Follow Friday Five: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, Don Pizarro

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should know about, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to get to know.

The first five are some of my favorite people: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

Fran Wilde writes about invisible sky squid and bone cities and jewel girls, and she makes it all look effortless. There’s an ease about reading her work. I tear through it like a watching a movie. I’m never left, after reading Fran’s work, feeling as is there were things she left out, questions unanswered, worldbuilding she didn’t quite complete. She builds her stories from the basement up, figuring out history, society, cuisine, laws, fashion… all of the little bits of creating a culture which tell us it’s real, even when we don’t notice the effort. Her worlds and characters simply exist, fully formed, doing the things you’d expect for reasons that make sense and every part of it is so authentic that you don’t question it. You just believe it.

That talent didn’t come out of nowhere, and Fran — like everyone else on today’s list — has put in years to get where she is now. She has an MFA in poetry, has taught writing at high schools and colleges, worked in digital media, in communications for non-profits, wrote reviews and articles and blog posts and short stories and now, after all of that, novels. It’s no surprise, then, that her first novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton and Compton Crook awards, and was nominated for a Nebula. (The sequel, Cloudbound, is out now.)

But on top of all of that, she’s a delightful person to be around. She loves adorable socks and good food and her family and friends. She’s enthusiastic about the projects we’ve done together. She’s always made me feel like she’s glad to see me. I’m genuinely happy that she’s my friend.

You can find her online at franwilde.net and on Twitter @fran_wilde

A.C. Wise was born in Canada, but we don’t hold that against her. She’s a short story writer with the range to pull off glittery and fun, or poignant, or emotionally powerful, depending on the story (and sometimes all of those things at once). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies (including mine) plus Clarkesworld, The Dark, Lackington’s MagazineApex, Uncanny Magazine, and dozens more magazines. She has two collections so far: The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, which comes out this month.

Wise has been working on her craft for over a decade, publishing her first short story in 2005, and writing consistently every year since. She also co-edits Unlikely Story, and has spent the last few years actively encouraging women’s voices in fiction. She wrote the popular “Women to Read” column at SF Signal, starting in 2013, until it shut down this summer. (She’s now writing “Words for Thought” each month at Apex Magazine, but the “Women to Read” columns are all archived on her website.) She’s kind and helpful, and she’s always, always, supported me.

You can find her online at acwise.net and on Twitter @ac_wise

Jeff VanderMeer is world famous now, mostly as the author of his Southern Reach Trilogy (soon to be in theaters!), but I know him as one of the hardest-working people in genre fiction. He’s been devoted to writing, editing, and teaching, for decades. He’s been nominated for 14 World Fantasy Awards, has won 5, and a dozen or so other awards as well. He’s defined genres, introduced important translated work to a generation of English-speaking readers, taught at Clarion, Hobart-William Smith College, and Shared Worlds (a two-week residential workshop for teenagers). He writes non-fiction, including book reviews, and helped created Weird Fiction Review, as part of his ongoing contributions to the academic side of genre fiction.

If there’s anyone who’s career I’d like to have when I grow up, it’s Jeff’s.

He’s also continually inspiring as a person. He’s passionate about halting climate change and protecting endangered species. He works constantly, reads voraciously, and shares what he knows. If he reads a story he likes, he’ll tell you. If he discovers a new author, he promotes their book. He’s involved in the genre community, not just as a teacher and publisher, but appearing at events and on panels, serving on judging committees, and behind the scenes, too, quietly guiding and supporting.

On a personal note, he’s inspired me to write the weird little novel in my heart, even if no one else gets it but me.

You can find him online at jeffvanderrmeer.com and on Twitter @jeffvandermeer

Wesley Chu may be the most honest person I know in publishing. The first time I met him, just before The Lives of Tao debuted, he sat down and told me his plan. His goals, his motivations, the arc of his writing career — all laid out. He knew what he needed to accomplish in order to make a career of writing, and what he’d have to give up, too. In the years since, he’s done exactly what he set out to do, by believing in himself, focusing on one thing (writing his novels), and putting his butt in the chair every day. Over and over again.

He doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than he is, and he doesn’t need to. He’s unapologetically driven, but he’s kind. He loves his fans, appreciates his success, and has remained accessible to the people he came up with, even as he’s sold more, gotten movie deals, and could have easily forgotten everyone. But I’ve never seen him dismiss people, or be pretentious. And, he’s fun. He’s energetic. He likes good booze and fine food and will talk for hours. He wants to see the world and to be a part of it at the same time. If you like entertaining books and charming authors, you’ll want to know Wes.

You can find him online at wesleychu.com and on Twitter @wes_chu

Don Pizarro isn’t a household name, yet. He’s had a handful of sales, edited an anthology, voiced half a dozen podcasts, and written a few essays, but rarely promotes himself. He’s incredibly well-read, and has appeared on panels at Boskone, World Fantasy Convention, and given presentations at the Rod Serling Conference, several years in a row, sharing his insight. He’s always up for good conversation about writers and writing, and he listens at least as much as he talks.

