First a rather long digression. When I reached a certain level of prominence in my career, I started receiving invitations to speak at seminars, conferences, and Esperanto congresses. My CV astonishingly lists almost two dozen such instances.

At some point, I discovered that being an invited speaker transformed my experience of attending a conference. As a attendee — or even a regular speaker — I would have a tendency to sit off to the side by myself and, if people came over to talk to me, that was fine. But I might attend a whole conference where I literally spoke to no-one.

Even that was a success for me because I’m rather painfully introverted. Just making myself attend at all was a huge success. Even sitting in the corner and watching everyone else network and not just running screaming from the room, was a win for me.

Being an invited speaker made a huge difference. All of a sudden I had a role! I was there for a reason! There was an expectation that everyone would want to meet and talk with me. It was wild!

In point of fact, my behavior didn’t really have to change. Even if I sat in the corner, people would come over to me to chat with me. But I found that I didn’t need to. The added confidence of being the invited speaker was enough to enable me to put myself out there. I could just walk up and introduce myself to people! I could mingle and chat with people just like a normal person. It was amazing!

At some point, I realized that my earlier difficulty was entirely in my head. If I could get my head into the right place — even without an invitation — I could behave the same way. I could walk in, introduce myself to people, mingle, etc. just like a Real Boy.

That’s totally not to say that this is what I actually do when I’m not an invited speaker. If anything, I’m even worse than I was before. I know that I could put myself out there, but I don’t. I still have a tendency to go sit in a corner and just wait for people to chat with me. Some people have accused me of waiting for people to come “kiss my ring.” Whatever. And I mean that in the best way: Whatever it takes for me to get myself there is what works.

But!

But now I’m a published author. And as I’m preparing to head to my first Worldcon — and first face-to-face conference as an author — I’m steeling myself to put myself forward. And I’m reflecting on how to leverage all my experience as an invited speaker to not just sit on the sidelines but, instead, be a full and active participant.

I’m really excited. It’s a kind of reverse imposter syndrome where I’m pretending I’m a normal, well-adjusted person who belongs in the spotlight — and not some freakish troglodyte that should stay in the shadows. Yeah. Yeah! I’ve got this.

After trailing a notorious trafficker across the galaxy, a self-appointed guardian angel arrives at the Truck Stop.

Hidden within the trafficker’s cargo hold may be just what he needs to shut down the trafficker’s illicit trade for good.

Readers always seem interested to know where story ideas “come from.” I have no good answer to that question. But this is the person whose wife says, “Did you put the pickles back?” and I reply, “Did you ask where I put your stickleback?” I can’t help it. That’s just what my brain does.

This story is sort of like that. I imagined the circumstances and the rest of the story just followed from that initial premise.

I was pleased to write a science fiction story, although perhaps “space opera” is a more appropriate term. Or maybe “space doujinshi.”

I’m super happy with the cover by the astonishing Niki Lenhart. We went through several rounds of revisions to get all the details right, and I could not be happier with where we ended up.

I was extremely gratified when my story was selected to be published for the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy. I hope everyone will enjoy reading it when Better Angels is released by Water Dragon Publishing on August 16th.

I attended Queer Publishing 101, part of OutWrite 2022 by the DC LGBTQ Literary Festival, a discussion with an interesting and diverse panel of queer editors and authors. The event was a preview of the weekend-long festival coming up August 5-7. It provided a variety of complementary perspectives driven primarily by audience questions. I asked two questions:

I’m interested to hear about the crossover between queer publishing & publishing generally: I’ve seen perceptions that they’re extremely balkanized: how separate are they from your perspective(s)?

This is similar to a question I asked at Lambda Literary and the answer, which surprised me, is that people in queer publishing see it as fundamentally disjunct from traditional publishing. “There is a lot of work to be done in terms of that representation.” And “There is not a lot of crossover.”

The role of small press and indy publishing was highlighted: “We have very few doors opened to us. Go where you are loved.” and “Indy is where the radical queer work is happening. Books pushing into mainstream can get sanitized.”

My own naive experience was that I wrote a steampunky fantasy novelette, The Third Time’s the Charm, with a trans protagonist and prominent gay supporting characters. And a small press, Water Dragon Publishing, picked it up and then doubled down by serializing Revin’s Heart — another 6 stories about the characters. (Part Three, Storm Clouds Gather, just came out!) They’re not an outlet that specializes in queer publishing, by any means. (Although I would remiss if I didn’t mention that they also publish the Grimaulkin series which also has queer characters).

What are the best ways for an indy press author (like me) to promote their queer books?

There were a lot of good answers here — these are the notes I took.

