Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

As you are aware, by this point in the proceedings, the plan was to have reached 40,000 words, the putative 2/3 mark of this monument to one man’s ambition. However, as you are also aware, from having read the title of this post, things this week did not go entirely as planned.

Through a combination of events largely out of my control, I couldn’t keep up the pace this week. Apparently, 32,000 words per month is my limit. (Already the experiment is yielding valuable data.) Even before Life took precedence, I had decided that 2000 words per day, even working only four days a week, was just too much. It was eating up all of my “free time,” and this gig doesn’t pay well enough for that. (Doubtful that it ever could.) So I ratcheted my goal back to 1500 words per night, which will extend the time it takes to finish, but not as much as you might think, since I’m so far into it already. I’m thinking ten weeks instead of eight. This should still leave enough time to make my September 15 deadline. (And if it doesn’t, I-the-publisher can fight me-the-writer over it.)

For the record, I am at 37,418 words. Since I already gave myself permission to slack off, however, this means I am only about 1100 words behind schedule on the sequel to The Choking Rain, which will now with 90% certainty be called The Scent of Death. Our Heroes, having hied themselves to an Asian kingdom where they don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language, and which is threatened by both revolution from within and invasion from without, have been attacked by a mob in the market square, resulting in becoming separated from their guide, the princess they’re protecting, and one of their own gang. Add to this a mysterious method of assassination, a gallery of untrustworthy high officials, and a couple of “allies” with their own secret agendas, and it’s all pretty much business as usual.*

And that’s all I can tell you. Fortunately, as part of the outlining process, I know who’s who and who’s not. Unless you count this character, who just kind of showed up and introduced himself, and that guy who’s not what I thought he was, and the other fellow who’s now…

I’m telling you, this would all be a lot easier if the characters would just read the outline first.

*And that’s not including the fact that their fearless leader has taken on a new identity so secret he won’t even tell them.



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I was at a con over the weekend, Left Coast Crime in Phoenix, and I sat in on a couple of panels in which writers talked about writing (because LCC is a mystery convention, and the short story market there is less developed than I’m used to, so I was looking for clues, if you’ll pardon the expression). And even though I was for many years an aspiring writer myself, it still amazes me how, in every panel on writing, someone always asks: “What is your writing day like? How do you work?”

Honestly, I understand the impulse. At these panels, everyone who is not already a writer (usually there to heckle their friends on the panel) wants to be one. And everyone is looking for the key to making it and getting published. And no matter how many times writers say, “The only way to make it as a writer is to write,” they are still asked that question. (And yes, I used to wonder the same thing; I just never asked.)

Well, in an effort to short-circuit the process and perhaps provide some useful information, here’s the story (again, if you’ll pardon the expression): The only way to become a writer is to write. It does not matter if you write in the morning or at night, at your desk or at your Starbuck’s, on paper or notebook or laptop or in crayon. None of that matters. There are as many writers’ styles as there are writing styles. Some writers outline first. Some navigate “by the seat of their pants.” These latter are called “pantsers.” Whether non-pantsers actually write without pants is another question I have never asked (but doubtless someone has.) Choose your style. Then write. And write, and write. And after you’ve written, submit it to a market and write something else. It’s simple. It’s harder than hell, but it’s simple.

The real “secret” is something no one asks about. Becoming a writer merely means you write with the goal of publication. So you write and submit what you write. Sell or don’t, you’re still a writer, you’re just “pre-published” (a state which is treated much more kindly by mystery writers than by SFF writers, though I don’t know why). The real “secret” is not how to become a writer, but how to survive as a writer.

This is vitally important because you will almost certainly spend years “pre-published,” and that’s a good time to develop the necessary skill. (Do not make the mistake of thinking that this skill will no longer be necessary after you’ve begun to publish. You will need it even more.) The skill you have to develop, the one that may be even harder than learning to write well?

I’m not going to tell you. Not until my next post. But I will leave you with a hint: You have to wait until my next post.

Yes, really, that’s a hint. And it probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. In the meantime, go write something.



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I have written before about the greying of convention fandom, notably in the context of the Westercon. I’ve also written about the differences between SFF cons and mystery conventions. I’m here to say that they have one significant–and possibly disturbing–commonalty: Their attendees are getting old.

Again, there is nothing ageist about this observation; it’s just an observation.The average age of attendees at a mystery convention like Left Coast Crime is even older than at the Westercon. (I’m going by appearances. Obviously, I didn’t go around asking people’s ages.)  And if you discount the authors, it’s even worse. The latter fact may stem from the fact that mystery cons make more of an effort to attract and present new authors.

One of the concerns I have is that an older crowd is less likely to be into the new technologies that are becoming so important. (You can call that ageist if you want, but I’m dealing with broad generalities here.) If you want authors to show up, they have to feel there is a benefit. Having several hundred potential fans of your work in one place for an entire weekend is a great opportunity, but several hundred social media-involved fans is a better one.

I don’t know if the age issue is a matter of economics, or reader preferences, or that younger mystery fans just don’t go to cons. (Same goes for SFF fans.) But if something doesn’t change, in 20 years there won’t be enough people to fill the panel rooms.

I believe that the arc of history is nothing if not squiggly. Nothing moves in a straight a line. So I am not predicting the end of conventions, but they will have to change. Will the change come from within, by committees finding a way to reach out to a younger demographic, or from without, with a technological advance that results in everyone attending cons via interactive holograms (dramatically lowering the cost of attending)?

Likely the problem will cure itself. Although right now the upcoming generation seems virtual-centric, every generation changes as it ages. Personal interaction will become more important, and while the average age of attendees may plateau, people will still want to attend conventions.

On the other hand, if everyone attends holographically, they’ll be able to make themselves look younger, at least.

Reminder: The Secret City launches tomorrow! This is your last chance to buy it at the reduced pre-order price!


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What do you do if you’re the attorney appointed to defend an alien who helped exterminate a third of the human race?

My story “Rights and Wrongs” is now being podcast free of charge on StarShipSofa. The narrator is none other than my Taos Toolbox classmate, the Hugo-award winning author David D. Levine.

“Rights and Wrongs” examines the question: “Is it paranoia when somebody really is out to hurt you?” In this case, though, the question runs both ways. Five years ago, the shapeshifting Jani’i invaded Earth. After their defeat, one surviving Jani’i used his abilities to hide out here in search of a new life. Now he’s been exposed and put on trial for murder–but a murder he may not actually have committed. Is it right? Is it fair? And how do the ends justify the means?

Is it paranoia when the whole world really is out to get you? It depends on what you did…

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In honor of my birthday, all of my novels on Smashwords are free today. You can see them by clicking the links on this page. Read one! Read all! And if you think spreading the word would be a good birthday present, I wouldn’t argue with that…

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