Are You a Writer-in-Waiting?

sb10067155f-001A little while ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague about my writing. I found myself trying to describe what I was before I made the decision to go the indie route. And the term that came to me was “writing-in-waiting”. At the time, it was just something I came up with in an attempt to be cheeky. But it actually summed up what my problem was for all the years that I toiled away in anonymity.

And truth be told, it applies to a whole lot of aspiring writers I’ve talked to over the years. What do you call yourself when you’re a writer who has a manuscript, but is stuck in the “what do I do now” phase? These are not the same people have an idea in their head and are undecided on what to do about it. Those people are “aspiring writers”, people who haven’t made the big leap yet.

novels“Writer’s-in-waiting”, on the other hand, describes the people who have taken that leap, put the pen to paper and given their idea life, but aren’t sure what to do next.  I do believe every independent writer has gone through this phase at one point or another. Somehow, the concept of publishing your own works just doesn’t come naturally. We all still believe that there’s a publisher out there who will give us our “big break”.

You know what I’m talking about, right? The cash advance, the contract, the royalties, and all kinds of promotion and publicity. But alas, this is a very hard thing to come by, and it seems to be getting harder all the time. Lucky for us, the very things that are making it harder to get a publishing deal are also providing us with the tool to publish, promote and publicize ourselves.

But I digress. Does this description, a “writer-in-waiting” describe you? If so, the good news is that there are plenty of people who’ve taken that next step and can let you know how and where to make it. And even though there is no such thing as a “big break” anymore, or at least a very slim chance of one, there’s plenty of opportunity for people with an idea and the will to take it public.

Flash Forward Is Done!

FlashForward_2After many months on the back burner, I finally took a big step while house-sitting for my family this weekend and completed Flash Forward. For those who don’t know, this book is an anthology of short sci-fi stories I did back in April of 2013, with a few additions from both before and after. All told, it works out to 19 short stories, 140 pages, and just over 51,000 words.

For some time, I had been wanting to do some fiction that explored the world of emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, autonomous machines, space exploration and the coming Technological Singularity. And a project involving a short story a day for 26 days was just the excuse I needed. After collecting the resulting stories together, I grouped them into three parts based on common time period and theme.

transhumanismPart I: Transitions deals with the near future, where climate change, militarized borders, and explosive growth in portables, social media, and synthetic foods will have a major effect on life. Part II: Convergence deals with the ensuing decades, where space exploration, artificial intelligence, digital sentience, and extropianism will become the norm and fundamentally alter what it is to live, work, and be human.

And Part III: Infinitum finishes things off, looking to the distant future where the seed of humanity is planted amongst the distant stars and our species passes the existential singularity. It was fun to write, but what I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time is the chance to hold a physical copy. Somehow, that’s always the best moment of the whole creative process for me. Seeing the book in print, as a real, physical thing you can touch and leaf through.

hyperspace4And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to edit, a million and one ideas for critical revision to consider, and a whole heap of what Aldous Huxley referred to as “Chronic Remorse” to deal with. Writing, huh? There’s a reason not everybody does it!

New Milestone: 500 Follows!

fireworks1The good people that run WordPress have just informed me that this humble blog o’ mine has reached an important milestone. As of 3:00 AM this morning (Pacific Daylight Time) I received my 500th follow! Combined with followers from Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter, that brings the grand total to 2,091!

I’m especially happy about this because for some time now, I’ve had trouble breaking the 2050 mark. It seemed that with every new follower, I would lose one, and that’s never nice. Sounds greedy, I know. But it seems that the more people you have willing to listen to you, the more concerned you are about keeping that following.

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Naturally, I want to thank all those people who have signed on to follow Storiesbywilliams. This past March marked its third anniversary, and for those who have chosen to stick with me over the past few years, I am especially thankful. The support and encouragement I have received since deciding to go public with my writing have made quite the difference.

Not only has it helped me to bring my written work to publication by giving it the feedback and constructive criticism it needed, it has been the difference between toiling in anonymity and making meaningful connections with people. This is why I began writing in the first place, and knowing that there is a receptive public makes all the difference.

Here’s to three years more and (fingers crossed) another 500 followers! And to those I’ve been following myself, I hope I have managed to make a similar contribution to your work. None of us is alone on this journey and we all need to know that we are doing matters to others. May it lead us all to somewhere joyous, fruitful and (God willing) profitable as well!

Writing About Trauma

depression1-650x487Delving back into the world of Whiskey Delta, I’ve found myself coming back to a familiar theme for me that informs much of my writing. It’s the theme of trauma, how one experiences the feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and at a loss for control in their life. For those who follow the Whiskey Delta series, all of these are things that keep coming up for one main character – Sergeant Aaron Dezba.

In the story, Dezba is haunted by the loss of his wife and daughter – two people who became infected by the zombie virus and turned into living horrors. Unable to deal with it at first, he locked them in his basement and kept them alive, hoping that some kind of cure might be found someday. But upon learning that such a thing would never be possible, he killed them both and fell into a deep depression.

zombie-girlAs the story continued, he found a measure of redemption by confessing his crimes and rededicating himself to completing a mission that could possibly result in the creation of a vaccine. Though the virus could not be cured, the researchers in the story were able to fashion something that would immunize the uninfected against it. However, Dezba never forgot the loss of his wife and daughter, and remains haunted by this and similar traumas throughout the story.

