Short Story Submitted: ‘Lynch Mob’

Tons of story stuff mean very little time for blogging. I did a complete re-write of ‘Necktie Party’ and submitted it to Uncanny Magazine. You can track the progress of my short stories over at the Production Board.

Still very ambivalent about self-publishing; I’ve been saying it for a while that SP puts the burden on unknown authors to spend all their time trying to break free from the pack instead of telling stories. Then you’re competing with people like Chuck Tingle and Lani Sarem, and even if you win, you lose.

Back to work – Cinderellavator won’t write itself.


Five Tips to Author Success on Reddit

Reddit and the Single Scifi Author

This post is based on an experience on Reddit this week. I’d like to use what I’ve learned there to share five tips to author success on Reddit. As Reddit pertains to the Single Scifi Author, it isn’t as simple as ‘having an idea’ and sharing motivational memes. No, Reddit wants more. As a social media platform, Reddit will challenge you, turn your brain into a pretzel, drive you crazy, and free your mind. You need to develop a thicker skin, or at least understand where your skin might be tender. I cover a lot of this in the Glass House Life series.

I’m still learning and growing on Reddit. I don’t have it all figured out. I firmly believe that Reddit can be one of the strongest supporters that an author will ever know. At the same time, Reddit filled with some toxic people. For example, I have no doubt that Redditors will line up to tell me why I’m wrong as soon as I post this and I’m an idiot for writing it. It may sound counterintuitive, but that’s actually a good thing: I welcome the feedback and the chance to learn.

But having spent over five years on Reddit, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to engaging with Redditors to discuss a new scifi or creative project. To make this relevant and actionable, I dispensed with the standard ‘follow these steps’ process and focused on ideas and principles, making these five tips to author success on Reddit.

  1. It’s about how you come across – Reddit prides itself on showing empathy (“Come for the cats, stay for the empathy”) and this is a two-way street when it comes to e-interactions. I’ve learned – the hard way, many times – that how I think I’m presenting myself is not how I’m coming across. Similarly, if there’s any daylight between what you intend to communicate about your topic or your audience and what you’re actually communicating, you’re gonna get called out. This leads me to a second point …
  2. Ride the Wave – If you think about human interaction like surfing a giant wave, one easy-to-answer springs to mind. Do we make the wave, or do we ride the wave? Naturally, the answer is ‘we ride.’ We’re not strong enough to make our own waves, so we learn to watch the waves and ride along. So too, with Reddit. You’re dealing with the social inertia of the sum total of human attention. Look for ways to interact with what they’re already thinking about. At the same time, what do you do if the wave is sucking you under? At that point, you recognize your limitations and get out of the water. There are no Internet lifeguards on Reddit. But don’t get cocky …
  3. Confident, but relatable – Remember how everyone used to say ‘confidence is key?’ The new advice is ‘confidence is key, but nobody likes arrogance.’ The thin line between the two is humility, and humility helps people relate to you. It is possible to hold yourself high without putting people beneath you. ‘But wait,’ you’ll say. ‘I’m just trying to be confident and hold myself high without putting people down!’ I hear you. What I had to learn – and am still learning – is how much of my own insecurity translates to arrogant or off-putting behaviors (see Tip #1). It’s a humbling, yet illuminating experience.
  4. The three variables – A good Reddit thread has an equation (Relevant + Authentic + Shareable) and anything you want to share has to score very high on those three areas in order to achieve success but more is needed. You need to ask yourself “How is this relevant to that subreddit?” For example, I wouldn’t share a /r/funny post in /r/scifi and expect much traction. You also need to ask “How is this authentic?” Are you coming across as a social media flunkie because you read an article on Hubspot? Yeah, that doesn’t work for these folks. They quickly find daylight between real and fake, so you need to eliminate anything that ‘comes across’ as fake, even if that isn’t your intention.
  5. It’s a tough crowd – If you envision a Reddit thread like a tough standup comedy audience, everything makes more sense. They’re there for their own reasons, they love to heckle, and they have a “go on – impress me” attitude. Is it right, is it wrong? Who cares? You walked into their kill-zone, and you’ve got to be prepared for anything. ANYTHING. Don’t believe me? Ask Woody Harrelson. Nobody’s above an internet butt-kicking on Reddit.

