Don’t Forget to Dream

D.S.I Helium 3 Transport Vehicle by Adam Burn

I’m sitting in the coffee shop; A-bear is playing his heart over at preschool, and I’m just not getting into it this morning. Derp move number one, I’ve been tugging at my chin hairs while I read from the ever expanding athenaeum of “Advice Offered to Writers on Writing and Stuff.” The truth of the matter is that I’m not sure what I’m going to write next, and my Twitter feed has once again delivered up this highly distracting narrative in which I willingly participate. Hunched over and fuming, once more, it occurs to me that this is not a good way to live your life.

More importantly, it doesn’t seem like a very productive way to spend your precious writing time.

It’s probably not helping that the new baristas have changed up the music, and I’ve since had to plug my headphones in and crank up the subtle white noise of Coffitivity. Yeah, that’s right, I’m listening to “Morning Murmur” — a recording of a coffee shop while sitting in an actual cafe drinking coffee — how’s that for bathos?

“So what, precisely, is the problem Matt?” you ask.

Well, I started with this blog post from the esteemed and successful Chuck Wendig: Peaks and Valleys: The Financial Realities of a Writer’s Life. Realize, in no way is this me jumping onto his current cluster event. Rather, it’s me taking a critical look at why I seem to come away from his advice posts feeling defeated and ready to quit.

This post and the advice it references are just one member of a distinguished lineage of columns I’d like to label “The Stark Reality Collection.” I’m starting to wonder if it’s even possible for authors, especially those in the SFF community, first to begin making a living from their work and later not tell the world how hard it’s going to be. Often I come away from reading this stuff convinced I’ve done everything wrong. I live in the wrong place, I know all the wrong people, I didn’t go to the right school, or workshop, I write the wrong things, and I put my pants on the wrong way — that’s how wrong I feel.

Defeated before I begin, my options seem limited. Maybe I should just take Wendig’s intimation and “move on to more stable ground.”

Here’s the thing. Fiction moves me. Let me say that again. FICTION MOVES ME. I love a good story. Terry Pratchett’s farewell piece The Sheperd’s Crown recently reduced me to a blubbering mess more than once. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my recent readings of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Wild Shore Triptych.

I know that I’ve discovered my earthworm. I know that my stories are good enough, and my writing is compelling and entertaining. And yes, I love doing this, even when it’s fucking difficult.

Standing up to assert these strong feelings of self-determination and conviction I rip the headphone out of my computer and nearly dump hot coffee all over my lap. “But really,” I say to myself taking a calming breath. “I don’t need anyone to tell me how hard it’s going to be.”

Want to help successful-author-making-a-living-from-your-words? Stop telling everyone about the big pile of shit we can look forward to wading. That’s the thing about piles of crap; they’re apparent. Everyone knows that they’re there, usually because, much like yourselves, we’re busy trying to clean it off our shoes.

Better, tell us what moves you. Why did you stick with writing even when you weren’t sure when your next meal was coming? What do you do in the morning to warm up for writing? What inspired some piece of fiction we can’t put down. How do you deal with criticism fro your readers or even your editor? Writer’s, especially the good ones, I’ve realized have developed strategies to exceed the piles of crap life leaves on our paths.

I write a lot, I don’t sell a lot (yet). I know that I’ve yet to develop a “real” audience. The numbers necessary to lift me out of this valley just aren’t there yet. This is the sole reason I keep looking into the Library of Stark Reality. I’m looking for feasible ways to grow my audience as I get ready for near term release dates. Want to help? Tell me about the concrete things you did to expand your audience.

And while I acknowledge that it won’t always be easy, this morning I’m resolved that as I build my author platform and find more readers, I will endeavor to imagine with audacity. The boundaries that limit me aren’t worth talking about except when exceeded.



Why I’m Not Likely to go to WorldCon

We’re a couple of weeks out still, but my mind is pretty much made up. Sasquan/WorldCon 2015 is likely off the list for me. The reasons are complicated and I’m going to use this blog post to explore them in a little more detail.

First, while I own a ticket for the whole long-weekend I have no obligations to show up. I’m not on any panels. I’m unlikely to see something I’ve never seen before. And while I’d really love to spend time with my friends and acquaintances from the SFF community there are plenty of smaller venues during the rest of the year where we might catch up. Thus, I’m not particularly motived to go.

Added to this the size of this convention is a bit off-putting for me. There are going to be a lot of random people running around. All of you are going to be talking to one another, constantly and simultaneously, and that’s always been a challenge to my sanity. I’ve been seizure-free for going on two and a half years now, and I’m not very interested in playing with that sort of anxiety right now.

Second, I’ve got another short-story contract due in a narrow window of time. For the past couple of days, I’ve been digging into my idea because, just to satisfy my own requirements for success, it has to be better than my first contribution to the Future Chronicles. And I have to achieve this in fewer words.

Ermahgerd, the story idea I’m working with for Doomsday is, I think, somewhat inspired. I can’t say it’s been a fun story to research or write so far, but I’m fairly certain it will be judged unique amongst its peers and hopefully excellent by its readers.

Third, the Puppy toxicity and melodrama is making it into the real. The screen scrape below is just the first of a creeping passive-aggressiveness I’ve noticed. It appears, to me at any rate, that a number of SP/RP apologists are taking steps to further sabotage the Hugo awards as well as the celebration.


