Conversations Between Writers

David Anaxagoras

Humans and human analogs, Dave is a Good Human™ and he’s probably the most authentic human I’ve come to know in any form. I know that’s a really weird thing to say about someone, but you know how some people would still be basically themselves if they were in a life-like android? I just can’t see that working out for him. There’s a fundamental part of his self that’s wrapped up in the very act of being human, and that makes him a good writer and a very good person to know. David Anaxagoras is the Creator and Co-Executive Producer of the Amazon Studios kids TV series “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street“. You can learn more about him at http://davidanaxagoras.com/ and please follow him on Twitter.

GG-TW_111314_v1_00003

 

 

Minerva Zimmerman: How’s the weather down in California?

David Anaxaagoras: The weather has been very nice in my neighborhood. Not too hot, which is usually the case. It’s cooling off so much I might even light the pilot on the furnace.

MZ: That always freaked me out.

DA: I had to have the Gas company help with my water heater. I went a week with cold showers.

MZ: Oh man, that’s… I mean that’s practically camping in your own house

DA: Yes, that’s how I would describe most of my existence. I’ve been here 8 months and I’m still unpacking. Or not unpacking is more accurate.

MZ: I honestly have switched from not unpacking to “storing things in totes” and just claim it as storage. I’m finally getting through the totes slowly… 7 years later

DA: The thought had occurred to me… I have to get to my books, then maybe it will be time to surrender.

MZ: I am seeing Gortimer EVERYWHERE the past few days. It makes me grin

DA: I’m glad to hear it’s being seen all over. I mean, *I* see it, but I would expect to. I’ve been grinning for months.

MZ: The show really reminds me of those 1980s Wonderworks movies. I don’t know if you remember seeing them. I think it was maybe ABC that put them on Saturday afternoons?

DA: It’s ringing a bell, I’m trying to think of a specific one.

MZ: It’s how the BBC Narnia movies were shown on US TV for one. There was also one called Konrad about an instant boy (in a can) who was delivered to the wrong house

DA: Gortimer really was born from a desire to see a live-action kid adventure show. Mostly what we have now are sitcoms — so many sitcoms — and they are sort of ghettoized on kid TV channels. In my time, kid shows were family shows — they didn’t sent parents and older sibs running from the room. Everyone could enjoy them. Shows I remember were VOYAGERS and of course BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which to kid-me was just another adventure.

MZ: I love how it has a magic-realism thing going on

DA: I think it comes from my love of The Twilight Zone. In Gortimer, inner turmoil often shows up in the external world through a bit of magic.

MZ: Yeah. There are fantastical things that happen but they do reveal inner turmoil in a way that kids and adults alike can relate to

DA: I hadn’t planned on any fantasy element originally, but the pilot script took a left turn and I just followed. I’m glad I did. The other thing is, as you alluded to, in a kid’s world reality just seems a little more plastic. Try convincing a young kid they will never fit down the drain and they don’t have to worry about getting sucked down the bathtub drain — you can’t.

MZ: Hey, I’m still vaguely worried about that.

DA: Maybe you are just smart that way

MZ: Also my Dad told me that the drain worked because there was a little man under the hole with a bucket and that’s why sometimes the drain got slow

DA: Adults have no idea how terrifying their stories can be sometimes. I used to, when I was a preschool teacher, bake a gingerbread man with the kids and of course I would hide him before we went back to get him out of the oven. Invariable there is always one child scared to death at the thought of a gingerbread man running around the school. I think they’re the smart ones.

MZ: Man a horror story about a Gingerbread Man would be pretty scary. I mean, it could fit anywhere and all you would find was a little bit of crumbs where it had been, maybe a red hot

DA: I think kids live in that world, where it can be scary sometimes and we don’t understand it, forget what it’s like. It’s why I think it’s important to go ahead and acknowledge those emotions in kid stories, go ahead and have a story that scares them a little.

MZ: Being a kid IS scary!

DA: It helps to have friends.

MZ: Yes. And being alone and not knowing what is going on is the worst. That happens a lot as a kid, it feels a bit like being an alien.

DA: Or like you are Jack living in a land of giants. Nothing is your size. Nothing seems made for you. It’s someone else’s world. The scariest thing of all is that you are destined to turn into one of these creatures.

MZ: Yeah, that IS scary. I’m still scared of that too.

DA: Having a show like Gortimer is like having a second childhood. It’s given me so much to appreciate and treasure. It’s a ton of fun.

MZ: I think it is awesome that someone who has spent so much time with so many kids is writing a show like this too. I mean, I remember stories of things you were helping kids with and teaching them when you were still teaching. You know that they’re real people.

DA: When I first started I didn’t have any training, so I had to let the kids lead me into their world, so to speak. I had to meet them wherever they were. I think getting an education in early ed is a really good thing, but I’m glad I started out just being curious and open to their experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever made peace with growing up myself, anyway.

MZ: I am not sure I trust people who are happy about being an adult other than when it means you can have cake for breakfast whenever you want.

DA: Oh, shallots, I could have had cake this morning!

MZ: It’s true!

DA: Being an adult isn’t quite the fun I expected. There’s the freedoms, but you just don’t understand or expect all the stress involved.

MZ: Yeah, I think that’s why people who are comfortable with the level of responsibility that comes with adulthood worry me, like they can’t possibly be actually thinking about it.

Have you adopted Ranger’s food “swears” in your everyday life?

DA: I try to use food swears online because i have kids following me now. And I had to stop swearing all the time because I was on set. I don’t think kids are so fragile, but I think it’s disrespectful and also, it’s important to me that the set be a really positive happy place for the kids who spend so much time and work so hard there.

MZ: I think my favorite food swear is “SOUP!!!”

DA: I tried to use “Kale!” but it just sounded like a non-word when uttered with curse-energy. Like a sneeze.

MZ: and you might get mobbed in a Trader Joes yelling it.

DA: Might be a good diversionary tactic, though.

MZ: Sassafras would work well as a swear, there are just certain sounds that work. Kale sounds like you’re being stabbed with a spork

DA: I feel like that one must have been used. there was something about “pork and beans” that felt good. Explosive words or sounds…

MZ: fricatives

DA: That’s the word.

MZ: Hey, apparently I still remember something from Linguistics

DA: Hardest class I ever had.

MZ: omg yes I almost failed

DA: So much jargon. Really tough.

MZ: It’s more like math in how you think about it but you’re using all these language words and it’s just brain-breaking. It’s like that thing where you say what color the text of a color word is instead of what the word says.

DA: Ironic for a Linguistics class. Or perhaps appropriate. Our Prof promised a multiple choice final and then sprung an essay test on us. Multiple students fled the class in tears before the test was over.

MZ: …yeah I would have. Well, I couldn’t have. But I would have wanted to. Getting a 2.0 or higher was required for my major

DA: For undergrad?

MZ: Yeah, Anthropology

DA: Huh. Of all things.

MZ: It’s one of the 4 fields of Anthropology. You couldn’t show you had a grasp of the topic otherwise.

DA: Linguistics?

MZ: Yup. Studying humanity through how they communicate

DA: What are the other 3? Something biological, something science, something literary?

MZ: cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology and biological.

Biological anthropology was human bone lab. I am a horrible person to try and watch Bones with.

DA: When I was an undergrad I remember feeling like I wanted to have 20 lives so I could study EVERYTHING. Four years later that feeling was GONE.

MZ: Yeah, I wanted to do a double major and I got pretty close… but my husband moved to Oregon while I was one semester off of finishing my degree and I lost all wish to diversify my studies. Just wanted to get it done. Life, never works the way you think it will. That’s not a bad thing though.

DA: Tell me about it. It’s very unlikely I should be sitting here chatting with you right now.

MZ: Have you always been a screenwriter?

DA: I wrote my first screenplay in the third grade. It was a spy spoof. So, yes. There were times when I was focused on short fiction, but eventually came back to scripts.

MZ: I had a TA position for the drama teacher in HS, and there wasn’t really anything for me to do. So I started reading all the script files for every play the school had ever bought. There’s a certain rhythm to a good script. You can learn to see it on a page even. Once you’ve read a lot of examples you can see it in the text breaks

DA: It’s interesting the way writers often educate themselves. They haunt libraries or find themselves in a position where they have access to material. There’s a kind of almost unconscious attraction.

MZ: The words call.

DA: I loved books just as physical objects before I was really even a reader. Even the smell of them.

MZ: Apparently it is vanillin released as the cellulose breaks down, there is a scientific reason for book smell

DA: Well now you’ve taken all the magic out of it 😊

MZ: I dunno, I work with old stuff. I think that just lets you know how to cast the spell.

DA: Are you putting your degree to good use?

MZ: sort of accidentally?

DA: Good enough.

MZ: I didn’t mean to work at a museum, but I kind of fell into it and had more experience than I thought. Plus, all writing is part anthropology. Mostly I started on an Anthropology degree because I saw what the English degree homework was like, and I really REALLY hate diagraming sentences.

DA: There’s something nice about those happy accidents. I don’t believe in any sort of supernaturally guided destiny, but it was a revelation when I sold my pilot that when things work — they really work. All the pushing and strategizing and planning and sweating, and in the end, when it was time it just took off like magic.

MZ: I am really really happy for you. I think it is a wonderful show for real kids with just enough weirdness and magic.

DA: Thank you. I’m excited by all the great reviews, because they are positive yes, but also because people seem to really understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. And it makes me really happy to see parents and kids tweeting about it and excited about discovering a new show they enjoy.

 

Conversations Between Writers

Ryan Macklin

Macklin

 

Ryan Macklin is an award-winning game designer, writer, editor, and human of many talents. You can find out more about him at http://ryanmacklin.com/ and follow him on Twitter @RyanMacklin

 

 

Minerva Zimmerman: ‪Ok then, for those that are not aware of Ryan Fucking Macklin From the Internet, how do you introduce yourself?

Ryan Macklin:  ‪I guess it depends on the context. If I’m talking with game people, “tabletop roleplaying game designer and editor.” If I’m talking with fiction people or other professionals, then it’s just “editor.” If I’m talking with software developers, I might jokingly call myself an “IT survivor.” And if I’m forced into an awkward airplane seat neighbor conversation, I introduce myself as little as possible. Mainly to avoid the dreaded “Oh, have you written anything I’ve read?” question. Though, lately I’ve responded to that question with “So you know, all writers hate that question.” 🙂

MZ: ‪That’s a good response. I am stealing that.

RM: ‪But mainly, I’m an RPG guy.

MZ: ‪I’m partially asking because I’m still not 100% what all you do.

RM: ‪Hah! To be fair, people outside of RPG-land don’t really know what all goes into making games. I mean, there’s the abstract concepts, but how those skills overlap with “real world” stuff is weird.

MZ: ‪I will admit I mostly stopped worrying about it because you seem to hand me booze every time I start thinking too hard about it

RM: ‪That is how I got many of the jobs I’ve had since I started doing this in 2007.

RM: ‪But in an effort to explain, a game designer is this weird job that’s part psychology, part technical writing, part creative writing, part UX design, and possibly some other parts depending on your role as a designer, developer, editor, and so on.

MZ: ‪What’s your favorite part (speaking of questions you hate)

RM: ‪At least it’s not That Question. 😀 To pin it down, um, hmm. Mind hacking.

MZ: ‪Cause you’re a pretty creative writer, but you’re also a programmer, and a nuts and bolts kind of guy. So I wouldn’t try to guess.

RM: ‪The essence of game design, to (mis)quote my friend and renown game designer John Wick, is in creating situations of non-optimal choices.

MZ: ‪Same with writing

RM: ‪Right. Well, kinda.

MZ: ‪I mean if you give characters optimal choices you have to explain why they take the wrong one.

RM: ‪Like, in fiction writing, you’re creating the non-optional decision point and choosing the decision. And the lead-up to said decision point. ‪I don’t have the advantage of knowing the lead-up or choosing the decision for the player. Generally speaking. Sometimes I know the lead-uip

MZ: Yeah, I’m not entirely certain I would enjoy RPG writing because of that.

RM: ‪I think you might… if only because “RPG writing” is like saying you “write English.” It encompasses a lot of things.

MZ: ‪I did some computer game writing, but even then I got to write stuff out for all the decision trees.

RM: ‪I generally like writing systems—the rules and mechanics for games where in-the-moment decisions lie. But there’s adventure writing, which involves a lot of prose and broader narrative decisions. Or writing options that the rules use, which are more decisions to choose from.

RM: ‪Or writing up creatures that interface with the rules and create dynamic tension. If you’re making the sort of game that uses creatures.

MZ: ‪I do enjoy Storium

RM: ‪Right! More as a player or narrator?

MZ: ‪Player. When I try to write my own setting for it I get bored super fast.

RM: ‪Heh.

