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Invisible is Live!

InvisibleAs of today, Invisible is officially a thing! In addition to the guest blog posts featured on the blog, the e-book anthology includes bonus material from Alex Dally MacFarlane, Gabriel Cuellar, Nonny Blackthorne, and Ithiliana.

It’s on sale for $2.99 at the following sites, and I’m hoping to add to this list as other retailer links go live. All proceeds will go to the Carl Brandon Society for Con or Bust.

I learned a lot from this project. I think these essays do a marvelous job of answering the question, “Why does representation matter?” and of looking at different types of representation in our genre.

I’m a big believer in the importance and power of story. The contributors to Invisible showed me new aspects of that power, things I hadn’t necessarily considered before.

If you’re a reviewer and would be interested in a copy, please let me know. And if you feel like spreading the word, I’ll send you a tray of fresh-baked karmic brownies (or another imaginary karmic goodie of your choice).

Commencing Decade Five

I’ll be turning 40 tomorrow, so I figured I’d take a few minutes today to look back at the decades…

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Jim - 10Age 10.

I finished up 4th grade and started 5th. I believe this was the year I broke my arm – the only bone I’ve managed to break so far. This would also be around the time I got published for the very first time, with a joke I stole from my grandfather that appeared in our elementary school newsletter.

I was a big fan of G. I. Joe, Transformers, and He-Man. You know – the classics. At that age, I was probably reading a ton of Peanuts and Garfield collections, along with things like the Hardy Boys, The Great Brain, Encyclopedia Brown … I think I had checked out A Wrinkle in Time and a few other SF/F titles by then as well. I remember being excited about seeing Return of the Jedi, though I missed the scene of Vader throwing the Emperor into the random Death Star pit, because the Emperor’s lightning attack on Luke was too scary, and I wasn’t looking. I played my first D&D games, run by a friend’s father. I was a thief, and the only one to survivor our encounter with a dragon, on account of being invisible and hiding while the rest of the party ran out to get fried. I had also joined Cub Scouts (my mother was our den leader), and would have been working on my Webelos badge.

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Jim - 20Age 20.

Sophomore/Junior year at Michigan State University, where I was working on a degree in psychology, fully intending to be a counselor or therapist when I grew up. I was in a not-so-great on-again, off-again relationship with a girl at MSU.

This was around the time I began volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing. I ended up spending a lot of time and energy with those people over the years. I learned a lot and met some amazing people. I had become a full-on geek by this point, very much into SF/F, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. And right around this time, I sat down and started writing out some backstory for my D&D character … which eventually led to me writing a short novel about said character. At which point I realized, Hey, this writing thing is kind of cool. Maybe I should do more of it.

The picture here is of me and my future wife Amy. We had become friends around age 16. We both attended MSU and volunteered at the Ear, too. But it took me another decade or so to figure out I wanted to spend my life with her. Sometimes I can be a bit slow.

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Age 30.

I married Amy six months before my 30th birthday. We were living in a house in Lansing. She was finishing up her Masters degree, and I had been working for the state as a computer tech for about three years. My book Goldfish Dreams, a mainstream novel about rape and recovery, inspired in part by my work at Listening Ear, had come out the year before from a little press called Regal Crest Enterprises. I had 15-20 short stories out as well, most of them in smaller markets, but there were a few pro sales in there. Enough for me to join SFWA as an active member, at least. This was also the year my book about a nearsighted goblin named Jig came out from Five Star Press. I alternated between hope and despair that I would ever sell a book to one of the big publishers.

I was also writing a column for the MSU newspaper about sexual assault issues, and working at MSU Safe Place (a domestic violence shelter) as their male outreach coordinator.

I had built up a nice little library of SF/F titles, and was on a mission to get Amy addicted to this show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Jim - 39Age 40.

Okay, technically this picture is from age 39, but it’s close enough. After 10+ years of marriage, Amy and I have two kids, two dogs, two cats … each of us is technically working two jobs, too. We seem to have a thing for twos.

I’ve got nine books in print from DAW, with three more books under contract. I’ve gone from being a clueless newbie at my first conventions to being Guest of Honor at places like Millennicon, Windycon, Penguicon, and Continuum. I got a freaking Hugo award!

