August! Already!

Over the last few months, maybe even years, I’ve been saying I’d get back into blogging more regularly.  There was a time where I was really good at doing this and for some reason or the other, I’ve let it slip away.  I’ve intentionally kept my life busy and the result is that sometimes there isn’t the time.  And sometime there isn’t the desire either.  I blame depression for that.

Factor Four Magazine is a passion of mine and I’ve put my creative time into that.  Two issues are under our belt now and I’m really feeling positive that I have good systems in place to handle it.  I am still the only one on the magazine staff, so I do it all.  Social Media posts, readings, editing, layout, advertisement, subscription management, and more.  But you know what, despite all that I’m thinking of putting together another publishing project: An anthology for 2019 release.  No details yet.  But I figured you all could have the early “scoop” since you still come by and read my blog.

The moral here is that time goes by a lot faster than it used to.  Publishing has become my focus when I am not at my day job or being with my family, and some of my writing has slipped by the wayside.  I’ve not abandoned it by any means. I still have four short stories looking for a home.  Plus I still have so many novel ideas to get out.  The final book (maybe) of The Serenity Saga, a new novel, and possibly a sequel to Volition Agent (I was asked about a prequel too). I just don’t think it will be in 2018.  I mean, fuck it is August already!

Speaking of August, it will be a busy one for me.  2018 has been the year of Conventions, both in my day job and writing.  I don’t think I will have traveled so much in one year.  I went to Norwescon this year, that was amazing and I hope they will invite me to be a panelist in 2019. Also, later this year is OryCon.  I haven’t heard if they’ll invite me as a Panelist, so ask about me! But August brings two more writing conventions that I am excited to attend.

SpoCon – Spokane, WA – August 10 to 12

I am really excited about this one because I will be a panelist, and moderator, on several panels.  You can see my whole schedule below, or you can click here.  I’d really like to see you if you’re there, so please come say hello.  I’d like to do a signing, but I’ve not committed to that yet, but both issues of the magazine, as well as my books will be on sale there. Space is still available, and you can register at the website.

 

Title: Should Kids Self-Publish?

Date/Time: Friday August 10th @ 4PM:

Official Description: What should young writers, artists and musicians (and their parents) be aware of before they distribute their work to the public?

Other Panelist(s): Kaye Thornbrugh

My thoughts: I am excited about discussing this.  My regular followers know of my son’s children’s book, Daddy is Tired.  But as a Self-Pub author, I am also planning to provide insight on that avenue of publishing.

 

Title: Flash Fiction: the Genre

Date/Time: Saturday August 11th @ 11am

Official Description: How do you define flash fiction — strictly by word count, or is there more to it? Our panelists reveal the ins and outs of this relatively new literary form.

Other Panelist(s): Voss Foster, S. Evan Townsend, Dawn Vogel, Stoney Compton, Dean Wells

My thoughts: Oh, boy.  I love flash fiction.  I love writing it, and I love reading it.  Of course, you know I took that passion into publishing it.  I’d debate the concept of “new literary form”, but certainly under recognized for the true art form that it is.  As moderator, I plan to focus on not just what is flash fiction, but why is it unique compared to other short fiction.  We will also touch on common pitfalls and how to address them.

 

Title: The Iron Writer Competition

Date/Time: Saturday August 11th @ 1pm

Official Description: The pen is mightier than the sword! Our contestants will take on the challenge of improvisational writing through several rounds of battle, each with a secret writing prompt. Watch writers test their story skills under time and pressure, for a chance at the title of Iron Writer!

Other Panelist(s): Remina Goude, Frances Pauli
My Thoughts: I am hosting another Iron Writer competition.  So far I have two contestants who will battle it out with a secret writing prompt.  We will have three rounds to determine the winner of Iron Writer!  I’d love to have four writers compete, but we have two already.  Not too late to join in.
Title: What Editors Want
Date/Time: Saturday August 11th @ 3PM
Official Description: From the first submission to an ongoing partnership, how can writers stay on good terms with their editors? What are some of the biggest turn-offs for an editor?

My Thoughts: We have a good group of panelist for this.  One of the challenges of what we editors want is that we are all different people.  As moderator, I am thinking I will let the conversation dictate the direction we take on this broad topic.
Title: Short Fiction in SF
Date/Time: Saturday August 11th @5PM
Official Description: SF is one of the last remaining genres where authors can sell short fiction. Although stories might not get the attention novels do, it it is a demanding form on its own. Our panelists discuss why short fiction is worth writing — and reading!

