Monday, December 15, 2014

2014: Year in Review

This is the last week of 2014 that I will be blogging as well as posting stories on the internet. And so I thought it would be a good idea to review what I've accomplished in 2014.

As expected, I failed miserably at my New Year's resolutions for 2014. This is not a surprise. When you plan out what your going to do for the next 365 days, you're bound to get it wrong. However, instead, I successfully accomplished other goals that I couldn't have foreseen at the beginning of the year.

What I've accomplished:

I started 2014 off with grand schemes. I was going to lose a bunch of weight in two months, publish the entirety of RoboNomics Books I and II by the end of the year, and read 20 books. However, I only managed to achieved the last item on that list.

But I actually consider this past year a win, overall. I did read 20 books, which is more than one a month. And while I could do better than that, it meant that I was making time in my life for reading. I also wrote the first draft of a novel, a short story, and I edited my way through thousands of words. I posted on my blogs nearly every week day. All of this means that I've been making time in my life for my career.

And while I may not be in the best shape, just like I wasn't back in January, I have managed to go to the gym as a part of my weekly routine. Which means that I have made time in my life for my health. Each day, I've been making time for the things that I want in my life, and systematically eliminating the things that I don't want in my life.

And I have had results. I've had more hits on my blogs this year than any of the past years combined. During 2014 only, I've gone from having a bunch of my writing sitting on my desk or in my computer, unread, to having a book on +Wattpad with nearly 40,000 reads. And I am that much closer to publication.

I once read an article that said that because of the way the human brain works, New Year's Resolutions are destined to fail. And if you look around any gym mid-February, you'll know that this is true.

But that doesn't mean that I'm being negative about what I can accomplish, or that I think humans are destined to fail, or that we shouldn't even try. For myself, I'd rather take it a day at a time.

Where I go from here:

Just because I've decided not to resolve anything doesn't mean that I don't have plans and goals. In 2015, what I'd like most is to see RoboNomics published as a single book. During this next year, my biggest (and really, my only) resolution is to start making money from my writing. And just like when I began 2014 with the resolution to post stories on wattpad, I'm not expecting much. If I can find even one reader who wants to actually pay for my work, I will be over the moon! :)

Of course, that big goal has lots of little steps along the way that I'll have to follow in order to achieve it. And as in 2014, you can definitely look forward to reading all about that journey on this blog. So until then, everyone, I'll see you in 2015!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Short Story!

So I can finally tell you my big news! I was asked to write a short story specifically for Wattpad's Science Fiction profile. Here's the short story collection.

And you may have seen that I posted the story itself on my sidebar. It's the story of a young woman looking for work in the near future, and who's taken a job on a near-earth asteroid.

I have to say, I didn't think I had it in me. I have always been so bad at writing short stories since I just love world building and my imagination always spins out of control and I end up with novel after novel. But over the past month and a half I put together this little ditty for you. I could so easily spin this short into an extended universe in which asteroid mining is a big deal, but I'm not sure that I want to. Maybe I'll just leave it as is and call my first successfully executed short story, the end.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

For the Win 2014!

Yay! I did it! And I manage to finish up with a few days left to spare! Hooray!

This year, I am now a little more experienced than I was in the past. And now I know that having completed 50,000 words in a single month doesn't come close to being the end of the journey, it's barely even the beginning. And I'm not talking here in terms of revision either, although that's part of it. But I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface of my story, as if there is so much left to write.

On the other hand, writing 50,000 words in a single month means, to me, that I have a sufficiently large chunk of the story down on paper so that now I really know where this is all heading. Now I can see the shape of the story and how to refine it.

And having now a draft of The Tales of Omorbia, Book II; I wouldn't be surprised if this material makes it to Wattpad sometime soon.

Here's my lovely certificate, right from the printer:

Time to start contemplating whether or not I should pump out another one during Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in April!! :P

Monday, November 24, 2014

#NaNoWriMo Draws to a Close

So I've had a busy month and I can't believe that this is the last week of it. I've been mostly hard at work, as you may have noticed, on my NaNoWriMo manuscript for this year, as well as some fun side projects such as videos that you may have seen and a short story that you will see soon enough.

What else is there to say, folks? I'm going out of town for the weekend so I have a mere four days left to win this year. So 5,000 words a day for me. Hooray! Positive I can do it. Just don't expect regular blogging until December. Hehe. :)

See you on the other side!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#AVFTE31 - The Stephanie Wilson Show - Watch it here!

Here everyone! So my 'show' was this morning and it's now up on YouTube. But you can check it out right here:

I mentioned some resources during the show, and here are the links:

Omm Writer 
99 Designs 

And the authors I mentioned:

L.M. Montgomery 
China Mieville 

And here's one extra resource that I didn't mention during the show. If you want to find out about self-publishing, this is a great place to start:

Thanks again, and happy to connect! :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#AVFTE31 - The Stephanie Wilson Show (that's me!)

Hey everyone! Just a little note to say that tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST, I'll be doing a Live Google+ Hangout with an online community called "A View From the Edge".  I'll talking about all things writing since that's my passion including Wattpad, Nanowrimo and the world of self-publishing.

Here the event link if you can make it. If you do tune in, you'll be able to enter questions into a chat windows for me to answer, so there is a bit of an interactive element there. After it's finished, the video will be up on YouTube, and I'll probably embed it here and elsewhere around the web.

Super nervous to go live but hopefully everyone can make it out to support me! Hooray!

UPDATE: Watch it here:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Profile Photo

Hey! I've got a new profile photo across all my accounts, which you may have noticed. What do you think?

I took it just after a got a new hair a little while ago. I kinda feel like it doesn't quite look like me. But then again it does. Whatever. It's awesome. Bangs got trimmed! Woo!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Please stand by...

by Zacabeb. Public Domain

November is kicking my butt, kids. Be back soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Mark of Good Criticism

Lately there's been a big to-do about authors who stalk their reviewers. In particular, this.

I'm not that far into my career, personally, and I have yet to wade into the world of book bloggers, Amazon, and Goodreads reviews. But I do have some material online, on +Wattpad. And I do, in that fact, have exposed myself to reviews. Or rather, criticism.

And I'd like to think that I know the difference between constructive criticism and mean-spirited, unhelpful, envious spew.

