New for March – Free Scifi Wallpaper

Welcome to March. Here’s another free wallpaper – this one’s been sized to work with your favorite mobile device. Been working on this one a while. I’ll see a free picture on Unsplash and reimagine it in a sci-fi context.

I started out with this picture: and now it looks like this:

From the very beginning – the boy looked like he was getting abducted by aliens or something – so I ran with that idea. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. Welcome to March, 2018.

 

 

 

Ready Player One: Bad Writing Doesn’t Matter

I was about three chapters into ‘Ready Player One’ when it hit me: Ernie Cline is the Dave Grohl of authors. As in, I love the guy, but I’m not a fan of his work. Logical dichotomies invited my geek-auteur brain to divide by zero. Thankfully, Reddit was there to help me out. I created a thread on /r/writing to talk about it. This is about everything that happened next.

Before I say anything else, let me say this: I love Ernie Cline. Been a fan of his since 2002 or so, when I fell in love with his spoken-word performances about dorky topics. Cline has a brilliant knack for tapping into nerdly zeitgeist into a Robin Williams-style stream of consciousness. You can’t help but respect that.

It should be no surprise then, that I’m happy for him and the success of Ready Player One. Seriously, isn’t that every author’s dream? Your debut novel turns into a Spielberg project. Who wouldn’t love to trade places with Ernie Cline for a day, to experience that level of ‘you’ve arrived,’ in your life?

“But you said you didn’t like Ready Player One,” you might be saying. Yes, that’s true … but that’s not the point. As one Redditor put it: “as a writer myself I know how much easier it is to trash a book than to write one. Completing a novel is a huge accomplishment.” So make no mistake: this post isn’t about trashing Ready Player One (RPO). This is about what RPO’s success can teach us.  Continue reading

Sorry, I Won’t Like Your Facebook Page

Wait, don’t run off yet. Hear me out: this is something you need to know.

Sorry, I Won't Like Your Facebook Page

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I won’t be liking your Facebook page. Like you, I get three or four requests per week, authors and other creative people asking me to Like their Facebook page. I love my online friends, but I ignore the requests, and I go through a little guilt-trip every single time.

It’s nothing personal. In fact, it’s the culmination of a decision based on years of being a social media manager before starting over as a writer:

Facebook is the Worst Social Media Platform for Authors, Ever

No, seriously. Facebook sucks if you’re an author. Don’t take my word for it: Look at all the numbers. Even if people weren’t actively going elsewhere for their social media, you’re never going to get anywhere if you use Facebook to find new readers. People are getting tired of Facebook and it shows. Even social media marketers actively debate the efficacy of Facebook promotions.

“But I’ve figured out how to get more likes,” you’ll say. Really? Do you plan to be more successful than George Takei? Even Mr. Sulu took to the screen to slam FB’s policies of pay-to-see. Just because they Like your page doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually get shown on their feeds. It’s a bottomless pit and I don’t feel good about participating in that charade any more.

That’s not to say that Facebook doesn’t have its uses. Heck, I want to engage with other creative people on a professional level; Facebook is still useful for that. But as far as marketing myself, my books, or my new projects, Facebook is useless.

So, it’s nothing personal. I just don’t use Facebook that way. Don’t ask me to waste your time, because I won’t do it.

Some Tough Love for Barnes & Noble

Some Tough Love for Barnes & NobleBookstores are my lifeblood, both as a reader and as an author. Their survival, therefore, is something I’m keenly interested in and that’s why I found this post on Reddit to be particularly interesting: How Barnes & Noble is killing itself, partially quoted here to save you a click:

“Zero sympathy for sitting on their laurels and refusing to innovate for a decade. Now it’s too late. I only have sympathy for the workers, it’s terrible for them.

But B&N has a horrendously lazy business model. They stopped innovating after adding coffee and their tablet (both great ideas).

But off the top of my head:

Where is there official YouTube channel? Where’s the podcast? They have enough clout to do long form interviews with any author in the world. But they didn’t. Where’s their free online workshops for aspiring writers? Nowhere.

