You Ain’t -Punk

I missed my opportunity to go to Cleveland ConCoction last weekend due to a teensy little surgical procedure to reconstruct my ACL. Considering my mobility depends on a pair of crutches, and how my leg gets painfully swollen if I stand too long, I reluctantly relinquished my hotel reservation.

In fact, much of my year is kind of shot. ConFluence in Pittsburgh is up in the air. And in truth, I’ve kind of reached a break point in my job. I believe I’ve mentioned I was promoted to team lead, but the workload was vast. The goal post for our project kept shifting and work weeks inflated to 50 or 60 hours long. While we met the minimum viable product standards Friday before last, but I am getting more optimistic that the next release will not be so demanding.

The prior week however, was devoted to rest and recovery. Hours were spent catching up on television, including the second season of The Expanse, the final season of The StrainAltered Carbon and several episodes of the original Star Trek. I also made significant headway into Black Lightning and the second season of Jessica Jones. Movies weren’t ignored either as I finally caught Black PantherCocoThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which I did not enjoy) and Moana (which I did). I also found time to wrap up Stephen King’s It and Into the Blight by my friend and first-time novelist Jonathan Ward. I recommend you read it and keep an eye on Ward as a promising new author as it was very well told.

With something to do besides just work all the time, I’ve felt a hungering to write again unlike any other. There’s a part of me who covets something that isn’t out there. Something that isn’t totally like everything I’ve read or watched before. Much of my bibliography has been to distinctly please someone else; a publisher, an editor, a franchise, a fan base. Very little has been for me.

This idea of writing for myself reminded me of the anger I bear towards the current direction of the indie publishing industry. In the last few years, a couple of publishers had ripped me and my friends off. Yet we’ve seen interest dying among readers from too many titles. Anyone foolish enough to ask writer corners for suggestions gets buried in 60 or so self-published sales pitches.

And maybe there’s a hint of paranoia in the mix. I find myself a bit guarded on the occasions when I’m asked about the process of writing for Banner Saga. Kind of like the Oscars, where those celebrities’ faces dropped when they were asked, “What would you tell the younger generation of actors who are trying to make it?” It’s this sensation of knowing that someone nakedly wants something that makes one feel a little apprehensive.

Honesty keeps a blog from being boring.

That’s the cynicism talking. The same bitterness that found itself into a short story embracing it. A story that was good enough to inspire Manuel to work on a comic for it, and he’s hard at work learning the ropes about this first time endeavor. I really wish I could tell you that it’s right around the corner, that it’ll be published in a month or so. But it won’t be. It sucks but art takes time.

More so because I really want Manuel to learn the ropes about every aspect of making a comic. I am not helping to raise an artist (Manuel was long already that), I’m helping to train a full fledged art director. And to do that, he has to have a solid, hands-on understanding of every aspect of the process, even if he eventually delegates others to take charge of lettering or layout, etc. I think a solid leader is a jack-of-all-trades who, at the very least, has a good grasp of each element of whatever makes the product in question.

But this comic and the bitterness that surrounds it… I worry sometimes that cutting off larger chunks of myself for the witch’s ink brew can backlash. New marketing ideas I’ve considered seem sarcastic and even combative. We talked genre labels and one idea kept coming up that we found hysterical: calling out the -punk suffix cause most of it isn’t really punk.

It isn’t.

All these names began as a twist on cyberpunk, which usually is punk— stories that mix low life and high tech, and usually revel around sticking it to the man. But with all the -punk genres, the anti-authoritarian attitudes died down, and the punk themes were set aside for exploratory tales, alternate histories (like Iron Harvest, which I’ve backed and if you’re into RTS games, you should too) and ideas more in the proto-science fiction vein.

I haven’t been studying marketing as hard as I should, but I’m fairly certain that calling a motherfucker out is not considered sound practice. Yet there is something attractive about the idea, given that indie publishing inevitably has an anti-establishment streak to it, or at least should. Therein lies the point: if you succeed, Disney will buy it and make a mint. If you’re semi-successful, Disney will loot the concept. Hell is the only asylum, full of the despicable and the incorrigible that they will never touch.

Back to work.

Advertisements

Writer Pep Talk

This Guy.Shopping for a Space Marine chapter to write about is hard.

Very hard.

From what I can tell, the first and some of the second founding chapters are the most interesting, and the ones that everyone wants to read about the most. After browsing through the Black Library’s current selection of Space Marine books, there are very few books about non First Founding Space Marine chapters.

My theory? It’s those amazing Horus Heresy stories. We associate what happens mostly to those Legions. We’re drawn to the Imperial Fists, Blood Angels and Iron Warriors, because those names have been around a long, long time. Guys like the Brazen Claws, Chosen of Nemeroth and Minotaurs? Not so much.

Take a nobody and make them interesting. That’s a big challenge.

I’ve been at this for a few years now. Only this year, I’m more serious than ever. I’ve been published a few times in other, non-Black Library anthologies and I’m going to continue to be published whether or not I ever make it into the BL. Win, lose or draw, writing is what I do and what I’m going to continue to do, big leagues or not.

A few years ago, I was content to be the same as a thousand other fans out there, who wait for the submission window, shoot them something, and then do nothing else with their career. I was content to do fan fictions before, now I want more than that. I’m serious about writing.

I’m hungry for something bigger.

I can understand how other people can be disgusted by that. The thought of writing for total pocket change. Having to not only work creative, but editing and marketing and finances. Being an artist sounds totally beautiful, but when they hear about the sheer amount of work that has to be done to get published and keep getting published, they see the ugly. The guys who try, fail and give up thought they were going to get a runaway hit.

Life doesn’t work like that. Even the best had to hammer it, and hammer it hard.

You get told you can’t do prose?
You keep writing.
You get that rubber stamp template rejection letter?
You keep writing.
Your story bombs?
You keep writing.

And you keep writing, writing, writing. And you don’t stop. No matter who says no, you keep writing.

Maybe I started this with some thoughts about writing for the Black Library. But there is so much more to it. Maybe you, who is reading this, wants to get accepted by BL, or Tor or Random House or whomever else out there. Weird Tales, Dark Moon Digest. Maybe you want Stephen King to say your work inspired him to write again. Maybe you want to write that book that is so incredible, even J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell and Robert E. Howard get out of their graves to go get a copy. Whoever you want to get published by is just the symptom. Writing is the disease.

Keep writing.