To wrap this up, because I can already sense this turning into a broader topic, remember that Reddit is a big place. Some parts are good, others bad. Like the Internet platforms that came before (Usenet, anyone?) it can be a blessing or a curse depending on where you land. If you plan on sharing your work on Reddit, do your homework! Find a subreddit of people that share your interests, and look to see what they’re into. As you get more popular, you’ll get recommendations (“This is awesome, you should share it on …”) and that type of feedback is worth its weight in gold. Put the work in, put the time in, Reddit will teach you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know.

But Wait, Jackson – You’re Wrong!

I hear you. Come tell me what I’m wrong about: Discuss this post on the /r/inkican subreddit – tell me what I missed, or need help figuring out.

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure – What’s Weak This Week

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure - What's Weak This Week

This is a quick post telling the story about the story. Lots of times, author business is also about the nuts and bolts that make your stories visible and accessible to your readers, not about the stories themselves. Irritating. I call it ‘fixing what’s weak this week.’

Good things are happening in various areas. Cinderellavator is taking shape, I’m done with the story map and I’m using Story Cards to flesh each chapter out with the help of my pro writing group. Those items should help me cut my ‘first draft to final draft’ timeline and I’ll keep you posted on how that all works. My Twitter audience is growing, and I’m getting more attention via Reddit. But those things can’t happen in a vacuum. I can’t be the chef so focused on making his meal that he ignores the dirty dishes in his kitchen sink.

Inkican needs more attention in the SEO area. I know I said keep making and cranking, but let’s look below the headline. Diligence and care must be taken so that the your blog posts have the best possible shot at finding the people looking for them. That means creating SEO-optimized landing pages. That means optimizing your blog posts for SEO. That means taking fresh look at your old blog posts and optimizing them for SEO. THAT means a lot of minor changes to old web content. THAT means a ton of re-writes and photo editing. You get the picture. Tons of work to realign and shape all that nummy web info for future readers.

It’s also making me think about new photo ideas and I have to be honest – I don’t know if ANYONE besides me cares about Inkican wallpapers. I want people to get a sense of the universes I’m building, but since I’m not a professional graphic artist there’s only so much I can hope to accomplish in this area. In a perfect world, I would have gotten an MFA degree that encompassed my interest in writing and graphics. One more thing to add to my Author Success Wish List.

That’s the update for now, lots of stuff happening to fix what’s weak this week. I’m getting back to work but feel free to reach out if you have a specific question.

Fixing Inkican Infrastructure - What's Weak This Week

Why Every Geek Needs to Unplug

Here’s a quick explanation for why every geek needs to unplug from time to time. I took some time last week to unplug from everything, get close to nature and just breathe. Have you tried that recently? Getting out into nature, looking at the blue sky through green trees, looking up into the night sky at the Milky Way. Very medicinal and relaxing.

This comes after two years of hard-core indoor-ness, something I usually would enjoy. Now I’m realizing that unplugging from the phone and social media have health benefits. It avoids the danger of addiction to our devices, to our social media. If you watch this video, you’ll understand how gaming and other electronic diversions create addiction through your brain’s dopamine response. Interesting and frightening all at the same time.

That’s not to say that video games aren’t awesome. I mean, come on. The main point I want you to take from this is: this is why every geek needs to unplug from time to time. On the third day, I felt my body let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. We all need to get away. It’s good for you.

So get outside, check out the stars. Breathe some fresh air. Get dirty. Swim in a lake. Build a campfire and read a book. Those things aren’t a distraction, they’re refreshing. Just like your monitor and TV, human beings have a refresh rate. Tune into that. Get curious about the universe. You’ll find the experience very rewarding.

Now Free – Foreverest – Scifi Short Story

Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story

Here’s some good news – my scifi short story Foreverest is now free. I love giving stuff away whenever I can, so this is something I’m happy to share on a random Wednesday. My little brain tacos are the gift that keep on giving, so I’m happy to share them with other SF nerds like myself.  What’s Foreverest about? Here’s a quick description:

Winning a $600 Million lottery is a dream come true, right? In a world of nanotechnology, lethal consequences, and ruthless operatives, one soon-to-be widowed winner is about to get a lesson in the art of removing problems by low friends in high places.

I think you’ll love Foreverest for a couple reasons. 1. It’s a scifi noir short, something you’d dig if you’re a cyberpunk fan. 2. It’s got some big ideas. Like, if you think about how nanotech can be used or misused in the future you start wondering, what could bad people do with nanotech? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in possession of over a half-billion dollars? Answering those question led me to write Foreverest and publish it as a scifi short story; now I’m happy to give it away for free.

