Archive for July, 2010

This writer’s weekend

Back from the Washington Coast where Jay Lake and I were “writer gurus” at the annual Writers’ Weekend. Jay and I each led two critique sessions for 3-5 stories each; I gave two lectures (on plot, and on using props and sets to define character and build emotion) and gave my Mars talk. Delicious meals were provided by our hosts. The rest of the time we walked on the beach, swam in the pool, relaxed in the hot tub, and talked.

The conversation ranged widely, from hardcore writing and publishing advice to extremely silly. One of my favorite moments was a series of Other Sith Lords, including Darth Congruous, Darth Corrigible, and the ultimate winner of them all Darth Sectivorous. At one point someone came up to a group and asked what we were laughing about, and we told her “Thundercat slash.” “It’s a gas, gas, gas?” she replied without missing a beat. I ’bout died laughing. And one of our host’s nieces introduced us to a Salish word pronounced, approximately, “lobstaboot,” which means “don’t do anything you’d regret” and which we used as a farewell for the rest of the weekend.

Sometimes I worried that Jay and I were dominating the conversation, but then I realized that the Jay and David Show was part of the point of the whole exercise. This made me feel weird, but over the weekend several people came up to me and told me that they found my critiques, lectures, advice, and blogs useful, so what the hell.

Good critique, good food, good chat, I made new friends and got to know old friends better. What’s not to love?

Adventures in Self-Publishing

As you may know, I’ve never been an advocate of self-publishing. There’s a huge difference between printing a book, which is something that’s easy today with web-based print-on-demand services, and publishing a book, which involves selection, editing, promotion, and distribution. Self-publishing, in my view, is no road to riches.

However, there are some projects for which self-publishing is the way to go. That is, those cases where the physical artifact of a printed book is desired, and/or where there is a small but known audience. Personal memoirs, local histories, and charity cookbooks are excellent projects for self-publishing. You won’t make a lot of money at it, but you’ll get the satisfaction of sharing a printed book with your friends and relatives.

It is for this reason that I have created The Mars Diaries.

The Mars Diaries is nothing more nor less than a trade paperback collecting the blogs of the Mars Desert Research Station’s Crew 88. The content is the same as what you could find at Bianca’s, Laksen’s, Paul’s, Diego’s and my blogs, and the pictures are in black and white. All I’ve done is collect them in one place, put them in chronological order, and format them for print. Well, I also got Lynne Ann Morse and Kate Yule to translate Bianca’s and Diego’s blogs into English — that’s something you won’t find online.

The main purpose of this book is to have a physical souvenir for the crew, and their friends and families, of our adventure on “Mars.” But as long as I’ve gone to the trouble of putting this volume together, I saw no reason not to make it available for anyone who wants to buy a copy. You can order one yourself, if you like, from

It’s only $20, and shipping is currently free. If you order a copy, please do let me know how you like it.

P.S. I did this project in Microsoft Word, for reasons that seemed valid when I started. I’m proud of the end result, but I have to say that the experience might just be the straw that makes this camel delete the last bits of Microsoft software from his Mac and use something else instead. Anything else. Maybe a sharp stick and a piece of leather.

Light in the abyss

Lately I have been feeling like a WINO — a Writer In Name Only. Since my trip to “Mars” in January I’ve been spending a lot more time being an Author (traveling, speaking, signing) than being a Writer (actually putting words on paper).

The Author thing is a lot of fun and very rewarding. I got a thank-you card from the Clarion West students for the talk I gave there, which was extremely touching, and the feedback I’ve gotten from my Mars talk at the Nebulas has been overwhelming. The Mars thing has been my entree to so many experiences I would not have had otherwise — the TV appearances, my turn on stage at Ignite Portland, the Shuttle launch, and many more. But it’s also quite tiring. It seems to take me a week or so to completely recover from a trip out of town, even longer if I gave a speech, and in the last few months I’ve found myself heading out again right after that. So I’ve only been writing once a week, at the Tuesday afternoon writers’ coffee shop get-together. If it weren’t for that goad I probably wouldn’t be writing at all.

I really feel like a wimp by comparison with Jay Lake, who seems to write every week more than I have in the last six months, despite the ravages of chemotherapy. His amazing persistence in the face of the many blows cancer has dealt him is awe-inspiring.

