Ravencon Panels (I’m Not Doing): Imposter Syndrome

INTRODUCTION TO THIS SERIES OF BLOGS

This blog has been dead for a while — largely because I’ve been too busy, but now I’m having trouble getting into the habit, again.

Ravencon (which, if you’ve missed the last several blogs, I’ve been invited to appear as a guest; note that other conventions only use the term “guest” for the Guest of Honor, in which case this role would instead be referred to as an “attending professional” or something similar) is coming up in a month and a half.

There was a limit to the number of panels I was allowed to sign up for (they wanted guests to pick a minimum of four panels and a maximum of ten).  I looked up some advice for first-time guests, and one overarching point I saw was not to take it easy.  So, I signed up for six panels… but also provided about nine possible alternates.  As it turns out, it looks as if four of these fifteen panels were cut, and four more were merged into other similar panels I’d signed up for… and I’ve wound up, in this draft of the schedule, having seven panels.  Heh.

At any rate, in addition to the panels I signed up for, there were quite a number which I was very interested in but which didn’t make the cut (either because I figured I wasn’t the right person for the panel, didn’t know enough, or I just had too many panels I was already planning to do).  And some of the topics in the draft schedule I was sent look more interesting now than when the sign-up sheet went up.  At any rate, it occured to me I could solve my “dead blog” problem by writing posts on those panels I’m NOT going to be doing at Ravencon.  (And then maybe, after Ravencon is over, I’ll do some blogs on those panels I DID cover… but we’ll see how things go.

THE TOPIC AT HAND:  IMPOSTER SYNDROME

So, for this week, a topic I probably wouldn’t have signed up for even if I’d had no limitations for sign up, but which I figure I’ll be fighting against for a lot of these blog posts and maybe even some of the panels I’m signed up for:  Imposter Syndrome.

To begin with, Imposter Syndrome is not currently classified as a psychosis, neurosis, or any other type of mental disease.  It’s perfectly normal.  According to Wikipedia, it is:

“…a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”

As an author, I follow a lot of other authors, and one thing I can say is that most of us (myself included) suffer from at least a mild form of this phenomenon.  So, by the way, do musicians, painters, and quilters (hi, mom!), and artists of all other types.

It shows up in all kinds of ways, and sometimes you can recognize it in yourself.  This very post has an example of it (and, in fact, that is why I chose Imposter Syndrome as the first topic in this series).  You notice how I made that clarification that being a “guest” at Ravencon was more like a “attending professional” at other conventions (even though “guest” is just as common, if not a more common, title for what that role is)?  It’s because I’m afraid people will see me say I’m a guest at a convention and think I’m claiming to be more than I am.  That is a practical example of mild Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome manifests in a number of ways.  For example, JUST related to things that will come up in the next couple months:

  1. I’m going to be a panelist at Ravencon.  I’m just this self-published author with three novels, a single short work, and a couple still-in-production works to my name.  Am I really enough of an expert to justify my selection as a convention guest?  (The answer, I know intellectually, is yes; even though the number of title I have written is low, I’m also constantly educating myself in the fields of writing, self-publishing, etc.  I know for a fact that I’m more of an expert in the field of self-publishing better than several self-publishing “experts” I’ve encountered at various conventions in the past.  But there is still that doubt…)
  2. I’ve been accepted into an anthology (the title will be World’s Enough: Fantastic Defenders).  I was given back some editorial comments, though, and a deadline of the end of February to get the rewrites in.  Then I broke a tooth.  Even though I’d been told I could ask for more time if I needed it (and even though everything else on this anthology has run late, so far), I was terrified to ask for an extension of just a few days after I broke my tooth and found myself unable to work on it at the worst possible time.  If I’m more trouble than I’m worth, will they just drop me and go with one fewer story?  (Of course, I got the extension, no problem.  But now I’m worried that I didn’t do enough with the changes to make my editor happy after having gotten that extension)
  3. I’m trying pretty hard to get one more book out there before Ravencon (The Merrimack Event, in this case).  I’d hoped to have at least five books out, but I’m struggling to make it to four.  I may not make it at all (at this point, it depends on factors outside my control; namely, the cover art), but with every new release — especially for a new series, and in a new genre — I have to wonder if the success I had with my first book will carry over.  I may have 4+ stars on both Amazon and Goodreads for all my books, but I still have this fear people will read the new book and think “Oh, look — this guy’s just an amateur after all!”  (stay tuned for this one)
  4. Saying “I’m bringing back the Weekly Sunday Blog Post” and then never remembering that it’s Sunday to write a blog, or having any topics in mind to write about when I try (although I have ideas, now, and I’m remembering to do it this Sunday).  The fact that I almost NEVER get comments on this blog hurts (even if I do get the occasional comment on Facebook or Twitter).

