Ya gotta play to win


Roulette wheelLast weekend I came across a series of blog posts by author Delilah S. Dawson about author self-promotion; and, as an author who has been trying to crack self-promotion for years, naturally I decided to read her posts.  I started with Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work, and without recapping everything in there, I’ll just say my takeaway was that Delilah’s secret to writing success boils down to one thing.

Unfortunately, that thing is luck. Blind, steenkeeng luck. Continue reading

Giving the people what they want


Sava's closed noteI recently came across a news item about a restaurant in Texas that closed due to poor business, in order to relocate to another town.  (The only reason I saw this was that someone at this restaurant posted a note essentially chewing out the residents of that town for being a bunch of tasteless inbred rednecks for not loving the crap out of the place, and that made it news.  Ah, America.)

So, seriously, the owner of the restaurant said that the residents showed no appreciation for his food and wanted something else from him.  He decided that that was something he didn’t want in his restaurant, so he picked up sticks and left.  (He denies leaving the note, and no one’s been fingered for it yet.) Continue reading

Joss Whedon’s (and my) take on SF


Director Joss WhedonJoss Whedon has a biography coming out (one of those things you look at with a strange crick in your neck, because biographies usually come out at the end of someone’s career), and in some excerpts printed in IO9, I’ve discovered some significant similarities in the way he and I see science fiction these days.

For instance, when he had the opportunity to submit a TV series concept to Fox, he wanted to do science fiction.  Problem was, most TV SF turned him off.  He wanted to see realism, but most sci-fi TV shows looked too plastic, too clean, like Star Trek.  Or too cheap and cheesy, like Blake’s 7 or (pre-2000s) Doctor Who.  One movie series he appreciated—Alien—but he wanted more than a “ripoff” of the Alien look. Continue reading

American Hustle: A lesson in over-the-top characters?


Christian BaleThis weekend, I finally had the chance to see American Hustle, which I greatly enjoyed.  (Yes, my movies don’t all have to have robots and alternate universes in them.)  The movie featured a gross ton of class acting, even in the bit parts (De Niro!  Zerbe!), and the story was a lot of fun all around.

But when it was over, it occurred to me that one of the reasons that so many of these actors (and the movie) were on the short list for Oscars this year, was the preponderance of over-the-top characters.  And I wondered if that was something I needed to think more about. Continue reading

Writing as a process


Steven Lyle JordanEvery so often, I come across an article in which a writer seems to lament some aspect of novel writing that troubles them: How do you create this kind of character?  How do you world-build?  Why is writing a good ending so hard?

This always strikes me as strange, because I imagine any person who tries to write must have done a fair amount of reading and writing as they grew up… probably in school.  And I immediately think: Didn’t any of that reading and writing sink in? Continue reading

Backing off


Steven Lyle JordanI’ve been noticeably bummed this past week: I keep reflecting on the fact that none of the promotional attempts I’ve made recently has had any success lately (and I mean as in zero success).  Every so often that particular hammer taps me on the skull, and I spend a few days sulking and brooding over the ego bruise it leaves.

Eventually, the bruise goes away, and I stop sulking.  But I’ve come to realize I specifically keep getting hit by that hammer because I spend way too much time around it.

It’s actually good that I’m realizing this now, because the holiday season is almost upon us, and I have good reason to stay away from that hammer and not ruin my fun this time of year.  Hopefully as well, staying away from that hammer will help me find other things to occupy my time and not make it obvious that I’m dancing around with one eye cocked at the spot where that hammer always comes down.

That means cutting back on Facebook.  (I needed to do that, anyway… terrible waste of time if you let it.)  Less time chronicling my activities online, so I have more time for… activities.  Less time thinking about redesigns of my books site (I’ve come to realize it’s not the design that’s keeping people from finding it).  Less time trying to recall bits and pieces of dreams to figure out if they’d make good book material.  Less time rehearsing my interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

And less time spent trying to figure out what blog subjects will attract more readers.

Overall, a backing off of the whole writing thing.  I don’t want this bruise to be permanent.

My confession


Steven Lyle JordanI have a confession to make.

This is kind of hard for me, because I’ve been trying to hide this for so long.  I never felt fully comfortable in admitting it to anyone, for fear of the way people would look at me… judge me.  I can tell that the few people in my life who do know about it don’t look at me in the same way they used to.  I’ve tried to keep it to myself, afraid of how it would affect my job, or drive away my friends.

However, I believe I’ve reached a point in my life where I can no longer deny my nature.  And I am willing to stand up to the judgement of my friends, relatives and colleagues, free of shame or remorse. Continue reading

The man behind Man Plus. RIP Frederik Pohl.


Man Plus coverFrederik Pohl, the acclaimed science fiction author behind one of my favorite novels, Man Plus, passed away today.

The list of novels he’s written, or edited, or presented in his magazine Galaxy, that I have not read, is too long to enumerate here.  Pohl was the very definition of prolific in his writing and editing.  Most importantly to me, his style and sensibilities helped to inspire me in many of my own writings.

Man Plus is a perfect example of this.  In Man Plus, scientists planning the first manned mission to Mars decide that a human needs to be “augmented” to properly survive on the Martian surface, and thereby to ensure the success of the mission.  Continue reading

What’d ya do WRONG?


Angel and Devil

My decision to lay off novel-writing, since I could not work out the promotional end of selling the books, has led to a common (and predictable) reaction from many of my friends and relatives, to wit: Since I enjoy writing, I should keep writing anyway, just for my own satisfaction.  The idea that creation is its own reward is ingrained in the thoughts of modern society, as well as the essentially honorable concept of the “starving artist.”

And though I, myself, bought into these ideas for years, I find that I can’t get behind them the way I used to.  And it’s not because I get no satisfaction from creating; I do, in fact, enjoy the process of writing and creating a good story.  But since giving up novel writing, I’ve found that I’ve had to cage up a tiny demon in the back of my head, one that has become a constant distraction to me.  He’s not my creative demon.  He’s my analytical demon.  And he demands to know what I so thoroughly fucked up. Continue reading

Characterizations: Try the casting approach


Adama and RamiusDo you sometimes have trouble finding and maintaining different “voices” or mannerisms for your various fictional novel characters?  Have people accused your characters of acting and sounding the same, beyond gross differences in their makeup?  Authors can struggle with this, especially those new to creating fictional characters for a story.

If you’d like a new way to manage this issue, try one of my favorite characterization tools: For each character, imagine a particular actor in a particular role as playing that character. Continue reading