Had a book signing last night at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge. It was a ton of fun. Turnout wasn’t exceptional, but I certainly wasn’t there by myself and I probably sold between a dozen and fifteen books, which ain’t too bad for an author nobody knows about. I totally forgot to take pictures, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it. A big thanks to the folks over at Pandemonium, especially Sarah, for giving me the time and space to sit there and talk about writing and D&D and fantasy and even sing a few bars from Disney’s Tangled.
Anywho, in conversation with my friend Kevin Harrington (who is a masterful networker), I started thinking about this blog and the purpose it serves and what kinds of stuff I do here. I’m not going anywhere, don’t worry (to the extent that anybody would ever worry about the disappearance of another author blog), but I guess I kind of just want to codify and explain this weird little thing I’ve got going on.
Blog Voice #1: Me
Most of the time, the voice you hear on this blog is that of myself. I talk incessantly anyway, so talking here is just an extension of my chatty nature. I tend to write about fantasy and science fiction properties, kid’s shows, Disney, my own work, the art and craft of writing, and whatever happens to cross my path. As a literature professor, I analyze pop culture stuff a bit more deeply than I probably ought to, and I don’t regret it one bit. I also stray off into talking about Role Playing Games (the pen-and-paper kind) and all kinds of other gaming, too. Basically, if you’re a writer, a geek, or some combination, you and I should get along just fine. Either that or become mortal enemies. Time will tell.
Blog Voice #2: FOUL (Financial Operations and Underwriting Limited)
I stray into parody a fair amount here, and one of the chief avenues of this is my FOUL posts. These are essentially me imagining the kind of financial and administrative and legal apparatus that would have to exist if there really were supervillains and evil masterminds in the world. They are pretty silly – very much along the lines of the Bank of Evil in the Despicable Me movies.
Blog Voice #3: Vrokthar the Skull-Feaster
Vrokthar is a dour, bloodthirsty barbarian of the Conan type, dwelling in some fictional wasteland just north of wherever you are. He is constantly angry, and bellows his threats from his throne of skulls. I use Vrokthar sometimes to vent about things that piss me off, since him venting is ridiculous and comical, and me venting is petty and mean. As Vrokthar is an absurdist caricature of a person, he says and believes things I do not, so there is a fair amount of distance between the things he might threaten to do or the things he finds insulting and the things that *I* do, but the stuff he’s complaining about is somehow related to what’s bothering me (even if I’m using Vrokthar to be sarcastic). Anyway, it’s just nice to have an angry barbarian come in sometimes and threaten to disembowel those who defy him.
Blog Voice #4: World-building Stuff
I also use this blog to flesh out settings for my novels. There’s a pile of old documents on Tvyian’s world under the Saga of the Redeemed tab, some stuff on the Union of Stars, some stuff on Nyxos, and more, besides. I mean, assuming you’re into that kind of thing. I have no blessed idea if anybody actually enjoys reading that stuff (it tends to get the fewest hits), so I try not to do it very often.
Blog Voice #5: Guest Posts!
I know a bunch of authors, and so many of them I invite to come on the blog and share excerpts from their new works or guest posts about whatever they feel like sharing. I should note that I don’t want to deal with unsolicited offers of guest posts just yet (I’m not so huge a platform I’d be doing you many favors, anyway, and I’m about as busy as I want to be here), but perhaps one day, if I’m able to quit my day job and write full time.
(Pause here for laughter)
Anyway, that’s basically what’s going on here. Oh, and there’s a few other things, too. Like that time I wrote about One Eyed Willie from Goonies, which has been very popular, or that time I channeled HG Wells for a silly joke, which is one of my favorites.
Well, long story short (too late), I’m curious as to what you folks like to read here and what, if anything, gets you coming back. I’m not saying I’ll change my behavior, mind you, but I’m curious. How is all of this going? Let me know!
WordPress has just informed me that it’s been another year of me writing this blog o’ mine. Seeing how I don’t have anything else pressing to discuss, this anniversary is fortuitous as it gives me something to write about, if only briefly.
I have pretty consistently posted about twice a week on this blog: almost always on Monday, and then again on either Wednesday or Friday, depending. I’ve doubled the number of followers I have and views on the site have varied from several hundred to fifty. This summer it has been around fifty pretty much consistently. This puts me behind the 2011-2012 view numbers, but that’s okay. I barely promote this blog and fifty views a day is enough for me to know that somebody is reading this thing and that I can be found if someone is looking.
