Category Archives: WRITING: LIFE

Adjusting headspace

Sometimes there aren’t any easy answers. Especially not for authors — be they trad pub, or indie — who are balancing their writing against other commitments. Could be going back to school, or marriage and family, perhaps church and community, or the job (non-writing) that pays the mortgage? It doesn’t matter. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re very probably running into problems with delegation, time management, prioritization, crisis resolution, and finding enough hours in your schedule for decompression.

The latter can be especially tricky, if you’re like me, and you have a difficult time compartmentalizing. One thing bleeds into the others, and vice versa, thus it becomes increasingly difficult (over time) to just back off, and step away.

All on my own, I struggle when it comes to adjusting headspace.

As I commented to Sarah A. Hoyt recently, sometimes it’s as simple as my wife tugging me out of the house, putting us both into the car, then driving us to get some food, after which we find a quiet spot to park, eat, and talk. Maybe, for hours? Not at home, where there are a hundred different chores that demand attention. Just . . . off on the side. A stolen moment of time. To unload. Work something out. Maybe have that overdue (but potentially contentious) straight talk session, that you can’t really do in front of the kids? The business of taking care of business, so to speak.

Almost never does it involve anything to do with writing. But that’s part of the adjustment. The action of having your mind and your heart dragged away from the keyboard, and the manuscript, long enough to get your gears whirring along a different track entirely. So that when you eventually return to the project(s) at hand, you discover you’re staring at the pages with fresh eyes.

Now, in my experience, this kind of thing isn’t always romance novel material. A good, proper headspace adjustment can occasionally come with four-lettered words — both ways — and no small amount of gesticulating. But at the end of it all, common understanding has been achieved. New agreements forged, or old agreements renewed.

And when you get back to your desk, or your kitchen table, or your favorite couch — laptop propped on your knee — everything about your writing looks and feels just a bit different. Your plans for your writing will look and feel a bit different too. Almost always in positive ways. Because your mental and emotional picture is now much bigger than it was before.

I count these experiences as being distinctly different from down time, because down time is about unwinding the spring. Adjusting headspace can often involve winding the spring even tighter, before it suddenly unwinds itself very quickly, and in a fashion you (ubiquitous) did not plan, nor expect. It’s not relaxation, though you may feel very much more relaxed once you’re walking back through your front door, or in from the garage. It’s a form of necessary exertion, during which you grapple with your life — the other sectors of the “pie” — in ways that demand a great deal of energy and effort. But if you’ve managed to make good use of the minutes, you can return to reality with an expanded set of options, and a reinvigorated outlook.

Granted, my experience above is just that: my experience. I know too many writers who do not have the greatest relationships in the world, and for whom an event like this (described above) would spiral into destructive chaos. I also know some single authors who simply don’t have that Very Important Person in their lives, who will not only serve as a sympathetic ear, but also challenges these authors on a gut level — and in ways that won’t always be comfortable. In these instances, headspace adjustment may come in the form of a weekend backpacking trip into the mountains, or running a half marathon, perhaps even working on that classic car which has been up on chocks for years? You will know it when you experience it, because after said activit(ies) are over, you come back to the ordinary world with a different set of eyes. Eyes capable of seeing ways around obstacles that were blocking you before? Or spying new business avenues to take, where old avenues were frustrating you before?

The point is, everybody needs this, once in awhile.

Not constantly — because chronically adjusting headspace, or feeling like you need to do it constantly — is probably a sign that something genuinely and deeply wrong is happening in your life, or in your relationship. That’s when you want to look for some professional guidance. A therapist or counselor who can clinically adjust your headspace for you. Because you’re too deep in the shit to figure it out on your own. And that’s not a bad thing. Nobody gives any of us an owner’s manual for this life. The majority of us just kind of bungle our way through it. Some better than others. But even the seemingly well-adjusted, may not be so. And it’s not a sin to admit you need a pro to help you out.

Just be open to those instances when you — or you and your spouse — need to jump in that car, and bug out for a little while.

Even if the timing seems horrible, and it’s the last thing in the world you want to be doing.

Trust me, those are the moments when you may need it the most!



Small Press Co-Authoring Madness

Since we’re here, let me regale you with tales of old…

As many of the established readers of this site know, I’m still fairly new to the business. This coming November I’ll be celebrating 7 years since my first novel was published. Part of my highly exaggerated “charm” is that I have no clue as to the little nods and winks in science fiction that bigger names understand. I don’t get the geek humor a lot (I’m not of you, but adopted) and I don’t even understand why there are cliques in fandom now (outside of the obvious psychological need to exclude people when oneself was excluded from social functions many years ago, but that’s a different essay).

