announcement

Writing: Profession or Hobby?

April 30th, 2015  |  Published in announcement, writing

Over the last few months, I have had to reevaluate my approach to writing. Do I look at it as a profession or a hobby? I had always looked at it as a profession (albeit one to which I aspired rather than belonged), now I need to learn to look at it as a hobby. This is not to say that I am planning on taking it any less seriously (indeed, ask my wife about my board games and you will get an exasperated explanation of how seriously I take my hobbies), but rather that I am changing what I expect to get out of it.

There are several reasons for this. I have a two year old at home and have recently changed to a position that both requires more of my time (40 hours rather than 32) and can be significantly more draining (I tend to miss a lot of my breaks and I actually need them to relax now, which cuts into my writing productivity). This lack of time has led to me allowing my writing to cause me anxiety (when the opposite should be true), but that anxiety has more to do with my expectations than with the quality of my writing. Simply put, when I worked in retail, writing was a sort of long-term hedge against, well, working in retail. My thought back then was that if I were still working in retail in a decade, I would have enough quality fiction to base a business model off of. As it is, I like my job (and have for several years now), and even if I made enough money writing to get by, I don’t think I would want to give it up. So even though I feel that the quality of my writing has improved, my emotions have suffered. Finally, I have no desire to do the whole self-promotion thing, I don’t suggest my stories to people who don’t first indicate an interest and I don’t nag them about it. I feel that this is a great attribute for a writer (or an artist of any kind, really), since I really don’t want to be that guy who is always trying to get you to read his story. All of this adds up to writing as a hobby.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you deal with me personally, it hopefully means less moody Tom. It should also result in more blog posts, as I enjoy blogging, too, and it will likely benefit from a less adversarial relationship with my other writing hobby. Finally, it will mean no more sitting on stories. Sure, I’ll still try to sell them first (I mean, why wouldn’t I?), but I’ll go for the most likely outlets and then just put them up here (and Amazon and Smashwords). As it stands, I have three stories and a couple of pieces of flash fiction that are ready to go. I’ll try to get them out in May (it being National Short Story month and all), and I hope to have the first of them up tomorrow. Either way, thanks for sticking with me.

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How Things Are

April 29th, 2014  |  Published in announcement

Well, I was hoping to have an essay about the unexpected degree to which gamification (most notably in the form of HabitRPG, which you should go check out, right now) has changed my life in a facts-on-the-ground sort of way. But, apparently it hasn’t changed my life that much (fundamentally not bad, as I regard writing fiction as being exponentially more important than writing blog posts). Still, I am writing this now, and that’s something.

The main things that I’ve been working on for the past week have been the followup story to “There Are No Words”, tentatively called “Passport Denied”, which I haven’t yet published, but if you ask I would likely send you a copy. I’m really enjoying the story as it is unfolding and I look forward to seeing it in its final form. That being said, what started off as a short story is now nearing the 12,000 word mark, and will probably end up firmly in novella territory (barring massive cuts during revision). Overall, “There Are No Words” and “Passport Denied” are planned to be opening of a novel-length work that I would like to finish this year but probably won’t.

Part of the reason for that is that May 1st is almost here, and with it, ShoStoWriMo. Preparations are going well for that, and I think that it will be a good year for the event. In any case, I’m going to try and get a little bit of writing in before I go to bed, so good night.

 

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Free Stuff

March 3rd, 2014  |  Published in announcement

Apparently, this week is Read an Ebook Week. So, through Saturday, March 8th, you can get everything that I have available on Smashwords for free. Granted, most of it was free already, but if you wanted to snag a copy of Caldera, Heist (the most recent Horizon Station story), Try Not To Panic, The Press, or The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, now is your chance. Instructions are up on the site, but the short of it is that you will enter RW100 as a coupon and the books will then be free.

If you aren’t familiar with Smashwords, it is a digital self publishing platform, kind of like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. There are some key differences, however, in that it gives the author a lot more control over their books and that it is much friendlier for the reader. When you get a book directly through Smashwords (they also distribute through just about everyone but Amazon), you can download it for your Kindle, your Nook, as a generic epub, a printer-friendly PDF or RTF, or read it online (among other options). The upshot of this is that you aren’t locked into a particular marketplace or device. If you want to share the book, you can, there is no DRM (although this is somewhat discouraged in the license text at the front of each book, but I would rather you share my stuff than keep it to yourself, license be damned).

If, for whatever reason, you feel bad about downloading one of my books for free (whatever the provenance of that free book) and want to help me out, just leave a review of it and we’ll be more than even. Happy eReading!

