February Word Challenge

A good number of years ago, I challenged myself to write a scene every day for a month. I think I chose November because I wanted to do this challenge instead of NaNoWriMo for that year. This was also on another blog which is now defunct and long gone. I’m not even sure there’s an archive of the blog anywhere…. I kind of wish there was, but oh well.

This particular challenge is based on a daily writing exercise my high school English teacher had us do in our junior year. I loved the writing exercises, and it really helped me work through some serious emotional things going on in my life at the time.

The challenge goes like this:

  1. Pick a random word from the dictionary (I have a Perl script snagging 5 random words from the dictionary for me, and I’m picking one of those.)
  2. Free associate words (or very short phrases) based on that word for three minutes.
  3. Pick one of those words (or phrases) or the original word and write something creative based on this for five minutes.
  4. The whole exercise, including transition and thinking time should take no more than ten minutes.

I’ll be posting my five “seed words” and bolding the one I choose. Then I’ll free associate here in the blog post. Then I’ll bold the one of those words/phrases I choose. Then there will be a scene, character, setting, something that I write based on the chose word. It’s going to be rough draft and free-form, but it’s also lots of fun.

I’ll do my best to land one post like this per day for the month of February. We’ll see how it goes!

PS: If you want to join me in this fun experience, please do so! Drop me a link to your blog, and I’ll compile a list of participants and publish the list with links!

2016 Recap and 2017 Goals

Here goes!

2016 Recap

What a year. I’m keeping this about me (my blog, after all), not politics, celebrity losses, crazy out in the world, or anything else. Just the highlights, though. I’m sure I’m leaving out some stuff here, but I’m just hitting the high points here….

January: Started writing a short story a week. I planned out and briefly outlined all 52 of them. I wrote 10 of them. I was behind pace by about 5 stories when April hit and disrupted these plans.

April: Had a great Pikes Peak Writers Conference! Landed a contract from Strigidae Publishing for the first novel I ever wrote, Warmaiden. This was the disruption to my short story plans. I had to focus on doing some polishing on the novel.

August: Attended WorldCon for the second time. Had a HUGE blast! Received (and signed) a contract from WordFire Press for my first urban fantasy novel, Griffin’s Feather.

September: Strigidae Publishing closed down and orphaned my fantasy novel (trilogy, actually). Such is life. I completely understand and agree with the reasons behind the press shutting down. I had a huge outpouring of support and encouragement. I queried a few agents (at suggestion of some friends). One never answered. The other quickly asked for a full, but dropped a rejection my way in December. I also sent it to an editor friend of mine at a good-sized press. He requested it. Who am I to say no? I still haven’t heard from him. Maybe I need to ping him about it….

October: MileHi Con! I had a great time at the con (as I usually do) and got to make a few new friends, see some old friends, and generally hang out with my fellow geeks and writerly types.

November: Started edits on Griffin’s Feather with Manny Frishberg. Look at my past post about how tweaked out and nervous I was about this process. Wow.

December: Finished edits on Griffin’s Feather (two rounds) and Manny is sending on up the chain for production and publication! Look at my past post about how well things went with this whole process. I was also forced to take a week of PTO from the Day Job. I spent this time productively. I went through about 30 items on my to do list. There are still 4 things on my list, some of them fun as rewards for doing the other things. One of the major things on the list was learning InDesign and moving my homebrew role playing game layout from Word to InDesign. This was completed a day into January, but it’s done. (More on this later in the goals.)

2017 Goals

I’m going to set some goals for 2017 just like I did for 2016. Nothing as highly ambitious as “one short story a week,” but I’m still setting the bar high… like I usually do.