So believe me when I am surprised when people mock me when I say I’ve published the majority of my work with small press publishers. I don’t quite grasp their looks of horror when I share how many co-authors I’ve worked with over the years. I am, as they say, naive to the horror stories of small press and co-authors.

Don’t misunderstand, neither is all roses and cash all the time (God, I wish it were!). No, it takes a dedicated focus to succeed at either. To succeed at both takes a certain level of crazy that… uh… gets you invited to… er… write for the Mad Genius Club.

Son of a…

I first approached a big publisher back in 2005 with my completed novel “Corruptor”. It was a decent first novel that needed an editor’s touch (still does) but fit into the (at the time) needs of the growing YA/Teen subgenre. However, nobody would touch it and the book ended up being contracted with Twilight Times, a small press I had heard about through a friend. It was a lengthy book that didn’t fit into the “mold” at the time. You see, this was when urban fantasy was really taking off and people were saying that it would be the death of science fiction, so nobody was taking anything like what I had written except small houses. Unless I had werewolves falling in love with humans while battling vampires and vice versa, I did not have what they wanted.

While I have had troubles with one or two of the small houses I’ve worked with, all in all it has been a collection of very pleasant experiences. I don’t have the issue of being the sole person responsible for editing and publishing my books, as I could have had if I had gone indie. I’m still responsible for marketing myself, but the publisher usually has ideas that can help. They also design the cover art, something that I suck at, and often get truly commissioned art for the cover and nothing recycled (“Corruptor” and “Wraithkin” come to mind). The other added benefit of working with a small press publisher is that, unlike some of the bigger houses, you get paid far more often at rates that are comparable to that of going indie. It’s part of the reason I haven’t truly gone indie yet: I like writing, but I hate everything else that publishers can take care of for the writer.

As for working with co-authors… well, I can only say that I have had great success with finding them and working together with them. Everyone knows the insanity in a novel when Chris and I work together, and I have had great financial success with Eric. I worked with another co-author, though, who almost soured me on the prospect of writing with others back before I had “Corruptor” contracted. That was partly my fault, since I bought into the “hype” and ignored a lot of the lack of substance he brought to the partnership. Plus, he was a bigger name than I was, so it probably worked out for the best.

Why, you ask? Well, because working with a co-author is harder to make work than a typical marriage.

It is hard to write a book with someone. It takes more than setting your ego aside. It takes a full commitment to the relationship to make it work (oh wow, total marriage comparison). Both authors have to know the limitations of their collaborator, and be receptive to ideas that you might not initially think would work. You have to listen, and not simply wait for them to quit speaking so you can say a rebuttal piece. Active listening is key here, people.  For example…

When Chris and I wrote “Kraken Mare”, we pretty much rewrote the entire book (I’d completed about 35,0000 words before I called in for some help). Even though there was a lot of insanity (and by a lot, I mean immeasurable amounts here… crazy giggling while talking and plotting/writing) we realized that we worked well together. We would easily feed off one another, hound each other when needed, and come up with ideas that the other would never have thought of, and pop culture references that one of us might have missed. It was fun, enjoyable, and we’re planning on more projects in the future once our free time reappears.

All in all, you have to be more than a little crazy to do either. To do both, well, you have to be certifiable Mad Genius. 🙂

And now your promotional news. Jason has a book out right now that you should buy. For a measly $3.99 you too can pick up your copy of the latest, Wraithkin, from Theogony Books. If you have KU then it’s free! Pick up a copy and leave a review.




Say what?

In one of my rare breaks from the keyboard yesterday, I went wandering around the internet in search of inspiration for today’s post. I’ll be honest. I thought the search would be fruitless. Why? Because so much digital space was being wasted on conspiracy theories about Envelope-gate from the Oscars or more screaming about politics. Then, there it was. A story that had me looking at my screen, looking away and then looking back, sure I wasn’t reading what I thought I did.

Nope. I read it right. After beating my head, figuratively at least, against my desk, I put the link in a private writer’s group I belong to and waited to see if they had the same reaction I did. It didn’t take long for the responses to roll in and they were all about the same as my own. Imagine a group cry of “WTF?!?” going up, followed by shaking of heads and chuckling and then each of us shuffling back to our keyboards to get back to work.