In attempting to write about this, I actually drew a lot on my own experiences. Mercifully, I have not lost my wife or a child, but trauma is something I’ve experienced in my own life. It’s something I’ve never talked about in this forum, but thought that I might share it at this time. You see, a few years back, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and it was pretty obvious to the people I sought help from that it was caused by an extended period of high stress that I found myself in just previous to that.

https://i1.wp.com/blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/files/2013/11/naturalremediesfordepression.jpgI’ve always been an OCD-type person; but apparently, enduring extreme stress can make the symptoms ten times worse, which pretty much describes my reality ever since! The short version is that during the fall/winter of 2007, I was working for three months in an isolated community, teaching grade 5/6 to a bunch of kids who hated my guts because I replaced their previous teacher.

He, I say at the risk of editorializing, was a selfish prick who ran out on them because he was pissed about trivial disciplinary matters. And he took all the resources with him, leaving me with nothing. The first week, I got virtually no sleep and felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I tried to quit, but couldn’t stomach the long-term consequences it would cause to my teaching career. No one else on the island was hiring, which meant I would have to find another career.

https://i0.wp.com/www.smarttop10.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Top-10-Home-Remedies-for-Depression.jpgWhat’s more, my father was absolutely livid when he found out I was hoping to quit, and I didn’t like the idea of being estranged from him. But mostly, I didn’t think I could live with the consequences of such a failure. And so, for the next three months, I stuck it out, committing to stay until someone permanent was found. And finally, at Christmas, they found my replacement, plus several more (more than a few people quit by this point in the year).

I then returned home happy and relieved as all hell, but found that I still couldn’t sleep right and was feeling quite anxious all the time. Eventually, my mother suggested I might be depressed and recommended I go talk to someone. I did, and they diagnosed me with acute depression and anxiety. Things got better, without the need for drugs, but I found over the course of the next year that I could not return to what I considered to be normal.

https://i1.wp.com/www.findingoptimism.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/depressed_7_w.jpgIt was quite hard for me to hold down a regular job, and I absolutely needed regular sleep or I was just not the same. Eventually, I began to take meds and sought counseling until I thought I had a handle on things. Still, I was not too comfortable around my parents, my father and I had several strained conversations over how I felt he had made things worse, and when my wife and I moved in together, I was quite happy.

That too improved, but as soon as we left Comox to move to Victoria, I felt myself having problems again. I had stopped taking meds around this time, and being outside of my comfort zone made a big difference, I found. I once again sought out counseling, took a new kind of medication, and once again came through. I’ve been through many changes these past few years and things have gotten better, but the problem remains.

When serious stressors strike or something comes along that sets off my OCD, I suffer from acute anxiety, panic attacks and depression, and it usually takes a few days before it all finally goes away. I’ve come to learn so much from these episodes, like how one’s own mind can become their greatest enemy, just how much a person can endure, and how wonderful it feels coming out the other side.

https://i2.wp.com/www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/siowfa12/vetptsd.jpgEvery time, I manage to come through okay. But I always wonder, is this the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life? Will I be subject to severe bouts of OCD forever, or can I expect to be normal again? Well, normal for me, at any rate. These are the kinds of feelings and questions that I tap into whenever I need to write a character who has endured trauma and feels like he or she will never be the same again.

I explore these questions because it is something I now know. It is my private shame, and something I only share if I need to, or I choose to get really up close and personal. But writing is perhaps the most personal thing of all. And when I write, I choose to express my own experience with trauma as accurately and vividly as I can. It’s like a form of therapy, and I do believe it has made me a better writer.

As for the rest… Well, as the sayings go, life goes on. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. And when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if you’re a writer, keep hammering those keys and turning your personal pain into art. Otherwise, what the hell good is it?

Papa Zulu: First Round of Edits Done!

editing1At long last, and months after I was hoping to have it done, I’ve finally managed to give Papa Zulu a full first-round edit. Now, I just need to make all the corrections, maybe get an edited proof, and let my beta readers look over it for additional mistakes. Alas, after all that reading and correcting, this is only the first of many read-throughs.

See, this is why I hate editing! It’s slow, tedious, repetitive, and I hate having to read my own writing because it’s like listening to your own voice droning on and on and on. But lucky for me, I’ve got people lined up to handle things from here. Good thing I decided not to do NaNoWriMo and instead dedicate myself to this. Otherwise it would be 2014 before anyone saw this sequel! Not to toot my own horn, but those who liked Whiskey Delta did ask for a sequel. People don’t like to be kept waiting…

Pappa_Zulu1Oh, and when it is finished, this is what the cover will look like. I chose to split the difference and incorporate the best of both covers, which gave me this. Look for it on Amazon and Kindle in the coming weeks. Onto round two!

 

NaNoWriMo 2013!

https://i1.wp.com/susandennard.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/NaNoWriMo.pngWell, NaNoWriMo is once again upon us. And after two years of taking part, I am contemplating a third. The only problem is, I kind of got nothing to go with right now. Sure, I got some ideas, some possible suggestions. But I don’t feel I have the inspiration. So I thought maybe making a list might help shake the rust loose and provide me with a needed push. Maybe a few suggestions could help there too.

Basically, I have it narrowed down to four possibilities. First, I have a repitched old idea that I’ve been looking to rework for some time, followed by a short story idea that I think has potential and would like to see written in full, a third installment in my zombie series that needs to be written at some point, and the option of ditching all that in favor of finishing up with my edits and reading.

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Here’s a basic rundown on each:

  1. Apocrypha: This is a story I began writing back in 2008, but stopped when it started to go nowhere. Since that time, I threw out the original draft, began rewriting it, and then threw that one out too. It’s a story that seems to stick with me and has potential. It just needs a good rewrite. It takes place in the coming decades, in a world approaching the technological singularity and also reeling from the effects of overpopulation, displacement and climate change.
  2. Pavitratā: This story was originally called Purity, and it involves a battalion of Marines who are being sent to a distant solar system to stabilize the situation on a colony world that has descended into civil war. Plenty of action, adventure, and maybe even a little social commentary. Hard to say, lets see where it goes!
  3. Oscar Mike: The third installment in my Whiskey Delta series, this book picks up directly after events in Papa Zulu. It takes place roughly six weeks after the battle that characterized most of that book, and introduces another major twist to the story which threatens to alter the entire course of the zombie war.
  4. Shag NaNoWriMo! I got work to do: As I am still not finished editing Papa Zulu, reading some stories for review, or catching up with a whole lot of relevant stories that have taken place in the last few weeks, I could just forego the whole damn thing and stick with the work I’ve got.

Those are my options. And just to make it fun, I thought I might put in a poll card and get people to vote. What do you think I should do for the month of November?

1000th Post! Yaaaaaay!

fireworks1Gee, I don’t know what to say here… Aside from the fact that this post coincides quite nicely with the 2nd anniversary of this blog, which just came and went, and comes what I can only assume will be a week before the site reaches the milestone of 250,000 hits. So I guess there are a few reasons to celebrate. And at times like this, when we take the time to look back, I also like to look ahead and see about what goals need to be set.

Well, in the last year I wrote two zombie stories which still need to be edited and released. And on top of that, I’ve already begun plotting the third and final one in the trilogy. When they are complete, I hope to release them individually and as a box set, so zombie fans can decide for themselves just how much reading they want to do! Trust me, I’m not sparing with my use of words, but I do like to think I keep them interesting.

Whiskey_DeltaThen there’s Yuva, which is coming along nicely, but needs a big push to get to the finish line. And who better than yours truly, el editore-en-hefe (that’s editor-in-chief for those who don’t speak mangled Spanish)? Of the sixteen stories in the anthology (we started with twelve), fourteen are spoken for. Not bad, but as the editor, I need to whoop some butts to make sure we make our summer deadline!

Ah, which is itself a bit of news. After talking it over with my co-editor and inspirational muse, Khaalidah Muhammed-Ali, we decided that a hard deadline was needed. Some people specifically asked for one when initially signing on, but I’ve left that somewhat open, as I’m kind of loosely-goosey when it comes to timetables. I’m more of a flex-hours kind of guy, task-oriented rather than time-oriented. But as it stands, summer of 2012 is when I hope everyone will have their homework in!

gliese-581.jpgAnd of course, Data Miners had just come out, and it’s proposed sequel, Data Pirates, has been sitting on the shelf for some time. DM took me three years to write, so naturally I’m hoping for a speedier turnover on this one! And whereas the first one focused on the subject of “white-hat” hackers, people who believe in freedom and information, Pirates will focus on the darker aspects of hacker culture, on the so-called “black-hats”.

DatapiratesAssuming I can get all that done in a timely manner, there’s the matter or revisiting a very long-term project, one which I’ve been working on since late in 2009. As some may know, I released a novel called Source some time ago. Almost immediately after I finished writing it, before it was even published, I began work on the sequel, entitled Fortress.

As part of the dystopian, distant-future collection, it’s a old-school sci-fi romp that is dark, gritty, and has lots of war, struggle, and mysanthropic impulses. However, I decided to commit to some sequels to it in order to ensure some measure of a happy ending. No dystopian story, unless its purpose is to issue a stern warning (see 1984 or Brave New World), should offer its readers some slim ray of hope (see Catch 22).

FortressYeah, I design covers before the work is even complete. What can I say, I like to see how a book will look, long before it’s even finished! Hopefully, these covers will pack a good 40,000 plus words in between their two folds. Oh, and if anyone knows a good editor who works for cheap, I could sure use their help! I like to write, I do multiple projects, but when it comes to my own work, I suck horribly!

And of course, there’s the editing that needs to be done for Rami and other friends, still yet to be completed. And always, the research into the future and what course it will take must continue. Always, always continue. The world is not slowing down and neither is the future, despite what some weirdos might say! 🙂