Today a Shark Tweeted Me

As a goof, I decided to ask @HelentheShark a question and to my surprise, she answered! Please see below for examples of hilarity ensuing:

You might be wondering what this has to do with being a sci-fi author and the answer is, ‘it doesn’t.’ Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

State of the Art – 07/25/2017

Haven’t written one of these in a while. It makes sense to only talk about the author work when I have something interesting to share; who wants to hear ‘cranking on this’ or ‘tweeting about that’ every single week? Here’s what’s happening right now:

Mesh

Getting some semi-positive responses on my query letters for Mesh. One email read ‘really liked your pacing and tension in this opening scene as well as the world you are hinting at and I wouldn’t mind reading a bit more to see if it holds up. Would you mind sending me a complete 1-2 page synopsis and the first 50 pages when you have a chance?’

For an unknown author, messages like this are manna from heaven. I sent off my synopsis and the first fifty pages – can’t wait to see what happens next.

Short Stories

Analong passed on The Battle of Victoria Crater and I just submitted it to Clarkesworld. One thing I like about Clarkesworld is that, even though they haven’t purchased anything I’ve submitted, I can expect a response in days, instead of weeks or months like other magazines. Plus, if you get rejected, your note comes in an email from Neil Clarke himself. Can’t help but respect their professionalism and respect for unknowns like me.

Social Media

Part of the job is about building my audience. As I’ve said before, it’s a process that takes time and care. So with that in mind, here’s what has been going on for me:

That’s it for right now. I’m still grinding away at my dream. Tell me about yours! 🙂

I Can’t Save the World

Bear with me, I’m a little messed up tonight.

I don’t spend time with many people, but I do hang out with one guy. My downstairs neighbor is a decent person who copes with problems you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. He’s middle-aged, he’s got muscular dystrophy and he ekes out an existence on government disability, because if he tried to work full-time, the insurance premiums would kill him. I like Al. Despite the bad times, he’s usually got a smile on his face and he helps me maintain perspective on my mental and emotional garbage.

Now, why this messed me up is pretty simple. Al has a nephew, Jason. Friendly kid, maybe eleven or twelve. Reminds me a lot of me before the monsters closed in. Al asks if I can help help him take Jason to the park. Getting around on that monster motorized scooter is tough for him, especially on the moss-covered concrete of Monroe Park. I popped an extra pill and said yes. I don’t like getting out but if Al can find a way to face the universe, then so can I.

Custom van to fit the wheelchair. Windows down so that Jason doesn’t get carsick. I ride in the back, getting a crash course in what it means to be disabled in America through drips and drabs of conversation. On the flip side, Jason is happy to be outside. Uncle Al can’t get around very much. Jason asks if I’ve ever seen Los Angeles. I resist the impulse to tell him stories about growing up on the Disney lot.

Al’s wheelchair forces him to remain at the perimeter of the playground, so I play zone defense while the kid goes nuts on the monkey bars. He starts telling me about his life and just like Al, I get a crash-course in what it means to live as a sheltered kid in rural Wisconsin with a bi-polar mom. Bullied at school. Teenage brother and sister beat on him for fun. No video games and no Internet. He’s the kid that gets sheltered to death because his older siblings ran wild.

He doesn’t see it, but I do. The shy smile, grateful for every nice thing anyone does for him. I remember that moment. The bright-eyed time in your life when you still believe everything will eventually be okay. Wavering showers of hope that fade when you come to the bitter conclusion that the world hates you, and then you start hating it back. I can see the this kid’s miserable childhood laid out before him like a faded Texaco roadmap. Does this happen to anyone else? I’ve never wanted to fix someone’s life for them so bad in my life. Knowing that I have no right or place or ability to do anything is killing me inside.

I know what my therapist will say about all this. He says I shouldn’t make someone else’s life about me. It’s a throwback, he’ll explain, to me being a damaged kid, and wishing that someone saved me. Now I’m older and I don’t want anyone to go through what I experienced. I know it’s an arrogant thought, making this kid’s world about me, but that’s why I’m getting it out on virtual paper, where I can look at it. Part of my journey is about me dealing with my thoughts: good, bad, or ugly.

No, I can’t save the world. All I can do is write stories for people. Hopefully those stories will find the people like me. Looking for answers, carving meaning out of misery, distilling the pain into art. Other people are, too. Maybe if we can find the answers, maybe we can make the bad things stop. Then I could sleep. I could feel like it was worth it.

But it’s not enough.

 

New Free Short Story – Superhero Shrink: Climate Change

I’m pleased to say that Dr. Christopher is back in a new short story that follows up our favorite superhero mental health professional. I needed a break from polishing Mesh, and decided to knock out this four-thousand-word short that continues the adventures of one very special psychiatrist, and his incredibly damaged patients. This time, Doctor Christopher has a new set of patients and a new set of problems. How will the superhero wars affect our global climate? No one is quite sure, but everyone knows that Dr. Christopher is caught in the middle.

