IOTD

Jim C. Hines posted this a few minutes ago and I’m tripping over my keyboard with jealousy, why didn’t I think of this?

I’m thinking about trying to do a weekly blog post highlighting some of the positive and amazing things being done by various folks in the SF/F community. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many wonderful, kind-hearted, generous people there are in our geeked-out slice of the world.

Take Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser. Pat has poured so much time and energy into Worldbuilders. (Yes, I know some of you would rather he poured all of that time into writing, but none of us can write all the time.) In the past seven years, Worldbuilders has raised more than $3.5 millionfor Heifer International, helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the world.

Or look at conventions like Windycon, where fans worked to raise $753 for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

So I need your help. Email me at jchines -at- sff.net (or use the Contact Form) and tell me about people or groups in fandom doing good stuff. I’ll do my best to research and write them up, with links and pics and maybe even a quick interview or quote or something. And we can try at least once a week to recognize that yeah, at its worst, SF/F fandom can be a hot, flaming mess … but at our best, we are Frakking Awesome.

Yeah, the Hugos have once again been sabotaged by poo-gobbling attention trolls. Yes, gigantic media mechanisms are once again shining light on the unwashed underbelly of the SFF community giving the broader world the impression that we’re all bigots or morons or both.

We are better than this. Let’s draw attention to the good that we do. Well played Mr. Hines.

Breaking One-Hundred

I'm in good company. Screen caption taken on March 27, 2016

I’m in good company. Screen caption March 27, 2016

I’m celebrating breaking into the top one hundred with the recent release of the top-rated science fiction anthology Doomsday Chronicles. For a limited time only (March 28, 2016 through April 1, 2016) pick up Doomsday and Big Red Buckle for less than a cup of coffee. That’s right, both books for a dollar!

http://getBook.at/Doomsday
http://getBook.at/RedBuckle

A Ubiquitous Award Post

Welcome to the new year. It is that time again, and 2015 was a pretty good year for me as a writer. Things got published. Things are eligible for awards.

Essays

Invisible 2 Cover-Full-689x1024 I contributed an essay to Jim Hines’ second annual anthology Invisible 2: Personal Essays on Representation in SF/F. He informs me that the collection is eligible for the Best Related Work.

Flash Fiction and Short Stories

"Walk to School"

“Walk to School”

Dispatches from the Future: B-list: Over the course of the year, I wrote a growing collection of flash fiction. As part of his recovery from kidney surgery and Inktober my friend and Army buddy Jeffrey Witty completed a illustrations for many of them.

  • I believe that this collection of stories would qualify for either Best Short Story or Best Fanzine. There are fourteen episodes within the collection, all of them are under 2,000 words (they’ve always been freely available on Wattpad).
  • Jeff’s adroit illustrations are also eligible for Best Fan Artist.  His ink work is really quite excellent; as the author, I can’t tell you how nice it is to see your words looking back at you.

Tokyo Yakuza #11: Mob Dance (6,027 words) qualifies for Best Short Story. This was a fun little project done as part of an independent tabletop game release.

Novellette

“Ser Pan Comido”

Galaxy Chronicles: Ser Pan Comido (9,891 words) is arguably my best and most popular published work of 2015. I really enjoyed collaborating with Samuel Peralta and Jeff Seymour and the Amazon sales boost this anthology produced was amazing to witness (my Amazon Author rank peaked at #71 in Science Fiction … Wow!).

  • Despite my self-doubt surrounding this story, it has done remarkably well. The collection received some excellent reviews and my contribution was called out more than once.
  • Jeff’s approach to editing was a pleasure and I hope to repeat the experience with some longer works that are on the way. If you’re filling out your ballot and need suggestions for Best Editor please consider Jeff and/or Sam.

Summary

That’s it for me (and the many people that I collaborated with last year). If you’re running behind and can only nominate one work may I suggest that you consider sending Jeffrey Witty to the vanguard. His work is good, and I’d love to motivate him to do more. He’s been secretly scripting and illustrating The Big Red Buckle and I’d love to light a fire under his can to get this done in 2016.

Go, fly, buy, be nerdy!

Galaxy Add-2

That’s right, you can now pre-order Samuel Peralta‘s next anthology that is due out November 30th. My short story SER PAN COMIDO is featured in this collection of space opera and military science fiction tales, and I’m surrounded by all the good stuff written by all the good people. Better yet, if you’re a Prime member you read for free and if not, your pre-order price is less than two bucks. That’s right, get it while it’s hot!


