Tag Archives: NIWA

The Post-Con Naps

I just woke up from a two-hour nap. This nap was necessary because, in spite of 9 hours of sleep, I’m still exhausted from Norwescon. In convention terms, that means I had a very good time.

Regular readers (ha!) may remember remember a series of posts about last year’s Worldcon, where I expressed considerable annoyance with my apparent inability to talk to people I didn’t already know, whether they were fans or pros. It turns out that there are two solutions for this problem:

  1. alcohol
  2. a ready-made conversation-starter

By “alcohol,” what I really mean is a social environment where walking up to random people and saying, “what’s up” is acceptable and even expected. That way I don’t have to deal with my issues of not wanting to intrude on people’s personal space. If you fit 50 people into a smallish hotel room, nobody’s going to have personal space anyway, so who cares?

The ready-made conversation-starter was more accidental: I just went wearing my NIWA shirt and pin. Between that and the dealer flag on my con badge, people more often than not asked me what I was selling, and that let me dive in my NIWA spiel. I got very good at that spiel. And then, once that was over, the conversation could move along naturally. I talked to plenty of pros and plenty of fans that way, and I don’t think I ever embarrassed myself once, despite the atomic cherries floating about.

I’m not a social butterfly and I never will be, but it’s nice to know that I can mingle and schmooze and make some friends in the right set of circumstances.

Other con notes: it was a pretty good convention for Fugitives from Earth, especially compared to other recent events where it got no interest at all. I was one of the top sellers from NIWA, although the convention itself was admittedly slow for us. A big part of that, I’m convinced, was our booth setup. A million other small things contributed as well; I suspect that we’ll have a lot to talk about at our next meeting.

Norwescon itself was great: good panels, great costumes, lots of people and interesting things going on. Aside from last year’s Worldcon, it’s the best convention I’ve ever been to. Even if NIWA doesn’t go back next year, I probably will.


The Joy of Constrained Creativity

So, did I accomplish my goal of getting the novel’s final creative revision done by Friday? You might remember that I promised to set myself on fire if I did not, but…I did not. However! I decided to delay my frustration-induced self-immolation for another week because I did accomplish something equally noteworthy: the cover!

Fugitives from Earth Front Cover
Now I figure another three to four hours of work will finish up the creative revision, and then it’s just copyediting and layout. I’m encouraged by reports from fellow NIWAns that layout won’t be crisis-level hard, since they’ve got templates, tips, and tricks that’ll make it easier. The trick will be to take care of the submission stuff early enough that I can get a full gallery/test copy mailed to me, correct it, and then get a bunch more mailed to me for the con.

So, that’s enough of a countdown post for today. I want to briefly talk about an awesome experience I had last week: it’s called Fiasco.

I imagine that plenty of you writers out there play or have played tabletop roleplaying games. If you’ve played more than once or twice, you probably know that some RPG systems have a lot of stats, mechanics, and die rolling, and will thus tend to play more like wargames. Others put more of an emphasis on story and character, with mechanics that influence gameplay without dominating it. And then there are a few indie games that have few to no mechanics, so as not to get in the way of the story.

Fiasco is one of the latter. It has rules, but those rules exist just to put some interesting restraints on gameplay. Without over-explaining, I’ll just say that character relationships are determined by a series of die rolls, and the characters themselves naturally evolve out of those relationships. For example, in our game, two players had the relationship “mutinous.” They were on a 1930s-era Titanic-esque ocean liner, so we decided that they were officers on the ship. One of those guys would be a criminal, since his relationship with another player was “mutual criminals.”

And then the game took off. We decided two players were working with pirates to hijack the ship, and the third player was the straight man, a crew member who stumbles on the plot. Over the course of the games 12 scenes, the players killed the captain, accidentally framed each other for the crime, barricaded themselves in the bridge, accidentally shot a passenger, and blew out the engine. It was the most fun two hours of recent memory.

I bring this up partially just because I had so much fun with it, but also because I think that, more than most RPGs, it’s a great tool for writers. It doesn’t have a game master, so everyone gets to participate in the plot. You’ve got a framework, constraints that force creativity, but don’t stifle it. The theme of the game is, generally, “small people get over their heads with fatal results,” and that informs the action as well.

The world of writing is similar. The constraints are generally self-imposed rather than external, and obviously there’s a wider variety of stories to tell, but the thinking process is the same: “Next scene. What would be awesome?” I think Fiasco is an awesome creative exercise for writers, particularly ones that wouldn’t roll a D20 if their lives depended on it.

