Thursday, August 16, 2018

Deadlines Looming

Let me tell you something about deadlines.

Or more specifically, let me tell how I don't get what I see other writers do with deadlines.  Like, I will see people be all, "Oh, yeah, I have a novel due next month.  I better get to work on it."  As in, little-to-no work has been done, and now that the deadline approaches, they're planning on weaponizing their panic and going into FULL POWER MODE, knocking out thousands of words each day and having a finished novel in a couple weeks.

I honestly don't understand how to do this.  Like, my brain recoils at the idea.

For me, deadlines are always a long-range thing.  I look at when something is due, and look where I am right now, and ask myself, "What do I need to do to be two months before the deadline?" and start working on that goal.  Because I know things will get in the way, I know there will be setbacks, and it's best to charge in with a plan before even getting to that point. 

I mean, people ask me what the "secret" is to my output, and a big part of that is in the planning.  I know what the core of the next year and a half looks like, writing-wise, and I plan for that.   I don't think I could do it otherwise.

And that takes discipline, and even then, the schedule slips and things get behind.

SPEAKING OF, I'm working hard on finishing The Shield of the People before its deadline, and The Way of the Shield is coming out in just a few weeks, so I might be pretty scarce here in the coming days. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

ArmadilloCon is the best con you aren't going to, and you need to change that

This past weekend was ArmadilloCon, which truly was an excellent whirlwind of a convention.  I've been hearing a lot of positive buzz and feedback from several corners, and the phrase "best ArmadilloCon ever" has been whispered here and there.  And I think, yeah, maybe so.  It's hard for me to gauge exactly, of course.  On the whole, each year is better for me, but each year has been marking my steady transition from hopeful-aspiring-writer to pro-with-a-stack-of-books, including the con treating me like a pro when I was "guy-with-an-agent-but-no-sales", which is an incredibly strange and frustrating stage in one's writing career.

But here is the thing about ArmadilloCon: it is probably the most friendly con for the aspiring-pro-writer out there.  The writer's workshop is a centerpiece for the con, and it's probably the most valuable one-day workshop out there.  I mean, most people can't afford the money or time to do something like Odyssey or Clarion, which are multiple weeks, but even if you don't live in Texas: you can probably swing a long weekend. 

More to the point, the con is geared toward being an extended hand to people who are striving to be a professional writer.  Panels on craft, panels on business of writing, and most of the pros who go there make a point of being open and welcome. 

I mean, I've seen several cons where the "pro" space and the "fan" space are very specifically segregated, either implicitly or explicitly, and that often leaves the hopeful pro feeling left a bit at sea.  But, many of our regular pros (including myself) came up through the workshop, and we all still have vivid memories of being there.  We know how hard it is.  We want to make it easier.

Also, the con is just filled with good energy.  There's been a lot of specific steps taken to make the con more open and welcoming to people from traditionally marginalized groups, and continuing to improve and expand on that that has been a real goal. 

We, the SFF Writing Community of Austin-- as well as the greater area of Texas as a whole-- are striving to give all of you: the established pro, the prospective hopeful, the eager fan-- the best con experience we can give you.  We'd love for you to join us down here.

Plus: Tacos.  And barbecue. And did I mention tacos? 

Really.  Come on down.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

ArmadilloCon 2018

ArmadilloCon is this weekend!  I've got a packed schedule, and here it is.  Please stop by if you're in Austin, say hello, maybe even quote the Tarian Oath and win an ARC of Way of the Shield.  Here's the schedule:

Friday, August 39am: ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop
5pm: Avengers: Infinity War - Love It? Hate It? Both? And What Next?
Ballroom F
Marshall Ryan Maresca (moderator), Rick Klaw, T. Eric Bakutis, Paige E. Ewing
Our panelists will talk about Avengers: Infinity War. Is it great or terrible? Did they love it, hate it or both? Why? What do they hope for out of the planned "Avengers 4?"

8pm: Magic and Muskets
Conference Center
Marshall Ryan Maresca (moderator), Thomas Wagner, Adrian Simmons, Stina Leicht
Flintlock fantasy is a relatively new subgenre of epic fantasy (or perhaps not; there was gunpowder, at least, in The Hobbit). What are the rules for this newish (?) area of fantasy? What are some favorite examples?

Saturday, August 4
10am: Worldbuilding Techniques
Conference Center
Stina Leicht (moderator), Robert J. Sawyer, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Martha Wells, Adrian Simmons
What methods and techniques can our panelists recommend? How do they handle mistakes? Can they recommend any resources to new or struggling writers?

2:30pm: The Van Show Interviews Marshall Ryan Maresca
Southpark A, 2:30pm - 3pm
Marshall Ryan Maresca
Be a part of the audience as the Austin Public Library's Van Show puppet interviews Marshall Ryan Maresca.

3pm: Writing the Other
Southpark B
Marshall Ryan Maresca (moderator), William Ledbetter, Marguerite Reed, John Hornor Jacobs, Stina Leicht
Our panelists will talk about how you can build your skill for writing about characters whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity differs from your own.What resources are available? What process do they use? What are the potential pitfalls?

4pm: Best and Worst of Streaming SFF
Ballroom F
Dantzel Cherry (moderator), Marshall Ryan Maresca, Paige E. Ewing
Genre stories by definition are limited in popularity even as their influence spreads widely. With their understanding of audience, we are seeing a wealth of original and made-for-tv genre programming. How well has Netflix used its money and information to bring us shows we want to watch? What stories are they missing out on?

