Sorry for the delay since my last post. Once spring arrives, my workload around house and yard often becomes all-consuming. I was also a writer guest at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con for two days and had a great time with writer pals Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, Russ Colchamiro, and new friend, Heather Hutsell.
It was great to see some excellent celebrity guests as well including Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, TRON, and more) and Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more). There were many others, but those were the only two gents from whom I sought autographs. I had met Mr. Boxleitner about 15 years ago at Shore Leave where I had a Babylon 5 photo signed, but this time around, I wanted to get a few TRON items autographed. As an Indiana Jones fan, it was fantastic to meet the gracious and genial Paul Freeman (Belloq).
One lesson I learned at this con is that I’ve reached a point where I’m starting to run out of room to display all of my books. I know, that’s a good problem for a writer to have! So, the display is going vertical, ladies and gents. I ordered a six-shelf book rack, which just arrived today.
Although I’ll rearrange the books for better visibility. I was just toying with ideas when I set up the above picture.
Even though I’m not doing any more cons for the remainder of 2017, I do have three or four single-day library events and book fairs lined up where I can use this and of course, when I’m back on the con scene next year.
My reasons for taking a hiatus from the convention scene are many. First, I’m doing two fairly expensive home renovations this summer. Secondly, the sheer number and complexity of upcoming projects at my full-time job are daunting and will require some weekend and after-hours work. Thirdly, my writing time has been significantly drained by the editing work on the third volume in the Middle of Eternity series. Finally, I’m just burned out and I simply cannot do everything and be everywhere.
The first draft of my science fiction novel was supposed to be completed last year, but again, home projects and prepping the second anthology for publication consumed the first half of 2016. I managed to complete only the first four chapters in the novel. Disappointing.
Even after Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternitywas released in July 2016, I ended up spending a large portion of my writing time recording two of my three stories from that book on audio for podcast, which turned out to be an utter waste of about three weeks since a decision was made not to podcast anything unless ALL of the stories would be recorded. Well, most of the other writers either had no time, no interest, or no resources to record their stories. Thus, the podcast was cancelled.
I did manage to complete four short stories for various publications and contests between August and December. Then, as now, my novel saw only a modicum of progress, but two more chapters have since been finished. Still, the paltry progress is frustrating.
On the bright side, I shall be stepping down as editor of the Middle of Eternity series after book three is submitted to the publisher, which should permit me to fully focus on the SF novel.
What else have I been up to in my writing life? Well, one of those four short stories that I wrote in the latter half of 2016, “Once More, With Feeling,” was just published in a mixed genre anthology titled, The Write Connections, published by the Greater Lehigh Valley Publishing Group.
Two more of those stories have each been submitted to separate contests, the first (“So Hungry…”) to the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable paranormal fiction contest, and the second (“The Celestials”) to the annual Rehoboth Beach Reads short story contest sponsored by Delaware publisher, Cat & Mouse Press. I took second place in the 2016 Rehoboth contest and my story was published in the anthology, Beach Nights. Even if I don’t win one of the top three monetary awards this time around, I hope to at least see my story published in this year’s anthology, Beach Life.
The fourth story (“The Forest for the Trees”) will be included in the upcoming Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, tentatively slated for release in July 2018. That tale is an 11,000-word fantasy piece set in late 17th century Finland. So much research was involved in the great famine of the time as well as Finnish mythology.
Speaking of Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, I am off to edit a few more submissions this evening. The good news is that I have a three-day weekend ahead of me and maybe—just maybe—I can make some time to write…
Lastly, there is a good chance that my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters (written and submitted to the publisher in 2014), will finally be released in October as an ebook and audio book! Many of my readers have asked when the next story starring psychic-medium Miranda Lorensen will be released. Well, this is it, folks! It’s Miranda’s origin story and also involves her daughter, Andrea, who has a paranormal adventure of her own. Catch more of Miranda in my first two novels, Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side.
Amidst all of the turmoil, chaos, and uncertainty that continues to be 2016, I must admit that it was not a bad year for me as a writer. I always wish I’d done more, of course, but I’m grateful to have four stories and an essay published across three anthologies, one of which was a second place contest entry that earned me $250. Click on each cover below for more information about the books.
Last month, I had a short vignette accepted for the 2017 anthology of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. That book will be titled the Write Connections and is slated for a March release.
I also finished my first of what I hope will be three stories for Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, the third volume in the Middle of Eternity speculative fiction series (no release date yet) and I’m working through a gods and monsters tale that is due in six weeks. YIKES!
