The UK mass market edition of Libriomancer is out today!
The folks at Del Rey UK have been absolutely lovely to work with, and I continue to be thrilled that one of my series finally has a UK edition.
Now on to the more aggravating part. I received a very polite email earlier this week from an anthology editor, asking if I was still planning to contribute a story … seeing as how the deadline was March 1.
And there was much swearing on my part. I had committed to this a year ago, and I knew this anthology was on my list of things to write, but I had somehow gotten it in my head that the deadline was later this summer. (I think I managed to mix it up with another deadline for an anthology that has now been cancelled.)
Regardless, the editor was kind enough to give me until the end of this month to get something written and turned in.
Looking back a few days later, it was interesting to see how this screw-up on my part crashed head-on into the Depression. Being a writer is a pretty core part of my identity, and one of the things I pride myself on is making my deadlines. There’s a line in Friends where Joey snaps, “Joey doesn’t share food!”
Well, “Jim doesn’t blow deadlines!”
Between feeling a bit stressed already with the novel-writing schedule and the realization that I’d messed up, my mood for the day went down like a level 2 thief who lost initiative against a Beholder. The fact that I had also gotten stuck on the novel just made it worse. Look — two different sources of writing stress at once! Oh, joy!
The up side is that I recognized what was happening, and I knew — intellectually — that I was overreacting. Not that I’m okay with blowing deadlines, but it wasn’t the end of the world, and the editor was very cool about it. It wasn’t enough to drag myself out of that slump, but I think it kept me from getting as deeply bogged down by it as I would have a few years back.
I’m not asking for comfort here. I know I’m far from the only writer to ever miss a deadline. I know it’s unreasonable and unfair and egotistical to expect perfection from myself when I wouldn’t dream of holding anyone else to that kind of standard. And I know the best thing to do at this point is let it go and start working on the story.
Which, for the most part, I think I’ve been able to do. It took several days, but I sorted out the novel chapter I was stuck on, and I started brainstorming story ideas for the anthology. I added the new deadline to my To Do List in HabitRPG. And I woke up this morning without the ghost of that Beholder following me around, zapping me with its eyestalk-beams of, “OMG I suck!!!”
It’s still hitting me with various minor eyestalk-beams of life stress, but I’ve got the hit points and saving throws to deal with those. And I’m back in a space where I can enjoy the fact that the new edition of my book is coming out, and people are talking about it and saying mostly good things.
A month or so back, I heard about Habit RPG, which is basically a habit-tracking and To Do List app in the form of a role-playing game. You set up your Habits, Dailies, and To Do List, and begin as a level one character. You get treasure and XP for completing items on your list, but you lose treasure and XP if you fail to complete your Dailies.
It’s not for everyone, but for an old gaming geek like me, it’s worked surprisingly well. I only set up two Dailies: writing at least 1000 words, and working on the dishes (a chore I sometimes neglected). I’ve now got a 36-day streak on dishes and 22 days of at least 1000 words. For Habits, which you don’t necessarily have to complete every day, I set up things like Writing At Least 1500+ words, Exercise, and Reading. I’ve added things to the To Do List as they come up, and it works well as a reminder.
Once you advance a few levels, you unlock the drop feature, and can get eggs, potions, and food when you complete a task. The potions are used to hatch the eggs, and the food helps your new pets grow. I’ve got four pets so far, including the lion below. (Yes, I’m wearing a party hat. But only because they didn’t have a fez.) There are quests you can set up, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
I wish you could do a little more customizing. You can set specific days of the week for your Dailies, but you can’t configure it for something like, “Exercise at least three times/week.” Some of the features require you to pay real-world money for gems, which can be redeemed for other goodies, but you can get along fine without those. And the mobile app is rather bare-bones. But none of these are deal-breakers, especially for a free application.
The best part has been getting my son into the game. I set him up with his own character, and we created his lists. Now instead of hounding him to do his various chores, all I have to do is ask if he’s earned his XP for the day. He pulls up his character and starts running around to feed the dogs, take care of recycling, hang up his jacket, and everything else. It’s not perfect, and if we don’t remind him to check, he forgets. He’s gotten down to about 10% of his hit points before, but he hasn’t died yet. (When you die, you lose a level.) But it’s still a lot more fun than it used to be, and he does his chores with a lot less trouble.
My daughter, being a little older and not a geek, wasn’t interested. But it’s definitely helped my son and I get a little more done, and have a little more fun doing it.