MZ: ‪I work on it every so often, but I figure if I’m boring myself it isn’t good for players.

RM: ‪I was a stretch goal for Storium, with a setting based on my own IP, so I kinda have an advantage there. But also it’s kinda easy to get bored of writing the same thing. And there’s even another thing. Like, my intro for my Storium world needs to be pregnant with choice and story possibilities, not a preamble to a world.

MZ: ‪Hmm. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong.

RM: ‪Like, it’s easy to fall into a trap about telling a brief of what’s happened in the world up to the play point. Readers love that, but it’s not as useful for play. Useful, but less so, so it needs to be less of a priority.

MZ: ‪Well, it’s only like 1/20th of what you need to create at most

It might be the first thing players read, but it probably shouldn’t be the first thing you write as a creator.

RM: ‪You know that writer trick of writing scaffolding you think you need, like detailed backgrounds, and then not publishing it as part of your work except where needed and with something else going on (like emotional interaction)?

MZ: ‪Yeah, I do a lot of that. maybe 1/100th of what I research ends up in the story.

RM: ‪Right, because fiction writing today focuses on character lenses, yeah?

MZ: ‪Well, mine does for sure.

RM: ‪We’re not living in the Tolkien world-lens time. People write like that, but it’s not in fashion.

MZ: ‪I’d argue Harry Potter is more world-focused. mostly because I think Harry is the worst character.

RM: ‪I haven’t ready Harry Potter. I was a movie-watcher, until the movie with the fucking giant spiders, and then I mic-dropped on all things Harry Potter. Except for Wizard People, Dear Reader. WIZARD PEOPLE, DEAR READER forever. So I’ll have to ask you: is there a lot in those books where you get exposition about the world directly from the author? And not from a character telling Harry something?

MZ: ‪mmm no, it doesn’t do that style.

RM: ‪Right. So in fiction-land, there’s training to at least deliver world content that way. In RPGs, there isn’t a character lens in the prose, but in play. So the words, even when it’s creative setting writing, is author-delivered. Even in games I’ve worked on like The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game or The Leverage Roleplaying Game, where we used in-world voices for the text, it was treating them as the author rather than two characters talking. (Well, we broke the fourth wall with Dresden in marginalia comments. They also did that with The Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game.) So it’s easy to fall back into the “poorly execute Tolkien” trap with stuff like Storium world writing.

MZ: ‪Huh. Now I’m trying to think of all the formats that have a narrator to see if there’s new RPG opportunities there. Like… maybe, Nature Documentary RPG.

RM: ‪That could work, if you know what the point of play is from an emotional standpoint.

MZ: ‪Well if the players are the animals being documented, and the GM is David Attenborough

RM: ‪But that is its own trap. A lot of early game designers try to make games that emulate a genre of storytelling, because we think in analogies, rather than be homages that appreciate a genre of storytelling without trying to be awkward about it.

Okay, let’s run with that. So the players are playing (important difference) animals being documented.

MZ: ‪if you did it sort of like a theater game

RM: ‪The GM could also be Morgan Freeman.

MZ: ‪so the players are throwing out things the narrator has to deal with and vice versa

RM: ‪So, we know what the characters are doing. We have a lot of ideas about what the players could do, but what do we want them to feel? What’s the thing we want to reward players for doing?

MZ: ‪Being… interesting?

RM: ‪And therein lies the problem. That’s not something you can really reward. And it’s its own reward anyway. There’s a game called Fiasco. It’s billed as the Coen Brothers story game. Tabletop has featured it. It’s pretty fun. The player behavior that gets rewarded is putting characters in difficult situations and building up an arc, either a good arc or a tragic, horrific downfall. Those are my modes of trying to be interesting. So if we’re doing a nature documentary thing, what does the “filmmaker” (to give the GM a genre label) want? To film interesting stuff. As a player, then the filmmaker wants to push for interesting stuff, but doesn’t necessarily have control of the environment because they’re an outsider. I dunno what to do about the animals. 🙂

MZ: ‪well, they should want what animals want right? Food, sex, survival

RM: ‪Then it starts to sound like a board game, because roleplaying a lion that’s DTF isn’t necessarily interesting. Unless you’re LARPing, maybe. But it could be a board game with a resource economy and other weird stuff. A lot of people who make RPGs early on end up really making superficial board games that don’t actually have much connection to the story they’re trying to faciliate.

MZ: ‪See this is why it hard for me to wrap my brain around. So in a RPG the player has to be an element of design?

RM: ‪A primary element! It’s easy to see what characters want. It’s easy to see what we want out of characters, which is of course not the same thing. But mind-hacking players to feel enjoyment, sorrow, contemplation, etc. is the real task of a game designer. Conveniently, it’s a co-op thing. We’re not CIA torture-masters or anything. Even if our games have rules for being a CIA torture-master.

MZ: ‪:D

RM: ‪There’s a system I would play that nature documentary in, but it wouldn’t be about the animals. There’s a game called Primetime Adventures, which is about playing a TV show, using a TV show framework rather than a game about combat. I would use that, where one person is the documentarian, another is the helicopter pilot, another is the producer, etc. There’s also a GM, who plays out the role of everyone else. And that game really becomes about the drama between the crew. That’s a human story that people can hook into. With a system that rewards dramatic struggle and shapes the arcs of characters over play. It’s not what you’re talking about, though.

MZ: ‪Hmm. Yeah I see how what I was thinking doesn’t work well.

RM: ‪I’m gonna super have to think about how the heck to do what you’re thinking. Like, maybe it could, if you know what the players want. Maybe the players want to frustrate the documentarian, and the point of play is that struggle.

MZ: ‪animals trying not to be documented?

RM: ‪It might still be more board game. Or maybe a Daniel Solis-style writing game like Happy Birthday, Robot! or Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Or doing things that the documentarian already has. Or ruining something, like following a gazelle for three weeks, only for it to be eaten by a lion off-camera.

MZ: ‪yeah it does seem more board game Ok, so let’s drop this idea for now and try to focus on the things you DO need for a good RPG.

RM: ‪I recommend writers who like games check out the Daniel Solis games I mentioned, because they’re pretty cool. They aren’t games where you play roles, but write parts of sentences with specific words while playing a game that constrains you.

MZ: ‪I think I’m straight up going at RPG creation from the wrong end.

RM: ‪So, give me a quick pitch for a setting. Just a sentence.

MZ: ‪Gnomes leave home to make their way in the world.

RM: ‪Awesome. Give me a broad, ongoing trouble that these gnomes have to face in the world. Be as high-concept or specific as you like. But definitely ongoing.

MZ: ‪Prejudice from the humans who don’t believe gnomes should work outside the lawn.

RM: ‪Awesome

RM: ‪Okay, now for an impending trouble. Next week, something’s going to happen. No one knows it’s about to happen, but it could turn the gnomes’ lives upside-down. And it’s not related to the prejudice. What is it?

MZ: ‪Hmm Can it connect in any way?

RM: ‪If that’s the idea you have, let’s start there.

MZ: ‪Well, I have a couple ideas… maybe some kind of illness or a major problem with all the lawns of the world. Or gnome terrorists could attack human targets and its obvious to all gnomekind that the humans will never be able to stop them cause… reasons.

RM: ‪Those are both things. Maybe concurrent, maybe one now and another is in your pocket for later. Alright, you have a setting sketch.

MZ: ‪Oh and my idea was that the players have to create characters who desire an occupation that is completely un-gnomelike. like astronaut, rock star, dancer, hair dresser, etc.

RM: ‪Next up: figure out what the player-characters are doing in this world, then make up some fronts that have either antithetical or sideways objectives, and some places that serve as sets for action or intrigue. Okay, so rebel gnomes.

MZ: ‪yes, who seeks to find a place in wider society

RM: ‪Thus, you have gnomes that want to self-oppress. You have humans that hate “sidewalk gnomes” Maybe you throw something else in there, like a secret griffon cult that sometimes helps gnomes out, but it’s never out of generosity

MZ: ‪Ooo and humans who want to “save” gnomes

RM: ‪Yup! So, we’re talking about setting here, but there’s an organizational piece that comes to mind: are these protagonists assumed to be working together toward some common goal, or are they merely connected by their desire for these individual goals? Those are two very different dynamics: one is a single story with side plots, and the other is a collection of multiple stories that sometimes interweave. Totally different gameplay requirements.

MZ: ‪I like the interweaving idea for this.

RM: ‪You may well have a GM-less, round-robin sort of RPG. Fiasco doesn’t have a GM. All of the roles of a single facilitator, rules arbiter, and source of adversity are distributed ad hoc.

MZ: ‪Well, this is my Storium idea I keep getting bored of

RM: ‪It might not be a great Storium premise. Maybe it is, but I can see a bunch of scenes where it’s just about one character, maybe with a second as an aside, chasing a dream. Then you have scenes where they’re all dealing with threats. Actually, that’s probably fine as a Storium premise, because the asynchronous element means you don’t have bored, inactive players sitting at a table waiting to be engaged. There’s plenty of other Storium games and the Internet in general to keep someone occupied.

MZ: ‪I think it could work… but I probably do need some kind of unifying thread

RM: ‪Characters are chasing a fantastic dream while suffering the slings and arrows that come with rebelling against their own kind and against an oppressive majority.

MZ: ‪there still needs to be something that keeps throwing the players back together toward one goal

RM: ‪That’s where an ongoing and impending threat come in that’s global to the group the PCs belong in. Survival is the default. And it’s a default for a reason.

MZ: ‪I want this to be funnier

RM: ‪Social survival can be made funny. Rather than physical survival. ‪But this isn’t like a courtly farce, where the characters have cause to be in the same place and deal with each other.

MZ: ‪I’m kind of inclined to go back to the TV idea and have the players be on a gnome reality show

RM: Yes!

MZ: ‪So the players have agreed to this as a stepping stone toward their dream but no one has their best interest in mind except themselves

RM: ‪So the ongoing problems are going to be more reality-show based. At some point, my publisher for Backstory Cards is going to finish and release the most awesome reality show-themed RPG ever: Hyperreality. Lillian and I playtested it a couple years ago, and it was hysterical. I kinda love that society has more or less co-opted “hysterical” to be a synonym of “hilarious,” rather than its pseudo-medical definition. It feels very mocking of pseudoscience.

MZ: ‪There are worse things to mock

RM: ‪True. I used to be a government employee.

MZ: ‪Heh.

RM: ‪Oh, if you want the see the framework I’m using for this setting building stuff, check out the Game Creation chapter of Fate Core System. It’s available for free in e-form, including at fate-srd.com

I pretty much was just riffing on what we wrote there.

MZ: ‪Awesome. Well, this Conversation ended up more like a hands-on game design brainstorm.

RM: ‪Welcome to 50% of RPG panels. The other 50% become GM advice panels, no matter what they started out to be.

MZ: ‪Hahahahaha. Let me tell you about my character. 😛

RM: ‪I’m sorry, I think my cable is starting to go out. Forever.

MZ: ‪ahahaha

RM: ‪There was a cool “Tell me about your character, $5” booth at Big Bad Con. Money to go to Doctors Without Borders. It was fun.

MZ: ‪That’s pretty brilliant Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

RM: ‪I like telling people that I know more about the legal ramifications of cow STDs than most folks do, but there’s little to talk about other than what I just typed. You’d rather hear about my character, let’s put it that way.

MZ: ‪hahahaa. Careful. You start with the cow STD’s and I’ll start talking about seals sexually molesting penguins in the wild.

RM: ‪I saw that across Twitter today!

MZ: ‪(DO NOT GOOGLE THE VIDEO)

RM: ‪The article, not the act.

MZ: ‪I dunno, I’ve seen your part of the internet…

RM: ‪It’s funny. You introduce me as Ryan Fucking Macklin from the Internet. I haven’t really done much of that bombastic RPG designer persona since my now-wife and I moved in together. I hung up that giant flask. My “Night Macklin” Twitter account doesn’t get as much love. My hair hasn’t been dyed pink in over a year.

MZ: ‪Eh, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe we should make an account for your Liver and its plan for World Domination now that you’re not keeping it in submission.

RM: ‪Hah! I tell people that thanks to the medication I take, I have a mortal’s liver now, so I can’t go on holy crusades in bars.

MZ: ‪Eh, part of the fun of holy crusades in bars is to actually drink much less than everyone around you so you get the best blackmail possible.

RM: ‪The medication also makes it so that Benadryl makes me sleepy now. Use to not. Really ticks me off.

MZ: ‪Ginger Ale. The evil drinker’s secret weapon.

RM: ‪I tell my own blackmail stories, so that no one else can use them as ammo against me. There was one convention where I was sooooooo hungover for my game the next day, I ended up being sick and even nodding off in the bathroom mid-game for almost 30 minutes. I apologized at the end of the session, because we didn’t finish. One player said “Thanks for running! I got the real Ryan Macklin experience!” That was a call to action.