Case in point: while I was posting the chapters for RoboNomics Book I, I had a single piece of trolly, pointless criticism. I blogged about it. It was hurtful, basically declaring the story 'boring'. But this being Wattpad, I just deleted the damn thing. Especially since it was posted by an account without a picture, that followed no one and was followed by no one, and was obviously just created to troll me.

This week, I got another negative review of RoboNomics Book II. Unlike the first one, this was from a regular, supportive reader. Unlike the first one, it had merit. It was worded a tad snarkily -- and was enough to send me (almost) into a spiral of doubt.

Being a writer and making the decision to put your thoughts out there means forever battling with self-doubt. This is a well-known fact. It takes courage, especially for a sensitive person, to put one's story or stories out into the harsh world. So even the slightest hint of positivity can send me into throes of euphoria, and even the slightest hint of negative can send me into the throes of depression.

But this time was different. I couldn't just forget it. When I read the criticism in the evening, I was all ready to turn on Netflix to something stupid, wallow in a massive bag of M&Ms, and just try try try and forget about it.

But instead I ate a handful of candies, watched a single episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender and went to bed early. I let it simmer.

And in the morning, I realized that my critic was right: there is something off about RoboNomics Book II. I know what it is, and I know how to correct it.

That's the major difference between the two types of criticism. One is unhelpful. It deserves to me ignored because it's all about that other person. It has to do with their own issues, and has nothing to do about the work. I can let it roll off my back. I can easily forget it.

But the other kind of criticism cannot be forgotten. It's helps me grow as an artist, see the work from a different light, and solve problems. It is to be cherished, even.

Is this a mark of maturity? Well, we'll see. I'm sure I'll come across a ton more negative commentary in the future. Let's hope I respond as graciously as I did this time...

In short, I'll have to keep this in mind:

(Except that part about suicide. I'm not really down with that).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My First Experience with a Tweet-Chat: #NanoPrep

So last week, I think it was Wednesday -- I decided to participate in my first Tweet-chat: this one revolving around the hashtag #NanoPrep.

It was okay. Like everything in life, it wasn't quite what I expected. Granted, I was only able to make it through half the chat because I had to start working, but it seemed like a lot of talk and not so much action to me.

Action? As in, what? I guess I was hoping to make a couple friends. I guess I thought it might be a good way for this lone wolf to connect with other writers. But instead it was a whole bunch of folks trying to one-up each other.

And, in fact, I've been finding that more and more lately about Twitter. The communication medium has so, so much potential. But just like Facebook has become a cesspool of ignorance and hate, Twitter these days it just feels like one big competition for followers. Oh, I could enter that competition. I could pay a whole whack of monies to have more followers than you. But I'm not down with that. I just want to be myself, like I have with everything I've done on the internets.

I'll still use Twitter, no doubt. It's still a good resource, it's still great for communicating with those who actually want to read what I have to write, and for others who are high-minded enough to keep out of the followers competition and the smut of shaming, blaming, and defaming other people. But live-tweeting? Tweet-chats? Ugh. Pass. My life is not defined by a race to be as cleaver as possible in 140 characters.

In other related news, here comes NaNoWriMo barreling around the corner! Ahhhhhhhhhh!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Experiments in Video


This entry is most likely going to end up being a transcript of my first appearance in online video.

The truth is, I am terrified of video. I've thought about wading into that medium before now, but I've always shied away from it. I'm a writer, I thought, what do I need to make videos for?

And so, other than my totally awesome book trailers, I've kept out of the vlogging scene. And not only because I think my voice recorded is the weirdest sounding thing I've ever heard. Also because it seems to be that it's a saturated medium. You could say the same for print, but at least there I know I've got unique, original, interesting thoughts and stories to share. It seemed whenever self-published authors start making videos, it's all about how to interest your sales. And they use the same tactics they just outlined to try and get you to buy some course about how to increase your book sales. That's one hamster wheel I'm just dying to not be on.

Force the Issue

However, now that I've decided that I'm going to launch a Patreon campaign, it's time to say hello to video. Also, I've been invited to join a Google+ Hangout during Nanowrimo to talk about authorly type things. And so it's time for me to suck it up, start honing my public image, and get comfortable with being on camera.

So, I think basically what I'm going to do is aim for a video once a week, and really just talk about the things that I've always talked about: stuff that interests me. If you've been reading my blog regularly, you'll know that this includes speculative fiction (since that's what I write), philosophy, music, popular culture sometimes, robots, automation, artificial intelligence, classic literature, and maybe even theoretical physics.

That's it. That's my introduction to my videos, vlogs, YouTube channel. Whatever you want to call it. Welcome and I'll work on this. We'll talk more later.

(Thank god I already have some video editing skills. At least I don't have to reinvent the wheel on that one!)

Okay, here's the video version:

I'm going to keep them unlisted, and not going to enable comments on YouTube. Not comfortable with that yet. But hey, free feel to comment here! Bye!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Titles and Covers - Already an Update: Conlang, ideographic writing systems, and book cover design

So I've been thinking a lot about those book covers I mentioned yesterday, and I think I've hit on it: I'm definitely going to go with the icon option. And the language option.

See, the thing is, the primary language that I've created for my little world of high fantasy (Omorbia) is the Tree language. Yes, that is what it's called. And the basis for the written version of the Tree language is a pictographic or rather ideographic writing system. Each of the 22 written letters of that alphabet represent concepts or ideas. So what not just match up an idea to its corresponding book and adopt that as the book's icon?

A sample of written Tree, from one of my notebooks
There's only one problem with that. It means that I'd have to create a book cover not from a public domain or creative common image. I won't be able to fool everyone into thinking that I'm not too shabby at this whole graphic design aspect of my endeavours. No, since the Tree doesn't exist in the world outside my writings, I'll have to design the font, and the stylized, iconic book covers from scratch. Eep!

I actually have tried to the font once before. It did not go well. If only there was a way to just take a picture of each letter and then have it instantly, magically appear as a font. Oh well, that's not going to happen unless there are thousands of people who want to perform this one weirdly niche action. If you want something done right, you'll have to go back to the fontstruct drawing board. At least for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Messing Around with Titles and Covers

A terrible first attempt

So I was reading this +Wattpad book the other day called "Cracking the Wattpad Code." I've been following its progress since I am very interested in the way that Wattpad ticks. No secret here: I do want RoboNomics in particular to be successful on Wattpad, and I'm not willing to let it go on chance. I'm wiling to use any trick I can, and stock my literary granary with any resource I can. (awkward metaphor? I thought of arsenal and weaponry first, but war comparisons are extremely overused).

