I’LL BE A MULTIVERSE FIRST TIMER

Hey look at the neat new promo piece the talented folks at MultiVerse put together for me! It will be my first time attending and being a panelist at their convention outside Atlanta, Georgia. I can hardly wait! Come see me if you’re in the area on Oct. 14-16.

RETURNING FROM CHICON 8 AND FINDING A HOME FOR MY WRITING

I’m back sleeping in my own bed after the whirlwind that was Chicon 8, the world science fiction convention in Chicago. Among many fascinating conversations swirling around me, was one that took place in a small gathering of writers and editors for a particular publication. Someone said our group felt like family, to which everyone immediately agreed.

The observation got me thinking how fortunate this little group is. In our field, it’s common for writers, and not only newbies, to feel adrift in the-changeable seas of the publishing industry, despite the fact that some periodicals and publishers have been around longer than most authors have been writing or have been alive. Editors, agents, publicists, and publishers move on to other positions and sometimes leave our field entirely. Moreover, writers soon learn not to count on any editor snapping up their latest story or book, even if earlier related works did nicely. It’s easy for authors to feel like we’ve been cast adrift.

Rather than grousing to each other and bemoaning our fates, it strikes me that the solution is twofold: 1. Write something new. 2. Search out a suitable market where a welcoming publisher may be receptive to more of your work.

For me, Analog Science Fiction and Fact feels like a home. I’ve been reading it as long as I can remember, not just the short fiction, but the multi-issue serials, the fact articles, reviews, editorials, etc. It’s been around for over ninety years. Importantly, it’s a comfort to know that my work has always been given serious consideration by the former editor and the current one. This doesn’t mean they’ll want to run everything I turn in. By no means! However, Analog is a market that will treat my work seriously. In our competitive field, this means a lot.

If I could grant one wish to all my writing friends and the many talented authors whom I don’t know but whose work I admire, it’s this: May you find a corner of our field that is a good home for the pieces dearest to your hearts.

MY CHICON 8 SCHEDULE

The dedicated folks running this year’s World Science Fiction Convention have placed me on a bunch of panels plus a reading and a table talk. If you’ll be there in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, stop by ’cause yanno, it’s been a while.

KEEPING SECRETS (WRITER EDITION)

A writer should have a secret. This advice was given to me years ago when I was first learning to craft fiction. Readers love surprises, the theory goes, with an important caveat. The writer must lay the groundwork so that the reveal comes as a surprise, but then the reader thinks, ‘yes of course, even though I didn’t I see that coming.’

Real life, being messier than fiction, also requires writers to keep secrets from their readers and even other writers. There can be exciting news but it’s not yet time to announce it. Frequently, it’s not the writer’s place to disclose the news. Maybe the author sold a new story or book, learned their work will be republished, or accepted a business opportunity, was asked to appear at an event, got nominated for or won an award, received a favorable review, or racked up impressive sales figures. You get the idea.

The writer may be sworn to secrecy until the project or event is announced and everyone sends their congratulations. If the writer seems pleased but not giddy with excitement, this may be because they’ve had weeks or even months to absorb the happy news.

Keep in mind, those of us with intense imaginations (we are writers, after all) have already envisioned the exciting event in considerable detail. By this, I mean not only what we’ve achieved but sometimes the possibility of the project crashing and burning. Thus, simply finding out how things turn out can spark relief as much as anything else.

Might these musings be a long-winded way of hinting that you may want to watch this space? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

HOT MOON

My writing buddy Alan Smale has a new book out, which is always cause for celebration. Better yet, his HOT MOON is an alternate history of space exploration during the Apollo era of the 1970s. Ha! Does this sound somewhat familiar? I’m not surprised to see that the Moon is plenty big enough for two writers—probably a bunch more—engaged in thought experiments as to how the early days of American/Soviet competition to explore space and reach the Moon using human crews might have gone differently. Alan is not only a Sidewise award winning writer but also an astrophysicist researcher, so you know the science will be impeccable.Check it out.