  • Be really creative
  • Traditional press may have more resources
  • Publisher may provide marketing to help
  • Work with publisher to determine how they can support you during the first 12 months
  • Help with book tour? Find conferences to attend? Make you a vendor?
  • You’re in charge of a lot of your promotion
  • It can be lonely
  • Network: find people excited to help you
  • Partner at readings
  • Doing it with your friends will make it better
  • Community is the most helpful thing
  • Bookstores and more
  • Tap into the world you know
  • Its a lot work
  • You’ll never think you’re doing enough
  • Identify five things you’d like to accomplish
  • Be realistic
  • Social media is important (twitter, booktok, bookstagram, etc)
  • Don’t pressure yourself to do it all
  • Choose one to two that you can do sustainably
  • You need a website
  • Gather emails
  • Put an email or contact form so people can reach you

A constant refrain was to cultivate patience. You’re playing a long game. Don’t try to rush things: Don’t query until you’re ready. Don’t be so eager that you accept a bad deal or compromise on your principles. Know what you want for your work and from your publisher. Sometimes “no” is the right answer.

I was glad I attended. Many thanks to Emily Holland, Chris Gonzalez, Lauren Cherelle, Saint Gibson, and Shelly Romero for their time and insight!

I’ve been using the #vss365 hashtag to write fragments of a new Revin story that happens after the events of Revin’s Heart. These parts are set on Devishire.

I’ve been using the #vss365 hashtag to write fragments of a new Revin story that happens after the events of Revin’s Heart. These parts are set on Belleriand.

Today, when I awoke this morning, I found my editor had returned the edits for Storm Clouds Gather (Part Three of Revin’s Heart, serialized by Water Dragon Publishing). While I was still in bed, I downloaded the PDF on my phone and looked over all the recommended changes.

A lot of people complain about editing and editors, but I love it. Here’s someone’s who’s actually taken the the time to really read and understand my story! And they want to make it better! What’s not to love about that?

In looking over this set of suggestions, the only consistent grammatical mistake I appeared to still make is this one.

It was funny to me because a beta reader had pointed out that I do this just a couple of days ago.

I went through the manuscript and proposed revisions three times. The first time, I simply accepted the inline edits he’d proposed. These were mostly like the commas I mention above. And other minor word order changes or simplifications. The second time, I went through the comments where he had asked questions or identified places where things were unclear or didn’t read cleanly. And finally, I read it one more time to look for places where the track changes had left cruft: there was a “,.” in one place. And two spaces in another.

In one place, my editor commented that a sentence of exposition was unnecessary because the characters would know that information. At first, I misread the comment as that readers would already know and I was like, “Wut? I made that up for this book. Did they already read this book or something?”

In the end, here’s my main observation.

And, luckily, I do love reading my own writing.

I attended the 2022 Lambda Literary award ceremony. I had a lovely time and felt very welcome. I met a bunch of new people and reconnected with a few I’d met before. I was kind of surprised how little overlap there was with Flights of Foundry — I saw a handful of people I recognized, but fewer than I had expected.

The meeting was conducted online and used Airmeet as the platform but had a couple of things I hadn’t seen before. First, it led participants to fill out their profile. Only about 30% of participants did, but this was still significantly higher than at a bunch of online events where it seems everyone is functionally anonymous. Second, they were using an informal discussion tool where everyone was distributed across the screen and could double-click near them to open up a voice/video chat window with them and everyone else in the vicinity. Only a small percentage of the participants came to use the environment, but I thought it actually worked pretty well. I had nice discussions three or four times with people and would have been happy to spend more time meeting and chatting.

The actual awards ceremony was preceded by several hours of panel discussions. They were interesting and useful.

Queer New Worlds was about queer voices in speculative fiction. It was interesting to hear a variety of perspectives. I asked a question that seemed to puzzle the panelists: how to write to bridge queer and straight audiences? The answer that they seemed to like best was that you should write what you want and let the audience find it.

Banned Book List was a gallop through the books currently being banned for queer content. I asked how to get your book banned and got a very nice tongue-in-cheek answer that matched the cheekiness of my question.

LoveWins was about queer sex and erotica. It was a fun romp with lots of interesting discussion.

My take, as a newcomer to this community, is that many queer writers see their work as fundamentally disjunct from writing for straight audiences. It may, in part, due to the uniquely poisoned atmosphere in the public square today, which is being driven by the right-wing mania to torment people that their evangelical minority base hates and wants to see punished. My personal take, is that the majority of people in the country have already accepted the normalization of queer and trans content. I am hopeful that the right wing will find some other whipping boy soon and this particular phase will only last as long as the so-called “War on Christmas.” With their capture of the Supreme Court, they can certainly cause mischief, but I’m hopeful it won’t persist.

That said, I think it’s important that everyone stand up and make clear that they support our queer folk who just want to live without being threatened and harassed by right-wing assholes.

My own writing does try to bridge queer and straight audiences. I would like queer audiences to find characters that they can identify with, like the trans protagonist, Revin. Or his gay mentor Will. Or his bisexual mentors Grip and Curtains. At the same time, my goal for straight readers is that they discover they can also identify with Revin and perhaps even forget that he’s trans from time to time — only to “wake up” when events happen that throw his gender into relief, whether a casually gendered statement (e.g. “Boys like you are always hungry” or “Your penmanship is almost as good as a girl’s”) or in places where gender is enforced, like in a bath.

I participated in a… Well, I don’t really know what it was. It was called “Five College Publishing Day” and it offered panel discussions related to academic publishing. It was described as beginning with “a roundtable discussion with editors, agents, and authors who will share their perspectives on the rapidly changing world of publishing today, followed by four sessions on different areas of publishing and writing.”

Organized primarily by the UMass Office of Faculty Development with support from Amherst College Press and other members of the Five Colleges, it brought together a range of professionals from academic presses, but also a literary agency and a non-profit independent press.

I’ve had little connection to academic publishing. As an NTT faculty member, my rewards are disconnected from publishing so it’s not something I’ve pursued professionally. I did, at one point, explore trying to translate the books by Kalle Kniivila into English and contacted two academic presses to see if they would be interested, but both declined.

In the past year, I’ve started working with Water Dragon Publishing and spent a fair amount of time exploring the current publishing market. And I was somewhat surprised to discover how utterly disconnected from Academic Publishing that world is. They call it “trade publishing” and they seem to wrinkle up their noses when they say it.

It was pretty clear that, as a non-tenure-track faculty member, I was in the wrong place. People said things like:

Where do you find the time for this? That’s when the luxury of tenure really matters.

Pawan Dhingra — Amherst College Press

and

A second book is an immense amount of work. Your first is a bit easier because you’re really just revising your doctoral work.

Olufumi Vaughan — Amherst College Press

and

We invite you onto the marketing team as a VIP member — especially for your second book because that’s the book you want to write rather than what you need to write.

Maura Roessner — University of California Press

I asked a couple of questions, both of which seemed to leave the panelists flat-footed.

There is now burgeoning world of publishing opportunities: academic and trade publishing, but also the independent and small presses that exist on a spectrum down to self-publishing. How you make the calculus on how much time spend exploring this spectrum versus making a choice to situate your work?

This question left them bewildered. I got a range of replies that were utterly disconnected from my experience in publishing. One said “Figure our your authorial identity!” Another said, “Within one’s discipline, it’s pretty clear who your peers care about.” Another said, “Schedule time to explore the space. Find ‘comp titles’.”

The responses to my second question were even funnier.

There’s a lot of discussion right now about digital media offering broader kinds of genre publication (e.g. Kindle Unlimited, Project Vella, etc.): not just novels, but novellas, novelettes, and serial publication. How do you see the market moving?

Nobody actually touched the question. One panelist wrinkled up her nose, “Fiction? We mostly don’t do fiction, but don’t dismiss university presses that may be trying to build a home for trade because they’re trying to diversify their portfolios.”

So, it was a pretty weird event from my perspective as some looking in at academic publishing from the outside. But it helped me understand the role of the academic press. To get tenure, faculty (in some disciplines) need to publish books. And the books they need to publish are mostly not books that would be profitable in the trade publishing business. So universities and non-profits subsidize this publication.

Which is not to dismiss the scholarly significance of these publications. But as someone looking at publishing from the other side, it’s pretty wild.

I don’t know how else to say it: I love my writing. I love everything about it. The process, the results, and all of it.

I love the initial forays I make into a story, writing some of the candy bar scenes that motivate me to tell a story. And the opening scene. And I love plotting the rest of the story. I love when I write the ending. And when I fill in the rest in between.

I love editing the story. Reading it over and over again, finding gaps and inconsistencies in the story. Or discovering a small change that really heightens the drama. Or the clever turn of phrase that captures the humor of the moment. Or the subtle change in word choice or order that makes it read more smoothly.

I love just reading my own stories. I love them. I lurve them!

And when other people read them. And comment on them. And when they’re surprised. And when they see the thing I was trying to do.

And, of course, I really love to sell a story.

I really, really love that. And I love all of the parts of that too: Getting the initial acceptance. Seeing what the editor finds to suggest. Seeing the work actually come out in print. Adding another line to my CV.

I love it all.

But I really can’t say I write because I love it. It’s more like a compulsion.

I haven’t always loved writing. I was a terrible writer as an undergraduate. As a doctoral student, I improved a lot. But my fiction was still execrable. It’s only recently, in my late 50s, that I feel like I’m hitting what I’m aiming at.

I can see that a lot of writers really struggle with liking their own writing. And I’ve certainly known perfectionists who could never make their own work perfect enough to satisfy themselves. I may be just arrogant and overconfident, but I don’t have that problem.