Monday Fun-Day

The weekend was fairly busy for me, between addressing some freelance projects, setting up for others, cleaning out the office, and attempting to wrangle this site into place. Oh, and of course there was Skyrim, but not too much. Today promises to be just as lively, as I have new freelance work to start, more site wrangling to do, some writing to get done, and a D&D session to run tonight at the local game store.

Regarding the site, you’ll see that I now have the most recent year and a half or so of blog posts ported from the old site. As I had to do it manually, that ate up a substantial chunk of my evening on Sunday. I’ll do a few more today, time permitting. The Contact page is also working now, and the one on the old site is now disabled…so if you want to get in touch, you can now send me a snazzy email through the fillable form right here.

And have I mentioned how much I like the WordPress interface? It’s so unbelievably simple compared to the old site’s editor, and I now sort of wish I’d been using it this whole time. There are some things I really haven’t explored yet, along with others I have explored and haven’t quite figured out, but I no longer feel like I’m in an unholy pact with the son of the Geocities editor, so there’s that.

D&D tonight promises to be fun, as the audience at the local game store will be primarily folks who are new to the hobby. It’ll be a little bit different than my usual game on Fridays, where many of my players are old veterans of the game, but it’s always fun to bring new people to the table and let them explore the possibilities.

Regarding my solemn pledge to de-crapify the office, the space is looking a lot cleaner and more inviting this morning. I emptied about a half dozen sizable boxes this weekend, sorted out probably just as much stuff that was boxless (read: heaped up in the floor), and shredded an astounding amount of paper. All in all, the office is not at the level I intend yet, but it’s a livable, workable space now.

In terms of writing, it is the Day of Project-Wrangling. I have several things I could be working on while Oath is with the editor, some partially completed, others still in note and/or outline form. I intend to dump them out, sort through them, and pick one for my first-quarter effort. Which one I choose will likely depend upon which one delights me the most as I leaf through the crapstack.

How about you, horde? Any big plans for your Monday?

 

 

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Regarding Old Site Content

One of my biggest goals for January is to complete the process of transitioning the website to WordPress. I’ve got a handful of things left to do that way, and some of them may be slow in coming online, while others are quick and relatively painless.

Probably the single most frustrating and time consuming element of the change is making sure old blog posts make the jump from the old site to the new. Sadly, my old host has no single, easy mechanism for exporting old content in a format that is usable by WordPress…so this means I’m going to have to manually copy and port them all to the new site.

That’s going to…take a while. So if you start to see backdated archives popping up, feel free to take a look, but they’ll be functionally the same as the old material.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to port the old comments, which pisses me off not a little bit, but, well, there are reasons I’m making the switch to WordPress, and the clunkiness of the old interface is surely one of them.

In making the jump, I’m also streamlining the content of the site substantially. Certain things that were a pretty big deal on the old site will be going away and/or not making the jump, while other, newer things may take their place. Or I might just leave it super simple. We shall see.

Obviously I’ll be getting some links up to Shit I Have Written, though probably that page will be more diplomatically named, and I’ll be getting a fillable email form up and running on the Contact page as soon as I figure out how to do that. In the meantime, you can bounce over to the old site and drop me a line if you want (or you can leave a comment here).

Thanks once again for your continued patience as I get the new site up and running. It’s my hope that, with the easier interface and such, you’ll see much more of me in this space in the days and months ahead.

New Site For a New Year

The new year is off to a pretty good start, at least in terms of my productivity and this site.

Well, what you can see of this site right now.

I know, I know. It’s a little sparse. And ugly. And it doesn’t tie to my domain yet (that still tracks to the old blog). Those changes are coming as soon as I can figure them out, and/or as soon as I switch modes from yelling at the screen to actually thinking about troubleshooting and site design and fascinating shit like that.

But the biggest thing, really, is to go ahead and fire up this new iteration of the blog and get down to the business of making 2016 my best writing year actively forcing myself back into the creative routine.

