Update on recording

I recorded a show this week, and discovered the audio file got corrupted. i have to record again, which is sad-making. I’ll try to get it done this weekend and struggle back into a regular schedule.

This week I went to Busch Gardens with the kiddo, where we discovered that people do not want to go to an amusement park when there is the threat of rain, even if it’s lovely and mild, but if it’s 40 degrees and sunny, they will go in droves. We preferred the sort of rainy day. That is, until it started raining really hard.

We stayed at a nice hotel in Colonial Williamsburg, but that part of the state is strange, with few restaurants that aren’t attached to the historical area (and therefore packed.) The hotel restaurant was in a separate building (not a big deal unless it’s raining like crazy and 40 degrees.) and didn’t do room service.

The amusement park was fun, but the unexpected fun we had was at Colonial Williamsburg where we heard about this spy game they had for kids. Codes and cyphers and secret meetings with actors in town! We got all the information and went on our merry way. The letter you get starts with how revolution is starting, only Williamsburg is full of British sympathizers and they need to find people who are loyal the the rebels’ cause.

We got a blue bandana to wear, which would let the other couriers and people know who we were. Excited to play, we started out. Then we realized that Williamsburg was packed, completely packed with people playing this game. How were we going to have a secret meeting with the courier when hundreds of people around us were waiting for the same thing?

When the kiddo spotted a dog with the blue bandana on, that was it. We knew we were done. So, dejected, we wandered Williamsburg and tried to decide what to do. That’s when I came up with the idea that the town was fine, I couldn’t find any British sympathizers at all. The rebellion was downright healthy here. It seems what was needed was British double agents. So we walked around secretly collecting information for the British in order to report back about these Colonials who were getting uppity. It was amusing to us at least.

At night I tried to do work, but then I discovered my audio was corrupted. So, no editing for me. :( But I’ll get some work done this weekend, and will have all sorts of awesome stuff for you next week!

I’m in the Patreon club

I’ve struggled for years – years – to make a good premium content method. It’s been clumsy and my supporters have been very patient with me. Now the product has caught up with the need, and Patreon is here.

So I’m putting a halt to new supporters of my Fabulist group and am giving out new perks to Patreon supporters.* I hope you check it out, I think it’s a great way to support someone’s creative work a little bit at a time.

Become a Patron

* Existing Fabulists, I’ve posted about this in our private community, check it out there if you have questions.

Ghost Train to New Orleans – T-minus 5 days

Reminder of Ghost Train to New Orleans* events!

  • Tuesday, March 4: Ghost Train to New Orleans is out in book stores and ebook stores everywhere!**
  • Thursday, March 6, 7pm: Launch event at Flyleaf books in Chapel Hill, NC.

And watch this space for info on at least one event in April, convention updates, and more!

(Remember you can preorder anytime! And soon you can order signed copies of both Shambling Guide and Ghost Train from Chapel Hill Comics!)

*Word is that Waterstones is shelving it under horror. It’s urban fantasy/humor. Not terribly scary.
**Apparently it’s already hit some stores in the UK, but I haven’t seen/heard about it in the US

Help me destroy science fiction!

A while ago I read a blog post complaining bitterly about changing Starbuck into a woman, and how all these wimmins were destroying science fiction. I was tired; instead of arguing that no, we aren’t, I decided screw it. Let it happen. Let’s destroy science fiction with our fallopian tubes, bitches! SF writer (and now a Hugo winner) Pat Cadigan caught up the call, delighted to yell WITH MY FALLOPIAN TUBES, BITCHES!!!

A few years later, someone else was talking about women destroying SF, and Lightspeed magazine decided, what the hell, let’s do it too. So they planned an issue of the magazine with a guest editor, with only female authors, with a female podcast producer, and a female podcast host. That host person is me!

Submissions are still open for another week! Check it out and submit, submit!

They’re doing a Kickstarter to support it, and it’s got about a week left. It’s gone so well that they’ve decided to destroy horror as well (stretch goal reached!) and destroy fantasy too! (less than $8000 to go)

So check it out and support if you can, it’s going to be an excellent issue of Lightspeed and I’m so proud to be part of this destructive campaign.

I’m back! January Report

Hi there! I’m finally back. January was more intense than I expected it to be, and that’s saying something.

I had my final Stonecoast residency this month, and this was both more and less intense than the others. It was more intense because this time I was an instructor, responsible for an hour-long lecture, also a live reading. It was less intense because I had no workshops to participate in, and although I could attend the lectures, I wasn’t required to write anything about them.

My reading went well, the room was packed for myself and two of my fellow students. People laughed in the right places, and even in places I didn’t expect. Jim Kelly gave a wonderful introduction to my work that made me want to cry, damn him.