Anyway. I hope to have more triumphant news to report by the end of the week. Also, NaNoWriMo approaches! So much to do.

P.S. Might be fun to do a Fiasco hangout on Google+. Anyone interested?

The Tension’s Mounting

I realize these countdown-style blog posts are probably getting a little familiar. The truth is, they’re getting a little too familiar to me as well. This is probably typical, but I’m starting to feel more and more that Fugitives from Earth is like an anchor around my neck. I want to move on and create something new, but I just can’t seem to get away from it. And now that things are getting so close to the wire, I have that extra bit of stress that it’s all going to be for naught.

Lovely. It hasn’t been a great day all around, so I apologize if that shows.

So without giving in to despair or frustration, here’s the situation:

  • I need to finish my final “creative” revision. As I indicated before, this mostly just means that I need to search for all the words that end in “ly” and replace them with something that scans better. That’ll be finished by Friday or I’ll set myself on fire.
  • The cover needs to be done. Not done done necessarily, but I need to have a rough version for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show on October 14th. Actually, it needs to be done a week before that, so it can be integrated with the rest of the NIWA books on a post, bookmark, and other such things.
  • The copyediting needs to be finished. My wife just got a promotion and her fall term just started, so I’m going to have to help out here. I really wish that I could afford a professional copyeditor, but unfortunately my wife didn’t get a promotion quite that good.
  • I need to do the layout. I’m hoping this won’t take too long, since I can follow directions, but I also have a strong feeling it’ll surprise me. The advantage of being in a group like NIWA is that many of them have done this before and I can leech off of all their hard work. After all, what are friends for?
  • Finally, I have to submit the whole bundle to CreateSpace and get my review copy. Once I have that in hand, I’ll look through it, find a bunch of errors, fix them, and resubmit.
  • Then, I buy a dozen or two dozen copies, have them sent to myself, and sell them at OryCon! I’ll also upload the ebook version to Smashwords.
Not too much for the next four to five weeks, right? Sure, no problem.

The Calm Before

Flush with the triumph of my two-week sprint, I took the first half of this one off, writing-wise (except for some miscellaneous tasks). My reward for pushing through was to allow myself to purchase a computer game I’ve been waiting for forever: Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

This is the worthy heir to the original Deus Ex that I’ve been waiting for (Deus Ex Invisible War certainly wasn’t it). In the last decade, the way shooters have developed means that game publishers are seeking after the Halo/Call of Duty-style hits with simple, linear campaigns and highly-developed multiplayer rather than a deep non-linear single-player experience. Fortunately, Human Revolution harkens back to the original, and comes as close as anything to meeting its high standards.

Let’s talk writing for a moment. I’m almost done with my read-through of Part I, and my goal is to have Part II and Part III done by the end of next weekend. Shouldn’t be too hard, since I’m just shotgunning my way through, trying to stay ahead of my wife’s red pen. I am correcting egregious stylistic errors, but a lot of the language is kind of committed now. Which is probably fine; I could correct it forever if I let myself.

It’s going to be pretty intense, though. I have about three weeks to get the final version done with the final cover so I can start layout on CreateSpace. I think I can make it–I made my last deadline, after all–but this weekend is going to be the only real break that I get until everything is submitted. So this is what being a real writer feels like!

I am allowing myself a few minutes here and there to write things unrelated to Fugitives from Earth. I’ve been forced to ignore the semi-weekly challenges run by NIWA, but this time I’m letting myself write a short short story for it. I’ve also got my final edits for our inaugural anthology to submit before the middle of next week.

Ah, the writer’s life. Now that the fun part is over with regard to FfE, I’m very much looking forward to putting it to bed and getting started on the next thing. Hopefully, that one won’t be quite so intense.

Mea Culpa

I was hoping to have my beta reading roundup finished in time for my regular Monday post, but it’s not quite there yet. Look for more details tomorrow, but for now I’ll just say that I got some really good feedback. The consensus was right where I wanted it to be: needs work, but it shows promise. I’m really hoping to have the novel substantially done within two months, but my previous schedules haven’t worked out all that well, so I’ll just say that my OryCon release date is looking good.

Oh, and thanks to any beta readers who may be reading this. Without you, I am nothing! Look for details tomorrow, as promised.

While you’re waiting: some good news, some bad news.