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Recursive Geekiness

January 6th, 2014  |  Published in announcement, logic, writing

I’m about 7,700 words in on the Broken Shores story that I’m currently working on and I’ve started to run into some problems, namely that I need to know where everyone on the island is at a given time. This isn’t an insurmountable problem, as there are only seven people on the island, but it can be a bit tricky. One way to do it would be to just write things so that people are wherever the story needs them to be. This approach would be fine if I were only writing a single story in the setting, but as it is part of a larger series, it would lead to inconsistency. So on my lunch break last Saturday, I went ahead and started to make a schedule, which is where the title comes from (sitting in a room full of people, some of whom I enjoy talking to, using my phone/keyboard combination to create a spreadsheet that tracks the schedule of fiction people on a fictional island in a fictional world, and I couldn’t use a regular calendar program because my world has eight-day-long weeks due to my decision to play around with calendar stuff, raise your hand if you feel normal now).

The work will likely pay off as it will make writing the story much easier, but it brought up something else that I found interesting, as well. Making the schedule I learned a lot about the island, such as who was likely to be close to whom and how important seniority was. In addition, it helped to define the group dynamic, after all not everyone can have the best schedule, creating tension. Finally, it will likely result in the stories being more interesting, as it places some limits on who is available at any given moment. For example, if Emera needs help, the best person to provide that help might be Ran, but what if he is on watch? What if he is dead tired from a long stretch of work? Emera now needs to either find someone else or find some way of convincing him to help her despite very good reasons not to. This is much more interesting than being able to simply write: Emera found Ran and asked for help or having to make up reasons for him not to help her. It will also likely feel more realistic, more relatable to those of us who have to work around scheduling conflicts.

In short, if I had to sum it up in a rule concise observation, the more you know about the world you’re creating in your fiction, the easier it will be to make that fiction interesting. I’m sure that I’m not the first person to say this (in fact, I recall hearing a piece of advice that when you run into a dead end, find out what your character’s hobbies are), but it bears repeating. Also, I think that this applies to all kinds of fiction, whether it be speculative or straight literature set in modern day Chicago, there are things that won’t be immediately obvious about a given character, and if you find yourself running into a lot of walls in your writing, you might want to take the time to dig a little and learn something new about them.

On a final note, I think that this has some bearing on the nature of creativity. Creativity is often viewed as creating something entirely new, or recombining existing elements in an interesting fashion (I personally believe the latter is vastly more common than the former, if you doubt me, go spend some time at TV Tropes), but that is only the starting point. Good narrative is two things: something new and the logical consequences of that something new. If you do only the first, you get a confused mess, if you do only the second (logical consequences sans something new) you get something even worse, boredom. I will end by disagreeing with Einstein, who said “Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Imagination can take you to fantastic new places, but without logic, you will find yourself earthbound, wherever you may land.

And now for some shameless self-promotion. I’ve written two stories that are part of the particular storyline I’m talking about, “Induction” and “Trust and Vulnerability“. They’re free and you should really check them out. “Induction” is also available (for free) on Smashwords for just about any format, I hope to get the rest of Broken Shores up there as well, this year.

2013 Recap

December 30th, 2013  |  Published in announcement

If you have been listening, you will know that this blog has been silent for most of the year. Sorry about that. The primary reason is that 2013 was my first full year as a father, which has been an all-around wonderful experience but one that has taken a large chunk out of my free time. Fair warning, 2014 will likely follow a similar path, although I do hope to spend a bit more time on the blog. Enough about that, what have I been doing besides parenting?

I read less than I did in 2012, but not by too much, according to goodreads I read 103 books this year. I did do a couple of interesting things on the reading front, however. First of all, I made a goal of finishing as many series as possible, having started many and left them hanging. These included the Virga series, the Magister trilogy, the Family Trade series, the Wheel of Time, and probably others that don’t come to mind at the moment. The second thing I did that I plan on repeating was to read nothing but short stories in the month of May (which is Short Story Appreciation Month). I read and listened to a whole lot of stuff, some of which was good some of which wasn’t. If you are a writer, you should give this a shot, as I had more story ideas during that month than during any other (a couple of which I may even get around to writing in 2014, more on that later). It was refreshing. Below is a list of the books which I have given five stars on goodreads this year, I would recommend all of them, but keep in mind that a few might fall in the middle of a series.

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
  • Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff
  • The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  • Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
  • Colors of Chaos by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
  • Sleepless by Charlie Huston
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
  • Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
  • Concrete Planet by Robert Courland
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
  • Princeps by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan
  • Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

If my reading didn’t suffer much from parenthood, my writing can’t say the same. I don’t keep meticulous track of what and how much I write, but I did finish several short stories, none of which have been published, yet. I also managed to get some of my older stuff up on Amazon and Smashwords. Also, I succeeded in completely neglecting this blog.

So what do I have planned for 2014? First of all, I hope to get a post (even a short one) up at least once a month, hopefully more frequently. Second, I want to clear off my physical to-read shelf at home, as I have promised myself that I will not buy any more physical books unless I can fit them on it. I plan on revisiting my short story reading in May. Finally, I wrote a short story, There Are No Words, which has yet to find a home despite positive feedback from several editors. I have been convinced to turn it into a novel by writing more stories in the world that form an overarching plot. We’ll see if I succeed or not. I will begin with that as soon as I finish the rough draft of the Broken Shores story I’m working on (I think that I’ve finally figured it out, so it should go quickly from here, I hope). I also hope to write at least one other story that I came up with the idea for last May.

