Serving Three Masters

A Galilean Rabi notoriously said that a man can’t serve two masters, for he’ll neglect one for the other.  Thank heavens I’m not a man, because I’m about to try to serve three.

Yes, I do know “man” is used there in the sense of human.  I’m just justifying my insanity.  The truth is like most writers, I have a time management problem.  No, really, I have several time management problems… I just can sort of roll them all into a gigantic one.Writing suffers from a problem endemic to self-employment: self-management and self-starting.  This is because when we start out we’re doing this unpaid, alone, and frankly no one cares if we do it or not.  In fact, in the old days, when I was breaking in, the chances against your breaking in were like 1000 to one, which means you might very well be wasting your time to no purpose.

Part of the reason it took me so long to break in (uphill both ways) is that I learned early on that if I’d finished a chapter no one gave a d*mn, but if I made a loaf of carrot bread there would be much rejoicing among kids and husband, and everyone would love me for an evening at least.

So–  So I’ve always been really bad at getting the d*mn writing done, even after I broke in and had deadlines, because honestly, what was required was that I be two people, one to manage the family and one to work.

Ah, that was the good old days.  And even then, when it came to marketing, I stank on ice.  And I don’t mean just doing publicity, I mean stuff like sending novels and short stories in.  Because I had two modes: write a lot/submit a lot.  It never happened at the same time.

Did I mention those were the good old days?

I’m being forced into what will be a year of insane and conflicting work by what normally forces me into such things: money, or the lack thereof.

I do okay.  I mean, if I were single I could easily support myself in a middle class lifestyle, which is better than 99.9% of writers.

The problem is over the last year younger son has cost us a middle class salary… without taxes taken out (which my work does get, thank you so much!) You see, he’s doing something the system isn’t set up for and taking two and a half engineering degrees (the half is aerospace engineering, which is only offered as a minor, but OTOH has all graduate level classes [they do offer a masters] so costs as much as the others.) Last year he ran out of loans.  Yes, he has an internship during summer, and should it turn into part-time work during the year (we have no clue HOW he’s actually doing at it.  You see, he’s the genius of the family.  So his school career has been As or Ds with nothing in between.  It’s how he works.  So… we don’t know how he does on the job.) it will lift about half the burden off me.  But meanwhile he’s pretty much between housing, tuition and incidentals, run through most of our ready accessible cash.  And if we have to fully support him another year, it will get ugly.  (He SHOULD graduate next Spring.  Again, ask me about the school’s scheduling for the higher levels engineering.  They don’t offer courses that have less than 6 enrollees, which makes perfect sense for the liberal arts, but dear Lord, they only graduate 40 engineers a year across all specialties, so most of the higher level courses get nixed.)

Well, there’s only one answer to that, which is to make more ready-accessible cash.  I was fortunate to get an offer of a gig at PJ and even more so in that they don’t throttle back on the number of articles they’ll publish a week (on the contrary.)  So my goal is five a week there, and despite my and the editors erratic ways, I average about 4.  Which is very, very helpful.  But it’s not enough.  (Despite the fact most columnists do a post a week.  Eh.)  Because I have this engineering-shaped hole I’m pouring money into, and there’s stuff I need to do arouund the house.

Then there’s Baen, and I have one more hard deadline there.  I have other books I’d like to do/need to do for Baen, because I have two series there, and barring their reversal, (And honestly I don’t know.  The next year will tell) I owe the fans continuance.  That’s Guardian, which must — MUST — be done by the end of this month, at least my part in it.

And then there’s my indie work.  Which has been neglected.  I have three collections basically ready to go up, barring copyediting and covers.  This is money sitting in the drawer, not in my bank account. It’s stupid.

Then I have five novels, each of them about three days from completion.

I’ve got the first collection out, see at the end.  And it’s doing fairly well.  It’s also kicking all my other indie work into play again.

Oh, and then there’s the Austen fanfic.  What? You didn’t know I did that?  For years it was my relaxation.  I have some completed stories and others pending about a day work, and they’re now eminently saleable.

I’m doing those as Alyx Silver, and the first one is up.

But He Turned Out Very Wild: A Short Pride And Prejudice Variation


Yeah, it’s basically figuring out how Jane could have been right, and Darcy and Whickam both be “good men.”  Eh.

So, how can I serve three masters (and that’s not counting renovations I’m in the middle of at the house, or house cleaning, or … well, anything.)

I don’t know.  But I need to and it will be done. Tons of other professions, notoriously programming go through years from hell where you work 12 hours days.  I daresay if I do that, I’ll manage this workload well enough.

Yes, sure, when I went into a spiral of illness that brought work to a trickle for 10 years or so was years of writing six book a year, plus two or three undercover often as a ghost writer.  But, you know what, guys? There was an additional component to that: not being in control of my own career.  I was throwing book after book into the void of traditional publishing, where most would vanish without even making it to the shelves.  This is akin to having baby after baby and throwing them into the volcano.  The illness was a tiredness of the soul that I’m only now recovering from.  Sure, the physical illness followed, but it all started because I lost the ability to believe this would lead to anything, even money.

Now?  Well, the collection is doing very well indeed.  And novels always do better.  I think I can work very, very hard when I’m seeing the results.

So, wish me luck.  I’m going in!

And here is the short story collection that is doing passibly well.  I have three others waiting on the warming pad.  Oh, it has a story about a uh…. non binary gender character.  (Actually almost all the collections have one of these.  The… divide, conjoining and ocnfusing between men and women and everything else is one of those themes I can’t get rid of.  Of course, when I was writing these it wasn’t trendy or cool.  Eh)
So, here it is: So Little and So Light.

