Corrective vs Reflective Influence

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Writing Prompt: How does this huge spider make you feel without using simile.

Today, I’d like to consider the happy realization that I’m still becoming literate. Today, I’d like to thank the universe for random, fruitful encounters too, because the latter gratitude is predicated on the former.

I met a woman at the coffee shop this morning who refocused my mind on a lot of things. During our conversation, I discovered a way to articulate a good number of things that will help not only my writing practice develop but many other aspects of my existence.

Our conversation began because of an off-hand comment I made. She was sitting down at the table next to me and appeared chilled. While she curled up in her down coat, I mentioned that the coffee shop really should invest in some comforters we could just wrap up in as we sip our bean juice.

“Oh, we just got back from Methow,” she responded, and then we started covering some bases. The intrinsic anxiety of electric cars. The gradual, often slow, development of children’s travel tolerance. It meandered for a while until we locked onto the creative process.

“A poet has been appointed ambassador. A playwright is elected president. Construction workers stand in line with office managers to buy a new novel. Adults seek moral guidance and intellectual challenge in stories about warrior monkeys, one-eyed giants, and crazy knights who fight windmills. Literacy is considered a beginning, not an end.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Operating Instructions

Writing Groups

Since I made the transition from a mechanistic approach to life to one driven by imagination I’ve been a part of a number of these groups. Some, not all, have helped me reach beyond my current place in a story, effectively leveling me up as a writer. Others, unfortunately, seem little more than side quests where I waste much time foraging endlessly for tokens that cannot be bartered.

“Why?”

Holy cow, have I thought about this. Tried to put it into words, sought to transform my experiences with these groups into, if not a set of Laws to Write By, at least some guidelines to be aware of as I engage my imagination. And, objectively, I’ve failed to transform these adventures into anything other than a confusing, self-contradicting, impediment creating collection of reasons to never write another word. That is until today. This morning, in fact, at the coffee shop.

“Still why?”

Because I’m not starting from the right place. Writing, fuck that, creating anything is a deeply personal practice. You can’t imagine a world, with a bazillion possibilities, while consuming marketing advice about how to sell that. Your head is likely to twist right off your neck, fall on the floor, and roll down the stairs and into the street where raccoons will gleefully braid your nostril hair.

That is to say, I can’t write anyone else’s story. I’ve got to stop trying to do that.

So, to collect my thoughts and get back to the topic, I’ve experienced a number of different writing groups — some helpful, some not so much — and the difference when you peel back this pile of onions is that the helpful ones don’t bother correcting what you’ve submitted. They don’t tell you that something is implausible. They don’t point out line edits that you need to make or suggest sentence reconstruction. These groups are keenly aware of the need for all that, but they also know that’s why we hire editors.

Instead these instrumental, super valuable groups understand that story, even if written for an audience of one, requires a sort of recognition. They answer the question “Do you see the value in this story? If so, where’s it at? Once we know where it’s at, how can we make it much more valuable?”

If creating is a lonely, individual method of imagination then we should define how collaborative efforts, such as writing groups, should help us achieve our particular set of goals. If they can’t and we, as creatives, can’t steer them in that direction then it’s critical we move on.

Setting the Standard

If forty-six years of life has taught me anything, it’s that there is a difference between “it’s” and “its” that I need to be vigilantly aware of and that it’s really important to know what’s important. I’m not sure which of these is more important.

“Despair could never touch a morning like this.”

–Kim Stanley Robinson, Pacific Edge: Three Californias

I am, however, aware that I can ask for editorial help to fix my misuses of the contraction.

Our conversation touched on this idea quite a bit because it’s foundational to success. I stuck those eight words from KSR in this post because to me they represent a fulfillment of what is important to me in my writing. Those eight words are like a protein, folded and unfolded just so; when my eyes or ears suck them into neural receptors and transmit them to the thinking part of my mind for consideration, they fit perfectly. They grab me, they transform me, they light a fire in me.

I don’t know how or why KSR strung those words together. Why he didn’t start this novel with “A morning like this, despair could never touch.” Why he didn’t then go one to write a dialogue between his protagonist and his cast? But, for me anyway, this is by far one of my favorite hooks of all time. It drew me into his tale as if he’d written those words just for me.

Which, now that I think about it is a funny way to look at imagination. Is there any other way to share our experience, our emotions, our inner selves than like this? It’s so random, but there it is.

I’ve known for a long time now what I want my writing to do. I want it to tell a story like this. My goal is to unfold a word-protein in someone else’s mind correctly, just like these eight words unfold in mine.

Literacy

Writing for a market is like meditating for someone else’s approval. One of the alternatives to the word “literacy” is “scholarship,” and both of these words fail to convey the actual meaning I see between them. I’m grateful not just that my brain can decode language in its written form, this is the beginning Le Guin talked about. Instead, I’m thankful that literacy is a study. It is a pursuit of giving and receiving, the exchange of ideas with ever increasing clarity.

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.

