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The Mindset That Matters

(The following article originally appeared exclusively for backers for Patreon.)

This is an odd article to write, and not at all what I expected to be writing.  After all, I’ve a fight scene break-down in the works, a post on chokeholds in the wings, and an interview set for after the first of the year.

But right now…  Well.

On the morning of November 21, I sent messages of encouragement and excitement to a past student of mine preparing to test for her Sandan rank (3rd degree black belt), and exchanged cheerful notes with my own teacher, Shihan, of more than a dozen years, who’d be overseeing the test.

Then all my karate contacts on all social media platforms went quiet for a few hours, as one would expect during a long and demanding test.  But what followed was not the  outpouring of celebratory pictures and comments tempered with tales of hardship.

Instead, I found a smattering of brief comments, then a bunch of longer ones, expressing loss and grief.

Shihan’s sensei of four decades had died unexpectedly, and Shihan had found out ten minutes before bowing onto the mat to evaluate the efforts of almost three dozen students prepared to prove themselves worthy of the black belt.  He made the announcement to students and observers, dedicated the day to Hanshi, and began the test.

Had it been Shihan who’d passed away, he would have wanted the same thing.  And you know what?  So would I.

This is not an article about my loss and grief.  Truly, I met Hanshi only a scant handful of times so my sense of loss is removed, more of an empathetic reaction for those who were close to him.  This writing is instead about continuity and legacy, understanding how those things contribute to the formation of a fighter’s mindset, and how a fully realized mindset creates an authentic fighting character.

**100_2182 Continue reading The Mindset That Matters

Reviewers On the SPFBO

So Fantasy Faction put up its consolidation of responses from reviewers taking part in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. It’s worth reading for the range of responses—from the majority who found good reads to the minority who seem to believe indie writers are arrogant little things who ought to buck up.

As of this moment, my comment is still in moderation,* but I’ve included it here:

Thank you for putting these answers together! It’s interesting to see the numbers–the majority–in line with others in the field. (As in, the six out of seven SFWA members who consider indie publishing on the same professional footing as trade publishing.)

We talk often about self-publishing being a revolution. In truth, it’s an evolution, and the entire ecosystem will eventually evolve with it. As a reader and a writer, I greatly appreciate those who are taking part in the transition rather than waiting for it to be over. 🙂

I believe that truly, because we’re not talking solely about business opportunities here. We’re talking about a cultural and sociological shift as well. When business opportunities broaden, when consumers gain more control over purchasing decisions—and when those two things combine to alter the level of influence enjoyed by primary and secondary players—there will of course be resistance from some.  Few people like change, especially when it affects their foundational expectations.  And of those who don’t like change, very few will set that dislike aside in order to explore the opportunities of the new.

Three years ago, I told folks who asked me about the changes in publishing that it’d likely take three to five years to integrate. The three-year notion turns out to have been optimistic in terms of the most entrenched. But it’s about right for the majority. We have a little bit of time to go, but pros in the field who gain their news and information from diverse sources know things are changing beneath the feet of those who wish to stand still.

In the meantime, readers are enjoying their expanded options, and don’t much care who approves.

It’ll be interesting to see the readership and influence of different reviewers in the coming years. Will the most-read and oft-citied be those who opt now to stick solely to trade-published works most favored by marketing departments? Or will it be those whose diverse reading pool matches that available to readers?

If you’re a reviewer who’d like to see professional indie offerings, and would be willing to give SFWA some feedback, please drop me a line via my contact information.

And, once again, I really really wish I could find those old discussions about whether online markets should be considered professional, or if they were simply a dumping ground for stories that couldn’t cut it in the print mags.

In the meantime, I’m off again to Sirens for the evening!

*I moderate my comments as well, so the observation shouldn’t be taken as a criticism.

#SFWApro

On the Move…

On this big con weekend, I will be transporting my son, my dogs, myself, and all our belongings from Indiana to Colorado.  It’s been a rough couple weeks of packing, prepping, and saying a great many goodbyes.  My dojo and students have been successfully introduced to new instructors.  Other business obligations have been concluded.

I am incredibly excited to move forward in a new place and to build new relationships.  And I’m doubly thrilled I’ll again have the time to get back to SheyKhala so y’all can find out what Syrina, Pyrius, Ehren, and Raskah are up to.

So… I’ll see you after the move is complete!

And Then I Stared In Shock

100_2182As most of you know, I’ve spent the last year or so dealing with the fallout of deteriorating hip dysplasia.  For the most part, daily life isn’t deeply affected–evening stiffness, a bit of a limp when I’m tired, and an occasional wince-worthy pinch if I step wrong. It’s my martial arts training that took the biggest hit. Multi-hour sessions of intense training are a thing of the past, as are sharp sparring matches, most kicks above the knee, and anything that requires lots of torque or pressure on that joint.

Considering all that, I’d pretty much given up on testing for my Sandan rank (aka third-degree black belt). Yes, I could perform the material… if I could spread my demonstration out over a few days. But an hours-long high-intensity test? Erm, no. Not only was it doubtful I could get my hip to hold up for that long, I was certain I didn’t want to create more damage than I could properly recover from.

