Paradise Icon 4

I know, I know. You don't believe me, posting again this week. Well. Take that.

I wanted to post briefly about Paradise Icon 4, which takes place at Icon 40 in Cedar Rapids on October 15-18 of this year. We have quite a line up of speakers: Joe Haldeman, Ann Leckie, and Tamar Siler Jones.

Unfortunately, we only have ONE SEAT LEFT for some lucky writer now that the dust has settled.

So, Let me know if you're interested. Remember, you need to be a neo-pro to qualify, or have your work cleared by me.

Between Gigs

This week I am traveling Catherine!

I had a weekend in Minneapolis with the gaming crew and some friends, and then left Monday for an overnight with students from the SEED program in Chicago. After a whirlwind tour and a very long bus trip, I am back at work for two days, at which point I head out for the usual sojourn at Wiscon with Dan, Lisa, and Yolanda.

If you're going to Wiscon, you can catch me for sure in three places: I read Sunday morning at Michelangelo's, 10 am. I'm on a Penny Dreadful panel Monday morning, and I'll be at the sign out Monday mid morning.

Of course, I'll be about doing about things. I hope to see you there.

Perfectionism: So Why Do I Write?

Wow. We end up here after all this.

I've been thinking about my psychology, but never in my (almost) 50 years have I thought about my psychology in terms of perfectionism. Which is amazing, because if you are my friend, you know it, don't you? Especially if you are my friend and you have weathered several years of me, my high standards, my gruff demeanor and my attempt to alter your behavior, sometimes without being conscious of it, and sometimes cruelly on purpose, because I like to pretend I know what's best for you.

You've noticed me not being happy with myself and trying to show that I am worthwhile by pulling stunts. I have always started out these stunts in an origin of desire. I wanted to get my PhD, for example, but by the time I finished it, I had managed to turn it into this mighty effort that I did not much enjoy. I often say that I enjoy having my PhD. That's classic perfectionist. Shoot for the destination. Don't enjoy the journey. The ends justify the means.

It's the same with my weight. Even though I have slimmed down somewhat, I am inching my way back up. I want to be healthier, but what that means is eating good food and working out. However, the perfectionist says that life doesn't start with fashion until you have reached that perfect weight. Again, I've improved, but you know, why am I waiting to enjoy something when I can enjoy it now? Why, when I look at a picture do I see all the flaws? Why can I not activate the content circuit?

These are rhetorical questions. You don't have to answer them. I am very aware of my background and my genetic heritage. Like it or not, this is my battle. I need to work on these issues for all of you, but I also need to work on these issues for me.

Okay, so here's this question: why do I write? Do I want to enter the published author industry? I'm knocking on the door, and people are letting me see in at this point. It's just a matter of time if I keep doing what I'm doing, but I know people find this industry frustrating and high stress. Hey, I can make taking a bubble bath frustrating and high stress, so I wonder, is this a wise path for my sanity?

The biggest reason I started writing when I was a kid was because I wanted to submerge myself in story. I wanted to play. I enjoy video stories and written stories, and I live for those moments when characters laugh, cry and are triumphant, when emotion transcends their beings and they become more than themselves. I love story.

I love story whether I am orchestrating many characters, or I am acting as one. I love gaming, I love gming, I love writing, I love dressing up. I love story.

To make a book good, you revisit, refine and shape a story so that it is more of those incredible moments that you can live. I am in story telling because I'm looking for that story high. I watch Dead Like Me over once a year because I can find that story high. I game with my talented ensemble of actor friends because sometimes we stumble on that story high.

Of course, plotting the game can be a chore. Revision and proofread can be a chore. I can make this all one bleak, gray job. Another thing in my long list of things that I have to do. Not living in the moment of the thing, but being frustrated by the thing not being done.

You know, like exercising every day and not cracking the 200 pound barrier. Like feeling guilty about the ice cream cone rather than choosing to enjoy one every now and then because I like ice cream. The damned goal, over and over and over.

I will say something dramatic, like I'm done with it, but I am so not. It'll come up again. It always does. Heck, this year was the biggest Type A train wreck I've had in a while, and that was just because of destabilizing change. And my first instinct? Run away, find a new job, and start fresh, which isn't necessarily bad, but is a classic perfectionist technique.

That's the thing about perfectionism. It's a double-sided coin. I mean, I need a new job in Florida. Absolutely. But right now? Three years before Bryon's ready to go? What about enjoying the ride? Living for the moment? Dick move, perfectionism. I see what you're doing there.

So, back to writing. The journey is the important thing. The journey is the important thing Falling into the characters, loving what I'm writing, and doing the rest as part of a long stream of doing my art. Worry, angst, sadness, depression, procrastination, the illusion of no time, NONE of this helps me in any way. None of this produces results. It just wears me out so I can write less.

I write because I want to enjoy my life, and this is one of the ways I do it. I don't care about the rest. This is vital for my health and well-being, and my sense of joy.

And that's all I got to say about that.

