WT&TT: Pros & Cons of Pro Cons (reblogged)

Hey look, it’s Tuesday. Chuck is talking about the benefits and downsides of conventions for authors.

The Pros And Cons Of Pro Cons (For Writers)

by terribleminds



I tickle myself inappropriately.

Anyway, so, last week Authorbeing Marko Kloos wrote a post about the cost of his trip to Confusion, an SFF con in Michigan. His estimation of cost: $1880, though he notes with more frugal spending that cost could’ve easily been knocked down to under a thousand bucks.

Still, a thousand bucks is no small amount of cash. With that you could pay rent, make a car payment, buy a month’s worth of groceries, or finally afford a long relaxing weekend with your own personal SEX PONY. Is that an actual pony with whom you make love? Or a person dressed like a pony who just hangs around being sexy? I have no idea! I don’t want to know your peccadillos! I’m not here to judge!

The question, particularly for genre writers, becomes:

Is it worth it?

Is it worth going to a convention or festival not just as a fan but as a professional writer or a writer seeking professional connections? Are some conventions better than others? After all, a genre convention (SFF or mystery or YA) will be different from a more general writer convention (conference) and those will be different yet from a comic-con or book festival.

Do you need to go to one?

Let’s just get the tl;dr out of the way right now:

Nope, you don’t.


Wait! I was kidding, don’t go away. Unless you’re going away to get me some French fries. You’re not? Then fine, plunk your BOTTOM REGION down on that CHAIR-SHAPED ENTITY and listen because I’m not done talking, goddamnit. No, you don’t need to go to any convention…

But you may still find value there. You are not required to go — meaning, at no point is your professional career hinging entirely on WHO YOU SCHMOOZED AT THE BAR THAT NIGHT AT WANGLE-DANGLECON. Your writing career hinges on writing good books that an editor likes and a publisher thinks they can sell and that readers want to read and also, there’s a hefty dumpster-load of luck at play, too.

Though, let’s talk a little bit about that luck factor, shall we? If we view luck through the lens of an RPG, your Luck Stat can (by most rules) be used to boost your chances at, say, finding more treasure or managing a critical hit while attacking a VILE DISPLACER GIRAFFE. If we view life as one big ongoing RPG, then your Luck Stat is there to boost your chances in various life arenas from the romantic to the financial to the professional. Very few things rely entirely on luck — but many things can be influenced by luck. Writing and publishing included.

You can not create luck, really. But you can maximize it.

Bringing this full circle, going to a convention or conference or festival can help maximize your luck in this space. Meaning, maybe you cross paths with an agent or editor who will remember you later when your book crosses their desk. Or maybe you’ll meet another author who is likelier to take a look at your book to blurb it when the time comes because they actually remember your face. Or maybe you attend a panel where four authors say a bunch of smart and dumb stuff that combines like IDEA VOLTRON in your head to form your next book. Again, none of this is essential, but a lot of it has the chance to give you a boost in a variety of ways.

That’s the upfront tl;dr —

No, conventions/conferences/festivals are explicitly not “required.”

But they can be worth it.

Let’s now hash out the actual pros and cons, yeah?

(Disclaimer: this post is just my opinion, and does not comprise anything resembling fact.)

Read more by clicking on the title.

Peace is Engaged Eye-to-Eye

On Saturday night at the Easter Vigil, we celebrated the ceremony of light to mark the “new dawn” or “new awakening” created by Christ’s resurrection. It symbolises the “new road” the disciples had been called to walk by Jesus, during his ministry and then after the events of Easter. There are times, we were reminded by the parish priest, that we have to reassess where we’re going. Sometimes the only solution is to turn back and begin again anew, searching for a deeper understanding.

My parish priest referred to this feeling as “our own Galilee”, in reference to how in the Gospel, the disciples, previously despairing after their beloved friend’s seemingly inglorious end (put to death as a criminal!), were told to “go ahead to Galilee” where Jesus would meet them. There, they continued with their ministry, spreading Jesus’ message of love: non-violence, forgiveness and compassion. These are the things that make up “peace” to me. As I was thinking about this yesterday, I read an interesting article.


