Indiana Boy

My home state of Indiana has been in the news a lot this last week for some of the worst possible reasons. SB 101 aka the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law last week despite some very vocal opposition. Personally, I think SB 101 is terrible.

Many folks will note that other states have similar laws, and that there is a federal law dating to the Clinton Era. This is not that law. There appear to be a couple of very important distinctions between IN’s SB 101 and for those other laws, and for those distinctions, I’ll point you to this article from The Atlantic.

As a result of the bill, there has been a campaign to call for a boycott of the state, including by George Takei.

I can’t make anyone’s decisions for them. But I disagree with the call for a blanket boycott of the State of Indiana. I’m also particularly upset by people dismissing and insulting the entire state due to the harmful actions of its legislators and officials. There are many in Indiana who oppose SB101, as is seen by GenCon’s letter of opposition, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s executive order reaffirming that businesses operating within the city must abide by its human rights ordnance, and this front-page editorial in the Indianapolis Star.

Rather than a blanket boycott of Indiana, I’d suggest a strategic and vocal boycott of businesses seen to use this law to discriminate against marginalized persons. Instead why not vocally patronize inclusive businesses?

Open For Service

And on top of that, fight to make sexual orientation a protected class for the entire state, and to get SB 101 overturned so a more reasonable protection for religious expression can be crafted and implemented.

Boycotts punish everyone, and tend to disproportionately hurt smaller business of those already marginalized.

Everyone has to do what’s best for them, especially folks who are likely to be at-risk because of this law.

Some have condemned GenCon for failing to make a more extreme move. I’ll remind folks that GenCon has a contract with the city and the convention center until 2020 – pulling out before that would likely be a disastrous cost. Possibly a ‘bankrupt the entire organization and ensure that there will never be another GenCon cost. Now if SB101 is still in place by 2021, I fully support GenCon moving to another state in order to ensure it is the welcoming, inclusive event that it strives to be.

And while I have your attention, other horrible stuff is going down in Indiana, too.

Disengaging isn’t really very likely to achieve positive change. Bringing more scrutiny to these laws, being very vocal in *not* patronizing businesses that choose to discriminate and instead patronizing their competitors who are inclusive? That strikes me as far more effective. The really big businesses are already making their statements. For individuals, the one or two orders placed with an inclusive business instead of a bigoted business can mean a lot. If you’re in a position where you would be patronizing an IN business, perhaps take the extra 1-3 minutes to find an inclusive business. And if you feel like it, the extra 1-3 minutes on top of that to let a bigoted business know that you’ve taken your money elsewhere in the state because of their discrimination.

Goals for 2015

2014 was a big year for my writing career, and I’m hoping that 2015 will be even bigger. Here’s how I’m planning on making that happen.

Going Hybrid

I’m planning on joining the growing ranks of authors who publish both traditionally and on their own, aka ‘Hybrid Authors.’ I’ve got a couple of options on how to pursue self-publishing, depending on how some things that are currently up the the air end up resolving.

Talking Shop

Last year, I got to talk about the business side of publishing at a couple of panels, to great acclaim. Like, kind of surprising attention. People are hungry for accurate, no-BS information about the industry, and I’m in a unique position to share that information, as a publishing professional with years of experience on both the staff and author side of the business.

To that end, I’m going to be focusing more of my blogging time on talking about the publishing industry in an organized fashion. This achieves several goals – it gets the information out there for people to use, and it helps me get the information down so that I can share it in multiple ways (see self-publishing ideas above).

I’ll also be proposing and hosting Business of Publishing panels at conventions across the year, starting with ConFusion next week in Michigan.

Books!

Ultimately, this is all about books and storytelling. I have one novel scheduled for this year, Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel (fourth story in the series when counting Attack the Geek). The novel is written and currently with my editor. Hexomancy completes the first major arc for the series, bringing several storylines from the previous novels together for a geek-tastic plot-splosion.