Should Authors Do a Patreon?

I’m posting this because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I should consider doing a Patreon to fund my writing. You may not understand what a Patreon is, so let me bring you up to speed. According to Wikipedia, Patreon is ‘an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”‘

In other words, if you like a particular artist and you want to help encourage them to make more art, you’ll sign up to fund their work, either once or on a recurring basis. Sounds good on paper, and yet … that’s not how art works. I’ve never been completely on board with Patreon, anyway. Something never sat right with me about the process. After all, if Steve Jobs is right, and real artists ship, then we need to finish the product and ship it. I followed my gut and backed away from doing a Patreon, and now it turns out I made the right choice.

If you read through this Reddit post, you’ll understand why Patreon is a bad idea for authors. It’s not that Patreon is bad, the math of the Internet is against us. You can’t produce quality writing if you’re writing on a model that only works for viral video-makers and other like-minded individuals. Viral video-makers are people like PewDiePie … is that who you saw yourself being when you started writing?

So in summary, skip the Patreon. Your money comes from selling, and shipping, your work. Real artists ship.

 

Yes We Can – Madeline L’Engle – ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Just read this post regarding Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and thought ‘this is me. This is us.’ I can’t think of a better case for perseverance on the part of brave new authors than Wrinkle in Time, since it took so many attempts and so much time in order to bring the story to life.

It’s no secret that science fiction is the community of the underloved, and underknown. Frequently, it’s also a community filled with hostility and suspicion, and I think the reason why is simple. When you take a bunch of people who have been marginalized their whole lives, who have through science fiction experienced this a-ha moment of ‘this is where I belong, this is my spot in the universe,’ you also get people who are afraid that by opening doors for others they will be shutting doors for themselves.

These are the people that Madeline L’Engle had to make peace with, and be accepted by, when she wrote ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ That’s our job, as authors, too. We must overcome, with love, the same small-minded arguments against the universes we create. We must persevere through what the movie ‘Angus’ called ‘The Bathune Theory.’

We must be different, we must deal with the outside pressure to conform, but we must remain true to ourselves. In that perseverance, we have faith that like Madeline L’Engle, our dreams will eventually be accepted by the community. It’s a scary exercise, looking down the dark tunnel and imagining there will eventually be a light, but that’s our journey. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ made it out of the tunnel successfully, and we can, too.

Stanley Kubrick: Beautiful Insanity

Stanley Kubrick: Beautiful InsanityWhen we write, we dream of what success looks like. Then success happens and we’re left wondering where we went wrong. This is an interesting write-up of what it was like working on A.I. with Stanley Kubrick. It seems that the strange worlds of his films were matched only by the strange world of himself.

I don’t know how long I could have maintained self-control in the environment described by Ian Watson, but I give him much credit for both surviving and then writing about it.

Something You Should Know About Me – 48 Laws of Power

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

Doing some thinking lately about life, the universe and everything. Humanity is something I struggle to interface correctly with. A steady diet of humans, their games and their inconsistencies are enough to push me into depression. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting all over again.

In the spirit of self-awareness, it was recommended that I take a look at ‘The 48 Laws of Power’. I have to say, it’s an eye-opener. Not because it gives me any type of insight on who I should be as a person, but rather on who I don’t want to be, and why. 48 Laws of Power, and other ideas like it, teach you the business of manipulation. I don’t like that.

The fact is, people and their manipulation have done a lot of damage to the world, and yet you can see how humans need some type of manipulation to survive. Manipulation can be positive, as we learn when we use manners, etiquette and protocol. However, it is important to differentiate between manners to get along with people, and the Machiavellian strategies of a book like Propaganda by Edward Bernays. Manipulation to build trust is one thing, manipulation to destroy trust is something else indeed.

Something You Should Know About Me - 48 Laws of Power

When I started over, one thing I was very clear on was that I wanted to be able to trust other people, and I wanted other people to be able to trust me. As I introduce my work, and navigate the treacherous world of ‘hey, I wrote something and I want to share it with you,’ I want to do it with integrity and authenticity. Because I’m not experienced with any of this, sometimes I might come off as clumsy, but I can promise that my intentions are pure, even if my execution is not.

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know about manipulation. Further, I suspect I’m not alone as a person in the science fiction community who is rather defensive about anything that sounds like people are trying to manipulate me. Figuring out how to be an authentic person, who tells stories because that’s his hearts desire, while navigating the world of storytelling and managing his illness … this is a complex equation that will take some time for me to figure out.

I just thought it would be important for you to hear this from me.