So… yeah.  Some of these things actually help fight the Imposter Syndrome (someone at Ravencon must think my resumé is strong enough to be acceptable as a “professional,” at a minimum.  I was accepted into the anthology, regardless of the editorial work needed.  I’m actually getting books out, even if not at the pace I’d like, and most of them do have good sales early on and good reviews the longer they sell.  Etc.) at the same time that they hurt.  Imposter Syndrome is funny that way.

So, how do you combat Imposter Syndrome?  You want to overcome that under-confidence that makes you feel like a fraud, but not get so cocky you annoy your fans and turn people off, or start ignoring your editors, or let your books go out before they’re ready, etc.

I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know if there are any specific treatments or therapies being developed for it.  I do know that it’s an irrational fear.  Like most irrational fears, it takes a while to overcome.  Genuine moments of success (such as selling new books, being invited as a guest at a convention, etc.) help. Positive feedback (aka good reviews) help.  But ultimately?  It’s something you have to work through yourself.

You just have to be sure you never let those fears prevent you from doing the things you need to do for your job.  Don’t knock yourself down too much, don’t stop yourself from applying to be a convention guest or releasing that next book because you’re not sure you’re good enough, etc.

In other words, don’t let your fears go to your head.

So, Perhaps I Brought Back the “Weekly” Blog A Few Weeks Too Early…

So, a few weeks ago I announced that I was returning to blogging. And since then, outside of a brief status report, I’ve posted nothing.

Oops. Truthfully, I really got too busy again, and forgot to let you all know. See, I did get accepted by that anthology, but I was sent a number of editorial notes.

Sadly, I am now overdue on returning them (though that’s okay; I arranged for an extension) after I bit down on something hard (still not sure what; maybe a fork?) and broke a tooth; something that will require months of repair work, it seems. For about a week or so, at the worst possible time for that project, I was completely unable to work on much of anything thanks to the pain medication and the antibiotic I was on. At least now I’m finally almost done (though if I have enough time before my extension runs out, I might see if I can run it through a scaled-down form of my beta process again), so that’ll be out of the way soon.

But what’s brought me to come back to blogging isn’t my time freeing up again (it hasn’t, yet), but rather that I’ve received in my e-mail a draft version of the Ravencon schedule of panels.

Again, I’ve been very busy, so I haven’t made an extensive search of the panel list. And it’s a draft; I imagine there will be changes (one panel I’m scheduled to be on has over a dozen panelists on it; I imagine the numbers will be reduced before the schedule is finalized; by the time all the panelists could be introduced, the panel would be over, so I’m guessing a few writers will be cut from that panel).

For now, I’m scheduled to appear on seven different panels at the convention. The minimum is four, and it’s my first convention as a guest\attending professional\appearing professional author\whatever the convention calls it, so I asked for a lighter schedule than I thought I could handle. Seven panels is more than I asked for, but if I’m not cut from any of them I think I’ll be fine.

Assuming nothing changes (again, I expect changes) then I will be working with over two dozen other professional authors (or professionals in other author-related fields) during those three days. I’ll have two panels on Friday, one on Sunday, and four on Saturday… but none Saturday night. And the only period where I’m even slightly worried about mealtimes (something I’ve had trouble with during conventions where I haven’t even been a guest) is Friday evening, where I have two panels slipped alongside the opening ceremonies right around dinnertime, with the (guest-only; sorry!) green room meet-and-greet sandwiching them. I think a light dinner will be available at the meet-and-greet, though, so I should be okay.

Closer to the event (when the schedule is more final), I’ll break down the exact panels I’m on and everything.

Well, here’s hoping I actually finish these [expletive deleted] edits in time. I’ll TRY to post another post next week… but it took me MUCH longer to get this one out than I thought it would.

Edit:  Comments closed due to a massive attempt at spamming.  E-mail me if you want them re-opened.

Oops…

So, I forgot to write a blog last weekend… and I almost forgot to write one this weekend. I don’t really have enough time, today, to do much of anything for today’s post, but here’s a status update:

I’m still revving back up on In Division Imperiled. I’m not going to try and guess how complete it is (I always seem to embarrass myself trying to make these estimates), but I’ve done a lot on it and there’s still a lot to go.