Working Too Hard Part 497,235

One of the things that I will try to do this summer is to get back into the habit of writing here. Now, I haven't been avoiding my blog because I don't like to blog. No, I've been ridiculously busy for many reasons that I've talked about in other posts.

But let's just stop offering up excuses. There is always work to do, and I will always have too much of it to do. My problem in interfacing with the world is that I am a workaholic who seeks to value myself through achievement, and quite frankly, this year, I have fallen off the wagon, big time.

And let's cut here for those of you who are very, very bored.

Continue reading

Paradise Lost

I just returned from San Antonio Texas for the 5th annual Paradise Lost, which is a workshop for alumns of Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, and basically any folks who have survived a neo-pro writers workshop and would like more of same. I went on the retreat track to get some writing done. I got some writing done. Not a ton, but enough to make the trip worthwhile. I also connected with some of my writing BFFs, and we supported and jammed on each others' work. It was a good time.

This time, I spent a lot of time down by the Riverwalk, which I discovered is a terrific place to take your morning constitutional. I love the look and feel of the Riverwalk in the morning, from the lights reflecting on the water, to the people setting up the outdoor cafes and sweeping away the night before. I wouldn't mind one running through the center of Cedar Rapids. Instead, we have a river. Well, you can't have everything.

At any rate, Sean Kelly and his wife Michelle did a superlative job this weekend, and I appreciate all their effort. I do a much more minor event, Paradise Icon, and so I have a taste of what that planning feels like.

And I met so many nice new people! There were a lot of fun, wonderful folks there that it was just a joy to talk to.

Still plugging away on the novel. Fifth rewrite, page 143. Looking forward to summer break and getting this out the door. So Paradise Lost moved us a bit further in that direction.

Writing Draft 5

Once more, my friends, unto the breach.

I am now getting back to the book, seriously. Recently, I read a couple of books that convinced me that I needed to evaluate what I am now calling The Vessel of Ra scene by scene. So, I whacked my manuscript up, threw away about five scenes, and marked what I thought was truly, truly lame.

I had a good crowd of beta readers who gave me similar feedback on a lot of this material, so I have a good grasp on my deficiencies and what I need to do to fix them. It seems that the following are things I should address:

Octavia's crazy slippery personality.
Show the conflicts between Drusus and Octavia.
Give readers the background on Binders that they need so they don't have questions (in short, do not rely on the ESP method for writing...)
Make sure that I minimize the anachronisms.

So, before I sent those first fifty pages off, I want this book to be ship shape. Right now I'm tarring the boat.

Next post will be some recent reads.

The Return of the Iowa Native

I think I should be able to get back to posting here more often. The time of being pretty much tied to my adult life seems to have stopped, somewhat abruptly.

Just to put an end to some melodrama, none of the digestive tests showed any kind of hernia. So, I will continue taking about 3 different kinds of meds to manage my reflux. This does seem to be working. I am also getting the CPAP figured out to optimality. No operations, and hopefully, less med in my future.

I think it's safe to say that the Florida job search is now over, and I do not have a Florida job. I went pretty far in one search, but on Friday, those of us who were interviewed were going to be busted down to 2 candidates who would be interviewed by the college pres. Since I didn't get a call today, I'm certain I'm not one, because the interviews are on Wednesday. That's okay. As cool as it would have been, there would have been a lot of headaches and deprivation in moving down there as well. We'll see what the fates put out for us next year, but this year, I'll get back to focusing on my writing and my current job.

Kirkwood decided also not to replace my dean, which was another job I was going to apply for. There's been a re-organization and a new boss, so no need for that to take up my time.

After all that, then, I have run very hard to stay in the same place. :) I can concentrate again on getting my novel in its best shape for those agents that want pages.

So. Back to being the mild mannered comfortable shoe at work for another year, at least. It was nice to be the red pumps someone wanted to buy while it lasted. And back to writing, laboring in obscurity. Man. I wants me some immediate gratification. How come that never happens?

Updatery

My goodness.

So, here's what's going down:

THREE medical tests to check out my acid reflux in closer scrutiny. I have a new gastroenterologist, and last week I had an esophogram, this week I have manotremy, and next week I have endoscopy. He thinks I might have a hiatal hernia, so we're looking to see if that's a true thing or not. IF it is, maybe we can do a bit of repair, and my reflux would reduce. That's all a big maybe, but we live in hope.

TWO phone interviews for a new job. I'm happy to stay at my current job, but I wanted to try out my interview materials for a deanship that might open here, and I'm beginning to look toward our Florida move, which might happen in as few as three years, so I thought I would apply for some very attractive Florida openings. Two of those colleges decided to do the equivalent of a phone interview, so cool. Advantages and disadvantages. We'll just see how things play out.

ONE book. At this point my spring break plan is to write like a maniac, now not so much as to get the book out the door, but to get as much done as possible. If there's anything having the book read told me, it's that we're some distance from solicitation to those 4 waiting agents, BUT I'm on it. My latest trick is to whack the book into scenes and chart the scenes into series, and then figure out where to add, subtract, and deepen. Sounds easy when you look at that sentence. :)

So, keeping busy. Hoping you're all good.

