Answers to Some Questions You Might Have Upon Discovering I Work for the Government

A few weeks ago, I was appointed to a position with the government. (The American one.) If you’ve stumbled upon this information for the first time, you may have some questions. That’s natural, and I would like to soothe your fears, and/or create new ones, by providing you with answers:

Q. Do you really work for the government?

A. Yes. Technically, many people you interact with work for the government, including the people you’d expect — like the police officer who writes you a ticket when you’ve driven the wrong way down a one-way street after too much of Grandma’s eggnog, and the staff of the DMV who make you wait for several hours before telling you that you’ve accumulated enough points on your record that you won’t be legally allowed to drive yourself home — or those you might not realize are government employees, like city bus drivers, public library librarians, or the crossing guard out front of your child’s school.

Q. Are any of those your job?

A. No.

Q. What do you do?

A. After careful consideration, I and my superiors feel that it would be better if that information remained classified for now.

Q. Are you a spy?

A. No.

Q. Then why can’t you tell me what you do?

A. I could tell you, but then I’d have to k- no, wait. No. I definitely don’t kill people. Let’s just say I work in “health administration”.

Q. So you work for a hospital?

A. No. Why don’t you ask me something else?

Q. If you work full-time at a day job now, does that mean you’re quitting freelancing?

A. Absolutely not! I love writing. It’s a part of my life I could never giving up. And editing isn’t just a way to use my own skills so they don’t get rusty; it’s also my way of giving back to the writing community by offering online workshops, discounted edits for those who can’t afford my standard rates, and by publishing diverse, quality speculative fiction which might not otherwise have found a home. Having a dayjob means that I won’t have to scramble for work just to pay my rent, or waste time chasing jobs which don’t materialize. I can take the work that comes to me, as I have time.

Q. You must make a lot, working for the government, right?

A. Well… no. I make a reduced hourly rate for the first nine months, while I’m in the probationary period, and out of that comes health insurance payments, mandatory payment into the pension, payment into the other retirement plan, and union dues. (Yes, I’m in a union. No, you won’t guess which one.) My take home pay will actually be just enough to pay my rent each month, and keep the heat on. Not enough to buy groceries, repair my breaking-down 20 year old car, or the clothes my son insists on growing out of every few months… But knowing that I won’t be homeless anytime soon, that’s a humongous relief. Add to that the fact that I’ve now got good health insurance, and that 25 years from now, when I do retire and spend all of my remaining time writing, I will have a retirement plan to support me.

I’ve never had a retirement plan before. I’m going to have to work every week of those next 25 years — I won’t have the freedom that came with the freelancing — but if I live long enough to retire, I’ll be protected. If I get sick next month, I’ll be protected. That’s a kind of freedom I never expected to have, and that’s worth working for.

But since I don’t get a full month’s pay this month, and I’ve still got those other bills to pay on top of the January rent which will soon be due (and I’d love to be able to get my son a Christmas present this year) please do consider taking one of my upcoming workshops.

Q. Anything else we should know?

A. I can’t be online as much as I used to, so my social media postings (Twitter, Facebook, etc) have already gone down. I’m not logging into my email every day, either. In exchange, I’ll find time to update my blog more often. I won’t be able to reveal any official secrets, but I’m sure you’ll be just as happy with the “unofficial” ones.


Almost There

Yesterday, I turned 41. It’s not as a big a milestone, traditionally, as say turning 21 or 30, but I’ll remember this birthday for a long time. We had a quiet night in. A small, brightly colored birthday cake mainly because my son wanted to “share” one with me. My first try at making sesame chicken — which turned out edible enough that I should figure out how to make it better — and snuggles on the couch, watching a Filipino movie (sadder than I expected, but still had a happy ending). My couch, my birthday cake, my son, and my comfy bed (where I slept in this morning) are all in my new apartment, which I love. I’m finally going back to work in a stable, long-term day job with good benefits and a retirement plan. I’ll soon have my finances on track, and be able to stop scrambling for freelance work. I won’t be constantly worried, stressed, unable to sleep. I’ll be able to start working on Lakeside Circus again, finish the Dagan Books reorganization, and get back to being a publisher. (Which takes money, time, and devotion — right now, I’ve got two out of three.) I can spend a lot less time pursuing work, and errant paychecks, and much more time writing, editing, and teaching. My son’s finally gotten approval and staff for an after-school program that will start this week, which take him out in the world and hold his hand while he learns all the little things people without autism often take for granted, after 2+ years of paperwork and waiting and being unable to hold down a full-time dayjob and being told “any day now” and then put off another month and another…. That lack of childcare, that humongous obstacle to working outside my home, is finally solved.

Everything is settling into place, after years of struggle. I’m almost there.


Added: new section of “Better Writing Through Brevity” workshop, Feb 2015

My current session of this workshop is going so well that I’ve added another one for early 2015. We’ll read, write, critique, and edit short fiction of various lengths, including 140 characters, 1 sentence, 150 words, six sentences, under 500 words, under 1000. Previous students of this class have sold their final pieces to semi- and pro-rate SFF markets (in fact, I’ve just heard from one that she sold another piece — started in our workshop — this week!)

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by December 31, 2014: Sign up here

I will close registration for this workshop when we reach 25 students, to limit the group to a manageable size. If there are still spaces left on December 31, the price will go up to $75. And, yes, you can purchase a registration for a friend.

Please note: All workshops take place in my private online forum, so you can post questions, comments, and writing excerpts without worrying who will see it. Plus, since we have deadlines of a certain day, not a set class hour, you can be anywhere in the world and still participate! With everything online, you won’t miss a thing, no matter what time zone you’re in or what challenges you’re working around.

Wondering how this workshop will improve your novel? Read this.

How does the class work?