Why didn’t they attempt to have their own knock-off awards ceremony for writers? Best debut novels and all that. They don’t even need to have a ceremony, just a letter in the mail and the books in a curated space in the store. Do you know how many authors would kill for the tiniest amount of recognition and publicity?”

The post has more detail and it’s an interesting breakdown so I encourage you to look into it if you’re interested in the business of bookselling.

The key takeaway is that bookstores are a business, and need to turn a profit to survive. Book stores (and authors!) must continue to innovate their craft to meet the changing needs and interest of their readers. Blaming Amazon is lazy, and also patently untrue. Barnes & Noble has only itself to blame for its success or lack thereof.

Love Your Readers – Write for Them

I wanted to wait a few days to simmer on Charlie Stross’ ‘Why I barely read SF these days’ blog post. He makes some solid points as to it’s hard to write good science fiction and I encourage anyone who’s trying to create their own sci-fi universe to take note. That said, I wanted to respond to it because my first thought about his post was ‘Is it still okay to write sci-fi, if this is how people feel about it?’

I thought about that for a long time, and then something occurred to me that set my mind at ease. I’m passing it along in case you had the same question:

It’s okay if Charlie Stross doesn’t like my stories. I’m not writing them for him. 

Let’s face it: Charlie Stross is an immensely talented author and writer, but he isn’t my ideal reader (see this blog post for more info on who an ‘ideal reader’ is). My idea readers are boys and girls ages 11-13, of various ethnic and economic backgrounds. I remember many happy hours at that age, discovering new worlds and ideas. When I started to write Mesh, I wanted to write a book that kids could enjoy in the same way.

Not everyone will enjoy Mesh, and that’s okay. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Stross to enjoy my reading, just like I wouldn’t expect a child to enjoy ‘The Laundry Files.’ As ambitious as it would be to say ‘I want to write a story for every sci-fi fan,’ that’s silly. That’s saying ‘I want to be the Budweiser of sci-fi’ and we can all imagine how bland a story that might be.

That isn’t to say that his advice isn’t useful for us. Stross gave me a great way to look at world-building in sci-fi and I plan to take it with me as I continue to edit Mesh: “Worldbuilding is like underwear: it needs to be there, but it shouldn’t be on display.” You may find gems of your own that help you develop your storytelling craft and I hope that you do.

Another gem to pass along is the idea behind the picture to the right (->): don’t write for yourself, unless you plan to be the only one that reads it. 99% of storytelling’s fun comes when your words translate into a picture in someone else’s head. Don’t rob yourself of that. Tell stories that others can relate to.

In closing, take Charlie Stross’ essay with as many grains of salt as you need, and then move on. Nobody gatekeeps your awesomeness, except you.

Check Out Paul Chadeisson Right Now

 

Sometimes you run into an artist who is so good that it makes you question why you’re bothering to make your stuff at all. For me, I had one of those moments when I saw Paul Chadeisson’s work over at Artstation. His work is so detailed and evocative, that it reminds me a lot of Simon Stålenhag, another favorite sci-fi artist.

Artistic envy is nothing new. It’s good sometimes to look out there, beyond your horizon, to see what other people are doing. It reminds you to focus on delivering your best, while constantly refining what your best can be.

And then you get back to work.

“What’s Your Novel About?” – Intro to Mesh

Churning away on edits, I want to take this opportunity to talk about what my scifi novel ‘Mesh’ is all about.

So far I’ve only published short stories, but I want to do more. It’s great to pull off a 6-12K word tale, but what about an epic novel? Can I do it? Will people enjoy it? Writing a full-length novel has been on my bucket list since I was 12. Now, several decades later, I want to give it a shot. Here’s what Mesh is about and I hope it’s something you’ll enjoy:

“My name is Roman Diaz. One day I was a nerdy kid. The next day I’m on the run. Everyone thinks I’m a terrorist. I just wanted an ‘A’ on my science project.”

