Heading off to WorldCon and a Few Writing Updates

pocket-programI’m heading off to WorldCon this morning. I haven’t been since 2000 in Chicago, mostly because of the kids and the difficulty of travelling. Now, of course, the kids are older, and this year it’s just down the road in San Antonio. I’m definitely looking forward to it, but at the same time, I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in the programming.

You see, in all my years of going to SF/F conventions, I’ve often attended the writer-centric panels. They tended to be split between the craft itself and a dozen different ways of asking the question, “How do I get published?” I’m still interested in the panels discussing the craft of writing, but I’m no longer interested in the panels on getting published. I chose to go indie, so I’m not particularly interested in tips on crafting an agent query letter.

But I figured that with self-publishing (or indie publishing as the cool kids say) on the rise, there would be some panels talking about that. Well, no, it turns out there aren’t any. The closest it comes is what looks to be a defense of traditional publishing with all the agents, editors, and publishers holding the line and a separate discussion on the transition from print books to e-books, though not about the business changes that represents.

Meanwhile, I have seen estimates that anywhere from 10%- 30% of the SF stories being read today are by independent authors like myself. A quick glance at Amazon’s top 20 SF books shows me that about half of them are from indie authors. Mind you, this is across all SF books, not just SF e-books. Amazon represents about half of the US book market, so even if you cut that ten of twenty in half, you still have about 25% of those top sellers coming from the indie world. (A brief note to statisticians: I realized this is a very rough estimate, but there are no real, solid numbers available on this anywhere.)

Apparently, whoever did the programming for this year’s WorldCon didn’t get the memo. I can’t entirely blame them though. Most of their main guests and headliners come from the ranks of traditional publishing. This is sure to affect their mindset. Then again, with the commercial success of Wool, it might not be that long before an indie shows up on the fan-based Hugo ballot.

Still, there’s plenty to see and do, so I’m looking forward to it.

As for the rest of the writing, August was something of a crap-fest, particularly towards the end. I have special needs children, and their needs became, well… extra special this month. The last Friday before school, we put two and two together and have made a change to one of the medications, and that is already paying some dividends. And of course, they’re now officially back in school, granting me hours of kid-free time each day to do productive work.

And what work have I done so far? I confess much of this week has been spent on catching up on some administrivia that had nothing to do with writing. I sold off an old flatbed trailer. I dealt with some insurance issues for my mother. And quite lamely, I paid the water bill just in time to keep it from being disconnected. But I’m at least gearing up again. Here’s the current state of various projects:

Shattered: Draft done and lying fallow for the next few months.

Stone Killer: I’m about 40% of the way through at 32,000 words. I’m hoping to wrap it up sometime in September.

Hell Bent: I’m still waiting on the rest of my beta feedback. I’ve gotten three out of the six so far, and while it’s generally been good, I’ve got a pacing problem in the first third that I haven’t figured out how to fix yet.

Debts of My Fathers: It’s still in edits. I found this particularly hard to work on with the kids home in summer. Drafting new words was easier by comparison, because I could do that on my laptop. In fact, much of the new text for Shattered and Stone Killer was written in the early morning, down in the kitchen, while I cooked large batches of my picky son’s favorite food. Alas, I have to edit in my office where I can spread out with my printed copy and hand-written notes. Long-story short: I did not get much good editing time in my office this summer.

Oaths of My Fathers: It’s still in pre-draft limbo. I will attempt to get started on it once I had Debts of My Fathers off to the beta readers, and I will want to finish it before I send Debts to the copyeditor.

You may note that I left the dates off those. Well, they’ve slipped since my original estimates in June – I’m just not sure how much yet. Debts of My Fathers is the priority since I have readers asking for it, and I still hope to get that out around the end of the year or the beginning of 2014. Hell Bent, which is actually further along will very likely wait until after Debts of My Fathers is out the door. As one friend recently said, I’ve primed the pump for chocolate, so I need to deliver more chocolate before I send out the mint.

That’s it for now.

ApolloCon 2013

I spent this past weekend down in Houston for ApolloCon. I had a fairly laid-back experience this year. I even stole away some time to exercise in the gym and do red-line edits to Debts of My Fathers. I don’t have access to the actual attendance numbers, but the con seemed a little smaller this year than in the last couple of years. Or maybe I did not go to the really popular events. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, here were some of the panels I attended:

Genre Journalism: This was mostly a discussion of some great SF/F blogs and news sources. John DeNardo was there, and he’s the managing editor of the group blog sfsignal.com. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, whose Hugo-winning blog started off about ten years ago just to share SF links with some friends.

Is There More to Space Opera than Space Fleets and Exploding Planets?: The obvious answer is yes, but we did spend a while talking about what makes space opera… well, space opera. Some argued that it required an epic scope… or rather, an EPIC SCOPE!! Others felt you could tell smaller stories within the larger backdrop.  From the audience, I pushed my own agenda for more civilian space opera, even though much of what I write does touch on the military.

When Spec Fic Stole My Brain: This turned into a fun trip down memory lane as panelists discussed what piece of speculative fiction first sparked their interest. Their ages ranged from the 40’s to the 70’s, so there was an interesting range from seeing the movies on the weekend for a dime to staying up late with the babysitter to watch Star Trek. It was neat that one of them had been hooked by Ringworld, just as I had.

Aaargh! We Loves Us Our Pirates – But Why?: I had been hoping this would take a turn towards space piracy, but we stayed pretty thoroughly mired in the ocean-bound variety. Still, it was an interesting mix of history, legends, and pure myth.

Communicating at the Speed of Light… Social Media for SF/F: This was mostly a discussion of the merits and pitfalls of various social media services and independent blogs. It was clear that the tide has turned against Facebook as a useful marketing platform, unless you’re selling pictures of cute cats. Google+ got some love, but the message from these particular panelists was mostly personal blogs and Twitter.

Frack You! No… Frell You!: This was a fun panel on various made-up swear words, alien oaths, and fantasy curses. By Grapthar’s Hammer, I haven’t laughed so hard at a panel in a long time.

And that was it. Like I said, it was fairly laid back for me. I probably spent about three hours on Sunday just sitting out in the lobby, chatting with people who stopped by, and editing Debts when they left. I even ran into a couple of friends who might go so far as to call themselves my fans. (Happy Dance!)