A week before the class begins, students will get an email instructing them how to log into the private online forum. Only people in the class will have access to the workshop space. (This means anything posted there is considered “unpublished” and if you like it when it’s polished, you still have the option to submit it for publication.) Anyone who logs in during that pre-class week will be able to start reading the samples in advance.

Each week, the class will be given a short lecture, required and suggested reading, and an assignment (or two). You’ll log into the forum to read the lecture and any of the sample fiction for the week that you haven’t yet seen, post questions or comments, and your completed assignment. Your fellow students will have an opportunity to critique your assignments, and you’re encouraged to comment on theirs as well. Just like any other workshop, the group environment gives you a range of feedback and ideas. I will be checking in each day to answer questions, and also give feedback on every submitted assignment.

If you are pressed for time, you could probably do the class in under 2 hours per week, with a more time devoted to your final project. However, you get out of it what you put in, and it benefits everyone to spend around 4 hours a week on the class, or more if they prefer. When we did this last year, the students who turned everything in on time, critiqued others’ work, and did all of the suggested reading, ended up with final pieces that they were able to submit to paying markets.


All required reading and suggested reading is posted to the forum in advance, so you can read ahead. Workshop participants are given access to the class space a week before we begin.

Week One: Micro Fiction (140 character fiction, 100/150 word fiction) – explores writing into a small space, and also writing more than you need and then cutting down.

Week Two: Micro Fiction (long sentence story, six sentence story) – explores pacing, flow, and plotting.

Mid-session check in: I send an email to each participant individually, checking in and giving feedback on your work to date.

Week Three: Flash Fiction (500 word story) – posted in the forum for all participants to read and critique.

Week Four: Flash Fiction Final (1000 word story) – emailed to me for a private critique once the workshop is complete.


Workshop schedule for the next 6 months, with Early Bird discounts if you sign up now

We’re half-way through our first week in my flash fiction workshop, and it’s going so well. I’m spending a lot of time on lessons, suggestions, and critiques, but it’s worth it to see reactions like these from my students:

tweet2tweet3 tweet

Don’t you wish you were taking it with us?

By request, I’ve updated my workshop schedule for the next six months. I’ll be offering three courses:

January 2015

“Editing 101″ – Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking. The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style,16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors. The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction. We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services. (Read more here.)

$75 for 4 weeks if you enroll by 11/30/2014: Sign up here (limited class size — already 1/3 full)

March 2015

“Plotting the Short Story” – By request! We’ll cover how to fit a whole story into different lengths: flash (1000 and under), mid-length short story (about 4000 words), and longer short stories (up to 6500 words). What do you put in and what do you leave off the page? Fundamentals of storytelling, prepping (including outlining, character arcs, and plot twists) and editing (including how to recognize the different moments of your story so you can move them around) are also covered.

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by December 31, 2014: Sign up here (already 1/5 full)

April 2015

“Nuts and Bolts of Submitting” – market directories and submission trackers, finding the RIGHT market, reading submission guidelines, meeting submission guidelines, when to query, how to write bios and cover letters, how to read rejections, and figuring out when to resubmit, revise, or trunk your work.

$50 for 4 weeks if you enroll by January 31, 2015: Sign up here


Moving, WFC 2014, and Other Updates

Also yummy food pics, if you just want to skip to the end.

In the last two weeks I’ve moved house (from my terrible, no good, awful apartment to a much better one), attended World Fantasy Convention 2014, and prepped for my next writing workshop, which starts this Saturday. So far I’ve really only had one day of “rest” in all of that, and that’s mainly because I slept through most of Tuesday. I’m not yet caught up enough to take a break intentionally, and for the first time in a long time, I’m actually okay with that.

See, I’m busy — so busy — but being out of the old apartment relieved so much stress that I no longer feel the world is a pile of bricks I can’t juggle fast enough. All of the things I have to do are just tasks. And, I’m tearing through them so quickly that I’m expecting to be caught up, for the first time in more than six months, within a week or so. That doesn’t mean I’ve done everything I wanted to do, but I am finishing up everything I needed to have done. Once I’ve got that list completed, I can focus on the writing, editing, and reading I’ve been trying to get to for far too long.

Once I’m back to doing those things, I’ll be back to being me.

I spent most of October looking for a new apartment, and packing up the old one. At nearly the last possible minute, I found a great place — better than I’d hoped for — only a few blocks away, so I didn’t have to give up the great school system that was a big part of why I’d taken the old tiny, basement apartment in the first place. I spent another 9 days moving, one car load at a time, logging an average of 6 miles a day (according to my FitBit) just from walking up the steps of the other place, to the car, back down, get another load, walk back up the steps… multiplied by a hundred trips. I couldn’t afford to both move and rent a truck/hire movers, and my person who’d normally have helped ended up sick, so me and my son (okay, mostly me) did it all ourselves. The one thing I did pay for was an extra week of rent at the new apartment so I could start moving in a week early, and I’m so glad I did.

The up side to moving like that is that I got to deal with each car load of stuff away as I brought it over. Before we went for another couple of boxes, or tote bags full of books, I put what I’d unpacked exactly where I wanted it. By the time we were officially done moving out of the old place, the new apartment was a home. Curtains were hung, rugs put down, furniture in the right spots, dishes in the cabinets, clothes in drawers. I literally have only one box left to sort through, and there’s a chance most of that will be donated/thrown out. (Another benefit of knowing that I’d have to lug each box over by myself is that I only packed what I wanted, and managed to get rid of all the useless junk a person acquires over time before leaving.) I still need a few things — a living room rug, some bookshelves, since the one I’d been using came with the old apartment and had to stay there — but mostly, we’re happily settled in.

Which is good, because right after the move was finished, it was time for WFC.