But Hexomancy is not all you should expect from me in 2015, book-wise. More on that when the time is right. For know, be assured that what I’ve got in store will appeal to fans of my current work, while also moving into new ground in ways that I think are very cool.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing for 2015, I’d point you toward my newsletter, which will be seeing more love, more exclusive content, and more giveaways this year.

Life

But that’s enough vague-blogging for now.

The biggest thing I’m doing in 2015 is getting married! This will also take up a fair bit of my attention, though my fiance and I are working on making the wedding celebrations suit our interests more than fulfilling the agenda of the Wedding-Industrial Complex. Goofy dancing, yes, zillion-dollar flower arrangements, not so much.

Here’s to 2015 and all of its promise.

2014 in Review – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Here it is, a big 2014 in review post. 2014 has been a hell of a year, in great and terrible ways, across most axes of my life. It is a year that will not soon be forgotten, that’s for damned sure.

 

The Good

Three New Books

I had three new book releases this year, all in ebook and audio, and one in trade paperback (my first print release). That’s pretty freaking amazing. If I’d accomplished nothing else in 2014, this would still be a win. I’d had one book out each of 2012 and 2013, so jumping up to three book releases was a huge step for me and my writing career.

Those three books, in case you’re new to the Mike-verse, are:

Attack the Geek: A Ree Reyes Side-Quest – a long novella in the Ree Reyes/Geekomancy series. It’s short, action-and-character-driven.

Shield and Crocus: A superhero epic fantasy set in a city built among the bones of a titan. It’s my attempt to combine my favorite parts of the New Weird and Superhero genres.

The Younger Gods: A supernatural thriller starring the one moral son in a family of sociopathic sorcerers who want to bring on the apocalypse.

Writing Breakthroughs

In addition to releasing new books, I was also writing new books. I wrote Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel, as well as revising the releases for this year. I also wrote three novellas in a new series which I should be able to talk publicly about very soon *plotty fingers*. All of these were written very quickly (for me). I wrote the first draft of Hexomancy (72k words) in a month, which was a total process breakthrough for me. When I finished that draft, I was exhausted, depleted, but totally excited. The major question I had was this: Can I do it again? Or was this an aberration?

Then, in about six weeks from the very end of October through the first week in December, I wrote another 70k ish words for the rough drafts of the three novellas. That’s not nearly as fast as the Hexomancy draft, but this was a new series as opposed to a series I’ve been writing for multiple years. If I can consistently produce at the 70k in 6 weeks rate? That would be a total game changer for my writing career.

Outlining

One of the reasons why I was able to pull of these strong production schedules is that this is the year I made a major move along the Outliner/Pantser continuum. Thanks to books like 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron, the videos/tutorials from the folks at the Self-Publishing Podcast, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Writing on the Fast Track class, I changed my outlining and pre-production process, giving myself a much clearer outline to work from, as well as learning how to design more of the story ahead of time so that my first-drafting time was more focused on moving forward and less on having to stop and figure out what to do next. I’m still refining my pre-production process, trying to figure out what parts of the world and story I need to have at least penciled in before drafting begins. And considering the production schedule I’ve set for 2015, I’m going to need all of the help I can give myself.

Conventions

In addition to tons of writing, I went to a lot of conventions. Eleven of them, in fact. About half were for work, half were on my own as a writer. I met a bunch of cool people, connected with fans, plotted with fellow authors and with my Angry Robot peeps, sold a bunch of books at the consumer shows, and decided to expand my writing career into comics.

Also, I was nominated for a Hugo Award as part of the Skiffy and Fanty Show, which is amazing. We didn’t win, but getting to participate in the pomp of the Hugo Awards as a nominee was a total delight.

In those eleven conventions, learned a lot about what makes conventions work and not work, what I want out of conventions, and how to approach a convention in a focused way to pursue that agenda.

And More

I’m also planning a wedding, co-hosting a readings series, participating in a podcast, and geeking out as much as I can.