It talks about peace being welcoming practices which become habits over time…tolerance and acceptance of difference, hospitality and strong community bonds. That sounds Christ-like to me.

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you’re getting (or have got) the chance to do things which are good for you, whether that be visiting family and friends and socialising or simply having a relaxing time at home away from work.


The Stranger on the Cross

On Good Friday, the spirit of inclusion offered by the message inherent in the Last Supper and Washing of the Feet is slapped in our faces with its truth. (Again, small disclaimer: I’ve researched this stuff or been told it by priests and other religious, forming my views.)

Regardless of what you believe about the truth of events over Easter, there are some things that can’t be denied. Like how Jesus was put to death because (as I mentioned previously) He dared to challenge the status quo by reaching out to all, even and especially those who were considered “untouchable”. That wasn’t all: his message was bread for a hungry crowd, sight for a previously blind one. People listened to him, which meant they, too, challenged the status quo as He did.

So the persecutors tempted one of Jesus’ friends, then manipulated the judge (Pilate) who officiated at Jesus’ show trial. Pilate literally “washed his hands” of the matter due to pressure from the religious leaders…one of the first examples of peer pressure from crowd mentality causing a person to cave in and support the dominant opinion, you could say.

It was hoped that by killing Jesus, they would kill His message. That plan failed, obviously.

Jesus taught that the things that mattered were compassion for each other’s weaknesses, strength to build each other up, a sense of community that was forging and non-judgemental. In a word, love.

Sometimes that vision (or the realisation of it) can be difficult to believe. Especially when our own egos and fears get in the way. I’ve come to realise that Simon Peter represents us in that regard. Jesus trusted in and loved him, though, even through his mistakes. As He trusts in and loves us. The message still resonates, despite how difficult it can be, because of its truth.

Today, Jesus is still present in the outcast people of society. We would do well to remember that in how we treat them. This is true for all of us, especially Christians, in our treatment of those who “don’t fit” our mould or idea of morality (like LGBTI people, or [in the Catholic Church] divorced and unwed parents [especially mothers], for example). Welcoming sounds nicer than holier-than-thou anyway.

One group of outcasts in whom Jesus can be seen are refugees. Below is a video explaining some things about the Syrian situation and refugee crisis. five years is too long. Something to think about during this time….they are the ones on the Cross right now, as borders shut and they are trapped in substandard conditions.The question is – what can we do to help them and other Cross-bearers in today’s society?

That’s what I hear in the story of Cross this year.

Uncomfortable Compassion

The Easter period has begun. In the media (social and otherwise, especially on blogs), there are many reflective pieces. Mine will be short, as I have quite a few of those posts in my inbox already.

I had a thought, earlier today: part of the ceremony is that we use the same words, year after year and even the same songs. It is ritualistic, rhythmic, symbolic yet containing truth. An old story, passed down through the years. It is up to the priest to bring anything new to it – if they wish to. (In that light, I ought to say that a lot of the stuff I talk about below has been influenced by things I’ve heard religiously-trained people say and what they’ve taught me, as well as things I’ve researched from other religious sources.)

One thing I’ve noticed about both ceremonies (Thurs and Fri) is how explicit the text is that Jesus loved his friends. His teaching wasn’t the distant, high-and-mighty sort, after all. He was down-to-earth, empathising with those He taught. Especially with His disciples, “whom he loved” as the text says. I believe that His companions were men and women, by the way.


It’s Holy Thursday, otherwise known as Maundy Thursday. The readings tell of the first Passover (after all, Christianity developed from Judaism). Then of how Jesus took supper with his disciples and washed their feet.

Jesus knew he’d been inciting trouble from those in power by preaching the message of non-violence, compassion and forgiveness to each other. He was a rebel, in a disenfranchised community. The people in charge were greedy traditionalists who wanted everything to stay the same – it suited them, after all. They targeted Jesus and He knew it. Not that it stopped Him – He had a vision (from God, you could say) and was not intimidated by others disagreeing with him.