MZ: ‪Yikes.

RM: ‪I want that story once, not again. 😀 Well, I didn’t want it then, but you know what I mean. I didn’t want that repeated. That was during my self-medicated, self-destructive era. I suppose I sort of associate my bombastic self with that period of time. I still play a bit hyped up. I mean, I wore a damn cape up to an award show last August and handed it to the host like he was my valet. But sober 🙂

MZ: ‪:)

RM: ‪That said, being a lush totally got me a lot of work, which lead to the context in which I met my wife, so hey. Not that I advise that for others. Being a lush is not a cheap hobby!

MZ: ‪Nor is being a game designer.

RM: ‪Well, being a tabletop game designer is about being a pauper. So if I’m to be a lush, it has to be because friends and fans want to buy drinks for me. Thus, a self-correcting problem. Except for the yearly bottle of Sortilege that I get from a fantastic friend of mine in Canada. I think I’ve had you try that, yeah? The pancake liqueur?

MZ: ‪is that the maple.. yeah, that stuff. Delicious. I only got a tiny taste cause I was driving.

RM: ‪We will have to rectify that. There’s a layered shot that my roommate and I came up with. It’s that, Sortilege Cream (which is like pancake Bailey’s), and Kahula. IT’S AMAZING. Two of those things are only available in Canada. One only it…Quebec and Ottawa, maybe?

MZ: ‪I will have to check the list of places I am banned from returning to.

RM: ‪Have booze mules.

MZ: ‪Can we call Canadian’s mules? Wouldn’t they be booze moose?

RM: ‪Antlers are hard to get onto planes.

MZ: ‪well, in the passenger cabin, sure. I’m a museum professional. I know how to ship a moose.

RM: ‪You know how to ship a moose. I know about cow STDS. This is a game.

MZ: ‪a very terrible game 🙂

RM: ‪Life is a terribly designed game.

MZ: ‪It’s like they weren’t even trying to balance gameplay.

RM: ‪Or give a crap about player emotional experience. WHERE IS THE NARRATIVE!

MZ: ‪I want to reroll. My stats are all wonky. And I seem to have taken points in Mayan pottery.

RM: ‪But we’re writers. Our job is to make that random stuff someone turn into a paycheck, right?

MZ: ‪Show me the money.

RM: ‪I have, like, $6.

MZ: ‪I could probably scrape together a few $ in change.

RM: ‪It’s yours for the low low price of dealing with the hell of crafting a narrative about Mayan pottery. Not that the Mayan pottery is the problem. The hell is in the “crafting a narrative” part. 😀

MZ: ‪Word.

Conversations Between Writers

Wendy Sparrow

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Wendy Sparrow is one of the very first authors I started following on Twitter that I didn’t know and rather quickly came to know and adore. Her romances are cute and guaranteed to be a good way to get in a better mood. I’m looking forward to reading her YA work. She blogs about a variety of things including writing at http://wendysparrow.com/blog/ and can be found on Twitter.

 

Minerva Zimmerman: Are you a Nanowrimo person?

Wendy Sparrow:  Yes. I’ve been doing it since 2009.

MZ: What is it about Nanowrimo that works for you?

WS: Actually I do some of my best writing on the manic pace when I’m forced to concentrate.  I’ve had many of my NaNoWriMo stuff published.

MZ: That was my next question 🙂

WS: Frosted, Cursed by Cupid, Past my Defenses and its sequel were all NaNo projects.

MZ: Really? Wow! That’s great. Can you tell me what you’re working on this year?

WS: I’ve cheated and done 50K in novellas a couple times.

MZ: I don’t think there’s really such a thing as cheating in Nanowrimo

WS: I like to FEEL like I’m a rebel.

WS: This year I’m writing the sequel to Stealing Time.

MZ: Yaaaaay, I’m excited. I liked that one

WS: A rulebreaker. I’m off to a tepid start though because of all the stuff I’ve got going on though.

MZ: Yeah it has to be hard with older kids

WS: November is a craaaaazy month to be pulling this. I’ve had a few Thanksgivings where I’m in a corner writing.

MZ: Yeah I’ve always thought January or March would be better.

WS: I think so. But I write better under stress. I’m not sure why. It’s not healthier that’s for sure.

MZ: November just seems like a silly month to pick. I’m trying to learn how to gain balance in my work, home, and writing life. Not sure it’s working 🙂

WS: Oy. If you can manage that…you should share it with writers everywhere. I swear when you get published that balance really disappears because then the business side of writing kicks in and there are so many demands on your time.

MZ: I’ve gotten a lot more organized, which helps, but yeah. I think writing the first thing after you get published is probably the hardest (or at least so far).

WS: There are a hundred things I “should” be doing right now. Le sigh. It’s funny how the goal is to get published, but after you’re published the goal shifts to finding time for writing.

MZ: and getting published again… and stretching yourself and all of that

WS: I feel like there’s also more pressure to keep up with the Joneses. Because you have this artificial impression that other writers are doing more and better and so on. And some are, but we don’t all have the same lives outside of writing.

MZ: I think it’s pretty important to have a good sense of writer community so you can actually challenge those thoughts when they crop up. And support each other and assure each other that no one is really doing it all.

WS: The envy is much shorter lived when you interact more with other writers…and you do get a sense that everyone has their own struggles. Even on places like Twitter…where you get more of a glimpse of their lives.

MZ: Right. Everyone has a pet that pees on the floor or a kid that’s shoved crayons in the DVD player or whatever. I was going to say VHS… and then I remembered no one has small children AND a working VHS

WS: LOL. My husband was explaining what a pager was to my son earlier.  My son was utterly confused by the concept. It said he’s not allowed to bring a pager to camp…and he didn’t even know what that was.

MZ: Hahahahahaha /cries

WS: Oy. We’re old.

MZ: I am trying to get people to donate technology items from the 70s, 80s, and 90s for our education program at the museum. I should put “pager” on there

WS: It’s like when you try to explain to them what the world was like without the internet and they act like we were out killing our dinners and writing on papyrus.

MZ: I might have one in a drawer somewhere

WS: I think you should carry it around for the day and see if people give you weird looks.

You can clip it to your belt beside a Walkman.

MZ: Duuuude, my collections volunteer brings a Discman to listen to

I just… blinked and didn’t say anything.

WS: Old school.

MZ: the average age around here is about 56 with most people tending older

WS: So, their school WAS a bit old.  😉

MZ: I was trying to explain that school children were born between 1996 and 2009

so it’s pretty amazing how much kids aren’t familiar with.

WS: I know. They’ve always had computers in their house. My kids toss around the word “lag” every time anything takes more than two seconds to load up.

MZ: ugh… ground them and give them a 2400 baud modem

WS: Exactly. They’ve never experienced the joy of listening to a modem dialing.

MZ: that’d learn them to appreciate high speed internet 😀

WS: It would. Though I’ve become spoiled and I think it’d annoy me too at this point.

MZ: Yeah, I think that would probably kill me. Well, hyperbole-wise

WS: I left my phone at home by accident today and it was like I’d severed a limb.

MZ: It bothers me way more when my husband doesn’t have his phone than when I don’t have mine

WS: My daughter and I watched the Bells of St. John Doctor Who today –where everyone is being uploaded to the wi-fi. That gets a bit creepier every minute as technology invades more.

MZ: Yeah. My brother was telling me about a guy who has an antenna screwed into his head. The line between humanity and machine gets blurrier every day

WS: Which is gold for dystopian writers everywhere. I have an unpubbed YA where machines take over the world. It’s sort of Terminator meets Dark Angel.

MZ: That sounds fun in a dark sort of dystopian way.

WS: They get attacked by heavy machinery taken over by nanobots. I did a lot of research into weird things like tractors.

MZ: Ooo lots of tractors around here not sure I want to think about them coming to life.

WS: I took a lot of pictures of construction and farm equipment and people sent me pictures of machines they thought were scary looking.

MZ: yeah the disc machine is super scary

WS: Logging machinery…some of that stuff is creepy as hell. There’s this thing that looks like a giant spider–no joke.

MZ: So I have an admission. I’ve been describing your romance novels as “cozy romances”

WS: Have you? One of my publishers described them as “sexy sweet.”

MZ: that works too. I save them up and then read them when I feel like making a blanket fort and hiding from everything.

WS: I would call “The Teacher’s Vet” a cozy romance.

LOL. Well, then, you can call them anything you want.

MZ: 😀

WS: I didn’t plan on being a romance writer. It just sort of happened.

All of my earlier stuff is urban fantasy or paranormal or YA.  It all has elements of romance, but I was subbing romance while my agent was subbing my YA and my romance just kept getting picked up, so I shifted to that. My agent is still trying to grapple with signing a YA author who became a romance author.

MZ: Heh, there are worse problems to have

WS: There are. And I’ve always read romance so it was a natural fit for me…but I always worried there wasn’t really an audience for more “sweet” romance which is what I write.

I still worry about that.

MZ: I think sweet is a good thing to be these days.

WS: I think there’s a market for it, but primarily in contemporary. Though I am published in paranormal with it.

MZ: I really like the paranormal stuff being more of a genre person

WS: This is all in romance of course. Outside of romance it’s easier to find a market.

MZ: Do you think so?

WS: For less erotic elements I mean. It’s easier outside of romance to keep the physicality of relationships lighter without impacting the marketability. In my opinion.

MZ: Oh, right, yeah that makes sense

WS: Though I suspect it’s harder to find a balance of how much romance is acceptable in things like epic fantasy…even if love is the age-old quest in every story.

WS: I know a few female authors who write in fantasy or sci-fi get flack when they have romance in their books. And there is a weird sort of guilt I feel when I do shorts in sci-fi or fantasy that I’m making them “too girly.”

MZ: eh, guys get crap for it too, but not like female authors, true

WS: Do they?

MZ: Yeah if they put romance instead of just sex I think it’s mostly teenage boys going “ewwwww coooties”

WS: It’s so funny because everyone at some point in their life is searching for love and most stories boil down to a quest for some sort of love, but it’s like a dirty word among some crowds.

Well, it’s good that they can put sex in there still. That’s cool.  😉

MZ: /eyeroll

WS: It’s sad, isn’t it? That there are these stereotypical roles that even authors fall into to align with their gender. It’s hard to break from that too…in your mindset. Every time I think to myself, “I’m making this too girly,” I want to shake myself because I’m female…and having a relationship between characters shouldn’t be something in only women’s writing.

MZ: I am a character-driven writer so relationships happen, and I don’t worry about it

WS: I wish I could do that. Because I’m character-driven too. I’m a dialogue fiend. I swear I just write out the dialogue and fill in the rest later in rewrites. Descriptions go in during like the third or fourth revision.

MZ: yep, I’m guilty of that sometimes. I’m trying to get better at setting, but eh

WS: You’re a pantser too, though, aren’t you? I think pantsers tend to be character-driven and dialogue-heavy.

MZ: Yeah, I pants it until about 60% through and do a reverse outline of what I’ve already done

WS: Ohhhh clever.

MZ: and figure out sort of what I’m missing

WS: And try to find that black moment? My plot gets a bit meandering around that time.  In some of my writing, that’s about when I found out who the villain is.

MZ: figure out what my writer brain was trying to tell me cause I generally leave myself lots of little clues I didn’t know were there

WS: LOL. I do that too. It’s almost creepy.

MZ: and it’s a matter of clarifying them and bringing them to fruition at that point

WS: It’s weird that something you just stuck in there becomes a crucial clue later on. Writing is magical in that way.

MZ: yeah it’s always what feels like a total throw away detail. Well, we should probably wrap this up. Is there anything you want to make sure to talk about?

WS: Okay. I still have packing to do. Not that comes to mind.

MZ: I recommend elderberry syrup from the natural section at Freddy’s for avoiding catching whatever the camp kids have. (Wendy is heading off to be a chaperone for her son’s 6th grade outdoor education. When she did it for her older daughter she came back with the flu.)

WS: Oh, dude, if I come home with anything vile again…I’m going to live in a commune on a tropical island.

MZ: oooo I want a commune on a tropical island

WS: A writer commune. You can come live on my island with me.

MZ: Sweet!

WS: We’ll get Mountain Dew air-dropped in. LOL. Or maybe not…those things would explode when you try to open them.

MZ: we’ll fill the pool full of ice to chill them

WS: It’s only three days…it’s only three days…it’s only… sobs quietly

MZ: You’ll be fine.

WS: This a camp run by the YMCA. We get cabins with bathrooms. It’s really close to glamping.

They get to dissect squids and play with reptiles and canoe. T will have a blast and I’ll survive…probably.

MZ: That will be fun. He’ll think it’s great. You just need to hang out and tell kids to stop climbing on things. It’ll be fine.

