Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: June 2014

Mailing List

Monday, June 30, 2014

Upcoming Events!

Hello, dearest readers!

Over the next few months, I will be venturing out of my comfortably cool writing hole, braving the heat, and doing some events. To wit:

- This Friday through Sunday (July 4-6), I will be at InConJunction 34 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I'll be spending most of my time chilling out in the creators' alley, signing books and chatting with anybody who drops by, so please come see me! I've also got a busy panel schedule. It looks like this:

Friday15:0050Main ProgrammingBook Publishing: Your Options Today
Friday16:0050Indianapolis Ballroom ASo you've written a novel...NOW what?
Friday17:0050Indianapolis Ballroom DWriter's Roundtable: Publishing
Saturday10:0050Indianapolis Ballroom BAuthor, Agent, Editor, Publisher: Who does what?
Saturday22:0050Grand Ballroom 7-8Candlelight Horror
Sunday10:0050Indianapolis Ballroom DWhat to write...

So if you've ever wanted to watch me expound on writing and publishing in person, now you can (if you're coming to InConJunction, anyway). And if you've ever wanted to hear me give a thoroughly chilling reading from What Lies in Darkness (really, I'm going to do voices and everything---it'll be fun), you can get in on that as well.

- August 30 I'll be back at Robots and Rogues in West Lafayette, Indiana, to sign books during the Mosey Down Main Street. So go get a giant cup of beer and then come talk to me. It'll be fun.

- September 5-7, I'll be in Denver, Colorado, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference. I'll be signing books at their big author shindig on Friday night (open to the public, I'm pretty sure) and would love to see any and all of you in the Denver area there. I'll also be giving a workshop on Sunday called "What the Heck is a Kickstarter?" There's still plenty of time to register for the conference, if you're into that sort of thing.

- March 13-15, 2015, I'll be at EPICon in San Antonio, Texas. More news to come on that front as it gets closer, but I'll be presenting two workshops and will be around to hang out and chat as well.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Legacy

Today's post inspired by this post, written by the inimitable J.A. Kazimer. Julie's going blind, which is sad for a nearly endless host of reasons. And she's thinking about her legacy, and in her post she asks other people to do the same.

So I'm going to, because this is a question I have struggled with over the last year.

To me, the question of legacy is one of what you want to be remembered for, which boils down more or less into what will make you consider your life a success. And that, in turn, translates into the question of what it's most important to do with your time. Because time is the one thing we can't get more of.

All this interacts with the writing lifestyle in complicated and terrible ways.

The writing monster will consume as many hours as you throw at it. You can always write more. Do one more revision. Sleep less. Quit your job. Abandon your family. Live for the art and the art alone.

Really, you can. There's nobody who can stop you from doing so but yourself. And there seem to be (and I place a lot of emphasis on seem to be here, because our culture loves narratives of hard work) a lot of successful writers who, at some point in their lives, did pretty much nothing other than write.

So for me, struggling and struggling and struggling to build a career out of hard work and dedication glued together with a little bit of talent, I had to confront a very difficult question last year:

What is most important to me, in life? Is it being the best writer I can possibly be, or is it something else?

And I decided (more accurately, I remembered) that writing successfully is not the end-all be-all of my existence, even though that poses certain challenges when making a career out of it. A long time ago, I decided that the measure of success in my life would be how many other lives I improved.

So that will be my legacy, I hope. When I cross paths with people, I want them to be glad they met me. And when I'm gone, that's what I want people to remember.

Writing is one way I hope to do that, but it can't be the only one.

And if I succeed at writing well, I suspect that will be why. When writing is all you have, it's easy to get desperate---for praise, for money, for validation. And you can't be desperate when you write. People can smell desperation, and they tend to stay away from it.

But if you build a balanced life and give writing only as much of it as it deserves, you can avoid that, I think.

So cheers. Legacy. And if you're into it, go read one of Julie's F***ed-Up Fairy Tales.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Speed Update!

I've got about twenty minutes to write this before I have to finish cleaning up the house and catch a flight. SO! Here's what I'm up to at the moment:

- Putting the finishing touches on that novella about the goblin officeworker with the heart of gold.

- Setting up edits, cover art, and other logistical bits for Soulwoven: Exile. So far everything is looking gold for a pub date before the end of the year.

- Combing through feedback on Soulwoven: Exile as it comes in and making a plan for revisions.

- Twitching frequently because I have two short stories I really want to get finished up before I have to dive back into Exile full bore at the end of the month, and I'm not sure where I'll find the time to do so.

- Getting ready for InConJunction, where I'll be appearing on a bunch of panels and selling and signing books in their creator's alley.

- Figuring out my logistics for RMFW Gold 2014 in September, where I'll be presenting a workshop on Kickstarter and signing books.