Dispatches From The Future (B-List)

PopSci recently debuted a collection of very short shorts from “Ten of the brightest minds in science fiction.” It’s a very worthy read if you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill. Lots of humor packed into very few words. Plus, I love the idea. In part, because I love short stories. In part, because I love flash fiction. Also, writing something is a whole lot more fun than vacuuming or revisions, and that’s what I’ll be doing otherwise. So I’m turning it into a writing exercise right here on FeetForBrains.


 

Avacado

I was super excited to head home to my gallery apartment today because in this week’s grocery shipment I fully expected to find a lovely box of HAAS avocados waiting for me along side all the usual. When I was a kid I recall heading off to the super market with my mother and walking away with loads of these little buggers. They were so tasty. She’d cut them in half, pull out the pit, and hand me a spoon. But it’s been an age since there was such a thing as markets, and avocados have become about as rare as ice in the arctic.

Unfortunately, I let my anticipation of this delectable treat and the nostalgia for old-timey unprocessed food stuffs come before any sort of reasonable, contemporary assessment of the status quo. This despite the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by swarms of pilotless delivery drones. They dodge through crowds of people at the train station. They zip past my head when I take the skywalk from one end of the arcology to the other. They’re every where and always moving at a tremendous speed, performing amazing aerobatic feats that would turn a mere mortal into jello.

So it should have been no great surprise that the box I received on the door mat before my apartment was little more than the final resting place for the once delicate fruits of one Persea americana tree. The cardboard coffin contained only a greenish-brown slush resembling guacamole that had gone off. It’s truly amazing what 10 gravity turns will do an avocado.

DetCon1 Schedule

This upcoming weekend I’ll be attending the 2014 DetCon1. This will likely be the biggest gathering I make it to this year. It is the convention that is held in the States when WorldCon is off the continent. This year the North American Science Fiction Convention is in down town Detroit. Last I heard, tickets are still available. It’s not too late, you could come too.

Thursday 1700
Reading
Daniel/Eich/Thyer Joliet A Authors Tony Daniel, Raymund Eich, and Matthew Alan Thyer read from their work.

Friday 2000
Mass Autograph Session
It looks like the room is going to be packed with authors and artists. I’ll be signing books and don’t worry if you don’t have a copy. I’m brining twenty.

Saturday 1100
Vehicles: Past, Present, Future
Mackinac West Raymund Eich, Matthew Alan Thyer, Tony Daniel Vehicles past, present, future. Horses, steam, electric, gas and diesel, electric again. What about hydrogen? Flux capacitors? Where’s my flying car? Oops we missed the train! Dr. Phil (Philip Edward Kaldon), Erik Kauppi, Mike Substelny, Matthew Alan Thyer, Emmy Jackson

Also, it should be noted that I’ll be taking on the mantle of Card Czar all evenings except Sunday with a brand new deck of CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY (thanks to Paul at Heroic Knights Games). I’m not certain if they’ll allow drinking in the game room, but we’ll work something out with the bar if they don’t. Kitchen rules often liven up play. You should come by. We’ll deal you in. It will be awesome.

I hope to see you at DetCon1

Its Official: The Big Red Buckle is Launched

The Big Red Buckle

Sometime this morning — before coffee, but after walking the dog — my first book became an item you can buy on Amazon. That is right, folks! It is official. I am an author. The published kind.

I know its going to take some time to build up an audience. But with a couple of sales under my belt and a narrowly defined search, guess what, The Big Red Buckle is number eighty-one in sports fiction. Now I’m hoping to see some stars and comments before the week is out.

Number 81 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Sports

beefcake

Taking Shots #7 in Genre Fiction > Sports

An interesting observation, within the “genre fiction > sports” list there is a hell of a lot of beefcake. This makes me wonder how my blend of science fiction and endurance sports will do. A lot of these are romance novels with sports themes in this list, so we will have to wait and see if the juxtaposition of tastes means anything over time.

The print version of the manuscript is still a little way out. There is no comparison between a self-published Kindle ebook and its printed cousin. What I’ve learned is that there is a hell of a lot more work that has to go into a printed book, compared to the electronic variety.

That means, for those of you who refuse to read books on a device, that you will necessarily need to wait. Just a little bit longer. For those of you who are going to get the Kindle version I can sign your electronic copy now (see the authorgraph doodad).

Get your e-book signed by Matthew Alan ThyerAnd for those of you who do not yet currently have the ebook version of The Big Red Buckle please follow the link over to Amazon and download a copy for yourself, or for your science fiction loving cousin, or that paragliding/endurance running dude down the hall from you at the office. It will make a great holiday gift and I hope an enjoyable escape.

Buy The Big Red Buckle

Crux

Be a winner, get a free Crux

Many moons ago, my ever loving wife introduced me to a really interesting dude by the name of Ramez Naam. Or Mez if you will. She worked on a piece of non-fiction, futurist writing for him, but now he’s writing some very good science fiction you might want to check out.

If you have not read his novels yet, they are worth your time. I just finished his first, Nexus, and really enjoyed it. I’m reposting here because his publisher has a giveaway right now. All you need to do is head over to Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing and make a comment. Be a winner!