Weekly Update – April 7, 2020

Hope everyone is staying inside and staying safe — and sane. I know for me the surreal sameness of every day is disorienting, and I’m kind of used to it.

In addition to writing, I’m helping my wife Veronica keep her embroidery studio running while she’s working from home, and that leads me to a bit of shameless (semi-) self-promotion. When the coronavirus pandemic started to rear its head here in the US, sales of Storied Threads’ Plague Survivor Geek Merit Badge started going through the roof — for which we’re grateful, because her business literally pays our mortgage.

We’ve since added a couple more patches for the Covid-19 crowd with their dark senses of humor. First up is the Social Distancing Geek Merit Badge, featuring the social distancing (and hide-and-seek) world champion, Sasquatch. This one’s just catching on, and a lot of folks have been ordering this along with a Plague Survivor patch.

And for the literary shut-ins, we added this embroidered bookmark inspired by Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, a story about a group of people partying the night away amidst a runaway plague. Topical, right?

Oh, yeah, and I have a bunch of books you might like. Just sayin’.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording continues with narrator Jennifer McPherson. Tentatively set for late spring/early summer release.

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audiobook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The manuscript is with my editor, and my cover artist is hard at work and the early drafts look pretty cool! Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Although I’ve yet to receive an official cancellation notice, state orders and advisories currently in place in Massachusetts have pretty much guaranteed it’s not happening. I’m disappointed, naturally, but safety comes first.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 31, 2020

Looks like a lot of people have time to read on their hands. During my five-day Cabin Fever Relief promotion, more than 1,300 copies of Action Figures – Secret Origins, The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich, and Well-Behaved Women – Awakening went out to Kindle users!

If you’re among those who grabbed a copy of any (or all) of these books, I hope you enjoy them — and if you do, please remember to leave a review!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: After being in limbo for several months due to various unforeseen circumstances, the audiobook version is back in production! Like a lot of us, my narrator, Jennifer McPherson (who you might recognize from the Awakening cover) is stuck inside with time on her hands, so she’s back at it.

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audiobook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The manuscript is with my editor, and my cover artist has begun her work. Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18: The event features panel discussions on Friday evening and a daylong book sale on Saturday. As of right now this event has not been cancelled, but I would be surprised if it went on as planned.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 23, 2020

I’m dropping this week’s blog post and newsletter a day early to announce a special Cabin Fever Relief promotion!

Beginning tomorrow, you can get the Kindle editions of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins, The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich, and Well-Behaved Women – Awakening for FREE!

That’s right, the first books in my three series will all be available as free downloads through Amazon for the Kindle, tomorrow through Saturday.

But that’s not all! I have a limited number of promotional codes for the Audible versions of Scratching a Lich and its sequel, Assassins Brawl, as well as the entire Well-Behaved Women Trilogy available, and all you have to do is ask me for one!

(And by “one” I mean, one code per book per person, so I can spread the love around as much as possible.)

To get free Audible codes, use the “contact me” link to shoot me an e-mail, let me know which codes you’d like, and I’ll send them to you along with redemption instructions. And if you’re not a current Audible customer, tell me, and I’ll provide a special link so you can redeem your code and give Audible a try.

Please share this info with fellow readers and let them know, too! Thanks!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audibook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The manuscript is with my editor, and my cover artist has begun her work. Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18: The event features panel discussions on Friday evening and a daylong book sale on Saturday.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 17, 2020

Hope everyone is staying in and safe during what is undeniably a strange and stressful time. Massachusetts enacted on Sunday a rather strict ban on public gatherings and announced a lengthy public school closure, so a lot of folks are learning what it’s like to live as a professional writer: sitting at home all day, every day, starved for live social interaction — and, since it’s also St. Patrick’s Day, drinking a little too much.

Speaking of staying home and writing…

A lot of writerly folks online took advantage of this crisis to offer some well-intended but ill-thought-out encouragement to the aspiring author crowd to get cracking on that novel they’d never had time to write.

