working writer

Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu

Wesley-Chu-200x300

1. Your first two novels are scheduled to be published by Angry Robot books this year. You originally submitted during AR’s “Open Door Month” in 2011. What was that process like?

The Great Angry Robot Open Submission was probably one of the most fantastic and angst filled experiences of my life, which is unusual for me because I usually live a pretty happy, zero-angst life. I’m like a cross between that singing meerkat in Lion King and a Labrador Retriever.

The robot overlords, Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris, opened their doors to subs for one month in March of 2011. The subs went through four levels of review, from query and chapters, full manuscript, editorial and finally to acquisitions. At the end, out of a nearly a thousand submissions, twenty-five manuscripts made it to editorials and five received deals. The entire process from submission to signing the deal took fourteen months.

An added bonus about the open sub process was that fourteen of us in the editorial stage bonded on the Absolute Write forums and created our own social Group: Anxious Appliances. Since our inception, we’ve been the most active writing group on AW. Not gonna lie. Those guys kept me sane. I got pretty batshit crazy as the process drew to a close.

2. Once your book was in to the final stages of consideration, you got an agent. How did you find yours? Looking back on it, should you have started looking sooner, or waited longer?

I did query an earlier draft of The Lives of Tao a few years ago. I received some great feedback, and a request for a rewrite, but things fell through. It was still a great learning experience and helped me develop as a writer. It’s fair to say the book wouldn’t be what it is without the suggestions and changes I made from their critiques. I took a year off from the book and then rewrote it with a fresh pair of eyes.

After the manuscript was promoted to editorial during the open sub, I leveraged the potential deal and began querying again, and received offers from two agencies for representation. I was very fortunate to sign with Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh, who was one of my top targeted agencies. What better person to lead your career than the guy who represented the authors that wrote the books and movies you grew up with (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers)?

3. You have a wife, an executive-level job for a major corporation, family, friends, and a dog. How do you find time to write?

There’s a lot of time in the day. You just have to figure out how to prioritize what is important and what isn’t. I admit to being an OCD kind of guy. I am a single purpose driven machine, like a Phillips screw driver.

During my hardcore martial art days, I used to drive an hour to my friend Tony Marquez’s school (he was the original Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat), Extreme Kung Fu, and train at his facility. Then afterward, I drove thirty minutes to another school where I learned from a Bagua Zhang/Tai Chi master. It was four hours of training a day, six days a week. This went on for many several years.

One day, I thought to myself. “Man, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I don’t know how, but I’m going to figure it out.”

So I gave it a shot. Without knowing what I was doing, I began to write when I had the free time. Eventually, writing took over all my other hobbies. I stopped clubbing. I retired from martial arts. I quit raiding in Wow (that freed up a crap ton of time), and focused on what was really important to me. (more…)

How I Avoided Giving My Banking Account Number to a Hypnotist in China

Looking for work is always a job in itself. Not only do you have to create an eye-catching resume, but you have to research the job market to make sure you’re submitting yourself to positions you actually qualify for. Finding a company which offers you money in exchange for your product (stories, edits, non-fiction web content, whatever) isn’t the last step in the process. You have to weigh the pay rate against the hours involved, the commute, and any other benefits or negative aspects the job might offer. You want to make sure that the company is giving you something – money, experience, health insurance – that’s worth the time and energy you’re investing in them. 

You want to be certain you’re not being taken advantage of. 

That’s made more difficult when you’re looking for telecommuting work. Writing and editing are often jobs that are done from your location, with the finished product emailed to the place which has hired you, or that you hope will buy what you’ve created. When you’re not able to physically go to a location and check it out, it’s harder to know if the company is legit. We rely on writers’s guilds, sites like Writer Beware, forums, friends in the business and even Twitter to tell us when a publisher or market is bad news. Whenever possible we ask someone who’s had direct experience with the job we want.