My presentation was about if it’s possible to teach humor, learn how to write humorously, and if a joke can live once you take it apart to talk about why it works. (My answers are yes, yes, and yes. The lie of “you either have it or you don’t” lies in the problem of talking about humor isn’t funny, and therefore isn’t fun. Or, in short, it’s WORK.) It was well-attended and very well received. I was pleased.

I graduated with my MFA that Saturday and had my tearful good byes on Sunday. Now I’m Master Mur, and very happy with my experience.

When I came home, I jumped almost immediately into the recording of Ghost Train to New Orleans and that took a week. Recording for hours for the book didn’t make me really eager to come home and record a podcast. Sorry.

Now we are a month from book launch and I’m back, blogging and podcasting more regularly. Promise.

Tomorrow- what happens during the recording of an audiobook.

Ghost Train to New Orleans – Out March 4

On Disappointment

(I am aware I have been quiet for some time. I went to Stonecoast, graduated with my MFA, then had to record the audiobook for Ghost Train to New Orleans for six days straight, so I’m pretty beat. I’ll have a podcast update soon.)

I’m going to be careful with the details here, but I try to be honest about my career, even when there are downturns. So I’m not going to name names. People who know me can probably figure things out, but don’t guess in the comments. You can ask me privately if you like. But bad/annoying/disappointing stuff happens and we need to talk about it.

It’s said time and again, that you don’t Arrive when you get that agent, or when you get that book deal, or when the book comes out, or even when you win an award. You’re always fighting upstream, and whenever something great happens, like winning an award or gearing up for your second book launch, life will tend to try to knock you out of your groove with something shitty.

Anyway, I – through the proper channels, namely Orbit’s awesome publicist – tried to get a book event at a non-local indie book store that I like very much. They agreed, sent me possible dates, I chose one, and made my plan to drive to [REDACTED.] Today I found out that, hm, no, wait, they don’t want to do it anymore. They’ve pulled out. Canceled. GO AWAY MUR.

They are worried I won’t draw enough local interest.

The punchline is that this book store is probably the best indie bookstore that is closest to my hometown.* Local interest, indeed.

I don’t know if they know I’m from a town nearby. I am not sure if the publicist knows this. I probably should have told her; I didn’t even think to. But she told me they’re firm. No book event.

(This store recently hosted an old college buddy of mine who turned out to be an author too. But he writes literary fiction. Out of respect for my Stonecoast friends, I will refrain from any rude comments here. I didn’t even italicize literary. I feel like I’m growing as a person here.)

It’s not the end of the world, of course. I do have a reading at Boskone in 3 weeks, and I’m having a book launch in March at the awesome Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and am planning at least one other local event. I’m going to be around, in public. It’s cool. Also I’ve had other authors commiserate with me that this has happened to them too, and it does indeed suck. So I’m not alone in the “HAHA JUST KIDDING NO BOOK EVENT FOR YOUUUUUU” situation.

But damn. This is my second (pro) book. It got a good review from Publishers Weekly. I won the Campbell last year. I’m not about to drunkenly stumble up to them and scream “Don’t you know WHO I AM?” but it’s times like this that make me realize that there will be times in my life, over and over again, where I feel like that newbie writer who can’t get a break.** It’s depressing. And humbling. But what can I do except do the usual rejection treatment***, and get back to writing?

* Granted, it’s still a bit of a drive from my town to said store. I’m from a VERY small town in the mountains. Everything is a bit of a drive.
** People told me I had to stop saying that I was a “wannabe writer” in my podcast. Times like this put me right back into that feeling.
*** Red wine. Blanket. Feeling sorry for self. Tomorrow morning, we’re done, and we’re acting like a pro again, what with the writing and the podcasting and stuff. But for tonight, well, poop.

Guest post: Should I Be Writing?

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of the Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Fiction River: How to Save the World, Weird Tales, Historical Lovecraft, and Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online. He teaches science fiction literature at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and speculative fiction writing at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver.

Back in January, I wrote a guest post hereabouts on defeating the Procrastininjas. Now I’m going to talk about one of the most powerful Procrastininja clans.

One of the fundamental questions for any writer trying to make a go of it today is this: how do I balance writing time with promoting?

Since I went into this writing gig full-time in the Summer of 2012, my biggest struggle has been finding the balance between time spent writing and time spent promoting.

First of all, I hate marketing. I hate being inundated by it, day in, day out, being unable to go outdoors and not see marketing messages slathered all over every tree, board, building, and light post. I hate the intellectual numbness it inculcates, and I hate the way it so often assumes people are stupid, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I hate the way it feeds and reinforces the blind consumerism that lays waste to vast swaths of our planet. I digress, but only just a little.