 

A quick couple of words on writing for Peralta’s anthology and then I’ll let you get on with the ordering frenzy. An internet friend and fellow author Chris Boore nominated THE BIG RED BUCKLE last spring. Based on the number of reads Peralta gets tossed his way I didn’t think anything would ever become of it. Samuel makes a point of saying that he reads everything nominated, but who could possibly keep up with that volume?

June rolled around, and summer started to unfold, I was not holding my breath. In fact, I had returned my focus to finishing Tess’ kayak and wasn’t spending a whole lot of time at my computer writing, when, out of the blue, I got a message from Samuel.

“I liked Red Buckle. Could you write something for Galaxy?”

“Sure, I’d love to,” I replied.

“Good, you’ve got about four weeks.”

With that brief interaction I jumped, not from the pan into the fire, but into a pressure cooker. Tess had already signed up for a sea kayaking class in July, making non-refundable reservations along the way. Now I had two very hard deadlines and not enough time for either.This is where I learned something about myself.

I write well when pressured.

Summary, I enjoyed writing this story. As I got into the meaty details of it, the challenging bits felt more like play than work. I enjoyed working with Jeff Seymore polishing the finished project, and I can recall wishing we’d spent even more time working on things like the summary. I ended this project wanting and ready to write more.

Compared to the work I’ve done for other anthologies, Galaxy Chronicles, and SER PAN COMIDO was easy peasy. A walk in the park.

Pre-order sales rank after about 12 hours on Amazon’s shelf.

Samuel’s series of Future Chronicles anthologies have tremendous reach. If you’re an author, this means access to a much larger audience. Having a story in one feels like a foot in the door. I want to say that this tastes a whole lot like a success. At this point, I’d need a crystal ball to know what it might turn out to be.

So before I end this post I’ll encourage you once more. “Go, my nerds, go buy this anthology before the price gets jacked up. Go, fly, buy, be nerdy!”

Now back to the grindstone.

Badassery Reviews Future Chronicles

An in-depth review of The Future Chronicles. Crom! you are compelled by the power of Greyskull to read the review followed rapidly by devouring the anthology as would Ammit.

The Future Chronicles has grown, from a single collection of robot stories, into a series whose unique take on major science fiction and fantasy themes – A.I., aliens, time travel, dragons, telepaths, zombies, immortality, galactic battles, cyborgs, doomsday – has made it one of the most acclaimed short story anthology series of the digital era.

Galaxy Chronicles

Galaxy Chronicles

Not the final cover image

Some news, yes? A few of you may know already, but I figure since the manuscript is out there I’d go ahead and make a public service announcement. That’s right, this will go down on your permanent record. Oh yeah? Well don’t get so distressed. Did I happen to mention that I’m impressed?

Boys and girls, your’s truly snuck into the next-next edition of the Future Chronicles curated by Samuel Peralta. I signed a contract to write a story for Galaxy Chronicles less than a month ago and last weekend I turned in about 10k words. The book premier is expected early fall, sometime around September, and you can count on me to tell you when pre-orders are available.

SER PAN COMIDO will be appearing along side works from Jay Allan, Jasper T. Scott, Raymond Weil, GS Jennsen, Nick Endi Webb, Erik Wecks, Nic Wilson, Chris Reher, Jen Foehner Wells, Dave Monk Fraser Adams, Felix R Savage, Pippa LancasterJeff Seymour is editing and Samuel Peralta will manage all the production efforts. Early verdict is positive: “A gritty tale with a beautifully layered atmosphere, that kept me at the edge of my seat!”

In celebration of another publishing gig I’ve dropped the Kindle price of THE BIG RED BUCKLE. For a limited time you can get this story for 99 pennies.

Not a Meritocracy

An excellent example of HuffPost muckraking has been making the rounds today. Honestly, I think author Lynn Shepherd wastes a lot of valuable screen space throwing a tantrum about JK Rowling’s relative success in publishing. But there is a point at which Shepherd gets my full attention.

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?

Lets get something straight, right from the beginning; publishing is a capitalist business, not a meritocracy. I understand this, and seldom even question the situation any more. If you publish use the tools you have at hand to sell more books. That’s the rule, that’s how it works. Right, wrong? That doesn’t matter.

Additionally, I’m not going to lay my neck down on the block and suggest that J.K. Rowling (or anyone else) stop writing, stop writing in my genre, or stop anything for that matter. Your success as a writer is your business. If you chose to tell the world about the details, good on ya.

Ultimately, I think that the foamy kerfuffle this article surfaced has a lot more to do with the way the big boys sell books than the quality of anyone’s writing. Per USA Today’s most up-to-date rating for THE CASUAL VACANCY saw a bump from not registering to #131 twenty-eight weeks after it was first listed coincidentally at the same time Shepherd published her story on HuffPost.