I’ve decided to try and push The Merrimack Event out before Ravencon, but I haven’t done anything new towards that, yet — it still needs editing and cover art. It should be faster than usual to get edited, at this stage, and I don’t have the problem of needing a specific style of artwork for the cover as I do with In Division Imperiled, but I really do need to get working on that soon.

I still haven’t heard anything back about my anthology submission. Crossing fingers, here.

My hardware issues (the big one being a transition to a new laptop) are largely settled. So now I can start doing things like working\writing lunches out at my favorite sushi place (the best way for me to overcome writer’s block) and the like. Also, the keyboard of the new laptop is configured a little differently than my old one, so I’ll need to get used to it.

The blog software has only partially been updated, mostly for security purposes. Some things aren’t working, though (my statistics plug-in is completely non-functional), and they require intervention from my ISP… which I haven’t been able to contact. Once I get all that fixed, MAYBE I’ll finally be able to update the convention calendar.

Hopefully I’ll have a more interesting blog post next week. Wish me luck.

Catching Up….

A new year, and I’m back to work on my regular blog.  My (ir)regular Sunday Blogs will be returning, soon, but there are a few things that came up during my absence I think I should mention first:

  1.  I did manage to complete the anthology submission I was preparing that prompted me to suspend the Sunday blogs.  I’m hoping it will make it in to said anthology, but if it doesn’t I’ll probably self-publish it under Fennec Fox Press.
  2. Some software issues have cropped up on this blog regarding some of the plug-ins.  I need to contact my ISP before I can start these fixes, and I’m not sure how long they will take or if they can even fix it.  Don’t be surprised if there are temporary outages as I get this sorted out, or if certain features appear and disappear.  I might also test a few new themes that have become available, so don’t be surprised if the blog changes appearance a few times over the course of the next couple weeks.
  3. I’ve also had hardware issues; my laptop has been on the fritz (it’s taken to overheating at irregular intervals), so I took advantage of some Black Friday\Cyber Monday Sales and bought a new one.  The new laptop is here and running, and has all the software I need to make it go, but until recently I couldn’t transfer my files over easily.  I’ve just got the tools needed to make this transition, but there WILL be  a transition period.  I write this blog on my laptop, so it might take some time away from writing my next blog entry.
  4. My original plan was to try and get In Division Imperiled out by Ravencon (which, if you’ve forgotten, I will be appearing at as a guest).  This plan is looking less and less likely, as I’m far behind on my writing (having to set the project aside for a time in order to complete the anthology entry in time).  At the very least I wanted to have the cover art to show, but my cover artist is too busy to take on the job right now.  I might consider another artist, but I’d prefer someone who works in a similar style as the old covers.  I have a list of other artists who I’ve been considering for other projects, and one or two have similar art styles, but so far none of the ones I’ve checked out are free, either.  I’m still looking… and writing.
  5. One option I’m considering is to finally push The Merrimack Event out the door.  That would likely mean further delay for In Division Imperiled, but as it’s already a complete manuscript it would be easy for me to get everything done in time of Ravencon.  I haven’t made any moves in this direction, yet, but it’s something I’m thinking about.
  6. There’s been news in the world of self-publishing over the past few months I might comment on (for example, the closing of All Romance eBooks\Omnilit, an eBook retailer which (fortunately, it turns out) I had never puzzled out how to list my books on).  I’ve been too busy to comment on it when it was new news, however, and I’m not sure I want to bother with it now.  But maybe I’ll talk about them if new events come up.
  7. For Christmas, among other more practical gifts, I recieved a pair of toy fennec foxes (stuffed animals. two different sizes).  I’m thinking of making them mascots for Fennec Fox Press, but I need names for them.  Any suggestions would be nice.
  8. I badly need to update the convention calender.  It’s not been updated in over half a year, so a lot of data in it is missing or outdated.  Again, it’s something that will eat time away from the time I have to write my Sunday Blog, but I’m not going to fiddle with it until I can fix the plug-in issue and complete the new laptop transition mentioned above.

Well, that’s what I’ve got time to write about this week.  I may go into more details on one or two of the topics mentioned, above, or (more likely) I’ll come up with something else to talk about, but while it may be even more irregular than usual, I’m resuming my “regular” Sunday Blog starting now.