What, pray tell, caused such a reaction, you ask. The answer is simple. This article chastises indie authors for writing too much, too fast. The author of the article is Michael Cristiano who works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press.

As I started reading his post, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. After all, when someone begins with “I’ve been a little wary of the potential backlash I might face,” you get the impression that he is either going to strike right at the heart of some sacred screed of writing or he’s about to go political. When that is followed by admitting there is no one right way to write, that everyone’s process is different but. . . well, he just foreshadowed how he is going to begin telling us that there is a rule we must all follow and it is his rule.

Guess what that rule is?

We, as indies, are to slow down.

Wait, let me do that the way he had it in the post. We are to SLOW DOWN!

Today in the publishing industry, especially in the indie-author market, quantity is king. I’m not saying that quality isn’t being taken into account, because to some extent it probably is, but there is a new mantra for indie authors like myself: write a lot and publish as often as possible. That means that some authors are publishing three or more novels a year, sometimes as many as ten novels a year.

That one statement is enough to justify the author’s concern that he would take flak for the post. As he should. The chutzpah of assuming to know what drives the indie movement is mind-boggling. I don’t know any indie author who takes their work seriously, who has pride in what they do, who is more concerned with how often they click the publish button more than they are about putting out the best product possible.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. But they are, pardon the pun, the exceptions and not the rule. But let’s continue.

Apparently, according to the OP, publishing three or more novels a year is a bad thing. Hmmm. Wanders over to Amazon to check my author page. I published three novels, a short novel of approximately 40k words and two short stories, both of which were between 10k -20k words. I guess that makes me a bad author because I write too fast. Funny thing, I have folks who are constantly asking me why I don’t write faster because they want to read the next entry in of series or another. Does that make them bad readers?

Okay, second amendment (and I’ll be generous): I judge authors who release three or more books within a year ESPECIALLY if the three books are not part of the same series.

Wait, what?

So, here is an author who begins his post by telling us there is no one correct way to right who is now telling us there is? Bad Amanda, you have now broken two of his rules. You put out three or more books in a single year and — gasp — they weren’t part of the same series. Oh woe is me. What am I ever to do? I know. I’ll tell the readers of the Honor and Ashes series, as well as the Nocturnal Lives series and Eerie Side of the Tracks series that they are going to have to wait at least another year or three for the next book in their favorite series while I finish the Sword of the Gods series. I’m sure they’ll understand and wait patiently for me to get around to writing the books they like. Oh, and I’m sure they won’t forget about the series at all as they wait years and years for the next book to come out.


I don’t know the OP’s writing process any more than I know that of any other writer except, perhaps Sarah’s and Kate’s because we tend to bounce ideas off one another. For me, I need to step away from a series after writing a novel and, perhaps, a short story, for a while. By doing so, it lets me get a clearer perspective on what the plot for the next entry in the series should be. Yes, I could do that by simply not writing anything else for several months after publishing the latest book in the series but I’m a writer. I make my living writing. If I spend months not writing, I am not doing anything tangible to increase my income. So, instead of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs until my head is ready to wrap itself back around the next book in a particular series, I move on to something else, something different form what I just spent the last few months researching, writing, editing, formatting and then publishing.

I’m sorry: a writing career shouldn’t be a puppy mill of stream-of-consciousness vanity projects.

Wow. Condescending much? Even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that by “stream-of-consciousness” he means pantsing — and I don’t think he does — the “vanity projects” kills me. But it gets better.

I just don’t see how anyone has the time to publish more than three novels a year AND maintain consistent literary quality.

So, because Mr. Expert here can’t figure out how to do it, none of the rest of us can either. And remember, he started out by saying there are no two processes that are the same and no one “right” way to write. I guess that’s right, as long as you also accept his exceptions to those two rules.

He has a series of questions about how long you spend writing, how many drafts you write, how long you edit, etc. Then he comes up with this little gem.

Sure, if you’re a full-time writer and you have a really quick team of beta-reader/editor-robots, you could have a really good, polished manuscript in a year. Eight months if you’re lucky.

Now, show of hands. How many of you are laughing hysterically at this point? For one, I have this vision of robots sitting at desks, red pencils in hand, editing.

What the OP is forgetting is — gee, I think I mentioned this earlier — that no writer has the same process as the next writer. We write at different speeds and in different manners. Some of us are pantsers — hi, Kate! — and others are plotters. Some do a bit of both. Some authors put out a rough draft that is publishable with very little content editing needed — hi, Sarah! — and just a bit of proofing. Not every author needs to do three or four or six rough drafts.