2015 wrapped up in a mostly good place for me, writing-wise. Oath of Blood, the novel I have beat like a dead horse diligently worked on for the last three and a half years or so, is finally back with my wonderful and supernaturally patient editor.

This time three years ago, I’d just finished the first draft, which I imagined was, more or less, the next-to-the-last draft because of course I would never write a steaming pile of shit.

Well, three years later, and I know I did. And I of course have my concerns that the draft currently sitting in her hard drive is just as bad, but in a different way.

But that’s out of my hands for the time being, and even if it were in my hands, I doubt I’d be able to see the truth of it. A very long time staring at something has a tendency to blind me to its realities, be they good or bad. So I’ll trust to my editor’s sharp eye and act upon the guidance she gives me, and I’ll leave off hyperventilating about it here.

In the meantime, like most people around me, I’m preprogrammed to spout grand plans for the year (and probably drop them like hot rocks by February 1st). Every year I swear I’m not going do this. I’m not going to fall victim to the resolutions trap. I’m one of the smart people, by the gods, and I can outsmart this!

Or, you know, not.

So despite my best efforts, behold my list of Shit I’m Going to Do Better This Year (Hopefully):

I will write every day.

I will do the thing, even if it’s just to smear a couple of sentences across the screen. A thousand words a day would be a great minimum, but honestly any amount of writing will do.

See, I have this…thing where I thrash and whine and complain to myself like a thwarted teenager when it’s time to apply hands to keys and do the thing. It’s not that I hate writing; it’s that I’m really, really shitty at disciplining myself to start. Once I start, things get going just fine.

So in the new year, something’s getting written every day. I honestly don’t care if it’s a grocery list written in dactylic hexameter or an outline or two sentences of dialogue.

Every day.

Every. Fucking. Day.

Eventually tantrum-mind will quit throwing itself around the room and sighing about how it “isn’t feeling inspired” or whatever the fuck and will accept its fate—or so I’m hoping, anyhow.

I will always have something in progress.

You remember what I said about surly-teenager brain? Yeah, it’s a lazy little fucker. Somebody else has the story right now? Okay, time to vegetate and play Skyrim till our eyes bleed.

Which, c’mon. That’s hard to argue against. Skyrim is awesome. And spool-down time and sanity breaks are good for the soul or whatever. They quiet the madness a little bit and give me a reason to emerge from my lair from time to time.

But the point is that breaks are short for a reason. We take them to rest and recuperate so we can get back to doing the thing. Not, you know, so we can practice for the Olympic Netflix team.

So to stave off this tendency and to force myself to both stay engaged and move forward, I will always have a work in progress in front of me, even when the top-priority work is out of the house.

I will submit something to a paying market at least once a quarter.

This can be something I’m shopping around and, if it comes back, resubmitting, or it can be a new thing, but regardless—something has to go out the door to the slush pile once a quarter.

Once a month would be nice, sure, but I’m going for positive reinforcement here, and that means lowered expectations.

I realize this probably sounds completely obvious, but I’ll be honest: slush-pile submissions are not something I do very often. I typically dig in my heels on a long project (see above regarding Oath) and keep my head down for long stretches of time. But I need the active exercise of writing and submitting—and, yes, getting rejected.

Plus, hey, there’s possibly money involved, and I’ve got a stack of bills that would love to get paid on time. So.

I will limit the scope of the freelance projects I accept.

The most salient point here is that I’m getting out of the tutoring and academic writing guidance business. I’ve done it in one form or another for almost a decade, and in that time I’ve helped a lot of people polish their academic writing game and/or knock the dents out of graduate theses and dissertations. It’s been a good run, and it’s kept bills paid in tight times, but I’m ready to be done with it.

My current academic clients will be my last clients in that regard. Once we’ve put their theses to bed, I’m not taking on anymore.

Simple as that.

I will stop giving away work for free.

Again, probably an obvious one, but I have this…problem where if somebody asks me very nicely to do something for them, or to just take a real quick look at this one thing they wrote, I find it very hard to say no. We can, if we want, maybe blame this on the years I spent teaching or tutoring in one form or another, but now that I’m out in the big bad mercenary world of freelancing, free work is a no-go.