Going on a (Brief) Hiatus

Well, the good news is I’m not talking about the election (politics is forbidden on this blog!). Now for the bad news….

I’ve not been posting new blogs as regularly as I should, but not for lack of trying. Unfortunately, instead of my making this more routine, I find myself having to put this blog on hiatus until the New Year.

The reason is a good one, though: I’m just too busy. I am hoping to finish the first draft of the third volume of the Law of Swords series by Jan. 1; I’m not sure I’ll make that deadline, but I’m hopeful. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I still need to send the Merrimack Event off to the editors; I’ve been procrastinating on that one for years.

I’ve got another project with a New Years deadline, however; I was invited to submit a story to a multi-author anthology. A ten to twenty thousand word short story (really a novelette or novella) with a Dec. 31st deadline for submission. That’s a tight schedule, especially for me (I’m slow enough as it is, and I struggle with writing in the short form so much that it can sometimes take me as much time to complete a short story as it does a full-length novel).

I’m intrigued by the invitation, but obviously have some scheduling issues. I don’t want to slow my Law of Swords novel, and the season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is always full of distractions. The only way I have a CHANCE of making the deadline for the anthology without delaying my novel manuscript is to pull the writing time from periods where I usually don’t or can’t work on my novel, anyway… which is the time I usually spend working on this blog.

So, until I finish that anthology submission (or until it gets too late to submit to the anthology and I have to abandon that project), I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I can’t guarantee I can make ANY of my deadlines, but I can guarantee I won’t make any of them unless I do this. Wish me luck!

Yet Another Set of 10 Rules For Being a Writer

(I meant to release this blog last week; I hadn’t finished it in time for Sunday, however. So here it is, finished)

So, over the last couple weeks (probably for the run-up to NaNoWriMo), I’ve seen people post several versions of “10 Rules for Being a Writer” type blogs and magazine articles.  I’m not sure of the value of this type of article, but hey — it’s a good topic for a blog entry, so why not throw my own hat into the ring?  So here are David A. Tatum’s 10 Rules for Being a Writer.”

Rule 1:  Write.  Actually, this is pretty much the only rule you need to be a writer.

Rule 2:  Keep Writing.  This is the difference between being a writer and being a former writer.  Some people suggest you write every day; I think this is a good recommendation if you can manage it, but I’ve had life interfere with my ability to write for far too many days to say it’s a requirement.

At some point, you may want to pursue writing as a profession.  Authors (while “writer” and “author” are, by definition, synonyms, I usually use “author” to refer to professional writers of original material.   Another type of professional writer would be a technical writer, but I’ve never known someone to describe themselves as an “aspiring” technical writer, whereas I’ve seen many describe themselves as aspiring authors) do need to hold themselves to a slightly higher standard than amateur writers.  Amateur writers only need to follow the first two rules on this list; the rest of it is for anyone who wants to advance past “amateur” and into the ranks of “professional.”

All writers are also different, so the remaining “rules” aren’t rules at all, but merely suggestions.

Rule 3 (aka Suggestion 1):  There have been far too many writers who’ve written a few chapters of a book, then gone back and revised those chapters before moving forward, then done the same thing another chapter later, and again, and again.  Frequently, these revisions can actually weaken the text (in much the way overworked dough can result in tough bread, over-edited text can find itself drained of life and “authorial voice”).  Worse, these writers spend so much time revising that they never finish whatever it is that they’re writing!  For MOST writers, therefore, the best advice is to wait until you’ve finished the entire story before going back and revising anything.  But I can think of at least one counter-example (J.R.R. Tolkien) which shows you can write professionally even if you do this… but I don’t recommend it.

Rule 4 (aka Suggestion 2):  If you follow rules 1, 2, and 3 long enough, you’ll eventually have finished a manuscript (a short story, a novel, something in between, a play, a screenplay, etc.).  This is NOT (necessarily) the time to try and sell it.  You need to ensure that what you’ve written is reasonably good, first — I mean, yes, you COULD just post it to Amazon as it is, but if it isn’t any good you’ll be poisoning your brand.  While I think the whole idea that you have to write a million unpublishable words before you write your first publishable one is pessimistic (at best), I do think you need to stop and evaluate things before moving forward.  Don’t be afraid to reject your own work — you will eventually get something good enough.  If you start to think you’re close, find a way of showing your writing off to people who have no emotional connection to you (in other words, not friends or family.  I went the route of writing fanfiction, but there are other ways to do it.  In fact, fanfiction might not work for most people, as there is a lot of really bad fiction on Fanfiction.net that gets a ton of praise.  Then again, I’m also familiar with a number of fanfics which were written to what I would call a professional standard, whose authors never publish anything).