Don doesn’t submit very often, though I hope that will change soon. He’s spent the last six years that I’ve known him studying. Reading. Practicing. Taking workshops, going to other author’s events. (He attended Viable Paradise this year, too.) He’s driven to work at his craft, week after week, and the stories he produces have a delicate blend of realism and folklore, personal history and a sense of place. He can write anything — even Lovecraft-inspired erotica — and give it a thoughtful, literary feel. (I’m not kidding. Felicia Day said his Cthulhurotica story was like “Innsmouth meets indie movie”.)

Read “Life After Wartime“, and then find him online at warmfuzzyfreudianslippers.com and on Twitter @DonP

Advice for Writers: How to be found on the Internet

Last week I posted a huge list of Asian speculative fiction writers, and yesterday I updated it to over 100 authors. It’s been linked to from several places, including Angry Asian Man (don’t read that blog? You should!) and SF Signal. From what everyone is saying, there isn’t another list like this out there, that so comprehensively includes links to websites, social media, and sample stories.

Having spent all of those hours, I understand why: most of you writers are making that information damn hard to find.

Some of the authors listed don’t have a web presence at all, and the most I could find was a wikipedia entry. Others had only a Twitter feed, or a livejournal account. Why would you do that? You want people to read your work, right? Want others to share the stories they enjoyed, gain new readers, maybe be contacted for interviews? Writing, in 2013, is no longer a career built on in-store signings and print book/magazine sales. With the ease of reading online or in ebooks, plus the power of Google, most readers aren’t going to bother tracking you down. If it’s all there in front of them, they’ll happily devour your latest work. If it’s a struggle to find you, they won’t do it.

These days, you need a website. It doesn’t have to be called “yourname.com”, though that certainly helps. It can even be a free WordPress site, “yourname.wordpress.com”, if you don’t want to spend $15 a year on building your readership. As long as there is a single, dedicated, place that pops up on search engines when someone types in “Your Name writer”. Create it, add the items I list below, and start using it. Include it in your bio when you get published online, link to it when you promote your work, and generally get used to the idea that you have a central depository to collect the artifacts of your writing career.

Make sure your website has the following sections:

  1. Contact. This can be a real form, with data fields for name, email, and comment, or it can be a page listing the ways that someone can contact you. Either way, you need a obvious spot that someone can click on to get ahold of you. So often I see editors and bloggers lamenting that they couldn’t reach a certain author in time to include them in some project. You don’t want to miss out on those opportunities–even if you chose not to take one, let it be your choice, instead of letting your lack of contact info keep you from getting a choice.
  2. List of publications. WITH LINKS. Even authors with websites forget to do this. You think that because you have a Twitter or blog on LJ you’re covered, since you can post when you make a new sale, and your current followers will all know. Sure, do that too, but make a separate page listing your past publications, and any time one is available online, link to it. New readers will appreciate seeing all of your work, and if they can immediately click on a story and read it, that’s even better. On my site, I have three different pages for this information, because I do three kinds of work: editing, writing (fiction), and writing (non-fiction). You don’t have to do that, as long as you have at least one place with this information. Remember, though, that unless you only publish one kind of writing, once your bibliography starts to be longer than two screen’s worth, it will be easier to read if you break it up.
  3. About Me. This can be your two sentence bio, it can be several paragraphs, doesn’t matter. Something about who you are, in case people go looking for it. Mine is on a separate page, and long, because it includes both a short intro and a longer section about my history, interests, and education–even a disclaimer. You can include your contact information or social media links here, though it’s better to have that on the front page.
  4. Other Things. If you plan to be at conventions, make a page listing those events. If you’ve been interviewed or appeared on podcasts, make a page for that. Free fiction on your website? Make sure we can find it!

Once you have a website set up, you can choose from two main ways of generating content. Some people use a website like a blog, but with more functionality. That’s what I do–my posts are sometimes writing-related essays, sometimes updates, and sometimes self-promotion. You can also use the website strictly for promotion–list upcoming book signings, new sales, and so on.

Personally, I prefer the website with a blog on the main page, because it’s frequently generating new content that your readers will want to see. That brings them back to you often enough they’ll also see the content which furthers your career (sales, events, etc). When you only post the strictly business news, readers often get bored, and that doesn’t help you.

Now that you’re ready to be seen, how do you draw new readers to your website? Twitter. Sure, Facebook works too, though it’s used more by older authors and readers, and of course, your friends and family, but you can’t use it as your sole source of online interaction because it just isn’t popular enough. G+ has the same problem. If you use those platforms, absolutely link to your website, and mention when you have updates. However, I’ve gotten the most new readers, referrals, and potential markets, from Twitter. It’s simple, easy to use, and as long as you’re not constantly spamming your audience (please don’t do that) it’s very effective. Make sure to include your website in your Twitter bio, and include a link back to your Twitter from your website.

Click through for samples of sites that work:  Continue reading

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. Continue reading