There are three more on the warming pad, and by then enough shorts for another collection will have rolled off the “one year, exclusive” of the publishers.  So, onward.  I go work now.

You go work too.



  1. Good Heavens! Sarah is a gestalt and is hitting the limit of multiplexing or trying to!

    At least there’s no Sad Puppies stuff to do this year. Seems Worldcon has taken over “ruining” Worldcon itself. They get it wrong, of course… they could, oh, try fixing the real problem. Of course that would be an admission, so it is, therefore, impossible.

    Poppetycorn? Shortage likely.

                1. You know she’s trying to figure out how to hit us both with the same carp, right?

    1. I’ll be watching, when I’m not busy making money at Michigan Comic Con. I’m so glad we decided against this year’s Worldcon when I saw the booth prices. With no other obligations that weekend, we could happily snap up booths at a brand-new comic con by a known successful promoter (still regret having to pass up Geek.Kon in 2015 because we were already committed to that year’s Worldcon — I think we would’ve done much better with the Madison otaku crowd, and our bottom line would’ve been a lot happier).

      1. yeah, i get the feeling that their dealer room is going to be three book vendors with identical inventory (whatever is being pushed), and one recruiting table for the Democratic Socialists of America.

    2. No, Sad Puppies have mastered their skills so their mere presence in the the world can produce this sort of thing.

      This is why you need “safe spaces.” The Oppressor Groups exude a miasma that cramps all the Victims Groups.

  2. I sure hear you. I’m running three businesses — the retail sales at conventions business, the AdSense websites business, and the writing/indie publishing business. And try as I might to keep up with all of them, someone always ends up sucking hind tit.

    Right now I’m trying to rebuild all my websites to the new standards for security and mobile-friendly design. My traffic has just fallen off a cliff, and I’m thinking that Google downgrading my pages in their rankings is a big part of it.

    Aaaaand we’re entering a very busy month, with three cons in four weeks. We’re hoping to have income that will pull us back out of the financial doldrums we’ve been stuck in since 2015, but it means that everything else is apt to grind to a halt. Right now I’m trying to get blog posts written and scheduled for the period while we’re on the road, so that I won’t be trying to squeeze it in after a long day on the road or an exhibit hall floor.

  3. Again, ask me about the school’s scheduling for the higher levels engineering. 

    Yeah, and not just for higher levels engineering.  From what I have seen this is true at most schools for about anything that is not a standard humanities or business track.

    Considering that the schools of higher learning can view their students as captive to their system once they have matriculated — if they want to get that degree for which they have already sunk capital and time they are stuck — why should they worry about the costs to the students of extending the time served? 

  4. On the marketing thing, ‘Alyx Silver’ needs an Amazon author page so we can follow her and get notices of new works.

    1. “rather long”?!? It worked, though. I don’t really like short stories so I wasn’t going to buy it. I just did.

  5. Reblogged this on Lee Dunning and commented:
    Bad enough having a cat which requires expensive vet care – I am so glad I do not have to put a kid through college. At any rate, I’m thinking folks may enjoy some of this lady’s writing, at least the fantasy/sci-fi. I cannot speak for the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ story.

  6. I’m currently in cram-school (professional development) for Day Job. The instructor has a list of books she recommends. I was thinking, “In what free time?” I have a class to re-work, a new subject to learn and create material for, two books to finish and more to revise… Three masters indeed, and that’s without family and faith duties. Ah, the quiet life of a writer.

  7. On earning extra cash – have you considered doing anything like editing, or, if that’s too much, manuscript reviews? A pro-friend and I were using a lady, mid-list pro hanging her shingle out as an editor. I couldn’t afford her at editor level, but a review for $250, focusing on structure and character development was definitely worth it, particularly from someone I’d met personally, and who “got” odder stuff, who knew SF and fantasy (too many editors-for-hire out there know romance, and maybe paranormal, but nothing else).

    Or would that use up the writing cells in your brain too much?

    1. Good Lord. I’m already out of time.
      I could earn far more from articles in the time (about ten hours) it takes me to give a developmental edit on anything.
      I’m not out of ways to earn money. I’m out of time to do all the ones I have in.

      1. Yeah, that’s what I thought it might be, and yeah, a developmental edit is huge. A review might be a lot less, but even that might not be worth the time.

        I’m really glad the articles pay more for you, btw, I’m really enjoying them. And it’s a good sign for PJ Media, that they can pay a respectable amount for good work. I hear stories about people on the lower end of the scale, being paid next to nothing, and while I know that’s a whole different ballgame from PJM, as you say in your ATH post today, we can easily get despondent. I want the things I like to thrive, but it’s easy to worry.

        But if all you’re lacking is time, as frustrating as that is, that’s not a bad place to be. ^_^

        1. No. I am at a place that not only will more work bring more money, but in indie’s case, the more I produce the more each work pays. It’s just time. Sigh. I wish I were twenty.

          1. I was grousing to my parents that I wish they’d gotten the extended warranty on me. I turned [major milestone age] recently.

          2. “I wish I were twenty”

            That’s maybe the real problem – it is for me. I actually have time, right now – the family problems that were taking everything are now manageable. But health and energy, that’s the killer. It’s pretty sad when I’m so tired, even the characters in my head don’t want to do anything even remotely strenuous.

            I’ve given up, and am putting health at the forefront. But I’m lucky that I’m in a position to be able to do that right now.

Comments are closed.