Anyways. It was the latest chapter that has my attraction. "Tiny tweaks that yield BIG results" is a chapter about how book covers, description, and one's profile can help or hurt number of reads.

But I am very attached to RoboNomics' covers. They could use some tweaking in terms of having the aspect ratios match better, but other than that, they are good. I've received compliments on them, even. The descriptions of book books could perhaps use some tweaking to make it more obvious what the books are actually about, but the covers are just dandy.

My Tales of Omorbia book, on the other hand, needs some help. Still limping along, I figure maybe messing around with the cover and description wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Original title and cover
So I've tried to make everything about the cover and title, as well as the description, a bit more transparent from a reader's perspective. The original title is unique, but vague. And the original book cover makes it look more like a horror story than the beginning of an epic fantasy.

But what does the cover of an epic fantasy series look like? That really depends: on the story, on the audience I'd like to capture. The fact that I've made up languages for Omorbia and been snarled into the tangled world of constructed languages might appeal to Tolkien fans, which would mean I should put runes or some such on the cover. But making up a language for a high fantasy series is hardly original, and is a little beside the point.

I could focus on the fact that it is a long series in the high fantasy genre, and make my covers resemble the cheesy, cartoonish depictions found on covers of books in that genre. By besides hating those covers, my story doesn't really follow along the same formula as most high fantasy series (the Monomyth). Or I could follow in the footsteps of one of Young Adult literature's most famous fantasy series, and submit to the cartoonish illustrations.

New title and cover
Perhaps something iconic. Maybe I should go with just one single central logo that represents the story, like A Song of Fire and Ice books. That might be best. But then what would I settle on as the icon that represents this story? What do you think I should do?

While I've been debating these nuances, I've at least come up with a new title. "The Mage's Apprentice", as I've argued before, is completely and utterly unoriginal. But it has the advantage of being simple. It states exactly who the story revolves around, and hints at what it is about.

And so settled on a name, I've also made a mock-up of a new cover. It's terrible. It looks like a cook book. Sure, it is representative of a major element of the story; i.e. Vadier's magical practice, but it's just not a fantasy book cover, is it?

The thing is, I do love the colours and the elements. I think it's original and what's move, it can be used as a series.

Nanowrimo is nearly here and I've been thinking about the cover for the book I'll write in November, the second in the Omorbia series. And wouldn't it be nice to have matching covers?

The title for Book II is again, super simple states exactly who the book is about and what you can expect from the story. But now I've got a "how-to build furniture the amish way" book cover. It matches, but it's not fantasy.

So I've obviously got some more work to do. I'll keep you updated about how it goes. And let me know if you have any ideas for me! I am stuck on this one aspect of marketing. I've got to stop shaking my head around and think of some icon from Book I that I can use on the cover. And then I've got to produce a cover! Oh boy, back to the drawing board...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Philosophy Thursday: Lessons learned from The Four Agreements

So last night, still affected by that talk between Laverne Cox and bell hooks, I decided to read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a tiny little volume, but chok-a-block full of helpful tidbits. Especially for me, especially lately when I seem to be going through profound bouts of despair from origins and reasons unknown.

Call this a book report, more than a review...

The Four Agreements could be considered, if you're feeling cynical enough, a self-help book. But I don't really see it that way. The hallmark of self-help, as I see it, is pathologization. It holds the assumption that there is something fundamentally wrong with you, and that you need fixing. Self-help is structured, as I see it, so that you will never actually find the 'cure' for the disease of yourself. You will always need to buy another book, attend another expense course, you'll always be attempting to fix yourself to the benefit of others.

But I see The Four Agreements as different from this. Rather than trying to fix yourself to suit those around you or your environment, it's more about accepting yourself unconditionally, and adjusting your attitude to your environment and those around you. Call it applied philosophy, then. The basic premise of the book is that we are taught, from birth, to form 'agreements' with others. Like the handshake. The form of, and performance of, the handshake is an agreement. You saw it performed as a child between adults, you tactically agreed on its meaning, and then eventually you started performing it yourself.

That's a pretty mundane example, but you can extend that you include nearly everything you do in life. So the book explains that if you want to return to yourself and the childish happiness you experienced before you agreed to any of this arbitrary adult life, you have to throw out every agreement you've ever made with the world. And instead, replace it with just four:

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

And that's it. It's a short volume that I read in a single evening.

But I really have the feeling that it's written backwards. I feel like I might have been more receptive to the process had "Always do your best" been presented first.

1. Be impeccable with your word.

This one takes the most courage, for me. It has nothing to do with good grammar, or being an awesome public speaker. It is basically be aware that words have power to influence and to actionalize, and to speak and write accordingly. Don't gossip. It also mean to not lie to yourself, to not be something you're not, to not hide yourself in order to fit in.

That's the part that is most difficult for me. Because, like everyone, I just want to fit in.

When it comes to this blog and my writings on Wattpad, I think I've been good. I've presented myself in a certain way, and I've stuck to that message. But in real life, surrounded as I am by people who have 'real jobs', who are professionals and who, when faced with under-employment, are bored; I have a hard time representing myself as I am: as a writer. It depends on my level of trust. If I trust you, I'll tell you about my writing. If I don't trust you, I'll fall back on the 'teacher out of work' lie and hide behind it. I don't even have proper business cards yet. It's something I have to work on. Living my truth in my "outside of Internet" life.

2. Don't take anything personally.

This one is about reacting to other people. Nothing that people ever do or say is about anything other than themselves. It's never about me. If you realize that, a lot of hurt can just fall away. You don't have to be reactionary to others' actions, because you can realize that they are walking around in their own version of reality, and are reacting to their own perceptions and thoughts. If they attack me verbally, that's their deal and they have to live with it, not me.

3. Don't assume anything.

This is the one which my personal ethics fits into. Basically it's about taking people where they are, as they are, rather than as I'd like them to be or where I think they are.