I simply can’t take on any more of it, because it invariably cuts into both writing time and paying freelancing time. I had whole months in 2015 when I didn’t touch Oath because of this.

So no more free work. Either you’re already part of my writing group, and we have a mutually beneficial arrangement, or you’re paying me. Otherwise, I’m very sorry, but my schedule simply does not permit that I give my time away anymore, if it ever actually did.

I will reduce the amount of crap in the office by at least fifty percent.

I have this frustrating tendency to hang onto things long after they’ve ceased being useful. Notes, outdated tech, tchotchkes—you name it, I probably have a stash of it around here somewhere. You know, just in case.

But what this means is that the office has a nasty tendency to accrete into a magnificent shitpile, and no amount of organizing or straightening things will fix it.

So basically I’m ringing in the new year by hauling off and pitching out all kinds of crap. If it’s not useful to me and it isn’t actively improving my life in some way, it goes away. Simple as that.

I will give myself some time to relax every day.

This probably sounds counterintuitive, given my lazy-ass brain’s addiction to downtime, but as with Skyrim and Netflix, it’s a question of degrees.

Yes, relaxing is good. But not all the time. Yes, working is good. But, again, not all the damn time. That’s how you burn out—and I know this because I’ve burned myself out a couple of times over the last three and a half years. There have been days when I’ve been in the chair for 12-15 hours straight, staring at the page, refusing to walk away from it even if I was making no progress.

Not even for a walk around the block to clear my head. Not even to shake the words out of my fingers and simply let my brain vent some heat on a game or a bit of mindless entertainment. The end result, as I imagine you can guess, was not pleasant.

So if I’m going to write every day, there also has to be a period of downtime every day.

I don’t care if it’s fifteen minutes watching cat videos, or going for a walk in the morning, or taking that hour before bed to read, or whatever. I will make myself take time for myself—and hopefully keep my internal batteries better charged.

So that’s the general idea.

These are the things I’ll be actively working on in the new year (in addition to, you know, making this site a little less of a trainwreck).

How about you, my magnificent internet horde?

Have any big plans for the new year?

 

Site Changes Ahoy (And an Oath Update)

It’s been a minute since I posted an update last. Well, more than a minute. Like six or seven months worth of minutes, actually.

However, as with the last post, this one brings tidings!

In short, Oath of Blood is now with my editor. She and I had a frank and forthright conversation on the phone about it, and the rough estimate at the moment is that she’ll need two to three months to give it the going-over it merits. I realize all of us (myself included) want this book to move forward as fast as possible, but the editor has plenty of other stuff on her plate right now, and she very graciously offered to take the manuscript immediately instead of deferring until the next full opening in her schedule.

She deserves about a skwillion medals for that alone, to say nothing of dealing with my shenanigans in general.

So now we wait, and when she gets back to me with what changes are required to take this thing over the finish line (and I’m sure there will be changes), I will get to work on those immediately.

In more technical news, I will soon be migrating to a new webhost, and to the WordPress format. I’m still working out the details, but sometime within the next month or two, the site will change rather dramatically.

That means any or all of the following may happen:

  • ​There may be periods of downtime while I get all the parts and pieces jangled into place. If you navigate over this way and you get some hot mess or, worse, no site at all, FEAR NOT. I am still here. I am probably just busy yelling at the computer or navigating a tech support labyrinth.
  • Some of the old content here may migrate, but some of it might not. In fact, it may well be that none of it migrates. In that case, if you roll up on this website in a month or two and there’s little to no blog content, again, FEAR NOT. I am working on it. There will be some solution forthcoming to make sure the old blog content is available, but it may not be immediate.
  • The new site may look ugly and weird for a little while. This is just a consequence of my learning a new platform. The wrinkles will smooth out as time passes, and as the ratio of time spent getting things to work and time spent bellowing at my screen evens out.