WS: I just need to keep him caffeinated and then keep myself medicated and covered in hand-sanitizer.

MZ: I’m thinking good thoughts for you. Glad you’re in cabins though.

WS: Oh, I know. I’d be such a wreck if it was “real” camping.

MZ: I don’t think you should ever go real camping with 6th graders.

WS: I’d toss my kid on the bus while shouting, “You’re on your own. Try not to kill the other kids.”

Yes. But I get to chaperone a dozen girls.

MZ: but they aren’t your girls that helps

WS: If they’re like last time, they won’t go to bed until 2 a.m. the first night and they’ll paaaaay the next morning.

MZ: oh yeah, I’d love waking em up extra extra early if they did that

WS: They didn’t expect their chaperone to be an insomniac. They thought they’d stay up later than me. Bwahahaha. I was all “Girls, please…I’ve slept less in my life than you have already.”

MZ: hahahahaha they won’t know what hit them Well, thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it and I”m looking forward to your next publication.

WS: I’m going to reread Stealing Time while I’m there so I can get cruising on the sequel faster when I get home. You’re welcome. It’s been fun.

fistbumps with explosions

 

NaNoWriMo Is Not For Me – And That’s OK

(Due to bad planning on my part there’s no Conversations Between Writers this week.)Power of Words

It’s almost Halloween which means the online murmuring about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo have begun. Starting November 1 people from all over will try to write 50,000 words in a single 30 day period. There’s a lot of camaraderie and social support in the online sphere during these 30 days and I want to support that sense of community even though I’m not a participant.

See, there’s also a lot of negative posts around this time of year too. I think we’ve all got enough negativity inside our own heads without adding to it. Writing is hard. Pushing yourself is hard. Anything that gets you doing either is a good thing.

50,000 words in 30 days is not my bag, but I know that only because I did participate for multiple years and fumbled my way through. What I suggest is to not see NaNoWriMo as a win or lose sort of journey. It’s a journey of discovery. You can learn something from doing it, even if that’s that you don’t want to do it again. And that’s OK. I hope that this NaNoWriMo brings a new understanding of yourself and your writing.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers (and Editors)

Jaym Gates

Jaym Gates is a writer, editor, and communication specialist. You can find out more about her at jaymgates.com and follow her on Twitter.

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Minerva Zimmerman: Well… so you’ve discovered you’re an editor.

Jaym Gates: I am?

MZ:  It appears so. You keep doing anthologies and show no signs of stopping

I”m afraid you have a terminal case of Editor.

JG: And every time I consider it, Charles Tan and Ken Liu start getting Ideas.

MZ: not just them, they’re just more public about harassing you.

JG: I think it’s a sport at this point. But yeah, I’ve got a bunch of stuff hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles. Also, if I start usin’ an Old West sort of lingo, I apologize. I’m editing to dev notes.

MZ: I was thinking more like wondering if you were wearing the gold lame shorts from Rocky Horror

JG: I don’t do shorts. Or lame. Class is a lost art. *sniffs haughtily*

MZ: Lame is such a bad idea in general.

JG: It really is. *shudder*

MZ:  How many projects that are YOUR projects are you working on right now? Or is that a bad question?

JG: Erm. So, War Stories is out in the wild now. Got some launch events and big reviews ahead of us.I have 111k words to edit on Genius Loci, which is hitting Kickstarter on November 4, and we have a Reddit AMA on November 18. The Exalted RPG anthology is waiting for one more story and my copy-edits, but it’s almost ready to go, and pretty awesome. And I juuuuuuuuust got the greenlight on something I’m *super* excited about–another tie-in RPG anthology–on Saturday, but until the contracts are signed, can’t say anything. So those are my four current projects, and Rich Dansky and I are noodling something.

MZ:  uh oh

JG: And then I’ve got something kind of sort of planned with Ken and Charles for next year, but we’ll see if that moves beyond a Twitter joke.

MZ: Pretty sure something will, if it’s what you’ve talked about now or not remains to be seen. What else is burning up your brain these days?

JG: Doing a TON of writing, all of the sudden. Sold a bunch of short stories last year, and then, this year, got a bunch of stuff all at once.

MZ: That’s awesome

JG: So I’m doing RPG writing for a project that I don’t think can be named at the moment, and a tie-in story for another shared world, and Dave Gross pinged me about a possible project, and Ken Scholes and I are working on a bunch of stuff together. And I’m doing some serious raging at GamerGate, so that’s about 15k words there, probably.

MZ: Yeah. I just bonded with a female coworker over games today, didn’t know she was a gamer and it came up randomly in conversation and then we geeked out for like 45 min. I want to go back to games being only awesome. y’know

JG: Oh, cool. And yeah, can we just get back to making stuff, please?

MZ: and enjoying stuff Privilege is not having to think about stuff. I miss that about games.

JG: Ugh, yeah, going to be a while til we get that back. But I kind of disagree with the common theme: it’s actually good that this happened. The industry needed a painful evolution.

MZ: Yeah, just… I’d rather the learning curve didn’t have to go THROUGH us.

JG: Look at it this way: we’re getting to help build a great industry.

MZ: And I’m not even catching crap directly. It’s thousands of times worse for those that are… just for speaking.

So, I want to talk about horses. Not that I know anything you can’t learn in 15 min before a trail ride on the oldest slowest mares in the world. You’re passionate about horses and seem to window shop for horses on the internet the way I look for a third dog.

JG: Haha, pretty much, except my habit is WAY more expensive…

MZ: I have not been tempted and I even have a barn suitable for horses.

JG: They’re basically gigantic, long-lived dogs, when it comes right down to it.

MZ: I do think about maybe getting some goats… and then I think better of it.

JG: HA.

MZ: Yeah there was a horse in the field next door for awhile and it seemed to have the temperament of a curious Labrador …and I totally got it in trouble one day and I wasn’t thinking about it. See, I’d had all these apples I’d been storing in a tote on my porch, and they got a little old so I dumped them in my back pasture for the deer to eat.

JG: Ooops

MZ: And the next thing I knew my back fence had been mended and there were horse shoe prints all over my field.

JG: Hahaha

MZ: So, pretending that I WAS going to get a horse… what are things to look for in a giant goggie?

JG: Depends on what you’re using it for. If you just want a giant dog, there are TONS of rescues out there who have horses that’ve had a rough break in life and need a loving human and steady supply of feed. (Horses are more susceptible than any other creature to abuse, neglect, and economic woes, due to their size and expense.) If you want a riding animal, again, a lot of rescues have older horses who’re well-trained, but had a rough break. And yeah, they may be 20, but they often live to their early 30s, with good care and gentle use. At that point, you want a horse that moves freely, engages with a human well, and doesn’t have a bad back or knees. Kind of like humans. 😛

MZ: I would be a terrible horse.

JG: Awwwww, we’d put you down humanely though.

MZ: They kill writers don’t they? Wait, no… writers kill characters.

JG: Oh, is that the way it’s supposed to work? Oops, brb…ahem.

MZ: That’s not what I gave you a shovel for. Though, to be fair I did know it was a possibility.

speaking of horses and writing–  Horses are something that writers get terribly and completely wrong a lot of the time.

JG: Oh god, yes. About the horses, not the shovel, er, never mind.

MZ: 😛 What are some simple tips for writers to not do stupid horse things?

JG: Learn what a ‘hand’ is. One of my favorite authors has ‘gigantic draft horses’ that are 15 hands high, which is the average height for a horse. Like a guy being 5’10. At least LOOK at a diagram of equine anatomy so that you’re not having your character pet the fetlock on the nose of the poor pretzeled horse. And read up on some history, if you want to use horses. They’re *amazing* creatures, and honestly, a lot of writers underserve them. Screw Lassie, there are horses that have done amazing feats.

MZ: Ok, I actually know that a fetlock is a foot bit.

JG: *claps* Yay!

MZ: You’d think that US Cavalry movies with horses doing amazing things would have caught on during the Western years

JG: There were some, just nothing that really hit mainstream. I mean, Mr. Ed, Silver, Flash, there were a TON of celebrity horses, but that was a long time ago.

MZ: You know, they don’t taxidermy cowboys.

JG: Oddly…

MZ: A lot of celebrity horses got taxidermied. I find this unsettling and weird. Maybe because I work with a lot of taxidermy. I mean they plasticize some scientists if they ask for it… but that’s about it

JG: Ha, hmmm… I don’t like wax or taxidermied things, really.

MZ: I just don’t think you should uh… preserve beings with known personalities. Cause you can’t preserve the personality part and so it just becomes a weird creepy shell thing.

JG: Exactly!

MZ: Well, this conversation went weird at some point. It’s probably my fault. This is probably a good point to ask if there’s anything else you’d like to talk about that we haven’t covered?

JG: Between the two of us, it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when’.

The only thing I can think of is that people should keep their eyes open for some pretty cool SFWA projects, and that there’s a great company called Make Believe Games that I’m doing PR for, and we’ll have some fun multimedia stuff coming out soon there, too.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Andrea Phillips

7Q7718xU

Andrea is a multi-faceted storyteller. You can learn more about her at http://www.deusexmachinatio.com/ You can read her work at http://lucysmokeheart.comhere and she can be found on Twitter.

 

Andrea Phillips: 😀

Minerva Zimmerman: Pirates. I wanna talk about pirates.

AP: ARRRRRRRRRR

MZ: You have a series of short novels about a pirate captain and I’m curious what it is about pirates that drew you? I mean obviously pirates are awesome, but what it is it in particular for you?

AP: Actually “pirates are awesome” is exactly it. I wanted to do a longer-term project for reasons of discipline and possibly revenue stream, funded on Kickstarter. So when you go to Kickstarter, you have to consider what it is that you’re good at, and what it is that The Internet likes and might potentially be into backing even if they don’t know you *personally* So I literally made a list titled “things that are awesome”

MZ: 😀

AP: It was like: Ninjas, pirates, zombies, games…

MZ: I’m with you on everything but zombies

AP: I’m not sure why “pirates” is the one that stuck. This name Lucy Smokeheart kinda popped into my head, and I thought it was super hokey and planned to change it later. But it turns out it was hokey in the I-secretly-love-it way and not the this-is-seriously-just-a-placeholder way

MZ: I do love it when that happens. I have a pirate character named Lawless McCord.

AP: That is ALSO AWESOME. How piratey are your pirates?

MZ: and there’s actually an in-world reason for it and everything.

AP: Because the funny thing about pirates is mostly they’re not… actually… particularly piratey at all?

MZ: Pretty piratey. He’s a privateer for the Emperor

AP: Wow, exciting!

MZ: so, I guess he’d never consider himself a pirate.

AP: My pirates are a sort of Disney super sanitized version of piracy. No actual pirating ever occurs. It’s all socialist lizard-people and enormous chocolate sculptures all up in here 🙂

MZ: That’s pretty awesome

AP: I mostly aim to amuse myself and have a good time with it, though that can be hard sometimes

MZ: I hear you’re knee-deep in revising your novel Revision these days. Does that ever get inception-y?

AP: Ahhhhhahah I make so many jokes about that. So many.

MZ: that’s good!

AP: The sequel will be Advanced Review Copy. Followed up by All Edits, Complete Draft, and Working Title.

MZ: I love this so much.

AP: 🙂 It’s a weird feeling, actually, revising Revision. In my line of work, I don’t often get a chance to redraft as I see fit after the manuscript has had time to cool. I do a lot of just-in-time writing, and 85% of the time my first draft is what goes.

MZ: I don’t think I’m actually aware what your line of work is?

AP: So I’m drowning in this luxury of being able to see what isn’t so great and *fix it now*

Oh! I’m a game designer? Or more precisely I make immersive and interactive experiences for games and for marketing campaigns. I am a *transmedia pundit*!

MZ: I was thinking by your description it was either games or comics 🙂

AP: It can be a tough business *cough cough gamergate* But I think there are things you can do in interactive media you can’t do any other way. I’m planning to do a project called Attachment Study hopefully next year, that is among other things the story of a character *falling in love with you* over email

MZ: oh how cool

AP: Man romance novels are awesome but *falling in love with you* is better ^_^

Dragon Age, you know? Are you a Bioware player? Do you have a crush on Alistair?

MZ: I have not, I was super hard-core Warcraft at the time I should have played it.

AP: It was FREE for PC yesterday. Maybe it still is! It’s still worth the play, I would highly recommend it 🙂

MZ: How long is a play-through?

AP: Hmmmm I think 40 hours-ish?

MZ: oh that’s not bad. I’m a pretty obsessive player so I don’t do much else when I play games.

AP: It’s not SUPER long. I mean it’s not like Skyrim. Yeah me neither, it’s sort of an issue for me, the binge-playing So I don’t buy and start a game unless I know I can lose a week of productivity

I binge-work, too, which I guess makes up for it?