Rule 5 (aka Suggestion 3): To help you assess your own work, and to grow as a writer, it is a good idea to read.  I’ve heard people say you should “read a level above what you’re trying to write” (meaning, for example, if you’re writing fanfiction read midlist novels; if you’re writing midlist novels read bestsellers; if you’re writing bestsellers read Pulitzer Prize winners; etc.).  I’ve heard people say you should read everything (fiction of all genres, nonfiction, commentary, etc.).  I say you could do either of those things… or you could just read what interests you.  If all that interests you is webcomics, read webcomics.  If all that interests you is YA fiction, read YA fiction.  If the only thing you like to read is Tolkien, read the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, the Silmarillion, etc. over and over and over again.  It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you enjoy it.  If you enjoy what you read, I think you’re more likely to learn from it.

Rule 6 (aka Suggestion 4):  So, you’ve finally got something you think the public might like.  THIS is the time to start revisions.  I recommend reading your manuscript through at least once as a sanity check (not as in “Was I sane when I wrote this?”  Though that is a good question.  I mean as in “Did I forget to write the chapter that introduced the main character?”), making light corrections as you go.  Then you need a second set of eyes on it, to find all the things you forgot to explain because the story was so set in your head (for this stage, you do not need to bring in another professional).  THEN you get it copy-edited by someone who has professional-level talent and experience copy editing.  This is required for self-published authors who wish to maintain a professional standard in their work, and is STRONGLY recommended even for those seeking a trad publishing deal.

Rule 7 (aka Suggestion 5):  Once you’ve completed Rule 6 (aka, you’ve hired an editor to get things smoothed out), you will get back the manuscript you’ve written with “corrections.”  Go through the edits to your manuscript with a critical eye.  You DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOUR EDITOR.  On the other hand, YOU HIRED YOUR EDITOR FOR A REASON.  So, consider everything your editor tells you.  My own proportion is to accept about 80% of the changes my editor makes.  Of the remaining edits, I see why he\she made the the change and agree it needed to be made more than half the time, but I have an alternate way of correcting it that I feel better fits my vision of the story.  The remaining edits (less than 10% of the whole) I revert to the original.

Rule 8 (aka Suggestion 6):  Once you’ve completed Rule 5, it’s time to consider publication.  Wait!  Put on the brakes, here!  First, research your options.  Don’t just submit your book to a random publisher or agent and pray; don’t just toss your book up on Smashwords or Amazon and hope for sales.  Start learning your trade, first!  Too many self-publishers have their book out but don’t understand things like what ISBNs are for, or that it’s okay that someone is selling your print copy book on eBay even though you haven’t sold any copies.  Learn how to avoid scams.  Learn the pitfalls of agents and contracts.  Learn what is good, ethical behavior vs. “best practice” vs. what’s acceptable.  This is something you can do in those anxious days while you’re waiting for your editor to get back to you with notes and corrections; you almost certainly won’t learn everything before you publish (I’m still learning; you never stop learning, really) but just a few weeks of investigation can help incredibly.

Rule 9 (aka Suggestion 7):  Once you’re published, reviews are your friends.  Reviews help sell your book.  But you should never respond to your reviews.  In fact, I recommend not even reading your reviews.  Paradoxically, you also need to get an idea of what people are saying about your work (at least in general), so you know where your writing needs work and if there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.  So… get someone else to read your reviews for you?

Rule 10 (aka Suggestion 8):  When it comes to writing, once you understand the rules — it doesn’t matter what the rules are, whether they are of grammar, of how to get published, of how to self-publish, of simply writing overall — and once you know the WHY of the rules, you can break them (well, except rule 1 — you aren’t a writer if you never write).  Or rather, you’ll know HOW to break them.  You often hear writing advice like “never use any adjectives.”  If you understand WHY that rule is in place, you’ll not need that “never use any adjectives” rule; you’ll be able to use adjectives effectively and judiciously, so you can go ahead and use them.  If you understand why you shouldn’t stop your writing-in-progress to go back and revise the unfinished piece, you’ll be able to effectively and judiciously go back and make tweaks when needed.

