State of the Self, 2016 (aka, the “We’ll see” post)

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On Tuesday, I hit 100K words on the work in progress, currently titled ONE MAN, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to assess where things stand in a general way. No encouragement or advice, please, especially about the medical stuff.

Me, personally

I turned 50 last year, which I guess is supposed to be a big thing but it didn’t feel like it. Mostly, it felt (and continues to feel) like a timer ticking down. As more and more of “my” pop culture figures pass away (and more and more of them are closer to my own age) I’ve become increasingly aware that my own time is growing short. Right now, somewhere inside me, I probably have a cancerous tumor that’s lying quiet, small for the moment, but ready to expand aggressively under the right circumstances. If I’m very very lucky, I’ll live long enough to see my son married and living a stable life, to have earned a sense of accomplishment with my work, and to feel as though I’ve lived enough.

I can’t really imagine that, but that’s my hope.

The petty medical issues that have plagued me since 2012 haven’t gone away, but I’ve decided to work through them to focus on my weight. I’m down 10lbs in the last two weeks and plan to continue. The first few are always the easiest, of course. We’ll see.

Finally, for a long time I’ve pretty much avoided social situations. I talk to my wife. I talk to my son. I order coffee at the cafe. Beyond that, it’s extremely rare for me to speak to anyone aloud; all my interactions have been online. I guess the only exceptions have been the two-hour SF2W meetups that Django Wexler arranges, and I’ve been to, I think, two in the past year. Once in a rare while a reader drops me a note and we’ll meet face to face. Very rare.

Aside from that, I’ve been actively avoiding social events. I don’t go to conventions. I haven’t contacted the roommates I had 20 years ago to suggest we grab lunch. It’s been a very quiet life, and I like it.

But a week ago I cashed in the Christmas gift that my niece gave me: a tour of some of her favorite brewpubs in Ballard. It was extremely mellow, and we got the chance to just hang out and talk, which I don’t do much.

The following Friday, I had the event at the UW Bookstore, where a number of authors in the anthology Unbound signed books for readers. I suspect most of them were there to see Terry Brooks, but people were nice and it was good to talk to them. It had no noticeable effect on my book sales, but I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed hanging out with the other authors afterwards. (What I could hear of it, anyway. People in bars are noisy.)

So I’m thinking I should put more energy into that sort of thing. Talking to people. I dunno. Maybe.

Family

My wife is doing pretty well, especially now that she has an APAP machine to help her sleep through the night, which she can do now, sometimes. She’s also spending more of her time painting. Making art was hard for her after her father died. She and her siblings inherited his canvases, which no one outside the family wanted and no one inside could bear to dispose of.

She began to feel the same way about her own work. Our apartment is already crowded, and she didn’t see a point to creating more stuff that her kid will have to deal with when we die. Slowly, she’s moved past that and is doing the work for its own sake, which is fantastic and makes me very happy. She’s also gotten into a couple of shows. Did I say it makes me happy? It really really does. Now I just need to write a hit book so we can afford a place with a studio. North-facing, naturally.

My son turned 14 a few months ago and starts high school in the fall. Homeschool is coming to an end, and I’m hoping that a) he’ll make more real life friends and b) I’ll have more writing time. It’s going to be a rough transition, but he’s ready for it. His sleep schedule might not be, but he is.

Games

I’m still playing Sentinels of the Multiverse on Steam. In fact, I’m playing it too much. I should probably download a program that will block Steam for most of the day. I’d get more done, and do less obsessive clicking.

BUT! I should say that, when I’m playing SotM, I don’t feel hungry, or itchy, or sad. I’m almost completely absorbed, even moreso than when I’m writing. It’s worth keeping around just for that. I just wish it was less irresistible.

Reading

After several years of feeling burned out on reading inside the fantasy genre, I’m finally feeling burned out on crime and mystery. It doesn’t help that I tried to shift from old classics to books that are popular and current, and really really did not enjoy them.

Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names, which I picked up solely out of a sense of gratitude for the social events mentioned above, is a flintlock fantasy that I enjoyed way more than expected. Recommended. At the moment, I’m reading Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon because everyone on reddit loves those books passionately. I’m 80 pages in and mostly enjoying it, despite the fact that I’m not usually fond of high magic settings.

Watching

I took the family to DEADPOOL, which is an objectively bad movie, but hugely enjoyable anyway. It’s been a while since I saw a modern Hollywood film (that wasn’t SPY) that made me laugh really hard. Now I hear that the people behind Batman v Superman are planning an R-rated version, because… I don’t know, they think it was the rating that made DEADPOOL a hit and not the humor? Don’t know. Don’t care all that much.

I’ve also dropped a number of TV shows that I was watching through sheer momentum, not because I enjoyed them. Most of what I found compelling in season one of ARROW is long gone, and I just don’t have space for it anymore. After trying both LUCIFER and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, I’ve decided that they aren’t going to do that Star Trek thing where it takes them a little while to find their rhythm and they become awesome. Both are dropped. At this point, I’m only watching ELEMENTARY, FLASH (which has been way less fun this season) and AGENTS OF SHIELD (which has been improbably improving).
I’m looking forward to season 2 of DAREDEVIL, even though it will probably be a disappointment. We’ll see.

No one in my family is remotely interested in the upcoming DC adaptations. We’ll see, redux.

Writing

As I mentioned above, last week I crossed the 100,000 word mark of ONE MAN. What I didn’t mention is that last August 26th, I was at 31,000 words.

I know this because of this horrible new record-keeping that other authors suggested I do. All it does is tell me things that make me unhappy.
For example, last fall I took a month-long trip to Portugal, and my plan to squeeze out a few pages during quiet moments never worked. I got zero new words done that month.

After Thanksgiving, I stopped writing the first draft and went back to revise what I had. Revise it extensively, which took a month and a half.

When that was finished, I realized the game supplement I promised my Kickstarter backers was way overdue, and I spent three weeks revising that.
When I returned to ONE MAN, I re-outlined the rest of the book (using the virtual whiteboard app Scapple, which I like) and now things are tearing right along.

It’ll take another long revision process, and it’s going to be a long-ass book: at 100K words, I’m still looking ahead to the beginning of the climax. Still, I feel like this is good work. I just hope the market agrees.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to work on after that. The next book in the series is TWO DRAGONS, but I have a short story due for an anthology (soon) and I might want to write something else in between. Plus there’s that game supplement.

I wish I could be more prolific.

And that’s where things stand.

I have a story up at Podcastle(!!!)

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Well, how about that!

The story I wrote for John Joseph Adams’s HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects has been turned into an audiobook (audiostory? audiofic? radioplay?) and is live at Podcastle right now–“Help Summon The Most Holy Folded One”, my Lovecraftian Taco Kickstarter story.

I guess it should be listed as a radioplay, since they have an actual cast, not a single reader. And that cast has some names in it. Yikes. Imposter Syndrome, ACTIVATE!

I’m listening as I type this, and… is it embarrassing to announce that these guys made me laugh aloud?

Give it a listen, and check out the other stories they’ve done: for example, there’s an N.K. Jeminsin story that includes the disclaimer “Rated X. Contains sex and wolves.” ::sprains mouse clicking finger:: (My story is PG.)

Silence falls

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I’m really sorry, folks, but I’m turning off comments on my main blog again. I cleared my spam trap last night and when I woke up it was full again. You guys don’t see it because Akismet works pretty well, but occasionally it hoovers up a real comment and I don’t have time to search for ham in the trap.

Folks can respond to me on Twitter and LiveJournal, and I’m thinking of creating a Facebook fan page where people could interact without all the bullshit.

Sorry, but time is precious and I have to hoard it.

updated to clarify this is my WordPress blog on my main website I’m talking about.