MZ: I’m actually using my obsessive gamer tendencies to un-screw all my habits with HabitRPG right now

AP: Oh! I’ve started using HabitRPG! I’m very bad at it.

MZ: it seems to be almost written for how I obsess

AP: Which is embarrassing because my habits are things like “take a shower” and “take your vitamins”

MZ:…uh, why is that embarrassing? I thought that is what it is for 😀

AP: it’s embarrassing that those are my habits I’m trying to do and I *still cannot do them*

MZ: both of those are literally ON MY LIST RIGHT NOW

AP: Oh man that makes me feel better, actually. You know the thing about comparing yourself to how you THINK other people are? I have a bad case of that

MZ: apparently I motivate through gold and loots

AP: See, I’m more a cheevies kinda person. Cookie Clicker, man. The dumbest game in the world BUT SO MANY ACHIEVEMENTS TO EARN

MZ: the pet collecting is what gets me. It’s why I stayed with Warcraft waaaaaay past the rest of the game being any fun

AP: I haven’t gone that far in yet! I only just recently started, so I don’t quite know how to play yet

MZ: Oh! You have to get to uhm level 4 I think? and then you start getting random loots

AP: I had hit level 2 and then I died

MZ: but it doesn’t hurt to die at low levels very much

AP: I had dumb cancer last week so I used that as my excuse to spend several days as a hedonistic slob

MZ: sounds legit. You can check yourself into the INN when you’re not up to doing stuff

AP: Oh man that’s a thing?

MZ: totes. It’s very well designed, and only unlocks stuff at a gradual pace so you don’t get overwhelmed

AP: I used to do very well with Health Month. The community angle was pretty helpful to me

But there’s a weird sort of struggle I have around structure and habits

MZ: with this you can form parties and do quests, fight monsters, by succeeding at your tasks

AP: …I’m sitting here thinking “maybe I should fold a basket of laundry tonight to get some more points”

MZ: yeah, this is the first thing that’s really seemed to work in any sustainable way for me

AP: You are a good influence on me!

MZ: I also decided to only make my own laundry my task and have made everyone else in the household fold their own laundry. It’s just too overwhelming otherwise

AP: That’s awesome. I long for the day when my children are old enough for that

MZ: I also have an entire shelving unit dedicated to putting clean laundry until it gets folded

cause folding is stupid pants

AP: We sort of have a swamp of clean laundry on the floor of our closet *hangs head in shame*

MZ: Yeah, the shelving unit was my upgrade from clean laundry swamp

AP: Hahah

MZ: cause, changing our actual habits was totally not going to happen 🙂

AP: It’s good to be able to acknowledge these deep truths about yourself. I mean, sometimes you just have to admit that you’re not that person. ^_^

MZ: I am not a lot of people, especially organized people

AP: Aaaaahhhahahah I’m not a gardener, no matter how much I wish I was.

MZ: oh, me either… and I so very much wish I was

AP: It’s a nice dream, isn’t it? The pottering and the fresh flowers and your own tomatoes

But then you actually go outside and it’s buggy and there’s the stupid sun

MZ: My house looks like a white trash version of Sleeping Beauty with blackberry vines taking over everything

AP: And everything is totally horrible in every possible way. We have raspberries in our back yard! I planted them long ago before I knew I was not a gardener

MZ: We have 2 acres and a barn!

AP: They do well here, but not so well that it’s a problem like they might in other parts of the country. Oh man that’s amazing

MZ: it is until the blackberries start to take over

AP: But!

MZ: and then you’re out there like Ash in Evil Dead with a trimmer.

AP: You get to eat blackberries! Warm from the sun!

MZ: it’s true, that’s pretty awesome. What else has been warming up your brain meats recently?

AP: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I’ve been thinking a lot about feminist stuff

And talking a lot about feminist stuff I am a Strident Feminist, you know!

MZ: …you chew a lot of gum? 😀

AP: Hahaha No but seriously, issues of fairness and representation are really important to me, so I try to *talk* about it

MZ: Yeah, my loved ones are apparently sick of me talking about feminist stuff of late to the point where they have arguments with feminist me in their head without me saying a word. It’s pretty awesome. All the outcome, none of the work.

AP: I don’t always have the energy for it, but I seem to have the fight in me right now.

Oh dude that’s fantastic

MZ: I suspect I’m contagious and everyone ends up with a little me inside their head causing problems eventually

AP: The interesting thing is I don’t get as much pushback as I always expect

MZ: It is getting better.

AP: You know, I think the internet as a whole is getting better. I was just saying today, I think comments sections are getting better

MZ: People are more aware, and there’s less ignorance or disbelief now.

AP: I look at YouTube comments on a random video and they’re… you know, FINE. I hit a random blog and skim the comments and they’re not always Just and Progressive, but they’re usually better than not. Maybe this says something about me and my browsing and viewing habits, but I really do think the etiquette for how we expect people to behave online is maturing

MZ: I think the past 6 months or so have shined a very bright light and scattered some of the cockroaches.

AP: Yeah.

MZ: I mean clearly we haven’t managed to exterminate them, but it’s a start.

AP: Now if only we could get harassment and incitement to harass made into actual crimes

…Not that I trust our current batch of lawmakers to do that in a sensible way, but jeez, some of the behaviors we see shouldn’t be legal if you ask me ^_^ It’s a complicated thing, isn’t it?

MZ: I think we just need precedence to show that they fall under current laws of stalking and the like.

AP: And a legal system that recognizes that “just don’t go online” is not a viable solution

MZ: I’m not sure if new legislation would help as much as enforcing current ones in digital spaces. Right. I don’t know about you, but I live in a very rural area, so the internet is the vast majority of my social connections.

AP: I live in the suburbs of New York, but the internet is still the vast majority of my social connections. Working at home, you know, and never going much of anywhere. There’s a problem writers have of living too much in the mind and not enough in the body. That’s part of it, I should probably just get out more in a super basic sense 😉

MZ: I have also put all of my stretching exercises on my habit list 🙂 because of this

AP: For a while I was swimming about a kilometer a day, and it was fantastic! Very meditative and definitely helped my stress levels

MZ: I like walking. I need to take more walks. So much beautiful stuff around here and I never get out in it.

AP: Especially after I found goggles that did not leak

MZ: That is terribly important.

AP: Exercise, man. Outdoor exercise is Not For Me because skin cancer, but I always liked hiking

MZ: The museum I work for has an interpretive trails site near my house I should spend more time at.

AP: Oh neat!

MZ: Especially since I can take the dogs.

AP: Museums are awesome in general

MZ: I just need to get them little orange vests for right now because of hunting season.

AP: I have a crush on weird quirky museums that have like fifteen things in them. It’s interesting to think about how those objects are all there because at some point they were very important to somebody

MZ: I wish my museum only had 15 things! I’m in charge of the things. And I don’t have an exact number but it’s more like 50,000

AP: That is a *lot of things* OK so It’s like the warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones, right?

MZ: …yes

AP: Promise me it’s just like that 😀

MZ: actually I have a building that looks a lot like that, with the crates and everything

AP: …and you have the stencil, right?

MZ: I keep meaning to make one

AP: I mean basically in my mind you just transformed into that dude at the end of the movie

MZ: Hey, I managed to hide a Ghostbusters quote in my exhibit. I’m pretty happy about that.

AP: Though it’s possible my vision is wavering a little bit with The Librarian. Ahaha! Which quote?!

MZ: https://twitter.com/grumpymartian/status/519732614941261824

AP: Oh man That’s amazing

MZ: I warn you, I am about to make you feel really old with a museum thing I’ve been dealing with.

AP: This is OK

MZ: But current K-8 students, were born between 1996 and 2009

AP: Oh yeah I have two of them ~_^

MZ: the things they have no reference for is amazing

AP: When they were toddlers they would take pictures with their play phones

MZ: I was trying to explain this to a roomful of 80 year olds the other day

AP: The idea of a phone you can’t take pictures with is weird to them. It took each of them until they were 6 or 7 to understand “that TV show is not on right now”

MZ: I get hit with the hard explanations on both ends of the age spectrum 🙂

AP: Oh man yeah that could be a neat trick!

MZ: I was trying to explain that to get kids to understand a record player, I also have to explain…y’know.. CDs and tape players

AP: Yep! My kids don’t remember cars that didn’t lock with a key fob, or roll-up window handles

MZ: and that items they have laying around in their closets are exactly the sort of things I’d like to have for hands-on learning even though it isn’t “old” to an 80 year old.

AP: Ahahaha. I can just imagine. To bring this back a little — my older one recently found the iron in the closet and was super baffled…She does not remember ever seeing it used…

MZ: and that these kids don’t remember a time the US wasn’t at war.

AP: Yeah, that one is sobering. I was raised in the USAF so I have a slightly different relationship with war

MZ: it’s just weird on a museum end, because I have WWII stuff coming out of my damned ears but… I don’t have much for military stuff past Korean War

AP: For most kids today it’s very abstract. But when I was 9 or so I was reading military nuclear war survival manuals for some reason. This is the thing I super loved when I read Watchmen — only a few years ago

MZ: Cold War stuff, I remember having bomb drills in school.

AP: It *so perfectly* captures that zeitgeist of the 80s, that feeling that we were all going to die at any moment in a nuclear holocaust

MZ: exactly!

AP: It really did feel like the edge of the end of the world

MZ: and then the early 90s was when we all started feeling like the country was going to rip apart from the inside and be a civil war… and then it all turned into TV pundits instead of fighting.

AP: I dunno, I remember feeling in the early 90s like maybe it was all going to be OK

MZ: I lived in Seattle 🙂

AP: The Berlin Wall coming down

MZ: Grunge was a very Dark Time.

AP: For a while it looked like there would be peace in Israel, before Rabin got shot. Jesus Jones and Right Here, Right Now, you know? ~_^

MZ: yeah ok, like 89-92 was pretty good

AP: But yeah it didn’t last

MZ: nope. sigh.

AP: For a little while when Obama first came in it felt like that again — hopeful. But it’s been a very long time at this point.

MZ: and now it feels like I should get to scream “Dystopian Novels were not HOW TO BOOKS!!!”

AP: Yeah. Oh gosh there’s this whole thing I feel like one of the roles of science fiction is to show what the future can be like, right?

MZ: Absolutely.

AP: But that puts us at the mercy of horrible futures. Because it’s a lot harder to drum up drama in a utopia I mean utopian fiction where the utopia doesn’t have a Dark Flaw is fundamentally more challenging to write, which is why you see less of it. I keep trying to figure out how to write a story for which the message is, “providing a basic minimum income for all people would be a good idea”. But how do you take something like that and make it into a story that’s… you know… not a super boring economic treatise?!

MZ: Yesterday Kate Elliot and Daniel José Older, and Rosefox were talking about the subversive power of happy endings.

AP: Oh yeah?

MZ: Yeah, that showing happiness for people society says don’t get happy endings is a subversive act. That really appeals to me right now and I think SF/F doesn’t get enough happy endings in general

AP: Actually this is one of the things about Lucy Smokeheart So OK it’s a super goofy and not at all serious project, right? I have an Artisitic Statement about it floating around somewhere, and basically it says it’s my rejection of the Game of Thrones aesthetic where everything is horrible forever and there is no narrative justice. I *miss* narrative justice and I wish it would make a roaring comeback, I’m so tired of gritty and realistic.

MZ: I think you can be realistic without being gritty

AP: Do you remember the humor SF in the 80s? There was a ton of it back then

MZ: I mean, my going and getting a coffee is rarely a gritty experience unless the grinder is broken. YES!!! I LOVE IT

AP: The Myth Adventures series, Stainless Steel Rat

MZ: I’m trying to bring some of that back too.

AP: We used to know how to have fun, man. What happened to fun?!

MZ: I think humor is under utilized and a lot of SF authors who write “humor” write it like… Heavy Metal style “humor” so there’s all sorts of gross stuff, and that’s not what I want at all

AP: Mmmmm yeah. I really dig what Mur Lafferty’s done with her Shambling Guide and so on

MZ: I want characters who have fun and get in absurd situations and know its absurd but make the best of it.

AP: And of course there’s still Terry Pratchett But I feel like funny-SF just isn’t out there in the market very much these days

MZ: Yes. I’m slowly rationing myself through the Discworld books, because they make me so happy.

AP: Hahah

MZ: generally we do them audiobook in the car on long trips

AP: I love them but I can’t read too many or I stop enjoying them! Like eating too much candy

MZ: Audiobooks are good for that

AP: Alas I don’t spend enough time in a car for audiobooks

MZ: They are also awesome for house-cleaning

AP: I put like… three thousand miles a year on my car

MZ: then I feel like I am multi-tasking

AP: I used to listen to podcasts at the gym. Man I used to have such good habits, what happened to me?! Tsk

MZ: Is there anything else you want to make sure we talk about?

AP: Wait wait

Let’s talk about

Um

Man now I’m trying to think of something amazing and hilarious

And of course I can’t

MZ: tap-dancing newts?

AP: O_O

MZ: I mean they’d have to get tap shoes otherwise they’d just go “slush”

AP: I don’t think they’d do so well in shoes. It would be like putting a toddler on roller skates

They wouldn’t know what to do without toe suction!

MZ: /is totally checking YouTube for toddlers in roller-skate videos now

AP: I think we need to make this happen

MZ: Ok, who do we know that can make tiny webbed tap shoes?

AP: I bet there are thousands of those. Because parents are horrible. The videos, I mean, not the newt shoes

MZ: …I dunno maybe I should check etsy, someone might make newt tap shoes

AP: Gotta be I mean surely this falls under some subcategory of Rule 34

MZ: a crafting subcategory? If a weird craft item doesn’t already exist…

AP: Yeahhhh. You know about Regretsy? It is the best thing.

MZ: it’s gooooone

AP: WHAT

MZ: /cry

AP: NOOOOOOOOOOO

MZ: it was the best thing…

AP: This is the very saddest thing in the world.

MZ: I’m sorry, I thought you knewand now I want to write humor sf in which someone mourns Regretsy in a regrettable way

AP: Wow it’s been down since January of LAST YEAR. That shows you how up on my latest breaking internet news I am. You should write that story.

MZ: I only found out recently. Well, unfortunately my family apparently would like to eat some time today… so I should get going. Gah, humans… it’s like they think they should eat more than once a day.

AP: All right. It’s been lovely talking to you!

Writers Wanted

I_want_you

 

No Ghosts in the IM: Conversations with Writers today due to installing my very first exhibit at the museum. I’ve helped with a lot (and at previous museums) but this is the first exhibit I designed and planned and lost sleep over. However… I do need volunteers and for people to suggest others for future Conversations. Check out past Conversations and the submission form here: https://minervazimmerman.com/ghosts-in-the-im/

You can also email me directly or message me on Twitter if you’re interested.

I’m going to go collapse now and try to recover from this very exciting week.

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations Between Writers

Christie Yant

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Christie is one of the writers I’m happy to be able to consider a personal mentor. When there’s something I need to noodle out about life and career she’s someone I turn to. You probably know her most recently as the editor of Women Destroy Science Fiction.  If you’re not familiar with her fiction peruse the list at her website. As always I recommend you follow her on Twitter.

Minerva Zimmerman: How are you doing this morning? It’s nice but windy here today.

Christie Yant: I’m a little sleepy! I stupidly stayed up way too late last night, doing nothing at all useful. How are YOU? Do you have enough coffee?

MZ: I think that’s our inner children not wanting to go to bed.

CY: Very much so. I honestly feel like a three-year-old at times, mentally kicking and screaming and refusing to go to sleep no matter how tired I am.

MZ: I have caffeinated sparkling water. I always drink coffee with silly amounts of sugar and cream in it.

CY: My tastes changed all of a sudden last year and I started taking my coffee black after a life time of cream and sugar. It was strange. Have you been able to give the Poquito a try yet?

MZ: I haven’t yet because I broke my phone so I can’t take pictures. I’m hoping my replacement comes today or tomorrow

CY: Oh ha! Do you always document it the first time you use a new pen?

MZ: Not always, but I need to figure out if I lost any pictures of the last 4 I took pictures of and I didn’t want to put ink into it yet cause I have ink in so many right now.

CY: /nods

MZ: I’m terrible at not cleaning out my pens so I’m trying to be better about it.

CY: I’m paring my collection down to a few favorites now. Which means that I get to be the Pen Fairy to a bunch of friends. 😀

MZ: Yeah I need to figure out some kind of blog giveaway or something.

CY: Good idea!

MZ: I have a few that are just not suited to me or how I write.

CY: The Lamy Safari and Al-Star were like that for me. I just can’t write with them.

MZ: the grip?

CY: They’re a favorite for a lot of people, but they’re just not compatible with the way I hold my pens. Yeah. I got a different Lamy, though, with a straight barrel and grip, and I love it. (The Lamy Logo.)

MZ: Oooo. Yeah I think that’s one I’ve been looking at. it’s a lot smaller isn’t it?

CY: That and the CP1 I think is the other one that looks similar. Yeah, very slender. The Logo is pretty heavy still, despite the small size.

MZ: I have one I need to get a review up that is the smallest pen I’ve ever used. Even smaller than the Petite1!

CY: Ooo! Which one? Or is it a secret?

MZ: Ohto Rook

CY: Oh I have one of those! It was my second…no, third fountain pen.

MZ: I’m kind of excited about trying it as my purse pen

CY: It’s good for that! The cap got dented when I was carrying it regularly, but it is a good little pen.

MZ: I… I kind of like it when pens get little dents and scratches. Makes them have mileage

CY: It says more about the way I treat things in my purse than it says about the pen, of course. And yeah, pens should be loved!

MZ: Hey, I’m the one who managed to dump enough coke into the bottom of a purse to send my phone swimming recently

CY: hahaha erm I mean sorry to hear that

MZ: I was like “That’ll learn me to be girly!” or at least to carry a purse that’s waterproof on the inside

CY: Are there such things? I might need one myself.

MZ: well, apparently this cheapo purse was reasonably water tight it was not the reason I bought it 😛 I bought it because it was like a super small messenger bag and less than $30

CY: An excellent purchase

MZ: We were talking a bit about short stories last week. I didn’t get a chance to ask you, did editing (and slushing) Women Destroy Science Fiction change how you look at stories you read?

CY: Yes and no–I’d been slushing at Lightspeed for a few years already, so there wasn’t a real shift in that regard. But once I knew what my vision for the issue was, I knew what kind of stories I was looking for. I had to pass on a lot of great stories. Fortunately John bought several of them for other issues, so I didn’t have to feel too badly about letting them go!

MZ: 🙂 awesome

CY: But it also meant that I had to read everything and I couldn’t rely on slush readers to weed things out for me. I always took their comments into consideration (they worked SO HARD) but I still ended up reading every submission myself. That was a crazy couple of months–I was traveling non-stop for my day job, working crazy long days and trying to get through 1000+ submissions, get a TOC finalized, handle a bunch of administrivia

MZ: Oof I hope you’ve been taking some time afterward

CY: Oh yes. The past couple of months I’ve taken time off and haven’t committed myself to any new writing or editing projects. I’m back to just working on short stories on spec.

I owe a revision to an editor for a story coming out next year…hm, I’d better get that done.

For Lightspeed right now I’m just working on a guide for the next Guest Editor (Seanan McGuire), a new website that’ll act as a clearing house for all of our DESTROY projects, and a Zazzle store that is like a month and a half overdue to launch.

MZ: Oooo Women Destroy T-shirts

CY: I really need to get that up before Women Destroy Fantasy and Women Destroy Horror come out on October 1. Yes! And mugs, and stickers, etc. John has been referring to me as Director of Special Projects, which I guess is kind of what I am now. 🙂

MZ: heh! Baptism by fire

CY: Totally. There were a lot of lessons learned that I can pass on to the next victims–I mean, editors. But short stories! That’s what we were talking about. I love them. If it changed anything about how I read, I’d say it just made me fall more deeply in love with the short form.

MZ: I just had my first slushing experience, which was simultaneously amazing and disheartening.

CY: Oh neat!

MZ: I think the biggest self-realization was that I can tell a story that isn’t ready to be published almost immediately.

CY: I don’t know what your slush pile looked like, but ours tends to be a whole lot of perfectly competent but not particularly engaging, with a few HOLY WOW and a smattering of UGH.

Yes!

MZ: Yeah the smattering of Ugh was SO UGH.

CY: It doesn’t require reading to the end. When I first started slushing I did read everything to the end, but once I gained a little confidence (and had seen enough of the same thing over and over) it started to become clear in the first couple of pages. Because if the first couple of pages don’t make you want to read on, then it’s not ready.

MZ: (I should mention that UGH = didn’t follow submission guidelines, was torture porn, involved child abuse etc for non-story reasons etc.)

CY: Right

MZ: The other thing slushing showed me is that I can see the difference between good stories and great stories… I’m just less certain entirely what that difference is.

Emotional impact is a lot of it, but totally not the only thing.

CY: What I came up with when I was trying to do that analysis for myself was: voice, structure, and something to say The stories that strike me as great as about something important. That doesn’t mean they’re preachy, or political, or heavy-handed, just that they’re about something that matters deeply to people. The emotional resonance, like you said. And voice–did you notice how much of your slush pile sounds exactly the same? Like the same perfectly competent but not-quite-there author wrote 2/3 of what was submitted That was a major revelation for me

MZ: Yeah, it feels more like “lack of voice” to me

CY: Fair enough

MZ: it’s like a news anchor is reading the story

CY: Yeah! And when one stands out, in my experience it invariably had a strong individual narrative voice

MZ: yeah the story or the characters sound like specific people

CY: You understand the narrative POV from the words they choose. Right. It was a big moment for me when I realized that my stories all sounded like that news anchor and that I was in the perfectly competent but uncompelling category.

MZ: I think I fall short in the structure category.

CY: Have you found any resources that were helpful to you in that area?

MZ: more so for long fiction than short

CY: /nods Yeah it seems like most of what’s out there is directed at screen writers

MZ: Like, I can find the rhythm in a longer fiction piece better

CY: Oh I see, I thought you meant the resources themselves, sorry

MZ: Well, and I come from a screen-writing sort of start, between stage, film, and comics

CY: Neat!

MZ: but that 3 act thing doesn’t neatly translate to short fiction all the time

CY: Right. I’ve had fun with short story structures. You can do a lot with it. I have a blog post about it somewhere, hang on…Here it is: http://www.inkpunks.com/2011/09/12/playing-with-structure/

MZ: I’m mostly not sure how to fix it when its broken. I can see when it works, just not what piece isn’t holding its weight when the thing is lopsided rather than collapsed

CY: I have to pick a shape for the story and then impose it on what’s there. And like you said, three act structure doesn’t do the job. For me, at least.

MZ: That’s hard. I mean it’s totally possible and works great. But it kills the story soul for me a lot of the time. It becomes a chore.

CY: It helps me to actually visualize the shape of it–the length of scenes, the repetition of theme

Ah! For me it does the opposite. So much of the writing life is figuring out what works for us as individuals. Everyone is so different in the way we need to approach a story to get the best out of us

MZ: It really is. I’m struggling with the structure thing. It seems what sort of works is to kind of try on a few different structures on the story to figure out what works. But, that means a lot of re-writing

CY: /nods

MZ: and stories take a long time which isn’t great when you’re trying to hit a deadline for a specific call, or trying to submit more stories

I think I need to let those goals go, and just work on learning structure for me.

CY: I’m getting close to doing this with one work in progress. I’ve been writing scenes–some are strong, some are weak, the weak ones will have to go–but I don’t know how it’s all going to fit together yet. I’m now revising the scenes, cleaning them up, and next I’ll look at what kind of pattern emerges from them and what’s missing to complete the pattern.

I’ve submitted one story all year!

And I’ve given up on the self-loathing over it.

Which I’m prone to. But these are going to take what they’re going to take for them to be as good as they can be and I’m not submitting them until they are. I made that mistake last year–rushed a couple of stories out the door just for the sake of submitting something

MZ: Yeah. The worst is if you rush something out the door and it gets published… so you can’t change it. 🙂

CY: I had to completely rewrite them later, they were so not ready to go out

That is a legit fear!

MZ: I mean specifically that you’re not happy with how a story turned out and it gets published

CY: Right

MZ: not a story you are at the self-hating point with that is perfectly fine and gets published. That’s similar, but different

CY: One of the things John has always said is that he sees way too many stories that could have been great if the author had just let it cool a little while longer and given it another pass

MZ: Oh yes. There were SO MANY of those in the slush.

Like the concept or characters were REALLY cool but the story just hadn’t been “finished”

CY: Yeah

MZ: I seem to have trouble writing regularly in the summer. Do you have trouble keeping it up while you’re traveling?”

CY: Oh yes, it’s been impossible for me so far.

I have the best intentions to change my schedule so that I go to bed early and get up early to write but I haven’t succeeded yet. Once the day job travel kicks in again it’ll be the only way it gets done, because I’m just wiped out by the end of the day. Right now I’m just making sure that I write or revise in a few short sprints every day. But my schedule is flexible right now, so I can do that.

I’m working on several things at once, which might seem like a bad idea, but for me it keeps me interested in all of them and I can take my time and groom each one carefully

MZ: I find the getting up “early” on my days off helps, but if I do it on the days I work it just means I dink around and am too tired after work

CY: Discipline is…difficult. I have never been good at it.

MZ: I do not have it. Nope. I like being a bit of a scatterbrain in lots of aspects of my life, but trying to discipline myself is hard.

CY: I look at people like Jake Kerr–who is currently a powerhouse of productivity, despite a family and a demanding day job–and am just baffled at how he does it.

MZ: I think some of it really does come down to “They are different people than I am, and that’s OK”

CY: Yeah, I am still working on that “don’t compare yourself to others” thing. 🙂

MZ: There’s a difference between making excuses and living your own life.

CY: I definitely have a tendency toward procrastination and laziness

MZ: I mean there are people who function totally awesome on 4 hours of sleep a night every night. I am not them either.

CY: NOPE me either

MZ: Me too. But sometimes that procrastination has a purpose

CY: 7-9 or I’m significantly less functional I can get away with 6 ONE night a week.

MZ: so it’s trying to be honest with myself both ways with it

CY: /nod

MZ: sometimes I feel like I’m “procrastinating” when I’m really refilling the aquifer of creativity and emotional bandwidth

CY: True! That is so necessary.

MZ: and sometimes I am quite honestly fucking around

CY: 🙂 I have found that programs like Cold Turkey help me a lot. I have social media blocked during the work day except at lunch. And also most of my other distracting sites (ModCloth, Etsy, Slate, etc.) I can lose hours easily, so I just eliminate the temptation (I still have Twitter on my phone and check it periodically, but it’s such a pain to use on the phone that I don’t say much.)

MZ: Yeah, I am probably due for a good break from online but, I don’t have a social outlet outside of the internet… so that’s also something to keep in mind. Heh, that sounds slightly lamer than it is

CY: No I’m with you–we’re isolated here too

MZ: I live very rurally, so I don’t have a lot of opportunity for in-person socialization and the friends I do have in the area keep moving away.

CY: I only block from 8-5. And yeah, we have no social life here either, despite living in a sizable town. We had a gaming group for years, but our DM changed jobs a few months ago and haven’t seen any of them since

MZ: awww

CY: And two of them were already remote! We would play over Google Hangouts.

MZ: this is very much a retirement community in a lot of ways, so there just aren’t a lot of people our age and the ones who are, are really busy. I mean, only here and in SFF am I considered “a kid”

CY: I am going to the wedding of one of our game friends tomorrow, though! It will be good to see her. They live about an hour away.

hahaha

MZ: The mayor calls me “kiddo” when she sees me 🙂

CY: Lots of golf and bridge being played? 🙂 This is why conventions (and social media) are so important to me–that’s where I see my friends.

MZ: golf for sure, not sure about the local bridge clubs. I’m sure there are though

I know the fastest way to spread news around town is to have someone talk about it at Senior Meals

CY: Ha! 😀

MZ: There have been a few people who had premature deaths in town because someone got them mixed up with someone else and said they died at Senior Meals, and their family was very concerned when they started getting condolences

CY: Oh no!

MZ: (They were actually alive)

(still are)

CY: hahahah So what are you going to be working on today?

MZ: other than dishes?

CY: Well, yeah. 🙂

MZ: I am actually taking a novel project and splitting it up into 3 shorter novels and doing their outlines as they currently exist so I can see where the holes are and such to make them into 3 instead of one. I’ve split out the first two and now I need to add a bunch of extra stuff to the 3rd one to see how close in length it is before edits

CY: Excellent! That’s a big project.

MZ: …and dishes, and vacuuming

CY: I’m doing the opposite: working on three short stories related to an existing published one, that I eventually intend to put together into a short novel.

MZ: ooooo

CY: I’m having fun with it. I actually have two projects I’m approaching that way. One fantasy, one SF

MZ: I will say, I do really like how ebooks are opening up these kinds of projects

CY: Exactly!

MZ: And to publish projects that wouldn’t have seen the light of day in the past because of length or not fitting into a normal publishing cycle

CY: The possibility of writing and selling the stories to established markets, and then putting them together after exclusivity is up and selling them as an ebook is a great opportunity. I have one mini-collection out there, but I’ve done nothing at all to promote it

MZ: I’d like to do a mini-collection of stories set in the world I destroyed with tiny unicorns

CY: hahaha awesome

MZ: I have two stories published there, and ideas for 3 more

CY: (Ooo my Metropolitan just ran out of ink. Time to pick a new ink sample to try!)

That sounds like so much fun.

MZ: I am absolutely digging the scented inks. I know it is silly, but I like having that added dimension to the experience of writing

CY: Not silly at all. I started collecting perfume samples for the same reason

MZ: plus the novel project has characters who are associated with particular scents, so it really gets my brain into that world

CY: Totally! I was thinking about trying out a new prompt session at Rainforest based on scents instead of visuals

MZ: Ooooo I can bring stuff

CY: Fun! Let’s do it!

MZ: /highfive

CY: /highfive

 

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers

71fc8b350049b65c99a36b8f098f33ad

Andrew Penn Romine

Today I’m catching up with Andrew Penn Romine. Andrew is a writer and animator. He can be found on the internet at http://www.andrewpennromine.com/ http://www.inkpunks.com/ and on Twitter.

 

Minerva Zimmerman: So, the first thing I want to catch up on is how your research went when you headed to the Midwest? Did you visit a lot of places?

Andrew Romine: You’re talking about my trip last year?

MZ: Yes. I haven’t caught up with you in forever!

AR: Hah! I guess it’s been awhile! So last summer, right after I wrapped at DreamWorks, my wife and I took the opportunity to drive back east to see family. On the way back, we decided to route through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas because my current WIP is set in the Dust Bowl, and I wanted to get a real feel for the country. And I did! It’s flat, hot, and very dry.

MZ: Flat in particular seems such a foreign concept to me.

AR: When I tell folks from those areas that we made a special point of driving through, they laugh and say “well, you only needed to drive a few miles, and you probably had the whole picture.” So you’ve mostly lived along the coast, and mountains?

MZ: Seattle, San Diego, and Oregon Coast

AR: All beautiful areas.  And so are Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, though especially in the western parts of the states, the beauty is stark. I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of places like that. I love to drive through the desert. You can see for miles.

MZ: I like the desert as seen from a comfortable car with AC

AR: Haha! Yeah. it’s easy to love it that way.  My sister used to live in Tucson. We have friends who live there now. We love to visit, but try to time our visits in the winter or spring.

So getting back to original question… the trip was mostly driving, though we did hit some small town museums and got some local history. It was sort of an impromptu trip, so I didn’t have time to schedule any interviews or that sort of thing.

MZ: find some good details?

AR: Oh yeah. We even had a little dust storm blow through while we were in Dalhart, tx. You can read about it, you can watch a Ken Burns documentary, but nothing like feeling the sting of grit on your face.

MZ: yikes

AR: (i should say though, what we experienced was not even a fraction of what they used to get though.) I mean, we could still see the sky.

MZ: Yeah, my grandma lived through that. It’s weird to think about her stories cause she got married at 16 and then they left everything behind to go to the West Coast to try and make a new life and still lived in complete poverty, with lasting health effects of the lack of food.

AR: Yeah. Physically and mentally, it’s hard to get over that sort of hardship.

MZ: like, she went gray by 20

AR: Wow.

MZ: I just can’t even fathom that kind of hardship

AR: No, I feel pretty fortunate that for all of my lean times, I’ve never experienced anything that extreme. There are people that do, though. Every day.

And you can look at pictures from that era — and everyone looks about 20 years older than they actually are. To have experienced that sort of hardship, though. To survive it. I have utmost respect. And it’s one of the reasons I write about the period.

MZ: And now you’re back doing animation too. Did you enjoy a break from it?

AR: It’s always good to switch gears for a bit, focus on a different creative task. I was working pretty hard before my trip, and so it was nice to really dive back into writing. And then, yeah, to dive back into animation again!  Oh, so for your readers, I guess I should be a little more specific about what I mean by “animation.” My day job is in visual fx and animation.  And while I’ve worn many hats and done a lot of different types of work, my focus these days is developing and simulation cloth and hair rigs for digital characters. And then running the characters through shots for the commercial, TV show, or film.

MZ: (He’s badass at it too)

AR: In film, especially, a movie gets made by assembly line…

(aw, thanks.)

There’s a different department that handles each stage….

My department is called different things depending on what studio you’re at, but probably the most general term I could use is “Character Technical Director.”

or CharTd

it’s sort of a hybrid artistic/technical job.

MZ: I think it makes perfect sense that you are a writer, cause technical and artistic goes hand in hand with that too

AR: We deal with clothes, hair, fur, fat/skin jiggle. We clean up the performance of the Animation department to fix objects going through each other (ie, a char’s fingers poke through the cup he’s drinking out of, tc) yeah, that’s true! both are all about performance, but you have to know how to get the performance you want. (true of any discipline, I guess.)

MZ: I guess you deal with a lot of artifacts too! Just a different kind 😛

AR: Heheh yes! my ways of working are similar.  Lay down the broad strokes first. Get a sense of where you’re going, what you want to accomplish. Do a refine pass.  Then another, then another.

until it’s done.  which sounds simple. it’s not.

MZ: it never is, and no one ever tells you that there’s no good way to know if anything is ever really done, mostly you just get to a certain point and push it out the door and pray a lot

AR: Yeah, though in vfx/animation, the movie DOES have to get released sometime…

MZ: deadlines deadlines deadlines. It is amazing how much inspiration you can get from deadlines

AR: so there’s a fair amount of.. negotiation between getting the shot done right and just getting it done to hit the deadline. It’s a good balance, most of the time. Oh yeah. In fact, my most successful writing ventures of the last year or so have been to antho calls with specific deadlines in mind. Not all of them have ultimately been accepted, but it was a great motivator to get some stuff written

MZ: yeah, me too. Not doing so well for acceptances this year and at least one of the projects I decided to trunk indefinitely

AR: I’m sorry to hear that. Though sometimes, it seems trunking is the best option

MZ: Yeah, i think ultimately it was too specific to the call and more personal catharsis than marketable story

AR: And sometimes you have to write those stories. To practice the craft. To get it out.

And who knows. Nothing has to stay trunked forever.

MZ: I might steal aspects of it at least

AR: exactly.

MZ: I find that happens more and more over time.

AR: Yeah. I can’t speak for all writers (let alone you) but for me — I’m less obsessed about making sure everything I write is 100% marketable. I’m more interested in the experience of writing it. Er, don’t get me wrong. I’d LIKE to have others read it. get paid. Be showered in the adulation of my colleagues and friends…

MZ: Yeah. I had a specific anthology call in mind for this story.

AR: Yeah. and that can be tricky because you get so focused on making sure that one market will love it, and it may not be as successful elsewhere. But like you said. Pull out the guts, rebuild it.

MZ: Well, I think I could have sent it to another market, I just decided that it ended up more catharsis than story.

AR: Yeah. So what are you working on these days?

MZ: I’m actually working on long fiction again. My brain seems kind of frazzled trying to work on short fiction recently.

AR: i know the feeling!

MZ: It’s been nice to get back into longer stories with established characters.

AR: Are you back to working on a previous project, ie, a setting/chars you’re already familiar with or are you starting something new?

MZ: I’m getting ready to dive back into a previous project for in-depth editing.

AR: Nice! I finished a draft of my book last year (sigh) and need to get back to it. It’s hard to start up after a long absence, though

MZ: I find the best way to do it is to involve someone else, so you can piggyback off their enthusiasm so a Beta Reader or involved editor or the like

AR: Mmm. Good idea.

MZ: cause just having someone to talk about story stuff and the characters really gets the writer juices flowing

AR: Yah, for sure.  I’m pretty positive there are going to be some significant rewrites

but hey, that’s part of the game.

MZ: I’m doing a post-write outline right now putting all the scenes into a spreadsheet so I can look at all the different parts in one view

AR: that’s a good idea

MZ: I do something sorta similar but my own version of Justine Larbalestier’s spreadsheet here http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2006/09/06/how-to-write-a-novel/ but I do it after the story is at least 60% done at the earliest

AR: Oh cool, I’ll check that out!

MZ: I don’t like doing an in-depth pre-outline, cause it destroys a lot of the discovery process

AR: I agree. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going, but discovery is most of the reason *I* write.

MZ: I’ll write up directions, but I don’t draw a map until I get lost. The other thing you’re known for, is being something of a mixologist. Any new favorite cocktails recently?

AR: Ahh. Another fun subject. I was definitely hardcore into mixology a few years ago. My interest hasn’t exactly waned, but the way life’s fallen, I tend to mix (and drink!) less these days.

(Not a bad thing maybe?)