I want to once again thank everyone for the guest blog posts last month. They were amazing and powerful and thought-provoking. I know that you got me thinking about things I hadn’t considered before, and judging from the comments, I wasn’t the only one. Here’s the full list of posts:
There were several other posts I wanted to mention in this roundup.
The frustrating thing about blogging is that, for the most part, any given blog post has a very short lifespan. They get their moment in the spotlight, and then wander backstage to the archives. I wanted to find a way to keep these essays alive for anyone who wanted to read and share them. Which is why I spent the weekend sending contracts out to my guest bloggers and a couple of additional individuals for Invisible, an electronic anthology that will collect these essays in a more permanent form. I’m still working out the details, but each contributor will receive a token payment for their essay, with the rest of the profits going to Con or Bust. The essays will remain online for free, but the anthology will be $2.99, which seemed reasonable for a collection of this length. Here’s the cover I’ve been working on. Feedback is very much welcome. The contributor names are pixellated out because I haven’t received all of the contracts back yet. I’m excited about this. If all goes well, I’d love to make it an annual thing, both the guest blog posts and the electronic anthology.
I’m off to New York this afternoon for No Such Convention. Have a good weekend, all!
Detcon1 is doing some very cool things, one of which is the creation of an award for YA and Middle Grade speculative fiction. Two awards will be given out, one in each category.
Anyone can nominate up to five titles for the awards. Only Detcon1 members (attending or supporting) will be able to vote on the final ballot, but you don’t have to be a member to help create that final ballot.
YA and MG works first published in 2013 are eligible. From the website, “Works published in a language other than English are also eligible if their first year of publication in English translation was 2013.”
The nomination deadline is coming up fast. All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on February 28.
Oh, and if you’re a Michigan-based 3-D artist interested in designing the award, please let them know on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I haven’t been shy about sharing my opinion on a certain petition that’s been causing some internet uproar. At the same time, it’s a fact that some intelligent people, some of whom I respect, signed the thing. (As did some people I don’t respect, and don’t consider particularly intelligent, but that’s the way it goes with just about any group.)
A part of me really wants to be done with this conversation. But I also want to understand why these people would sign something that, to me, is such blatant over-the-top fear-mongering and dog-whistling, with bonus helpings of rewritten history. I’ve spent some time trying to find people’s reasoning in their own words. I’m quoting them not because I want to point fingers or attack anyone, but to try to understand, and to process my own responses to their statements.
If I’ve misrepresented anyone’s views with these quotes, please let me know so I can make the appropriate corrections.
This is a very long post about a topic that’s already been beaten to death and brought back in zombie form and strung up as the world’s most gruesome pinata, so I totally understand and respect anyone who chooses not to wade through another round. Have some emergency kittens instead.
Originally, I had intended to gather signatures for my parody, but a wise friend pointed out how that could be counterproductive, adding to the sense of an Us vs. Them schism within SFWA. Which would have been ironic, considering how I was grumbling about such attitudes earlier in the week.
I like SFWA. They do a lot of really good work. It annoys me when someone who isn’t even a member stirs up this kind of silliness, creating conflict and bad press over nonexistent “hypothetical” boogeymen or issues that were dealt with — including the solicitation of input from the entire membership — a year ago.
I like RWA too, for that matter. I love hanging out with romance writers, and I’ve learned a lot from talking to them. I have zero patience for people who, despite never having read the genre, go around dissing romance as nothing but mantitty and bodice-ripping and simplistic formulaic fiction. (Also, I wish my genre sold that well!)
My response is not meant to belittle anyone or anything except for the original, ridiculous petition and the individual who put it forth.
RWA President Secretly Censoring Romance Writers Report?
By Jim C. Hines
Terry McLaughlin, President of the Romance Writers of America, has obviously been part of an ongoing policy of P*litically C*rrect censorship in the organization’s organization’s professional publication, a professional magazine for professionally writing professionals, the Romance Writer’s Report., the Romance Writers Report.
As a professional author who once read a romance novel, I was shocked when I investigated this organization I don’t actually belong to and found covers such as this gracing their magazine:
Yes, they’re wonderfully clean and professional-looking covers. But I visited the page on the RWA website where the Romance Writers Report is described as, “a trade publication that mails monthly and covers all aspects of the romance writer’s career. Free with your membership.” (Emphasis added.)
