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One Year as a Full-Time Writer

It’s been one year since I began my new life as a full-time writer.

In my fantasy world, I imagined I’d be producing a new book every month, with essays and short stories in between. I knew better, but it was a nice fantasy.

In reality, here’s what I’ve done over the past 12 months:

  • Final revision on Revisionary
  • Wrote, revised, and sent my first middle-grade fantasy manuscript to my agent
  • Sold my first SF trilogy to DAW
  • Finished the first draft of book one of said trilogy, and gotten about 35K through the rewrite
  • Wrote and sold a fantasy short story
  • Wrote and sold an article to io9
  • Wrote and sold an article to Uncanny Magazine
  • Prepped and self-published UK editions of the Princess books
  • Attended the Launch Pad astronomy workshop
  • Presented at the Lansing Rally of Writers and the MSU Young Author Conference

I also started a few short projects that didn’t end up going anywhere.

I’ll be honest, I’m glad I made that list. I’ve been feeling really unproductive for the past year. Looking back, there’s more I wish I’d gotten done, but that’s not a bad year at all. Especially since being a full-time writer doesn’t mean I get to write full-time. There’s also stuff like:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Doctor appointments for the kids
  • Dishes, vacuuming, and other housework
  • Prepping dinner most nights
  • Dealing with various school-related problems and crises
  • Chauffeuring kids to various activities
  • Catching Pokemon

Not to mention I’m still putting in ten hours/week for my old job. Most of that is telecommuting, but it’s still ten more hours each week.

All in all, this has been a good change for me. My writing productivity may not have rocketed upward as much as I’d hoped, but I’m less exhausted and less stressed. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my kids. I’m even exercising a little more, since I can take the dog for walks during the day or go Pokemon hunting in the neighborhood with my son.

It’s definitely harder making myself sit down and write when I’ve (theoretically) got the whole day to do it. Before, I wrote during lunch because it was the only guaranteed hour I had each day. Now, it’s too easy to say, “Eh, I’ll get to that later this afternoon.” I’m hoping to turn up the self-discipline again once the kids are both back in school next week.

Summer vacation has not been the most productive part of the past year…

Financially, there’s been a small hit. I left a good-paying job last year, and our savings has felt the impact. But I think overall, we’re steady. Selling that trilogy helped a lot, and we should be fine for at least the next several years. I am having to be a bit more careful with the spending, though. (No matter how much I might be drooling over the new Canon camera body or some of those lenses…)

My hope is to keep doing better than one book a year, plus extras. Terminal Alliance (the first SF book) has been challenging, but I’ll at least have some of the worldbuilding and character development done when I start in on the sequel, so that should help, right?

Hmph. Who am I kidding? Every book comes up with its own new and creative challenges.

Anyway, bottom line? I’m happier now, and I’ve written more than I would have otherwise. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but I’m calling Year One a victory.

Oh, and anyone else considering going full-time as an author, I should warn you there may be some side effects, as illustrated by this before and after photo…

Jim Before and After

 

Photography Processing: Lessons Learned

When I first started getting more seriously about this photography stuff, I focused mainly on getting a decent DSLR and learning how to use it to take better pictures. Pretty much common sense, right? I didn’t realize at the time how important the processing of those pics was to the final result.

At first, I was using the camera’s default settings, which meant every image came out as a jpg file. At the beginning of 2015, I switched that setting to RAW. Now, instead of the camera processing the image and compacting it into a jpg, I got the whole file with all the data and information the camera captured. Suddenly I could adjust white balance, tweak the exposure and shadows, and so much more. Compare the camera’s default jpg of Zoey from last year (left) to the one I processed from the RAW file (right).

Zoey JPG Zoey-raw

That was just the start. In the past, I’d used Photoshop to do some basic fixes and adjustments to my photos, but I’d never really learned to take advantage of everything the software could do. (I’m told Lightroom is even better, but like everything else in this hobby, that would require spending more money.)

On the left is a picture of Sophie. I’ve already done the initial white balance and such in RAW, but haven’t done anything else. On the right is a picture where I’ve reduced the color noise, added a few contrast layers, added a saturation layer to brighten her nose, blurred the foreground a bit, and added a little sharpening.