  • Edit, expand, and improve Viper’s Bane. The first and second drafts are done, but the novel is still a bit short and needs some extra attention. This is the second novel in my urban fantasy series (called Modern Mythology). I’m doing this in preparation and high hopes that WordFire Press asks for a second book in the series. We’ll see how Griffin’s Feather performs on the market. I’m assuming that’s the key deciding factor on if they ask for another novel from me.
  • Get my homebrew role playing game published. I don’t know if I’ll ship it around to small presses or existing companies. I might just form my own LLC and publish it myself. I’m not 100% decided. There’s still some research to be done before I can run in either direction.
  • Write a Savage Worlds support book. I’m keeping the topic Sooper Sekrit for now. Let me just say that I’ve found a gap in their genre coverage and it’s a fairly large passion of mine. I have a lead on a small game publisher that is interested in it. I haven’t even started in on this project yet, but I do have all of the research materials I need at my fingertips.
  • At least outline and plan book #3 of Modern Mythology. Probably write the first draft.

I think that’s a good set of goals for the year. We’ll see how it goes!

Edits Done!

My most recent (which wasn’t really all that recent) post, I lamented about being nervous about my first experiences getting a novel edited.

I shouldn’t have been.

Everything went great!

There’s an obvious fact that I couldn’t quite conceptualize: A good editor wants me to succeed as much as I do.

… and I had a great editor assigned to me by WordFire Press!

Manny knocked it out of the park and really challenged me to up my game and make my novel so much more than I thought it could be.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a long process (though shorter than I expected) with a couple of rounds of edits. That first round was tons of work that took 6 weeks. (To be honest, it was 5 weeks. I lost a week to the Man Flu.) In that first round (which was mostly developmental edits), Manny pushed me in several areas to improve where I got lazy or weak and cheered me on where I nailed it. It wasn’t all “doom ‘n’ gloom.” He sent me a great deal of praise along with the notes citing where I needed to step up my game.

Because I worked so hard on the first round of edits, the second round went much more smoothly. It took me a whopping eight hours (split almost in half) to go through the track changes in the Word document and accept almost everything. Where I didn’t accept things, I reworked it a bit to where I thought it would satisfy Manny. I could tell we were on the same wavelength and meshed quite well. Where he suggested larger changes, I’d almost smack my head at the obvious nature of the request… and then eagerly make the change.

With the second round of edits done today and sent off, I took a few moments to breathe easy. Unsure of what would come next, I was utterly surprised when Manny emailed me back and said he liked the manuscript enough to send it along to the production team at WordFire.

Woo Hoo!

Now… I’m not sure what’s next or when the book will hit the stands. As I find out more, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. I hope (*fingers crossed*) the book will launch in time for Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April. I didn’t think that was a possibility, but now… maybe. Just maybe.

Now I’m take a brief break (like a few hours to play some video games) before I load up book #2 in the series and see what form of edits I need to put into it to make it better.

Nervous About Edits

Antique pen and inkwell

I received an email from my publisher, WordFire Press, on October 25th asking for the “current final manuscript” of Griffin’s Feather. They’d assigned an editor to the project, and were ready to move forward with the publishing process.

Instead of being elated or excited, my main emotion was nerves. Loads of nerves. So serious, I grabbed my office trash can in case I needed to puke. Even though the book had already been acquired and signed for, I had the following thoughts rampaging through my psyche:

What if it’s not good enough?

What if the editor hates?

What if the editor hates me?

Do I have time for another edit pass on my own?

What will the world think of me when this worthless drivel hits the stands?

What if someone thinks I faked my way through writing the novel?

What will my friends think?

What will my family think?

AAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

… Yeah… A serious amount of impostor syndrome hit me full in the face.

It shouldn’t have, but that was my reaction.

I stepped away from the keyboard for about half an hour to get a little distance and let me process things. I’ve been through the editorial process before, but only on shorter works and non-fiction. I’ve been in a critique group for over a decade. I know how to “take a hit” and keep on truckin’. I know how to receive feedback and input and improve my work. I know all of this. I rarely feel this. Thus the pounce by the impostor demon. He snuck up on me, rolled a natural 20, and stabbed me square between the shoulder blades.