Also, the more you write, the more you study the craft, the better you get. When I started out, I was lucky to get a book out a year. Why? Part of it was confidence. Part was that I needed heavier structural editing than I do now. Part was I couldn’t let go of a manuscript and wound up editing the life out of it. Ask Sarah. She got to the point of threatening to publish my work and then tell me about it because I was doing so many editorial passes.

So, where’s the sweet spot? How many novels should you release a year in order to ensure highest quality? I don’t know, frankly.

Wow, after telling us for how many hundreds of words that he knew and if we were releasing more than two or, at most, three books a year we were doing it wrong, he now says he doesn’t know? Surely there’s a catch. Ah, there is. You see, according to him, a book is like good wine or cheese. It has to age. So, if you haven’t taken enough time — whatever that means — you aren’t putting out the quality of work he wants.

Too bad he judges by the number of books an author releases and not by, gosh, actually reading the book. But I guess he’s afraid he might get the equivalent of moldy cheese and he doesn’t want to ruin his literary palate.

I will admit he is right on one thing. You shouldn’t release novel after novel just to inflate the number of titles you have out there. But to say it is nigh on impossible to produce quality work more than once or twice a year is to insult every indie author — and traditionally published author — out there who does just that.

I assure you, I will continue putting out more than one or two books a year, real life willing, as long as I am satisfied with the quality of the work. I will work on more than one series at a time because that helps keep it all fresh for me. Unlike the OP, I am a working writer, like so many of you. This is how I make my living. I don’t have the time to go backpacking around the world — or the spare cash to do it. So I write. As long as I have people out there wanting to read my work, I will continue doing so.

And so should you. Write at your own speed. Use your own process, as long as it works for you. And ignore everyone who tells you you are doing it wrong just because it isn’t the way they do things.


And, just to show I am doing it my own way, linked below is the pre-order page for the second book in the Sword of the Gods series. The first book, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is currently available for purchase.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Publication date – March 15.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.



What do you do when things are going well?

Do you have a plan for extra money coming in above monthly budgeted expenses?

…wait, what?…

Yes, you need a plan for that. You see, freelancers don’t have a steady paycheck. There will likely be months without income. There will definitely be months with less income than your expenses. If they go on for three, four months – the infamous summer slump – or even longer, like when the nation is dealing with election drama and the fall rebound never comes – can you cope?

Part of coping is having a plan for the good times, before they arrive. Note that even in one of our oldest stories, Joseph had to start building granaries for the seven good years before the first harvest came in, so he had enough storage when the land was producing to set aside food for the seven famine years.

What should your plan look like? Well, first, do treat yourself to something nice – otherwise you’re going to feel deprived. So a nice dinner to celebrate Royalty Check Day, or that pair of boots you’ve been wanting. But after that, rebuild your cash cushion and reduce your expenses. What do I mean by that?

Fill your gas tank.

Pay your quarterly taxes.

Pay off your car.

Pay off your credit cards.

Pay off your house.

When a friend quit smoking, she was living on a ramen & rice budget – and every time she found she had enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes, she went to the gas station and put that money into the gas tank instead. Pretty soon, she was no longer permanently worried about running out of gas on the way to and from work, because it was always at a half tank or above. Then she started paying off the overdue bills – and the lack of worry, the knowing she could make it to work, and that she wasn’t going to get the power shut off again, was enough to practically make her into a zen master compared to where she was before. You ever meet someone who was calmer and happier when they were going through withdrawal?

As a freelancer, you need to have the same mindset. If you have extra money, put it somewhere that will cause you less worry in the long run. Paying your quarterly taxes is pretty high on that list, because if you don’t do it when you’re flush with cash, how are you going to manage later? Second, pay your bills. Third, pay off the things that demand money every month – because those are the things that will hurt the most on months when you don’t have enough money coming in. If your car is paid for, then you don’t have to worry about repo; if your house is paid for, then you don’t have to worry about eviction or foreclosure.

(One caveat: if you’re planning to move within 3 years, don’t sink it into the house. Rule of thumb: you’ll lose 1% of the value of the house when you sell, and another 1% of the value of the house when you buy. Because fixing a place to sell, and fixing the little things on the house after you buy one, costs money. Keep that cash in a separate account that you call “New House”, so it’s available to make buying and moving easier.)