But it also means not to assume that people can read your mind. It means that you have to ask for what you want and what you need. Also a thing that I have to keep in mind and practice, although I'm actually not as bad as that as I am at #1. Perhaps the reason why I think they should be written backwards.

4. Always do your best.

It also should be written backwards because this agreement supports the other four. It basically states to do your best on each agreement. The caveat being that 'your best' is going to change from moment to moment, and doing 'your best' doesn't mean doing 'the best'. So don't beat yourself up, basically.

In fact, the point of doing this is that you can free yourself from guilt, shame, etc. Doing your best in these three other areas are meant to make you free, return you to yourself, and the happiness you felt as a child in just doing, just being.

Final Word

It's a simple set of agreements, but I can already see how they can change things. There's more in the book: about how life is a dream (and how to make it a lucid dream), some extras about prayers and god that I consider a bit needless to the main message, but the agreements are the core of the book.

I got the copy I read from the library, but this is one of those books I'll want to re-read constantly, so I am considering buying myself a copy. In fact, the contents of The Four Agreements mesh so well with how I've been thinking of things lately, it might even become a 'best friend book.' I'll wrap with a song that's been in my head these days, that sort of goes with the theme of the book:

(At least it's not 'Heal the World'. I can never get over the fact that they played that song over the PA system of my Catholic elementary school every day for a year after Oh, Canada and the lord's prayer. Yeesh!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confessions of a TV Addict

Reading Voraciously

So yesterday afternoon, after all my work was done for the day, I decided to idle a little and check out a talk between bell hooks and Laverne Cox at the New School in New York City. I usually watch any talk made available between bell hooks and anybody. It was an interesting talk that I enjoyed, and it reminded me that I have to get back to that promise to myself I made a long time ago to read and re-read bell hooks' opus of work. It is on the list. It's a very long list of "books and works I'll read one day."

I was first introduced to the works of bell hooks, like the works of Emmanuel Levinas, Paulo Freire and other thinkers whose works I was enamoured with at the time. Up until then, I'd learned all about the classical, and then analytical, philosophers of the Western cannon. It was always interesting to learn about their theories, and I was always especially intrigued with their theories of mind, of knowledge, and of thought. But it always seemed their age-old theories were like artifacts displayed statically, under spotlights, in a museum case: devoid of context, devoid of soul. The scales didn't fall from my eyes until my master's program started and I read about hooks, Levinas, Freire, and others.

But that's besides some of the points I want to make in this blog post. During the talk, when bell hooks is talking about meeting Janet Mock and reading her book, she says that she read it in a single day, since she has a habit of reading one non-fiction book a day.

I nearly fell out of my chair. A book a day? I thought. How is that even possible?? (This coming from me -- someone with a fairly slow reading speed).

Really? My better self butts in. Is the thing you took away from this talk that bell hooks reads more voraciously than you've considered humanly possible? Really??? That's a good, critical question. And one that I'll have to get into another day.

In the meantime, I think about the resolutions I made to myself for 2014, and especially the one for which I promised myself to write 20 books of fiction during all of 2014. And for an aspiring writer of fiction, it now seems pitiful.

I know what I was doing. I was trying to be kind to myself. It was the first time I've ever made such a resolution, and so I wanted to guarantee that I was able to obtain the goal easily. But instead of overcoming that goal in the first six months, instead that number of 20 has been a way to let myself off the hook. Now it's October and I'm still hopelessly far from my goal.

And the ironic thing is, perhaps because of my reading speed and schedule, a single book (of fiction, for me) read each day is an unobtainable goal (I tried it last night. I was up until 1 a.m. and woke with a painfully dried eye), but I could go better. I can easily see how I can carve out hours in my evening for reading hundreds of page a day. And how can I carve it out? By not watching so much darn TV.

But the TV!! It's my friend

The problem -- or rather, the challenge for me is that I am a TV addict from way, way back. When I was a child I would run home from school to watch 'my shows' such as Alf. I loved Alf when I was about eight. Later, no matter the weather, I would stay inside on a Saturday so I could watch Xena: Warrior Princess or Sailor Moon (yeah, I like those shows back then. They had strong female leads, and I was 13).

My addiction to television has followed me through my life, but it's not always served me well. Sure, I've always have a preference for TV shows with strong fantastical elements and narratives. And maybe that's taught me a thing or two about writing, but what I'm not writing is a television show. So I've always considered that reading fiction would be an infinitely better teacher.

It's like this: you ever hang out with someone like a friend or loved one a lot, and one day you do or say something that you feel isn't quite you. It's the feeling of that person "rubbing off on you". I've always had this ability to identified that tendency in myself and I'm always surprised by it. Because as arrogant as I am, I'd like to believe that my thoughts and words and deeds are uninfluenceable. But thinking that is a danger. We are all influenced constantly by outside forces: be they friends, family, books, and TV.
NYC #3 by Thomas Leuthard
CC License Attribution 2.0

So I want my life to head in a certain way. I want to write fiction, so I should allow my pattern of thoughts and words to be influenced by writers of fiction rather than by the TV.

I still want to enjoy certain of my favourite shows, but I am much more inclined to keep it down to an hour a day (or less) and use the rest of my evenings for reading. Especially now I realize I can do more with my time: that I can read more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Need to Know the Value of My Work...and Yours!

My Choices as An Artist, A Refrain

The other day I read an article about Lena Dunham's book tour ("a 12-city extravaganza"! -- seriously, book tours are never a big deal), and about how the organizers of the tour were planning to not pay local 'opening acts'.

The author of the article makes a good point -- that 'content creators' as we're often referred to now in business-speak, are always the ones who are shafted for pay. And yet whole industries -- from the movie industry to the music industry, books, newspapers, fashion, and others -- would not exist without us. But we're all supposed to have this attitude of 'a million girls would kill for that job' and be grateful to have the tiny crumbs thrown to us by the middlemen who make their livings off of our toils.

So how does my attitude that artists shouldn't be taken advantage of mesh with my decision to make my own work as freely available as possible? For me, that's an easy answer. By being my own boss.