Only by getting some distance did my nerves calm down enough for me to send off the manuscript to WordFire.

The nervousness came and went and mostly settled down. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the vision of my editor standing over me with a bloody quill in his hand stabbing down at me. I’m not saying my editor is a bloody-splattered, quill-wielding serial killer (how’s that for a character idea?), but that’s the impression my subconscious built for me.

Until yesterday, I’d actually had no interaction with my editor. He lives in the Seattle area. I’m in Colorado. It’s kind of hard to sit down over coffee to talk about the novel. Sure, there’s Skype, but it’s a bit early for that to fire up for us.

Things changed for me and my weak, splintered, emotional brain when I received an email from the editor yesterday. He’s been in the biz since 1976. That tells me he’s experienced and manged to stick through things for decades. A total asshole or novel-shredder rarely lasts that long. At least, that’s what I’m reading into it.

He also told me that he’s written quite a few short stories and has a novel under consideration at a Big Five publisher. This tells me that he gets writers. That helped put me at ease.

Here’s a quote from his email, “I always keep in mind that this is your story, and it’s your name on the cover.” You have absolutely no idea how great this made me feel. I’ve had an “editor” (loosely using that term) in a critique group before, and that “editor” made demands, requirements, and “must do actions” against me and my novel. Perhaps that’s where my nerves come from because I had a critique partner put on the “editor hat” and tear me up rather than work with me to help the words become better.

He closed out his email to me with, “I’m looking forward to hearing back and to working with you to make “Griffin’s Feather” shine (and sell).” The phrase “working with you” (my emphasis) damn near made me cry from the release of emotional pressure I had built up for myself. Know that I have a partner (and a well experienced one!) standing next to me to guide me through things makes me happy enough to almost try and do a back flip…. almost.

I know this has been a long and rambly affair of a blog post. I’m trying to come up with a pithy theme or a “you can do it!” message for those out there.

I guess I’ll close by saying there are people out there who on your side even when you don’t know it.

…. I’m also really looking forward to jumping into the nitty-gritty work and seeing what ideas my editor has for me to improve my work.

MileHiCon 48

mhc48This is a bit last minute, but I’m finally stealing the time from something else to invite you to come out to MileHiCon 48.

I’ll be there.

Come say hi!

Here’s my schedule:

Friday

9 PM: Writer Meetup at the Bar

Pikes Peak Writers volunteers will be there (with deelie-boppers on!) to host a get-together for all writerly types. It’ll be just outside the bar area on the second floor. Come mingle! Come drink (if you want to, not required)! Come chat! We’re all nice folks and won’t bite.

Saturday

4 PM: Brewing/Vintning Round Table

Come join me and four others as we sit around in a quiet room and talk the ups, downs, messes, successes, and wonders of homebrewing your own beer and wine.

Sunday

11 AM: Open Mic

Instead of specific author readings this year, we’re doing an Open Mic session for 90 minutes. Come read a bit (about 5 minutes worth, so we can get to everyone) from your book, poetry, short story, flash fiction, or some other form of writing. Try to keep it PG-13 if you can.

Misc

When I’m not at one of the above things, you can either find me in the general area of the con, in a panel, or at the Pikes Peak Writers table selling tickets to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference at an early-bird rate!

RIP Strigidae Publishing

Strigidae Publishing Logo
Strigidae Publishing Logo

I announced my first novel-length publication contract back in April of this year. The contract was with Strigidae Publishing, and I’m sad to say that this is their last day of being in business.

Yeah.

They’re closing their doors.

It’s because of some health problems with one of the lead folks. I know the details. For his privacy, I won’t go into the details here. I will say that it’s the right decision. The folks over at Strigidae are good friends of mine, and I want the best for them and their health.

In a word about this turn of events: sadness.

I’m not angry or upset or vehemently outraged at losing out on a chance to get my novel published.