This blog post will not change your life.

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Ever since I returned home from dealing with my father-in-law’s death my WIP, A Blessing of Monsters, has been sorta stalled out. I’ve been making progress, but it’s been slow going, not nearly as steady as December and January.

Today I’ll be powering up Mac Freedom and going offline for most of the day. I just discovered a plot hole in the story (stupid magic spells) and I can’t just make a note to myself and go back to it later. The change means the relationships between all the characters have to change, and those relationships are what the book is about. So, vomit draft revision, which I hate but end up doing every time.

Not only has my writing been struggling, but the funeral caused a long delay in replacing my son’s eyeglasses. Folks might remember the end of last year when I put Lord of Reavers on sale through my site to help offset the costs. Thank you, everyone who bought a copy; I hope you enjoyed the story. With luck, he’ll have settled on a pair of frames he likes and I can post a pic by the end of the month.

I also have to do that Seattle thing where I wear shorts and an ugly sweater when I go for my walk. The landlord hasn’t gotten the washing machine fixed, and we’re coming up on… what? two weeks since we got back? I’m sure there’s a law stating when a washing machine has to be replaced or whatever, but I’d rather wait for a repair. Whenever we get something new around here, it’s the cheapest possible thing and doesn’t work well. Or it’s smaller. Or it’s just generally not good.

So we’re just looking at laundromats and laundry services, and I’m out of long pants to wear.

Finally, the Cage Match between Ray Lilly and Anasûrimbor Kellhus ends today at 5pm EST. I’ll be offline most of the day and will probably not see the numbers until after it’s over. It would be nice to see Ray vs. Tyrion, but if not I’ll be glad to work on my new book this weekend instead. And I’m glad the comment section has settled down and gotten less nasty.

But if Ray wins, I’ll bring in Annalise for round 2, and I’ll make the writeup lighter in tone.

And now I’m out of here. Hope you guys have a great day.

Know someone who’d like to read some fantasy this Christmas?

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Here’s the skinny: This week I did the final revision on a novelette I’ve been writing off and on for several months. It’s available right now on my website right here:

[Deleted: this story is now available in my short fiction collection.]

The only place you’ll be able to buy it for the next month, at least, is right here on my website. Why? Well my landlord has just raised our rent and my son needs new glasses (we don’t have vision insurance). On top of this we have holiday foods, gifts, and travel, which we’d already budgeted for, but this makes it a little tight.

Luckily, the rent increase won’t start right away. But! I do need to make a little extra money.

Therefore, if you know someone (or several someones) who would like a short sword and sorcery tale for the holidays, let me humbly suggest the link above. I’m selling them in epub, mobi and pdf formats, which should work on every ereader from Kindle to Kobo. In fact, if you’re planning to give an ereader as a gift to someone who likes fantasy, this story would be easy to preload.

So! You can buy one copy and send it to everyone you know, or you could pay for each copy you plan to share. Maybe you’d be more comfortable with something in between. Whatever you think is best.

Sorry I couldn’t set the price at the traditional 99 cents, but PayPal insisted on tacking on a $1 S&H fee and I couldn’t get them to take it off.

Happy Holidays, folks. I hope you enjoy the story.

New story, email issues, party party partay!

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My email is being cruel cruel to me, so don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to respond.

Also, I’m going to have a S&S story online very soon, hopefully today.

But first I have to go home and attend my son’s birthday party. It’s not his birthday, but it is his party. The little guy has everything planned out.

Also, I met my small goal today, even though it’s a big goal day. It’s weird; I used to thrive in a sleep-deprived trance. I’d come at my writing in a weird exhausted state when everything felt heavy, and that would help me silence my internal editor.

But over the last year I’ve been trying to get enough sleep as part of my plan to live past 50, so today, one of the first trance-days in months, I feel utterly useless. It’s weird.