 

The Bad

I Was an Adventurer Like You, Then I Took An Arrow in the Knee

Well, not an arrow. My fiance and I moved across town to a new (awesome) row-home in February, but there was a price. As a result of a day spent tromping up and down stairs with heavy boxes and crawling over the center console of my car to drive back and forth (you see, the driver’s side door was broken because fun), I did something truly unkind to my knee. Walking more than a half-mile or so hurt, driving hurt, and the moderate-intensity exercise regimin I’d been doing was right out. Even using my treadmill desk as a standing desk hurt.

It sucked. I babied the knee for a while, and it got a fair bit better, but then I went and worked two conventions in two weeks, where I had to be on my feet and energetic for eight or so hours a day. And so when I came back, my mostly-better knee had gotten a lot worse. So I went to the doctor, I got an MRI, etc. And it turns out I’ve got a nice little bone spur on my knee that scrapes the tendons as I walk and move.

Sweet. No, wait, the other thing.

Anyway, I buckled down and went through a couple of months of physical therapy, which was incredibly helpful (I know know the terror and marvel of the foam roller. Oh, foam roller, my most hateful friend). I can drive more easily now, but it still hurts. I can use my treadmill desk again in a limited capacity, which is excellent. I’m hoping in 2015 I’ll be able to expand what I do for exercise and get back into some historical martial arts or tango, but it looks like the bone spur isn’t going anywhere unless I want to go get surgery, which I’d rather avoid if I can manage with PT and smart self-care.

 

The Ugly

The Summer of My Discontent

The knee thing was bad. What was worse is how summer went with my day job. Our owners decided to put the whole company up for sale, but we weren’t allowed to talk about it at all, under threat of losing our jobs. Which meant I spent most of the summer worrying about whether I was going to lose my job and having very little control over much of anything.

That was not fun. In fact, it was pretty miserable. For a lot of reasons.

Luckily, we found a buyer, we’re no longer beholden to the old owners, and the company is back, with grand plans for 2015, and my quality of life at the job is way better, and will be even better when our publishing program resumes in March.

 

Takeaways

So, that’s a lot. A lot of good, some not-so-good, and many lessons.

Here are my big takeaways from the year:

  • Discipline and planning have a direct relationship to my speed of production.
  • Some separation between work and my personal life is good, even in a job I love.
  • Conventions are fun, but they require a plan just like every other part of the business.
  • Surprisingly, I am mortal, and I need to take care of myself and listen to my body.

 

Looking Forward to 2015

Where 2014 was a big year in writing and life, 2015 is promising to be even bigger. I’ve got a lot of work planned to be completed in 2015, including some very exciting stuff. I’m going to get married in 2015 to the coolest, smartest, funniest woman I know, and we’re throwing (two?) parties to celebrate that marriage with friends and loved ones. And there’s a ton of books and movies and comics and TV I’m excited about enjoying over the next year.

2014, you’ve been instructive in a bunch of different ways.

Roll on 2015.

Remembering Graham Joyce

Today I remember Graham Joyce, one of my teachers at Clarion West, who passed away this afternoon after a long battle with cancer.

Graham was the instructor the week we critiqued the original short story version of “Shield and Crocus.” Graham encouraged me to go and write the story as a novel. He also taught me about dialogue and about how to break apart revision tasks in a way that made it seem doable.

He was with us for the third week of the workshop, when nearly all of us were locked into a somber routine of spending all of our time writing and critiquing. Graham gathered us up and took us out to the pub – he took us out pretty much every day that week, leading by example to show us how to build community as writers, how to balance work and play, to enjoy ourselves after putting a hard day’s work.

I got to see Graham last fall at World Fantasy in Brighton, along with several of my Clarion West classmates. As ever, Graham was warm, smart, and supportive, giving generously of his time to catch up with us.

Graham brought great work into this world, and his warmth and insights moved many in the community. He will be remembered.

If you’re not familiar with Graham’s work, I’d recommend The Tooth Fairy, which I read before heading to Clarion West. You might also try his recent The Year of the Ladybird.