Now, you can of course support me which I appreciate. I also understand the risk of getting to know a new author. So that’s why I’m giving you the option to try Foreverest for free at the bookstores below:

Support me – Buy it for $0.99   Hey, I get it – you need to know I’m worth it. Go ahead, Get It For Free
Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story   Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story Now Free - Foreverest - Scifi Short Story Kobo Scribd !ndigo Angus & Robertson Mondadori Vivlio

Write on!

Three Reasons You’ll Love “Never Say You Can’t Survive”

One of the things that marks my writing experience are periods of existential loneliness, times when I think I’m fooling myself about this whole author thing. Then a friend, an article, or a Tweet will come at me from left field saying “I got you. You *are* a writer. Feeling weird is normal. I believe in you.” Those moments help me go on, and they’re one of the three reasons you’ll love “Never Say You Can’t Survive” by Charlie Jane Anders. This book is full of those moments.

I’m not a professional book reviewer, I’m just a guy trying to be a professional writer. So when Anders put the offer out to let me review her new book on Netgalley, I jumped at it. It was important for me to know what she could teach me about my own journey. Never Say You Can’t Survive is chock-full of stoic wit, and there are three reasons you’ll love it as soon as you start reading.

Three Reasons You'll Love "Never Say You Can't Survive"

Make no mistake, however. This might be be a book by and for writers, but everyone else should read it, too. Anders captures the discomfort, weirdness, and rollercoasters of emotion you travel on your journey to feel comfortable in your own skin. ‘Weirdness gives me the strength to keep going,’ she says as a chapter title, and peppers the book with great music references that I thought only I knew. It’s her way of saying ‘you are seen.’ That was very comforting to me, and it’ll make you feel good, too. Are you othered? Different? Just to the left of normal? Never Say You Can’t Survive is a party and you’re invited. That’s the first reason you’ll love this book.

The second reason is that along the way to Whoville, Anders offers helpful tidbits about the process of writing that I found insightful. I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack the work, but as Anders brings out in ‘Find Your Voice and Make It Loud,’ writing style is not an austere matter. As you develop your writing style, don’t be afraid to experiment, be expressive, write about what makes you feel good no matter what anyone else says. Your writing style should be a snuggly blanket that keeps you safe and warm from the inhospitable outside world. After all, it is painful to have to pretend that the world makes sense. We all know it doesn’t, but Anders isn’t afraid to say that quiet part out loud. 

A third and perhaps the largest reason you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive is the idea that you must be you, in order to be you. You cannot write the book that feels close to your heart if you aren’t in touch with your heart. Writing is an act that forces you to peer into the abyss, and let the abyss peer into you. Writing is an act that forces you to uncover what you’re really trying to say, and what that says about you. That can be a scary, difficult, and yes, a liberating process. Don’t run from it, Anders says.

As Robert Mailer says in his novel ‘Boonville,’ it’s never easy to be yourself. Never Say You Can’t Survive acknowledges this hardship, while refusing to be shackled to it. Yes, it’s hard, Anders wants you to know. But that is what makes it good. The struggle is real. You’re getting closer to who you’re supposed to be. Welcome the struggle. There are many reasons you’ll love Never Say You Can’t Survive, but these three will help you get started.

Sci-Friday #116 – How Peter Cullen Made Optimus Prime’s Voice

You know Peter Cullen even if you don’t know him. He’s been the voice of Optimus Prime, the hero of the Transformers, since the 1980s. Along with Transformers, Cullen is also:  Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh,he first voice of KARR in Knight Rider, and the original vocalization resource for the Predator. How do you get a front-row seat to all of that sci-fi history? As you’ll see in the video below, it comes down to finding the humanity in the strangest of circumstances. The origin story of Optimus Prime’s voice is both interesting, and insightful. For Sci-Friday #116, learn how Peter Cullen made Optimus Prime’s voice for the original series and later for the Michael Bay franchise:

Cullen had no idea of Prime’s popularity until the character’s controversial death in the 1986 animated film. Wikipedia notes: ‘the studio had never given him fan letters from children addressed to Optimus. The public backlash over Optimus’s death surprised producers greatly. Children were leaving the theaters distraught because of the character’s death.’

Outside of Transformers, Cullen has enjoyed a steady career as a voice actor, but the biggest takeaway I got from Cullen’s story is this: the emotional cores of any scifi character should come from real places. The kids in Mesh, for example, are based on people I know: good, bad, or ugly. No one would be able to recognize themselves in Mesh, just like I think Captain H.L. Cullen would be hard put to recognize himself in Optimus Prime. Nonetheless, you don’t have to look too far for inspiration. Usually it’s right in front of you.