I’m, quite simply, sad. I think I’m more morose for Strigidae than I am about my publishing prospects. This is because I know the love of the written word that press holds (and will hold until their last breath… perhaps beyond). I know that stepping away from their publishing house was one of the hardest things they’ve had to do, and I wish them all the best.

For me and my novel?

Well, when I heard the news a week or three ago, I posted about it on Facebook. The outpouring of support, offers of assistance, and general friendship warmed my heart.

Beyond the general support and “being there with me” posts, the following has happened thus far:

  • A good friend of mine is an editor at a mid-sized press. He immediately reached out to me and asked to see the novel. Of course, I sent it his way as soon as the rights reversion letter hit my inbox.
  • Two friends of mine jumped to help and told me to query their agents (with a name drop) in case something opened up in that vein. I’ve sent the queries, and one of them has already resulted in a full manuscript request.
  • One friend offered to do a book cover for me if I decide to go the self-publishing route. I’ll definitely keep her in mind if I go that route. I’ve seen quite a bit of her layout and graphics work. It’s top notch!
  • Another friend sent me her list of services she provides for folks traveling the self-pub road. I checked things out, and it gave me a concrete list of things I have to consider if I self-pub… most of which I can do on my own or with minor help.
  • Lastly, yet another friend, dropped me a link to his small press and an invite to submit. I checked it out. I like their sample contract, and I’m keeping the offer in my back pocket for now. I’m going to see if the agent and/or editor thing works out from the above offers.

As you can tell, the writing community I’ve immersed myself in is packed (I mean, packed) full of people willing to jump in the deep end and help out a fellow author who might be flailing in the deep end. This is my tribe, and we stand strong together for each other no matter what happens.

The selfless offers of help and the loud and strong voices of support in these trying times are what keep me going. I’m sometimes blind to it and get down on myself for not having accomplished more in the 10+ years I’ve been serioiusly working at becoming an author.

If someone out there sees me with blinders on and focusing on the negative, slap me hard enough to knock the blinders off.

This experience has certainly done that.

To my friends at Strigidae Publishing. May your business merely be on a lengthy hiatus for now, but if it never rises from the ashes, I want it to be known that I deeply cherish everything you’ve done for me during the decade we’ve known each other.

Here’s to many more decades down the road!

Overdue WorldCon Report and Publishing Announcement

MidAmeriCon IISo…. WorldCon was over three weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to this. Most things are a hazy memory at this point, so this’ll probably be the world’s shortest WorldCon wrap-up report.

The drive from Colorado to Kansas City was long and interesting. We got a little lost at one point (there is a Hays, KS, and a Hayes, KS. Make sure you know the difference!). Not a big deal. It only added 45-ish minutes to the overall drive. Then again, I was a passenger all the way there and back, so I didn’t worry too much about the drive time. (PS: A huge thanks to Patrick for driving all the way there and back!)

Once there, we got settled in and prepped for several days of con and BarCon and festivities and networking and panels and all sorts of great things.

I got to run into old friends, make some new friends, network with some folks (old and new), and just have a great time. The panels I went to were really good (except for one, more on that later). The Hugos were surprisingly pleasant to attend even though I really didn’t want to go. I’d been full up on my people quota and wanted some downtime. Shannon and MB talked me into coming down from my hotel room and heading off to the Hugos with them.

I had some great meals with great friends. I’d love to try to list everyone off here, but I know I’d forget someone possibly offend them. To avoid accidental offense, I’m just going to say it was great breaking bread with everyone around the various tables of the con.

BarCon was BarCon. It went as I expected (except for one thing, more on that later). Meet ‘n’ greets with new friends, old friends, and just friends in general. It was a great time being a social butterfly and floating around with a drink in my hand. So many faces and names flash by in my memories. Many of the names I remember. Some I don’t. After all, it’s been three weeks. I had a great time chatting with everyone I ran into. Again, no names to dodge that “offense bullet.” If you ran into me and chatted, just know that I had a great time for the either brief moments we were together or the longer times we had sitting down.