Now, obviously this can’t cover every person’s life. If you were forced freelance before you had 6 months cash cushion, “remove worry” may be much more immediate. Have you been limping by on tires so bare that you can’t see any tread left? Is your spouse putting up with near-blinding pain because you can’t afford a root canal? Are any of your bills coming with an “overdue” stamp on them? Set aside enough to cover the quarterly taxes (so you don’t get hit with the freight train labeled IRS) and take care of your most immediate pain and worry. Use the breathing space to get a couple good nights of sleep, and then tackle the world.

And if you want more good advice, Kris Rusch tackled the same subject Thursday:

And if you want a bit of an escape from reality, where the good guys triumph and the bad guys get what’s coming to them, try Scaling the Rim. It has action, adventure, romance, and plausible science fiction! What’s not to like?




Earlier this week I had the pleasure of dining with several other local Baen authors, as well as Baen editor Jim Minz. It wasn’t a business dinner, really. More like, get the gang together (spouses included) to have a good time, with occasional shop talk. At one point during the evening I was struck by the notion that we had probably a century’s worth of cumulative authorial experience in the room. And by that I mean, the aggregate total of everything each of us had individually accrued over our lifetimes: the stories which had sold, the stories which had not sold, the stories we had read, the stories we’d listened to, watched on television, or in movie form, plus the many different proto-stories each of us constantly has swirling in our semi-consciousness. Along with personal habits — both good and bad — and work ethic. Followed by achievements unlocked, dreams yet to be realized, opportunities wasted, lessons learned, and so forth.

The landscape of our writerly souls.

When one is a newbie sitting in the audience at a convention panel, it’s easy to look at those behind the mics, and see only the tops of their professional icebergs. The more stellar or accomplished the career, the taller the spire rising above the waterline. What we don’t see — the thing we can’t often grasp, until we’re in the thick of the vocation ourselves — is what lies beneath. The giant bulk of a person’s history, which keeps that visible portion afloat.

The majority of an author’s life is invisible in this way. Not immaterial, obviously. Just . . . out of sight. The learning. The toil. The joyless hours spent staring into a screen at odd moments of the day or night, when our brains would much rather be focused elsewhere. On anything. Just not the project that’s due. Held back by the heartache of failed expectations. Pulled forward by the glimmering light of possibilities still on the horizon. Wondering if we’ve got what it takes. Pushing ahead, regardless. Because we’ve decided that we simply must do this thing.

All of that — everything that goes into making us who we are — is submerged.

Just the exposed piece of us that’s public, gets any sunlight.

Which — of course — merely reinforces our false perceptions of ourselves. That we’re sinking, while everyone else is rising. We look across the sea and we marvel at all the many, many successful people all enjoying their moment in the sun. We don’t see their fullness. We don’t realize that they too have a massive, invisible piece of themselves underneath the blue waves. Their own history of learning, toil, missed chances, failed manuscripts, the endless repetition of picking themselves up by the scruffs of their own necks, again, and again, and again. That aspect of their history is opaque to us. We know all about our own history. All the baggage and warts. But unless we know someone else at a fairly intimate level, it’s easy to believe that having baggage and warts is unique to us, and us alone.

‘Taint so.

Many are the professional athletes who have remarked that it’s the losses which teach them, more than the wins. That behind every Olympic-class performance, there are thousands of hours of effort. Painful. Protracted. Unrewarded. Probably there is no endeavor worth doing, on God’s green Earth, which doesn’t tell a similar tale. Work is who and what we are, as human beings. The dividends of that work come from a combination of intelligence, talent, and persistence. With persistence being the major part of it.

Which is not to say there’s no value in working smarter, versus harder. Sometimes the efficacy of your method is the issue, not the zeal of your application.

But there comes a point when even smart guys have to roll up their sleeves. The world is filled with people who dwell in failure, because for all their wit and knowledge, they lack the oomph necessary to turn spectacular plans into spectacular action. Too much talk. Not enough walk.

Your iceberg — the huge hunk drifting beneath — is largely made up of that very same oomph.

Sitting at the table the other night, I was surrounded by a hell of a lot of oomph. It was almost intimidating.

But also instructive.

Because unlike intelligence or talent, oomph is a self-made commodity. Even if you don’t have any today, you can most definitely have some tomorrow.

Just about every person you’ve ever met, who has achieved success in any specific field — of athletics, art, science, or industry — decided to make a commitment. Which manifested as applied energy. Over days, weeks, months, and years. Almost none of it yielding immediate results. No. The goal was far off, for most of the journey. (S)he simply had faith that (s)he would get there eventually. Despite hardships, setbacks, and disappointments galore.