- Taking a worldbuilding class from Scott Lynch, learning much and writing little bitty exercises.

And probably several other things I'm forgetting about. Now to pack! And fly!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One for the Locker: Charlie Jane Anders on Worldbuilding

Like I said last week, I'm taking a class on worldbuilding, and we just got a great link to a worldbuilding checklist. I want to have it to hand, and I want to share it, so here it is, preserved in the locker for posterity.

Cheers!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Some Thoughts on Markets, Authors, and Submitting Short Stories

So while I'm working on my various summer short fiction projects, I've been doing a lot more thinking about traditional publishing and submitting stories to the few markets that pay very well.

Really, there aren't very many.

I've also been reading more of them. I work my way through a story every morning at breakfast now, and it's been a fantastic addition to my day. I've also learned that there are an awful lot of very good writers creating very good short fiction out there, and that many of them have never published a novel.

And because let's go ahead and form a trifecta so we can triangulate my thoughts, I've also been thinking more about writing fiction for a living and how simultaneously terrifying, liberating, and exhilarating it must be.

These three things have come together and forced me to ask myself a new question every time I write a story. They have also shed some light on why traditionally published authors can be so darn hostile sometimes.

The question is this: Is what I'm writing so good that it deserves to take bread off someone's table and put it on mine instead?

Because that's an undeniable reality. Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Asimov's, Lightspeed, Apex, et al. only publish a few stories each every month. Depending on the particulars of a story (length, especially), the markets for it might be even more limited. There really isn't that much money to go around (and for the record, it's better in SFF than it is in other genres), and if some of it goes to me, it's not going to someone else. Someone else who's probably writing something great, and who may be depending on the sales of their short fiction to stay afloat.

I won't feel bad about that, but only if I'm writing something that's so damn good that when they read it, they'll agree with the editor for buying it.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't write and shouldn't seek markets for your writing once you've finished it. But it's a piece of the puzzle that I had forgotten about, and it's worth remaining conscious of.

Cheers, and Happy Monday,
Jeff

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some (More) Thoughts on Worldbuilding

Hello, dear readers!

I'm back from my trip to the Great Upstate, where much planning of weddings was done and I even managed to read most of a book. Hazah! Now it's back to work, and I feel quite refreshed.

I gave up on the idea that I was going to an authorial wunderkind years ago and resigned myself to what I think of as the Rod Smith approach (Denver Broncos fans will probably know what I mean here, but the tldr is that he thought of himself as much less talented than the other top guys people in his field, so he made sure to work twice as hard). Part of that, for me, is a constant drive to improve various aspects of my writing from book to book. I have a long list of things I want to get better at, and one of them is worldbuilding.

So I'm taking a class from Scott Lynch of Gentleman Bastards fame, and I'm learning more about worldbuilding and spending a lot of time thinking about it. Fairly early on, it became apparent to me that I build my best worlds in a way that's often been described to me as "lesser." To wit: my best worlds seem to be the ones I build as I go. When I build a world and then try to set a story in it, the story, and by extension the world it's set in, usually feels a little flat. I really have to struggle to get all the elements to line up. On the other hand, when I start with a story and then build a world around it, everything seems to fit together much more tightly and harmonize much better.

With the help of my classmates, I've come to call the second way "discovery-style" worldbuilding, because you discover things about the world as you write.

I was working on an exercise for the class last night, one for which I'd been tasked to write a short bit of description to accomplish some worldbuilding goals. I wrote it. It read like crap. Absolute crap. I even cheated by setting it in the Soulwoven world and choosing an interesting scene from the backstory to write (for the curious, it's the moment when Eshan and Crixine leave Duenel).

As I was describing a river in the distance (again, for the curious, the Soulth'nth---the one the characters travel up to reach the mountains in the end of the first book), I realized why.

When I do "discovery-style" worldbuilding, I get to create the setting to match the theme. A river only exists in a discovery-style narrative (that I write, anyway) because it serves a thematic purpose; it's a metaphor for a journey, or a point that must be crossed and can never be uncrossed (like the Rubicon, the Lethe, etc.), or one of any other number of things. When I set a story in a world that already exists, the river is there, and I must describe it if the characters are looking at it. That's very limiting to me as a storyteller.

I'm glad that I spent months building the Soulwoven world, writing history and language and geography and myth. Doing that taught me a lot about how to build worlds, and I have a better sense now of what I need to discover when I'm writing them discovery-style (though I'm still learning and probably always will be). Plus, that was how Tolkien built his world, and given how much the traditions I work in derive from his work, it felt good to follow in his footsteps for a while.

But I don't know that I'll build any big worlds like that again; they just don't quite fit my style.