Sunday, Briefly

Feeling: Like my old self again. AT LAST.

Doing: Catching up on all the things. Working overtime at the day job, teaching my Plotting workshop, and editing for freelance clients. Plus, started costumes for DragonCon…

Not sleeping enough still, but it’s getting better.

Listening to: Cassandra Wilson, BB King (may he rest in peace), Sinatra.

Watching: I saw…

Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) Indian film somewhat (self-referentially) in the Bollywood style. Cute, happy, gorgeous colors and a focus on food/cooking. At the same time, it dissects the very serious problem of arranged marriages, dowry, and independence. Bonus for looking at it not just as a problem for women, but also for men: young men from “better ” households are essentially auctioned off to the highest bidder — the girl whose family can pay the most in dowry (generally presented as “wedding gifts”, though agreed to in advance between the parents). Change comes as much from women saying “I deserve to be valued for who I am” as men saying “I am not an object to be purchased or sold; I deserve love, too”. 5/5*

Nightcrawler (2014) Props to Jake Gyllenhaal for throwing himself into the character; if you’ve never been in the presence of an extreme narcissist — not the charming kind, but the disaffected, disassociated, bordering on sociopath without realizing most everyone around them sees that is something is just “not right” — then this movie might be worth watching. I turned it off three times, kept turning it back on and then giving up again. The main character was simply and purely unlikable. He was a bad guy. He was cold, violent, a thief and a liar. He didn’t bother trying to pretend otherwise; he pursued what he wanted, as if he deserved it no matter who he hurt in the process of getting it. He had, potentially, a few redeeming qualities that you could maybe make out if you squint hard enough, but nothing to show that he was capable of any sort of arc. By the halfway point it in the movie it seemed clear that he was going to be the catalyst for bad things happening to other people, and if he did suffer any consequences, it wouldn’t change him, only be seen as another setback, until he could steal another chance at his American Dream. (I blame the writing/directing here, not the actors, who gave good performances in the limited way they were allowed.) 2/5*

Wayward Pines (ep 1) A dull, Twin Peaks-flavored show without an original bone in its body. Don’t bother with this one unless you’ve never ever seen or read anything about a small town that isn’t what it appears to be in the first ten seconds. (Though this show is obvious from about ten seconds in.) 1/5*

Maggie (2015) Subtle, understated, purposefully anticlimactic (to be discussed further) story about a dying girl in a zombie-infected America. Notable for its stars, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gives an excellent performance, even given that I was somewhat distracted by someone else cracking up over the incongruity of a couple of Arnold’s lines. I will probably review this in depth later, depending on whether Don gets there first. (You want his review, honestly. It will have a lot more sarcasm.) Worth watching, so go watch it. 5/5*

Reading: NOTHIN’ BUT BLUE SKIES. Non fiction, reading based on Don’s recommendation. Go read his review here.

Writing: … Nothing, lately. I wish, but there’s too much else to do. Some day soon, I will be able to afford to cut down on freelance work and set aside time for my own writing again. Until then, I’m sneaking in bits of writing time wherever I can, and the last few weeks, there hasn’t been an opportunity. I’m hoping to finish revising a story I wrote a couple of months ago, this week, if the day job isn’t too hectic. (Half our admin staff is out for training, I’ve had to give up lunch breaks and am working late on top of it, so it will just depend on how much paperwork gets dropped on my desk before everyone else returns.)

What are you into lately?

What’s An Introvert To Do?

I’ve been at my new day job for seven weeks now. In that time, I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook only a handful of times; published three blog posts here; checked my email occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. In the past, I’ve gone quiet when I’ve been overwhelmed with life — gone into hiding, in a way, from everything that threatened to topple over and bury me under its weight.

This is  not that.

I work in a place that provides a wide range of services to members of our community, most of whom don’t have other options. Continue reading

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:

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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


Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu


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. Continue reading

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?

Continue reading