Scammers are everywhere, whether it’s the guy who hires you as a receptionist and then expects you to work through your unpaid lunch hour, or an Internet-based position asking you to pay for the privilege of even applying to work for them. The farther away you get from “traditional” employment and the closer you get to freelancing from home, the more diligent you need to be in protecting yourself. This means not just turning down work from companies you can prove are bad, but also not exposing your personal data to companies you can’t prove are honest. The easiest way for you to do that is to Google them. I’ll give you an example:

Last night someone I know from the writing community asked if I was interested in some content creation work. This is writing copy for a website, including SEO keywords and certain marketing hot points. It’s not difficult if you’ve got experience in it (I do) and it either pays decently, or is a complete scam. What I mean is, a great number of Internet-only companies ask writers to do this kind of work and then either don’t pay them, harvesting “free” content which they then sell to others, or the entire thing is a front designed to get a person’s bank account info and social security number (as part of the hiring process).

I don’t know this person in real life, but I have interacted with them online for over a year, both on Twitter and Facebook. This person comments and writes reviews and talks about normal life things, so I have reason to believe they are a live human. Also, they’ve talked for quite a while about working in a physical office, so I believe that is true too. I was willing to look into the job because of all of these factors. Without it, if some random person had tweeted me a link to a non-US “Internet solutions” company, I’d have turned it down flat.

As it was, I agreed to have my email passed on to the person in charge of hiring writers. That guy, who we’ll call Bob, emailed me back right away, very enthusiastically, though he was about 12 hours ahead of me (in China, he said), meaning he was emailing me in the evening. Not impossible, but a tiny flag goes up. In his email he explains that it’s content creation, that he’s seen my website, and I’d be perfect. More tiny flags: he says he didn’t have time to look over my whole site before deciding I was a great fit for his company, and he also doesn’t know if the writing on the sample website (that he wanted me to look at for an example of what I’d do) was any good. He hadn’t looked at that either.

The pay is about 1 cent a word – not great, but that also meant they weren’t offering massive sums they didn’t plan to pay. 1 cent a word is just enough to feel slightly taken advantage of without being tipped off to a larger scam. He offered to send me style guides and more info. Okay, I said, send me your information. I wasn’t sold on the position yet, and there were some things swaying me against it, but it didn’t hurt me to find out more, as Bob would be sending it to an email address he already had. Nothing lost there.

I did ask how and how often freelancers worked, and got paid. Bob’s reply had enough in it to concern me more:

  • In two emails, he hadn’t told me the name of the company.
  • He didn’t just reply with info, he set me up with a login and temp password to their freelancer site, where I’d log in and work.
  • Getting paid meant submitting an invoice only once a month, and being paid via bank transfer 15 days later. Which means you could do work and not get paid for 45 days – not uncommon, but worth noting – AND it meant Bob was asking for my banking information.
  • Bob never asked to see a resume, or samples of my work.
  • He told me I had to hurry up and get back to him about the job because he’d be unavailable after the end of the week. That’s already a warning, but his excuse was that he’s going to North Korea, and they don’t allow Internet there. Then, what are you doing there, Internet-based entrepreneur?

(more…)

Current State: Looking for Work

Mostly I don’t talk about my personal life online, because I want my website and social media to be about my work. Writing, editing, things that inspire me – that I’m comfortable talking about. My personal life has had a lot of ups and downs lately, and I tend to think that no one wants to be bothered with that. Everyone’s life is hard, right?

In some ways I’m blessed to have the life I do. I have love, friends, and an adorable happy child. I have time to work on my writing, my projects for Dagan Books, and after some delays those are rolling out. 2013 is set to be a much better year than 2012, and I’m glad.

In other ways, my life is a bit hard. Being a single mom to a child with a disability – having no family and few friends nearby – means that I can’t work a full-time job. Since the only time I get that isn’t parenting time is when he’s in school, that gives me about 20 hours a week to be outside of the house without him. Except that there are short days and school holidays and meetings I have to attend with his special education team … I’ve been looking for a part-time position but haven’t yet found one which is flexible enough to allow for his schedule. Meanwhile I cut down expenses, moved to a smaller apt, used up my savings and now … I’m out of time. Now I have bills to pay, but no income.

There are three things I can do about this:

1. If you haven’t yet purchased one of the anthologies I’ve edited for Dagan Books, please consider picking up an ebook. Buying directly from us means that more of that money goes to DB, which in turn goes straight to our contributors. Buying our books keeps us going, and means that eventually we’ll grow enough to where I can draw a paycheck (which I haven’t yet).