My Thoughts: Does short fiction not get the attention it deserves? I think Flash doesn’t, but the overall short fiction market seems strong enough to me.  I think we will be discussing why SF still loves short fiction, among other things.
Title: The Writing Habit
Date/Time: Sunday August 12th @ 12pm
Official Description: Authors share strategies to keep their work going, even when the pipes burst or your favorite show comes on TV.

My Thoughts: Dr. Glass is one of the Guests of Honor at SpoCon so I am excited to be on a panel he is moderating.  I just mentioned that I am struggling with the writing habit.  So I hope to offer a unique insight into my struggle and how I am working to overcome it.
Title: Impact of Social Media
Date/Time: Sunday August 12 at 1PM
Official Description: Sharing reviews, building buzz, linking and blogging… What impact does social media have on books and other creative projects? How can you make social media work for you?

Other Panelist(s): Grivante
My Thoughts: Social media can feel like a minefield sometimes. It can also feel like a lost cause when it comes to promotion.  But you can make it work for you as well.

WorldCon 76 – San Jose, CA – August 16 to 20

I had wanted desperately to be a panelist at WorldCon, but I got to that party a little late.  Though, I haven’t has very good communication from the folks there to know why.  I won’t get into the controversy here. I will say that to redo programming of a WoldCon this late in the game is not easy and I appreciate that effort for sure.

But, I am very excited to attend.  I haven’t attended at WorldCon since my first one in San Antonio.  San Jose is well know place for me.  I am originally from the Bay Area, and I visited San Jose very regularly when I lived there.  Of course you all know my fan status of the San Jose Sharks.  You also likely know that I am big fan of John Picacio, the Art Guest of Honor.  He also created the Mexicanx Initiative.  I, along with so many others, donated a membership to this cause. In total 50 memberships were sponsored so that we can ensure that the “World” part of WorldCon is represented.

All things aside, I am excited to attend WorldCon again.  I likely won’t get to Dublin next year, but I hope to attend the year after that as well.

 

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Don’t Read Your Own Work After Publishing It

IMG_20130406_142102_592That is what I was told when I started writing.  Never, ever, ever read your work once it has been published.  Just don’t do it.  If you do, you will open a rift in time and space that even The Doctor won’t be able to stop.  Children will weep in the streets, entire cities will be lost, and Trump will be elected President of the United States.

It is another one of those “cardinal sins” of writing that seems to have just caught on and stuck.  The reasons are endless, but when you really get down to it, I am not sure what the point of this law of scribes is all about.

Perhaps it is the worry that you will cringe at your prior work and never write again.  The whole, I am the worst writer in the world and I need to stop.  Or maybe it has to do with the endless revision cycle that many writers can get into.  I’ve warned of this in the past.

Maybe it has to do with the look forward, not back, ideology.  This idea the progress only happens if you look to the future.  But if you don’t know your past, what is the point of the future?

That’s why I am of the mentality that reading your past work is actually a really good idea.  I promise the children will be fine, there will be no rifts in time, and no cities will crumble as a result of you reading your past published stories.  I am also pretty sure that Trump and reading have never been related.

Let me explain why it works for me.  I think you will see that, like most rules of writing, individual preference is really key.

One:

It helps me to find my muse again.  I have a terrible time with my muse.  She, like the writer she inspires, likes to travel.  The problem is she never takes me with her and never returns without me having to hunt her down.

Sure, she calls every now and again but she never seems to return until I start reading my work.  It is like she stops and goes, wait we wrote that shit.  We are pretty bad ass, lets do this shit.

Two:

It reminds me.  I have a terrible memory.  I need the reminder of what my characters were doing and what exactly I edited out before.  You see, when I write a story the story sticks.  And I forget that I cut our a scene, or that I changed a character’s gender.

My novels live in my head.  The world is continuing to go on well after I stopped writing the story, and when I go to write the sequel I don’t always remember where I stopped.

Three:

It builds my confidence.  This is especially true when I read my short stories.  I always go back to the publication that published them and read them again.

It reminds me that I am good enough to be published.  That someone else read my story and loved it enough to put into their publication.  It lets me know that I can do this, that it is worth the time out of my day to write something.  A lot like reading my reviews, I find it a reminder that other do want to read what I put to paper.

Four:

If I won’t even read my novels, why should anyone else? I know that is really silly sounding, but I believe it.  If a novel I wrote isn’t worth the time for me to read, and reread, then why would others read it once.

