Category Archives: Networking

Socializing for an Anti-Social Profession

Let’s face it, writers spend a lot of their time alone, lost in the worlds inside their heads. Some of them have even been known to bite when provoked. Getting those words on the page is the only way to get the voices to stop.

But stories are about people, and it’s kind of hard to understand how people work without spending any time with them. So every writer needs to get away from the manuscript once in a while and get out there where the stories are. If they’re lucky they can also find other people who share their interests and might be able to help refine their work into something they can print.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

– Stephen King

Today I’m going to tell you about two of the things in my life that help me get my writing done. Writer’s groups and conventions.

I have been with a writing group for a few years now. We meet on a weekly basis and discuss our work. In the past, we would read our pieces out loud and get critiques from the others. That worked, but there were times when nobody had anything to read, or when only one person had anything prepared, so there was sometimes a bit of guilt or tension in the group.

We are shaking things up a bit now. We’re still going to meet weekly, but we’re only going to offer critiques once a month. The other weeks we will use as a scheduled writing time, with the opportunity to discuss any story problems we are stuck on with the rest of the group. We will also take some time each month to discuss a book that we have read.

I’m not sure about the book discussion, as I already have a discussion group that I go to at my local library once a month. I have enough trouble getting through the books on my own to-read shelf without adding yet another one from someone else’s list. But I’ll give it a try anyway, because at least the books that my writing group discuss will be more closely aligned with the ones I normally read for pleasure. The library book group mostly discusses popular fiction and non-fiction, which I would probably never read on my own.

As for conventions, it is nice to be able to get out and meet new people every once in a while. Conventions give me a chance to get out there and participate in discussions about interesting topics led by interesting people. I also get the chance to meet famous people, like Larry Niven, who has been a favorite author of mine for decades.

This year my convention plans include Odyssey Con, April 12-14, and WisCon, May 24-27, both held in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin. I almost decided to skip Odyssey Con this year, but when they announced that the Guests of Honor included Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne, I just had to go. Alex is also local to the Madison area, and I have met him several times and consider him to be a friend. He is a great guy and his writing is superb. Kevin is the author of the Iron Druid series, which I started reading a couple of years ago and have loved every bit of it, so I am looking forward to meeting this outstanding author.

While at the conventions, I will have a chance to sit in on discussion panels with these two greats, as well as many other writers and fans, and pick their brains about writing, news of the world, and our future on this planet (and possibly others). And there will be lots of other, like-minded people around as well, each with their own opinions and views to share.

I highly recommend that, whatever your situation, you should try to connect with other writers. Either with a writer’s group or a convention. Preferably both. And if you can afford to travel, come and join me in Madison at one of my conventions and introduce yourself. We’ll chat.

I’ve got to go lock myself in a room now and get some writing done. I’m going to write another Alchemist story this week, and I am hoping that I will be able to finish it ahead of schedule again. As usual, I will post another update on Wednesday.

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September 12 – Geek Kon!

As promised, here is a report on the great weekend I had at Geek Kon!

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door of the hotel was the Tardis, and it just got better from there! I arrived early and managed to get through the registration line without too much hassle or delay. I expected people in costumes, but I was surprised at the sheer number of cosplay attendees. It seemed like every other person was dressed up as something. The costumes ranged from steampunk to anime to gaming. There was even a Pac-Man and a person with a Lego head.

The dealer room was focused more on anime than anything else, but there was also some steampunk and fantasy stuff around. And there was only one bookstore that participated. That was the biggest difference between Geek Kon and the other two conventions I attended this year (OddCon and WisCon). While there was a writing track, the attendance at each of the panels was minimal. Most of them had only four or five attendees (including yours truly). Speaking of panels….

My first panel was Creating a Steampunk Persona. I have been mildly intrigued by the steampunk movement and wanted to learn more about it. I got a few ideas, and learned about the local steampunk organization.

Next was Coolest Science Fiction of the 21st Century. Jim Frenkel was the panelist. He is an editor for Tor Books, and I met him earlier this year at both OddCon and WisCon. It was an interesting discussion, and I walked away with a few more books for my To Read list.

Jim was the panelist for the next panel as well. It was simply titled Steampunk, and actually had about 20 people attending. Jim pulled a couple of them from the audience to join him on the panel and talk about their feelings and experience with steampunk. It was interesting, but I had to leave early to go to….