So, when you catch yourself feeling discouraged, or lamenting your lack of relative forward movement, keep in mind that there is somebody else out there who is looking at you and marveling over how well you’re doing. (S)he is seeing the top of your iceberg, just as you see the tops of all the rest. You are somebody else’s picture of success, just as others have been your pictures for success, too.

You may feel reassured as a result. As well as inspired.

After dinner was over, I went back to my home office and stared at my authorial goals for the rest of the month, and the rest of the year. Then I looked at my goals for the next five years. And the five years after that. I asked myself if I was being too ambitious, or not ambitious enough? I thought about the writers I’ve known — some of whom have become my friends — and who’ve done what I’d like to do. I reminded myself that their money and their books are merely the part I can see. What I can’t see, is the rest of the iceberg. The countless daily sacrifices. Frustration, tempered with patience. Early mornings and late nights dedicated to projects which won’t pay off for years. And a stubborn refusal to allow backward steps to turn into full retreat.



bumps in the road and on the author

Last week (and part of this week), I got to have a lot of downtime whether I wanted it or not. I slipped on a wet patch on the kitchen floor, and bounced myself off the counter and stove before falling heavily on a shoulder. The bruising is, even by ER nurse standards, “spectacular.” (Thanks Brad, for covering Sunday!)

Given work requires lots of typing and being fairly thoughtful, one arm in a sling and being pretty spacey on painkillers won’t cut it. (Typing this took a lot longer than you think.) So there’s been a lot of time on the couch, and contemplating how this would be perfect downtime for getting X, Y, and Z done, if only they didn’t take physical effort or concentration…

Since I get paid by the hour, this means no paycheck for me for a week, combined with the ER, X-ray, and associated bills. (It’s January; the deductibles are all freshly unmet.) While this sounds like a disaster out of time and season, I’ve known two massage therapists that have had similar medical issues happen, and ended up with no income and medical bills piled on fresh misery. (One started getting carpal tunnel; the other other broke her arm when an ATV rolled over on her.) Writers are freelancers just like masseurs – and if our wrists, arms, or other body parts are injured enough, there won’t be any working.

Bad luck? Well, yeah. Completely unpredictable? Well no, not really. Insurance companies are great believers in getting All The Data, and using it to predict just how often the average person will need the ER, or have a house fire, or get in a car wreck. They then start breaking down humanity into smaller and smaller groups, to calculate the risk to each group… not unlike we break the great mass of English-speakers down into “People who like milscifi” and “People who like clean romance.” Given data, they can say that single men under 25 years old are far, far more likely to have car wrecks than married male homeowners in their 50’s… and be right.

They cannot say that Joe Blow, a 21-year-old single male, at 2:15am January 31, 2017, on his way home from The Wild Time Saloon, will cross the center line and hit a semi carrying a highly classified experiment from one lab to another. That’s science fiction, and our story is probably more concerned with the nature of the experiment, and what happens after it escapes.

But they can predict just how often I’m likely to end up in the ER. (Not often. I didn’t get lost on the way, I just didn’t know where it was. So we drove up to the hospital complex, and from there they had Big Signs For Panicked People.)

Anyway, sitting here, I realized that I have two important pieces of data to share with you. One: before you get to talking about copays and insurance rates and all, at the base, ERs are still about a thousand dollars an hour. Spend 30 minutes in one, expect $500 in bills (x-rays billed separately.)

Second, accidents happen. Cat underfoot happens. So do wet floors, splattering grease, kid toys underfoot in the dark, dull knives slipping, and all the other ordinary disasters. Even if you’re not a full time freelancer, expect that you’re going to get hit by something, and set aside the money for it. Injury is painful and stressful enough without worrying about covering bills because you can’t make it into work, and you just got hit with unbudgeted expenses.

How much to put aside? Well, I know of one place in the US that has a completely transparent billing: the surgery center of Oklahoma. So take a look there, and contemplate what you bet will go wrong with you next. (And here everyone under 25 goes “I’m immortal and invincible!” and the further away 25 is in your rear view mirror, the more you start checking off procedures on that list as “been there” or “will need eventually.”)

The good news: unlike massage therapists, when you’re down for the count, readers can still find your books and buy them, providing some income. So the more you have out there, the more you’ll have coming in even when your highest ambition is to find some position that doesn’t press on the injury so you can sleep.

