Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Wars Update!

Last weekend I had the tremendous honor of attending Star Wars: Celebration - Anaheim. It was four days of merriment based around the greatest space film saga of all time and I had the time of my life. I was on a number of panels and you can listen to most of them online:

  • Full of Sith - This is the podcast I host and we had a great show with a lot of cool guests.
  • The Mythology of Star Wars - This panel was a dissection of the mythology of Star Wars and the hero's journey. (I'll have audio of this one soon, it'll be of a lot of use to writers, I think.)
  • Star Wars Journalism -  This panel took a look at what it's like to cover Star Wars as a journalist and a freelancer.
  • A Tribute to Aaron Allston - This panel consisted of me, Del Rey Editor Shelly Shapiro, and Star Wars author Christie Golden and we told stories about our old friend and colleague. 
I was also in attendance when JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy unveiled the new Star Wars trailer and was asked by the folks at StarWars.Com to do an analysis of the trailer on the livestream that ran online during the convention.


Covering a convention like this as a writer and a journalist is always a fascinating experience. You're constantly talking to editors for possible leads on stories, you're looking for stories to tell, and you're wrapping your head around things in a way that will let you write about it all later. You're taking notes, looking for ways to approach things...

There's always something fascinating to see if you know how to look and you never know what you might witness, whether it's a moment between two people or a major news story. One of my favorite experiences was actually getting to go backstage at Disneyland and I catalogued every forbidden sight that I saw.

There are stories everywhere, fiction or non-fiction. You just need to be on the lookout.

As far as non-fiction, I wrote a lot about the event for Big Shiny Robot!, as well as a piece for The Huffington Post.

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Star Wars Celebration and an Update

I'm leaving town tomorrow, so I won't be around to do my regular weekly update, but figured I'd get it out of the way early and let you all know about a chance to sync up with me this weekend at Star Wars: Celebration.

I'll be on four panels and at a variety of other events as well.

As far as my panel schedule:

Thursday:


  • 6:30 - 8:30 pm - Hilton Lobby - Podcast Listener Meetup - My fellow podcast co-hosts and I will be meeting with listeners at the Hilton Lobby in a massive mix and mingle.
  • 7:00 pm - Fan Stage - The Hero's Journey and the Power of Myth - This is myself and some other experts discussing mythology and Star 

Friday:


  • 10:30 am - Fan Stage - Star Wars Journalism - Myself and three other Star Wars Journalists (Dunc from Club Jade, Amy Ratcliffe from Nerdist (and others), and Eric Geller from TheForce.Net) will be talking about covering Star Wars and what you should and shouldn't believe on the Internet.


Saturday:


  • Noon - Podcast Stage - Full of Sith - I will be joined by Tha Mike Pilot, Amy Ratcliffe, Consetta Parker, and other guests for a live edition of the Full of Sith podcast!
  • 4:00 pm - Behind the Scenes Stage - Aaron Allston Tribute - I'll be moderating this panel to honor my old friend and mentor, Aaron Allston. I'll be joined by Christie Golden and Shelly Shapiro to talk about Aaron, working with him, and the impact he had on fans.
This is going to be a big weekend for me, both personally and professionally. I'll be covering the event as press, but it's no secret that Star Wars means a lot to me. It got me through some of the hardest times in my laugh and has introduced me to virtually all of my best friends and colleagues. I hope to meet as many of you as possible out there. 

When I get back, I'll be writing in full force, which brings me to the next section of this post: my writing.

I finished another short story today and some plans have been made for it and some other short stories. If all goes according to plan, I'll be publishing a collection of my sci-fi/space opera short stories, half of which will have been published elsewhere, the other half will be new to the collection. It will gear everyone up for my sci-fi novel that I hope to have come out in 2016. And it might serve as a primer for some other projects as well.

In the meantime, I'm still toiling away on The Aeronaut, doing my best to make it the best book it can be before it gets into your hands. I think you'll really like this one.

I'll be back next week with a round-up of my full reports.

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Knowing When to Say Yes (...or No)

I get asked to do a lot of stuff.

Whether it's an interview or a short story or an essay, there are a lot of factors that go into my decision to say yes or no. But my first instinct is always to say yes, even when I don't think I'm exactly right for the job.

Why is that?

Well, every project I've ever agreed to that I was hesitant about taught me a lot about myself as a writer, as a freelancer, and produced work I would have normally never embarked to create on my own. Taking assignments forced me to think about things in ways I ordinarily wouldn't.

I think it's most important, though, to challenge yourself by saying yes with short stories, especially if they're on really tight deadlines.

One of my favorite short stories began as a call from an editor who needed a favor. They had very specific parameters for a story and they needed it delivered within three days. They gave me a rate and wished me luck.

Three days later I had an 8,000 word short story I was incredibly pleased with. After a round of edits, I was doubly pleased.

But if I'd've allowed myself to be intimidated by the hyper-specific parameters and the short deadline, I would have never written that story. It's a skill writer's (in my opinion) need to learn. We're supposed to be creative people. And if we're disciplined enough in being able to tie ideas togethers with words on a daily basis, being thrown a curve ball every now and again shouldn't be something to be dreaded, instead it should be embraced.

It also ingratiates you with editors and other people who might get you work. "Oh, this guy can deliver a short story that we can use in three days if necessary. He's not going to miss his deadlines and the work is good. Call him up again."

It happens more often than you might think.

But there are times when you might have to say no. And it's a very personal decision. And it's something I tend to agonize over. I want to say yes to everything and when I'm forced to say no, I feel guilty. Like I'm missing an opportunity or burning a bridge.

Rarely is that the case, though.

If you know you don't have the time to make the deadline (within reason: take risks), or you're already coming up on a number of other deadlines, or you're going to be on a legitimate vacation, or something...  Go ahead and say no.

Don't say yes and then beg for more time later. Just say no, thank them for asking, and let them know that you'd love to be asked again.

That's it.

There's a level of timidity we need to get over as writers. When an editor asks you for something quickly, they now you're going to be battling the deadline. They want to see as much of the structure and prose as you can put together, and they'll help guide the polish work. And they'll help you get to that finished product fast.

So think about a project you wouldn't ordinarily say yes to and think about how you'd get the job done anyway. Because life as a freelance writer means writing about a lot of things you'd never expect to.

If you want, leave a comment and I'll give you a prompt totally out of your comfort zone and a fast deadline and we can practice together.

As for my recent work: I had this piece on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad for StarWars.com,  and I got to do an interview with "Weird Al" Yankovic about his guest stint as editor of MAD Magazine for Huffington Post.

As part of my work, I was able to be a part of the White House Press Pool for a couple of days. I'll have more information on that later, but I was able to film this speech of the President's during his trip to Utah. You can watch it here. 

I also finished two short stories since my last post, finished my first, rough pass at a book I wrote a while ago to make sure it was fit for human eyes, and...  there's a bunch of other stuff I worked on, too, that I can't talk about just yet.

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!