Shepherd goes on later in the opinion piece, but the whinge starts to gather mass and the reader is forced to ask the all to critical question “Why?”

The book dominated crime lists, and crime reviews in newspapers, and crime sections in bookshops, making it even more difficult than it already was for other books – just as well-written, and just as well-received – to get a look in. Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do. And now there’s going to be a sequel, and you can bet the same thing is going to happen all over again.

I have to say that I’m happy for Rowling’s success. And why not, she must have worked hard enough to get where she is. Writing takes a lot of time and energy. She should be allowed to write books, just like the rest of us. Good or bad, however, it is the readers that should determine how much of our collective mind space her works take up, not very deep pockets and well refined marketing strategies.

And there is the problem, ad execs and publishing mavins, convinced that anything a Big Name writes will sell a forest’s worth of paper, are tripping all over themselves in the mad dash to sell, sell, sell. They can signal boost in a way that most of us can never hope for.

In doing so they have exposed their hand. The tell is in the fact that they can and do lavish such treatments on a few authors while ignoring so many more. And yeah, this sort of market manipulation hides so many other good works. But what can be done? Nothing, publishing is not a meritocracy.

What I Want

Recently, all-around good guy and SpecFic author Ramez Naam wrote a blog post Publishing – We’re All On the Same Side in which he outlines some observations about publishing, publishers and the people who write. At the end of this piece he writes “What I’d Like to See”.

In my dream world, what I’d love to see:

  • A little more acknowledgement on the self-pub side that traditional publishing has various advantages. Yes, it has downsides too. Yes, self-pub will be better in some situations. But the dialogue right now simply waves away the advantages to authors that can come with traditional publishing deals.
  • Fewer insults cast at self-pub books as a class, particularly on issues of quality and so on, from traditionally published authors. Really, unless your goal is to get people good and angry and harden their hearts, there’s very little point to this.
  • Less taking it personally on both sides. More compassion for and cheering on everyone who writes.

Well, I can keep dreaming, can’t I?

I really enjoyed this post and it further underscores my belief that there is a middle ground. The concept has been smoldering for a while now and the Shepherd piece just blew on it. So Mez, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to take a crack at this too.

For context, I am a self-published author and will likely continue to be so. I have published traditionally; a number of non-fiction, short pieces, but honestly, I don’t count these. And my fiction is weird enough that traditional publication would be a tremendous stroke of luck. That said, I am pragmatic person and writing is a career choice, so ultimately, I will publish the way that works best.

Without further adieu, my thoughts:

  • Writers get respect, yo!

    Fiction writers especially. Yeah, it’s hard. You’ll lose much sleep if you become a writer. Your conversations will become one dimensional explorations of story ideas you want to develop later. You’ll likely lose friends, for a vast variety of annoying reasons, while you’re bleeding on the page.

    Writing isn’t just a vocation, or a career choice. It’s a life style. An already unnecessarily complicated and problematic lifestyle. Like becoming a monk or a nun with about the same amount of sex. If you write, you deserve respect.

  • Stop the Whinge

    There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of envy in this business. Hell, I feel it too. At ConFusion I felt envy when John Scalzi talked about when he felt like he had made it. I too, would someday like to buy a tank of gas and not worry about where the money to buy it might be coming. I too would love to swim in a J.K Rowling sized swimming pool of cash (or more realistically, write checks to the charity of my choice with lots of digits).

    Every last one of us pours as much of their self into their work as they can afford. And that’s why, when it’s done and up on Amazon, we sit and wonder why we’re sitting at #374,097 on the Paid in Kindle Store while that worthless piece of fluff won’t release its death grip on #1.

    Ultimately, I know that it is going to take a much larger pile of words to get there. To get anywhere close to there. But the whinge does nothing to get anyone there. Bitching about someone else’s success, endlessly comparing your works to theirs, whining (often publicly) about whatever is a WASTE OF TIME.

  • Publishing is Publishing

    This might be a corollary to the previous bulleted item, but the fact remains. Publishing is publishing.

    I am super-fucking tired of the constant, low-grade squabble that goes on between the different parts of the published world. As Mez correctly points out more is better, and both parts of the community can contribute to each other. They should contribute to each other. The belief that one way or the other is somehow “better” is just ridiculous.

    Is traditional publishing working for you? That is awesome! Do you prefer the indie route to print? Let this stand as a virtual hug and pat on the back. Just getting work out there is hard enough. The “I poop on your publishing mode” attitude has got to go; it’s simian and base and it makes you look silly.

