Category Archives: Write Whenever You Can

Welcome to December – 2016 in Review

This month, the Fictorians and a slew of guest authors are going to share their successes, failures, lessons learned, and insights to the writing journey that we’ve experienced this year. December is usually a time of reflection for everyone as the calendar winds down. Looking back on our year is often a measurement of how far we’ve come as writers and human beings. To that end, this month’s theme is “2016 in Review.”

Each of us will share memorable events from the last twelve months and maybe a few lessons learned. A lot can happen in a year, even one that passes as quickly as 2016 seems to have gone. For me, 2016 has been a watershed year and as it comes to a close, I’m a bit humbled by what’s happened and, if possible, more excited about my journey as a writer than I’ve ever been. A tremendous amount of wonderful things have happened this year for me, and yet as I write this I’m slogging through a work in progress that I don’t want to write, but must finish (damn you, Heinlein!). As a firm believer in perspective, especially at the end of the calendar year, I wanted to coordinate this month for my fellow Fictorians and get all of thinking about the good, the bad, and even the ugly from the last twelve months.

I’ve already talked about my ugly, but I’ll define it. I’m working on an alternate history novel that’s kicking me in the pants every day. I have a solid story, a great outline, and good characters, but I’m constantly chickening out of actually writing the damned thing. I’m 20,000 words in (90,000 projected) and it’s tough to just write. Granted, I’ve started a new job and been taking care of my spouse after a complicated food surgery (which involves the care, feeding, and parenting of two munchkins), but I’m way behind where I wanted to be on this book. And it’s due in February. Sigh. I’d feel terrible about this except that I know I can write fast, and especially write clean and fast. I think I’ll make my deadline, but I’ve got to settle a few other things in my head. Among all that stuff is dealing with the good things that have happened so I can celebrate but not rest on my laurels.

Before I retired from the Army, there was a wide-reaching movement for leaders to consider their “work/life balance.” If anything, mine’s way skewed to the work side right now and not unlike it was when I wrote the first drafts of SLEEPER PROTOCOL in 2012-2013. I was still able to write then, and I can now, it just takes a little self-discipline and determination. When I need that extra motivation, all I have to do is turn my head to the right and a shelf over my desk. This year is framed beautifully by that image and it’s been the kind of year we dream of having.

SLEEPER PROTOCOL was published in January, was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, and has sold way more copies than I would have imagined. Just a week later, another publisher released my military science fiction novel RUNS IN THE FAMILY. That book also sold incredibly well, but the small press who published it shuttered just last week. I have a couple of options working right now to get it back into publication (though the audiobook is still available!). I also had short fiction published in several different venues including the DRAGON WRITERS anthology alongside Brandon Sanderson, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, and David Farland to name a few. I qualified as an Active Member in the Science Fiction Writers of America. The sequel to SLEEPER PROTOCOL is in the final stages of content editing right now. It’s been an incredible year, but I’ll share my own personal highlight at the end of the month.

The stories you’ll see this month will highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is what we writers deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes our efforts culminate in great years, and others not so much. The key is perseverance and determination – we’re sharing our successes and challenges in the hopes they’ll help you and each other out. I hope this month’s posts do exactly that for all of us.

Harl Vincent, Pulp Engineer

I have to admit, I have an affinity for the early science fiction, fantasy, and weird tales that came out in the beginning of the twentieth century. Some of the tales are cringe-worthy these days, especially when viewed from a scientific perspective. Remember, nobody landed on the moon, airplanes were still in the experimental stage, and many people in rural areas had never even seen a car yet. Everything beyond the atmosphere of our pale blue marble was up for speculation, and science fiction authors were more than happy to think of wild new ideas as to what was “out there”.

A good example of the strangeness that was contemplated was Captain Sterner St. Paul Meeks, who wrote a set of early science fiction stories in the pulp magazines that included weird amoeba-like creatures that lived in the “heaviside layer”, a boundary between our atmosphere and outer space. These creatures were chowing down on the tasty rockets the humans kept sending up. Eventually, scientists discovered the truth, and the stories migrated onwards using the new information to write even weirder stories.