And those are my “ten rules” of writing.  How useful are they?  Well, you’ll have to decide that for yourself… but I find them useful enough.

Indie Author Day

Yesterday (yes, I am writing this post on Sunday; it wasn’t possible to get started sooner with this topic) was the 1st Annual Indie Author Day. If you weren’t aware of it, this was an event organized as a collaboration of multiple public and municipal libraries to celebrate indie authors.

Not every public library system celebrated, and those that did had differing levels of participation. From the example of my own local library and from some others that authors in my facebook feed promoted, the program varied a bit but had roughly this program:

1. One or more panels by supposedly independent authors (more on this later).
2. A 2pm live-streamed Video conference to be projected for all attendees (if you’re curious, that conference can be re-watched on Youtube. I thought it was a little dry, myself, and with a bit more self-congratulatory back-patting than I prefer, but there were a few points made that some of you might be interested in)
3. A meet-and-greet of local authors (well, at least those who attended.  Every other local author I knew of didn’t go, and I knew nothing of the ones who did show up.  But it was probably the highlight of the thing, as it allowed indie authors to get to know their fellow indie authors).

This was an event that some libraries did better than others.  Chris Kennedy’s report of the Virginia Beach Library’s program seemed to run so much better than my own (in the Loudoun County Public Library system.  While I am going to be a critical of the program in this blog, however, I am giving them big kudos for having the event at all; several library systems didn’t bother), with more programming:  Virginia Beach had three panels of authors, several of whose names I recognized, against Loudoun County’s single panel, none of whose names I knew.

Also, the Loudoun County meet-and-greet session was mixed in with demonstrations of their Espresso Book Machine; I’m all for them pushing that (these could be good tools for supplemental self-publishing POD distribution, as I mentioned once or twice in my Self-Publishing Roundtable, but more of the machines need to be installed nationwide before they become much more effective than a curiousity), but it should have been at a seperate time (perhaps an hour earlier, leading into the rest of the event).

I also could have wished for better guests for the “Indie Writer” panel.  It wasn’t that the people who were there didn’t belong (well, some of them belonged; I question whether the corporate consultant with no connection to the publishing industry who “self-published” his business book on corporate consulting back more than a decade ago, mostly as promotional material for his business, and who used a vanity press to do it, really qualified as an “Indie Writer”), but… well, there were no headliners. There were no people especially experienced with most of the challenges of independent publishing of fiction (one short fiction writer who mostly wrote for anthologies, one person whose books were originally published with a small press publisher that has since gone defunct, one self-published textbook writer (whose dully-delivered advice consisted, from what I remember of it, of discussing the difficulties of dealing with peer review as an indie.  If you’re writing textbooks, that would be very good advice, but most writers, especially most indie writers, don’t have to deal with that), and the final panelist was the aforementioned vanity-press-published business writer).  These guests all had something to contribute to a panel on one aspect of indie writing or another, but all of them really had limited knowledge on the subject.  No-one really knew indie publishing.

This was an event intended for indie authors and aspiring indie authors.  The aspirants may have heard something new, but the panel spent most of its time dispensing advice which most writers (even most of the aspirants) would have heard a million times before.  It would have been nice if the panel discussing indie publishing and writing had someone with recent experience publishing and writing indie books.

And the panel went on far longer than it should have.  Technical flaws prevented the librarians from connecting with the live video (they had the computer projected on the screen, so I was able to witness the error and all the things they tried to fix it.  All they really needed to do was refresh the web browser, but these librarians, having tried repeatedly to ensure the laptop was plugged in to the power strip, eventually decided that the only way to fix the problem was to replace the lapstop with a different one.  I’m still not sure what they were hoping would happen by replacing the power cords).  Then the librarians got bored and decided to shut the video-conference down and move on to the meet-and-greet session, which I’ve already mentioned was itself interrupted by the Espresso Book Machine demonstration.

So… the event was a little disappointing, technically flawed, and had other issues I won’t go into here (for example, they had a table of cookies as “refreshments.”  Some of these cookies were bone dry, almost dessicating the mouth of those who ate it, and the library offered nothing to drink with them.  You had to go out of the programming room and  into the hall and find a water fountain to wash them down).

And yet I applaud our library for at least trying.  So many public libraries look down on indie writers, and others refuse to do anything to support their local writers.  Ours… well, they don’t know what they’re doing, but at least they and the other two hundred Indie Author Day participating library systems are TRYING to reach out to and support the local writing community.  That’s what libraries should do.  And, if the local writing scene supports it, the librarians at the library will learn what it takes to make an event like this successful.  If there’s interest, they will add more programming, put more effort into the scheduling, and learn better what kind of panelists would interest other writers.