My main disappointment was that I didn’t get a chance to run into Neil Clarke or Kate Baker. They were high on my list of folks to track down and hang out with, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Ah well. Such is life at a large con.

A few things stood out in my memories:

Hanging out with Teri and Dave Robison on repeated occasions made for wonderful conversations and productive idea generation on all sides of the conversation. Also, the true compassion and depth of love Dave shows for everyone around him makes me proud to call him a true friend.

Mary Robinette Kowal broke my brain. Innocently on her part, but it still happened. Here’s what happened. I was talking with Alasdair Stuart (host of PseudoPod) and Marguerite Kenner (hostess of Cast of Wonders) and was tracking the very cool conversation well despite being used to hearing both voices come out of my car stereo. Then Mary Robinette started speaking to someone behind me, and I didn’t know she was there. It shutdown my brain. Hard. The cognitive dissonance of three podcast voices (Mary Robinette is part of the Writing Excuses team) in my brain and only two being part of my active conversation just broke me. I recovered quickly enough, but man… What a mental feat that was!

The drive home was fast. Then again, I was snoozing on and off for part (most?) of it, so that helps. 🙂

Ok. Now that I’ve given over all thoughts and some specifics, there are two things I earmarked as “more on that later.”

There was a panel (forget the topic now) I’d been looking forward to. The moderator arrived right as the panel was supposed to start. She proceeded to allow the panelists to introduce themselves (which is normal and expected), and then she took the panel in a sideways direction away from the description of the topic and refused to allow the other panelists to speak. It wasn’t a diatribe or screed or soap-box speech. She decided she was the subject matter expert on the off-base topic, and just went with it. She also… talked… really… really… slow… and… had… to… stop… every… three… or… four… words… to… catch… her… breath. After about 8 minutes of this, I got up and left. I couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if the actual panelists had a chance to speak or not. If you are moderating a session at a con, it should be an absolute requirement for you to go read this post by Chuck Wendig and scroll down to #5 on the list!

WordFire Press Contract HeaderNow for the Big News of WorldCon (for me, at least). At the Friday night BarCon, Kevin J. Anderson approached me about a book that I’d submitted to his publishing house (WordFire Press) shortly after last year’s WorldCon. He gave me a verbal offer of publication for one of my novels on the spot. Wow! I was hoping something like that would happen, but I rarely set myself up to expect something like that will happen. This made my WorldCon even more special than it already was. I loved hearing the words from KJA, “We’d like to publish your book.” I’m not sure who was smiling more, me or him. What made the deal even sweeter was the fact that Dave Butler (the WordFire Press acquisitions editor) made a huge deal about it all weekend. As a matter of fact, the entire WordPress team made me feel at home, welcome, and special throughout the con. It really made me feel like I’d finally gotten to the next level with my writing. Here’s to a long and happy relationship between WordFire Press and myself! *clinks glasses*

Mental Disorders in the Creative Mind

There have been a great number of studies in the creative mind and how it relates to mood instability, erratic behavior, and general mental disorders. This is not such a study. Everything here is anecdotal from a personal standpoint, not scientific. Keep that in mind as you peruse my words. Also, nothing here is meant to be used as medical advice. It’s all about my personal journeys, how they relate to my writing, and how you can also be a creative person despite the hand dealt to you.

Even though I said this wasn’t going to be a scientific study, I need to get some facts out of the way. I’ve been professionally diagnosed with a handful of mental disorders. I’m going to cover each one individually, describe how they affect my life, and how I continually work to do my best writing despite the negative (and sometimes positive) impacts on my mental and emotional health.

I wanted to write this for everyone else out there that may be in the same (or similar) boat as I am. If I’m able to hold down three jobs (Day Job, Writing Job, and Non-Profit Job) and be successful at all of them, I feel you can do it as well. I hope you find my words encouraging and informative, but they are no replacement for qualified, professional help. If you feel you have a mental issue that you can’t deal with on your own, I urge you to contact your doctor and talk it over with them.

