Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Proud to say that my very first published story, “Where There’s a Will,” will see the light of day once more as part of the Timeshift anthology. There’s a Kickstarter for the project, if you’d like to be a part of that.


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Fighting (and slaying) a dragon is an old, old fantasy trope that we’re all familiar with, but there’s one invincible dragon that we seem to have to confront at some time (maybe several times) during our careers, especially when we’re trying to gain some traction in the industry. I’m talking about the green-eyed monster called Envy.

Nobody’s immune to that particular behemoth. Some of us are lucky enough to see success early, but even if that success is sustained (of which there is no guarantee), at some point envy of a colleague’s greater success is going to arise. We’re human; we want what the other guy has. This is not to say we necessarily resent the other person, merely that we covet his (or her) accomplishments. (Note that we covet the accomplishments, not the work that went into attaining them. Even an “overnight success” probably isn’t.)

It’s good that we don’t resent the other person, because the closer you are to the person whose situation you are examining, the more envious you feel. And while reading about the latest seven-figure deal for King or Scalzi may leave you thinking merely, “Wouldn’t that be nice?”, hearing that the guy you roomed with at a writing conference three years ago has just been nominated for a Hugo can drive you up the wall–even if (or perhaps especially) you’re still Facebook friends. You don’t hate him for his good fortune, but you agonize, “I’ve seen his work. I gave him critiques! Why him and not me?”

Knowing the answer(s) to that question doesn’t make it any easier: maybe he writes faster than you and has subbed more stories, or his stories are simply finding the right editors, or maybe he paid off 500 Hugo nominators. Or maybe, worst of all, he’s just a better writer than you are. (Ouch.)

But it gets even worse. We know, deep in our souls, past the envy, that if we want what that guy has, there is only one way to get it. It’s just like politics; if you don’t like the person who represents you in Congress, you have to vote. If you don’t like the reception your stories are getting, you have to write.

And it’s not like the friend of whom you’re envious is immune. You envy the friend with the Hugo nomination. He envies the woman who won the Hugo. She envies the person who won the Nebula, who envies the woman who won the “Best Novel” Nebula, who envies the Grandmaster, who frets about why SF authors never win Nobel Prizes. It affects us all.

But the only one you have to worry about, is you. Compared to a Nobel Prize, winning a Hugo doesn’t seem so hard, does it?


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Spring Sale

The Choking Rain is available for $.99, and The Scent of Death and The Killing Scar, books 2 and 3 of the Nemesis series, are $1.99 each for a limited time! Classic pulp action in the manner of The Shadow and The Avenger–except that in this case, not only will the identity of the villain keep you guessing, but the identity of the hero as well…
“Highly recommended.” – The Pulp Den

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This episode of our (apparently) ongoing series of Don’t Pay, Don’t Play?¬†posts is entitled: “Don’t Pay, Don’t be Played.”

I recently received an email from a podcast called Speak Up Talk Radio, offering me an opportunity to be interviewed for a book program. This being the kind of thing that authors live for, I eagerly read through the email to see what sort of gig they had in mind. It wasn’t until I reached the fourth paragraph that I discovered they meant a paying gig.

The problem was, they wanted me to pay them.

They would put me on the radio for “small hosting donation” which would go to the charity they support. In fact, if I made a slightly larger (or rather larger) donation, I would receive more coverage and their charity would receive more money. What a win-win!

Uh, no. First and foremost, if you want to sell me advertising (which is what this amounts to, the chance to make my own commercial), you need to tell me up front. Lots of people offer me advertising deals all the time. Some I have actually taken them up on. But I knew from the start that they were selling me something. None of them waited until half-way down the page to mention there was a cost.

Second, there are lots of podcasts which will interview authors for free. And they’re more focused than this one apparently is (since by their own admission they will talk about any kind of book). If you’re writing genre fiction, you want a show that talks about genre fiction, like Krypton Radio. Otherwise you’re wasting your breath with 90% of the audience.

The more I thought about this pitch, the less I thought of it. I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve seen the schemes and scams come and go. But like the Writers of the Future contest, newer writers don’t know what they’re getting into. They may not know that things like reading fees, or upfront payments to agents, or radio interview “donations” are not things you should be paying. Markets pay you, agents take commissions, and radio hosts interview people who will increase their market share. It would be like a convention offering to make you a “special guest” for a fee.*

If you self-publish a book, you’re going to pay for a cover, editing, and advertising. It’s part of running a business. But this, this is someone trying to give you the business. And that don’t play.

*I really hope that nobody else has ever thought of that.


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“They dismantled Australia today.”

The new issue of Galaxy’s Edge magazine is now on sale, featuring my flash story “Reality Show.” If you’re like most people, you probably never thought you would need a talent agent. You may want to reconsider your decision–and soon.


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This is not a controversy with which I was planning to get involved. I have little personal experience with the subject of the controversy, and what little I ever had was decades ago, but I believe knowledge is power, and beginning writers need all the power they can get. I was the victim of a scam agent once long ago, and I am sensitive to situations where writers may be taken advantage of, so here I am.*

Some finalists and winners of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and attendees of the associated workshop, have recently published their experiences therewith. These largely concern the workshop, which the contest offers winners and finalists once a year, featuring several well-known authors who have acted as contest judges. They have grown, however, to encompass potentially unseemly practices surrounding the contest itself. Some finalists have consequently withdrawn from the current contest.

Summarily speaking, the problems (as alleged), come down to these:

  1. The contest is run by the Church of Scientology. Although the Church’s connection has never been a secret (see the name), it has always been advertised that the Church had nothing to do with the contest itself, working only through separate affiliates. According to some winners’ experiences, this appears not to be true.
  2. Aside from the religious affiliation itself, the personnel working on the contest and the workshop may be victims of unfair working conditions.
  3. The sales figures for the Writers of the Future annual anthology may be inflated, in that the Church may be buying up large numbers of copies for itself, or coercing its members to buy.

In addition to the above, some writers, editors, and fans could take a dim view of those who have participated in the contest and accepted prize money. You have to balance the potential benefits with the potential hazards.

It’s hard enough entering this field. Should a submit to a market whose publisher may have different political views than mine? How do I know a good contract from bad? Should I stick to short stories, write a novel, self-publish…?

Make your own choices. But know the choices you’re making.

*I do not know if the allegations made are true. My own opinion of their veracity is irrelevant. But I think people should know they’ve been raised.



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Back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth in steam-powered chariots and Venus was still considered potentially viable off-world real estate, running an SF convention was a relatively simple affair. (Note emphasis on “relatively.” That doesn’t mean it was easy. I helped on two, acting as the chair of the second. I had already decided that I would never do such a thing again long before the current crop of kerfuffles grew up. Now? Now I think you have to be insane to want to run a convention.

When I wanted my con to be forward-thinking, I invented the idea of a gun-free convention. Cosplay with guns (not that “cosplay” had been coined yet) was very popular, although there had been reports of some problems with too-realistic props that made the police nervous. For specific reasons that honestly escape me now, I decided that our convention would sport a “no-weapons” policy. No weapons, no how. We got some vague reports of complaints, but nobody tried to test our resolve by bringing in a contraband toy, and although I was far too busy to notice at the time, the after-action reports said that everyone had a good time.

Of course, that was before the Internet.

Now, anything you do is susceptible to being broadcast world-wide in seconds. Millions of people who would never even consider coming to your convention can comment on (or argue about) your choices. If we tried imposing that policy today, the roof would fly off.

But there are many other, new, considerations that we didn’t have: Codes of conduct (going beyond just not bringing a weapon), anti-harassment policies, safe spaces, accessibility issues (we had a one-story convention space)…and now, the piece de resistance, civil rights lawsuits. An author is suing Worldcon because he says he was banned solely for his political affiliations. It is not my intent to discuss the merits of that case here, merely to point out that we have crossed a line: If you want to put on a convention, your liability insurance now has to include coverage for legal fees. (Even back then we were smart enough to incorporate, but this suit seeks personal liability.)

I don’t know what it costs to put on even a small con these days, let alone a Worldcon, but I do know that every new wrinkle adds to the expense. And legal fees are a very large wrinkle. Not to mention what a lawsuit does to your credit rating and your precious free time.

Maybe this is an anomaly; I hope so. But in our society, I cannot believe it. So what’s going to happen? Fewer conventions? More overseas Worldcons? I’ll tell you what isn’t going to happen: More reasoned dialogue. More unity of purpose on issues that affect us fans. We’re supposed to be looking toward the future, people, and I don’t think this is the future we want.

Ironically, those who support this lawsuit claim they just want to bring “fun” back to science fiction. It may be that there is a valid reason to drag your fellow fans into court, but I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, it won’t be fun.


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