How YA Fiction is Supposed to Work

Stumbled across this amazing thread about YA publishing on Twitter and wanted to share. I have an intersectional interest because Mesh is YA, but what really matters in terms of the YA fiction audience? Emily Lloyd-Jones breaks it down in the tweet below. Click the link to read the entire thread – it’s worth it.

SCP and the Scary World of Global Scifi

SCP and the Scary World of Global Scifi #StandWithSCPRU

Well that’s awful. SCP, the collaborative-fiction project that’s been running for eleven years now, is under attack by a patent troll somewhere in Russia. I don’t have all the details, but you can read more about it on the following Reddit thread. I only have an academic interest in SCP (not into horror scifi) but their fight strikes home, since it deals with the scary world of global scifi.

Fun fact: If you’re an an author, you don’t just need to know writing. You also need to be an expert in publishing, accounting, design, negotiation, marketing and yes, even intellectual property. According to Wikipedia, the main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. The downside is that intellectual property laws vary from country to country, and gray areas leave room for bad actors.

The reason why the SCP story is so compelling is because the community attempted from the beginning to avoid any such bad action. As a collaborative-fiction project, SCP made use of the free-culture movement to create a compelling story that anyone could read, and anyone could write. Monetization seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s list and to their credit, they’ve been doing this for eleven years with a decent amount of success.

So here comes Andrey Duksin, ‘a Russian man who has illegally registered an illegitimate trademark for SCP within the Eurasian Customs Union. He has used said trademark to threaten and extort legitimate sellers of SCP merchandise, and in addition is guilty of copyright infringement, as his own merchandise completely violates the SCP content license: Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0.’ His actions strike at the heart of what free-culture, collaborative fiction, and Creative Commons are meant to support.

Naturally, this should scare everyone in the SCP community and it does. What’s the point of contributing if it means some dork in another part of the world can waltz in and use IP laws to steal what you tried to give away for free? What recourse do we have when one person, anywhere in the world, can end your life’s work with the touch of a button?

I’m going out on a limb right now and calling Andrey Duksin a toxic fan. He didn’t invent SCP, but he’s using global intellectual property laws to steal it, and that is #5 on the list of questions you can ask yourself (“Do you take more than you give to scifi?”). What he’s doing isn’t right, but let’s face it: It was going to happen sooner or later in this weird, copyright-trolling universe we inhabit.

Even at my modest level, I’m cautious about the microfiction I’ve published. I’ve already had one person ask permission to translate it and share it, but I said “no.” Maybe they have good intentions, but I can’t guarantee that they won’t show up later going ‘this is mine now, sucker.’ That is why I prefer to err on the side of caution. There’s no such thing as a risk-free enterprise, but I want to be as smart as I can while being as open as I can.

So for now, the main thing is to stomp the bad acting wherever we can. While this this unhappy episode with SCP illustrates the challenges that small-time, grass-root organizations face when interacting with a global community, the good news is that there’s more with us than there are with them.

The only way patent trolls will be stopped is when understand that not only is a patent troll a waste of time, it’s going to hurt to even try. We aren’t there yet, but my hope is that we will be, soon. You might consider kicking in a few bucks to their legal fund and hashtagging the #StandWithSCPRU.

Mesh – Ready for Launch – New Portal Page

Mesh - Ready for Launch - New Portal PageToday in the ‘big happy news department,’ I’m excited to tell you that Mesh appears to be ready for launch/book agent queries! To help facilitate that process, I’ve created a new portal page for the book to tell newcomers what Mesh is about and help drive it forward to representation.

So if you’re interested in learning more about Mesh – the scifi novel I’ve been working on since 2016 – please visit the new portal page for information about the book, a quick synopsis, and how to get in touch with me. This is another step forward in the journey toward Author Success, and I hope it connects me with the tribe I am looking for.

Visit the Mesh Portal Page

Great Women Stories?

I love this thread over at /r/movies about ‘Great Women Stories’ because it encapsulates a problem I’m hoping that Mesh will solve. To whit, most ‘women’ movies today are silly women-repackaged-as-men movies and they aren’t that good:

One hour ago, I just watched Ocean’s eight followed by Ghostbuster (2016). I can tell you it left me with a bad aftertaste.
Those films were so focused on replacing men that i can not fathom the point of it all.
If it was meant to empower women, well, it’s a fail.

One doesn’t empower women by forcefully adding wo- in front of any men/man in a pile of books/scripts.