I don't view myself as devaluing my work by posting my stories for free on Wattpad, nor for planning to eventually make my novels available through a 'pay what you can' model. Rather, I see it as a way to stick to my personal ethics while at the same time retaining power over my work and how it is made available. I have decided not to give over the rights to sell my work to others, and so I am not beholden to anyone to write what they want me to write, or to take advantage of my readers so that another dollar can be put into the pocket of someone whom I'll never have contact with and who may not deserve it.

I realize my tone is slightly inflammatory. And I realize that literary agents, editors, and designers all have their own important roles to play in the publishing of books. But I would much rather work with professionals in collaboration rather than hand over my work to a monolithic company to be exploited. It's the same reason that I won't seek corporate sponsorship for my blogs, and why I don't seek government funding for my novels. I am determined to write what I have to write with no other compass than my muse. That's all.

Again, as I said in my other blog post on the subject, this is a very personal decision, and one that will not work for every writer or artist. We each have to pick our own way. The way I choose is to run my work like a small business, to be as generous to my readers as I can rather than becoming a cog in someone else's machine.

My only publishing expense so far
A Problem

Having said all that, there is a problem with this model. It's a problem that has plagued me for years in the abstract. That is the problem of professionalism.

So far, I think I've done well on very minimal resources. I've attempted to focus on the writing itself and its improvement, rather than on all the pricey distractions. Because in the self-publishing industry (and even in the traditional publishing industry), there are so very many. When I first decided back in 2010 to take my writing seriously as a profession, the first thing I did was research. I had no idea where to begin and I needed some resources.

And in beginning that research, I found out that being an amateur writing could be a pricey endeavour indeed. Luckily, I had no money. And so I had to dig for the free resources.

Over the last four years, I've spent next to nothing on producing stories. I've published on +Wattpad which has been a big help, and other than a couple images that I bought (because they were and are exactly what I needed to help promote RoboNomics), my 'business' expenses have been nil. I did take a writing course, which was a large expense -- but a personal one.

And I'm proud of what I've put out there so far. My images look snappy and smart, I've been able to create this blog and others which have continuous momentum, and I have a website. But I have big dreams, my friends. I envision being able to hire a professional editor before my work goes to ebook in 2015 (spoiler alert!). I would like to be able to collaborate with designers on book covers, merchandise, sketches of robots that appear in RoboNomics, maps of Omorbia, et cetera. I have many ideas that require capital that I just don't have.

A Solution
Henry Wriothesley, Jr., One of
Shakespeare's Patrons. Uploaded by
flickr users LongLiveRock,
used under Creative Commons 2.0

I've dreamed of an artistic patron for a very long time. Patrons, I figured, believed in one's work without trying to control its progress. With a patron, I thought, I would be able to write without having to worry about where the money was coming from. Which is an ideal situation.

The only thing is, the patron system seems to exist nowadays in old movies.

But the other day I was listening to a Creative Penn podcast while cleaning (something I've got to get in the habit of -- so much helpful information there!), and I heard Joanna refer to a website called Patreon.  

She only mentioned it offhand, but I had to know more. And what I've found out is that it's a website that basically allows folks to become an artist's patron for a couple bucks a month or per piece of content.

It sounds like a dream.

It's not like Kickstarter, exactly, which I've always considered and then shied away from. Because rather than a single big project, Patreon is a way to fund artists who are continuously creating small things such as this blog post. It also means that as a writer, I wouldn't have to have funds available in advance for planned 'rewards' like on Kickstarter. There are rewards offered, of course, but they can be something like a Google Hangout rather than say, a leather-bound, gold-lettering embossed copy of my book. So much more doable.

I'm already planning. I'm already thinking about the vlog (eep!) and how I can use Patreon to puts funds into my writing endeavours. I really don't want to use it to 'fund my life' -- I don't want to use any money raised that way to buy one million espressos or moleskin notebooks or anything. I just really see it as opportunity to forward my goals for my art, and to add a professional edge to my works.

And the best part about all this is, that through Patreon folks can fund my art if they choose to, and if they don't choose to fund me, my stories and blog posts will still be free for them to access and enjoy.

Does that make sense? What do you think? Do you have a different plan for funding your art or writing? Have you found any other free resources that have helped you achieve your goals? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Move Complete

I'm finally finished moving. I'll be in this house for longer than I have been in any place since...well, since I left my hometown nearly a decade ago. So I took all of last week to settle in. Also I didn't have internet, so there was nothing else for it but to unpack and set up. Still not done, but I have most of it now.

Next to putting the bed together, I prioritized getting my office organized. It's a work in progress, as I have a lot of move-related paperwork on my desk to get through and because I'm a little afraid of putting holes into our brand new walls to hang things up, but all the books are on the bookshelves! And that makes me exceedingly happy.

Writing desk
There are two other bookshelves filled with books along the other wall, so not pictured here. Oh, also my writing desk is this weird murphy-style that opens to reveal a book shelf as well. Maybe I'll have to take you on an office tour when I put the finishing touches on it.

And that empty one is a thing. I am missing one of the tiny plastic brackets that holds up the middle shelf. I hate when stuff like that happens during a move!

Anyways, now that I have the space livable and workable, back to work I go! I know I was remiss in updating RoboNomics and the Tales of Omorbia as well as my blogs, but this week I am getting right back to it! Can't wait for you to read those ongoing stories!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Philosophy Thursday: The Evolving Publishing Industry, and Me

So far in this Philosophy Thursday series, I've discussed my place in the world, my views on fame and fortune, the nature of my universe, my ethics, the nature of violence and some specific examples thereof. But I've yet to write about the tie that binds all these threads together: what any of this has to do with my career specifically (as promised), and the publishing industry more generally.

It evolves

gnomic. Filter added.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
It's probably no surprise to you that 'publishing' was not always a business. What may have begun as yarns told only aloud and handed down through successive generations turned into written scrolls, then to narratives copied through the means of the printing press, and eventually serialized stories printed in newspapers and then novelized with the help of a publisher.

A market turns into an industry. The activity of swapping stories has become a monster that supports authors, literary agents, book designers, printers, editors, publishing houses big and small, graphic artists and the fringe: shysters. And so it has been for a handful of centuries.

It won't come as any surprise to anyone even tangentially related to the publishing industry that it is again changing. has been in the news for months now as it battles with publishers and traditionally published authors. Self-published authors take sides. Everyone speculates over whether ebooks and ereaders are here to stay. And then there's folks like me: those out of the 'bleeding edge': publishing content for free on platforms like +Wattpad.