I suppose this comes from my leadership mentality.  I’ve worked as a leader in my day job for so long and I’ve always believed that I shouldn’t expect my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.  And I guess the same goes for my readers. I wouldn’t expect them to read anything I wouldn’t read.

It may be four simple reasons, but they are the reasons why I will read what I write even after it has been published.  I don’t feel like my worlds have to die as soon as I put them to paper.

There really are not any rules for writing, your method is your own.  Feel free to break a few of them every now and then.  You just might find that you’re better for it.

Dry Spells

We writers often talk about writer’s block.  I even had a blog post on the topic.  But sometimes we just have dry spells.  They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation.  For me it has been the motivation mostly.  The ideas have been flowing free in my mind.  Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind.  But I just don’t sit down and write.  So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.

The first step is recognizing the dry spell.  That may seem easy enough, and for some it is.  But for me it wasn’t so easy.  I only just started thinking about how little I have written.  And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th.  That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it.  This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time.  The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.

In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long.  Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you.  I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working.  Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls.  But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote.  But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.

You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks.  Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons.  The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.

The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell.  Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true.  Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame.  But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause.  You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it.  If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper.  If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.

The next most common thing to blame is time.  That is what I blamed.  I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine.  I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print.  But that wasn’t fair.  Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family.  All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before.  But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.

You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing.  You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do.  But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing.  Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.

For me, I found it was a lack of motivation.  The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing.  I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation.  That was a series of bad news in my writing.  I have received five rejection letters in those two months.  Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in.  It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence.  In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation.  I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast.  I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months.  That is not a bad thing though.  I’ve been focusing on putting out novels.  When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.

There have been other delays in my novel as well.  I still don’t have cover art.  The edits may be delayed.  That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability.  I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am.  I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time.  I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth.  I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story.  I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time.  And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).

Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality.  We all hit this.  Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue.  But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right.  It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Next, you need to break past your road block.  You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working.  For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going.  For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time.  If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.

For me, I inflated my ego a bit.  I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say.  Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will.  I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines.  I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both).  Last, I think I am good with marketing.  But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it.  And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start.  So I’ve started asking around for help on that.

The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed.  You need to either make peace with it, or solve it.  Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.

Last, perform a rain dance.  You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going.  If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working.  You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up.  You need to start writing.  You might find that you will jump right back in.  Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again.  But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again.  And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.

Some people hit dry spells and give up.  For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore.  But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again.  If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell.  Don’t give up on it.  Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell.  Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.

 

Names

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

I’ll give you a moment to recover from that fact that I just quoted Shakespeare.

Better, now?  Okay, let’s continue with the topic at hand – Names.  As a writer I struggle with names all the time.  Character names, city names, world names, alien race names, ship names…. even what to name my story.  But, why is it so important?

Well despite what Shakespeare says, we identify with names.  Names give a real definition of just about everything.  If I handed you a rose, and said “Smell this Grazulla.”  You would stare at me like I was a mad man.  The reason is simple.  You see a rose, you identify it as a rose, and when I say “rose” you see the flower (or you see Betty White on the set of Golden Girls).  Grazulla means nothing to you, it is just the rambling of a Speculative Fiction blogger.

Why do you think so many readers struggle with nameless characters?  Don’t get me wrong, it can work, but it certainly is a hard sell.  We associate people with names in our society.  Everyone has a name (well almost everyone).  Even people we see that don’t know their names, we ofter think up a name for them.  People often say, “She looks like a Jan.”  Heck, a lot of people have called me Robert over the years.  To some, I must look like a Robert.

I had a heck of a time naming my three boys, well my oldest was easy being that he named after me, but the younger two were a struggle.  My wife hated the fact that I rejected almost every name she gave me.  They were either too generic, or I knew someone named that, or they were just hard for me to say.  For the rest of my life I’ll be calling these kids by whatever name I chose.  What a scary idea.  What if  I chose wrong?

Well, lets face it.  When we dream up a character we are giving them life.  And with any luck your character will long outlive anyone you know.  As an early writer I worried that I might choose wrong.

So now you need to think of a name.  If they are human characters you might pick names that fit the ethnicity of a character.  Because, lets face it, people often associate names with ethnicity.  I still get a lot of Spanish language advertising in my mail box.  It is an assumption that since my name is Flores, I must surely be Hispanic.  But that also brings up a very good point, no matter how you describe a character in text, people will get a vision of them solely on their name.