Small/Indy Press Publishing. Monica Valentinelli and Matt McElroy were the panelists. I actually shared a couple of meals with Monica at WisCon, and it was great to see her again. We had a great discussion about the current small press market. I shared my experience with selling my first story to a small press, and got some advice on how I might better handle future sales.

After that I took a break for dinner, grabbing a ham sandwich and candy bar from the concessions booth. The last panel of the night was New Author/New World, and Monica was the sole panelist. That was okay, because there were only six of us in the room. The problem was that she was competing with the warmup of the rock band in the next room, and it was sometimes hard to hear. But she had lots of advice for new writers, and I think that we all had a good time.

Saturday was a lot of fun, and I actually got to sit with fellow local author Alex Bledsoe for several panels. Of course I had to start with a fanboy moment and tell him how much I enjoyed his Eddie LaCrosse books. You should pick them up if you get the chance. They are like a film noir detective in a medieval setting. Really cool!

It started early, with a panel on Creating Enduring Characters. Troy Denning had a lot of good tips on the subject of character creation, and I even took notes!

Following Troy was a panel on eBooks vs. Traditional Publishing. They discussed the trends in the market regarding eBook sales, and Jim Frenkel was there to represent the old school publishers. He told us that even the big boys are moving to ebooks, because the market is growing rapidly and they would be fools to ignore it. They also discussed some of the problems with ebooks, including Digital Rights Management (DRM) and piracy. A lot of information to consider if I decide to self-publish.

After that was a long break. I took the time to get some lunch and have some new pictures taken from a free photographer that was set up next to the cafe. I posted them on my Facebook and Google+ profiles, so feel free to check them out. The overcoat I was wearing belonged to my grandfather, so it is older than I am! It was really warm in most of the rooms, but it was worth it for the pictures.

Following lunch was a session on Writing for Shared Worlds. I went because I thought they might have some advice on working with another author, like for a collaboration. But it was mostly for contracted work for tie-in fiction, like if I was hired to write a Star Wars or Forgotten Realms novel.

After that was a panel on World Building. It was nice to hear some of the things I need to consider when I am working on my stories. It was also nice to hear that it isn’t necessary for me to do all the work before I start writing. Some parts of world building can be done during the creation process.

A Writing Panel followed, where I was able to hear comments and stories from published authors regarding their experiences. I went to a panel on Getting Published in the Gaming World after that, but I left early because it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was hoping that it would be about getting a contract for writing for a gaming magazine or tie-in fiction, but it was actually more about writing adventures and rules systems. So I went to have dinner instead.

After dinner I went to a panel titled Bak Desu Ne! (Being An Idiot In Japan). The plug for the panel was that I would learn what it was like to learn Japanese, live in Japan and then start an indie animation project to teach Japanese. So I was expecting something on how to learn Japanese, but it was more about the experiences of the panelist who had done these things. Even though it wasn’t what I expected, it was still probably the most fun panel of the day.

The last panel I attended Saturday night was Manly Women of Anime, where we discussed some of the women of anime, and how some of them are portrayed as masculine, where it is almost impossible to tell they are women. We also discussed how even the ones with more feminine appearances are given male personality traits. It was interesting, and it made me want to watch more anime.

Sunday I was planning on starting with The Horror and Wonder of NaNoWriMo. My other option was a Writing Workshop, but I didn’t have anything that was ready for critique. I ran into Alex again before it started and he said he was filling in for one of the workshop panelists that had to cancel, so I promised to go. There were four aspiring authors that came to the panel (including me), so we had plenty of time to discuss our work and we still finished early. The piece I shared was the short story that I submitted a couple of weeks ago. They told me that they thought I should change my opening back to the way I had it for the original draft, so now I’m thinking that if it gets rejected I’ll make the change before I send it out again.

After the workshop I went to a panel led by Jim Frenkel titled What is Science Fantasy Anyway? We had a good talk about the topic and named some books and authors that have dabbled in this hybrid genre.

I had an hour for lunch, and then my last panel of the con was Costuming 101. I have to admit that all the people walking around in costumes over the weekend made me feel like I was an outsider because I wasn’t wearing one. It wasn’t so bad on Saturday when I was wearing my mafia outfit, but I had started thinking about what I might be able to do in the future. I learned quite a bit, and got some information about the local costuming group, so who knows? If I can make up my mind what theme or character I want to portray I may be able to put something together for next year.