I did. I’m glad I did.

Bipolar

bipolarThe most impactful mental disorder of mine is that I’m type II bipolar. I also cycle “fast” as compared to others with bipolar disorder. If you’re not sure what bipolar is, I’ll explain in brief. Everyone goes through mental and emotional “ups” and “downs.” It’s just natural. People with bipolar disorder will have higher “ups” and lower “downs” than the normal curve. Some of them, like me, will move between days of great elation and days of crippling depression in a very fast manner.

My typical full cycle (number of days between two peaks) is roughly a week. This means that on Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be a great mood. Wednesday and Thursday will be fairly normal followed by a depressed Friday and Saturday. A return to normal on Sunday will follow and I’ll cycle back into manic behavior sometime on Monday. It’s not a precise science, and I’ll even spend a week “on high” or a week “down low.” It’s not entirely predictable, so I can’t schedule my life around it. I just have to deal with what comes, when it comes.

This affects my life, and my writing, by interrupting those high energy times where I produce more than the average person. The interruptions come in the form of days where I barely want to get out of bed, let alone put on pants, go to the Day Job, struggle to put 100 words down on paper, or even eat more than a light snack. When deadlines in the Day Job or the Writing Job come about, my boss/editor doesn’t care much that I don’t want to get out of bed. What they care about is that I get them the software or story edits they’re waiting for.

Part of my continual struggle with the rapidly changing moods is a daily medication that keeps my wildly swinging curves of up/down at a more reasonable level. Even with the medication, my highs are a tad above regular areas, and my lows are still a good amount lower than the lows. Unfortunately, the medication doesn’t do much for the speed at which I cycle through moods, but I have to deal with that on my own.

The way I deal with this is that when I feel a high hit me, I do as much (or more sometimes) as humanly possible to be productive. This includes late nights, early mornings, skipped meals (more on that later), and throwing myself whole hog into the project at hand. This helps me get ahead on projects and stories, so that when depression hits me hard, I have a little more leeway in how much behind I can get during those days.

Hyperfocus

hyperfocusAnother mental disorder of mine is hyperfocus. Basically, it’s the opposite of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). My ability to hyperfocus allows me to sit down, crank on a project (whether software for the Day Job or prose for the Writing Job), and delve so deep into that project that I won’t come up for air for hours, sometimes days, later. The longest stint that I’ve hyperfocused on a project was 52 hours straight. No sleep. Little food. Some water. Few bathroom breaks.

This might sound like a blessing to some of my fellow writers out there (especially around deadline time). However, my ability to hyperfocus is rarely within my control. I can’t trigger it or turn it on. It just happens. I also can’t turn it off without an outside force exerting itself upon me, and that outside force (usually in the form of my wife these days) must be persistent and annoying to snap me out of my hyperfocus.

The downside is that this is a dangerous thing for my physical body. I’m sure you’ve heard of the people keeling over dead after a two, three, or four day binge gamefest on some online game. I’ve come close to that a few times. One of the downsides of my bipolar medicine is that it causes low blood sugar. If I don’t eat on a fairly regular schedule, my blood sugar crashes, and I have a hard time thinking, walking, speaking, or just being a coherent human being. This means driving to the nearest fast food joint on my Day Job lunch break is out of the question. Good thing we have vending machines on site.

I’ve yet to find a good way to deal with this, even though I’ve been this way my whole life. One of my mom’s favorite things to say to me was, “You have a one-track mind.” If we’d only known the truth of that statement when I was a child… I’ve tried the software and alarms and alerts and such that trigger every so often to remind you to get up from the seat and walk around. I’ve tried alarms to tell me when to go eat. None of it works for me because I can click the “dismiss” button and get back to the thing I’m focused on. Like I said, the interruption to my hyperfocus must be persistent and unyielding for it to snap me back into reality.