When it comes to first and middle names, I use Behind the Name.  It is a website I found when I was trying to name my children.  It is great for naming characters.  Say you want to find a name that means brave, you can search it.  Or, say you just need a random name.  They have a random name generator.  You can filter out by country, ethnicity, and more.  When it comes to last name, I really haven’t found something as in depth and versatile as Behind the Name.  But I did find a random last name generator that I use sometimes.

But names extend past characters.  We name a lot of things.  In my upcoming novel there are two alien races.  I had to completely make up their names.  Not just the characters, but the names of their worlds and the name of the species themselves.  When it comes to alien names, lets remember to not go over the top.  People will be trying to read you story, in English.  So the name “asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh” will not do much to help readers enjoy your story.  Especially if asdhfaeuiohfsdjkfnh is a critical character in your story.

What else do we name is stories?  In my novel, I had a lot of Naval ships to name.  That took time.  But, for that I found a theme to use.  For example, the naval fleet had seven warships so I named them after the continents.  The carriers I picked a different landmark theme, and so on.  It worked, and gave me a large selection of names to choose from.

Names are important, that is for sure.  You might start off with nameless items in your story, just to get the writing done.  I can’t.  When I start a story my characters need a name, it helps me to bring them to life.  Choose a name you can live with, after all the whole world may be calling your character that for a long time.

Writer’s Block

I can hear all of you yelling at you screens:  “Where have you gone Richard?  Why did you leave us?”

I know I have been quiet on here. I haven’t posted in 10 days.  I think in blog time that is something like 3 years.  I have been stricken with a terrible case of writer’s block.  The only natural enemy of the writer.  Well, there may be others, but writer’s block is certainly the worse .

Writer’s block is that horrible condition where a writer has no idea what to write.  In can be minor; like not know what to write on Twitter.  Or it can be severe; like not knowing what to write anywhere.  Writer’s block affects all writers of all ages, there is no vaccine against it, and it often requires lengthy treatments that are not guaranteed to work.  Worst of all it’s not covered by most insurance carriers.

My case was moderate.  I managed to put together a few tweets, I think I got on Google+ with a post, and Facebook got a few posts.  But, I could not think of anything to write, both here or for a new short story.  I haven’t got anymore written on my novel.

I tried all the treatments.  They don’t work.  I brainstormed, I read, I wrote nonsense, I opened the documents to type, and still nothing got down to the page.  I tried hard to get something down on paper some where.  Nothing.  Not even a sticky note on the fridge reminding me to buy my son Ice Cream toppings for his school party.

I had an awesome dream.  I woke up and thought, This will make the most awesome story known to man.  Sure enough, my writer’s block was so severe that I didn’t write the idea down and fell back a sleep.  That is a cardinal sin in the writing community, and I did it.  And now, I still can’t remember even the smallest detail of what that dream was about.  All I can remember now is, You fool.  You could have been the next Heinlein, and you didn’t write it down.  Your note pad was arms length from your bed and you were too lazy to write it down.

Then yesterday I got a rejection letter from a publication for my latest short story.  Its okay, it was only the first market I have sent it too so I was not really surprised.  However, when you have writer’s block it is a bit more discouraging.  I sent it off to another publication as I promised myself  I would always do.

And then I had a great idea for a blog post.  I will write about Editors.

Then I realized that might be career suicide if I wrote down what I was thinking of editors after getting a rejection.  So I decided that post should probably wait.

Well then my Van broke down… yes I drive a mini-van.  Stop looking at me like that.  Men drive mini-vans too.  Well, as you have read in other threads, writing provides stress relief for me.  Well, I needed it and I still couldn’t think of a damn thing to put on paper.

Then today, I went through my routine.  Checked Facebook, Checked the Facebook Author Page, Checked Twitter, Checked Google+, and then I got to this site.  And I thought to myself, I need to blog.  My adoring fans need to hear from me.  It has been three blog years since I posted.

It didn’t work.  I couldn’t think of anything.  Then after going back to Facebook and then back to this site.  It dawned on me.  I should write about the tragedy of Writer’s Block.  And so, I give you this post.  I managed over 700 words here.

I AM CURED!

So what is my point is all this?  I am not sure I really have one.  Give me a minute, let me see if I can make one up…

Okay I got it.

Writer’s Block is a debilitating disease to a writer.  And really only time can cure it.  The more you force yourself to writer something the more resistant the disease becomes.  Sometimes you have to just take a break and let the disease run its course.  And when you are ready you will have something great to write.  Or at least something to write.*

If you have suggestions on how to cure Writer’s Block, please feel free to comment.

Now if you will excuse me, I have things to write.

*Note:  The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, your 
results may vary.