58 BOOKS ON WRITING (PLUS ONE I HATE)

Hey writers, how many books about the craft of writing fiction are on your shelves? Mine contain 58, not that I’ve read every word of all of them. I’ve only dipped into parts of some. There are general how-to’s and more specialized ones on plot, character, dialog, scenes, point-of-view, structure, suspense, emotion and such like. There are others devoted to a specific genre like science fiction, mystery, etc. Some (maybe most) give the ambitious reader exercises to try at home. Many dissect sentences and paragraphs that achieve superior results.

And now you’re waiting for me to get to the book I hate.

First, I think it important to tell you why I reacted as I did. This one came into my life recently. That means it had some tough competition, like Nancy Kress’ BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, & ENDS and Donald Maas’ THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION, and books covering a broader range of artistic endeavors like David Bayles and Ted Orland’s ART & FEAR. The latest one that didn’t measure up was written by a professor who is overly fond of quoting his own work. Even when he drew examples from other works, many of his examples left me indifferent. He also exuded impatience at encountering the same weaknesses again and again in succeeding classes of students taking his courses. My sympathies were with his students. Worst of all, I’m searching to come up with something–anything–I learned for my investment of time and money.

While pushing onward through his chapters, I wondered what my reaction would have been if I had read this one years ago when I was a newer writer. Would his points have impressed me before my forays into 57 other books on writing? Is my response largely because his work is more suitable for Creative Writing 101 whereas seminar material is more my speed?

Lastly, why am I telling you this? The reason is simple: As writers, we find ourselves on a seemingly never-ending quest to improve our story-telling skills. Rather than growing annoyed at a writing manual that doesn’t work for us, lets go find something more tailored to whatever it is we’d like to learn, whether that’s working in a specific genre (romance, detective stories, historical fiction, etc.) or tackling a specific format (novels, short stories, screen plays, or multi-volume series) or developing ways to write despite adversity in our lives.

Do you have a book about writing that you found particularly helpful to the point that you return to it for fresh guidance?

MY BALTICON SCHEDULE

Here’s where you can find me this weekend:

COME SEE ME IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY

Catch me on some upcoming panels! I plan to attend the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s Nebulas weekend May 20-22. I’ll be talking about alternate history such as my story, The Last Frontier, in Analog Magazine. I’ll also be part of a Q & A about SFWA’s contracts committee. It’s never too soon or too late for aspiring or published writers to come hear about what SFWA members are doing to assist other writers.

I’m also on a slew of panels May 27-30 at Balticon. Some of these will be recorded for those following from home. Topics include

  • historical fiction vs. alternate history
  • magic in the ancient Mediterranean
  • mapping the landscape
  • getting the most from writers’ associations
  • gods as characters

I love all these topics and can’t decide which will be the most fun! I have at least two more appearances to announce before too long and you can watch them both on You Tube.

HAPPY NATIONAL DINOSAUR DAY!

Some calendars say it’s yesterday (May 15) and others put it on June 1. But hey, we can celebrate twice, right? Truth be told, for me most days are dinosaur days.

True/False: Is this a dinosaur?

Do dinosaurs still exist today? Who better to ask than 6- to 10-year-old children? In advance of National Dinosaur Day, Mattel surveyed a bunch of kids in Great Britain. A third answered yes, they still roam the Earth right now. Well naturally, lots of these kids want a T. rex as a pet. I kinda wish they’d asked those kids how many wanted to be a T. rex. How about the kids in your family? How many of them think that one day it will be possible to own or be a dinosaur?

Reminder: My monthly newsletter focused on this dinosaur survey and other topics. Please feel free to subscribe if you’d like to get the inside scoop before I blog about events. (You can always unsubscribe.)

SPRING FLOWERS!

There’s nothing like beautiful, fragrant spring flowers to lift my spirits, so I made these three arrangements. Which is your favorite? I keep changing my mind.

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