I did write an outline and the first ten thousand words of a YA SF novel and got them critiqued. Based on the feedback I received, it needs a lot of work, and I’ve been reluctant to tackle that. I just need to pull up my socks and do it.

I also wrote two short stories in that time. One of them, “Citizen-Astronaut,” won second prize in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest (I just got the prize package of Baen books and schwag) and is currently seeking publication. The other one, “Floaters,” just today sold to the Drabblecast podcast. It should appear in August.

And I’ve kept the stories I wrote last year (and earlier) in circulation. “Finding Joan,” the story I read at Wiscon in 2009, sold to the new online market Daily Science Fiction, which hasn’t yet begun publication but pays eight cents a word. Another story was rejected with a note that described it as “powerful,” but too disturbing for the editor because it raised personal issues. I have high hopes for that one.

On reflection, I guess all in all I’ve been doing pretty well.

The Author thing continues. Tomorrow I head to the Washington coast to be “writer guru,” along with Jay Lake, at the annual Writers’ Weekend. Two weeks after that is the Mars Society convention, and three weeks after that we leave for Australia.

I hope to do some work on the YA SF novel while traveling. We’ll see.

I’ll be giving my Mars talk at the Mars Society’s annual convention (August 5-8 in Dayton, Ohio). I’ll be presenting to the whole convention right after Robert Zubrin opens the event! My Realms of Fantasy story “Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven” was selected as an Honorable Mention by Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best SF. And the September 2010 Analog, Interzone 228, Alembical 2, and Escape Pod episode 240, all with stories by me, are now available.

Back from Chicago; good news in the mail

Just back from a week in Chicago at the gay square dance convention. The convention, held in the luxurious and historic Chicago Hilton, was fantastic, well run, with plenty of great dancing (and, well, a few Squares From Hell, but into each life a little golfball-sized hail must fall, eh?). We also squeezed in a Frank Lloyd Wright bus tour and a downtown architecture river cruise, as well as a visit to the Art Institute.

The Art Institute visit was particularly interesting to me because my story “A Passion For Art,” which I wrote after visiting the Art Institute during the ChiCon 2000 worldcon, was just published in Interzone last month. It took ten years to be published because I waited a long while after getting it critiqued before editing and submitting it, and then it spent a few years kicking around various markets before being accepted. Touring the Art Institute I was surprised by a number of details that I had either mis-remembered or completely fabricated (and forgot I’d done so) in the story. For example, the statue of Pocohontas that plays a prominent role in the story, which I had remembered as being life-sized (and this is important to the plot), is actually only about four feet tall. Another piece that appears in the story, a pencil sketch of a ballerina by artist Edward Moy, is nowhere to be found at the museum or anywhere online; I guess I must have made that one (even the artist) up out of whole cloth. And Tuesdays are no longer free, though they were when I wrote the story.

When we returned I found a whole bunch of good stuff in the mail/email:

  • My contributor’s copies of the September Analog, with my name not only on the cover, but listed first on the cover and spine! That’s a first for me.
  • The June Locus, which not only included my photo (in the group shot from the Nebulas) and my name in the news section (for having won second prize in the Baen/NSS contest), but also three photos I took at Wiscon, along with a check for same! Another first!
  • A note from Realms of Fantasy assistant editor Douglas Cohen that my RoF story “Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven” was selected as an Honorable Mention by Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best SF.
  • An invitation from the Mars Society to give my Mars talk at their annual convention (August 5-8 in Dayton, Ohio). I’ll be presenting to the whole convention right after Robert Zubrin opens the event!
  • Page proofs for my story in Esther Friesner’s “werewolves in suburbia” anthology Fangs for the Mammaries (don’t blame me, or Esther, for the title; it was the winner of a contest).
  • A short story rejection, just to keep me humble.

We’re only at home for two days. On Friday we head to Seattle for the Clarion West party and another session with the Washington Aerospace Scholars. Two weeks after that I’m off to the Washington Coast to be “writer guru,” along with Jay Lake, at the annual Writers’ Weekend. Two weeks after that is the Mars Society convention, and three weeks after that we leave for Australia! Whee!