DRM-free ebooks direct from us:

FISH: EPUB for NOOK and other readers, $4.99: buy here, MOBI for Kindle and other readers, $4.99: buy here

IN SITU: EPUB for NOOK and other readers, $3.99: click here, MOBI for Kindle and other readers, $3.99: click here

CTHULHUROTICA: EPUB for NOOK and other readers, $3.99: click here, or MOBI for Kindle and other readers, $3.99: click here

2. I’m putting together a collection of my short fiction, which I will have up for sale soon. I’m so lucky to have talented friends working with me on cover art and editing; I know it’ll be a great little book. When it’s ready I’ll post it online.

3. Do you have writing or editing work that you need doing? I’m looking for anything with a paycheck attached. I have edited well-respected collections of fantasy, science fiction, even erotica. I write fiction all along the genre spectrum, and non-fiction on a range of topics. Stories, articles, site content – let me know what you need. You can contact me here.

Thank you.

Jan 2013 Stats

In an effort to keep better track of the work I do as a writer, reviewer, editor, and publisher, I’m going to try to post regular stats updates. I did this one by creating a post at the beginning of the month, saving it as a draft, and then adding to it whenever I accomplished something. (Much easier than trying to put it together all at once on the day I want it to post.)

In January I …

Read

  • “After the Apocalypse”, the last story in the collection of the same name by Maureen F. McHugh. Read my review here.
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Brief review on Goodreads.
  • The Bleeding Man, and Other Science Fiction Stories, by Craig Strete. Review here.
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine, issues 104, 105 & 106. Review of 104 & 105 here.
  • Started reading Nobokov’s Pale Fire.
  • and some Tony Stark/Captain America slash fic, but I blame Conni for that.

Wrote

Edited

  • A 990 word lit fiction piece from 2011 called “Skipping Ahead To The End” (see below)

Published

  • FISH. (And there was much rejoicing.) This included proofing print and ebooks several times, submitting files to markets, blog posts, a Goodreads giveaway, and so on.

I also

  • appeared on two more Functional Nerds podcasts – Episode #133 and Episode #134 (click on the links to listen)
  • appeared on an SF Signal podcast (will post in February).
  • got my Goodreads account organized, updated my bookshelf, and started using it to keep track of the books I’m reading.
    • Created a Dagan Books group for people who want to discuss our projects or authors (join it here).
    • added a page for FISH.
  • Updated the Our Staff page on the Dagan Books site; fixed date/link/spelling errors in other places on the site.
  • Updated my Non-Fiction page, and my links.
  • Chased down and corrected contract issues for two stories I sold back in Spring 2012 (as yet unpublished).
  • Critiqued two 4k word stories for a friend.
  • Spent some time in the forums at Zoetrope. It’s focused more on literary fiction than genre fiction, and I like getting that perspective on my work.
    • Read and critiqued 5 flash-length stories.
    • Submitted one of my own (“Skipping Ahead To The End”).
  • Put more story ideas into Evernote.
  • Interviewed E.C. Meyers (read it here) and Fran Wilde (here).
  • And started tracking my fiction submissions in one of these:

Old School For The Win.

Overall:

That’s about 9,300 new words of non-fiction writing for the month and 1300 of fiction. Read 22 short stories (7 unpublished) and one novel (started a second). Revised and submitted one flash piece to be critiqued & critiqued 7 stories for other writers. Was on 3 podcasts. Got an anthology prepped and published – a year later than I’d originally intended but proof that I am starting to get back on track. Plus a bunch of office work (I am my own middle manager).

I’m planning to write more fiction in February, as well as get at least one more (hopefully two) Dagan Books projects published, and move forward on the other four in-progress titles.

My advice for February:

Do one thing every day. If you can, write. A blog post, or 500 words on your current story. If not, read. A short story, chapter, a couple of articles you need for research, it’s all useful, and often easier than writing when you’ve had a long day. Make a list of the things you’ve been meaning to do and check one off. By focusing on one thing a day, you’ll end up having done 28 things by the end of the month, instead of pushing yourself to do too much and being too burnt out to work for days at a time. That’s reading several magazines, or writing your weekly blog post for the next six months, or 14,000 words on your novel…

Writer Wednesday: Fran Wilde

Photo courtesy of A. E. Bogdan

Fran Wilde is a writer and technology consultant hard at work on her third novel. You can read her short stories online at Nature Magazine and Daily Science Fiction She can tie various sailing knots, set gemstones and program digital minions. She blogs at franwilde.wordpress.com.