This Wo-wo- syndrom needs to stop.

If we want to empower women we need to tell the tales of women, forge great stories about them. Women don’t need to be anything else than women in the movie industry to be great. They are no substitute or just a smiling sexy face representing a target market. we don’t need to replace men heroes with women to make them great.

They are amazing human being that can be heroes of their own.

This individual is right, of course. Too often, a female protagonist feels like a checked box, a ‘look at us, we’re diverse!’ move. I’m not a girl, so I can’t speak for them, but I have to imagine that this is insulting. It’s why I made a rule for myself with Mesh, that it would be a great story about young women who don’t need to be anything else other than themselves to be great. Sam and Tina, are awesome people unto themselves for a variety of reasons that you’ll come to know. They aren’t repackaged characters, they’re fully three-dimensional. They have good days and bad, senses of humor and dark sides, just like all of us.

The current market of movies like ‘Oceans 8’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ really are a poor answer to a real question – how do you tell the tale of women who are heroes of their own? Wonder Woman got it right, so what’s their excuse? Ghostbusters was such a ‘this is about gender’ movie that they should have called it ‘Ghostbusthers.’ At least that would be honest.

As I said before, I didn’t write Mesh to be some weird statement. I think Mesh and scifi in general have an opportunity to talk about a time where the future just *is*. My hope is that Mesh finds a home with people like the OP of this Reddit thread and that it fills their needs and many others. To get there, of course, we have to get there. Mesh is still waiting for feedback / acceptance. I’ll let you know more as soon as I do.

New Concept Art – Tina and Sam

So this is a new concept piece where I’m digitally painting my book’s characters. Sam and Tina? If you were to describe them, you’d say they’re every tough, smart girl you’ve ever met. The ones that code, compete in jiu-jitsu and joke around like regular people. It’s too easy to fall off into tropes like ‘she’ll break your legs like she breaks your heart,’ so I spent a focusing on who Tina and Sam are.

Both of them, like the other kids in my book, are three-dimensional characters with a back story and a dark side. Some of the other kids in the story crush on them, but that doesn’t stand in the way of them being two of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. They’re based on people I’ve met in my life who went out of their way to break up my assumptions about girls and tech.

Painting them digitally has taught me a lot about my own limitations – honestly, I know this painting isn’t as good as it could be – but every time I paint another part of my book it helps me figure out a little more about what this universe is. I think I’m about done, for good or bad. I hope you enjoy it!

New Microfiction – “Insert Disc 2 to Continue”

New Microfiction - “Insert Disc 2 to Continue”Here’s some new microfiction from the following prompt: “You’re walking your dog one day when everything stops. The world goes black. A voice says ‘insert disc 2 to continue.'”

Blackness, utter blackness. No sound. No sensation, whatsoever. I’ve never felt like nothing before, but that’s the only word I can use for it now. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing. How long did it last? For all I know, it was a nanosecond, but it felt like forever.

A geological age passed by, and then I hear a voice. “Insert Disc 2 to continue.” And then I was back.

Here I am again. Still on Sycamore Avenue, the birds are still chirping in the branches overhead. It’s just after one on the eighteenth of October, and the chill breezes hint at the cold weather sure to come.

Kava, our Blue Heeler, is still at my side like nothing is wrong. He tugs his leash in the direction of home. What’s wrong, Dad? his eyes seem to say. Let’s get back to base, I’m jonsing for some kibble.

“Hang on, boy,” I wheeze, suddenly breathless. “Something’s … something’s wrong.” Look up, look down the street. Cars swish by, everything is still exactly as it should be. Nobody else is wondering what just happened. Just me. Grab at my throat, feel my pulse. Am I having a stroke, a heart attack? Nope, heart’s pumping away. No pain, no numbness. Just … blackness, and that voice. What in God’s name does that mean, insert Disc 2 to continue?

Continue Reading “Insert Disc 2 to Continue”

New Microfiction – Defending Shia LaBeouf

Look, you’ve heard what I’ve heard about Shia LaBeouf. I can’t tell you what’s going on in his head, or what his life is about. My job is to write stories, so I do. I do get tired of Internet memes, and if I were LaBeouf, I’d be sick and tired of the ones created about me. So, channeling that frustration, I responded to the following writing prompt: “You’re walking in the woods. There’s no one around and your phone is dead. Out of the corner of your eye you spot him…Shia LaBeouf.”