Finally, congratulations to fellow NIWAn Pam Bainbridge-Cowan AKA P.J. Cowan on the release of her new novel Something in the Dark. Looks like it’s been getting great reviews, and her experience getting the thing published in the first place will prove invaluable to yours truly. Naturally, I wish her the best of luck.

Short Story Week Multikill!

It’s short story week here at The Tenth Word once again. Yesterday, I finished the final, pre-copyedit revision of “A Descended Man” and submitted it to the NIWA board. I don’t know what it is, but despite the fact that I wrote it in literally five hours idea to end, it’s probably the best story I’ve ever written, and accommodating the revision ideas of two commenters took only twenty minutes or so. I didn’t even have to rewrite the end as I’d feared; I just needed to add a few paragraphs. Bam.

I spent this morning thinking about my rewrite for my as-yet-untitled “hopeful cyberpunk” story. Since the first draft was banged out pretty quickly, it’s not surprising that it’s going to require a total rewrite, but I think I laid a pretty solid foundation. Compared to a short story a year ago that might’ve taken six or seven rewrites until I was happy, this one might only be one or two. Sometimes it’s hard to think this way, but I am getting to be a better writer on both an instinctive and technical level.

This will be the last week of short stories, however. By next week, the beta readers will (hopefully! hopefully!) have some comments for Fugitives from Earth, and then I get to go into overdrive. In order to meet my hard deadline of mid-November, I need to do all of the rewriting in no more than 8 weeks. That’s a little intimidating.

What’s even more intimidating is the more technical aspects of releasing a book. I need to get an ISBN. I need to decide on a printer. I need to–deep breath–get a cover. Oh, and do the layout, find some way of getting it copyedited, and probably a million things I can’t even think of right now. Thankfully I’ve got NIWA around to answer at lot of my questions. Unfortunately, all of this is likely to cost money that I can’t really spend; a full professional copyedit can cost thousands. Hopefully, I can network a better solution.

Finally, I’ve been deeply engrossed in the audiobook version of Alfred Lansing’s famous 1959 book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It’s a very intimate chronicle of the men who took part in Ernest Shackleton’s failed 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the bitter privations they suffered over the next few years. I love the history of exploration; the vicarious thrills of any adventure story are always magnified when you know the story actually happened.

If you’re wondering why this isn’t on Goodreads yet, it’s because I’ve given up on Mira Grant’s Feed, and I’m loathe to admit it.

Anyway, I’ll get that fixed up and you can check it out later. Other than that, see you Friday at the latest.

Godspeed Onward

As a few of you probably know, today was the launch of the very last Space Shuttle mission, STS-135. The shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Cape Canaveral at about 8:45 this morning. I tuned in for the last few minutes of the countdown and launch, and let me tell you: I was seriously tearing up. I didn’t expect to be affected by it at all, but there’s just something iconic about the shuttle. It’s been running missions my entire life, and now this is the very last one.

The president had better be serious when he’s talking about Mars missions. We’ve been jerked around enough before.

On the writing front, I more-or-less finished another short story this week. I planned to write 4 during by July 15 and instead I got only two, but that was probably a more realistic number anyway. I’m not done with either, not by a long shot, but they’re both solid platforms for revision, and that’s really what you want out of a first draft.

The second one, which I just finished this morning, I’m particularly interested in. It takes place in the same universe as the story that’ll appear in the NIWA anthology and in a genre I like to call “hopeful cyberpunk.” Basically, you take all of the technological trappings of cyberpunk–the mind/computer interfaces, cloning, genetic manipulation, corporate dominance–and you place them in a setting that’s not particularly punkish. Picture Star Trek‘s United Federation of Planets crossed with Neuromancer and you’ll get the idea. For whatever reasons, my stories tend to work best when they’re set in tech-heavy universes. Go figure.

Speaking of the NIWA anthology, I’m about halfway through my final edits for my story. The comments have been overwhelmingly positive, and not a ton needed to be changed. I think I’m going to rework the last scene, though; what I’d hoped was a climax didn’t seem to be serving its purpose, and there was a bit too much implication in the denouement. It’s got to be made more specific. Endings are hard, man…reading through the NIWA submissions really drove that home. Out of a dozen stories, all could stand some tweaking in the ending, and a few of them just plain failed in the last quarter. It’s hard.

With that, I’ll leave you with another tear-jerker of a video, produced by NPR: