Where do we go from here?

BabyHesterIt’s that time of year again. October. The weather is turning colder. The leaves are changing colors. And the anniversary of the birth of the little guy in the picture to the right pops up. Which leads me to become a little more introspective and take a look at the past year and maybe my life in general and see where I am. A State of the ATFMB, if you will. Or won’t. S’up to you whether you want to stick around for this or not. I suggest you do. It’s always good stuff. Probably.

The Last Year

2013-2014 has had a lot of ups and downs. Ups include teaching Scrivener at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, winning a Hugo, getting to meet Chuck Wendig in the flesh – which, honestly, I’ve done before, but this time we actually got to spend some time getting to know each other. He’s a cool dude. Also got to spend some time with Gail Carriger, who has been on a lot of my podcasts as an Irregular, but, again, it’s nice to spend time together chatting and being real. She is an awesome person and one of my favorite authors.

Anealio and I have talked about meeting people face to face versus online, and it definitely falls in the Up column. I highly recommend you do it. Often.

Photo on 2013-09-16 at 23.03Also in the Up column, I started dating someone I liked enough I wanted to talk about her here, on the podcasts and in social media. That’s always tricky because not everyone wants you to do that. But she was awesome and I wanted people to know. Unfortunately, she also falls into the Down column due to our breakup. Which sucked. And depressed me more than I’ll admit (until now). Through her, I started doing things I used to enjoy a lot, like role playing games, Magic the Gathering, etc. For that, I am grateful.

More Ups. Was approached about a new job and I took it. The company is good, the people too. I’m back in a corporate structure, which has its challenges and politics. But overall everything is better for being there. Six month anniversary is fast approaching. I stay busy there, and the work is exciting and challenging, which is what I prefer. So that’s all good. I stay in touch with a few folks from the old job. Which is also good.

About the Hugo win – the Up was winning, the Down was not being able to be there. I’ve come to really enjoy and love WorldCon, so not being able to go irked me. It came down to money. I didn’t have it. Gail agreed to accept on my behalf and did a wonderful job. The other Down is how, on that day, within minutes of the announcement, my mom severely broke her leg and dislocated her ankle. She’s been recovering ever since. My older brother agreed to come help and I don’t know what I would’ve done without him here.

writerAnother Up – I had an editor interested in one of my books. The Down was she passed, but did so very nicely and with notes as to what did and didn’t work for her, so that’s something. Another editor asked to see a sample of my writing before I pitched a book idea. I sent along a story I’ve worked on a lot, and sent through one of my writing groups (who had problems with it, but I’d rewritten it since then). He passed with a caveat he wants to see something again in a year or two. He didn’t feel it was quite there yet, but he saw enough he liked to want to see something again. So there’s that.

A friend recently sent me an email. In it, she said, “Dude, if you weren’t depressed or feeling down, I’d demand to know what drugs you were on and beg you to share.”

That helped in that it was like someone giving me permission to be down. As if, before that, I felt guilty for being down and depressed. Now I don’t. If that makes sense.

About Writing

Also in the Down column – I feel like I’ve lost ground in writing. The rejections piling up can become overwhelming and disheartening and add to the depression. I keep picking myself up off the ground and writing more but there’s always that nagging voice in the back of your head whispering, “Will it ever be enough or will you always fail?” I suppose I’ve made progress in that I’m not getting form rejections, but actual feedback from editors who are essentially saying, “You’re almost there. Keep going.”

writingI keep toying with the idea of being a hybrid author and pushing more stuff out on my own. I want to continue the Cord Cahill series. Hell, I put ‘Serials’ right on the cover of the first one so I need to deliver on that promise. But I need to shit or get off the pot. Hesitating is holding me back. Setbacks are also holding me back.

I reached out to a freelance editor about editing one of my novels. Signed a contract, delivered some money. My intention was to clean it up and release it as an eBook. That turned into a nightmare. None of the deadlines set by the editor in the contract were met. As they came and went, new ones, not in the contract, were added by the editor – and those came and went, too. Eventually I invoked the clause in the contract that said something along the lines of, “If none of the editor deadlines are met, the author can cancel this contract and all payments will be returned and any copies of the author’s work will be destroyed.” Now, this is a well established editor. I was shocked by the constant run around and the lack of progress. I was even more shocked when I’d had enough, asked for my money back, and got a reply whose gist was, “Why are you being so difficult?”