Right now, that’s about all there is to report. The next update will probably coincide with the markups coming back from the editor, or with the site change, whichever comes first.

Oath of Blood Update & Such

I’m a bit behind on the updates here regarding the book, but never fear: things are progressing in a much better way than my terrible blogging habits would suggest.

The manuscript has been with the beta readers for about the last week or so, and I’ve asked them to get it back to me by middling May if possible. Life being what it is, a few of them may take a bit longer than that, as they have their own lives, work, and writing to deal with, but yes—the book is now, for the time being, out of my hands and before the eyeballs of the brave folks who have volunteered to do the hard work of helping root out any lingering problems.

Once they’re done with the manuscript, I’ll be back in it, fixing up the places where they’ve found issues. I’m sure they’ll find at least a healthy few: by the time I sent the thing their way—all 412 standard pages of it—I was so word-blind I couldn’t even spot my own typos. So for the time being, I’m keeping my eyeballs off the text and my hands off the keyboard, at least as far as Oath is concerned. The break will help me reclaim some of my sanity and objectivity, both of which have wandered off to parts unknown and failed to leave a note.

In the meantime, I have ongoing outside work this month, as well as a couple of new projects due to hit my inbox in the next month. Between the work, I’m finally shoveling out of the heap of chaos that has become the office of late. When that’s done, I plan to start on outlining and planning for the next book—you know, like you do.

Also on my mind is a possible retool of this website, though I haven’t yet decided what form that may take. So if you see changes in the near future, that’s just me pushing the furniture around, looking for a new look, layout, or arrangement that suits me. Some sections may condense or combine, some may go away, and new stuff may emerge. We shall see.

Till then, or till further news about the book, here’s a picture of my cats sitting with the manuscript.

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See No Evil: Thoughts on the Clean Reader App

By now, you’ve probably heard of Clean Reader, the app that scrubs your eBooks of profanity in the name of providing a squeaky-clean, swear-free reading experience.

(If you’ve not, go Google it real quick; I’ll wait.)

::Jeopardy Theme Music::

(Back? Good deal. Let us continue.)

A great deal of e-ink has already been spilled over whether Clean Reader should do what it does. I tend to fall into the camp that argues that no, it shouldn’t be editing the swears out of your books as you read them. I believe that texts, as published, occupy a particular place in culture, history, and time, and that attempting to “clean them up” such that they comply with one particular moral or ethical standard is both dishonest and dangerous.

I apply that principle equally to things that don’t offend me as well as to things that do. I would no sooner see racism, homophobia, and sexism (things that offend me) covered up in a text than I would see profanity, same-sex relationships, and blasphemy (things that don’t offend me) cut out.

My personal take, for what it’s worth, is that a text ought to be read the way it’s written, for better or for worse. If it’s ugly, by Crom and by Erlik, I want to see its ugliness.

But this raises the question: does that mean I, as an author, can keep you from doing something different with anything of mine that you may own?

Generally speaking, no. If you’ve bought something I wrote, the physical copy you own is now your property. You can do whatever you like with it, so long as you don’t interfere with my ability to profit from it. So you can write nasty comments in the margins, scribble out words you don’t like, decoupage your desk with it, wipe your ass with it, and more.

You can give it away, sell it, throw it in the trash. You can read it or not. You can read it backwards, perhaps summoning Satan. You can read every other word. You can use the pages in an erotic papercut session with your full-time (and enthusiastically consenting) Gorean love slave. You can cut it up to use the letters to create creepy serial killer messages.

Whatever. It’s your property now. Have fun. Just don’t go making unauthorized copies of it or selling your fanfic or whatever.

With eBooks, it can get a bit trickier. By and large, eBooks tend to be licensed, rather than sold, which makes them a lot like software. You pay for the license to download, keep, and use them, but you often don’t properly own them.

Some folks are claiming that because of this, what Clean Reader does is illegal because you haven’t actually made that all-important First Purchase. Other folks are saying that because Clean Reader changes the text as displayed, rather than in the file itself, and because you can choose to turn off the profanity filtering, it doesn’t constitute a change, edit, etc. under the law.