So, if you were at an Indie Author Day event yesterday, or knew of one taking place at your local library, great!  Let your librarians know you were glad they held it, and offer suggestions for what you want to see at such an event in the future.  Ask them to request certain guests in the future, if you know someone (local; they aren’t likely to make much effort reaching out to someone who isn’t already part of the community) who would be good for the panel.  Encourage them to expand the program, either in terms of hours or in terms of more support for Indie Authors (or both, if you think you can pull it off).

If you weren’t, try to find out if your library did participate.  If they didn’t, ask them to look into joining in the event next year.  Show interest in getting your library to support local writers and indies.  If enough people show interest, even the most anti-indie of librarians will eventually (if grudgingly) start doing something for indie authors.

It’s worth the effort.  Libraries can be a great resource for a writer, both in researching for your next book and marketing your existing ones, and events like this would be a great way to connect with them.

Sick Days

You know, when you’re self-employed, you don’t get such things as sick leave or the like. You do, however, still get sick, and sometimes it’s so bad you lose time.

For the last week and a half (almost two weeks), I’ve been fighting off the worst head cold I’ve had in years (surprisingly, I had all the symptoms of a case of the flu except the usual accompanying fever. I wasn’t always coherent during the worst of it, however). I haven’t been able to write at all, not in my book or on my blog (though I was able to manage a Facebook post or two).

During that time, my mother won a blue ribbon for one of her quilts at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza.  During one of my less lucid days (the early phase of the cold brought on a bought of insomnia that left me unable to get much sleep for several days on end; I think this was about when I finally started getting some sleep, but I was still perpetually tired when I was awake), I also had my 39th birthday (egads!  When did I get that old?).  And I’m sure there were other “life goes on” moments that I just can’t recall right now…

The kicker is, though, that I missed last Sunday’s blog, and don’t really have much more of a blog than this for today.  I’m still a little under the weather (though I am VASTLY improved), but I hope to get back to writing this coming week and I think I’m still on track to get at least one, maybe two more books out before my appearance at Ravencon.  Wish me luck!

Keeping Up With the Joneses…

I am sure people here recall me mentioning “The Merrimack Event” on this blog on occasion. Maybe not — I only bring it up every third or fourth blog post. Some day in the not-so-distant future (as in, between now and Ravencon), I hope to get this book out there.  But it is still in the “needs work” category.

The thing is, “The Merrimack Event” is old.  It’s actually older than In Treachery Forged (well, sort of; I started The Merrimack Event first, then wrote most of In Treachery Forged, then finished The Merrimack Event, then finished In Treachery Forged).

When I decided to turn to self-publishing, I sat back and evaluated everything I’d ever written, seperating it into several categories.  There was the stuff that just needed a polish before it was ready (sadly not that much; there was In Treachery Forged, which was the first book in a novel series, and the Rink of War, which was the only “ready” story one out of a much larger collection of novettes, novellas, and short stories taking place in a shared universe, and Voices — a very short story (just barely above “flash fiction” length) which I still need to find a place for), stories that were looking good but weren’t finished yet (the novel now published and entitled The Kitsune Stratagem, plus a few other things which I’m not discussing yet as I still haven’t worked on them since), and a depressingly long list of things I rejected as unpublishable.

(Yes, that’s right — as a self-publisher, you have to learn to reject your own manuscripts if they aren’t good enough).

Most of the rejections were short stories, barely begun unfinished works, and the like, but there were at least three works which, while not necessarily finished, had already reached full novel length.  The first was a historical fiction entitled “The Little Ring-Giver” about a barbarian mercenary hired by Rome to fight against Attila the Hun; it ended tragically (the hero is killed before the end, so his lover disguises herself and plots to marry Attila and murder him on their wedding night).  It… well, let’s just say it had a silly plot, overly purple prose, and a poor grasp of the “historical” aspects of historical fiction.  The second was a prequel to Oedipus Rex (I may have mentioned this here, before — in High School, I was required to read this play several times; when I was forced to read it one too many times in College, in an act of self defense I decided to do something to make it (a) more interesting and (b) to make sense of Oedipus’ punishment (if it were modern times, I think he could argue the situation the Greek Gods put him in was entrapment of the worst kind).  The problem with this one was I couldn’t decide whether it should be prose or script, and wound up with an awful amalgam of both.  The third novel-length manuscript of my own I rejected was another historical fiction; a highly improbable bit of Naval combat during the Napoleanic wars.  I actually might still write a novel with the same premise of this one, some day, but just about everything else from this book (bad research, bad dialog, purple prose, improbable plot twists,and more) means I’ll have to start over from scratch.