In the supper, Jesus offered up bread and wine as His body and blood – basically asking his disciples to not forget Him or His teachings, after He was gone. I like to imagine that, before or after that “surprise” from Jesus (depending on when exactly it happened in the meal), the group would have spent time laughing and talking and sharing stories. A true communion between good friends who shared a common purpose. I believe there were more than just the Twelve there. It would have been like a big party, with strong bonds between all.

Before supper, though, Jesus gave His disciples another example of what his mission meant. He washed their feet. In those times, people wore sandals and walked around streets that were dirty due to animal and other wastes, I believe. So one of the things that ‘important’ people would do would remove their shoes and have their feet washed when they arrived home inside. Usually, a servant (or slave) would wash the feet of the master of the house and his guests (‘her’ guests was rarer). Jesus was a Teacher and a ‘Master’ (addressed as such at points in the Bible). His disciples were like servants in a sense – certainly lesser than Him in the parlance of the time because they were learning from Him and not the other way around.

For Him to wash their feet was the greatest of role reversals – hence why Simon Peter was so adamant that “no, Lord, you will not wash my feet”. Jesus was just as stubborn, though. In the end, He washed all of their feet, with a joke for Simon Peter when he was overeager (Jn 13:10). Jesus went on to explain why he did it (Jn 13:13-:17). He was manifesting a visible form of compassion.

Another way of explaining it is this song, often played during the ceremony of Holy Thursday (while the washing of the feet is re-enacted): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgz_xsdbEks = The Servant Song.

Pope Francis washed the feet of refugees of different faiths this year. He’s washed the feet of prisoners and other people who are marginalised or outcast in some way. This shows what we need to do, symbolically and physically: welcome the “stranger”, even the inconvenient one, or the one we might not think to help first. Welcome them with love and compassion and leave your judgements at the door.




WT&TT: Impostor Syndrome, or Not (Reblogged)

Impostor Syndrome is an icky, stupid thing. In my opinion one thing that helps combat it is having the self-confidence to know that you want to keep writing, even when things are tough. (Like that post about ‘Absolute Zero’ from a month ago and Chuck’s insistence that as an author, you call the shots for your work.)

John Scalzi has more below.

Impostor Syndrome, or Not

by John Scalzi

At ConFusion last week, I had a great many conversations with a great many folks on a large number of topics, but there was one topic that seemed to pop up more than usual:Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome, briefly put, is the feeling that one’s achievements and status are a fluke, and that sooner or later one will be revealed as a fraud. Anecdotally speaking, it seems, Imposter Syndrome affects a lot of writers, editors and other folks in the publishing life. I think this is in part because the writing life is a precarious one, financially and otherwise, and also in part because people in publishing seem to be a generally neurotic lot anyway. Imposter Syndrome is just another log on that particular fire.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing and it’s not something I’d want to make light of because I think it has harmful effects. I think it can make people cautious in the exercise of their art and their career when they could be (and want to be) taking chances, and I think it can make people vulnerable to being taken advantage of by people/organizations who intentionally or otherwise leverage those feelings for their own advantage.

It’s pernicious, basically, and it frustrates me that so many talented people who have earned their places in the field with their work battle with it. I think it’s good that people are talking about it, however. It means that they are aware that it’s a thing and that it’s a lie. Naming it and describing it and knowing of it goes a long way in fighting it.

Read more by clicking on the title above, as Scalzi says a lot of other good stuff.


Ouch! We’re lucky to have a good health system…..

Last night, this happened:


I dislocated my kneecap (patella) at home – I banged it on a chair leg while it was flexed (bent) and I was off-balance as I was pivoting (turning) using the other foot. Smack and ouch. As you can see from the image, the good people at our local (private) Emergency Department fixed me up, though I was woozy and uncomfortable afterwards. I’m managing now – it’s a rest day at home for me and I’m in good hands, so don’t stress.