5pm: Autographing
Dealers Room, 5pm - 6pm
Deji Bryce Olukoton, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Jessica Reisman, Amanda Downum, Rhonda Eudaly, Howard Waldrop
Autographing

7pm: Career Management for Writers
Ballroom D
Marshall Ryan Maresca (moderator), Deji Bryce Olukoton, A. Lee Martinez, Emily McKay, Rebecca Schwarz
How do you manage your career as a writer? How do you know when it is time to switch agents or publishers? How do you manage your identity in the marketplace when you change up what you are writing? What kinds of goals and measures do our panelists set for themselves?

Sunday, August 5
1pm: Fantasy Adventure - Readings by Marshall Ryan Maresca & Adrian Simmons
Conference Center
Marshall Ryan Maresca (moderator), Adrian Simmons
Reading - Marshall Ryan Maresca

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Looking Back To The "Classics"-- Rereading my Problematic Fave

So, here's a thing that's been happening on my Twitter the past couple weeks:
At what point does something become a "classic", and how do we bestow that honor?  And when a book has a generation between when it came out and now, how does it read in the present?

These are questions I've asked myself as I've dug into a re-read of The Belgariada series that was very influential to me in my youth, but I hadn't read in years.  And how does it hold up?  How does it not?  How problematic is my problematic fave?  I've been digging into this as I re-read and livetweet the re-read.  Sometimes you have to tear down a classic, even one you love.

You can follow along with the #Belgariad hashtag, or here's a threadreader roll-up of everything so far.   Right now I'm about midway through the third book, and I've been going along at about a book a week.  (Though expect me to get a bit behind next week, because Many Things Are Happening.) 

It's all been a very interesting and enlightening process.  A lot to unpack in it all.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Putting Projects on the Backburner

If you go up to a writer and say, "I've got this idea for a book", if they're being honest, they will probably say something along the lines of "I don't need ideas, I need time."

Ideas are pretty easy.  Manifesting them is the tough part.

I rarely truly abandon projects.  I have a few "terminal cases", projects that I really have no intention to get back to any time in the near future, but are they truly "abandoned"? Or are they in a wood-lined cask, aging and ripening until they're ready? 

Not sure.

At this point, it's more a matter of priorities.  Which projects need to be done now (because, say, they're under contract), and which are for somewhere down the road.
Speaking of Down The Road, THE WAY OF THE SHIELD is out soon, and you have two possible chances to win an ARC before it comes out.  One is to come to ArmadilloCon, where I'll be teaching the writers workshop and appearing on panels.  The first person to come up to me an make a decent attempt at reciting the Tarian Oath will get one ARC:

“With Shield on arm and sword in hand
I will not yield, but hold and stand,
As I draw breath, I’ll allow no harm,
And fight back death, with shield on arm.”

Now, what if you can't come to Austin, I fully understand.  Here's the other way: below I’m going to put eight hints for the titles of eight prospective Maradaine Phase II Novels. And so we’re on the same page, these titles each would represent Book Four and Five of the four respective series, but I’ve mixed up the order so it’s not completely obvious what’s what.

Email your guesses to me before AUGUST 1st, 2018.  The entry that is the most correct (or, barring that, most entertaining in incorrectness) will win an ARC (limited to mailing in US and Canada).  Sound good?  Here goes:
The Q_____ G_____
The A_____ of C_____
The S_____ of the C_____
An U_____ of U_____ M_____
The C_____ of the C_____
A P_____ of P_____
The N_____ K_____ of R_____ S_____
A_____ and D_____

Happy guessing!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My To-Be-Read List

My to-be-read list is shamefully large.  I have SO MANY books on my shelf that I have every intention of reading.  I really do.  But I haven't done it yet.

This is why I'm completely understanding whenever someone tells me that Thorn or Murder or Holver Alley is on their TBR list but they haven't gotten to it yet.  I get it.  This is how we all operate.  We have to make choices with our time, and for me right now, that involves drafting Shield of the People, going over the final proofs of Way of the Shieldreading and critiquing the pieces for the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop, and also taking care of the rest of my life so I don't collapse in a heap of unhealthiness.

(My knee went out on me last week, which made life challenging.  Back up to snuff now, though.)

That said, I am currently re-reading.  Namely, I'm re-reading The Belgariadas I haven't read it in almost a decade, and diving deep into it on Twitter with the #BelgariadRead hashtag.  Come check it out.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dishes to Bring to the Party

This week at SFFSeven, we're talking about things to bring to a party.  As it happens, I'm going to one tonight, for Austin SFF Writer Amanda Downum.  So, what am I bringing?  I'm making a cochinita pibil.  It's a slow cooked pork in an achiote marinade.  It's SO good.
Here's how you make the achiote marinade:
achiote paste
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of orange juice
¼ cup of water
all spice (8 to 10 balls)
black pepper to taste
pinch of cumin
Blend all that into a thick marinade.  Marinate pork, cut into one-inch chunks, with that good stuff overnight.  Then slow cook it in a low temperature (the hardcore way is to wrap it in banana leaves), or in a sous vide.    Meanwhile, also make pickled purple onions:
3 purple onions
vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Put a pot of water to boil. Slice the onions into thin slices and blanch in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Move to another container, cover with vinegar, and add salt and water to taste.
This makes for delicious tacos, or served with black beans and rice.