I call it well-intended because, sure, on the surface this feels like a perfect time to sit down and get cracking on that long-deferred novel project, but I call it ill-thought-out because — as others have pointed out — this is not some sort of bonus free time people are getting. More fortunate Americans have a job they can do from home, so they’re going to be busy working. And if they have kids who are stuck home and need to be home-schooled/cared for/entertained, they have even less free time.

And for those who are underemployed or straight-up out of work until this passes? They’re likely too stressed about how they’re going to pay their bills to try to be creative — and before you say, “Yeah, but if they write their novel, they’ll have money!” you need to acknowledge that you don’t know jack shit about how this job works financially and stop trying to help, because you are not helping.

(I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole now. If someone really wants to know why this is unfeasible, say so and I’ll indulge you, but for now I’m going to give it a pass.)

Now, if you do happen to find yourself in a situation conducive to creating — whether your chosen art form is writing, drawing, painting, music, etc. — then by all means, take advantage of it. Make some art and share it. It’ll help you stay sane throughout this mess, and might bring some much-needed happiness to someone out there who needs it. But if it simply isn’t in the cards? Don’t let anyone — yourself included — make you feel guilty for not creating your artistic masterpiece.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audibook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The manuscript is with my editor, and my cover artist has begun her work! Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18: The event features panel discussions on Friday evening and a daylong book sale on Saturday.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 10, 2020

To say last week was a downer would be to greatly understate the matter. On top of saying goodbye to a dear friend who passed away — and on my 50th birthday, no less — I learned that this year’s upcoming New England Speculative Writers Convergence was canceled over coronavirus concerns. I get that this is a case of “better safe than sorry,” but I’d been looking forward to the conference for months.

If anyone in the Worcester County (Massachusetts) general area knows of any writerly gatherings coming up, let me know, because I need some socialization in the worst way.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audibook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Ready for editing. Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18: The event features panel discussions on Friday evening and a daylong book sale on Saturday.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – March 3, 2020

Slow week this week, not much to report on the writer front, but it’s been busy on the personal front — and not all good news.

Without getting into too much depressing detail, a dear friend of mine died late last week. He went in for heart surgery last May and never really recovered. Due to longstanding underlying health issues, every week was one step forward, two steps back in his recovery, and it finally hit critical last week.

Since then, people have been sharing their memories of my friend, David Stickney, and it really hit home how many people his life affected for the better, my own included. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be where I am in life, personally and professionally, had it not been for him.

I don’t know if I’ve been such a powerful influence on anybody, or if I ever will be, but it’s given me a new goal to strive for.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Recording of the audibook edition has begun, with Heather Auden returning to narrator duties.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Ready for editing. Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Worcester Book Festival – Friday, April 17 – Saturday, April 18: The event features panel discussions on Friday evening and a daylong book sale on Saturday.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

A Guide to Professional Aspiring Authors

I recently wrapped my winter show schedule (Arisia and Boskone), and while neither show was a big moneymaker, alas, I got to meet and chat with other writers, which is always fun.

It’s also a little frustrating at times, because so many aspiring authors fall under a category I’ve come to refer to as the Professional Aspiring Author. These are writers who say they have a solid idea for a novel, but haven’t finished it yet — and in many cases, haven’t even begun working on it yet, and they have a million reasons why this is.

These reasons often suck. They’re flat excuses not to do the hard work of writing their novel. Sometimes people are simply more in love with the idea of writing a novel than the actual writing, but sometimes it’s how their own fear of failure manifests. If they never release their creation into the world, they can always fantasize about what might have been rather than face the possible cold, reality of being rejected by readers.

Now, let me clarify that my sense of frustration isn’t selfish in nature. I don’t secretly roll my eyes at these people and bemoan my fate at getting cornered by another big-talking, big-planning wannabe; I’m saddened that there are so many people with a lot of enthusiasm and often great ideas, but somehow wind up so stuck in their own heads that it would be a miracle if they ever get a word down on paper.

Below are some of the most common Professional Aspiring Authors I encounter, and my purpose in identifying these types is not to mock or ridicule, but to give readers of this post who may themselves be Professional Aspiring Authors a kick in the pants, shake off their excuses for not doing the work, and finally strike that “Aspiring” label.