I hope you enjoyed learning how Peter Cullen made Optimus Prime’s voice and, guess what? I’ve got more fun scifi stuff to share! Dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Thank You, Hailey for This New Free Author Tool!

Quick shoutout to Hailey and the Centerline Arts Group, thank you for this new free author tool! Got a very nice email yesterday from Bianca and the Centerline Arts Group, who wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed the Free Author Tools page. “Our group still can’t meet in person because of the pandemic so we’ve been meeting virtually to write & critique each other’s work,” Bianca says. “Your site gave us some fun material to reference so we wanted to share a personal thank you :). I asked the gang if they had any questions or favorites to share. One of our young writers Hailey sent us this article on maintaining good posture while writing and how to prevent writer’s cramps/pains … She thought you would like it too.”

I’m always on the look out for new free author tools to share, so I took a quick look. Turns out, this is an *EXCELLENT* resource for protecting your hands and fingers while composing your stories. As a result, I’m happy to pass along A Writer’s Guide To Healthy Wrists And Hands!

Always makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know that the Free Author tools can help other writers. I took a look and Hailey’s suggestion was spot-on! So glad she thought of it, it shows the power of authors helping authors. Now Hailey and the Centerline Arts Group join the community of Inkican, where creative people can lift each other up. Thank you Hailey and Bianca for for this new free author tool!


Deathclock Machine – SciFi Flash Fiction Now Available

Deathclock Machine - SciFi Flash Fiction Now Available

Pleased to say that Deathclock Machine – a scifi flash fiction now available, is another freebie I’m releasing from Inkican. The short story features a person who invents a machine that can tell when you are going to die. Here’s how it starts:

“You can literally predict my death.”

“That’s right.”

“You must be a riot at parties.”

“Not really,” he smiles. “As you can imagine, I have to have a lot of time on my hands to invent something this.”

“Start again. How did you come upon this ability to predict people’s death?”

“It’s all math,” he replied.

Like other scifi ‘jazz standards,’ Deathclock Machine is an improvisation on some old story tropes that I enjoy bringing my own perspective on. If it sounds like something you’d like to check out, I have some details for you.

First off, I’m not requiring you pay for Deathclock Machine. If you want to, great, all proceeds go toward my Author Success Sequence. Otherwise, if you want to check out something from me for free, no obligation, you can pick it up at any of the seven book stores on the left.

Support me – Buy it for $0.99   Hey, I get it – you need to know I’m worth it. Go ahead, Get It For Free
Let Me Tell You a Scifi Story Science Fiction Short Stories  Apple Barnes & Noble Kobo Scribd Thalia Angus & Robertson

I’m sure you might be interested to see how the Deathclock Machine works, but if you’ve read my other stories before, then you know I enjoy taking your expectations and turning them inside out. Hope Deathclock Machine, this scifi flash fiction now available, gives you a fun little ride!

New Scifi Novel Project: Cinderellavator

New Scifi Novel Project: Cinderellavator

You haven’t heard from me because I’ve been doing some internal story development. Happy to say that those 3AM insomnia-based brain dumps are starting to bear fruit. I’m working on a new scifi novel project: Cinderellavator.

While I can’t share the details, I can talk about a few of the big ideas leading me to this story. Space elevators have been a scifi dream since the 1890s. According to Wikipedia, ‘most ideas for space elevators have focused on purely tensile structures, with the weight of the system held up from above by centrifugal forces. In the tensile concepts, a space tether reaches from a large mass (the counterweight) beyond geostationary orbit to the ground. This structure is held in tension between Earth and the counterweight like an upside-down plumb bob. The cable thickness is adjusted based on tension, it has its maximum at a geostationary orbit and the minimum on the ground.’

Another big idea are 21st century robber barons. In the 1800s, individual businessmen became ‘robber barons,’ exacting undue influence over society by exploitative business practices. Our current discussions about wealth inequality, democracy, and economic freedom are nothing new. My intention is not to advocate anything political or social, but to explore a future where multiple generations of robber barons have created their own future. What would that look like, how could one tween girl be the person who changes everything?

I’ll talk more about this as we move farther along. For right now, I’m focused on post-Mesh projects and scifi shorts. Cinderellavator is one of four new scifi novel projects. Any questions, comments, or concerns? Reach out to me on Reddit.