So that is my weekend in a nutshell. Geek Kon was a lot of fun, and I am already looking forward to going back next year.

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September 8 – Getting Ready for Another Convention

It’s going to be another long and exciting weekend. I’m taking the day off tomorrow and I’ll be attending Geek Kon (www.geekkon.net) here in the beautiful city of Madison. Unfortunately I didn’t learn about it until just this week, so I missed the registration deadline and I’ll have to buy my ticket at the door. But it will be worth it.

There are a lot of panels that I want to attend. Unfortunately there are also quite a few of them that are being held at the same time, so I will have to make some difficult choices. There are also some easy choices. It’s pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to choosing between going to see “FMA Unraveled”, a panel on Full Metal Alchemist, which I know nothing about, and “Life of a Freelancer”, about writing as your day job, with Monica Valentinelli on the panel, a woman I met at WisCon. She is a marketing expert and really impressed me with her advice. I can’t wait to see her again and learn more from the master.

I may even talk my wife into going to the Con with me. At least for Saturday. I may have to get a room at the hotel to convince her, but it will be worth it. She really should get a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Things are moving slowly on the writing front. I’m still working on that short story, and I haven’t been able to get any plotting done for my new series idea either. Hopefully I will be able to steal some inspiration from the other writers at the convention. They’ll never miss it….

So expect a report about my Con experience on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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August 8 – It’s Here! It’s Here!

Today I came home to find a terrific surprise. I received my check and author copy of the Big Book of Bizarro, for the short story I sold (“Losing Control”, on page 392). It’s official. I’m a published author!

OMG. I’m still a bit freaked.

Okay. Deep breaths. Relax. It’s just a book, right? Ommmm….

All right, that didn’t work. I guess I’m just going to have to gush. I guess we’ll start with the acknowledgements. That’s what writers do, right. They thank all the little people who helped make it all happen. And by little people, I mean all the people who are so much cooler than I am that inspired me to be more like them. So where do I start?

I think I’ll start with Zombie Joe. He got me started. Last year he inspired me to finally start writing again. He got me into NaNoWriMo and hooked me up with a lot of local author types. And he kept me writing by providing a sounding board for me to talk about my stories and ideas, and by telling me cool stories about other authors he knows personally, like Jim Butcher, Mark Henry, and Alex Bledsoe. Thanks Joe!

I also want to thank one of my co-contributors to the anthology that my short story is appearing in, Mercy Loomis. She is also a member of my critique group, and gave me vital feedback that helped me make the story good enough to submit. Not only that, but she was the one that told me about the submission call in the first place. And then, if it wasn’t for her I might have backed out of submitting the story. Just before the deadline I started second-guessing myself and my story, thinking that it probably didn’t fit what they wanted. But she told me to submit it anyway, and she was right! And to top it all off, she gave me crucial advice when it came to signing my first contract. Thanks Mercy! (Her story is called “Succor the Child” on page 355, and it’s awesome!)

I also want to thank the rest of the critique group, Jesilea Ryan and Jenny Lowe. They also gave me a lot of help working out the issues with the story. It got stronger and better with each pass.

Next on my list are my family and friends that have been reading my stuff and giving me feedback. Their comments usually aren’t as focused or as helpful as my critique group, but it is nice to know I have their support.

I also want to thank my local librarians. They have also been really helpful and supportive as I have been working on my writing career. And they even promised to order a copy of the book so that everybody in Madison will be able to read our stories!

And last but not least, I want to thank the editors Rich Bottles Jr and Gary Lee Vincent for accepting my story and marking my debut into the world of publishing.

Now, who’s next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Book of Bizarro

PS:

I just killed off my co-worker in my current short story/novella project, “The Hunt”. I’m still working on the ending, and I have already burned through three drafts of the beginning. Hopefully this will all coalesce into something worthwhile soon. I’ll see you all back here on Thursday for another update.

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ROW80 Update June 19 – Endings and Beginnings

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

We are wrapping up this round of ROW80, and I am sorry to say that I am relieved to have it over. I think it helped me to keep focused on my writing, but for the last few weeks I have also felt that I needed a break. I have been meeting my goals most of the time, but still felt like I wasn’t making any progress. And I think that posting my status twice a week has been really boring for anyone following my blog.