Sophie-raw1 Sophie-raw2

It’s particularly apparent when it comes to Milky Way photos. For a long time, I thought I just didn’t have a good enough lens and camera, or maybe I wasn’t getting the settings right. I could see the Milky Way in my pictures, but it was awfully faint. The shot on the left is an example of a jpg straight from the camera. But then I started researching how professionals process these pictures, and I realized a lot of the pics they start out with look faint and washed out too. But look what happens when you add several layers of contrast adjustment and a little bit of noise reduction.

Milky Way jpg Milky Way 2

I know the experienced photographers are probably rolling their eyes and saying, “It took you how long to figure this out?” But for me, this was an exciting revelation, one that’s added a lot to my photos … at least when I have the time to really work on them.

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What is this “Rape Culture” that people keep talking about?

Basically, it’s the culture, attitudes, comments, and actions that enable sexual assault. Whether it’s victim-blaming, perpetuation of rape myths, attacking survivors, or–

Oh, wait. I have a better idea. Let me show you some of the comments I’ve seen since my article about sexual harassment in SF/F was published over at io9 yesterday.

Content warning for slurs and other garbage.

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Awesomeness Out of WorldCon

My editor, Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books, won the Hugo for Best Editor – Long Form! I’ve worked with Sheila for more than a decade now, and she’s been both a wonderful editor and an all-around great human being. I’m so happy to see her receive this well-deserved honor and recognition.

Sheila Gilbert

Photo via Edward Willett

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Michi Trota became the first Filipino to win a Hugo award. She won, along with Michael and Lynne Thomas, for her work on Uncanny Magazine. Combine that with Alyssa Wong winning an Alfie from George R. R. Martin, and you get one of the best photos of the weekend:

Alyssa Wong and Michi Trota

Photo via Alyssa Wong

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Looking at the voting stats, Invisible 2 came in pretty high on the longlist for Best Related Work, which is wonderful to see. Thank you to everyone who nominated it.

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Mary Robinette Kowal gives a masterclass in how to accept the consequences of your actions like a grown-up, as well as single-handedly showing that no, the convention wasn’t selectively using its code of conduct to punish people for political views or beliefs.

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Andy Weir and The Martian won the Campbell Award and the Hugo for Best Dramatic Work, Long Form, respectively. Which led to actual astronauts accepting in both categories. I made a joke on Twitter about it not being a real party until the astronauts were wearing the Campbell tiara. Little did I realize…

Stan Love wearing the Campbell tiara

Photo from Twitter (uncredited)

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Next year’s North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC) will be in San Juan, and my friend Tobias Buckell is one of the guests of honor! This is awesomeness times two!

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There’s so much more wonderful and amazing news from Worldcon. Huge congrats to all the Hugo winners. Nnedi Okorafor won for Binti. N. K. Jemisin took home the Best Novel Hugo for Fifth Season. A translated work, “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, won the Best Novelette. So many well-deserve honors.

While no event is ever perfect, almost all the accounts I’m reading describe Worldcon as a great time.

I’m sure there’s other great stuff I haven’t mentioned. Please remedy that in the comments! 🙂

More Worldcon Thoughts

We all knew I’d end up posting a follow-up to yesterday’s piece about Worldcon’s expulsion of Dave Truesdale, right?

A lot more information has come out in the past 24 hours. At this point, it’s obvious from what’s been shared publicly that Dave Truesdale violated multiple items of Worldcon’s posted code of conduct, and that this was something done with a great deal of planning and forethought.

The more we learn about Truesdale’s actions, the more it’s become clear to me that the con made the right call in kicking his ass out. Not for his political beliefs. Not for derailing a panel or utterly failing to do his job as moderator. But for his planned and deliberate disruption of the convention. He also recorded (and intends to publish) panelists without their knowledge or consent, among other things.

(And there are other things as well, some of which have not been shared publicly. I don’t know when or if that will change.)

