Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Writer, Tired.

One of the hardest things about being a writer is the inevitable times when your body shows up, but your brain is conspicuously absent from the process. That's right... it's commonly known as "Writers Block", but I for one abhor that term. I think a better one is "writer's standby mode".

Right now, as I write these words, my brain feels like it's just knee deep in mud. It's not a pleasant feeling, but here I am writing a few hundred words for you to read anyway.

You're welcome.

The reason that I can do this, flying in the face of writing advice books, psychological studies, and common sense is that I have trained my brain to write on command. Developing a writing habit isn't hard to do, and it's kind of like the experiment with Pavlov and his dogs. You get your brain to respond to certain stimuli, and it will know that when it receives that particular stimuli, it's time to quit bitching about fatigue, stress, money, or whatever, and start writing. My stimuli is a dose of caffeine, chocolate, and crappy acoustic music that my local coffee shop plays in what I assume is an effort to get people to free up tables. Still, just showing up doesn't give me a topic to write about when the brain isn't cooperating, and that's where the whole "Writer's Standby" Thing comes in.

Something almost any writer that does it on a regular basis will tell you is that real writers never really stop writing. A significant portion of our brain is at all times jotting stuff down on our mental notepad that will at some point be used in a story.  We are always coming up with neat ideas for essays, stories, characters, and scenes based on the events of our daily lives. That old adage "Write what you know"? This is what it means. Just because I've never lived on a spaceship doesn't mean I've never been in an almost completely artificial, enclosed environment. On a typical walk through the local Mall, I often think that in many ways the first sustainable Mars colonies will probably be a lot like the Mall, with recycled air, artificial lighting, and shops all contained under a glass atrium to prevent claustrophobia.

Silly? Perhaps. But you can bet that a shopping mall like space colony will eventually find its way into one of my stories. Then there are the random experiences and thoughts that are awesome, but will probably never find their way into one of my works. It's not that I don't like the ideas, it's just that they are tough to fit anywhere. Case in point... several years ago I had a co-worker tell me that her boyfriend had quit his job to pursue his life's passion. I'm always facinated by such people, and immediately asked her what he was doing, expecting to hear that his life's passion was the culinary arts, writing, acting, or something equally high risk/long shot high payoff. "So what is his passion?" I asked. "Juggling." she says. I immediately burst out laughing.

Ever since, I have found the idea of someone's life passion that they pin their hopes and dreams on being Juggling a very funny one, but I have yet to find an appropriate spot in my fiction to put it. But here I am, brain like molasses, relating the story to you because my brain has been told it needs to write something. Think about THAT the next time you get "writers block"!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

We interrupt this Program...

Howdy, everyone! It's time to hear a little bit from the "Let's help Rob make a living from writing" side of things...

Have you ever wondered exactly how writers make a living from telling stories? Well, the sad fact is that most of us don't. It's difficult to make a living writing, and I know that every book I've sold so far is because I worked hard to sell it. I'm blessed in that my wife believes in me enough to pay the lions share of the bills while I work on taking care of the kids and writing, but it's not a perfect system. Like any small buisiness, there is a cycle of outlays and returns that adds up after a while. I write books, buy books to sell, travel to sell them, use money to write books, buy books and travel... etc.

In short, there hasn't been much of a profit margin. I really want to change that if for no other reason than to buy my wife a gift that she didn't actually pay for. Let me tell you a little bit about things that I'm currently involved with, and how you can help...


This is the zany sci-fi adventure serial team Zombie and the Brain did for the NOLA 48 hour film competition last year. We won all kinds of awards, and the first question everyone asked was "When are you making another one?" Well, the answer is "As soon as we have the money to." To that end, The folks at the ZBBC have started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a six episode run, which I will be co-writing. You can see the original short Here, but the more money they raise, the more likely it is that I'll eventually get paid for my efforts. Thus far it has been a labor of love, but oddly enough Starbucks doesn't accept 'love' to pay for my morning cup of coffee.