Tourette Syndrome

touretteIf having bipolar and hyperfocus weren’t enough, I also have to fight with Tourette syndrome. Like with bipolar, there are nuanced flavors of the disorder. My particular flavor of Tourette syndrome manifests three different ways, and I’ve managed to get one of them under control, one of them as a rare thing, and the third runs wild in my system.

The one that I now have (mostly) under control is the fact that I grunt like an animal when stressed out. I’m not talking the “job interview” level of stress. My Tourette syndrome triggers when going through the loss of a close loved one, making a massive, live-changing decision, or something similar. I was almost expelled from sixth grade for “intentional disruption” of the class with my grunting. The ridicule was massive, and I knew that it was time to bring into control the part of me that grunted. It took several months of intense focus and meditation, but I was able to eventually bring the vocal outbursts under control.

The second symptom I have is that I used to constantly blow on my hands like you would after touching something hot. This manifested after I brought my grunting under control, and it still persists to this day. However, I’m able to keep it under wraps to the point that I only do it a few times a day instead of constantly like I did as a pre-teen and teenager.

Lastly, I have tics that ripple through my body like a wave. These usually happen in my jaw, elbows and knees. Not really places that people study or watch (other than the jaw), so I can let those tics run free without needing to bring them under control. When someone does notice, they think I’m nervous or restless.

None of these impact my writing directly, but they do affect how I have to handle myself in social situations. While I’m not in the point in my writing career where readings, signings, and public presentations are regular activities, I do have to appear in public as president of Pikes Peak Writers, and I give the occasional presentation to Pikes Peak Writers attendees.

While doing these public appearances, I tend to “twitch out” beforehand to get it all out of my system for a good thirty to forty minutes before the tics start to creep back in. I got the idea from a story about a brain surgeon with tremors in his hands from Tourette syndrome. Yeah. You read that right. Brain surgeon. Hand tremors. Well, he would meditate and induce a near seizure in his arms and hands. This would calm his system down to the point where he could operate normally for several hours.

Closure

creative_mind2As you can tell, there are a variety of things getting in my way of creative and professional work, but I still manage to get things done. I’ve had many people comment on the quality and quantity of my work over the years, so I know I’m doing something right despite everything that is “off” about how my brain works. I’ve had many ask me my secrets, and I’ve always had a hard time putting my “secrets” into words until now.

The last paragraph isn’t there for me to brag.

It’s there to show you that no matter what you have going on in your life, your brain, your body, or your society, you can create as well. I don’t care if you’re writing prose, crafting software, painting oils on canvas, developing poetry, taking photos, hammering out a sculpture, or any other creative venture.

You can do it.

I know you can.

Go create because of who you are, not despite of what you are not.

Note: This post first appeared as part of SF Signal’s “Special Needs in a Strange World” series curated by Sarah Chorn. With the closure of SF Signal, I received permission to repost this here for posterity. Thanks to John DeNardo and Sarah Chorn for allowing me to let these words escape into the public eye.

Novel Publication Contract for Warmaiden

strigidae_contract_header_photoWow. Where to start?

Not from the beginning. That takes too long.

This weekend was the 24th Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It went fantastic! I met loads of cool people. I made oodles of new friends. I attended quite a few excellent workshops. I met with editors, agents, authors, friends (new and old), and hung out with my tribe. It really and truly can’t get much better than that. I can’t wait to see what Laura, MB, Patrick, and Charise have in store for the 25th year!

While at the conference, a good friend of mine, Kevin Ikenberry talked to me about a contract I’d turned down in the past. Strigidae Publishing had approached me last year (also at Pikes Peak Writers Conference) about publishing Warmaiden. I’m going to be brutally honest here: I wasn’t a fan of the contract. The financial terms were great, but there were various clauses in there that made me feel a uneasy about the deal. This happens sometimes. I know Hank and Hollie very well, and we’re really good friends. However, this was a contract. This was business.