I’ve been working to get my depression under control for the past few years with therapy and medication. There are a few other health issues creeping up on me — I’m now taking pills for cholesterol and to regulate my thyroid function. The body still works pretty well overall, though.

On a sadder note, death has become more of a presence in recent years. Two of my high school classmates passed away in the past year. Some of the actors and celebrities I knew growing up have passed as well. I’m also much more aware of cancer and how many of my friends and colleagues it’s affected. Not liking this trend, but I also recognize it’s part of getting older.

I’m still working at the state, though I’ve switched departments, and somehow ended up in a management position. Life is very busy, but for the most part, very satisfying and rewarding as well.

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The Future.

I’m fully expecting to enjoy my 40s. There are aspects of getting older I’m not thrilled about, but in general, life has gotten better with age. I’m in a better space emotionally, financially, authorially, familially, and other made-up words like that.

Bring it on, 40!

Five Days as a Pre-Borg (Diabetes Related)

Last Thursday, I went in to get set up for a five-day run with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

Quick overview – with type one diabetes, the pancreas up and quits producing insulin, because it’s a LAZY SLACKER! Therefore, I take insulin via an insulin pump, which delivers a baseline dose throughout the day, and allows me to program additional insulin when I eat. I check my blood sugar about six times a day to help me keep it within a relatively healthy range.

The CGM is a device that automatically checks your blood sugar every five minutes. It automatically sounds an alert if your sugar goes too high or too low. (Sadly, it can’t be programmed to do the red alert klaxon from Star Trek, but some day…)

It works by measuring the interstitial fluid, as opposed to the blood, so the measurements aren’t quite as precise as the ones from my glucose meter. But it does a great job of showing trends (whether your blood sugar is climbing or falling or just chilling and hanging out). It also produces a graph to let you see what your blood sugar is doing over time.

I was hooked up with a Dexcom CGM, which involves a tiny flexible needle that goes into the side of the belly and is hooked up to what may or may not be a T-800 chip from Cyberdyne Systems. This made me a little nervous, since I’ve already got the catheter from my insulin pump stuck to one side of my belly, and the CGM is a little bulkier, as you can see here.

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Secret Project is Away!

I had two different blog posts I was thinking about writing over the weekend.

Instead, I finished revising the Secret Novel Project (code name “Feast”) and sent it off to the editor late last night.

Happy_minionsAnd how was your weekend?

The Editing Process: Invisible

I thought folks might be curious about the process of turning a collection of blog posts into an almost-ready-for-publication e-book. (If I was mistaken about that, and you couldn’t care less, go check out some superhero cats instead.)

Once I decided to do it, the first step was to talk to the guest bloggers. Originally, I had only asked people to write something up for the blog. I wanted to know if they would be on board with an e-book collection (they were). I talked about the token payment I could offer, the title I had in mind (“Invisible”), and the idea for donating any additional profits to Con or Bust.

Everyone seemed excited about the idea, so the next step was to put together a contract. I looked at SFWA’s sample contracts and some of the contracts I’d signed over the years. The final version was loosely modeled on the fiction contract John Joseph Adams uses for Lightspeed. I didn’t want to get too bogged down in legalese, but I wanted to make it clear what people would be paid, what rights I was buying, and things like that.

I also contacted a few people about essays I hadn’t been able to run on the blog, asking if they’d want to be part of the anthology. While I’m keeping the posts on my site available for free, I like the idea of having some bonus content in the e-book. I emailed Alex Dally MacFarlane at this point as well, asking if she’d be interested in writing an introduction. More contracts and payments followed.

I had been playing with cover art ideas, because even though I’m obviously not a professional graphic designer, it’s something I enjoy doing. You can see my early draft in this blog post, where I announced the anthology. Part of the reason I wanted to talk about it was to generate a little early awareness and buzz, as well as to get feedback on the cover and the overall project.