It was painful last night. Collapsing-on-the-ground painful – we were all a bit surprised I didn’t cry much. Then again, I think I was in shock. Mum and Dad drove me to the hospital while I whimpered and tried to control the pain using my breathing. The dislocation was pretty obvious, especially when Mum found a wheelchair for me to sit in, so they took me straight through. The night nurses and doctor saw to me, getting me onto a bed in the ED and starting me on drugs for the pain, once they’d evaluated me. I talk faster and slur my words a bit when I’m shocky, it seems.

One of the drugs they gave me separates the brain’s processing from the body. That’s why people say weird things sometimes. I talked a lot about deja vu because I kept repeating myself. I also thought I was on a Metro train, going for a ride, even though the disconnected part of me knew I was in hospital. If you want to imagine what that “disconnected” feeling was like, it was as if a part of me knew what was going on and could tell I was saying some strange things, but couldn’t and didn’t want to stop the other part which was speaking. Aware enough to think and say, “this is weird“, but not caring too much, because all details of one’s surroundings are blurred. No wonder people call them the “good drugs”….

While I was “out of it”, they re-set the kneecap and took me for an x-ray to ensure no lasting harm had been done. Then we had to wait for the drugs to wear off, as one of them (morphine, I think) caused nausea. Bleargh. That was a pain.

By half-past midnight I was home in bed, with a clunky “zimmer brace” keeping my lower limb straight to support the knee. I’ll be stiff and sore for a while – hobbling rather than walking and moving into and out of chairs very gingerly. But I will recover. I’ve got an appointment (referred by the ED doctor) to an orthopaedic doctor next week. We’ll see how things go from there. I’m glad it’s nearly Easter break…recovery won’t cut into uni time too much.

I’d like to say a giant thank you to the ED staff on duty last night. They were busy with lots of things – apparently the night before last had been a full one and the hospital itself (not the ED) was at capacity. I was told that my town has grown to the point where there are discussions about building another private hospital, to take the total number of hospitals up to three. Despite all that, they were very careful, friendly and helpful. Thanks!

Another few things I’ve learnt:
* First Aid training helps you help yourself in these situations. I knew I was going into shock, so was able to deal with that.
* Distractions and information help me manage my pain. It’s a good, if ironic, thing that my latest anatomy lecture had been about the knee, as I used the information I remembered to distract myself.
* People really do experience deja vu

So, there you have it: my ED trip.

What sort injuries have you had?

WT&TT: The Unexpected Utility of Science Fiction (reblogged)

Really interesting. I think I like sci-fi and just about any type of fantasy because of the ability to explore the “what-ifs” safely, usually in such a way as certain things are imagined as better than they are today (and if not, then the things which should change – then and now – are usually illustrated starkly).

do have an “overactive imagination”, but I usually like to maintain a positive-realist outlook, curbing my sometimes-weird wonderings when they get too out of hand. Of course, I’m more successful some days than others! Maybe that’s why I don’t like gory horror stuff….


Disaster, Worry, and the Unexpected Utility of Science Fiction

By Karina Sumner-Smith

A few years back, I took a new job at a new company in an unfamiliar area of town. After settling in—finding the kitchen and washrooms, claiming space for my massive mug, attempting to find a better chair—I started my usual planning for the apocalypse.

Where, in this office, were the exits? Were the doors easily barricaded against the undead; were the halls, or the stairways? Where could one hide if zombies got inside? And where were the air vents, anyway?

“What are you doing?” one of my new co-workers asked on my second day of (apparently not-so-unobtrusive) poking into corners.

“Oh,” I replied absently, “just finding escape routes for when the zombie hordes attack.”

There was a pause.

“Well?” she asked at last. “Will we be safe?”

“Nope,” was my honest reply. “We’re all totally screwed.”


It’s no surprise that writers are good at coming up with stories. Creating stories—or if not full stories, then at least scenarios—is a critical part of the skill-set, and one that gets honed by constant use. Yet this is also a skill of worriers and those with “overactive imaginations”—categories, all, into which I fit neatly.

Worrying, wondering, asking “what if” is something that we all do, at some level. What if I don’t get this job? Should I call him back? What was that noise? Can you even imagine the reaction if I’d gone in there with ketchup smeared across my face?