This mission statement is, on the surface, seemingly harmless. Unless, that is, you are aware of the ongoing history of cover art selected for the Romance Writers Report and my selective oversimplification and misrepresentation of that history! Because the alleged meaning of “all aspects” here doesn’t mean what it’s commonly taken to mean, which becomes clear when you look at these covers and see the meaning that’s missing.
The problem can be summed up in one word: mantitty.
It’s the lack of mantitty that made me sit up and rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing what I thought I wasn’t seeing. These covers represent “all aspects” of a romance writer’s career? Say whaaaaaa…? As an amateur cover model, I’m quite familiar with the manly pecs and flowing man-locks that are such an essential part of my selective interpretation of the romance genre’s history and roots.
[SELF-CENSORED EDITED TO REMOVE SECTION ABOUT HOW GAY MEN LIKE MANTITTY TOO SO THIS IS TOTALLY DISCRIMINATORY AGAINST THEM]
There is a tradition in this country of people misunderstanding the First Amendment and crying “Freedom of speech!” when a professional organization chooses not to publish content it deems unprofessional. As a Writers’ Organization, RWA should be at the front line in the deep, wet trenches of this battle, fighting in their torn uniforms, with sweat glistening on their firm muscles, their piercing blue eyes fixed upon the Enemies of Freedom. Enemies who had once been allies on that winter night so long ago, when firm hands slipped beneath the tight waistband of our jeans to grasp our tight buttocks and pull us close—
…sorry. Where was I? Oh, right. Freedom! The heart of the matter is that RWA has been committing an ongoing offense against freedom of the press – its own press! – through this blatant self-censorship of mantitty!
So I clasped my pen firmly in my strong, eager fingers and spilled my ink onto the page.
[Email to RWA President Terry McLaughlin, February 11, 2014]
Why have you chosen to TRAMPLE THE FREE SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS by not putting rock-hard abs and chiseled man-chests on the cover of RWR?
Why do you hate freedom? And mantitty?
Jim C. Hines”
I received no response. I blame censorship. (Or the fact that I didn’t actually email her.)
In the light of the preceding unsubstantiated fearmongering and hot-button buzzwords that don’t actually exist in RWA’s policies or procedures, I strongly object to the RWA’s ongoing mantitty-censorship. Specifically, I have the following objections:
In view of these considerations, I ask that the President and Board of the RWA (1) put out an open call for mantitty and (2) begin a conversation about romance cover art, because this topic has never before been discussed in a venue where I was able to satisfactorily explain to everyone else why they were wrong.
[SELF-CENSORED EDITED TO REMOVE SECTION ABOUT HOW HOLDING A PROFESSIONAL MAGAZINE TO PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS IS JUST LIKE SLAVERY!]
It cannot be emphasized too strongly here that the issue is not one of Left vs. Right, SF/F vs. Romance, Peanut Butter vs. Jelly, Kirk vs. Picard, or Fabio vs. Hugh Jackman. The only issue here is a First Amendment one that lovers of both Fabio and Jackman should be able to agree on. When our forefathers signed the Constitution of the United States of America, it was with the understanding that Thomas Jefferson was going to get to see some chiseled, powder-wig-wearing man-chest.
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
—Charlton Heston (actor, and apparently the kind of guy you quote in petitions)
It is my hope that RWA President Terry McLaughlin will immediately kill any “professional” guidelines or oversight in the organization’s publications that might censor or infringe upon any RWA member’s Freedom to Enjoy Mantitty (and throw out any and all respect they’ve fought so hard to earn) in the pages of the Romance Writers Report.
We start this service with a reading from The Book of Maass:
“…because some authors are now—voluntarily!—willing to bear the expense and undertake the effort of building an audience by themselves, print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd. Even print-only distribution deals with a handful of successful e-published authors are terrific: easy pickings and effortless profit. Most authors are still knocking at the gate, too, since after all seventy percent of trade book sales are of print editions. In many ways these are good times for print publishers.”
“…the self-publishing movement has produced gold-rush hysteria in the writing community. While not exactly a mass delusion, questionable beliefs have been widely accepted. True believers sneer at doubters. So what is the real truth? High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few who have mastered the demanding business of online marketing. A larger, but still small, number of authors have achieved a modest replacement income from self-publishing. Growth from there will be hard for them, however, because wide print distribution still is needed.”
“…the position of the vast majority of self-publishing authors is no better than it ever was, though probably there are fewer cartons of books in their garages. Consultancy to self-publishers is a new job category, however, and that has to be good for the nation’s employment stats.”
And now, a reading from The Book of Konrath:
“…The royals vs. the peasants. The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The establishment vs. the revolutionaries. The haves vs. the have-nots. The gatekeepers spouting bullshit vs. the new breed of writers calling them on their bullshit.“
“…for those countless midlist authors stuck with unconscionable contracts because they had no choice, and the multitude of authors kept out of the industry by gatekeepers such as yourself, it didn’t work. It actually sucked wheelbarrows full of ass. Your industry f***ed the majority of writers it provided services for. And that same industry was built on the sweat, tears, toil, and blood of those very writers it exploited.”
“…we talk to each other. We read each others’ contracts. We know how much we can earn on our own. And more and more of us believe the publishers you work for are, indeed, evil f**ks.”
The emphasis in the above excerpts was added by me. I recommend reading the full posts if this is a conversation you’re interested in.
Personally, I find it frustrating and tiresome. Look, I’ve been the author who got crapped on by a major publisher, and I’ve been the author who got book deals in the mid five figures. I’ve hung out with New York Times bestselling authors. I’ve hung out with self-published authors who have moved hundreds of thousands of books. I’ve watched friends move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and I’ve seen traditionally published authors move into self-publishing.
This whole Us vs. Them thing? It’s bullshit. Traditional publishing isn’t Evil. (Certain individuals within that system, well, that’s another blog post…) Self-publishing and e-books aren’t asteroids coming to wipe out the Dinosaurs. And there’s no One True Path to success as an author.
I’m doing rather well as a mostly traditionally published author, but I’ve had people come along to tell me how stupid I am for not self-publishing. They lay out math full of ridiculously flawed assumptions and generalizations to “prove” how much more I’d be making if I published my own e-books. It’s possible they might be right — maybe I would do even better — but it’s in no way a sure thing. They assume everything my agent and publisher do for me, either I could do just as well myself, or else it isn’t really necessary.
You see it from the other side too, the idea that self-publishing doesn’t count. I haven’t personally seen as much of this side, but I suspect I’d see it a lot more if I was a primarily self-published author.
You want “the real truth”? Here’s some truth for you.
It’s that last bit I want to stress. There are plenty of paths out there, which is wonderful, but it’s also nerve-wracking. Which way is the right way for me? What if I make the wrong choice? What if those people are right, and I really would be doing better if I’d self-published all of my stuff instead of going through a traditional publisher? What if I self-publish my stuff and nobody ever finds it?
I wonder if that anxiety is part of why so many people are quick to cling to that false Us vs. Them framework. Personally, I think Maass’ view of writers as cattle is insulting and ridiculous, but if I tell myself that he’s representative of all of Them, then clearly I’m on the side of Right by self-publishing. When I see a self-published author repeatedly spamming people online and desperately shoving self-promotional material into people’s hands at conventions, all to promote a book with a cover that looks like it was done in MS Paint, a part of me wants to cling to that as proof that I’m better off with my publisher. I have to remind myself that this isn’t The Awful Truth of self-publishing.
I love reading folks like Tobias Buckell and Chuck Wendig, or watching what the authors over at Book View Cafe have been up to. These are people who avoid the Us vs. Them trap, who admit there’s more than one way to succeed as a writer. They try different things, and they acknowledge different paths.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read what Maass or Konrath have to say. Just don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s One True Path. We’re all figuring this out, and the path that’s worked for me might not be the right one for you. In fact, it probably isn’t, since mine started almost two decades ago.
Do your research. Learn about the different possibilities. And make your own path.
If Friday was a superhero, who would it be?
Between sick kids, writing-related work, and a few other things, I haven’t gotten the chance to do much original blog content this week. So it’s rerun time! This is something I wrote back in 2009, to the beat of Green Eggs and Ham. It’s dedicated to all of my long-suffering editor friends…
Slush I Read
(Apologies to Seuss)
I read slush.
That slush I read.
Do you like fanfic with vamps?
I do not like them Mary Sue.
Here’s a tale from D & D!
I do not want your D & D.
Would you like a hot sex scene?
I do not like your pervy tale.
That evil font we do not want!
Would you read this in the loo?
I would not, could not, while I poo!
You just hate me ’cause I’m new!
Too original you say?
I do not like your Marty Stus.
Just one more story for today.
So I will read the slush again.