NaNoWriMo Begins

Like a lot of other people, I started NaNoWriMo yesterday. I’m working on a short, hopefully-fun novel that isn’t currently under contract. If I crash and burn, I’m only out a month’s work. But I have high hopes, which should last for a few more days, at which point I traditionally get that sinking “what the heck am I doing this book sucks everything is darkness and despair” feeling. Ah, writing. Gotta love it.

But so far, so good. I’ve got two chapters done, and some fun bits coming in the next chapter. I’ve also noticed a few things about NaNo and myself.

  • I do better with a wordcount goal and some kind of accountability. Knowing I need to hit at least 1666 words a day, and that my updates will be publicly available on the NaNoWriMo website? That helps motivate me.
    • It might not motivate you, and that’s okay. Everyone’s writing process is different. If something helps, use it! If not, get rid of it and find something else. NaNo doesn’t work for everyone.
  • I still compare my progress to other people’s, and that’s bad. Having a lower wordcount than someone else doesn’t mean I’m losing. It doesn’t mean I suck as a writer. It means that person wrote more words than I did. So what? I need to focus on being happy with my own progress. If I like the words I’m producing, then I’m #Winning. Period.
  • Real Life is obnoxious. Even working from home, there are phone calls, vacuum repair salesmen (seriously!), grocery shopping, and other distractions. I know about some of these ahead of time. Nothing to do but plan the best I can, and roll with the hits when I can’t.
  • There’s no One Right Way to do NaNoWriMo. I’m doubtful I’ll make it to the regional gatherings, or that I’ll spend much time in the forums, and that’s okay. I’ve already got a support network of writers I can talk to if I need. (Although it might be fun to get out of the house…) Anyway, the point is, NaNo has grown an awful lot over the past decade and a half. There are a ton of tools and resources out there. Use what works, disregard the rest, and write on.
  • More fiction may mean less blogging. If I’m pushing myself harder to hit daily wordcount goals, I may have a harder time keeping up with the blog. But we’ll see.

I hope those of you who are participating are having fun, and those who aren’t … well, I hope you’re having fun too!

Trying to Fix WFC’s Harassment Policy Problem

ETA: On 10/28, the following was posted on the WFC2015 Facebook Page:

On reflection, and with guidance, we have realized that our sincere attempt to do the right thing in this regard was inadequate. We focused too much on complying with the legal advice of Saratoga authorities and not enough on making certain that our members feel confident in their safety at the Convention. Since last year’s WFC policy was considered satisfactory and is considered to be comprehensive we are adopting it as an addition to the policy developed with the legal advice of the Saratoga authorities. The World Fantasy Board is reviewing the language for comprehensiveness. The corrected policy will be posted here and on our website as soon as that review is completed. We apologize for the misstep and are doing our utmost to make WFC 2015 both an enjoyable event and a safe environment.


The 2015 World Fantasy Convention starts in just over a week, and they’ve just mailed out their final progress report. Natalie Luhrs was one of the first to note the inclusion of a harassment policy that manages to be, in my opinion, worse than no policy at all.

Luhrs’ thoughts are here. John Scalzi also weighed in, calling it an Egregious, Mealy-Mouthed Clump of Bullshit. There’s been much condemnation on Twitter, as well as on the WFC Facebook page.

Here’s the policy in question:

WFC 2015 Harassment Policy

Let me note up front that I don’t have experience running a convention. I do have experience dealing with sexual harassment and violence, and in working with conventions to build harassment policy. My guess from reading this is that the people who created this policy have conrunning experience, but don’t know a lot about dealing with sexual harassment. At least, I hope that’s the case, since the only other possibility I can come up with is intentional maliciousness. Because…

…this policy actively discourages people from reporting harassment.

  1. Victims of harassment and sexual violence should have the choice whether or not to report to the police. The convention has taken that choice away.
  2. This policy requires victims to trust that the police will take them seriously and respond to their complaints. Historically, police departments are not known for treating victims of sexual violence with respect. In addition, while I as a white male might feel relatively comfortable interacting with police, many women and people of color do not, and with valid reasons.
  3. The police will be determining if the conduct meets the legal definition of harassment to charge the offender. (I’m not a lawyer, but I thought that was the prosecutor’s decision.) What about behaviors that are clearly unacceptable, but might not meet the legal standards and be severe enough for the prosecutor to invest the time and money and resources in pressing charges?
  4. “No one wants to behave in a manner that draws Police attention.” I assume this was supposed to be a warning against would-be harassers, but it also feels like a warning to victims not to make a fuss and attract attention. Maybe that’s not the intention, but there’s a long history of silencing victims, and of attacking them for attracting attention.

But what about libel?

On Facebook, Chuck Rothman notes, “In New York State, ‘harassment’ is legally defined. Most harassment policies (including Comic Con’s) punish people for actions that are not harassment under NYS law. There is no doubt the NYS law needs updating, but the convention is not going to risk a libel lawsuit.

This is, in a word, bullshit. To me, it smells a lot like Wikipedia lawyering. Has anyone ever filed a libel lawsuit over a convention’s harassment policy?

Even if this were a legitimate concern, which I don’t believe it is, then the solution is to take 30 seconds and rename this a “Convention Safety Policy.”

Dear WFC: Do you want to fix this?

Your convention starts in a week. I’m guessing your program books are already printed, and you’re scrambling with all of the last-minute work it takes to make such a huge convention happen. You’re stressed, overwhelmed, and everyone’s running on caffeine and adrenaline. And now all anyone is talking about is how messed-up your harassment policy is.

I figure you’ve got two choices here. You can double down and ignore the complaints. This has the advantage that you don’t have to do the work to fix the policy. The disadvantage is that it would feel like a big old “Fuck you” to a large number of people. It also puts any victims of harassment in a very, very bad spot. Keep in mind that, as Natalie Luhrs pointed out, “three of the last five World Fantasy Conventions had harassment incidents that were publicized: 20102011, and 2013.” This doesn’t include incidents that weren’t publicized.

The other choice is to try to fix this. I know which choice I’m hoping for.

Can this actually be fixed?

Well, no. Not completely. You’ve pissed off a lot of people, and you’ve got nine days before the start of the convention. You can’t fix it. But you can work to make it better. Here are my suggestions, for what they’re worth.

  1. Listen to what people are saying. I know you feel defensive and attacked and unappreciated, but right now, you don’t have time for that.
  2. Find someone who has experience working with sexual harassment and conventions, and deputize them to get this mess fixed. Talk to conrunners from other conventions who’ve done a better job on this front.
  3. Grab a sample harassment policy from the Geek Feminism Wiki. If you’re worried about the boogeyman of a libel lawsuit, tweak the wording so it doesn’t say “harassment.” Get this posted to your website and printed up as an addendum to your program book. Send out a follow-up email/progress report with the new policy.
  4. Make sure all con staff are aware of the new policy and trained on how to respond. (Draw on the experiences and knowledge of the person from #2.)
  5. Apologize. Not a mealy-mouthed “We’re sorry you people chose to be offended,” but an apology that draws on #1 and recognizes why people are upset. You screwed up. Own it.

I’d also refer you to the Sexual Harassment Policy Starter Kit I posted a while back, with help from several experienced conrunners.


I hope you’ll listen to the concerns and complaints of the community and take steps to try to make World Fantasy Con a better experience for everyone.


For the first time in 13 years, I intend to do National Novel Writing Month. (Which basically means writing at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.)

My NaNo profile is here.

I’ve got a new project more than halfway outlined. My goal is to finish at least a first draft by the end of the month.

I know people have a whole range of opinions about NaNoWriMo, but for me? Well, let me put it this way. The first time I did a novel dare was in November of 2000. I wrote the entire first draft of a book called Goblin Quest.

I did another round in 2002, but that book ended up getting trunked. And as the family grew and the day job picked up, my writing process and habits changed, and I stopped doing NaNo and other writing dares.

But now the day job has been slashed back to 10 hours/week, and I’ve got a project I really want to do. I’d love to get this drafted before I change gears and start in on Project Bob. Wish me luck!

Boycotts and “Ironic” Racism

So a handful of trolls decided to start a Boycott Star Wars VII hashtag on Twitter, claiming that the movie erases white male heroes and promotes white genocide and whatever. Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig talks about it a bit here. The Mary Sue weighs in here. There’s been plenty of mockery, as well as folks pointing out some of the obvious irony. (Y’all know the most iconic figure in the franchise was voiced by a black man, right?)

There’s also folks pointing out that this was nothing but trolls begging for attention, and that the internet fell for it. Ah, internet. So gullible!

Nelson - Ha ha!

I read some of the 4chan board so you don’t have to. I can’t read minds, but yeah, there’s a good chance folks were stirring shit for attention and LOLs. But here’s the thing. You know Clarke’s Law? The one that says any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? Well…

Any sufficiently hateful trolling is indistinguishable from bigotry.

The same folks crowing about how they suckered those stupid SJWs into reacting are also going on about how the black protagonist in The Force Awakens looks like a gorilla, how they can’t reshoot the film just because the protagonist is a n****r, and worse. Are these people trying to be ironically racist, or are they just bigoted assholes?

As it turns out, I don’t actually give a shit. Whether they truly believe a more diverse cast in Star Wars = promoting white genocide, that’s the message they’ve chosen to spread, and whatever the original intent, that message has attracted others. It’s become a magnet for spreading racism and antisemitism and hate.

If you punch me in the face, do you think I care whether or not you were doing it “ironically”?

If you truly believe that casting a black man and a white woman as leads in a Star Wars movie should be equated to genocide, you’re a racist asshole. But if you believe stirring up talk of boycotting Star Wars because they cast a black man and a white woman is a good way to get attention? You’re also a racist asshole.

Stormtrooper: middle fingers

Go ahead, please boycott the new Star Wars movie. I find I enjoy my movies more when there are fewer whiny, bigoted assholes in the theater. Better boycott Star Trek as well. I mean, you wouldn’t want to catch any of those icky “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” cooties. Boycott Marvel, where they’ve introduced a black Captain America and a black/Latino Spider-Man and an Asian-American Hulk. Boycott Legend of Korra and their non-white, non-straight heroines. Boycott video games for including transgender characters and nonwhite characters and more. As the push for diversity and inclusion continues to grow, you might want to boycott the whole damn field of science fiction and fantasy.

So either grow the hell up and stop fighting a losing battle to build a wall around the genre, or else boycott yourself right out of fandom, and let the rest of us enjoy a community with a few less bigoted assholes.

You can even boycott “ironically,” if that’s what it takes to get you to leave.

ICON Report

I’m back from toastmastering in ICON 40 in Iowa.

Shut up, spellcheck. Toastmastering is totally a word!

Anyway, it was a fabulous weekend, as always. The concom and the rest of the volunteers did an excellent job. My thanks, as always, to everyone who spent the past year working to make this happen. My only real complaint was that United cancelled my flight back home, meaning I ended up having to spend a half hour on the phone and then leave the con earlier on Sunday than I intended. My apologies for missing my last panel and closing ceremonies.

I took a bunch of pictures, because that’s what I do. Those went up on Facebook yesterday, and Flickr today.

Things started with a group booksigning event at the Cedar Rapids Barnes & Noble. That’s one brave bookstore, willingly taking so many feral authors into their midst, but it went well, and they now have plenty of signed Jim C. Hines books! Plus some books from some other author types, if you’re not into that Hines fellow’s stuff.

The next day, a group of us took a morning field trip to Riverside, Iowa, which is famous for being the future birthplace of one James Tiberius Kirk. As soon as we got there, a guy on the street looked at us and said, “The place you’re looking for is up one block and to the right.”

Marker for James T. Kirk's future birthplace.

Photo by Dennis Lynch.

There was also a little Star Trek and Riverside History museum, which included a woodcut statue of Captain Kirk, lots of autographed photos, costumes and models, and a collection of Trek tie-in novels. (They opened up that display so Joe Haldeman could autograph his.)

Then it was back to the hotel for Dreamcon (an afternoon workshop with some local high school students), panels, and opening ceremonies. I had notes for how I wanted to introduce each of our guests of honor. For Ann Leckie, I would talk about her work and all of the awards she’d won, and then mention that her latest book, Ancillary Mercy, had just come out. I planned to joke that this one hadn’t earned any honors yet, but hey, the weekend was still young!

Well, before we could even get to opening ceremonies, the news broke that Ann and her book had made the NYT Bestseller list! Geez, Ann. Could you at least let me get through my introduction first? (Also, congratulations again!!!)

Terri LeBlanc and Ann Leckie

Terri LeBlanc (Left) and NYT Bestselling author Ann Leckie (Right), each holding a can of refreshing Fiction Wine.

Opening ceremonies also saw the tribble incident, wherein we dumped a crate full of tribbles onto tribble-master David Gerrold…who then proceeded to tuck one into the waist of my pants. Ann dubbed it the Trouser Tribble. TT came home with me and now enjoys a place of honor on the shelf of trophies and memorabilia. (It also took a brief detour on the TARDIS.)

David Gerrold and Jim Hines

David Gerrold, me, and the infamous Trouser Tribble.

The rest of the weekend is a blur. I got to chat a bit with artist guest Sarah Clemens, though I sadly wasn’t able to make it to her theremin demonstration. I photographed several of costuming guest Kalli McCandless‘ awesome costumes. I caught up with lots of wonderful people, sat in a Delorean, ate too much food, and soon found myself wondering how the heck it could be Sunday afternoon already.

One of the most awesome moments was seeing Pamela Orth Webster show up at my reading, cosplaying as Danielle from The Stepsister Scheme. It was amazing and perfect and made my whole weekend!

Pamela Orth Webster and Jim Hines

Pamela Orth Webster as Danielle (Cinderella), complete with awesome glass sword. (And also me on the right.)

Special shoutout to Terri LeBlanc, who was the liaison from heaven, making sure I had food and getting me wherever I needed to go.

Feel free to check out Flickr for the rest of the pictures. As for me, I’m still in recovery mode, trying to readjust to the real world after a great weekend. All I know is that I’m very much looking forward to ICON 41 next year. As toastmaster, I’ll get to introduce Seanan McGuire. That should be entertaining :-)

ICON Schedule

Tomorrow I fly out to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I once again have the honor of being Toastmaster for ICON. That means I get to introduce and interview our guests of honor, including David Gerrold, Sarah Clemens, Ann Leckie, Kalli McCandless, and honorary ICON parents Joe and Gay Haldeman. It’s a pretty sweet gig :-)

If you’ll be in the area and able to attend, here’s where to find me. Or how to avoid me, if you prefer. Programming information is also available on the ICON website.



  • 1 – 3:40 p.m. DreamCon Writers Workshop.
  • 6 – 7 p.m. Genre Rules for Book Covers.
  • 7 – 8 p.m. Opening Ceremonies.
  • 9 – 10 p.m. Harassment in Fandom and Life.


  • 10 – 11 a.m. Author Meet & Greet.
  • Noon – 1 p.m. Human Rights and the influence of Science Fiction/Fantasy.
  • 2 – 3 p.m. Author Reading and Q&A: Jim C. Hines.
  • 3 – 4 p.m. Blogging Roundtable.
  • 4 – 5 p.m. Guests of Honor Interviews.


  • 8:45 – 9:45 a.m. Benefactor Brunch.
  • 10 – 11 a.m. Media Tie-in Writing.
  • 11 a.m. – Noon. Writing and Worldbuilding.
  • 1 – 2 p.m. When are you a Full Time Writer?
  • 3 – 4 p.m. Closing Ceremonies. (Assuming my flight schedule permits.)

Looking forward to seeing people and having a fun — and very busy — weekend!

Balancing Writing and Parenting

I’ve been asked on multiple occasions how to balance writing and family, and I’ve given a number of answers. “One day at a time.” “Prioritize and organize and schedule.” “Hell if I know!”