Being a self-employed artist must also make me a businessman by necessity. I have a product to sell. As I’m a writer, my product is Story. Story is conveyed in a number of ways, but mostly still by physical books and packets of 1s and 0s. I want people who like to read to buy my Stories so that I can eat. In the case of my current project, I want readers to help fund the creation of OTHER people’s stories (but we’ll get to that in a moment).

The bottom line is: if no one ever hears my name, no one will ever buy my Stories. With how publishing has evolved in the last few decades, the overwhelmingly vast majority, teeming hordes of writers, must market themselves to get their work into the hands of readers who will pay them money.

This requires marketing. And thus, my love-hate relationship.  My feelings about marketing make it a very steep hill to climb when I think of adding my own trickle of marketing to the immense, crashing ocean of it already out there. Most of the time it feels like screaming into 180dB noise.

Are there any authors in the U.S. who do not have to market and promote themselves to maintain a living? Sure, and they can probably be counted on your fingers and toes.

Let’s take two authors, of similar quality, with similar publishing contracts, with books of equal mass appeal. Those who succumb to their innate resistance and eschew marketing and promotion are much more likely to swirl away and be lost in the constant upswell of new talent (and for some, “talent” is a euphemism). The thing with hot up-and-comers is that they produce an equal number of forgotten down-and-outers.

So. Heavy sigh. Whether we want a traditional contract or readers for our indie-published work, we have to market ourselves. It’s part of the job description.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is immensely easier to go and do some marketing busy work than it is to face the blank page. Even when the Story is flowing, it can be a hair-pulling, leather-chewing, smashing-your-pinky-in-the-car-door load of anguish.

There are some who say that the best form of marketing is simply to write another book, another short story. There are other writers who are marketing machines, blasting away with tremendous loads of ammunition—and they seem to get results.

These are opposite ends of the spectrum. So who’s right? Most people would agree that there has to be a middle ground.

The first half of 2013 resulted in paltry little fiction output. I was running a successful Kickstarter and taking care of its results, teaching a university class in science fiction literature, and I was beating the bushes at a number of marketing approaches. And all this on top of family and friend interaction. I was dissatisfied with my fiction output, which left me crabby, surly, curmudgeonly. So I changed the balance of time. My girlfriend found she liked it when I disappeared to write for great stretches of time. I was around less, but we all liked it when I was in a better mood.

Finding a good middle ground is a constant struggle for me, but here’s something that helped me find the balance. It was introduced to me by other writers, and I have found it a useful tool.

The WIBBOW test. Would I Be Better Off Writing?

When I apply this very simple test (created by Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith) to whatever I am doing that is NOT writing, unhelpful activities get highlighted quickly. This includes things like trying to set up book signings, convention appearances, social media (egad, what a time sink!), sending out piles of review requests, everything that is not the composition or revision of new fiction. Not all of these things have passed the WIBBOW test, but they were all part of the learning process that has helped me weed out what does and does not contribute to my mental well-being.

If finding balance is a daily struggle for you, try the WIBBOW test.

So what about this guest blog post? Does it pass the WIBBOW test?

In the case of this guest blog post, which Mur has been kind enough to host, I happen to be working on a fantastic anthology project as the editor. I’m really excited about Cars, Cards & Carbines, so I’m delighted to be putting the word out. If a high-octane, multi-genre, speculative fiction anthology—in which Mighty Mur is one of the lead authors—gets your fuel pumping, please give this a look. The Kickstarter campaign ends on December 19, 2013.

So does shifting my creative gears temporarily into not only editing, but also putting together and running a Kickstarter campaign pass the WIBBOW test?

Yes. Putting oneself in the shoes of an editor is an eye-opening experience in many ways, not least of which results in becoming a better writer. The chance to work with the lead authors we have on board has also been a tremendous experience. So the chance to put this anthology together required a crowd-funding campaign, which requires marketing. All of these things pass the test, regardless of whether the campaign funds successfully.

So the bottom line is this: if you’re not writing, does what you’re doing have value for your career, make you a better writer, increase your network of resources and contacts, make you feel more fulfilled, or help pay your rent?

If so, keep doing it. If not, get your butt back to the blank page.

RT nomination and other news

I have exciting newsy stuff!

First, to my utter shock and delight, The Shambling Guide to New York City was nominated for Best Urban Fantasy Novel of 2013 by RT Book Reviews! The awards are given out at the RT convention in May, and I’ll be there for sure! Other nominees include Karen Lord, Lauren Beukes, Mary Robinette Kowal, Diana Rowland, John Scalzi, Paul Cornell, and many other talented authors. Check out the nominees!

The other news is of a more personal nature. I’ve signed with a new agent: Jen Udden at the Donald Maass Literary Agency! Jen and I bonded at WorldCon and I’m super excited to be working with her. I’ll be putting her info on my Contact page.