Still, though, it’s a passion of mine

MZ: I got a huge sampler of Fee Bitters recently, and I’ve been using them in seltzer more than cocktails 🙂

AR: Oh that’s a great idea! I have an army of bitters bottles, and I’ll often add them to soda water as a digestive

MZ: it makes a very lovely non-calorie drink

AR: As far as actual cocktails go, i’ve been focused on the classics these days (o, I bet!)

Manhattans, Martinis, margaritas, negronis. You really can’t go wrong with those.

MZ: I made what ended up being sort of a tequila martini sort of thing, 1 to 1 silver tequila and St. Germain with grapefruit bitters

AR: I’ve been making my margaritas lately with mezcal instead of tequila. And a variation on the Negroni (which is a house-fave)

MZ: I’m not sure I’ve ever had mezcal

AR: Oh mezcal is tasty. Smoky, a little like scotch, but with that sort of resinous mouth feel of tequila.

MZ: Oooo I like smoky

AR: Try mezcal!

MZ: Do you have a brand you recommend?

AR: Well, I’ve tried a few, though for the value, Del Maguey’s Vida is my fave.

MZ: Cool. I’ll have to try that. I’m a big scotch person, so that’s a fascinating new taste to try.

AR: Yeah, if you like smoky scotch, then mezcal should be right up your alley

MZ: Is there anything else you want to make sure to talk about?

AR: I could talk all night about a bunch of things…

but

I probably shouldn’t…

I’m eager to get back to my writing.

 

Ghosts in the IM: Conversations With Writers

SunilPatel

Sunil Patel

Sunil just recently sold his very first short story! He’s a playwright and an actor in the Bay Area and soon he will be reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine. He can be found on the internet at http://ghostwritingcow.com/ and I highly recommend following him on Twitter.

 

 

Minerva Zimmerman: So you just sold your very first short story!

Sunil Patel: I did! I keep telling people this and I still don’t believe it.

MZ: That’s so awesome. It’s a big step.

SP: And I’m sharing a table of contents with some unbelievable names, like Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Andy Duncan…people with AWARDS AND SHIT.

MZ: And you just got back from LonCon

SP: My second Worldcon!

MZ: I really like following you on Twitter because you just get so exuberant about everything. It’s like getting the cliff notes about the stuff I care about

SP: I love turning people on to things I love. I always think about the mark I make on the world, and I want it to be a positive one. Even if I do nothing else before I die, if I was the reason you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, then I did something good in this world.

MZ: 🙂 I feel like there’s a good chance that if you like something I’ll like something.

SP: And that’s good! It’s good to be aware of people’s tastes. I like to think my recommendations are the best, but they’re only the best if you agree with me and what I look for in things. I tend to be more positive in general than most people, I think, which means I even like things that are generally derided, like the first Transformers movie.

MZ: What was your favorite part about your trip. You seemed to be eating your way through Paris prior to the con

SP: And I just hope the fact that I like some things that may not be objectively good doesn’t invalidate my recommending genuinely amazing things. With regards to Paris, the dinner I had on my last night was definitely a highlight, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Foie gras (I’M SORRY DUCKS I’M REALLY SORRY BUT OH MY GOD), roast duck, pain perdu, and…you know, I just had Subway. Sorry, stomach, please forgive me, I’ll put something wonderful in you again soon enough.

But another highlight was acquiring some single-serving travel buddies at the Eiffel Tower. Two 19-year-old girls, both from England, I believe, and one of Iranian descent. And they were the BIGGEST NERDS EVER. At one point they were singing the Pokémon theme song. On the Eiffel Tower.

I loved that our geekery bonded us strangers together for one night.

MZ: So random, but so awesome that geekery can bring people together. Though I am realizing that 19 year olds probably don’t remember a world in which Pokemon didn’t exist and that’s sort of weirding me out

SP: And there are so many kids who have never known a world without The Simpsons.

MZ: Yeah, I’ve been watching the marathon sitting here sick on the sofa.

SP: Kids? Adults. Shit.

MZ: And realizing that some of these episodes I remember airing, aired like 20+ years ago

SP: I feel really old all the time, even though I know I’m young. And I keep feeling like I should have started getting serious about writing and submitting years ago. I should have written FIFTEEN BOOKS at my age or whatever.

MZ: Yeah. I get that feeling too.

SP: I know every writer has a different path. There are plenty of stories of successful writers who started late in life, and they’re heartening. But then I hear the stories of people who wrote their first novels as teenagers and I’m like SHUT UP.

MZ: Well, I think there’s partly a thing where you can’t generally start too young because there’s some fundamental amount of work that needs to come first. I mean most people wrote young, but that doesn’t mean they’d learned yet

SP: I wrote a book called The Disastrous Dino War when I was nine. I also illustrated it. I’ll bet you can’t guess what it’s about.

MZ: clowns?

SP: Close! It’s about a dino war. It was disastrous.

MZ: Hehehehe

SP: I will never misspell that word. Never ever.

MZ: I’m on cold medicine, so that’s really funny to me today.

SP: Because the day before I was to submit that book for a contest, I realized I had “Disasterous” on the cover and title page and that was not the correct spelling and I had to redo them both. Disaster-ous! Like a disaster! IT MAKES SENSE. Goddammit, English language.

MZ: oh no. I wrote a book of poetry for a young writer’s contest at like 7, it’s terrible stuff like: “A bear makes tears, A Mom repairs”

SP: “Sandy ate pears”

MZ: but Dear Mr. Henshaw was my favorite book ever, and I HAD to go to the young author’s meeting

SP: “They fell on their derrieres” I loved that book!

MZ: and like you had to turn in a book to go!

SP: (There are so many books today where I say, “I loved that book!” but I was a kid and I have literally no memory of the book, I just know I read it.)

MZ: I was working at the kitchen table trying to come up with a story and I truly thought my life was ending when I couldn’t make anything work. At 7!

SP: What a tragedy!

MZ: I was like knocking back shots of apple juice in despair!

SP: Despair, see, that’s another good rhyme.

MZ: pretty sure I used that, also something about a goblin

SP: “The goblin scares”

MZ: yep, that was it

SP: I feel pretty good about being as talented as a 7-year-old.

MZ: 😀 So, I try to keep that in mind when everthing seems terrible and I’m never going to be a “real” writer.

SP: For me, it’s trying to put into perspective my writing path as opposed to other people’s. Some people just wrote and wrote and wrote continually since they were children, and then they wrote all the time, and they wrote books, and they couldn’t stop.

MZ: Yeah if you try to navigate by other people’s milestones, you’re going to end up lost.

SP: That wasn’t me. For me, I only wrote for contests as I was growing up. That was what motivated me to write something. The first major story I wrote just because I had an idea and I wanted to write it was called “Polter-Cow,” which I then adopted as my online persona, hence my Twitter handle of ghostwritingcow.

MZ: Heh, I really like the idea of Ghost Cows there is apparently a place here in Oregon that gets them

SP: It came from an enemy in the Sega Genesis game Toejam and Earl 2: Panic on Funkatron.

MZ: ohhhh yeah

SP: But anyway, after that first story I wrote just to write a story, I ended up taking creative writing courses in college, and I wrote a lot in college.

MZ: didn’t that have a really spooky sound effect?

SP: I remembered the other day that I even wrote a short screenplay.

MZ: You’re also really active in theater

SP: I don’t remember the sound effect! Possibly.

Right, I got hooked on theater in college and took a dramatic writing course, and once I got to the Bay Area, I started writing monologues and short plays. And I have to keep reminding myself: all of that, ALL OF THAT was writing. I didn’t just start writing last year and then sell a story nine months later.

MZ: Yeah, I don’t think anyone really does that. I mean everything has to be in your brain first.

SP: I’m in a weird paradoxical mode where it feels like I did that since I only started submitting to SFF magazines recently. But I’ve been writing for years and years, in so many different forms. I wrote a lot in online journals as well.

 MZ: Right, but I mean it’s kind of like making gumbo. First you make a roux, then you start cooking your onions and garlic, and then you start throwing in ingredients from all over and you have something sorta in mind, but it isn’t the same every time.

SP: That metaphor is going way over my head because the most complicated thing I can make is chili and that is dumping things into a pot.

MZ: hahahaha, so is this sorta, but in an order

SP: First you drop in your terrible dinosaur book, mix in a story about a ghost cow, sprinkle in some theater…

 MZ: I mean everyone has their basic writing skills, and then all the books and stuff they’ve ever read, then all their experiences

SP: Who even knows where words come from?

MZ: and then there’s so much writing that has to happen in all different kinds of things before you can put something together good enough to publish

SP: Every time I look at a story I’ve written I don’t really understand where it came from. Words are weird.

MZ: Words are weird. Brains too.

SP: I tried to add up if I’d written my million words of crap. I forget the total I came to but I hadn’t included all my online journal stuff and I think that counts because that was a lot of crap.

MZ: I have a weird question. Have you read a lot of plays?

SP: I have read a lot of plays! Both for class and for fun.

MZ: I had a weird TA gig where I had a lot of free time in the drama department, so I ended up reading all the plays starting with A. I think I got to about S

SP: What was your favorite?

 MZ: I really liked the original Arsenic and Old Lace because all the Boris Karloff jokes make more sense in that character was actually portrayed by Boris Karloff

SP: That play is hilarious. The movie’s great too.

MZ: Auntie Mame too

SP: Really like those A plays, then.

MZ: I did apparently. I wish I’d kept better track of what I’d read

SP: I need to go back through time and ask my past self to update my Goodreads.

MZ: my past self is such a pain in my ass

SP: I like to think that I am currently the best version of me that has ever been because, hoo boy, some of my past selves.

MZ: ahahahaha I just wish I could delegate more or at least have them undo some of their mistakes. I work at a museum, and I’m always telling people to write the records and notes in the records as letters to their future selves telling them what they were thinking at the time. Cause your future self will curse you otherwise.

SP: I am so incredibly grateful for all the journaling I did because it was basically offloading my memory into digital form.

MZ: Yeah I’ve gotten out of the habit

SP: I can read past entries and there are so many details of good times I had with friends that I cannot access in my brain anymore. So I guess they happened. Probably. I can’t really trust what I wrote to be accurate though.

MZ: I wonder if it is a thing that happens in life or not

SP: I think it’s also because now there is so much more Internet. LiveJournal used to be The Place and then Facebook and Twitter sort of became the way people communicated instead. And now Tumblr.

MZ: it’s true. I remember when LJ was most of my internet. I prefer Twitter in a lot of ways, but I can’t deal with Facebook at all.

SP: I feel that I have been neglecting Facebook for Twitter, which is sad because I love Facebook. Facebook is where my friends are. Not that I don’t have friends on Twitter, but Facebook is where the people I have known for years in real life—mostly my college friends and theater friends—talk.

MZ: I never liked the user interface, so I never really got into it.

SP: The response to my Facebook post announcing that I sold my first short story was tremendous. I felt so supported, even by people I hadn’t actually talked to in years. Also being able to use more than 140 characters when communicating is a plus.

MZ: Yeah, I do miss LJ for that. But I feel like people just don’t really comment on journal posts anymore

SP: Which saddens me because it’s the only way I know someone has actually read it. Otherwise I feel like I’m shouting into the void.

MZ: Yeah, but I mean I guess that’s what writing is a lot of the time, so it isn’t necessarily bad… just feedback is nice.

SP: Writing—all art—is a form of communication, an expression of ideas, so it’s nice to know that you’ve reached someone in some way. Even if it’s simply “I have no reaction to this at all but I have heard you and internalized your words and I have no choice but to be irrevocably changed by this experience because that is how life works.”

MZ: I’m looking forward to reading your short

SP: I’m looking forward to you reading my short story! Also dreading. I’m excited/terrified.

MZ: Sounds about right 🙂

SP: I hear it never gets any easier.

MZ: nope, fraid not

SP: Lord, what fools these writers be.

MZ: Hark, but I do hear the morning lark

wait, no… that’s just a cold medicine hallucination

SP: Nay, ’tis the afternoon ibis.

MZ: /coughcoughcoughlaughcough

SP: That joke is only funny to me because we were all birds on Twitter earlier today because, you know, Twitter.

 MZ: Makes sense. I’m still sort of sneaking up on today. I really don’t recommend this cold.

SP: I resolve not to get it, and I will not recommend it to others.

MZ: Good plan. Well, I think that about wraps it up for this. Anything you want to make sure to talk about?

SP: I did want to put in a plug for Worldcon as a fantastic convention to go to, as last year’s Worldcon was what showed me how lovely and supportive the SFF community is and inspired me to officially join it as a writer.

MZ: Cool. That is a much stronger recommendation to go next year than a lot of things.

SP: I’ve already registered for next year. Hope to see you there!

MZ: Kind of curious how that’s going to go with it being not close to a hub airport

SP: Perhaps they will organize mammoth caravans or dragon rides.

MZ: ooo dragons. that would make it memorable

SP: Make it happen, George R.R. Martin.