Me? I don’t know. I was a fuckin’ English major, dude, not a law student.

But just for shits and giggles here, let’s suppose that what Clean Reader does is entirely, 100% legal, and that even if authors don’t like it, there is damn little we can do about it. Let’s suppose, too, that readers have the right to protect themselves from content they consider morally reprehensible, and to protect their children from it, and that this right trumps the right of authors to insist that their work not be reft of its swears.

I realize you may not agree, but just play the thought experiment game with me for a bit.

Because here’s the thing about Clean Reader: even if all of that is completely true, it can’t protect you from my writing.

It can’t protect you, an adult, from any writer’s work.

And it can’t protect your kids.

Oh, sure, you might not see profanity in the text, or you may not see explicit references to sexy body parts or to blasphemous utterances. But those things are only a small part of what makes a story’s content “adult.”

By way of an example, I had a short story published in an indie Sword & Planet anthology a few years ago. If memory serves, I don’t think anybody cussed once in that story—or if they did, it was incredibly minor. A damn here, a hell there. Nothing big. In that regard, it was pretty “safe.”

But that same story included, among other things, a less-than-heroic protagonist, rampant killing, a healthy measure of nudity, some good old-fashioned blasphemy, a vigorous attempt at human sacrifice, and other things guaranteed to fluster the Pat Pullings and Tipper Gores of the world.

Consequently, though it was fairly “clean” by profanity standards, I personally wouldn’t hand that story to a kid to read—not because I’m somehow ashamed of it, but because I didn’t write it for kids. I wrote it for grown-assed adults, and my intent shone through in the events and people of the tale itself, above and beyond the individual words selected for the telling.

The same is true of the manuscript I’m currently preparing to send my editor’s way. There’s not one F-bomb in Oath of Blood, but if somebody came to me and asked if it was appropriate for their kid, I’d probably tell them no.

A really mature kid in junior high or beyond? Maybe. That same kid, if their parents tend to have frank discussions with them about tough, ugly topics? Sure, if the parents are cool with it. But a kid whose parents are so worried that their virginal eyes might–gasp—light upon a swear that they got themselves an app to prevent it?

Not just no, but fuck no.

Because I assure you, dudes and dudettes: if you’re that worried about whether my characters cuss, you’re going to be way more worried about the rest of the things they do.

A swear-scrubbing app like Clean Reader won’t keep you from witnessing a character butcher another character in cold blood. It won’t keep you safe from priests who are anything but godly—even the ones who number among the “good guys.” It won’t save you from characters who get blitzed and bang out of wedlock, or idly consider taking physical advantage of one another. It won’t keep you insulated from the fact that my characters live and slay and die in a world where their lives mean nothing to those in power and where the gods are silent at best, ugly fiction at worst.

So I have to ask you: does any of that turn your stomach?

If so, I don’t condemn you. You have the right to be offended. But if those ideas offend you, an app like Clean Reader won’t make my work any less offensive. It won’t make my work something you could give to your kid with a clear conscience.

It won’t do those things because it can’t. Swears or not, those things will burrow into your mind’s eye if you read, and you will see them. If I’ve done them well, they may disturb you, or make you question things you once thought beyond questioning. But they will surely, at minimum, offend you.

The only thing that can keep you and yours safe from that is not reading my shit.

And I’m okay with that, personally. If you think something I wrote is going to do you some kind of harm, or offend you, or put you in a weird place when your kid asks you about something my characters did or said, then please–and I say this with the utmost sincerity–go read something else, and go with my blessing.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking adult content is only swear-deep.

A Novel Little Progress Update

Time for an update about that book that I’m sure you’re all convinced is a myth by now. Yes, I speak of Oath. No, we’re not quite done yet, but progress is very good, and I have some numbers for you.

The manuscript, going into this phase, was about 78,000 words. Right now, after a few minor cuts, it’s ballparking coming in at just a bit over 70,000. Of that, about 39,000 of those words are buckled in, put to bed, and ready for the editor.

