and I really am here!” For writers, it’s a need to express their ideas (whether deeply philosophical or highly entertaining) –and to do it over and over again. Preferably for pay.

Maybe that’s it. Do writers go through years, sometimes decades, of constant, crushing rejection and criticism (neither of which ever ends), just because they want to get paid for what other people put on Facebook and Twitter for free?

Only if they’re complete idiots. The chances of ever making even $100 a year writing are about 1-in-1,000.  And given the chances of making any real money?  Please. Writers may be masochists, but they aren’t stupid. They aren’t in it for the money.

So why do they do it? Why do I do it?

Same answer. Because I can’t not do it. I guess it’s because we’re readers first, and we grew up wanting to emulate the people who created such wonderful worlds for us to play in. I started writing in grade school. I don’t even remember why, what sparked it. But I must have liked it, because I didn’t stop, and somewhere along the line it became the thing that defined me.

Which may explain why writers are nuts. We are defined by what we cannot do: We cannot stop writing. We can’t stop when we can’t sell anything, then we can’t stop when we do start selling. If anything, it’s harder when you actually taste some success. (Must be all that money…)

If someone were to figure out why we do this, and write a self-help book, he’d probably sell a copy to every writer on the planet. But until then, maybe there are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who like to write things, and those who just can’t stop.

*Or “she,” obviously.

#SFWApro

 

 

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I received word today that Digital Fiction Publications wants to reprint my “werewolf walks into a bar” story, “Paying the Tab.” Okay, it’s not quite like that, but there is a werewolf and he’s in a bar. But who’s picking up the tab–and what’s the final bill?

To keep you busy until it comes out, you can always check out Digital’s publications of “Dead Guy Walking,” and “Grinpa,” as evidence that these folks have impeccable taste in fiction.

#SFWApro

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It’s funny how your mind works. One minute you’re trying to think of something worth writing about, and the next you’re wondering who would win between Godzilla and the Hulk. Then you’re thinking that actually the two of them have a lot in common (big, green, ticked off, created by nuclear bombs) and would probably be great friends if they stopped talk a minute. Which, fortunately for the rest of us, isn’t going to happen.

And then you start thinking, hey, I’m a writer, and writers are a lot like that big green guy–the Hulk, not Godzilla, although I’d be willing to be convinced of that. So how are writers like the Hulk? Let me count the ways…

  1. They tend to jump around a lot with no apparent plan, but somehow they get the job done.
  2. When they’re criticized, they try to stay calm, but inside they want to smash you! (Okay, writers are more like Bruce Banner that way. The Hulk would just smash you.)
  3. They have a propensity for wearing purple pants and no shirts. (There’s a reason writers work alone.)
  4. When they’re stomping around trying to work something out in their heads, it’s best to give them lots of space.
  5. They are, to put it mildly, wildly misunderstood.
  6. They take great leaps.
  7. They try to pare their dialogue down to the most essential words and phrases.
  8. They don’t work well with others, but if Scarlett Johansson bats her eyes at them, they’ll usually settle down.
  9. They both work mostly in fiction.

And the final thing that writers and the Hulk have common:

10. The Hulk is stronger than a tank, and the pen is mightier than the sword.

#SFWApro

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It’s one of those times when the ideas just won’t come. I finished The Cosmic City a few weeks ago and gave myself some time off (well, I edited and formatted and published and promoted it, if that’s what they mean by time off). Then I tried to get back into writing, and I wrote a little vignette and immediately shelved it because it wasn’t really what I was trying to say. So I rewrote it as a completely new story over a couple of days, and now it’s incubating before submission.

So now what to do? I’m happiest when I have a project, a direction to go. (That’s the nice part about writing novels, but then you only have one product to sell, and if it doesn’t, you’re out of luck.) I thought this story would give me a direction for a few days, but it wrote itself too darned fast and now I’m afloat again. And it’s hard.