While I enjoy blogging, my purpose here isn’t really to blog, per se. I don’t want to be a ‘blogger’ by trade or affectation. I’m a writer, and writing a blog is a way to establish that I exist to a digital world that is barely aware of me. This is, in essence, my digital office, wherein I make small inroads into making sure my name pops up in a Google search. I’m trying not to invest too much of my time into it, since the more time I spend here, the less time I spend actually writing. Of course, as somebody who has difficulty doing things by half measures, two posts a week are my minimum standard for maintaining this thing. If I’m going to write a blog, I’m going to write a blog; it isn’t something I’ll abandon on a whim. If I intend to quit updating for a while, you’ll hear about it.
On the subject of my professional aims, this has been a pretty good year in terms of writing. As of this moment, I have four stories accepted to various publications. Some of them haven’t supplied me with contracts yet, so I hesitate lauding them, but one of them is a really big publication credit to my mind (*cough* Analog *cough*). When I have a fixed idea of when these four stories are going to be released, I’ll be certain to let you know and prod you to buy/read them.
On the novel-writing front, things go well there, too. This summer I wrote the first third of the sequel to The Oldest Trick (mostly because I love Tyvian Reldamar, and for no greater professional purpose) as well as more than half of a new novel, which is currently titled simply Lych – it’s urban fantasy, which is a bit more saleable in the current market (I hope), and I hope to finish a rough draft by the end of winter at the latest.
The two novels I have finished and am shopping around (The Rubric of All Things and The Oldest Trick) are still under consideration at Harper Voyager books following their open submission call, which is a good thing. At last check, the editors told me they were both ‘very much still under consideration’, which I am taking as a hopeful sign one of them will be picked up. The Rubric of All Things, by the way, was the one that made Quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. All good news!
Finally, on an ‘actually pays me money’ professional note, I have been promoted out of adjunct professor-hood to a full-time lecturer/faculty associate of English at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (whew! some title – I know). I start that new position tomorrow, which is very exciting as it will be the first time in my professional life I will have an office of my own (it may even have a door!). Go me!
So, in closing – thank you all for reading, and please continue to do so. This blog has been a great way to get the creative juices flowing and to share some of my ideas with whoever wants to listen. As a writer and a teacher, I do so enjoy hearing myself talk. I am glad there are at least a few people out there who do, as well.
So, I just was nominated for the Liebster Award for small blogs by Smash of Smashing Through Life. This is such a nice gesture, as I feel my dusty little corner of the internet doesn’t really get a whole lot of attention, and it’s always nice when someone stops by to pay me a compliment. This thing doesn’t come with any prizes or fame or fortune, but that’s okay – it’s a nice way to connect to the rest of the blogging community, anyway, which is something I rarely do. Anyway, here we go with the festivities:
The Liebster award is a recognition given to small bloggers by other small bloggers (max 200 followers), and the rule for the awards are:
1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog. That’s easy enough. Thank you again to my friend at Smashing Through Life
2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answering the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.
3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
4. Display the Liebster Award logo.
5. No tag back thingy’s. (Which I assume means that the people I nominate can’t just re-nominate me?)
Now, my answers to Smash’s Questions:
- How do you take your eggs?
Depends on my mood, really. Usually over-easy, just a tad runny, with a bagel or English muffin. I also eat Hard Boiled with a bit of salt and a bagel.
- What is the best concert you ever went to?
I really haven’t been to a lot of non-classical concerts, actually (hold on and let me adjust my pocket protector). I would say the best concert I went to was a thing at Boston’s Symphony Hall last year that featured a bunch of young up-and-coming artists (of whom my daughter’s babysitter was one) and was followed up by Steve Martin’s bluegrass band. Good times.
- What’s hiding under your bed right now?
The nightmares of a thousand wayward children, condensed and made solid by weighty tread of centuries in the dark. Or my dog. Yeah, probably just my dog.
- Worst book you ever read, maybe you couldn’t even finish it. What was it?
Tough one – I’ve read a LOT of bad books. I’m going to go with a controversial choice, since this book consistently gets me into a rant: Push by Sapphire (which I read years and years ago, long before the movie, which I’ve never seen) was a *fantastic* book for the first three quarters or so of the narrative and then Precious just stops being in it and her voice is gone and we’re reading stuff from the point of view of the other kids in her class. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT CRAP? Drives me absolutely bonkers that the protagonist just vanishes from the novel like that, left more-or-less mid-conflict (or at least I don’t recall any kind of denouement, not even an incomplete one).
I’ll give an honorable mention to Portrait of a Man Unknown by Nathalie Sarraute, as it is a novel without any proper nouns. That’s right, you heard me.
- How do you like your pizza topped?
Sausage, garlic, extra cheese.
- What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever eaten?