Empathy, Stock Art, Eye glasses, Homeschool and Booze

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Let’s start with Empathy. Everyone has been having a laugh at the Forbes writer who put together the “If I was a small black child” column. It was dumb, thoughtless, and actively harmful. Obvs.

But you can rely on Ta Nehisi Coates to talk about this stuff in the best possible way. One, Two. That second link contains links to a pair of Megan McArdle articles that are also invaluable. Excellent reading.

As for me, I was a total goof off in school–smart but continually bored and prone to do stupid stuff to impress my friends (like any teenage boy). There were whole years that went by when pretty much every day I did something that could have gotten me jail time.

And no, I didn’t want to work hard. I wanted to play rpgs, get high, smash stuff, throw a carpet over barbed wire so we could swim at the pool after it closed, etc, etc.

So it’s easy to say: “If I were a…” and then imagine the path you would take to success. It’s much harder to look back at your own self and realize what a lazy screw up you were, and admit that a more difficult environment would have defeated me.

Next is stock art, which is what I need right now. I have a sword and sorcery novelette almost completely ready to publish. All I need at this point is a decent(ish) stock image for the cover. Hard part? Finding something I think is decent.

Anyway, I plan to release this particular story only through my website. Why?

Let’s move on to “Eye glasses.” My son needs them. Not just one pair, either. He needs a reading pair and a non-reading pair. Add to that the sad fact that my landlord mailed me a little something–no, it wasn’t a Christmas card. It was a notice of rent increase.

Yay! Rent increase notice right before the holiday (but not so soon before that we could budget it into our spending.

It’s not a big increase and our rent is already very reasonable. It’s just hard timing and I hope enough people will want to buy this short story that we can cushion this blow. More about the story later.

Next: you know how public school teachers will sometimes show movies in class? Guess what! His homeschool family has found an excuse for the extended editions of LOTR! Starting tonight. More on that later, too.

Finally, booze. I just bought the smallest non-airplane-sized bottle of Jack Daniels I could get. Why? Well, I don’t drink like I used to (what with the kid-having and the belly-reducing and all) but I do love egg nog. LURRRVE egg nog. And it just doesn’t seem right without a little bourbon.

Plus, I couldn’t resist that cheap German spiced wine. I actually bought two bottles of it. You know the one I mean? You warm it on the stove and drink it until you’re loopy? I don’t care if it’s crap. I love it. And did I mention I only bought two bottles? That’s some self-control right there. (Tangentially related, the store only had two bottles left).

And that’s all for today. I was supposed to write 2500 words on A Blessing of Monsters today, but after all those revisions I only managed 1500. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.

It’s Official: The Twenty Palaces Series Has Been Cancelled (long)

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(Update to this post: I’m shutting down comments because it’s been over a week and they’re still coming. What’s more, I don’t really want to keep talking about it. Thank you.)

(Second update: Disabling new comments hid the old comments, which I didn’t want, so comments are back on again.)

Yep. It’s true. Based on the sales of Circle of Enemies, Del Rey has decided not to offer me a contract to write more Twenty Palaces books.

What? Why?

Well, Pretend Questioner, let me address that in a very long blog post Continue reading

This is how today went:

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Me: “Hey, book.”

Book, still sprawled out all over my life like the non-rent-paying couch-surfer it is, looks up. “Hmm?”

Me: ::Punches book in the face so hard it flies through the window, over the city, and lands in an open grave. The impact is so powerful that the piles of dirt on either side collapse onto it, burying it completely.::

Me, an hour later: ::Saunters up to grave, a celebratory burger in one hand, a marble tombstone tucked under the other. Drops tombstone in place and takes out broken, petrified femur stolen from Dorothy L. Sayers’s coffin. Kneels down and carves “A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK” at top of headstone with bronzed tip. Below that line, carves “Agent has called this one to judgement.”::

Me: ::Walks away, eating burger::

(Actually, I haven’t sent it to my agent yet. I have to prep a nice little thing to accompany it it first.)