A Different Kind of Brain Weasel

hate when someone’s mad at me because I did something wrong.  I mean, we probably all do, right?

But you know what I hate even more?  When someone thinks I did something underhanded, but I didn’t.

I’m going through that situation right now–someone believes we did something underhanded, which we did not.  But the way they are talking about it is very much “You’re horrible people!” in tone, and it’s making me nuts.  (I’m being vague for self-preservation reasons; it’s better to not discuss details right now)

It’s bothering me so much that I can’t handle this one–I’ve had to turn it over to my wife to deal with, partly because she’s better at this kind of thing, but mostly because I’m so deep in the doldrums about it I’ve lost the objectivity.  I probably would cave and do something conciliatory to make them happy, but that would not only set a bad precedent but which could make things worse.

Impostor Syndrome, My Old Friend

One hopes, when one is an “aspiring” writer, that once one gets within sight of being published, impostor syndrome will go away.

No such luck. Here I am with a contract, and the stupid brain weasels are still very much wrapped around my brain.

I just sent in my author homework.  And now I’m utterly convinced the editor and other staff are going to be rolling their eyes, convinced they made a bad deal and they need to do whatever they can to rid themselves of this idiot.

It’s nonsense, I’m sure.  If there are problems with what I sent in, I’m sure they’ll let me know and work with me to fix it.  But even knowing that, I keep expecting the worst.

The thing with Impostor Syndrome is that you can’t let it paralyze you.  Sure, feel inferior.  Go ahead and believe that you’re a terrible writer and nobody will ever like your work.  But don’t let it stop you.  Tell your brain to shut the hell up and get back to work.  Eventually, you’ll come out the other side and recognize the BS for what it is.

And then be prepared to do it over and over and over again.  I do it all the time as a teacher, and as a writer. It stinks, but what else are you going to do?

Choosing A Game to GM

My wife, and a few friends, have asked me to run another RPG campaign.  The request is to run a Science Fiction game, as opposed to Fantasy, though “space fantasy” could also work.

I did consider running a Star Wars campaign, but I’ve done that.  The most successful was a three-year campaign set during the Yuuzhan-Vong war.  That was a great game, but I want something different now.

But I’d like something with both technology and some kind of magic, either of the usual fantasy variety, or techno-magic, or both.  And I can’t find any kind of system for that I like in Traveller, which is a shame, because I love the system.

I’m considering Starfinder, the Paizo game that is basically Pathfinder set thousands of years later, but using only the rules.  I’d create my own setting.

A third alternative is the Mindjammer universe, using their Traveller variant.  I love the setting, but the FATE-based game rules confused me.  The Traveller rules version seems easier to handle.

It’s also possible I might go with something new and different, such as The Strange, or Numenara, which has a “science fantasy” feel.

Any suggestions of systems I should check out?

The News I’ve been Sitting On

One of the most frustrating things is when something amazing happens to you and you can’t tell anyone. For the past week, I’ve been trying to act like business-as-usual when inside, I’m doing 99,000 consecutive HappyDances.

I kind of want to go on and on before I reveal it, but that would be mean. So: I am pleased to announce that I have sold my novel, The Widening Gyre, to Flame Tree Press, a UK publisher. The book will be published in “mid-ish 2019” and will be available in both bookstores and online booksellers.

I am beyond pleased, here.

A Good Rejection

I just got a great rejection.  I know, rejections suck, but in this case it was complimentary.  The agent said it was a “fun, fast-paced read,” but she just wasn’t “excited enough about the voice” to move forward.

Sure, it’s a rejection, but it’s a rejection that makes me feel good.  A “fun, fast-paced read” was exactly what I was going for.  Book 2 will probably be a little heavier, a little less “fun,” which is by design given the roots of this story.

Anyway, that rejection is the kind I like–it doesn’t hurt, it’s honest, and it reinforces my self-belief.

My Struggle with Mother’s Day

My mother died when I was five.  That means I haven’t seen her, or heard her voice, for 42 years.  Truth be told, I don’t even remember what her voice sounded like.  I try to imagine it as similar to my aunt’s, but that can only take you so far.  The patterns of her voice–her inflections, her unique pronunciations and cadences–are gone forever.

My aunt was too young to take me, and was convinced to allow friends of the family to adopt me.  While my adopted dad did his best, and wasn’t terrible (more on him later), my adopted mother was a monster.  She continually ridiculed me.  I don’t sing in public, despite having a decent voice, because she told me, over and over again, that it was ugly.  Many of my problems with self-image are due to a childhood in her clutches.

Mother’s Day has always been difficult.  How do I celebrate a mom who continually treated me like the unwanted child? How do I celebrate any mom, no matter how worthy she is, when I’m so busy missing my own?

Eventually, I found a way.  And the reason is my aunt.  My mother’s sister took me in when I was 15 and had been basically disowned by my adopted family.  I arrived at her doorstep, deeply broken and completely filled with anger.

But she took care of me.  She was patient, and loving, and she made allowances for my damage even as she refused to accept excuses for my behavior.  She later told me she was terrified every day that she’d come home and find me dead–my uncle kept a pistol, and I could have easily gotten to it–but I would never have done that.  I wasn’t always kind, to her or my uncle, but there’s no way I would ever have repaid their kindness with that kind of trauma.  I knew, even from the depths of my anger, that it wasn’t their fault.  And with their help, I began to heal.

It took time, and work, but eventually I became a functional human.  I owe much of it to my aunt, and the patience she’s shown.  And because of her, I’m able to look around me and realize I’m doing pretty well.

I love you, KJ.

The Ups and Downs of my “Stage Presence”

On Fridays, I allow a few minutes for students to ask me any kind of question they wish.  Sometimes they ask about real world things they don’t understand, like the current Korean negotiations, Trump’s actions, etc.  Sometimes they’re random questions about the world (many of which could be answered with a fifteen-second Google search), and sometimes they’re about me.

Today, a fairly astute student asked if I’d ever be able to speak as an author, given that I’m shy and an introvert.

It’s a good question, but easily answered: I could do it easily, because I’m a teacher.

Of course, even if I do get published, that doesn’t guarantee I’ll ever have the opportunity to speak publicly; debut authors don’t get book tours, and few people would go to attend an event with someone they’ve never heard of, anyway.

But if I ever did get to that tier of writerly success, I could handle it.  I spend, after all, six hours a day “on stage” in the classroom, and I’m one of the more entertaining teachers on campus. My students regularly comment that they enjoy my sense of humor, my ability to make sometimes dull lessons entertaining, and my willingness to look foolish to make a point for them.

But it wouldn’t be entirely smooth.  Because here’s the thing: With an audience of fans, I’d be fine.  With an audience of authors or editors or agents, I’d be a mess, talking too fast, trying not to act nervous, and generally trying not to fall apart.  While I’m good at talking to students, I’m crap at talking to peers.  I get nervous when I feel judged, and fellow teachers judge far, far more harshly than students do.

The key is that when I’m teaching, I’m performing.  When I’m talking in front of teachers, I’m not performing–they know the tricks.  I’m trying to get to a point where I can turn that into performance, as well, but it’s difficult.