Most importantly, I wrote the first four chapters of an SF novel that has been in development since 2012. It’s one of those projects that, at first, I simply tinkered with between other stories, but I finished the outline in 2015 and wrote four chapters over winter before being pulled away onto other projects. I intend to switch my focus back to this novel and complete the first draft in 2017, even if that means postponing or turning away some other projects. Only so many hours in the day and while I love writing short stories and editing anthologies, it’s been over three years since my last novel was published, so I’m overdue!
In addition to myself, fellow anthology authors Melissa Carta Miller, Stuart Roth, and Susanna Reilly will be there to sign copies of volumes one and two of our Middle of Eternity speculative fiction series.
We appreciate your support of independent and small press authors!
Goodreads is kind enough to send a weekly email alerting me to recent blog posts from some of my writer friends. With my project load and generally frenetic schedule for the past four to five months, it’s been a struggle to maintain my own blog, let alone keep up with everyone else’s.
However, today I took the time to read the latest three posts from Kristen Lamb on her Warrior Writers blog. The first one caught my attention because it’s something that’s been on my mind for more than a few years: Is Facebook Dying? What’s Killing It? In her analysis, Kristen posits that when social media was new, it was FUN and people enjoyed connecting with one another. Further, most people maintained a friendly rapport, but then we became comfortable with this novel method for connecting (and in many cases reuniting) with others.
We all know that it doesn’t take much to ruin a good thing, and if the human race excels at one specific skill, it’s destroying almost everything we touch. Additionally, it only takes a few to ruin it for the majority.
Spend a just minutes on any social media platform and you’ll see what I mean—posts and comments replete with hatred, racism, threats, abuse, derisiveness, and good ol’ fashioned ignorance—especially during election years and most especially during this one. As the old adage goes, there ain’t nothing new under the sun. Humanity has always found a way to quickly turn every method of communication ever invented into a shit show.
In the case of social media, just as it was in the case of bulletin boards back in the 90’s, it’s easy to talk trash when you’re sitting at a keyboard, using your favorite movie, TV, or comic book character as an avatar and posting under a fictitious name.
With anonymity comes ersatz courage.
Here’s an episode from Harlan Ellison’s Watching from the early days of the Sci-Fi channel, when they actually knew how to spell “Sci Fi”. In this segment, Harlan discusses the appalling behavior of computer bulletin board users (remember those days?). Ignore the inane vampire novel ad in the middle of the episode.
Just goes to show, this behavior ain’t new, folks! Technology may change, but human behavior is a constant. Today, people continue their proud displays of disgusting ignorance on Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites that I do not frequent and probably never will) with increasing fervor.
Kristen compares this adolescent stage of social media to the petulant and volatile demeanor of teenagers, something I’ve often pondered, considering how even allegedly mature adults conduct themselves like juvenile-goddamn-delinquents!
The question is, will social media ever mature beyond this? Probably not, and honestly, I don’t have time or patience for it.
Kristen concludes her post with a theory that Pokemon Go might actually be the next level of social media, and one that could kill Facebook—or at least deliver it a solid punch in the gut. One cannot argue that Pokemon Go is drawing people out of their houses and into the wild. It’s forcing people to interact face-to-face (y’all remember how to do that, right?), providing physical activity, and returning “social” to its original definition.
Now, I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. I don’t need an online game to get me outdoors. I love the outdoors. I love walking, I love fishing, I love the beach, I love state parks. Get me outside as often as possible! However, if Pokemon Go is what inspires the troglodytes to vacate their caves for a few hours, then I’m all for it because most people have a tendency to mind their manners when face-to-face than when face-to-screen.
Kristen follows up her post about the imminent demise of Facebook with Breaking Facebook Dependence–How to Create an Enduring Author Brand. In summary, Kristen explains that social media sites may come and go, but a good blog is forever. She encourages writers to post their thoughts and experiences on blogs rather than social media sites. Not only do blogs “offer an intimacy with authors second only to the books they write”, not only do they “make us leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner at what we do: writing”, but the reach of social media is limited and anything you post there is ephemeral. Most of it is invisible to search engines and it’s gone in a few days after all of your friends and contacts have “Liked” and commented on it and have moved onto the next 50 captivating posts-du-jour from their other social media friends.