And it totally bummed be out–even moreso because I’d been on the verge of testing way back when my elbow dislocated. The complete healing of those ligaments overlapped with the decline of my hip and… well. That was that.

Thus you can imagine my shock and my weepiness when, after I ran the belt promotion for my own students, my teacher announced my promotion to Sandan.

And, unbeknownst to me, my adult students had put together a little celebration for it, too. Cake, drinks, everything for all the students and parents. I came home with little red-icing fingerprints on the back of my gi from kids hugging me after cake. 🙂

So. There it is. Sandan.  Me.  Whoa.

Update: Breath of Stone

522-BreathOfStone-cover - CopyMy darlings, there is indeed forward movement!

This week and next week are for major structural revisions.  We’re talking quite major here.  Were this an architectural project, I’d be doing something akin to replacing spiral staircases with glass elevators, and installing fireplaces in place of heating ducts.  Sure, it would be relatively simple were I just changing the artistic renderings.  But elevators and fireplaces require the installation or creation of all sorts of things that’ll be hidden behind panels and walls, and its the hidden things that make the obvious and visible function at it’s best.  That’s what has consumed my time.

Plot is easy.  Story is hard.

If I do it properly and well, if I take the time to do it right, maybe the reader won’t notice.  Maybe it’ll look effortless.  And I want it to seem that way.  I want the story to capture and resonate.  Yeah, I put in little connections and hints and call-backs, but I’d prefer they work without distracting the reader with their presence.

I don’t want to be a clever writer (which is good, because I am not clever).  I don’t want to be a writer-as-character in the story.  I want the story to be for the reader.

So.  The tentative schedule goes something like this:

Between now and next weekend, I need to retrofit the existing manuscript.  This includes stripping out a subplot that not only wandered into the hinterlands but tried to drag the main plot with it, replacing those chapters with what will actually work, and reordering some of the remaining pieces so they fit better into the structure.  I estimate it’ll take about 20K words of new material.

Then I really want to take another week to make one more pass before sending it along to beta readers.

Then I shall send it to my beta readers.  I suspect I’ll do a great deal of compulsive cleaning and packing around that time.

Then I fix All the Things.

Then I get a proofreading, and fix All the Other Things I screwed up while fixing All the Things the first time.

Then I format.

Then I send it out into the world!

Newsletter subscribers will get a release-date heads up–and access to a discounted price at Amazon*–before I make the general release announcement.  (How do you get the newsletter, you ask?  Why, you can sign up right here!)

And once it’s out there in the wild, I will again throw myself into packing and cleaning, which will likely distract me from the nail-biting wait to see the early reviews.

Thank you for your patience and encouragement, my darlings.  I promise the next one won’t take nearly so long to get to your hands.

Yes, I did say the next one. There will be more.  Hee.

*Why only Amazon?  Because when I make pricing changes, Amazon responds in a timely manner.  Other retailers and distributors take their long, long time.  Amazon’s response time is measured in hours, other measured in days and days.

#SFWApro

Once More, GenCon

I wrote last year about the GenCon Writer’s Symposium — the enjoyment of reconnecting with a couple folks, the exasperation over the comments and panels on self-publishing. It looks as if the latter problem will be solved by reducing any direct mention of self-publishing to two single-presenter hours.

Here’s the schedule.

One presentation is called, “Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each.” The other is, “Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It” (I’m assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is “Doesn’t).

Yes, in the year that SFWA — derided as so out-of-touch — at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer’s Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it’s good or bad.

There are no “Business of Self-Publishing” panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year’s seemingly cross-applicable panels — such as the panel on seeking professional reviews — included direct “don’t bother if you’re self-published” references, so… yeah. Not hopeful about that.

My experience last year wasn’t unique. Deborah Jay talks here about the Loncon panel on indie-publishing that didn’t include a single person currently self-publishing.

I'm sure the reasons are out there somewhere...
I’m sure the reasons are out there somewhere…

I’ll still be going to GenCon for at least one full day. There are folks I want to meet — Cat Rambo! Lauren Roy! In person! — and people I want to see again. A few of the craft panels look interesting. And my son might give the cosplay competition a try again this year. But as someone who knows so many writers seeking information on self-publishing, I’m disappointed at the lost opportunity to include them.

So… Here’s the thing. If you’re planning to attend GenCon and want to talk about self-publishing rather than debate its worth, let me know. I’m no huge smashing figure of great renown, but I can share resources, talk about scams and pitfalls, and discuss the business side of things.

I don’t care if it’s one person or a group of people. We’ll have a roundtable discussion, an exchange of information and experience, and it will be a good thing.

#SFWApro

A Review, A Musing, and A Last Call

 

The Review:  As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone.  Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance?  Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.

*quickly pulls out soapbox*

And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist.  If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.

*slides soapbox back under the desk*

The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews.  In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front.  A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers.  It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.

More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle.  Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements.  (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?