The Merrimack Event was the only significant item of a final category, however — things that were “not publishable yet, but still salvageable.”  It was in… rough shape, and had a lot of dust on it, but there was a lot of promise in it as well.  It had been through three or four revisions already, at the time, and with all of that work into it I was loathe to abandon it entirely.  So, after “In Treachery Forged” was released, I dusted the cobwebs off of The Merrimack Event and started to revise it… again.

It needed a LOT of work just to get it good enough to send to an editor, and it took me almost as long to get it to that point as it would have to write the thing over from the beginning (only for my chosen editor to vanish without a trace before I could get him the manuscript, which is a good part of the reason why it’s not already come out), but in the end I felt the story had been “salvaged.”

Which brings us to the title topic of this post.  The Merrimack Event still needs editing, but at this stage I’d say it is a “publishable” book.  Or, well, it was when I last touched it… but, uh, there’s a problem, as I was reminded earlier this week:  It’s a scifi novel, but some of the scientific tech that was in it has, well, proven not to be so fictional at all.  The book hasn’t “kept up with the Joneses,” so before I can do anything with it I  need to go back into the book, dust off the cobwebs, and “update” it, so that things that either looked unfeasible but weren’t, or which I figured wouldn’t catch on but did, don’t get so emphasized as “new.”

For example, I need to make sure that the engineer doesn’t call touchscreen keyboards a poorly adapted “new” technology (a real example from the book), even though… well, if you’re reading the blog on a Kindle Fire, you’ve probably already got one in your hand.  Back when I first wrote that scene, touch screens seemed a lot more impractical (something which might work, but no-one would favor a touch-screen keyboard over a tactile keyboard).  Obviously, time has proven that my read on that was wrong, but even though the story has been edited many times since it became clear that touchscreens were here to stay that scene has never been changed to reflect reality.  Now, the character discussing it was talking about how his service was being forced to adopt new technologies before the bugs had been worked out, and how he prefered more retro technologies in these cases, but given that this story is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future one would think that any of the bugs he discussed would have been worked out by then.

I’m not alone in having this difficulty.  During the 2009 Marscon (a good convention, but that year it was at a horrible hotel; I didn’t go back until they changed hotels), author John Ringo (who really would have a worse time of it than me, considering he was writing “near future” science fiction and The Merrimack Event is more distant-future space opera, so the stuff I can write about can be even more off-the-wall) pointed out that there were one billion engineers and scientists on Earth (note: I don’t know if this number is even close to accurate, but the point stands even if it’s a lot less), and there’s only one of him trying to stay ahead of them all.

And Authors are not alone in this...
And Authors are not alone in this…

This is a fixable issue, and will be corrected before the book goes out the door… but the next time you read a science fiction book, and something fairly everyday is discussed as impractical or impossible, remember that technology can advance in unpredictable ways, and unexpectedly fast.  And that the technological prediction might have been made longer ago than you might realize….

So, I had a Blog for this week…

So, I had an idea for a blog for this weekend focused on “Awards Season” (referring to both the Hugo Awards and the new Dragon Awards). The thing is, I really, really want to avoid alienating any potential audience I have, so I’d really like to avoid controversial topics on this blog… and oh, boy, have the Scifi\Fantasy awards become controversial over the years.

I thought I could write a post without touching the controversial bits — focusing largely on how midlist indie writers can just ignore the whole mess these awards have become — but… well, in the end, I couldn’t do that.

So, instead, I’ve scrapped that blog post (don’t ask for me to show it to you — I’ve already deleted it, and there was no back-up, and I have zero interest in reconstructing it) and instead decided to write one on why I don’t have a blog post this weekend.

And, because I try to plug them at least once in each of my blog posts, go ahead and buy In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, and The Kitsune Stratagem if you haven’t already.  (I’d write a blog post on why you shouldn’t just continually post “Buy my book!” like this, but I think I did that already with my Self-Publishing Roundtable post on marketing.  Ah, well — it’s been a wierd week)