This Might Help

This morning I made my way around to an article I’ve been meaning to read. It’s a piece on Slate about authors, most of them recognizable names, that went back years after publishing and reviewed their own work. The author of the article, Three Things You Learn When Famous Writers Reread Their Old BooksKaty Waldman sums up her take on this activity differently than I would. But I would point out, we can agree on one thing; that the notes in the margins reminded us that everyone who writes, regardless of the number of copies they’ve sold or the accolades they are due, is just a person like us. They are filled self doubt, they struggle through the writing process, they lament sentence construction and word choice.

Right now many of you are busily banging away at your keyboards, approaching the literary equivalent Mach 2, as you stretch yourselves for 50k words in #NaNoWriMo. Believe me when I tell you that eventually you will come back to this pile of words you’re assembling and say to yourself, “What the hell was I doing?”

Yesterday I agonized over a single word for hours; I’d leave the sentence and return to it, over and over, trying to massage the damn thing because I was displeased with that word’s meaning within the context of the story. I made pleas on Twitter for help, tried researching the idea I wanted to express on-line, and generally discovered ways to belate finishing this writing project.

Late last night I finally managed to change it, managed to make it work. Despite the many sentences I edited yesterday and the pile of new words I wrote, fixing this single word within an inconsequential sentence located in the backwoods of my story felt somehow cause for celebration. I committed the change and took a break, sipping hot tea and munching celebratory chocolate. Incidentally, I am out of scotch.

This morning I awoke and returned to my lamentable worry concerning this single word. The news, I’ll leave it to you to decide its quality, is that after “finishing” that sentence I wrapped up the project and sent it off to the editor so regardless of what I chose to do with that word in that sentence, I know that it is “done.” I’m not changing anything, and I know I need to move on. Still I worried, but then I read those notes in the margins and it dawned on me that in order to counterbalance the worry which will invariably hold us back, slow us down, or stop the assemblage of words I must compartmentalize and segregate those concerns. These feelings are helpful only to a point, beyond which they will become dangerous and counterproductive.

“Enough is as good as a feast,” and perfection is a myth. Push through my friends, push through. Those little regrets left in the margins are the glorious scars of war, of conquest.

Lola’s Reviews has a new interview with me

As part of Sci-Fi November Lolita of the Netherlands has an author interview up with your’s truly. She’s asked me some fun questions about writing short and long form and there’s a lively discussion going on in the comments section.

So fun times, I’m hoping to expend the conversation into the area of bicycle infrastructure and cycling for utility. Come chime in.

It Has Begun

Ladies and gentlemen, NaNoWriMo 2014 has begun (that’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you still out of the loop). It is also the first day of encouragement from me, your biggest fan, who will be sitting this one out.

With too much life to work on and perpetually growing list of projects to complete I know my daily word counts would not approach the number I’d need to be a winner. Perhaps this year November should become PeNoEdiMo for me (Personal Novel Editing Month), I have two manuscripts that are lacking for it, but I digress. Or at least, if I do participate, it wont be with the intent of winning.

Seriously, if you’ve signed up I’m wishing you the best of luck. I can be done, and if you do it you will be a much better person in every way because, at least that story will be on the page where you can do something or nothing with it as you choose. So don’t worry about how bad it is, stop fidgeting with the formatting settings, and write.

Two Wrongs

Paul Krugman, an economist I usually find myself agreeing with and a dude whom I maintain a cache of respect for, has been getting a lot of author traction on the internets of late. Why? His recent opinion piece in the New York Times Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.

This morning no less than five author-peers reposted or reblogged Krugman’s opinion. Paul’s point “Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America” is arguably a valid point. Arguably as there have been a number of well reasoned collections of words published of late which completely justify what Amazon is and has been doing in its ongoing struggle with Hachette. It’s arguable that Amazon is a monopsony (go ahead I had to look it up). It too is arguable that in a battle where the limits are drawn by the boundaries of the publishing industry that the suggestion of breaking up the whole company using heavy handed FTC tactics is justified. It is even arguable who, exactly is getting hurt in this interminable struggle.

America, really? Seems a bit over the top to me. Let’s take a brief moment and identify specifically who is being hurt right now. That demographic is authors and more specifically authors who publish through the publishing giant Hachette in one way or another.

People who publish through groups that are not Hachette are not harmed. Consumers who buy books through Amazon or any other distributer are not harmed. The only people taking a physical hit for this are unwitting leverage. Most likely they woke up one morning to find that their books weren’t where they thought they’d be on a list or release day and are arguably pissed they’re not getting their promised place of prominence.

Do I feel bad for someone who published through a Hachette imprint only to discover their master work subject to a “new” gate on its way to the consumer? Yeah sure, traditional publishing has occupied the role of tastemaker time out of mind. Who wouldn’t enter a publishing agreement with a company assuming that they could pull all the strings necessary to build all that delectable buzz. And Krugman has it right, Amazon is being a colossal buzz kill. So when I see statements like this from the esteemed Chuck Wendig I have to stop and think.

Well, even without the facetiousness, I get it — I’d rather be done with this topic, too. But here’s the reality: Amazon is hurting authors. Maybe they’re doing good business for themselves and no, I don’t think they’re evil or unjustified. But I don’t care, either, because authors are getting fucked over. And, to be selfish, given some of my future publishers, no reason to think that this fight isn’t coming down to come of MY books, too. I have friends here who are hurting, and it may hurt me in the future, so fuck all of that.

