Book I’m Looking Forward To: Trail of Lightning

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Anglo who identifies as a Scotsman-in-exile, which is to say I come from a long line of mostly-British-descended people who came here from Scotland in the early days of the US, and I wish they’d all stayed in the UK so I could have been born there.

That said, I somehow picked up a very fierce appreciation of the American Southwest, and the native tribes that live there.  Because of this, I did several classes on Native American literature in college, and read quite a few amazing stories. But in the SFF field where my true heart lies, there’s remarkably little Science Fiction or Fantasy written by Native Americans.

One of my favorite science fiction novels is Roger Zelazny’s Eye of Cat, a story taking inspiration from Navajo traditions. As much as I love that book, though, Zelazny was as white as I am.  He did a good job, but how much better might it have been if it had been written by someone who knew the culture from the inside?

One of my favorite stories this year was Rebecca Roanhorse’s Hugo Award-nominated “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience.”  Go give it a read, I’ll wait.

Good, wasn’t it?  SO MUCH going on there.  Well, imagine how happy I was to see that she’s got a novel–first in a series–coming out this month?  She describes Trail of Lightning as an “Indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Read more about her book at this link.   (Includes B&N Preorder link at bottom)

Amazon preorder page

Rebecca Roanhorse’s website

On “Leveling up” as a Writer

As an RPG player of long standing, as well as a video game-lover, the concept of “leveling up” is never far from my brain.  When I finished my first year of teaching, I called it “leveling up.”  There’s some truth to it; every year brings new skills, new ideas.  And not just annually; leveling up can happen mid-year, too.

As a writer, I’ve always thought of a sale as the obvious first “ding” to signal a new level.  Then I went to VP, which was a level-up, as I learned new skills and made some valuable contacts (mostly with fellow students, without whom I would still be trying to finish The Widening Gyre.

So, now that I’ve signed a contract, that’s a ding, right?  Right.  And now I’ve reached a new level of enlightenment about writing professionally, right?

Well, no, not so much.

I mean, yes, If I’m being honest, there’s some nifty “taking myself seriously” going on, where I’m no longer telling myself the book is terrible and nobody will ever like it.  But at the same time, now I have all sorts of new problems to figure out.

When my sorcerer hits a new level, he gets some new spells, he learns some new things, and he’s generally more powerful.  But he doesn’t usually end up with a series of new questions, at least not as part of his new level.

But now that I have a publisher, and an editor, and a contract that lays out certain things, I’m worried about new things.  Like… at what point do I add things like a dedication and acknowledgements?  When do I pitch book 2?  Right after I plot it out and write up a synopsis?  When it’s finished?  Or do I wait and see how Book 1 does in the marketplace to see if there’s even a point to writing it?

My editor is saved from dealing with my neurotic BS by the fact that I know he’s super busy prepping for the Imprint’s big roll out of the new titles beginning in September.  And I’m waiting for the edits on TWG before I do anything else.  Get that one “in the can,” so to speak.  But it’s still all spinning around and around in my head.

So.  Level up, but be wary–just like in RPGs, the battles aren’t over yet.

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?

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.

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.

Just checking in…

So the open call for questions didn’t work.  Small audiance, and I’m not really that interesting, anyway. So okay.

I finished the online Unit Design course I’ve been working on.  It required a lot of reading and prep, and then writing a four-week unit on Hamlet.  To begin with, I read Ben Crystal’s excellent Springboard Shakespeare: Hamlet and Shakespeare on Toast for ideas on how to get my teen students to realize Shakespeare wasn’t all high-brow, and the latter book was especially useful, having within it a lot of myth-busting stories and information.

I also refreshed my memory on designing units from my teacher education, by rereading my Understanding by Design textbook, some articles from the Globe Theatre Foundation on teaching Shakespeare via performance, and did a quick review of the California Common Core State Standards, marking which standards I could engage through teaching Hamlet.

I got an A on my unit design.  Well, technically I got 100/100; there aren’t any letter grades attached, but still.  That’s an A in my book.  Which gives me the units I needed to move over on the pay scale, so I’ll make more money next year, which is nice.

On the writing front, Seeking Home, book 1 of the Remembrance War, is still out to a couple of agents and one small press publisher I thought had already rejected it, but apparently hadn’t.  We’ll see how that all shakes out. In the meantime I’m working on a new project, which I’ve talked about a bit here, but which has changed in some pretty large ways since I first started talking about it.

I’m also working on an RPG world based on my WIP for a homebrew Traveler game I plan to run for wife and friends.  The story of the WIP will run in the background, the game characters will interact with it as they wish, but the novel will not be taking the game into account; the novel is already plotted.  No way am I changing that before the zeroth draft is done.

I’ve got a few other projects in various states of planning, including an epic fantasy and a one-shot Gaiman-esque fantasy that will stretch my abilities a fair bit.

Work is work.