On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory.  Should I reduce the palace intrigue?  Should I reduce the military/training aspects?  Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?

The answer is no, no, and no.

Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing.  The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements.   The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.

As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories.  I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker.  I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives.  So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.

Last Call:  The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22.  It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects.  If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.

 

Awesome Pups Are Awesome

Now for something happy!

Our new little girl, Tanner, is settling in a little more every day.  She’s loving all the cuddles and playtime and—now that she’s well-trained to the invisible fence and the weather is better—is merrily running around the yard, investigating rabbit trails, and bounding on and off the deck just for fun.

She and Gambit have reached friendly cohabitation and are working toward being buddies.  One night last week, we let her in the house while Gambit was still out romping.  She watched out the window until he appeared on the porch, whined at us to let him in, then gave him a quick nuzzle when he trotted inside before immediately acting as if it hadn’t happened.

Already she’s picked up on the House Rules such as “All treats must be taken nicely, with no injury to human fingers,” and “Paws out of the kitchen while I’m cooking,” and “Rough play is acceptable, but must stop when humans say so.”  We’re still working on “Drop all toys on request” and “Come when you’re called even if you don’t want to.”  Those will take awhile to master.  Such is the challenge of a terrier!

We had a beautiful morning recently just perfect for pictures.  I tried to get Tanner to pose.  The result is a series demonstrating her penchant of paying attention to anything and everything that twitches.  Terrier!

TannerLooksee2

Little Gambit, on the other hand, is a bit better on focusing and being still.

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He decided to photobomb the shot of Tanner doing her demon impression.  (No, we don’t permit her to bite.  This is acceptable play.)

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And at last, Tanner sitting still today with her favorite toy.

100_3146

I hope the pics gave you a bit of a smile today.  We could all use a few more of those, yes?

If You’re Ready To Join SFWA…

…the doors are now open to writers whose income comes solely from small press and self-publishing.

Cat Rambo, current VP of SFWA, has posted the basics of how writers can now apply for membership.

ETA: The first 24 hours brought in about 30 applications!

This is a work in progress,  That is a good thing.  Rather than attempt to carve into stone absolute directives about every single possibility, SFWA is looking to be flexible and open to different avenues of writerly income earning.  Some folks will be troubled by the lack of black/white lines.  Most folks, I suspect, will appreciate the opportunity to explore what lies outside those lines.

One of those most awesome “outside the lines” opportunities can be found in crowdfunding.  Yes, your Kickstarter (and similar) funding can count toward membership because it is real writing income.  As real as an advance.  As real as work-for-hire.  As real as any other form of “reader values your work enough to pay for it.”

And if you’re such a writer wondering if joining would be worth it, take a listen to tomorrow night’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing podcast.  Their guest will be M.C.A. Hogarth — dedicated and prolific indie writer, head of SFWA’s self-publishing committee, and currently candidate for SFWA vice-president.  She will have answers galore!  You can listen to it live at 9PM, or you can listen later on the website.

If you have questions, ask them here, ask them there, ask them–ask them–everywhere!

#SFWApro

Cons on the Calendar

I have a convention schedule this year!  Sure, it’s short and mostly local, but it exists.  It is a thing, and it pleases me today.

4th Street Fantasy, Minneapolis, MN  June 26-28

This is a different kind of con—one with a single track of programming and a membership cap of 175 attendees—intending to create a shared con experience and fluid conversation.  Folks have been telling me to go for years.  Once programming conversations get rolling, I’ll bring up making myself available for self-publishing discussions at the writing seminar.  Is that presumptuous of me? Perhaps. But any discussion of the writing business today ought to include a writer who chooses self-publishing as the primary career path rather than the consolation trail.  Besides, if there’s another indie writer they’d prefer to include, great!  The goal is inclusion of the experience and information, not the person.  (And I’d be more than happy to write up all the reasons this is true.)

InConJunction, Indianapolis, IN  July 3-5

This con is local to me, but I haven’t been in years because its scheduling conflicted with my son’s annual county dog show.  Since he isn’t showing this year, and is perfectly capable of getting himself to the site to volunteer (and we aren’t driving to JFK airport to get him on a flight to Italy, as we did last year), I get to go to the con!  My name appeared on the “Also Appearing” list, so I guess it’s official.  I have no idea what programming will look like, but I will be making my recommendations.

GenCon, Indianapolis, IN  July 30 – Aug 2

I’ve put my name in the hopper to help with any SFWA business while there.  When not doing that, I’ll likely be hanging around the Writer’s Symposium, hoping their self-publishing track is less dismissive, and spending time with my cosplaying son.  I’m even toying with the idea of pulling a cosplay myself.  I have a soft spot for Fiona.  For me, this con isn’t much a professional-writer activity, but is a fun few days instead.

MileHiCon, Denver, CO  October 23-25

Since I’ve decided I’m moving that direction, it only makes sense I’d jump into a convention, right?  More details on this one as time gets closer.

I already know some folks who will be at these events, but would love to meet up with others.  Let me know if you’ll be around!

#SFWApro