In any case, it has been a fantastic year and I can only hope that yours has equalled or surpassed it. Happy 2014!

Caldera, finally.

September 10th, 2013  |  Published in announcement

Whew, that was a long silent stretch. Silent but not unproductive, I should have something to show for my efforts before too long. In the meantime, I have finally posted the final draft of Caldera, an epic fantasy novella. It was one of the first stories that I wanted to write, and putting it up for sale feels like a milestone, although time will tell as to the accuracy of that feeling.

Without further ado, you can find the excerpt on this site, and you can buy the full version from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple, and most other ebook stores.

 

caldera-cover-web

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It is June now

June 3rd, 2013  |  Published in announcement

Wow, I’m going to call May a wash. On one hand, I read/listened to a lot of short fiction, some of which was good, some of which was great, and some of which was terrible. On the other hand, between the eight month old child to watch and spending a week in Colorado, I got very little writing done. I’m still working on Assassination, and hope to finish the rough draft of that soon (but no promises), I ended up having to rewrite more of it from scratch than I had originally anticipated, but I’m happy with where it has headed. I also have three other stories crowding my head, largely thanks to the short fiction that I read this past month, and I hope to give those voice soon.

Next week I hope to have a post about logic and literacy for you, and I’ll keep you updated about my progress. In the meantime, if you want something strage, wonderful, and obscene, you should give this bacon filled story a listen: Spar (The Bacon Remix). But enough about that, I’m going to try and get some more writing done before I have to go to work.

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ShoStoWriMo ’13

May 1st, 2013  |  Published in announcement

Regrettably, I will not be running ShoStoWriMo this year. I had hoped to, but the reality of the situation is that I wouldn’t be able to do it properly (I have an 8 month old son at home and am taking a trip in the middle of the month). I will not be putting up a forum, but I was planning on moving away from that anyway (keeping the spammers away was a itself a job). Still want to participate? The good news is that ShoStoWriMo isn’t a thing, its a protocol, to participate, all you have to do is write a short story this month. That being said, here is an idealized schedule if you want to follow one:

  • May 1-9: Write the rough draft of your short story. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just get it down. A good length to shoot for is 3,500 – 6,000 words, but shorter or longer works, too.
  • May 10-17: Give feedback, get feedback. Spend a week away from your story, preferably reading and providing feedback for others who are doing the same.
  • May 17-21: Revise. Take that feedback that you gathered and do a second draft. When you’re done, send it back out for more feedback.
  • May 22-30: Polish and share. Do more drafts, get more feedback. Read some published short stories to see how others have done it in the past.
  • May 31: Celebrate! Congratulations, you have a short story that has gone through the revision process and is ready to post, sell, publish, whatever you want to do with it.

Since I’m not setting up a forum, I went ahead and created a Facebook page for ShoStoWriMo to help people connect with other people. In the next couple of days, I might add a Google+ one as well.

I will be trying to participate, but due to time constraints, I’m setting a conservative goal of just writing a short story this month. I’ll keep you posted about how its going. Also, I plan on writing a couple of blog posts about the medium, so let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover.

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Some Shameless Self Promotion

April 30th, 2013  |  Published in announcement

The Revolution Will Not Be MicrowavedThe Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved is up! I have published it at Amazon as well as Smashwords (which means that it should be available everywhere once it gets approved, but that might take a while. I had a great time writing this story, and when I went through to do a final edit, I realized that I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. As usual, the most difficult part of the self-publishing process was writing up a brief description, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

For Sam, working at the Future Shoppe is a study in absurdity. Every week, he receives a directive from home office, a new product display, store layout, or signage style. And in the middle of every week, the orders are countermanded, often only hours after they have been completed. One week, the set of contradictory directions never comes.

Something is rotten in Coeur d’Alene, the nerve center of the Future Shoppe. And so Sam, Rosa, and Isaiah are roped into a mission to find out what, or at least steal some office supplies. Each of them is looking for something different: Rosa is expecting zombies, Isaiah just wants to see an old friend who lives there and Sam wants some sauce for his Guinig Meat Snack. But what they will find is stranger than they could have ever imagined.

So go grab a sample from one of the aforementioned retailers or read the first bit on the TRWNBM page and enjoy!

P.S. – As for what’s next, if you’re curious, I hope to publish There Are No Words in late May or early June and after that I will hopefully get Caldera all polished up and ready to go.

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved Cover

April 23rd, 2013  |  Published in announcement

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I need to get my act together and do something with some of the stories that I’m sitting on. So today I went ahead and did a cover for “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved”. I’m pretty happy with it, but may tweak it a bit before I’m ready to stamp FINAL on it (naturally, feedback is welcome). Other than that, I need to take another pass through the story and format it for Smashwords and Amazon. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go with it early next week. I’ll let you know.

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

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