Yet, blog entries, if properly titled and tagged, are searchable and will remain as long as the Internet. People can and will continue to find and/or stumble upon your blog posts years later and could potentially become subscribers or readers who purchase your books.
Now, please don’t take this as a string of excuses, but in addition to writing and editing, I work full time in the IT industry. When I come home, I often have a few hours of chores and errands to complete and possibly a 60-90 minute workout to destress and keep myself in shape before I can sit down to work on the current writing project. I’m often up until midnight, and no, I’m not waking up at 3:30 or 4AM to write when I already need to be up at 5AM for work. The only other activity that gets me out of bed that early is fishing.
So I cannot always make the time to blog consistently. I do not blog “two to three times per week” as some experts recommend. I blog as often as I can. Look, if you asked me, “How would you like to use this next hour or two—make progress on your current writing project or write a blog post?” My answer will ALWAYS be “work on the current writing project”. EVERY TIME. It is far more important to me to finish the the next short story, the next scene, the next chapter in the novel, or to research something for a story, than it is to write a blog post.
While I agree with Kristen that blogging makes us write “leaner, meaner, faster, and cleaner”, so does short story writing, so does flash fiction writing, and so does a few rounds with an experienced editor over your novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all against blogging. After all, you’re reading this missive now. I blog as often as I can and I enjoy it. In fact, I’m writing this blog post over my lunch hour, when I had originally planned to start my next short story, because Kristen’s comments struck a chord.
My point? In order to maintain sanity as writers, we should prioritize our workload. This is nothing revelatory, you all know this. That doesn’t make it any less challening, though, does it? Or any less frustrating.
For example, over the winter, I finally outlined a science fiction novel that had seen minimal progress over the past five years, while I wrote and published other books and stories. Excited that I now had a fully developed plot, I wrote the first four chapters from January to April—then put the project aside as my publisher and I were prepping a new anthology to be released on August 1, but the pre-launch was scheduled for July at Shore Leave 38. It went very well and you can read about it here
Elsewhere in the Middle Eternity is the second installment in a speculative fiction anthology series that I created. I
am not only the editor, but the project manager as well which means I work with the writers and the artist to bring stories, cover art, and interior illustrations together. We financed the project through Kickstarter, so I had to record the video for that, write the blurb, and create the reward levels.
What’s more, it was spring, which always brings with it yard work and one or two home renovations and yes, spending time outdoors!
I didn’t completely put aside writing during all of this. For the past few years, I’d wanted to enter a story into the annual Rehoboth Beach Short Story contest sponsored by Cat and Mouse Press. Rehoboth Beach is a quaint coastal town in Delaware with the feel of an old neighborhood rather than a resort town. I consider it my second home—if only I could afford a house there! Well, this year, the contest’s theme matched a story that had been percolating in
the back of my mind for a year or more so I finally wrote it in April and submitted it in May. Winners will be annouced on August 1, the same day Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity will be released. Should be an interesting day so stay tuned!
During the month-long Kickstarter campaign in May, my blog was active with semi-weekly author interviews for our anthology, which generated spikes in donations. Since then, I’ve been promoting the book on my blog, of course, but I also heeded Kristen’s advice and began blogging about “high concept” topics like vacations, day trips, museum visits, and even this post about social media and, yes, blogging. At the moment, I have a fair number of followers, but I’m working to build my audience here.
Addtionally, July gave my wife and I a scare as a family member was rushed to the hospital for life threatening complications and again days later as a result of a severe infection.
After all that rambling, have you forgotten about the science fiction novel I was working on? Wouldn’t blame you if you did. Well, I didn’t forget about it and now that the dust is settling on the aforementioned projects and emergencies, I hope to get back to it again…in between editing stories for the third annual anthology to be published by my local writing group next year and the final two Microsoft exams I need to take to complete yet another IT certification.
If it ain’t one damn thing, it’s another…or two…or three…
I’m burned out again just from writing about everything that’s been burning me out all year! As such, it was refreshing to read Kristen’s latest post, Stress & Burnout—How to Get Your Creative Mojo Back, where she explains how and why your mind and body react to stress and what to do about it. I already practice some of the advice offered, such as freewriting. Don’t overthink it, just break away from your current project and write something different. For example, I did that back in June over another lunch hour, and then revisited the piece earlier this week. After some revisions, it resulted in a lovely vignette that will be my submission to the aforementioned writers group anthology.
This was probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. My apologies, but I hope I’ve directed you to some useful information on Kristen’s blog.