Rise Above

Of course, my interest in this debate has nothing to do with what's already been said. Authors published through traditional publishing houses are going to take the side of their publishers. I get that. They have contracts, they've been given advances. They have a stake in traditional publishing winning. Self-published authors are going to take Amazon's side. I get that as well. They've made a living through Amazon's business model, and they think it's a better living than they could have made otherwise. Everybody lines up according to where they have the biggest financial stake. It's unsurprising, predictable human nature.

But in this debate, I'd like to take some other factors into consideration. After all, I have yet to publish anything that will make me any money. I have no ties to Amazon (and their brethren Kobo Books, Apple iBooks and the like), I have no ties to a traditional publishing house. So I am interested in how to present my art to the public that will:

1. Be ethical towards my readers;
2. Make it widely available;
3. Honor the art itself;
4. In a way that serves my needs as a budding author.

Consideration #4

Consideration #4 is, of course, the most selfish of these. I'm going to start with this consideration because, even though I put it at the bottom of the list, I want you to know that I am not a completely self-sacrificing individual. I do have goals -- some of them lofty, some of them greedy. But my hope is that my other three considerations bring these goals into the realm of the ethical.

My wants

My wants as a budding author are quite another matter. This goes back to my first Philosophy Thursday post. I wish to see my books in print: complete with leather-bound covers and embossed titles. I want to be the most renowned author the world has ever known. There's the dream of the Nobel prize, the dream of blasting to the top of every global bestselling list. There's the prospect of selling more than Rowling (you could have written this, my mom once told me on reading a bit of Harry Potter). There's the thought of the Golden Ticket that is landing on the Oprah Show (yeah it doesn't exist anymore. What does that matter? We're talking pie in the sky here). And there's the dream of the book tour to end all book tours, more like a world tour a rock star would embark on rather than an author of fiction -- complete with a rider that makes all green M&Ms strictly verboten for no real reason.

My needs

But that's not really what I need, is it? That's taking up too much room, strangling other potential voices in the literary scene. When I look back on the past five years of my life or so, I can see that I can get along with very little. At most, it would be nice to be able to cover my living expenses (which are not so very great) with my writing. At worst, it would be nice to be able to continue on the way I have been: to scrape out the time between the day job hours to write.

That's what makes me happiest. That's when I am at my best. When I am writing, it doesn't matter whether or not I have an audience, or whether or not I am paid for my work. If I am working on my writing for myself, and do not have to write to a pay check or have my talent be abused for others' purposes, I am content.

That's what I need most of all: to write.

Consideration #1

This one is most important for me. I want my readers to enjoy my stories. I think that in this game we call publishing, the two most important parties are the writer and the reader. Really, no one would have a job in publishing if not for this relationship.

I tend towards being idealistic (is that not yet apparent from what I've written so far?) and I've never been able to shake this belief that art should be free. Yes, I know! In a perfect world and so on, everyone needs to make a living, and so on! You're right. But I think when it comes time for publication, I am going to go (at least at the ebook level) with the 'pay what you can' route.

Look, I realize that I am in a privileged position. I can see that I have ample food, clean water, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. More than adequate medical care if I so require. I have very little in my life that I need to stress out about. And I understand also that not everyone can take this stance. Not everyone who yearns to write has the luxury to just give their stories away for free. And I wouldn't recommend anyone else follow me. We each have to do what feels right. We have to weigh the options and choose our path. I only want to explain to you the path that I've chosen.

Consideration #2

Having said all that, now I'm going to be completely hypocritical/paradoxical. Ah, well. What's (applied) philosophy without a good paradox, hm?

One of the very few problems I've come up against in using +Wattpad to publish my stories is that not everyone uses the platform. The readership is wide, sure, but when I talk to many of my friends and family (most of whom are not teenaged), they say that they find reading my story on that platform taxing.

My friends and family are a mix of people who use eReaders and those who prefer physical books. When I talk to the eReader bunch, I can assure them that in 2015, I will have an ebook copy of RoboNomics available for them to read. Independently published by yours truly, pay-what-you-like and it's yours to own.

But what can I say to the folks who crave a physical copy? For a long time I had nothing to say. For a long time I thought about print-on-demand services -- and frankly, that option is not totally off the table. But in case any publishing houses approach me for a deal, I'll definitely be telling them that I'd like to be a hybrid author.

This choice is predicated on something that may never happen, but it's also predicated on the fact that even though the publishing industry is changing, publishing companies, corporations and houses all still have one thing that they do better than anyone else can: produce physical books. And they are far more well equipped than I to deal with the eventual legal tangles involved in subsidiary rights: translation, movie options, merchandising if it ever goes in that direction.

Consideration #3

This one is even more esoteric. What do I mean when I say, honour the art itself? Well, I mean that I want to put my art into the world not only in a way that is as free as I can get, to get into the hands of readers, but also in a way that allows readers to play. I would be a traitor to my own ethics, and the themes that weave themselves throughout my stories, if I held onto the art too tightly. I want to allow for others to have their voices heard. And so I'll never quibble over fan fiction.

I know it may be getting ahead of myself to even think of the possibility of fan fiction. It may be arrogant of me to imagine that such a thing is, in the future, possible. I should be honoured that anyone at all wants to look at my work. But frame it more as a 'being prepared' thought experiment, if you will.

Life and art informs more art in complex, interacting ways. A line from a book, a character in a movie, a song. It's all fair game for the creative mind, even if we don't mean it to be. I'm not talking about plagiarism here, but instead the varied ways in which art forms come to life. In the past, Gilgamesh and Pyramus and Thisbe inspired Noah's Ark and Romeo and Juliet, respectively. Who's to say that fan fiction isn't just a modern day equivalent of these earlier homages? It's not my place to regulate the way that art is created. And so I'm not going to try.

The End

Oh my goodness. Do you know what? I've made it to the end. I've said all I want to say in this, my #PhilosophyThursday series. But you know, it was pretty successful. I'm proud of the results. I think I might try it again sometime. And perhaps sometime soon. I could go into more detail about all my tangential thoughts about what I've written so far. Or...