Fourteen-year-old Roman is on the fast track to nowhere, as a wheelchair-bound nerd in a dead-end school. A prestigious technical academy offers him and his geeky best-friend Zeke a way out. How can they say no?

Miramar Technical High isn’t just another magnet school: it’s an incubator for the next Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. Their new principal, Doctor Gray, has created a strange community of geeks, gamers and geniuses. Roman and Zeke are addicted to the weird, techno-anarchy of a campus filled with tough, smart kids. Pranks, hacks, and androids are only the beginning.

The stakes for success are high: Roman and Zeke join the Snow Foxes, the top talent at Miramar, to build a tool that will not only win first prize at the Titan Conference, but will also change the world. Everything changes when they learn the truth about Project November, and their techno-god principal. Friends become enemies. Truths becomes lies. Rockstar students are criminals … that’s what it says on TV, anyway.

Roman is now the most hunted kid in America. What is he going to do? Miramar created a secret weapon that the bad guys didn’t count on: The Mesh. It’s a secret project, something nobody cared about. Is it really the only thing standing between the forces of good and evil? 

MESH is the first novel in a science fiction YA series that will appeal to readers of Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE and binge-watchers of STRANGER THINGS.

Mesh is a celebration of many different stories, people and ideas that I’ve collected over the years. Parsing ideas down into a readable story is an interesting challenge, and I’m finding it to be personally rewarding.

I’m still in search of an agent – I want to publish Mesh through the traditional market, as opposed to self-publishing. I can always use more feedback from sci-fi readers on the material, and from writing professionals on how to get published. Please contact me via Reddit if you’d like to be a part of my team.

You can read more about Mesh’s journey in these blog posts

/R/Writing Threads You Should Read Right Now

Say what you will about Reddit, there are some talented people out there, chasing the dream just like you. In writing Mesh, I’m running across many questions that have no clear answers. Swinging over to Reddit, I have my heart in my mouth knowing that it’s difficult to make connections some times. How happy I was to see that many other writers are struggling with the same questions. Maybe these will strike a chord with you, too:

Your first draft will suck. I guarantee it.

How do you fix ‘Show, Don’t Tell?’

How do you write protagonists that appeal to teenage boys? 

Short stories and breaking into the publishing world.

Reading some of these threads reminds me of the timeless advice given to Link in Zelda: It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.

Kids on Saturday Night – New Free Wallpaper

So here’s something free for February – a quick cyberpunk wallpaper that I’ve been tinkering with for a few weeks now. I think the original picture came from Unsplash and then I started reimagining it in a scifi context.

Free wallpapers are part of the Free Stuff I give away from time to time. All sci-fi, all made by me, because making stuff is important. Hope you enjoy Kids on Saturday Night.

Don’t Hate. Create. – Author Guide – Part II

Hannibal from the A Team may love it when a plan comes together, but he never told us what to do when that doesn’t happen. As I said before, there are powerful emotions at work when your new creative project fails to launch. What do you do with all that energy and passion? Let’s break the recovery process down into some simple action steps:

Success is Not a Linear Path

Hollywood is obsessed with this idea that success starts out with a simple idea and then through a single path – usually a montage – all the stars align and everyone falls in love with you. This is false. Success doesn’t work that way. Not even in Hollywood.

If you aren’t familiar with this reality, you may feel like the negative reactions you’re getting are personally directed toward you. You may be tempted to react angrily. After all, you have an idea and you want to share it with people. Why all the hate?

It’s important to decouple yourself from your idea. Ideas come and go. Projects come and go. I remember Robert Downey Jr. talking with someone after The Judge came out, and it wasn’t doing well. His only comment was, ‘well, it stings … but then you’re onto the next project.’ If Iron Man can accept his setbacks without a meltdown, what’s our excuse?

Don’t take it personally. Brush yourself off. Realize that your path is not linear. Start creating again.

Make sense? Let’s keep going: Continue reading