1. You have two novels completed and two more in progress. Tell us about them.

Moonmaker is adult science fiction. It’s my first novel, and I’ve recently received some fantastic feedback on it. The story is pretty ambitious, given that I’d never written a novel before. I am lucky to have people who believe in it, since the process of finishing a novel and getting it out there is so complex. Moonmaker combines game building and programming with a bunch of things I didn’t know much about until I dove into the research. A friend was kind enough to loan me an astrophysicist at one point (he’s awesome), so I had some great insights when it came to moons and orbits. I did a very light query on the book last fall, but have decided to take it back into editing. A few spin-off short stories are in process too.

The second novel, Bone Arrow, is my baby right now. It’s young adult fantasy, with a lot of low-tech engineering. I was a house writer for university engineering programs for a long time, and my first job was proofreading engineering articles. The tech behind bridges and towers and a few other things got stuck in my head, I guess. But that’s just setting, and offstage background. The characters in Bone Arrow — they ran away with the book. I had all these plans for what was supposed to happen, and… yeah. They had other plans. I loved watching the story unfurl. I love hearing reactions from people who have read it.

One thing I should say is that my friends from Viable Paradise who have urged me on while writing this book, and who are a really incredibly generous source of support, even while deep in their own work, have been there from the start on this. I’m very grateful for them. In addition, I took Bone Arrow with me to Taos Toolbox last summer. After an all-night plot-breaking session with my roommate and several amazing upcoming writers and friends, I’d grown a whole new grasp on how to plot story. Bone Arrow and the stories that come after are much stronger for these experiences.

The third novel is set in the same world as Bone Arrow, and the fourth is a distant-future offshoot of Moonmaker.

2. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

All of them, for different reasons. If you press me, I’d say, so far, the 2012 Nature story, “Without.” It’s short, but there’s a lot in it. I’m proud of it mostly because the story wasn’t working, even after a critique. Then I quit taking one character’s side over the other and let both characters have completely valid points, as they saw it. Then it worked. That was an important lesson.

3. You’ve interviewed an impressive collection of genre authors for your “Cooking the Books” project. Where did you get the idea to talk about writing by talking about food?

I’m having a ridiculously fun time with Cooking the Books. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from author A.C. Wise and all the writers who have agreed to be interviewed so far.

Back in a previous life, I interviewed a lot of people for work. I missed doing it. When I started the column, it felt a bit more risky: this time I was interviewing people not for a client, or a journal, but because I really cared about the answers, for me. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The whole thing started at Viable Paradise. Steven Gould (who not only has a new book out, Impulse, but is running for SFWA president – go check him out!) and I were talking about a recipe I had in the back pages of a foreign service cookbook. The recipe was for “Elephant Stew.” (the book also had “Stuffed Camel” and something for cobra.). The first direction is “Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.” Steven Gould said “That sounds like a recipe for a novel.” I asked him if he’d say that in print, and we were off to the races. Shortly after, Elizabeth Bear and Gregory Frost agreed to interviews – and then people began suggesting others who might like to participate as well. I had a lot of fun interviewing more of the Viable Paradise faculty last fall: author James D. Macdonald, Macallister Stone (of Absolute Write), Bart, and author Steven Brust. The December interview with Aliette de Bodard was just amazing, and the upcoming interviews — well, they’re going to be awesome.

I’d love to have a dinner party with the recipes. Except for the marmot. And Joe Haldeman’s foxhole pizza. Also, we’d need more beverage recipes to pull off a good party. I’m also dreaming up ways to do a Cooking the Books game show at a convention.

4. Which fictional recipe would you most like to try?

Oh gosh. All of them? I love new tastes. I might skip the alien food from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

I’m a little limited by food allergies in real life, so that’s probably why I like fictional food so much.

The best source for someone who makes fictional recipes come to life is Chelsea over at Food Thru the Pages and the folks at Fictional Food. Not only are the recipes fantastic, the photography is gorgeous.

5. You attended Viable Paradise in 2011. Now that you’ve had a year to process that experience, what stands out in your memory as the best moment of the workshop? (more…)