The Over-Planner

This is the author who excitedly tells me about their 30-page plot outline, now in its fifth draft, or how they’re busy creating their fantasy world’s monetary exchange system, or how they’ve worked up exhaustive backstories for every primary, secondary, and tertiary character in the cast.

Whenever I ask how much of the actual novel they’ve written, I usually get a moment of awkward silence followed by, “I’m almost ready to start writing, but first I have to finish [plotting, worldbuilding, writing character bios, etc.].”

These people will never actually write the story — and if they do, they run the risk of writing a stiff, lifeless story because they’re so married to all the plans they laid out (go read Why Your Fantasy Novel Sucks by Professor Awesome for a more detailed analysis of this problem).

Quick aside: I say as a Pantser — someone who does little to no pre-planning before writing — that this is not meant as a slam against Planners, that kind of writer who maps everything out before writing. Neither approach is “the right one” in an objective sense; Planners create great stuff because as a writer, that’s the approach that works best for them, but over-planning is an easy trap for amateur authors to fall into.

The Overworked and Over-committed

The number one excuse I hear among Professional Aspiring Authors is, “I don’t have time to write.”

Short answer: bullshit. Yes they do.

Longer answer: I’m going to bet that they do indeed have time to wrote, but they’re choosing to spend that time on other activities — watching TV, going to the gym, a weekly bowling league, some other creative hobby — and they’re unwilling to sacrifice any of those things to give themselves writing time.

In other words, what they’re really saying is, “I don’t have time to write and still do all the other fun stuff I like to do,” and that is more likely the truth of the matter.

But here’s another truth: that extra time won’t magically appear. You want to write a novel? You have to make time, and that might mean making sacrifices. And if you’re not willing to make those sacrifices, then maybe it’s time for another hard truth and admit that you don’t really want to write a novel, you just want to talk about it.

The Temporarily Inconvenienced Bestselling Author

This Professional Aspiring Author has a website and a regular blog, social media accounts everywhere, and is constantly posting articles on writing, reviews of other authors’ work, their own helpful writing tips, and occasionally mentions the novel they’re allegedly working on.

I’ll admit, this type I find particularly grating, because the TIBA often embodies the worst form of the old axiom, “those who can’t do, teach.” They’re quick to offer writing advice and tell others what they’re doing wrong, but have never actually written anything of their own — but oh, they’re working on it.

The Invisible Author

This is the Professional Aspiring Author I have the most sympathy for. They’ve finished a project, sometimes multiple projects, and they could release them at any time, but they can’t get over that massive final hurdle that is the fear of failure.

I get it. All authors get it. Mustering the courage to pull the trigger and release your work out into the world, which has no obligation to be kind in its opinions (indeed, too many people revel in the opportunity to be cruel to complete strangers) is a huge accomplishment. I’ve heard from many more experienced authors than me that simply bringing a novel to completion is a major achievement, perhaps the most important achievement in the process, but personally, I’d put releasing the novel as a close second.

If this is you, there’s nothing wrong with dipping your toe in the water; you don’t have to dive in head-first. Post stuff online. Try releasing a short story. If you haven’t shown your work to anyone, find people to test-read for you. There are ways to ease into it.

The One-Hit Wonder

I encountered a couple of these types at Arisia, people who have actually released a novel, but only the one…several years ago…and haven’t released anything since and have turned into one of the other aforementioned Professional Aspiring Authors, or some combination thereof.

For whatever reason, these individuals tend to be rather pompous and self-important, as if their single accomplishment grants them the right — nay the obligation to share their (often unsolicited) advice with everybody. I overheard one gent regaling my neighbors at Arisia at length about the craft of writing, and I Googled him to see if he actually knew what he was talking about. The dude had one self-published book — not terribly successful, judging by the scant Amazon reviews it had — from nearly ten years ago and hadn’t done anything since then, but he deemed himself fit to lecture a small group of more accomplished and prolific authors on how to write.

(FYI, he was a man and the people he was lecturing were all women, so of course he felt compelled to mansplain writing to them.)

Folks, if this is you: don’t be this person. You want to talk shop with a fellow author? Great, but ask first, just don’t start pontificating. Your listener might well be far more knowledgeable than you, and for writers, nothing is a greater turnoff than being told how to do your job.