It’s hard because I’m hard on myself. I’m in the “you should write every day,” camp, but I don’t. Even the waiter at dinner tonight at our favorite hang-out was talking about how he’s worked on his screenplays for 50 days straight. Fifty days in a row of at least three pages. I admire him. I envy him. I want to slap him. (Lousy so-and-so, how dare he make me feel so bad?) I left him a big tip.

The truth is, sometimes you can’t write. Sometimes you have to extend that vacation a while. If the ideas aren’t there, they just aren’t. (I actually have a couple, but they’re so embryonic I have to leave them in the neonatal ICU until they’re stronger.) And until then, or until something else comes along, you need to do something different, change your routine: you need to relax.

Finishing and publishing The Cosmic City–the conclusion of a trilogy, no less–was a peak. You can’t jump from peak to peak. You have to cross the valley between them first. There will always be another peak to climb, even if right now it’s hidden by the clouds.

#SFWApro

 

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Smashwords is sponsoring “Read an Ebook Week” in an attempt to promote ebooks to readers with discount coupons, and my Depression-era pulp thriller The Choking Rain is participating with a 50% coupon.

Los Angeles, 1932. Six months before the Olympic Games are to bring relief to a Depression-battered city, men are falling dead in the rain-swept streets, their necks broken as if by an invisible noose. Pulled into a shadowy, rain-slick storm of murder and kidnapping, an ex-fighter pilot, a cop, a couple of football players-turned scientist, and a Kewpie-doll blonde with a black belt join forces to track down the terror plotters and stop their deadly spree. But when tragedy strikes the group, the survivors must brave one of the last untamed places on Earth to learn the secret of the Invisible Death–a secret designed to destroy America’s greatest cities, one by one…

The promotion ends on March 11.

shelfscreen

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I just saw a list of the “Twenty Core SF Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves.” I have no problem with people publishing such lists, and I have no problem with this list in particular, particularly with the fact that all of the listed works are by women.* It’s one person’s opinion, and we all know such lists are not meant to be taken seriously, but as a springboard for discussion–the kind of intellectual discussion which seems all to lacking these days, both in SF and in the world in general.

The problem with such lists, actually, is that they appear to stand for the proposition that you can make up a definitive list of must-read books of any stripe. Let’s disregard that literature is far too wide and deep for any real short catalog–there are so many classic novels out there; I submit that if you were to list the 500 books any “real” fan must have in his library, you would still get vigorous pushback about the books you left out. I guarantee it, in fact.

And the reason is that reading is a matter of taste. I’m not talking “literature” vs. “beach reads,” I’m talking about personal preferences. I have read a good portion of the books on that list, most I’ve heard of, and a couple were completely new to me. I can tell you that the books I’d heard of but not read, I will probably never read. Yet I’ve been an SF fan for decades, and I’ll bet I’ve read good books that someone else who sees that list has not, and never will. (Again, we’re not talking about how you define “worthy” literature.)

So if I love Asimov and you won’t touch it, and you adore Lem and I can’t get through one book, which is us is the true fan? All things being equal, we both are. We just enjoy different parts of the same fandom. It’s true that things evolve, and certainly, as N. K. Jamison said recently, SF has evolved.

But nobody ever said we had to evolve the same way. That’s a very science-fictional concept, by the way –in fact, I would say it’s true science fiction.

 

*I do have a problem with the grammar, but that’s an argument I don’t want to get into here.

#SFWApro

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Today is the day! The final book in the Stolen Future trilogy is on sale! The Cosmic City is available as an e-book for $3.99 on Amazon and Smashwords, and the paperback will soon be on sale for $9.99 at Createspace.

Keryl Clee may think he has defeated his foes and started the Earth on the path to unity, but his greatest challenge–and Earth’s greatest threat–await him.While he languishes in a prison of made of history, the clock moves inexorably to the moment when humanity will be destroyed and Time itself may be damaged beyond repair!

To celebrate the completion of the Stolen Future trilogy, the first volume, The Invisible City, is priced at $.99. What are you waiting for? As Keryl Clee will tell you, Time is of the essence!

#SFWApro

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