There is something bubbling in the back of my brain -- related to RoboNomics, I have the urge to write a non-fiction series about the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence. Whatta say? Would you enjoy that?

Monday, September 22, 2014

RoboNomics Chapter 6 Preview and Attribution

Hey! RoboNomics Book II Chapter 6 comes out tomorrow! Here the preview pic, and here's its attribution:

Photo by Luis Argerich. Find the Creative Commons 2.0 License here.

And here's the accompanying "inspired by" song:

Build Me Up

Photo by Sembazuru. Text added.
Creative Commons 2.0
Every once in awhile, I need a little encouragement. It's a hard road, the one that I've chosen to follow. Taking my writing seriously. Trying to make it into a career.

Last week, I had one of those moments of doubt. I was thinking about RoboNomics Book I, on +wattpad, and about how it's now had over 19,000 reads.

On the surface, it looks as though all of the feedback I've had has been positive. When I think back to the beginning of 2014, when only a writing instructor had read part of the story, it looks as though I've come a long way. I mean, it I was out for a proof of concept, I've definitely received that. When I think about how those 19,000 reads could have translated into 19,000 ebooks at $0.99 a piece, it's not a bad picture, is it?

However, when I look more closely at my stats, it's not sure a pretty picture. Over 11,000 of those reads are of the first chapter alone. Which, for me, means that being 'featured' on Wattpad has done its part: along with the book's cover and description, plenty of readers have been interested enough to 'crack open the cover', so to speak. But somewhere between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, I lose most of my readers. The numbers drop dramatically down to about 500 reads, and stay around that level for the rest of the book. So really my number should be more along the lines of 6,500 reads.

There's also the fact that there hasn't been the deluge. Many other authors on Wattpad, it seems, have crossed the million reads mark. They've got thousands of followers for simplistic works while I struggle to establish any sort of readership at all.

So last week it hit me. Am I doomed to be a 'mid-list' author? Not talented enough to be literary, not fluffy enough to be a pulp best-selling, I came to the conclusion that I am doomed to become lost in a crowded marketplace -- shouting into a gale -- my voice lost amid the clangor. And then the dreaded artistic circle of doubt began, which always ends up in the same place: why do I bother at all?

It's been a few days, so I have some perspectives on my situation. I can see that the readership on Wattpad clamours for a very specific sort of story -- or rather, a very specifically format of story. The sort I've been writing in my RoboNomics Book II. That story is having none of the number troubles of Book I. It has a consist readership of about 50 reads a chapter. So part of my Book I issue is that it needs a reformat.

The Chapters are also very long, and I can see how that first chapter could lose people very quickly. You have to stick with the story for a long time for any payoff, and so I'm looking into changing my chapters, minorly, so that one flows into the next in a way that demands that the next chapter be read. In short, I'm going to apply the lessons I've learned recently about serialization to this story.

In the meantime, there needs to be a remedy to this artistic despair I've found myself in. And so I've followed a piece of advice found in the Artist's Way, and gathered up some of my 'greatest hits' professional compliments, presented them nicely on pictures. This way, I'll have a set of personalized motivational posters in my back pocket that I can look at whenever I need a pick-me-up. A reminder that I don't totally and completely suck.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

RoboNomics Book II Chapter 5 Preview and Attribution

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Two Posts in one day! Aren't you just a lucky duck? Unplanned, I assure you.

I'm just here again to plug Chapter 5 of RoboNomics Book II with a preview pic and its attribution:

And here's the attribution:

Photo by Will Scullin. Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped, added filter and text. Thanks muchly! :)

I've also turned to highlighting a signal track to preview/go along with each chapter, and have done away with the playlists. I'm still working out where this promotional activity is going to fall within a week during which two small chapters will be published. So for this Friday's chapter, here is the track that inspired/captures the nature of the chapter:

Intense! Get ready for it!

Okay. That's it. I'm out.

Philosophy Thursday: Some Real Life Examples

So, for this week's Philosophy Thursday, I wanted to just catch up to myself a little. In particular, I wanted to illustrate Levinasian concepts of violence and justice as I interpret them using some real world examples.

The Most Obvious Examples First

So, outside of actual physical violence, there is the violence of psychological warfare, bullying, cyber bullying, internet trolling, microaggressions, and good ol' fashion name calling. For me, it is obvious that these stem from placing the Other as the object in my subjective experience. Rather than letting the Other be self-determining, I've thought of them in ways that fit in with my own internal idiolect. Idio-consciousness? Idio-thoughts? That needs a word. Someone make up a word for idiolect but my thoughts instead of my words. I need it.

But I want to make it clear that in enacting justice as the third party or in the name of the Other, I don't mean that we all should go on a mission to correct everyone else's supposed unethical behaviour. Vigilante justice is not justice. It is not ethical. I'll let someone smarter than me step in once to explain what I mean:

And Now Some Less Obvious Examples

Okay, so most of that may be obvious and a bit of a given.

But since Levinasian ontology (as he calls it) or ethics (as I call it) is an impossible system, it means that his version of violence crops up everywhere in daily life, over and over again.

Example One

Like this one time about a million years ago when I had this friend who had just broken up with his girlfriend. He confided in me that he wasn't sure whether he had been in love with her, or in love with the person he'd assumed she was. His idea of her, in short. And that sort of hits the nail on the head, doesn't it?

The way I see it, romantic love is particular prone to Levinasian violence. Partially, I blame Disney and pretty much every rom com ever. And Charles Dickens. I had a particular illustrative Charles Dickens quotation to insert here, but the paper it comes from -- about romantic love and Levinas' idea of violence -- is currently packed up for the move. I'll edit later. Moving on.

I definitely had this idea up until my late twenties that looking for a romantic partner involved looking for a person who would not only adhere to some sort of inane checklist of interests and characteristics I had in my head (that they couldn't possibly know about), but that also filled some weird psychological lack that I had in my life. It's this entire idea of "You Complete Me" (barf) that I was fed during my formative years. This idea that my future romantic partner would not be a full, complete person on their own and neither was I. It reduces two people to fully functioning human beings who want to share something to mere shells of being who have no function outside of fulfilling some pre-destined role waiting for them inside a romantic partnership.

And if you don't adhere to the checklist in my head and act at all in a way that is indicative of a complex, perhaps at times conflicting internal life, out you go! And how violent is that?