I did get my money back, but in installments as the editor had apparently already spent the money, but done none of the work.

To say this has soured me on the idea of the freelance editor should go without saying.

But I haven’t given up. I am interviewing a couple others right now and I’m going slower with the process.

Another slow process has been the writing in general. The past couple months, my free time, such as it is, has been in short supply. I’m down to writing during lunch, so roughly 45 minutes a day.

My story isn’t any different from yours. I get up, I go to work, I write at lunch, I head home – sometimes via the grocery store – I make dinner for my brother, mother and myself – and the cat gets his dinner, too – and then I clean up the kitchen – or my brother does, and I spend time with mom. I try to get her to do her exercises. I chat with my brother. I’ve recently started recording podcasts again. I take care of whatever needs taking care of and when I look up, it’s time to go to bed.

I’ve managed to rewrite two short stories and every word feels like a hard fought battle.

2011_meAssertiveness, Aggression and being an Asshole

This has been a year of introspection. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about being assertive versus being an asshole. My mom dated a guy for a long time. He eventually moved in with us when I was a teenager. He was a total dick. No one liked him. My older brother wouldn’t come to the house if he was there. My grandmother, who had lived with us for years, moved out. Moved cross-country, even. Our extended family didn’t want to invite us to holidays and such because of him. He had no filter on his mouth. He didn’t care what anyone else thought or said. He made a point of telling people that. He was always in your face. He rubbed everyone the wrong way – except mom.

When I think about being assertive or aggressive, my brain goes to being an asshole. Because of him. Because that’s what and who he was.

But people keep trying to tell me that being assertive doesn’t have to mean being an asshole. It can be about confidence; in yourself, in your writing, in the things you do, your work.

I’m still chewing on that.

At a recent conference in Boston, I attended what was called a ‘Bold Talk’. These were 12 minute talks by people where they got right down to the point with little or no exposition. Slides were on automatic timers, advancing every few seconds to keep the speaker on track and on time. I liked the format. I want to use it elsewhere, but more on that another time.

One such talk intrigued me to no end. ‘Be a D*ck’. Which should bring to the mind of any SF&F people out there, Wil Wheaton’s motto of ‘Don’t be a Dick’. I wondered what this talk was going to be about because people keep telling me I’m not assertive enough. My style is not to get in your face. I’m a big guy and I’ve always been a big guy, which can be intimidating for some people. I don’t want to intimidate, and apparently that translates in a lot of peoples perception of me that I’m not assertive.

I’m not aggressive. But there needs to be some aggression. For me, for you, for anyone who wants to accomplish anything. Aggression can be a good thing when channeled properly. So can being assertive. I’m not ever trying to be passive. I don’t want people to walk all over me. I just don’t want to come off as this looming hulk, if that makes sense.

Where do we go from here?

The battle’s done, and we kinda won, so we sound our victory cheer…

Every character has an arc. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I like to think mine is near the middle – the start of the middle – with plenty yet to come.

I just borrowed a line from one song, so now I’ll borrow another.

I never lived the dream of the prom king, or the drama queens, I’d like to think the best of me, is still hiding up my sleeve… They love to tell you, stay inside the lines…

Maybe it’s time to color outside the lines.


  • Paul Weimer Posted October 18, 2014 10:35 am

    Yeah, Aggression is something I eschew, and perhaps, like you, Patrick, its not to my benefit.

    Happy Birthday, man.

  • partlowspool Posted October 18, 2014 10:45 am

    You have some smart friends. 🙂

    Very thoughtful piece. Assertiveness is hard. But with age comes the beauty of Fucks Not Given.

    Here’s when you should give up on writing: when they can pry the pencil out of your cold, dead hand.

    Happy Birthday!

  • Matthew Sanborn Smith Posted October 18, 2014 12:29 pm

    You can avoid being a dick by being sincerely polite while being assertive.

  • J.T. Evans Posted October 19, 2014 11:07 am

    You’ve had plenty of Ups and Downs, but now that I’ve read your summary, I think you’ve had a pretty damn good year. Yeah. There are some Downs in there. Some pretty big ones, but your Ups are HUGE. Keep crankin’ out the words, and pushing forward. You’ll have success in your writing like you have your podcasting soon enough. I’ve always been jealous of your wordcrafting abilities, so you’ll hit it. I just know you will.

    PS: Happy birthday!

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