Harold Vincent Schoepflin, who thankfully went by the pen name of Harl Vincent, wrote for many of the early Harl Vincentscience fiction pulp magazines. He was born in 1893 in chilly Buffalo, New York. Harl was an educated gentleman who worked as a mechanical engineer for Westinghouse, specializing in industrial electrical devices. He used his engineering background to great success with his stories, giving his tales an air of scientific possibility.

Harl Vincent’s first sale was to a new pulp magazine called Amazing Stories. Harl read an issue of the magazine, headed by Hugo Gernsback (the namesake of the Hugo awards), and decided he would try to pen a story for fun. To his surprise, his story, The Golden Girl of Munan, was picked up and published in the June 1928 edition. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, and Harl went on to write many stories for Amazing Stories and several other of the speculative fiction pulps. He developed quite a following, and his name appeared often on covers to alert his fans that there was a new Harl Vincent story inside.

As Harl’s genre skills developed, he branched out to other pulps including Argosy All-Story, a highly respected weekly magazine that ran from 1882 to 1978. Most of his longer works were either novellas or serialized short novels, with the exception of his full-sized novel, The Doomsday Planet, that came out in 1966.

During World War II, Harl stopped writing for the pulps and focused on his family and his engineering career. He didn’t get back to writing until he was 73 years old, when he published the aforementioned Doomsday Planet and a short story for the speculative fiction magazine If in 1967.

Before Harl started writing, he had married Ruth Hoff and had a son and a daughter. Unfortunately, he was an avid smoker, and he eventually succumbed to emphysema and pneumonia when he was 75.

Always interested in science fiction, he continued to read the popular pulp magazines until he returned to writing his novel and a short story before passing away. Harl was a staple at the local science fiction conventions in Los Angeles, where he and his wife relocated from the snowy winters of the western New York area. He joined the Count Dracula Society and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and he attended meetings as often as he could.

As for me, I’ve always enjoyed Harl Vincent’s work. I have a collection of original pulps with his stories in them, and I’ve worked with Villainous Press to bring out some of his forgotten works. Currently in print are Barton’s Island (my personal favorite), The Golden Girl of Munan (which consists of both of his novelettes combined on the lovely Golden Girl), Purple & Gray (which was fascinating in how it foreshadowed the fight between the working class and the rich and powerful elite), and several others. I plan on editing and releasing two books per year until all of his works are once again available.

Book cover - Purple & GrayGolden Girl of Munan coverBarton's Island cover

If you happen to have some old brittle pulps that are not in collectible condition, feel free to contact me. I’m always looking for the original appearances of his stories so I can scan them. Reading the pulps still brings a smile to my face.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Writer Care 101 – Don’t torture yourself

Quick, describe a writer! I’ll wait, like, ten whole seconds for you to think of one.

. . .

Okay, got it? Now let me guess:

They’re a brooding loner in disheveled, dark clothing that reeks of chain-cigarettes and sadness. They’re crouched over a computer in a dimly lit, smoke-filled room, alone, sipping at another whiskey as they write their demons onto the page. They’ve been awake much too long, but sleep is an evasive beauty because there are deadlines to meet. And even if there aren’t, there are. The deadlines live inside them, monsters kept at bay only by copious amounts of coffee drunk by the pot. Their family is widowed, and their friends mourn, but one day they hope the writer will emerge and join them again.They’re writing about humanity and how people relate, don’t you know. It’s deep, important work and no one really understands their genius. They’re a martyr suffering for their art, and the long night isn’t over yet.

Oh, and it’s 8 o’clock in the morning.

writerstereotype
The creature has also become self-aware.

But of course that’s a stereotype and no one *ahem* would ever live up to it.
And maybe there is some truth behind the fact that artist-types are driven to create, and have a higher correlation with mental illness, but we don’t have to romanticize insufficient self-care to take pride in the work we do.

Please, take care of yourself. The art isn’t more important than you; no one else believes that. Your friends and family love you. They want to see you. Isolating to write can help you focus, but come out now and then to connect with the world. Drink your water. Get some sleep. Make a schedule. See appropriate doctors and therapists if you have the need and the means. Take your medicine. Get your chores done so you can focus on writing. Get your writing done so you can spend time on what’s important to you.

Eat the damn kale if you want.

selfcare
Being in pain and over-tired and stressed constantly doesn’t necessarily make the story better, and it’s not worth the human cost even if it did. If you’re working on writing as a career, consider it a second job. You’d get sleep and eat and prepare and set aside time for your Breadjob, right?