A chicken heart. It’s kinda like meat-flavored chewing gum.
- What is the most played song on your iPod?
Don’t own an iPod. Weird, right? The music I probably listen to most often is various movie soundtracks – O Brother Where Art Thou, Conan the Barbarian, etc..
- Would you or do you go to the movies alone?
I do not, thus I hardly ever go to the movies anymore. Le sigh. I see things at home usually 1-3 years after they come out.
- When was the last time you got so drunk you couldn’t remember anything the next morning?
I don’t drink, so this has never happened to me. I did get drunk once as an experiment, just to see what it was like. According to my girlfriend (and now wife) who was present, I’m a lusty drunk.
- Something that makes you smile, every single time you think of it. What is it?
“I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams.”
- What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I really don’t know. Nothing I’ve ever done sticks out to me as being particularly brave, or at least not that I consider so. I once recovered a runaway sailboat by being dragged behind it for a couple miles. I want to become a professional novelist. Those things, I guess, are brave after a fashion.
Here are my questions:
1) Why do you write a blog?
2) If you could visit any period or place in history, where would it be and why?
3) Domestic Pets: Dogs, Cats, or ‘Other’?
4) If you were President of the United States, what would you do with your power first?
5) What is the coldest day you remember?
6) What’s the scariest movie you ever saw?
7) Who do you think is the best actor/actress currently alive?
8) Your ideal Thanksgiving/holiday meal would contain which foods?
9) If they sold flying cars, would you want one?
10) Who do you think will conquer whom: Do we conquer the aliens, or do the aliens conquer us?
11) If you actually had the One Ring in your possession, which of your friends would you give it to because you know they wouldn’t be corrupted by it?
Now for my nominations. The thing is, I really don’t read a lot of other small blogs (shame, shame), so I don’t know that I’ll get quite 11 of them. Here it goes, though:
That’s all I got! Thanks again, Smash (insert bow here).
So, keen readers will have noted that over the last week or so I’ve made a few minor changes around here.
- Links to publications I’ve been featured in/contests I’ve placed in are listed under ‘Where to Find My Stuff’.
- A new ‘contact me’ page so that, should the mood ever strike someone, they could, you know, contact me.
Beyond that, I’ve been toying with the idea of giving the blog a new title. I’d keep my name as a subtitle, perhaps, but I feel I should have a title beyond simply my name. Perhaps I’ll go with “Hooray, What Fun, It’s Time We Flew”, but that seems long-ish and I don’t know if I like it.
I should mention that I’m terrible with titles. I can never decide and usually just give up after I come up with something halfway decent.
Anybody have any title suggestions? Thoughts on whether I should change the title at all? Feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I’ll keep poking and prodding this thing into…I dunno…something more ‘professional’.
It occurs to me that, about a year ago (give or take a week), I began writing this blog. This seems as good a time as any to reflect upon it, so here we go:
For one thing, traffic has gone up a lot. Last time I did this (about four months in or so), I was averaging 40 views a day. Now I average between 70-100 and I had a stretch or two there where I was between 300-1000. I don’t think these are necessarily unique page views and, in the scheme of blog-dom, this is really small potatoes, but more is more. Traffic has lagged a bit the last few weeks, but I think that has something to do with the Publicize feature not working right and me not noticing for a while.
Anyway, more views, more followers, and it seems to be more-or-less sustaining itself. Good.
I’ve largely eliminated my fiction contributions to this blog. I still write a little bitty scene here or there, but that’s about it. They do not seem to be missed, by and large, and those posts always got the fewest views, anyway. I try not to take this personally and tell myself that much of the blog-reading world is pretty firmly in the ‘tl;dr’ camp. Anything I post over a thousand words gets fewer hits; attention spans ain’t what they used to be.
In writing news, I didn’t wind up winning the Writers of the Future contest this time around. Though most rejections roll off my back, this hasn’t. This is much because it wasn’t a rejection–I placed as a finalist, which is good. It also means I didn’t win, which my hyper-competitive nature inherently interprets as ‘losing’, even though it isn’t. Finishing as a finalist is a great honor and good for my career…
I’ve landed another story, this time with Stupefying Stories, which is also good. I can now send out all that stuff I was holding back from submission while I was waiting for the contest results, this time with the moniker ‘Writers of the Future Finalist’ attached to the queries, which should help. Onward and upward, though I’m getting very tired of finishing second-tier in my writing career. My novel queries make it past the initial round of readers, make their way to editors’ desks…and then ‘aren’t right for them’. My stories make it through the first round of cuts and I get wonderful, personalized rejection letters. These are good signs, ultimately, but they are uniquely frustrating. I’d almost prefer the form, pat rejections, since then I don’t have to live with the knowledge of just how close I came.