That means we’re well on track for me to finish revising by the end of the month, which is my goal.

(And if that’s all you’re here for—the numbers—feel free to carry on with your day. The rest of this post is reflection on the process.)

I had a few rough patches last week, while I was wrangling with a couple of challenging fixes. These were minor holes in the logic of the story that I’d known were there, and which I’d been…shall we say…creatively ignoring for a while. Then, all of a sudden, there was no more hiding from them. I finally had to put them to bed—and man, were they frustrating.

Still, the days of wailing and gnashing my teeth here on this blog (at least about this book) are over and done with. I got them settled, and I’m pleased enough with them to let them be, and to let the editor weigh in on them. If she sees a problem with them—well, I’ll deal with it. If she doesn’t, then I’m content to let you pass judgment on them when the book is published, dear reader.

Wrestling with this round has been a real eye-opener for me so far. I’ve been through a parade of emotions, and on any given day, it’s been everything from exultation to exhaustion to plain and simple disgust. That last one was pretty prevalent right as I was edging up on the midpoint of the manuscript. I hated it. Hated the story, hated the characters, hated that I’d ever had the hare-brained idea to write this damned thing.

Yeah, it was a stupid way to feel. But in the moment, it was a strong sensation. I asked some currently-writing-for-a-living friends of mine about it, though, and got some helpful perspective. “Are you about halfway in?” one of them asked, more or less. Apparently the halfway blues are A Thing, and folks can hit a kind of burnout there. I was assured they’d clear up with a bit of pushing past the midpoint, and that as momentum gathers on the back end of the story, those feelings recede as the yarn itself rushes to run itself out.

That’s turning out to be true. As near as I can figure it, the exhaustion on my part came from being as meticulous as possible in checking the setup in the opening quarter of the story. You know: laying out all the setting details, making sure there are clues hidden in plain sight that come into play later, ensuring that the characters are as give-a-shit-worthy as I can make them, winding up the tension like a spring for the break into the main action—and, after that break, making sure to keep the pressure on the plot to keep the action from slumping.

It sort of feels like sprinting up a mountain with a pack of wolves on your heels: hard and exhausting and not a time or place to go stumbling or stopping to catch your breath.

Now, probably if you’ve done this before, none of that is news. And you’d think that, since I’ve reworked this manuscript at least five times now, I’d have had more of a clue myself. But not really. So last week I wallowed a bit, and groused to some of my writing friends, and eventually managed to get on past it. And the promised pickup in my mood happened–bam—like magic.

(Or maybe more like psychology. Whichever.)

This week, things are careening toward the collapse of our heroes’ efforts as we approach the three-quarters mark. They’ve come through a bevy of harrowing experiences already, and it seems to them that they’re in the home stretch as they strive for their goal—but are they?

(Of course they’re not. We still have a bunch of pages left.)

This part of the story is also where the main subplot will really start to bear fruit if I’ve (at long last) done it right, so I suspect I may have to make some mild adjustments there as I go if I hit any snags. Still, I can feel the thing gathering momentum in the back of my head, and the last of my knots for this quarter of the story are unraveling themselves with a startling quickness.

Which is good—because as excited as I am that this run through the plot is actually working as advertised, I’m also tired. Very tired. I will be glad to put this story to bed, or at least to put it in the hands of my last batch of beta readers, so they can help me spot-check myself. I’ll be relieved beyond all imagining to hand it off to the editor.

It has been, and continues to be, a strange and tiring journey—but one I’m finally starting to enjoy and appreciate. And because 13-year-old-me is something of my spirit guide in all of this, standing over my shoulder exhorting me to finish and not let her down (though she’s less diplomatic than that most days), I feel obliged to acknowledge her here:

So—Kid-Me: Yes, dude, we are going to do this. I don’t think we’re gonna win a Hugo or anything, but we’re gonna do this. And then we’re gonna do it again. And again. And again.

Until maybe we do win.