More importantly than helping me get my morning cup of joe, contributing to our Kickstarter will help us strike a blow for independant filmmakers everywhere. The more successful films to come out of Kickstarter, the more Hollywood might realize that you want to see fun, risky, original stories instead of "Indiana Jones 17: The hunt for Medicare Cards" or another re-boot of "angsty super hero number 4"

 If anything, you should watch the pitch video... I'm in it as comedy relief...

Contribute to the kickstarter campaign here


This is my series of novels, and the easiest way for you to directly contribute is to buy them at the links to the left of this page, or come out to one of my signings or convention appearances. I'll be happy to autograph one for you if you see me in person. Beyond that, the way that indie authors like myself become more popular is by word of mouth. If you liked my book, tell your friends, give it a review on Goodreads, or just comment about your favorite part of the book on Facebook. (I love it when that happens...) If you'd like to take a more active role, Damien Walter of the Guardian is currently looking for under-appreciated sci fi novels by indie authors like myself, and is taking suggestions from the internet in the comments of his article. Go there and suggest he read one of my books, and I'll give you a big hug the next time I see you. I promise it won't be awkward.


Photo of the incredible Cheri Cerio by Steven Dale
It's easy to forget that for a long time, being a fanboy wasn't cool. While I know that many people think that the mega-conventions like DragonCon, SDCC, and Wizard World are the face of fandom, the fact is that they have become such big media events that little guys like me can't afford to promote ourselves there. Local cons are much easier for the indy guys to use as promotion, but they are currently being squeezed hard by the big guys. This is where real fans gathered back in the dark days before TNG started bringing our fandom into the mainstream. Many are still going strong, but need your help to survive. There is a list on the left of cons I will be attending this year, but I encourage you to find one near you that isn't on the list. You won't regret it! The thing is, small cons are generally a lot more fun. You get some real facetime with your favorite authors and celebrities because the crowds are so much smaller, and that's always awesome. By showing your support for these smaller cons, you help them be able to pay guys like me to be guests, which helps us produce more of the entertainment you love, which gives you more of a reason to go to cons.

See? Cycles can work both ways!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Annual State of the Rob address...

Yesterday was my birthday, which I chose to celebrate as quietly as possible. The reason for this is that I'm not very good company on my birthday, as I get a little caught up in the events of the previous year, what went right, what went wrong, and what the future holds. It's a tough process for me, and it tends to make me very moody and mopey. I think a lot of people do this, but distract themselves with planned events to keep themselves from dwelling on it too much. I have never been very good at this.

Our culture has elevated our birthdays to a personal holiday that can never really live up to the hype. Your birthday is supposed to be filled with fun, good times, good friends, and a party involving baked goods and pyrotechnics. Mine involved two calls from the kids school (once about each kid), fretting about my wife's malfunctioning bionic implant, and bad news about an event I help organize. I did have the chance to play STO for a little while, but on the whole my day was spent moping.

I believe that we are the product of the decisions we've made up to this point in our lives. all of us make good calls and bad calls about our lives that in turn we have to live with. I have made a few doozies over the past year or so, but on the whole, I think that I have made more good decisions than bad ones. My carrer is going really well, and I seem to have more writing projects than I know what to do with. I have 5 appearences booked for the coming year, (up from 3 last year), and have more on the horizon. I'm really starting to enjoy this whole "Professional Writer" thing.

So, why so mopey? That's a little trickier to explain... In a very real way, I may be hitting my mid-life crisis. Yesterday, my thoughts primarily dwelled on things I haven't accomplished, and things that I feel like I'm failing at. A lot of these things are beyond my control, of course... I can't make Pint Size poop in the potty, fix Silverfox's implant, make Short Stuff pay attention in class, or magically repair years of wear and tear on my truck... but I desperately want to, and sometimes it's difficult to accept your own limitations.

So, in the coming year, I'm going to try to accept the things that are beyond my control, instead of bitching about them. I'm going to try to write in my blog more. Most importantly, I'm going to try to be less of a freaking sourpuss.