I don’t think I will be participating in ROW80 for the next round. I have some ideas of what I want to do with my blog instead, including posting serious articles related to the research I am doing for my books, more blogs about things I am learning about the writing craft, and of course I will keep you all posted on my progress toward becoming a published author.

I just finished my “final” edits on my short story. I got it down to just over 3,000 words, so it is now right about where I want it for the submission guideline. I’m going to run it past my critique group on Tuesday, then I’ll send it in. It will be my first professional submission!

I am excited and anxious about sending it out. I know that odds are it will be rejected, and I would be OK with that, but I’m not as thick-skinned as I want people to think. Rejection sucks. Nobody wants to be told they’re not good enough. But if it comes back with a “No thank you” letter, I’ll just have to remember that they aren’t the only market out there, and send it out to someone else. Sooner or later someone will want it. Or maybe I’ll tell more of the story, build it up to 10,000 words or so and put it up on Kindle for 99¢. Whatever happens, I think it is a good story and I will share it with the world somehow.

I am rethinking my idea about posting my Dragons at Dawn trilogy as on this blog. I just finished reading Kristen Lamb‘s book WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (great book!), and she advises against posting books online. I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I do think that I want to post some writing samples online eventually. I wrote a short story for my Finding Valhalla book that tells how my heroine got to be a Valkyrie. Maybe I’ll share that, along with other “just for fun” short stories that I write along the way. And when I get enough I can compile them into an e-book and maybe make some money off them.

Thanks for sticking with me. See you on Wednesday!

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ROW80 Update June 1

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I’m not sure what to tell you all about the convention last weekend, other than it was great! I learned a lot and had a blast meeting new people and listening to the panelists.

My schedule started with a writer’s workshop, where I got feedback from author Cassie Alexander on the first five chapters of Finding Valhalla. After the workshop we went to a local coffee shop to meet and talk with other writers in the workshop. Next up was a panel on Romance and SFF, where we talked about romantic sci-fi and fantasy, which was perfect for Finding Valhalla. The last panel I went to discussed the role of religion in fiction, which was a good topic for my novel Dragons at Dawn.

Saturday started off with Tarot for Writers, a workshop that gave me tips on doing simple tarot card readings to help build stronger, more detailed characters. It was awesome and the reading I did for one of my story ideas really helped me figure out how to develop the character. After that I went to a reading of sex scenes and romantic fiction. I thought it might help me to strengthen my love scenes. After lunch we had a panel on the Wisconsin protests. There was no way I could miss that, since I am a Wisconsin state employee and have been involved in the protests. Next was a panel on book covers, discussing both good and bad examples. Finally there was a panel on combining the classic detective fiction with science fiction or fantasy. Another local author, Alex Bledsoe was there, and he had some good tips. One of these days I’m definitely going to have to make time to read his books.

Sunday started with a panel on Middle-grade fiction. I didn’t even know what it was, but I found out that my novella Six Days to Sabbath is more middle-grade than the young adult classification I have been telling people that it was. Not a problem. Now I have a better idea how to market it once it is finished. The next panel was very informative, where we discussed the ins and outs of self-publishing, both in e-book format and as print on demand. I went to lunch with a couple of ladies from my writer’s group, as well as another local author, Monica Valentinelli. She was really cool and gave all of us lots of tips. After lunch was a panel on Religion in Hard SF, where we discussed the trend of science fiction authors to avoid religion altogether. Some of the classic authors have dared the topic in their books and stories, but most of them either feel that religion has no future, or they are too scared to write about it. After that was a fun panel on Doctor Who, which started with a moment of silence for our dearly departed Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). The last panel of the night was Ask a Pro. There were three published authors (including our guest of honor Nisi Shawl), and James Frenkel, Tor’s senior editor, who I met at OddCon a couple of months ago. They had a lot of good advice. The most important thing that I got out of it was that I need to start writing more short stories. So my editing is on hold for now while I work on a new short for submission to a company looking for bizarro fiction. The first half of the story is a steamy love scene. The bizarro part comes at the end. I went to dinner with my writer’s, and Monica joined us again so we could continue our earlier conversation. The night wrapped up with dessert and the guest of honor speech, which I recorded on my new camera, but I won’t post it due to the photography policy of the convention. After the speeches I had a picture taken in the Photo Booth, which I hope to be able to use for my online profiles soon.