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Part of my frustration yesterday was that Worldcon put Truesdale on this panel as moderator to begin with. He’s someone whose over-the-top rants I’ve been aware of for years, if not decades, including his conflicts with Eugie Foster, his hostility toward attempts at inclusiveness and spotlighting authors traditionally excluded from the genre,  his behavior after the SFWA Bulletin cover mess a few years back, and much more.

As one person put it on Twitter, “Truesdale’s gonna Truesdale.”

A number of people pushed back on this, and made good and valid points about how much we can expect programming volunteers to know about the history and background of their panelists and moderators.

I find myself thinking of last year, when I was editing Invisible 2, and ended up running a blog post by someone who was known in other circles to be…problematic, at best. I had no clue. One suggestion (which I’m hoping to follow) was that I needed a co-editor who might be more aware of areas like that. Ultimately, that mess was my responsibility as editor. But is it fair to expect me to have vetted all of my potential contributors?

And I only had about twenty. Worldcon has a hell of a lot more.

The programming mess at World Fantasy Con also comes to mind. There’s a general sense that WFC should have known what they were getting when they put Darrel Schweitzer in charge of programming. But then, there’s a difference between selecting someone to run your entire programming division vs. going through all of the volunteer panelists and moderators.

Ideally, I do think there should be awareness of who’s being put on panels, and recognition that when you put someone like Truesdale in charge of a panel, there’s a good chance you’re gonna get a dumpster fire. But that’s easier said than done. We’re not all online. We’re not all in the same circles.

I don’t have an answer on this one, but I welcome people’s thoughts.

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A note to myself for future reference: Posting something potentially inflammatory before spending most of the day away from the internet and visiting friends? Bad idea…

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We’ve seen the predictable whining that the thought-police banned Truesdale for his beliefs. If that was the case, then I do think that would be a problem.

But that’s bullshit. Truesdale was banned for his actions.

That’s a really important distinction to me, and sometimes it’s a confusing or complicated line to try to draw. It’s one of the things I was concerned about yesterday, when less was known. Now, this is about me personally. I don’t expect or demand everyone to agree with me on this — I’m not sure I can even explain it that well — but that distinction between trying to judge people’s beliefs vs. judging based on their actions is pretty much a core principle for me. (Even if, being human myself, I sometimes fail to perfectly live up to it.)

I hope that made sense.

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In conclusion, from what I’ve seen now, Dave was kicked out for his actions, which violated multiple aspects of the code of conduct. And I’m okay with that. (The kicking out part, not the violating the code of conduct part…)

Also, yesterday gave me a bit of internet burnout. I’ll keep reading comments, but I probably won’t be responding/posting much more today.

Worldcon Expels Truesdale

For anyone claiming the recording Truesdale made without anyone’s knowledge or consent somehow vindicates him, or that he only hijacked the first few minutes of the panel, here’s what I heard from Truesdale’s own recording:

  • It begins with introductions
  • Then Dave starts reading his “Special Snowflakes” treatise
  • After five minutes of this, Sheila Williams cut in and began shooting him down
  • Dave pipes in a minute later to try to ask, “But what about conservative SF?” Williams keeps going.
  • About nine minutes in, Neil Clarke points out that they’re still off-topic, and gets yelled at by random loud dude in the audience.
  • Eleven minutes in, Truesdale says he wasn’t finished. Gordon Van Gelder points out they’re off topic.
  • Truesdale tries yet again to get back to the evils of political correctness. Sheila Williams shoots him down again.
  • Fifteen minutes in, Truesdale goes off about “a certain group” of bullies who can’t stand disagreement and will crucify you for having other opinions.
  • After another minute and a half of this, Williams and others once again try to respond and get back on focus.
  • Twenty minutes in, Truesdale starts talking about this one anthology editor who produced a mostly/all-male anthology and got crucified, and why it wasn’t his fault, and–
  • Several people try to respond and refocus.
  • About twenty-two minutes in, Wiscon is mentioned. Predictably, Truesdale takes a jab at Wiscon.
  • Jonathan Strahan defends Wiscon and talks about the goal of listening to *more* people, not fewer.
  • Twenty-five minutes in, Truesdale continues to talk about how there’s too much intimidation “from the left.”
  • Gordon Van Gelder points out, again, that the panel continues to be off-topic.