I don’t believe that it is possible to take note of how bad Amazon is being to these authors without also commenting on the ease with which Hachette sacrifices these people to this fate. For the better part of a year now these two business entities have been causing too much friction in publishing, hurting authors and for what? The right to determine who is and is not successful within the publishing industry. This battle isn’t about margins or money it is about who gets to play tastemaker in the medium. Amazon has been successfully usurping that role from traditional publishers for a while and Hachette is jealous of it’s loss. Jealous, but unwilling to alter it’s own behavior in the same way that Amazon can and has.

And what of the rest of us? Those seemingly few who went with a different imprint or turned the whole row on their own? I’m not in possession of any numbers here, but four of the Big Five and all the world’s independent publishers use Amazon for distribution still and with some success. It is possible that Hachette published authors represent a minority of of those who write.

If Amazon is to be blamed and/or reprimanded for anything than equal sanction should be imposed on Hachette. Krugman is right when he draws parallels between Amazon and Standard Oil, but only in as much as they are big, powerful companies in possession of weight to throw around. Rather, they are all very large business entities behaving badly.

New Things

Admittedly, I am a far happier person when I stick to the predictable. Want to take me out for something to eat? Take me to someplace I know well enough to avoid looking at the menu and I’ll be a happy. I usually ignore alternative driving directions because they might take me along unknown roads and into unexperienced traffic messes. And I spend the greatest effort in my day-to-day affairs sticking to a predictable schedule so that both Aral and I can exist in the tranquility that results from that sort of routine.

I’ve played World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer on-line role playing game of great fame, since people actually role played within the confines of the world. When it was new I got sucked into it because a friend was playing and because it was arguably the climax of a pursuit I had invested a lot of time and effort into previously (starting way back with DiKU MUDs). So, for nearly a decade now, I’ve ponied up about $15 bucks a month and slogged my way through dungeons, guild politics, griefers and hackers while seeking purples and legendary orange tokens indicative of my dedication to this collective suspension of disbelief.

After a while this became sort of a habit. Something I kept doing because I have done it before, because I scheduled my life around this game. “Leave me alone, it’s raid night,” was a common refrain heard in my household. I don’t think I ever over did this indulgence, but I certainly invested my time and effort into it. Often gladly, some times even with great joy.

But here is where my story finds a kink. Last January, while attending Legendary Confusion, I met a representative from S2 Games. Unfortunately I don’t recall the guys name, but I imagine I could pick him out of a line up if pressed. Hopefully I can be forgiven, there were a lot of new faces and names and likely some drinking mixed in. Anyway, he handed me a short comic book about the new game he and his compatriots were working on.

I thanked him and tucked it into my bag next to a growing stack of interesting hand outs. There it sat, forgotten until just a few days ago.

Sometime this summer, when I was increasingly frustrated and bored by the same old slog I have labeled Pandarian Summer Funk, I somehow made it into the closed beta for Strife. I downloaded the game and played a little. Game play was exciting and new, tactically challenging even. Most matches were over in an average of seventeen minutes, which meant that I could pop open the client, get a quick game fix and return to real life satisfied. Compared to the cluster events that even Looking for Raid imposed upon me this was an exceptional advantage. Write a thousand words, play a quick match, fold some laundry — my days and life are not consumed by a little escapism.

As time wore on and the beta opened up I started looking into the story. The artworkS2 commissioned, both in game and for the game, is excellent. A very rich and involving world with just enough visual zing to keep the GPU warm. The character and world development feels a lot like looking over the edge of a crevasse on a deep glacier. You don’t see much on just over the surface, but you get the impression of depth. And the story itself, that the heros gather on the fields of Strife to practice their martial arts, requires no more disbelief than WOW ever did.

By September Strife had replaced all other games. Today I composed the basis of one of three new heros that have been floating around in my head (a werehippo named Hadiya, she if freaking awesome). In some small way, a way that I thought never to see repeated after WOW entered my life, my imagination has been captured once again by a game.

I’ve recently canceled my WOW subscription. Ostensibly it’s because I just don’t have that much time to play games these days, but you can add to this that I think Blizzard has lost the all too critical thread of their own story. They seem more focused on improving graphic rendering in game and concocting media sell-out events designed to pander attention than hiring good writers who can continue their formerly strong tradition of story telling. Seriously, Azeroth Cycles? This is some of the shit I am trying to escape while playing people.

Going through some of my convention stash recently I came across the comic I had been given last January. I pulled it out of its plastic and thumbed through the pages. Mostly inked over pencil work, nothing stupendous as far as a comic book goes, but in these pages I saw a group of people in love with an idea. Taking time and effort to perfect their craft and, more importantly, to tell a really cool, new story.

That’s gold, no tropes being repeated here, golden story telling.

EDIT:

If you’re interested in trying (and Strife is free to play) if you could use my referral link than you’d be buffing a true fan of the game. Click on through from here.

A Question of Etiquette

So, right now I’m feeling a tad bit confused and maybe a little stuck. I’ve been submitting short stories to a variety of venues in the SF world. Eventually, I get back a rejection notice. And while this is perfectly okay with me — I’ll simply move on to the next venue with the story to see if I can find a better fit — I feel a desire to reach out and thank the editor in question for their time.

I’ve done a bit of research. The “do you write a thank you note after a manuscript rejection?” query has been run on Google, but there seems to be a decided lack of advice on this one point of protocol.

So, are you an editor? Is a thank you note for your time and consideration something you’d appreciate? Are you a writer who sends thank you notes? Does this work for you?

Truth be told not having an answer for this one question is going to bug the crap out of me all day.