Sword & Laser Hangout

I had the marvelous chance to appear on the Sword & Laser podcast for one of their Google+ Hangouts! We did the interview live on Hangouts on Air, and now the video is archived on YouTube:

I’ve been a Sword & Laser listener and sometimes participant on Goodreads for a few years now, so it was very cool and somewhat surreal to be a guest on the show.

Big thanks to Veronica and Tom for having me on!

The Skiffy & Fanty Show Nominated for Best Fancast Hugo

Dear all,

I’m over the that’s-not-a-moon to announce that The Skiffy & Fanty Show, the SF/F Podcast I joined last year, has been nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Fancast. We’re nominated with a great slate of podcasts, and it’s a great honor to be among such company.

You can find a full list of nominees here.

15 Writers Meme

Aside

The Rules: list 15 writers/poets who’ve influenced you and will always stick with you. Don’t overthink. List the 15 influences in 15 minutes.

I’m going to skip authors who I met and befriended before knowing their work for this one (namely Marie Brennan, Darja Malcolm-Clarke, Alyc Helms, etc.)

These are roughly in chronological order of my encountering the author’s work.

Madeline L’Engle
Ursula K. LeGuin
Gary Paulsen
Margaret Weis
Tracey Hickman
Mark Rein*Hagen
Phil Bruccato
George R. R. Martin
Joseph Campbell
Chuang Tzu (probably not a real person)
Octavia Butler
China Mieville
Warren Ellis
Judith Butler
Scott Lynch

The Fear (Revision, Critiques, and the Liberation of Doing)

Back in February, my fiance and I moved across town to a new home – and since it was a short-distance move, we broke it down into a number of waves. That had the overall effect of reducing the amount of stress on any one day, but it ended up getting spread across the month, spreading out the stress. I could have managed the schedule better, especially since it was a also a busy time for my fiance at work.

The thing that made the whole process more problematic, no matter what form it takes, is my strong aversion to moving. Something about putting my whole life in boxes, in de-nesting, is really emotionally taxing for me. I moved several times as a kid (IN->TX->NY->NJ->IN) and the stress of moving seems to get an automatic critical for double emotional submission damage.

Not working on writing due to free time going to moving plus the stress of moving meant that when I did get to sit down and look through the critiques from my beta readers for The Younger Gods, it all seemed a bit too much. I got The Fear. The ‘Oh crap this book is garbage I can’t possibly fix it,’ kind of Fear that is totally baseless and is just self-doubt wearing context-specific armor and dual-wielding fatigue and not-having-written anxiousness.

After a day or two of letting The Fear get to me, I decided to just start working. I picked a couple of small changes and fixes to make, and I did them, ignoring what at the time seemed like a huge pile of ‘impossible’ work.

Surprise surprise – once I got started working, The Fear receded. This is something I’ve faced before. If I spend too long not working on something for writing, whatever I’m supposed to be doing seems more and more intimidating. In reality, the day-by-day effort of working on novels, stories, or even promotional admin keeps The Fear at bay.

Put me down as a ‘make sure to always be working on something’ kind of writer. I still sometimes need fallow periods after big pushes, but I think I’m the sort that always needs to be tending to the irons on the fire. Luckily, I have a lot of irons.

The Musical Life

I come from musical people. Not just Musical People (Broadway, etc.), but music people. My parents met doing musical theater, my little sister is likely to study Vocal Performance/Musical Theater at college, I’ve performed in musicals and spent more than ten year in various choirs.

Even though I’m five years out from my last music gig, music still has an incredible impact on me. Even being a writer, music is still the form most likely to get me from emotionally neutral to teary in 60 seconds flat.

I’ve talked before about the fact that I write to music. In fact, music is so integrated into my process that I seldom really feel like I have my head wrapped around a story concept until I’ve settled on at least a small handful of songs that take me to the right mental/emotional headspace.

Here’s some music that’s gotten me moving and kept me writing in the last few months:

Postmodern Jukebox “Die Young”

Daft Punk ft. Farrell Williams “Get Lucky”

Amy McNally Hazardous Fiddle

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals “Stars”

Two Steps From Hell Archangel