I let them know what my concerns were, and turned them down. Again, this was all very professional and extremely friendly. There were no hard feelings on either side.

Jump from last year to this year, and I was talking with Kevin about it. He told me that they’d made adjustments to their contract based off of my feedback and input from others. The clause that gave me the biggest issues had been heavily revised. Based off of what Kevin told me and my friendship with Hank & Hollie, I agreed to take another gander at the contract.

Sure enough, everything that led to me to turn them down a year ago had been resolved, except for one thing. I pointed out that one thing, and Hank looked closer. He admitted he’d intended to fix the one thing and had missed it. He said he’d fix up that one missing clause, and shoot me a revised contract the next day.

He was good to his word and sent over the contract around noon on Sunday. I was still eyeball deep (or deeper) in helping around PPWC. I noted the email arrival later that evening and promptly let Hank know that I’d received it. However, I needed more sleep in my system before I could fully read and evaluate the contract.

The next day, once I was home and (mostly) rested, I printed up the contract and read through it. It made sense. It was clear in its intent in every area. The various pieces I’d pointed out as bothersome had been resolved and cleaned up.

Let me be clear….

I didn’t negotiate changes with them. As a friend, I did the respectful thing in letting them know why I turned down the original contract. I was very clear in what gave me concerns.

They, in turn, respected my opinions and feedback and did the non-ego thing to consider my input. Based on what I told them and what others told them, they did the intelligent thing for their business, their authors, and themselves in revising their contract. I applaud and honor them for taking these steps. Many wouldn’t have done so.

The changes in the contract led to me signing it on Monday evening and giving Hank and Hollie a phone call. We’re going to meet on Saturday to discuss specifics on scheduling and editorial work and cover art (yes, I get input), and such like that.

It’s going to be quite a while before Warmaiden sees the light of day, though. I’m 4-5 books in the queue behind being the next book Hollie works on. If everything goes wonderfully well, we’re probably looking at sometime near the end of this year… maybe the beginning of 2017. I’m perfectly happy with that. I’m wonderfully happy if it takes a little longer than that!

I’ve been floating between disbelief that this is finally happening and crying-like-a-baby elation in this wonderful turn of events. It’s so incredibly wonderful and amazing that my physical, outward enthusiasm has been tempered a wee bit. I’m just afraid it’s not real. I’m afraid that it’s too real and will take me over while I’m here at the Day Job where I have to focus on information security.

In the end, I’m happy with what happened. I was disappointed that I had to turn down my first novel publication contract. However, the results in the end will lead me to being happier with the end result.

Now I guess I have to dust off the second book in the trilogy, Warmistress, and give it a good polish for down the road. Perhaps I have to actually consider finishing up the third book, Warmother, as well.

What Have I Done?

patreon_mediumI’ve had a Patreon account for a while. I’ve been backing a handful of worthy folks and efforts for several months. It’s been very rewarding to know that I’m supporting my fellow artists in chasing the dream.

As many of you know, I’ve been hard at work on writing a short story a week for 2016. Some of these stories are weird enough to be hard to place. For those highly marketable (whatever that means these days) stories, I’m going to have more than I know what to do with. I’ll be flooding publishers with so many stories, it’ll take me years to place them all.

I’ve decided to release some of the stories into the wild via Patreon. In this case, you pay me what you think a short story is worth to you, and when I publish a story, I get paid. If I happened to not write (*gasp!*) or not edit/polish a story for a particular month, then I don’t get paid.

No, I don’t plan on getting rich off of this effort. It’s more of a “test of validation” to see if I can build an audience wanting to see my work, and if I can keep that audience suitably entertained to keep them around as patrons.

If you’re curious about what I’ve written before (to get a taste or sample before you plunk down your hard-earned cash), you can see my Freebies Page or maybe go buy one of the books I’ve been published in.