(Actually, no, I wouldn’t prefer that. This frustration in my guts is a good motivator.)
In between my bouts of ‘almost getting there,’ though, there is this blog here, wherein I can publish things and pontificate about stuff my wife would never want to listen to and people read it. That, as it happens, helps a bit and also keeps me in the writing zone, which is important. The semester is looming, and I’m sure my classes will be packed full of students–staying in the zone is very, very difficult, believe me.
Anyway, thank you all for reading. I hope you have enjoyed the blog, and I’m interested to hear your feedback overall or about anything in particular. Thanks again!
Okay, so I’ve been doing this blog thing for about 5 months now, and I suppose it’s time for some self-reflection. When I started this blog, I swore to myself that it wouldn’t do or be about a couple things.
- No Navel-gazing: That is to say, the blog won’t be about me, my personal life, my problems, or anything like that.
- No Politics: I’m not interested in starting political arguments, I’m not interested if people think my opinions regarding the state of the world are right or wrong, and I don’t want to be tempted into debating things with people who don’t agree with me.
- No Random Spam: If I’m putting something on the blog, it’s mostly going to be my own thoughts or reactions to some idea I’ve had or been inspired to discuss by others. I’m not just going to, say, post a picture of a thinking monkey I found on the internet somewhere and go ‘LOL!’
Now, with the exception of #3, I’ve avoided this stuff (I had a post at some point just linking to the Straight Dope wherein they discussed the practicalities of a cube-world. It was awesome; forgive me). I intend to keep sticking to my rules; I like them.
What I have been putting on the blog is a fairly even mix of critiques about sci-fi or fantasy topics, random ideas and observations or even analyses of spec fic topics, and finally my own fiction. Of it all, the stuff that I’ve liked the most has been my fiction, but the stuff that everybody else has liked the most has been the other stuff. As it is my intent to become a successful, published author, I’m not sure what to make of that. Furthermore, friends of mine have drawn my attention to this blog post entitled “How Not To Blog,” wherein the author tells me that posting unpublished fiction on a blog is a Bad Idea.
If I may digress on this point for a second: Why not? Well, yeah, I guess people don’t read it all that often (I average 30-ish hits for non-fiction posts and only 20-ish for fiction, both of which are tiny), and obviously if I were to post an entire story here, I’ve given up or decided not to publish it professionally, but I really can’t understand how it hurts my chances of getting an agent. First off, the stories I publish up here are usually pretty damned good, if I may say so myself. Are they my best stuff? Well, no–that stuff I’m sending off to sell. The excerpts of novels I’m trying to sell, well, I guess I can see it as being a bad idea to post stuff I hope to publish, but those instances are really only the barest fraction of what the work entails. I’m not serializing it, and it isn’t like I’m not querying through the normal channels in the meantime.
Furthermore, if I’m a fiction writer and I’m not supposed to post fiction, then…why am I here again? Are folks really tuning in to read my opinions on why Avatar sucks, but repulsed by my own stories? WTF, internet. Is that what blogging is about? It’s okay for me to bitch and moan about my personal problems or go all glassy-eyed about that one time I saw that really pretty rainbow or rip apart somebody else’s creative work, but when I try to create something myself, it’s not okay? Hmph. Sounds a lot like academia, to me–yeah, get your PhD in How To Read Everybody Else’s Stuff and you’re the toast of the town, but get your MFA in Making My Own Stuff and you’re a second-class citizen. Bull and Shit. If this is how the Publishing Industry works or some facet of Self Promotion I don’t understand, then that goes to show that I really ought not self-publish, since I clearly don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
Alright, rant over. Back to reflection. Cue the soothing music. Light up the incense (let me get my inhaler…pfft…okay, yeah, light it now).
Anyway, traffic around here has steadily increased, so that means I’m doing something right. I have more followers than when I started, which is also a good sign. I think for the future I’m going to focus more on posting fewer longer stories and cut the novel excerpts out entirely (better safe than sorry). That won’t stop me from posting the occasional vigniette or short-short–stuff I wouldn’t sell anyway. I will probably up the amount of RPG posts I’ll make, since those seem to be popular. I’m currently posting 2-4 posts a week, which seems a manageable pace. Furthermore, and against my original predictions, I have enjoyed posting here. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too, since I’m going to keep doing it. Tough luck, Facebook.
I’m very open to suggestions or comments regarding my blog thus far. If you have an opinion of what I’ve been doing, good or bad, let me know. Oh, and thanks ever so much for reading!