I stopped listening at this point, because I’d heard more than enough. Listening to his own recording, the man hijacked at least half the panel for his own personal crusade.

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Follow-up blog post at http://www.jimchines.com/2016/08/more-worldcon-thoughts/  (You knew I’d end up doing a follow-up on this one, right?)

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Updates since I posted this:

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Just catching up on today’s Worldcon drama. It began when Worldcon selected Dave Truesdale to moderate a panel on the State of Short Fiction. Instead, it’s been reported that Truesdale used the first 10 minutes of the panel for “a 10 minute monologue on how ‘special snowflakes’ who are easily offended are destoying SF.” (Source) He was literally clutching bead necklaces that he called “pearls.” Some people walked out of the audience. Other panelists shot Truesdale’s assertions down and tried to get the panel back on topic. Basically, it sounds like a mess.

This morning, over on Facebook, Truesdale shared an email he says he received from the convention, revoking his membership for his “unacceptable behavior” during that panel.

To be clear, I’m not at Worldcon. I didn’t see first-hand what happened on this panel. (I have read multiple reports from folks in the audience and others on the panel.) It does sound like Truesdale acted like an ass, derailed the panel, and pissed off a lot of people who wanted to, you know, talk about the state of short fiction.

As you might have guessed, I have thoughts about all this…

  • Who the hell thought it was a good idea to put Dave Truesdale in charge of this panel? He’s been doing these rants for years, if not decades. How can the convention turn around and pretend to be shocked by his pearl-clutching derail when that’s pretty much who he is and what he’s known for?
  • I’ve seen panel derails and blow-ups before. People have gotten into shouting matches, walked off of panels, and so on. I’ve never heard of someone being kicked out of the con for it. (Not invited back as a panelist, sure. Kicked out? Maybe it’s happened, but it’s not a practice I’m aware of.)
  • Right now, we have only Truesdale’s post about him being kicked out. It’s possible there’s more to this than just his ridiculous behavior on that panel.
  • As Truesdale has gone public with this, I hope Worldcon will issue a statement clarifying why he was expelled from the convention, and whether he violated convention policies either on the panel or elsewhere.
  • ETA: From the Worldcon Code of Conduct: “MidAmeriCon II reserves the right to revoke membership from and eject anyone at any time from a MidAmeriCon II event without a refund. Any action or behavior that … adversely affects MidAmeriCon II’s relationship with its guests, its venue, or the public is strictly forbidden and may result in revocation of membership privileges.

I think we’ve all seen people derail panels for their own personal agendas. Truesdale’s moderation might have been an epic shitshow, but is it grounds for expulsion?

Like I said, we don’t have all the facts on this. Just people’s comments on the panel, and Truesdale’s own account of why he was kicked out. But it sounds like a mess.

How Not to Respond to Accusations of Racism, WFC Edition

Content warning for racist advertisements, used as examples.

Oh, Darrel Schweitzer, no.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Sarah Pinsker pointed out a number of problems with WFC’s proposed programming track? I blogged about it here, and a number of other people weighed in as well. Some of the many complaints included:

  • “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” as a title for a panel about “unlikely aerial fantastic fiction.”
  • “Little to no acknowledgement of any recent writing in the genre,” per Foz Meadows.
  • Schweitzer’s choice to ignore the feedback he received before the program was published.
  • A panel about “perversely alluring freaks.”
  • The heavy emphasis on dead white men, to the exclusion of so many others.

Well, Schweitzer and a few of his friends have stepped up to set the record straight. It started when Chet Williamson posted on Facebook that “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories,” as a phrase, “is not a racist creation by Darrell Schweitzer.” Despite Google not finding any reference to this phrase, except from Schweitzer himself, Williamson found a painting by Jerome Rozen that used the title in question.

Fair enough. Williamson is correct that this proves Schweitzer did not invent the phrase. Williamson also points out that this supports Schweitzer’s claim of the phrase being “an old in-joke among pulp fans.”

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Jim C. Hines