Example Two

This can also apply to my interactions with friends, with acquaintances, with strangers. You are expected to act a certain way so that my psychological landscape can remain intact.

Another really mundane example of everyday Levinasian violence is family expectations. I can see how first time parents can imagine with joyful expectation how life will be with the addition of their inevitably perfect children. However, life doesn't work that way. Just because you will your family members to be a certain way, to act a certain way, and to tow the family line doesn't mean they are going to. You cannot control any person except yourself, so there's no use trying. There is no use in even thinking of them as any way except the way they are.

But I'm not bitter.

And To Close, Examples Related to the Industry in which I Find Myself

Now, the more interesting stuff.

Example One

Sometimes when it comes to the publishing industry in particular, and the entertainment industry more generally (which for me includes movies, music, books), I have to shake my head in wonder (oh, boy. Here comes the judgey bit).

Look, I understand that as an author, I'm just now starting out. And I understand that when it comes to my craft, I have a long road; I have tons of work to do. I'm not perfect, and no artist ever is. It's a practice, a skill that keeps evolving. And I understand how the rest of this entry is going to come off as hella smug.

Be that as it may, having respect for the Other in practicing my craft is something that I strive to keep in mind and is an aspect of my writing that I continue to focus heavily on.

For instance, I could never write something like Memoirs of a Geisha. While it's a well-written book, it's a monument to cultural appropriation akin to that of Katy Perry's latest antics. I will never be able to tell someone else's story in that way. Not only because I am not comfortable with it, but because by my ethics, it is a violence.

But neither would I ever be able to write a story about only people who look like me or who live like me. As in my +Wattpad story, RoboNomics (shameless plug alert), I am trying with my writing to tell my story as authentically as possible. My main character may look and live like I do, but my experience in the cultural, political and economic milieu in which I have lived (specifically, Canada in the end of 20th/beginning of 21st centuries; more specifically central and eastern Ontario in those times) has not been a whitewashed experience. My aim is to reflect that experience in my art.

When I sit down to write any story at all, the representation of the Other in that art should, I believe, be respectful. In any narrative in writing or on film, there are many characters who have many different levels of importance to the story. There's a main or many main characters, and there are secondary and then also background players. But this doesn't mean that those characters are stereotypes. This doesn't mean that they don't each have their own full, complex lives. How much information I have the page space to reveal about each character may be limited, but that doesn't mean they don't have a complex backstory, or that they exist merely to service a plot function.

I read somewhere that if you create a character merely to fill a plot hole, that just don't. Cease and desist. That shit is creatively lazy.

So how do I go about writing characters who have different lives and experiences than mine while being respectful and not reducing them to tired, uncreative stereotype? Well, for me, I try and create characters that are amalgams of folks I've actually known in my life. Never based one a single person (because that would be technically illegal unless you get signatures), but built from characteristics that I have actually observed in my family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. This requires, of course, some of the skills most important to writing fiction. Namely, observation and wide breadth of experience. If you want to have a selfish justification for it, go make some friends! Be nice to people for fluff's sake! :P

Example Two

When it comes to the particular genres in which I write (fantasy and science fiction for now, speculative fiction more broadly), I've already touched on some of its problems as I see them with regards to its treatment of the Other. 

For me, speculative fiction represents a unique set of freedoms and challenges. Freedom in the form of unendingly new and unique ways of telling stories. The freedom to imagine completely innovative settings, completely unique characters, and unbounded realms where even the laws of physics can take a holiday. The human imagination at its best.

Or its worst. Because the challenge of speculative fiction is to write stories that still contain relatable characters -- or at least believable characters. With plot points that are palatable enough for the reader or audience to suspend their disbelief and settings that are compelling and involving.

And there's yet another set of freedoms and challenges. Speculative fiction, I believe, allows for the commentary on recent or current political, cultural and economic events from a safe distance of it's not really about that. It's about dragons! Direct satire of world conflicts might be too inflaming, but if we write about ghosts, ghouls, and water spirits (or what have you), a story can be edifying and entertaining.

In this way, the move Avatar could have been a subtle comment on the dangers of immersive technologies like virtual reality, or some such thing. Could have been. Instead it was just a white saviour/exoticism fantasy with a clumsily tacked-on moralistic lesson that do with the environment. I think?

And that's one of the big dangers that much of speculative fiction has come up against. And failed when faced with. That is, when you represent an alternate version of reality, you've got to think outside the box. I try -- let me not be too preachy about it -- I try to guard against simply replicating the world as it is represented into my made-up world. I try to guard against replicating harmful stereotypes and renditions of the Other that exist in this world, and are false and harmful: those that reduce people to objects; to convenient pawns for my make believe play.

Jason Momoa, of Game of Thrones (Dothraki) fame.
Photo by Florida Supercon (cropped).
Put another way: I don't want to make up a fantasy or sci fi world in which there is the "main" continent or planet where the civilized folks live and look a certain way; and then there is the "other" continent or planet where the uncivilized folks live and look a certain way. It's tired and it's violent. All sorts of people live all sorts of different ways -- some of them yet unimagined.

Again, if you want the selfish justification: I believe that this not only helps me to further my craft in pushing me to be more and more creative but it also means that my stories, with any luck and continuous refinement, will become more interesting and involving. And if I get it wrong, and I receive constructive criticism that points out some terribly violent or limiting way I've represented the Other, there will be nothing wrong with my correcting my writing now and in the future. After all, that's how I learn. And helps to beat back that functional fixedness that I'm terrified of.

One Caveat

Look, I realize that the Klingons of Star Trek are beloved. I know that folks love Game of Thrones. And if you are enamoured of James Cameron's Avatar...well, you should just own that. Like what you like! Be protective of the artwork that helped you through being 14, by all means. What I'm arguing shouldn't take away from that. All I'm saying in pointing to these particular examples is that I've learned something from all of them. I've learned how to hone my own craft in particular ways.

Example Three

Man, long entry today! The third example of violence that the entertainment industry is prone to has to do with the fact that it is run, at least still in part (and still in large part) by corporations. But you know what, I think that may be a rant for next week. I've taken up a lot of your time so far and I'm sure you need an entire week to process this information. At least, I do.

So, until then! :P