Having a regular writing schedule and maintaining your health the best way you can, whatever that means for your specific needs, creates stability, which can help your writing career in the long-term, because it helps you maintain yourself and balance your life.

The best we can do, is to do what we can with what we have. Things will happen. There will be times when things creep up, and things are thrown off. Maybe we or someone we care for gets injured or physically ill. Maybe there’s a flare-up of mental illness, or common stressors from Breadjobs and relationships. There will be things that will try to throw you off, and by taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to weather them easier.

Most editors and publishers are human with things like ‘feelings’ and ‘empathy’. Scientists are still looking into whether or not there are facts to back that statement up, but in the spirit of unbridled optimism I’m going to believe it’s true.

You’ve taken care of yourself so far, right? That’s helped you meet your deadlines, and you’ve progressed as you’ve liked? But things happen. You’ve given yourself the best chance you could to weather this so far, so you’ll be more likely to handle it and still keep your obligations.

And if you can’t because of conflicts, or you need to prioritize yourself now so that you have a future later, most people will understand and work with you. You’re doing your best, and taking care of yourself, and they’re sure to have seen that.

Granted, even some Breadjobs won’t see it that way, but the rant against differing value systems within a capitalistic structure is for another day. Breadjob or Writing Deadline, you gave yourself the best chance and are doing what you can with the situation as it is.

Life’s hard enough. Torture your characters instead.

…now if you excuse me, my pot of coffee is ready.

March Wrap Up – Nathan’s Top 10 Take Aways

This month on the Fictorians, we’ve thoroughly explored the many aspects of balancing our writing with the myriad of other responsibilities we have in life. I lead this month by insisting that we all have to choose how we spend our time. I have the words “70 hours” written on my bathroom mirror to remind myself that I have plenty of time outside sleep and my job. It’s up to me to choose how I spend it. And I still stand by all of that.
However, the stories and experiences of my fellow Fictorians and our wonderful guest posters have helped me realize a few things about my own work-life balance. It’s not perfect, nor does it need to be! Instead of repeating their words, I’ll simply share my top ten favorite posts for the month. Do they line up with yours?

  1. I found out the secret of Gama Martinez’s awesome prolificness! The man keeps up with one of the most aggressive release schedules I know of by writing his books 10 – 15 minutes at a time when necessary, capturing every opportunity he can to do what he loves.
  2. Ace Jordyn reminded me that you don’t need to write every day to be a writer. We all have our own rhythms. Do what works for you!
  3. Kate Corcino told us about some pretty intense points in her life, how she struggled to find time to write, and those times when writing wasn’t the most important thing she had to deal with. Writing’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. David Heyman talked about the struggle to have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes, however, you must give up a slice to make time for your novels. It’s essential to remember that you need to take that slice out of your own portion of your time, not out of the work that pays the bills or the family that loves and supports you.
  5. No one is busier than a new momma, but Joy Dawn Johnson let us peak into her crazy, distraction filled world. And yet, she still gets work done. The trick? No matter what distractions arise, always come back to the keyboard.
  6. Speaking of distractions, there are some things that come up that we have to attend to, while others can be ignored. At least for a while. Emily Godhand talked about how to tell the difference and knowing when to remove or ignore the ones that are keeping us from getting writing done.
  7. I’ve been obsessing about making my writing a business so much over the past couple years that I’ve lost sight of the need to let the artist run the show sometimes. Like Sean Golden, I’ve recently found that my best work has been done when I’m not worried about making a sale, but rather focus on writing a good story.
  8. Nancy Green reminded us that you can’t have “it” all; you just have to decide what “it” actually is.
  9. Jen Greyson talked about the difference between balance and equilibrium. After all, it doesn’t matter if the scales are even, so long as you can be happy with where they lay.
  10. Holly Roberds’ post reminded me that you can’t be a slave to your work. Sometimes you just need to cut yourself a break and give yourself permission to do something other than writing. Seriously! It’s healthier that way.

And those lessons only represent about one third of all the insightful posts we’ve seen this month! Did you catch them all? Which were your favorites? Unfortunately the month is almost done and we need to be moving on to a new theme, but please come back for April’s topic. I promise you’ll love what Anne has in store!