Agent Carter

It's like this. Direct TV and my local ABC station are at an impasse. I can't get Agent Carter on telly anymore. I can get it on the computer, but therein lies the rub. I live in Blairstown, Iowa, where there is a little old man who cranks our Internet in a building somewhere, a la Metropolis style. I have tried to continue Agent Carter, but it takes me about two hours to watch one episode on the web. I have watched through the Dum Dum Dugan/ Howling Commandos episode.

Yeah, I should just move. Or we should have the state pass laws for faster Internet in rural areas.

***

That said, you know what? Agent Carter is smart and fun to look at for a vintage fan like me. The hair and the clothes are excellent, authentic, and perfectly fitting. The mood that the show creates feels very authentic to the 40s, without stereotyping or diminishing the era. Hayley Atwell plays her role well, and the dilemma of being a working woman in post WW2 US in accurately portrayed. Sexism aboundeth, but we know Carter will persevere and triumph. After all, she gets to be head of SHIELD.

Mind, there is an excellent support cast as well. It's a smart, funny show that takes on a serious issue of the time, and doesn't pull dramatic punches. People you don't expect will die do die. in this subtle espionage series. And good guys and bad guys blur from time to time.

I hope you have an easier time of seeing Agent Carter than I do. I hope to catch up this weekend.

The San Francisco Writers Conference

That was cool.

Let's talk about pitching and writer's conferences, shall we?

I've never been to a conference that has been about the business of writing before. I have been to many Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions. Now, I do like SF/F conventions. What I like about them is that I can be among fellow fans and I can hang out with other authors. Most of the other authors I've met are friendly and I've really enjoyed their company.

The SFWC was about two things: education and contacts. When I say education, I don't mean the same kind of stylistic education you'll get at Paradise Lost or hanging out with your critic buddies, or you'll get by climbing a mountain to see Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. Feedback and writers groups are good too, but this was a new beast.

I learned a lot about the industry this weekend, things I hear talked about occasionally at science fiction and fantasy conventions, but not a lot. I talked to Stuart Horwitz, who has two books on revision that a composition teacher could love, and he didn't try to sell me anything like a time share. I pitched to the agents who were interested in the kind of thing I do, and 4 out of 5 asked me to send them pages. I wore a business suit and was treated like a professional by a real person in the room talking to me. I met many people who acted like professionals. In short, it was the first time I've been in an environment as a writer where my skills as a professor were the same skills I needed.

Now, there are some barriers to attending a conference like this one. Once again, I paid for it by using Kirkwood's very generous professional development, because I thought it would be the next logical step in my writing development. I was not disappointed. However, I think many writers might find the conference fee prohibitive. It is not unlike the fee for most academic conferences, so I was less fazed than someone else might be. Also, the business like atmosphere might be a turn off for some. And unlike myself, who teaches on a daily basis, some writers might not want to memorize a pitch and try to convince an agent, and possibly be rejected by an agent face-to-face. I was okay with it, and I theorized that I might be able to use some of my teaching abilities to make a favorable impression.

Overall, I'd recommend doing this sort of thing, but I'd recommend it to a writer who

1. has their book done, or at least heavily in revision. The more you know, the better your pitch will be, and the more composed you'll be.

2. isn't a total beginner. There's lots of programming at SF/F conventions and other genre and craft workshops for you to go through first. Seriously.

3. can handle themselves professionally with strangers, or at least can pass some of the time as a not a nerd. I play a professional on tv...

In short, if I hadn't been to VP, to Taos, to a ton of writer retreats and writer education seminars, if I hadn't written as much as I have since 2009, I probably would have wasted my money. I'm getting interested rejections and full reads. I think that this is about the optimal time to go. Something will eventually break, and if you present well personally and you have good pages, this is the kind of place it could.

***

I had a fantastic time. Our pitch team, me, Chris Cornell, and Debbie Goelz, supported and bolstered each other, gave each other pep talks, and allowed us to practice our pitches and our material. It was much more fun than doing it alone. San Francisco, where this is held every year, is a Fan-freakin'-tastic city with awesome places to eat, and things to see. Man, if I'd had anything left at the end of the conference day, I can go to Japan town and do box karaoke. There's a Walt Disney family museum. Lots to see and do. I believe sometime I'll go visit with the husband when I'm not conferencing and take some advantage of it. I even lost weight because everything is uphill both ways. The Irish coffee is to do die for in that town, and I could see Alcatraz.

Now, it's my hope that I will not need to return to San Francisco looking for an agent, but I think it's a good place to learn. I will try something like this again, if all goes as planned, as I hope to pitch at the Writer's Digest conference in August. The conference made me feel the most like a real writer that I ever have, and, more importantly, I felt like I was taken seriously. My confidence has received a real boost.