Take care of yourselves! Use proper ergonomics, give your eyes a break at regular intervals, stay hydrated, keep moving, and put away some money for a painful day.

..and if you need something to read while you’re stuck on the couch, Tom Rogneby just released Lost Children, which is darned fine sword & sorcery. I liked it; hope you do, too!



Is it really so hard to be nice?

Sooner or later, 4th Wave feminists are going to have to realize that that price of equality, means not being able to hide behind oppression narratives. Especially not in a workplace such as publishing, the traditional arm of which — because it’s centered in New York City — is 98% Hillary-votin’ and Trump-hatin’, to the tune of “He’s not my fucking President!” In fact, I am pretty sure we’re going to watch the trad pub sector of prose publishing specifically spend the next four years loudly broadcasting its hatred for all things Trumpian and “deplorable.” Just in case we forgot how much Manhattanite progressives loathe and disdain anyone who lives between the west bank of the Hudson, and the eastern border of Sacramento.

But because 4th Wave feminists — lacking any real battles to fight, yet having been raised up in the ways of rage and anger — still have to find excuses to complain, we get things like this.

Uhhhhhh . . . okay.

Having pawed through the pouty entrails of this article, I’m forced to conclude that the author in question is unhappy with the fact that she can’t just be a dick, without consequences. And that publishing is — gasp! — an industry which runs on people perceiving you positively, even if your true self is a coffee-fueled hate machine.

I mean, I get it. I’m as drained by social interactivity as the next author. Probably, most of us are introverts. Social settings suck energy out of us. My wife is the opposite. Social settings put energy into her. Having observed my wife’s personality for a quarter of a century, I can inform Ms. Gould — with no small degree of surety — that even people who thrive heartily on social settings, get tired of the effort, too. So it’s not as if Ms. Gould’s “predicament” is somehow special.

It is instead — double gasp! — perfectly pedestrian.

Because dudes don’t get a free pass, either. Regardless of what Ms. Gould thinks. Very seldom is any employer looking for male prospects who are aloof, cold, rude, distant, socially clueless, or otherwise apart from (and above?) their peers. We still have to strap on that winning smile, and march forth into the cold snows of the workplace, trying to make our bosses and our coworkers love us. Or, at least, not actively despise us. Because we want paychecks too. And there’s nothing in Ms. Gould’s complaint that doesn’t precisely echo the experiences of thousands of men working in thousands of different professions and vocations. Almost all of which require a bare minimum of social ability. Yes, even the military. (Hint: past Basic Combat Training or the halls of Candidate School, there isn’t nearly as much yelling as the movies would have you believe.)

Yes, yes, I know, Ms. Gould is fed up with trying to make people who are not her friends, feel as if they are her friends. Or, at least, make them feel friendly toward her. Because this is how you schmooze in the traditional publishing capitol of the known universe. Which also happens to be one of the politically progressive capitols of the known universe. False comradeship? Passive-aggression? Never daring to let down your guard — or your facade — lest they shut you out into the cold? Golly, one could almost write a psychological thesis on how bastions of progressive thought often become social minefields, where one dare not breath the wrong way, lest one be marked off Santa’s “good” list, and placed onto the “bad” list.

But that’s a whole other Oprah.

For now, we’re discussing Ms. Gould’s soul-destroying adventures in trying to be nice, even when she doesn’t feel like it.

Madam, I am sorry to inform you: it ‘aint no different, no where, no how.

Granted, it is infuriating that so much of traditional publishing really does boil down to, “Who’s your latest BFF?” For well over two centuries, New York’s publishing Cosa Nostra has engaged in an intergenerational contest of blurb-bukkake, combined with rampant nepotism, and a tendency to let people linger on for far too long, in jobs they should never have been hired for in the first place — people who often were unfit for real work, so they turned to publishing because it was all they could get.

But if you’ve spent any time working other jobs in other arenas, you know damned well that it’s not terribly different anywhere else. Dreadful employees who can make the boss smile, survive. Hard-working employees who can’t make the boss smile, no matter how hard they try, move on. Or are booted out. Or (worst of all) suffer through a kind of workplace purgatory, neither living, nor dead. Can’t bring themselves to quit. Never fired, either. Just . . . existing. Day after day. As the clock on the wall gives you an up-to-the-minute account of how much you’re spending yourself to make other people rich, doing something you didn’t really want to do when you grew up.

I’ve worked a job or two which fit that final bill. I suspect many of the people reading this, have too.