  • Be nice to one another

    This bears repeating. In fact, it should become a mantra. If you feel the urge to tear someone else down, even if they’ve just invested lots of time and effort in the destruction of another (see Shepherd), ask yourself “am I being nice?”

    It’s a truism that authors don’t really compete with one another. We mostly compete with people not reading, with them sitting on the couch, or watching television, or simply not knowing of anything good to read. I trust that most of the authors I know are supporters of other writers as a class, and that we want to see more people make the leap from “I have a book!” to “People are reading my book!” and even “I’m making a living off of people reading my book(s)!” as we did at one point (or may be in the process of doing).

    So let’s cheer each other on, and point to success, anywhere we see it.

  • What I’d like to see

    This is my dream world statement. It is also me being a hopeless optimist, publicly and without shame.

    • I’d love to see more inclusiveness from professional organizations such as The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Guilds and Unions of yore did not increase their power and influence within their operating space by excluding a particular class of member. If there is a gateway for entry let it be legitimate. The SFWA bar for entry is antiquated at best and this hurts Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. All of ’em.All you need to be a full member of Romance Writers of America is the serious desire to pursue “a romance fiction writing career” and $95 a year. You get full benefits of membership (which are laudable) and voting rights. It makes me want to carve out time for at least one romance story a year (which would be crap I know, but still).

      Other professional organizations need to legitimize all parts of their slice of the pie. They need to do this quickly. When they do, they’ll see a huge bump in their membership and a precipitous drop in drama and ugliness.

    • More readers, yes, many more readers. And this isn’t just the self-interested sort of plea for you to be my reader. No, I think we need more readers.Guys, I’m a slow reader. I admit this because I know, in the past, it is the thing that has kept me from reading more. I’ve felt a fair amount of self-loathing and shame over this deficit.

      But stories are a critical and necessary part of our humanity. We have evolved to pass wisdom around using them. Your perfect story is out there. Whatever your handicap is – lack of time, slow reading, a crippling, misanthropic fear of overwhelming crowds in books stores – there is a ready made solution for you.

      It is my sincere belief that if more people read, even a little, every day (instead of relentlessly tuning into the boob tube or other distraction) the world as we know it would experience a dramatic and much needed shift toward the positive.

    • A lot more cross pollination. Meaning, if you read something you like SHOUT ABOUT IT. If you fear that the juggernaut hype machine of Big Ink is obscuring the voice of a really good writer you like than why are you letting that signal drown out that voice?There are ample options for feedback out there. Review the book on Amazon or GoodReads. Write a letter to the author. Tweet about your favorite read, or your last read. Tell someone at the coffee shop. The list of ready made options goes on and on. And every time you get someone else to ready, you’re cross pollinating.

      Or you could try and be really unique. Cause you’re hip and cool and your love of a story is also a sort of self-expression. Tattoo your devotion to a story on your hide. Name your child after a favorite character. Think outside the box, astound the masses, be awesome!

Mutual Appreciation Society

Hey sweet, the amazing and talented Andrea Johnson, over at Little Red Reviewer, interviewed me recently. She just published my answers, and THE BIG RED BUCKLE is on sale too boot! Only $0.99 until I regain network access later in the week. It is starting to feel a whole lot like a mutual appreciation society around here. Happy circumstance or evil plot to take over the world? You’re going to have to read them both and decide for yourself.

Later today, Aral and I hop back on an airplane, fly over half a continent, and then scramble like mad to remove the last bit of residue of our habitation from the old townhouse in Boulder. As you can imagine, I may be difficult to reach for a bit.

cropped-kdp_brbcoverdaredevil.jpg

Buy The Big Red Buckle

 

 

Writer’s Tool Box: Not Facebook Part Zwei

“So where ever you’re targeting advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money. I wish Facebook would remove all the fake likes from my page and from all the others, but that would mean admitting that they have generated significant ad revenue from clicks that weren’t genuine which then supress the reach of of page which had low engagement. Forcing those pages to pay again to reach unauthentic fans. So the truth is that Facebook benefits by maintaining the status quo. Because the reality is *NOBODY LIKES THAT MANY THINGS*”.

I found this on KB today and if you’re using Facebook to promote something there is ample evidence you’re wasting your time and money. Paying for page likes, or page promotions for that matter, seems increasingly like willingly donating to a racketeering scheme.

I will continue to cross post information about my writing to Facebook, but don’t expect me to ever use their services to promote through that particular social network. The noise to signal ratio is full of static.