In this case, Antonelli’s “apology” does nothing to fix the situation he created for David Gerrold with Spokane PD. Worse, it pushes the whole of the SFF community just that much further into the fringe in the eyes of the general public.

Stop and think about this for just a moment. Most of us who chose this path, writing for at least part of our daily bread, do so knowing we’re on a very tight budget. That’s not just money and food folks, it’s everything. Something a lot of writers don’t talk about is how they budget right down to the minute because they just don’t have any to spare. I, for one, am keenly aware of when I’m burning time I don’t have.

At present, David Gerrold has to clean up someone else’s mess, thus wasting his precious time, in order to simply enjoy his stay at the convention. That’s not okay ladies and gentlemen. Who’d want that sort of frosting to accompany their cupcake? Not I.

Finally, the part where I take personal accountability for missing Sasquan. Yeah, I failed to properly prepare for the convention this year. I bought my ticket, and thus my voting rights, way back in 2014 when they came on the market. Then I signed up for a bunch of work. I’m on my fourth anthology contribution this year (yeah for me), none of them expected. Then I added buying a house and moving into that house to my unplanned work cocktail. I topped it all off with a bunch of stuff around the house. We’ve got a madrona tree on our property that’s been dead for at least a decade, for instance. I need to take it down before it comes down on its own, thereby negating most of the aforementioned work.

Ultimately, Sasquan just took the back seat to all the other things going on in my life. If (and this is a very big if) I somehow managed to set all of the above aside long enough for me to make hotel reservations, arrangements for child care, and kennel service I’m sure I could come. I’d probably have a kickass time too, even if all I did was hang out in the bar and wait for friends to wander through, but I tend toward the easiest path which, in this case, does not lead to Spokane.

She May Never Read This

My Mom won’t get on Facebook. She doesn’t text or tweet. I suspect that she rarely, if ever, actually clicks through on her laptop to this blog. But that’s okay, she’s my mother and I still love her despite her on-line will’s-and-wont’s.

But you guys should click on over to a monthly feature at SF Signal called Mind Meld where yours truly is featured amongst many other respectable wordsmiths for the August question, What is your favorite childhood memory of a library or bookstore? My Mom, peerless parent, plays a role in my story. Even all these moons later I’m still thankful she stuck with me. My Mom is pretty cool.


Yet More Drama

Alright already! SFF writers can we please move beyond the petty, boorish and un-funk worthy spectacle of the day? Seriously, you guys waste way too much time expressing your heart felt opinions while simultaneously developing an unrivaled skill for hyperbole.  What’s the beef de jour? This morning Hugh Howey wrote a brief bit about a weekend convention. Seems convention organizers decided to put some authors in a back room for some reason while other authors got big tables in a big, comfy room.

I agree with him, it was a bit of a dick move by RT Booklovers Convention organizers, how ever you cut it up. But these things happen. The insinuation that it was intentional or focused on one kind of writer or publisher as opposed to another are unlikely to be true. But even if the accusations are verifiable, the absolute best anyone can hope for at this point is that next year the convention organizers will lay out the guest list with a little more forethought.

If this situation affected you personally — I mean if you were there this weekend and you ended up sitting in the cramped back room not selling any books — might it be unlikely you plan on returning? No, didn’t think so. RT Booklovers Convention is probably going to experience a shortage of creative types in the future.

If it didn’t affect you personally, why do you care? There is a Facebook-turd forming under a series of names I thought were above this sort of nonsense. It’s really too bad because too, these sorts of opinions get tossed around all the time and they never go anywhere. I get it, you’re angry. You may dislike the way some people publish. Perhaps you’re envious of their successes or their set up. But folks, you’re spot on the money when you say that this stuff is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. You really need to pay attention to your own words, because if it’s truly an easily forgiven “faux pas” you’re making a mountain out a mole hill. Cultivating a culture of melodrama.

Beyond a relatively few SFF diehard fanatics who have previously made up their minds, it is exceptionally unlikely that anyone who encounters this sort of genre specific infighting will experience an epiphany and see the world anew, now well informed by your opinion. Rather, if in the process of sorting the day’s media catch they are unlucky enough to firmly grasp your infernal doo-doo might they then form a negative opinion about you, your writing, or perhaps the genre you write in?

I don’t mind reminding anyone that science fiction and fantasy writers already have a tough row to hoe. SFF is still perceived as “kids stuff” at best. Regardless of the way you publish, our collective lack of professionalism has not made anyone’s job any easier. Worse, SFF authors seem to be preternaturally primed to hop the bandwagon each and every time it trundles by. Do you realize that children’s authors and romance writers look down their noses at SFF? Yeah, chew on that for a bit.

I am so tired of talking to people about my stories, seeing the flame of interest in their eye, only to watch it be extinguished with the words “Oh, I don’t usually read sci-fi.” This is almost always accompanied by a sneer which I imagine as commentary on my working choice of literature. Our genre is still outside what most people consider normal or well-adjusted. It lacks the respect other writing commands.

Like all of you, I work hard on my craft. I’ve suffered personal indignities, and sure, I carry my fair share of spite around with me. But we’ve got to cultivate the respect we deserve. Your platform is yours, do with it as you will, but we’re all set up on the same stage of genre. This means your self destructive habits affect those near you. If you cannot resolve your personal problems without pasting them in flashing neon across the whole internet, you may have some room for personal growth.