I hope you enjoy ‘Defending Shia LaBeouf:

“Oh, man,” I said, pointing in horror. There he was, Shia LeBouf. Of course I’d heard the stories. Crazed drug frenzies. Wild fights in the streets. Fits of rage. How would I handle an encounter with … with, Shia??

Make no sudden moves, I tell myself. His eyes are attracted to movement. Whatever you do, don’t provoke him. You don’t know what he’s capable of! Too late, he’s seen me!

“Um, hi,” Shia LeBeofu says.

He’s seen me, he’s seen me! Visions of my bloodied corpse run through my head. My mom will be so sad. She’ll tell everyone, everyone, what a good kid I was. My friends will mourn my loss, game night won’t be the same without me. My neighbors will need someone else to take the trash out now. My boss, well, he won’t even show up to the funeral. Let’s be honest.

I muster up courage, and then say something back before his confusion can become rage. “Hello.”

Continue Reading Defending Shia LaBeouf

Scorsese and the Great Social Media Switcheroo

Scorsese and the Great Social Media Switcheroo‘Zounds!’ the Internet said. ‘Martin Scorsese doesn’t like Marvel movies?’ Cue the outrage, cue the hot takes, and scene. Congratulations, you think Martin Scorsese hates the MCU and you’ve completely missed the point. Here’s a clue: Scorsese doesn’t care about the MCU. He cares about publicity for an upcoming film. That’s why he’s, and brilliantly I might add, pulling the Great Social Media Switcheroo on all of the Internet.

Every time he’s mentioned in the news, they mention his film coming out in the month. Scorsese just scored a billion dollars’ worth of free publicity, and you helped him do it.

Kudos to the old guy, still taking us to school after fifty years. His body of work spans the entire spectrum of film-making, which it might seem almost plausible for him to wax poetic about the quality of movies these days. Why not? ‘Cranky old man complains about the next generation’ is a simple news cycle trope, and let’s face it, social media buzz is driven by outrage. If I know this, you have to imagine that he knows this.

So put yourself in Scorsese’s chair: you have a movie coming out and you want to generate as much buzz as you can. What do you do? Nobody seems to care about the true-life history of your next project, so don’t focus on that.

Instead, you focus on what people do know about: Superhero movies. Come up with a controversial opinion about Superhero movies that these J-school graduates writing your PR fluff pieces will salivate over. In every article they write, they’ll include the magic words: “That said, I will always love Scorsese, be grateful for his contribution to cinema, and can’t wait to see The Irishman.”

Game, set, match.

Scorsese and the Great Social Media Switcheroo

These guys really don’t care what Scorsese thinks.

Forget the actual discussion. Nobody cares if Martin Scorsese like’s the MCU. You didn’t check in with him for permission before you watched Infinity War, why do you care now?

I’m going to make a prediction here and we’ll see if I’m write in about forty-five days. Scorsese is going to ride the wave of this topic until two weeks before his movie comes out (around Thanksgiving). Then, about that time, he’s going to go on an ‘Apology Tour,’ talking about how he’s had a change of heart.

Boom, Scorsese’s back in the news again, and so is his movie. He rides the wave of contrition around the world – his new movie front and center the entire time. By the time we land on Opening Day, Netflix and Scorsese will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Now, here’s another thing. I don’t personally care. Scorsese wants to use the purpose-built outrage machine to sell his work, who am I to argue. After all, I’m in the same game but at a much lower level.

That in and of itself creates it’s own challenges. Of course I want people to discover Mesh, but I’m really conscious about remaining authentic to myself and my readers. How do I sell my book without selling my soul? I’m still working to crack that nut, and I use moments like these to help me figure out what the right answer is.

In the meantime, this is the reason I’m not really listening to the discussion. I don’t care if Martin Scorsese likes Marvel movies, I have my own problems with them as it is. What I do care about is making and creating. Let the haters hate, our job is to create.

Mesh – Submitted for Coverfly

While I’m waiting for feedback from other beta readers, I submitted Mesh for consideration in a Coverfly competition that offers feedback from other editors.

At best, Mesh gets discovered and this is the small step for an author, one giant leap for Mesh-kind. At worst, I’ll get some more feedback on how to take the story to the next level. Submitting Mesh to Coverfly forced me to write a better log-line for the book, too: Set in the near future, a group of supersmart kids come together to work on a secret project. The question is: are they saving the world or destroying it, and what will they do when they know the truth?

Imma keep working, but wanted you to know what the story about the story is, for now.