It’s just that a lifetime of reading and writing genre fiction seems to have shaped the scenarios that my brain presents. On top of all the everyday worries and thoughts of any adult, others slip into the mix.

Read more by clicking on the linked heading above.



Uni has been kicking me about a bit, so I haven’t had much time to post or schedule.

I did want to write something today though, even though it’s a bit late. You see, today marks 52 weeks since I shaved last year. Around Australia, people have been shaving their heads this week, especially today. Just like last year. It was the 13th, a Friday, when I shaved. I still remember it well.

Look at my hair now.

photo 2

And then:

I smile at this photo. It felt so weird to have such short hair after eleven years of keeping it long. It grew back quickly, though. I chose to lop it off. Others don’t have that choice, because in order to be treated for cancer, the chemo makes their hair fall out (among other side effects). It would be quite uncomfortable…

I didn’t shave because I wanted praise. I did it because I thought it was a good thing to do, to help. I raised $1500. I wonder how much will be raised this year in total?

(There’s still time to donate money. People keep the fundraising pages open for a little while afterwards, in case people see their shaved head and want to give. Go on….)

WT&TT: Stammer Verbs to Avoid (reblogged)

This is very useful. I’m verbose at the best of times, so one thing the editing process will do is examine the story for these sorts of things. Of course, I have to do a bit of editing-in of passages before I start taking stuff out….

Writing Tip Tuesday #30: Jessi Rita Hoffman

by Evolet


When you’re self-editing your work, there are plenty of posts out there that tell you what you should look at for and try to eliminate. [tag]Jessi Rita Hoffman[/tag]’s provides 2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction.


The reader assumes, if a character is going to move from point A to point B in a scene, he or she will probably have to make a turning movement. That’s understood, so it need not be explained. Stating it merely slows down the action and spoils the vividness of the scene.

Before: The king placed the scroll back on the table. He turned and walked to the window.

After: The king placed the scroll back on the table. He shuffled to the window.


Like turned, it’s typically misused as a way of launching into description of an action:

Jill sat down with a thud. She began to untie her shoelaces.

There’s no reason to slow down the action with began.

Jill sat down with a thud. She untied her shoelaces.

Unless something is going to interrupt between the start and the completion of their action (taking off shoes), there is no reason to say began.

WT&TT: The Untrue Truth of Write What You Know (reblogged)

Five words: plausible worldviews and transferable skill-sets. Intrigued? Read on.

Emma Newman: The Untrue Truth Of “Write What You Know”

by terribleminds

Emma Newman is undeniably an epic talent, and her wave is about to break on your beach with her newest, the astounding Planetfall. She wanted to come by and talk about a piece of advice with which she disagrees — that ol’ classic, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. So, without further ado: 

* * *

If you’ve read anything about how to write, you’ve probably stumbled across the old chestnut “write what you know.” Being someone of fine taste and refinement, seeing as you’re here at Chuck’s place, you’ve probably also figured out for yourself that this advice is thin at best and downright untrue at its worst.

You could say “hey, it doesn’t have to be taken literally – ‘what you know’ can incorporate emotional experiences that can be applied to new situations, not just intellectual experiences, and you’d be right. But what I want to talk about here, is how you can approach a gulf between your own experience and that of your character.

The easy way first

Let’s get these out of the way. If you want to write about something you don’t know, there’s good old bookish research (which can only take you so far – especially in some areas of SFF) and there’s talking to people. With regards to the latter, it can be hard to find someone who fits the bill completely, so it may be that you need to speak to several people. This also helps to reduce the chance of repeating mistakes and churning out trope-ridden material.

What about things that don’t exist?

What can you read or who can you talk to if the job or experience you want to explore in your writing doesn’t exist – either because it is too fantastical or hasn’t been invented yet? Or what if it is only experienced by people you have no hope of being able to talk to?


(Click on the title for the rest of the piece.)


Emma Newman … blogs at http://www.enewman.co.uk and can be found on Twitter as @emapocalyptic