Then it was time to start putting the actual e-book together. I use Sigil to create my e-books. The first step was to copy the essays off the blog and into the software. That was the easy part. The real fun was in going through each file for consistency in things like how em-dashes and ellipses were coded, and removing any junk code that might have gotten picked up in the copy/paste process. Two essays lost all of their quotations marks, and a third ended up with all of its italics stripped away.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Mark Ferrari and I started chatting. He was kind enough to offer some advice on cover art, and volunteered to put something together if I was interested. (Spoiler: I was interested!) We swapped emails from time to time over the month of March, and he ended up taking my ideas and turning them into something sharper and more eye-grabbing.

Content-wise, I had already worked with some of the authors on edits to their stories before they went up on the blog. I did the same with some of the new content. Once I had everyone’s stuff, I put it all into the ebook file, adjusted the Table of Contents a bit, updated the cover art with the final list of contributors, and ran the file through an .epub validator. I fixed a few more things, and then it was time to send page proofs out to everyone, asking them to get back to me with any changes by April 6. (This is how we discovered that one person’s essay had lost its italics.)

I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet that originally included contributor names (and pen names, if applicable), their email addresses, and the title of their essays. Other columns I’ve added include the dates contracts were sent and received, when payments were sent, the preferred format (if any) for page proofs, and the date page proofs were sent.

I think we’re on track for an April 15 publication date. I want to send a copy of the book to a few reviewers in the next day or so, too. I also need to look into publicity for the launch. There’s a podcast I’ll be doing (more details on that later), and some websites I need to send the announcement to. I’ve also started writing up the content information for places like Amazon, B&N, etc. This is things like the description, keywords, price ($2.99), and so on.

I had forgotten how much work this is. If you’re a writer, please remember to thank your editor for everything they do! As an editor, I want to thank all of my writers on this project. They’ve been a pleasure to work with.

In conclusion, I’m very proud to share the final cover art and lineup for Invisible, coming April 15.

Invisible - Lg

April Fools Day Roundup

This is my list of April Fools Day stuff that made me laugh and/or smile. I’ll be updating throughout the day.

Return of the SFWA Bulletin

The SFWA Bulletin is back after a roughly ten-month hiatus. I’m not interested in reruns of arguments from a year ago, but I wanted to take a look at what SFWA has put together for the relaunch of their professional magazine. (And of course, Jason Sanford beat me to the punch pretty much as soon as I started writing this blog post.)

One of the biggest changes is that the Bulletin will now be available in both print and electronic format. Members can log into the Forums and download the magazine here in .epub, .mobi, or .pdf format. I’m told the electronic edition will also be made available for sale to non-members, though I don’t believe that’s happened yet.

Given the events of last year, I suspect most everyone’s going to immediately check out the cover. The artwork is by Galen Dara. I like it a lot as an image. Dara does nice, evocative work. I’m not entirely sold on it as a cover for the Bulletin, though. The text layout doesn’t really pull together for me, and the overall cover … it just doesn’t scream “professional journal” to me.

That said, this is an interim issue. Moving forward, John Klima is taking over as editor of the Bulletin, and I suspect there will be more changes to come. As a transition/relaunch, I think the cover works well enough, and definitely sends the message that the organization is working to avoid the mistakes of the past.

The contents have a distinctly different feel, with an emphasis on what SFWA is and what the organization does. The very first piece is Susan Forest’s, “SFWA at its Core,” which talks about SFWA’s five core goals (inform, support, promote, defend, advocate), and the different ways it works to achieve those goals.

There are articles about the website, the SFWA Forum, the Ombudsman’s role, the SFWA Reception and other events, the online discussion boards, the YA/MG group, and more. If you wanted to put together an introductory packet for new and prospective members, you could pick up this issue and be halfway there.

And there are HONEY BADGERS! Comic relief honey badgers from Ursula Vernon and MCA Hogarth. I don’t know what Klima is planning for future issues, but please consider this a plea for more honey badger comics!

This is a good relaunch, and worth reading for anyone who wants to know why they should bother joining SFWA, or what the organization really does. Thank you Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jaym Gates, Neil Clarke, Steven Gould, and everyone else who worked to make this issue happen. I’m looking forward to seeing where the new editor takes it from here.

Cool Stuff Friday

This is my Friday. It’s little and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.