Monday was the last day of the con, so there wasn’t much there, but it was still worth going. The first panel I went to was Anatomia Fantasticus, which discussed anatomy and how it can be used to develop the physical attributes of fantastic creatures like dragons and werewolves. The last panel was Being a Resilient Writer, which was just as helpful as the Ask A Pro panel, as the authors present all had lots of good advice on dealing with the publishing world.

So that’s my report. I’m certainly going to see about getting in again next year. Hopefully I’ll have something published (or at least sold) by then. Check back on Sunday for an update on how my new short story is coming.

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ROW80 Update May 29

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

Just a quick update today. I’m writing this before a “Religion and Hard SF” panel at WisCon. So far the convention has been great! My writer’s workshop went well. Cassie Alexander is really cool and gave me some great tips on putting some more punch in Finding Valhalla. Earlier today I learned a lot from a panel on self-publishing. There was even a panel yesterday about the political crisis still going on in Wisconsin. I haven’t taken many pictures, and my writing is falling behind, but I’m having a blast!

I’ll try to post a more detailed report on Wednesday. Wish you were here!

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ROW80 Update May 25

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I had a very busy day today, so I wasn’t able to get my update posted until now, and I still have editing to do. Part of the reason for the late posting is that I bought a car and had to go to the DMV for title and plates today. I bought it from a friend at church for $100, and the registration cost more than the car! A sign of the economy, I guess.

This week’s critique group went well. They liked my revisions for Demons at Dusk and good comments on the new material. I went last. I think we are planning to skip next week’s meeting.

WisCon is in two days. I am really looking forward to it. There are a lot of panels that I want to attend. I know there are going to be several times when there are going to be more than one during the same time slot that I want to go to. Choosing is going to be painful.

I’m still working my way through my books. No updates yet, other than so far I am enjoying the ARC I got last week.

That’s it for today. Time for me to get back to my writing. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have over the weekend to do any writing, but I’ll try to post something on Sunday to let you know how WisCon is going. With luck I’ll even have pictures. See you then!

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ROW80 Update May 22

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

After last week’s critique group I rewrote a lot of the 12o0 words for Demons at Dusk and have added another 1000 to go with them. I’m not sure whether or not I will be sharing this week. If I do, I think I will go last.

The monthly meeting of our local Romance Writers Association was fun. Diane had a fun presentation and I learned quite a bit about building sexual tension that will definitely be useful in all my writing, but in particular for Finding Valhalla. The book discussion group was good, too. The next book on our list is Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

I finished the Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N Edelstein, Ph.D. It looks like it should be a useful reference for character development. I’ve started reading We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, by Kristen Lamb. I finished my library books, but now I have started Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. It’s an advance reader copy, with the book due for release June 7. It looks really cook, with the author combining vintage photography with the storyline. I’ll be sure to post a review as soon as I finish.

That’s it for today. Time for me to get back to my writing. See you on Wednesday!

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ROW80 Update May 18

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I am still working out my plots, but I decided to start writing the beginning of my trilogy yesterday. The incentive was my critique group. I blew out 1200 words for Demons at Dusk yesterday primarily because I didn’t like not having anything to share. And it was a good thing I did, too, because I ended up being the only one with anything to read! To top it off, nobody liked it. Actually, they thought it was interesting, but they all thought that I needed more description for the demons and were concerned about my depiction of a couple of army officers in one section. Essentially, they thought that the stick up their ass wasn’t big enough. So I guess I still have a lot of work to do.

I’ve got a busy Saturday planned this weekend. I’ll be spending the morning at the monthly meeting of our local Romance Writers Association. The theme this month is writing sex scenes (no kids allowed). After lunch I’ll be attending a book discussion group at my library. We’re reading The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. It’s a book about a radio journalist in WWII Europe and the effect her broadcasts have on a small New England town. I am really enjoying it, and highly recommend it to everyone.

I’m still reading the Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N Edelstein, Ph.D. I have to admit I haven’t gotten very far into it, but I am looking forward to spending some more time with it in the near future. Right now, though, my reading time is pretty full finishing some library books that are due in the next week.

I’ll be back on Sunday for another update. See you then!

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