When you get down to it, the most honest answer I could give based on my life and experiences is, you can’t. Balance is a lie. An illusion that taunts us with its song. It’s freaking Shangri-La.

As a father, balance suggests to me a mystical state of equilibrium where I’m giving my children all of the time and attention they want and need, while at the same time devoting enough time to my writing and career. The trouble is, there’s no such thing as “enough.” There’s always more I could be doing with or for my kids, whether it’s quizzing my son on his multiplication tables or taking my teenage daughter out to start showing her how to drive, or just sitting down to play a three-way brawl on the Wii.

Then there’s the writing. I’ve got three short stories and three novels on my To Write list at this particular moment. Then there are the blog posts, the emails I’m chronically late in responding to, conventions I’d love to attend, anthologies I’d like to contribute to, at least one anthology I’d love to edit, and so much more.

The sad truth is that no matter what I do, I’ll never have enough time to write everything I want to. I’ll never have enough time for my children.

I quit my full-time day job a month and a half ago, and it’s helped some. I’m finding my writing groove and increasing my wordcount. I’ve also been able to do things like walk down to meet my son at the bus stop and pick up my daughter after school. On the other hand, I’m now the one who gets the phone call when something happens at school. I get the text messages when someone misses the bus. When the puppy horks up a big clump of half-digested grass — well, you get the idea. There are more interruptions and less stability and predictability in my day than I had before.

Just now, in the middle of writing this post, my son interrupted me to share some of his thoughts on pigs. It’s frustrating, because writing productivity is all about momentum. And it’s awesome, because I love him, and he has creative, often surreal thoughts about things.

Sometimes I resent the writing for taking time away from my kids. And yes, sometimes I resent my kids for taking time away from my writing. And I feel guilty about all of it.

Writing isn’t unique in this. I watched my coworkers struggling to find good day care for their kids, and I listened to their struggles to balance the need for a career with their role as a parent. But it never seemed quite the same. Maybe because writing still doesn’t feel like a legitimate career. I mean, we all recognize the need to work and support the family, but we don’t tend to recognize writing as real work.

I’m relatively successful as a writer, and it’s my primary source of income to help support my family. It still feels harder to justify spending hours focusing on the writing than it did spending hours sitting in a cubicle. Both take time away from my family and kids, but one is a “real” job. The other feels like a luxury. It feels selfish. This is something I want to do.

The guilt was exponentially worse when I was struggling to break in. When I couldn’t point to advances and royalty checks to justify the time spent in fictional worlds, away from my wife and children.

Part of the quest for healthy balance means getting that guilt under control. As parents, we can’t devote 100% of our time and energy to our children. Sometimes it feels like that’s what we’re supposed to to, but it’s not healthy for anyone. We need time to take care of ourselves, and as they grow up, kids need time to become their own people. It’s okay to take time to focus on writing. And it’s okay to step away from the computer to spend time with my family.

The Quest for Balance has no end point. No Big Boss you can defeat. It’s a daily struggle, and it changes from day to day. Do I have a deadline coming up? Did my son have a rough day at school? Is there a writing project I’m super-passionate about? How long has it been since I got to do something fun with my daughter? Is my email at critical mass? Is my son giving me puppy-dog eyes and asking me to play Mario with him?

How do you balance being a writer with being a parent? You keep trying. You accept that you’re never going to get it perfect. You listen to your kid(s), your editor, your partner(s) if you have them. You listen to yourself. You communicate. Sometimes I have to say no, I can’t play Mario until after dinner. When I talk to my editor and agent about deadlines, I talk about and factor in not only the time I need to write the book, but the time I need to spend with my family.

Balance is a process. Learn to set boundaries. Expect disruption.

In my case, I keep reminding myself that writing is my career, and damn right it’s legitimate. I remind myself that taking time to do something I love isn’t necessarily selfish or awful. I also try to recognize that spending too much time on myself can be neglectful, and I try to monitor that from day to day.

I love my children. I love writing. And it’s okay to love both.

Other posts from the Parenting and Writing/Editing Blog Tour.