So dab your eyes, Ms. Gould, with your personalized handkerchief; its corner embroidered with a Venus symbol — and a fashionable fist clenched in the middle of the circle.

Life sucks for bros, too.

But wait, oh wait. We knows, yes, Precious, we knows the hurtses that womenses endures because of the patriarchy! Smeagol has heard all about nasty patriarchy his whole life, and how poor Smeagol needs to check his privilege! GOLLUM (spit) GOLLUM!

Only, this time, no.

I can think of few desk industries in this nation which are more welcoming to the brainy, politically left-wing female, than traditional publishing.

Besides, is it so damned hard to be nice?

I mean, seriously.

Even someone who came from that notorious cesspool of journalistic and media malpractice — Gawker — should know that it’s good to check your jerkface at the door when you leave the house. Doesn’t matter how you self-identify. Male, female, or A-10 Warthog. Getting along with people, pays. And not just in publishing. In everything. And if you believe you’re getting strung out on social media and author events — if the schmooze is killing you — then by God put the fucking brakes on, and get some recharging time for yourself! It’s not the world’s fault that spending too much time “working” other human beings, makes you want to rip the skin off every face you see.

You also would not be the first author to watch the shine wear off the apple of her publishing dream, either. It happens to all of us, Ms. Gould. And while the advice, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” can sometimes be apt, I am going to gently suggest that hating the game doesn’t much help where trad pub is concerned. Not indie pub either, frankly.

You see, authoring is — at best — a service industry. You know, service industry? Hello, how may I take your order! Would you like to supersize that? Please pull around to the second window. I am sure those words have come out of your mouth at some point, have they not, Ms. Gould? Yes? No? Or did your parents pay for you all the way through college, without your hands having ever touched the handle of a mop, or a broom?

You are selling a product. Partially, it’s your stories and books. But also partially, it’s you yourself. To the editors. To the agents. And ultimately, to the audience as well. Nothing but salesmanship. Exhausting, tedious, draining salesmanship. You are Willy Loman. In a business already stuffed to the gills with millions of people — each scribbling furiously at his or her latest, greatest English-language tome — you’re not the exception. You’re the rule.

Relax, have a cigar, make yourself at home. Hell is full of high court
judges, failed saints. We’ve got Cardinals, Archbishops, barristers,
certified accountants, music critics, they’re all here. You’re not alone.
You’re never alone, not here you’re not. Okay, break’s over, ahahaHAHAHA!

You can either do the dirty chore of playing the game the way the good, proper, progressive, utterly “With her!” Manhattanites demand that it be played, or not.

But don’t pretend it’s got anything to do with things being easier for guys.


Look, in the end, take some time out. Unplug from the endless swirl of schmooze. Gawker may have been a 90 MPH napalm-flaming train wreck of lies and deceit, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep up with that same insane pace, even if you’re afraid everybody else in good, proper, progressive Manhattan is going to climbs over your backses, then stab out your eyeses, Precious, because they sees you as competition, yes, yes, GOLLUM (spit) GOLLUM!

So effin’ what?

Figure out precisely how much schmoozing you can do — healthily — in a given week, or month, or year, and don’t let yourself exceed the limit. Learn to politely say “No thank you,” without being a beast about it. Don’t let yourself spend time with people you don’t feel like spending time with. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that glad-handing is a task we males are somehow excused from performing.

We’re not. We’re expected to clean up and put on our Sunday best, and go be mannered and chatty, just like the girls.

And it’s probably a good thing, too. Especially in the era of social media, where face-to-face interactivity is suddenly even more taxing than it was before. Because you can’t just stare zombie-like into a small screen, while the world is forced to maneuver round you.

And in the end, if New York trad pub proves intolerable, there is always indie.

Yes, indie. I know it’s a dirty word on many lips, even in 2017.

But it’s viable. It can be done sans schmooze. And you don’t even have to leave your house if you don’t want to. Some people are making millions at it. Scoring movie deals. Becoming famous beyond the internet.

Me? I’m a pretty easy-going guy. Niceness isn’t tough for me. I can usually get along with just about anybody. Even the dicks. But I also know when to go home, close my door, turn off my conduit to the rest of the human sphere, and heal. Because constantly being in the mix is like turning the screw on an olive press. Sooner or later, there isn’t any oil left. Not for editors, not for the industry, not even for the audience.

Knowing when, and how, and where, and with whom — to expend your finite personal resources — that’s the ticket!

Not blaming men.