Taking a step back


I’ve decided to give up teaching in order to see my kids more, and work on my book more. I hate giving up the adjunct paycheck, but I have to keep some sort of balance. If Zook Country has a fan,she’ll probably be relieved to hear this, since it might mean that I’ll get the second volume out before the decade ends.

Zookland Promo


Dirk Van Den Boom, my translator, sent me a photo of the promotion poster.

This is shameless self-promotion, but Dirk sent me the picture, and I have to share it. Unless you’re German, this isn’t available in a store near you. Sorry!

I’m published…

In German. Still haven’t gotten a bite from an American publisher. Dirk Van Den Boom, my German translator and a small-press superstar, e-mailed me day before yesterday to say that Zookland is now in print. I’m a published author! Because I had promised myself that I’d thank the men who saved my life a few years ago, I let go of the opportunity to acknowledge the people who made this book possible (as opposed to the guys who made everything I do today possible). First and foremost, of course, is Dirk, who had so much faith in the book that he spent a year translating it, at his own risk., I got an advance (a very small advance), but Dirk doesn’t make a Euro until the publisher does. Now that’s faith.

Guido Latz agreed to publish an unknown American author based on a sample chapter and a bio (and, I suspect, Dirk’s good name). I truly hope that the decision pays off so that he’ll want me back!

Before either of those people got involved, Nicky Browne, Brian Pickrell, Gray Woodland, Julie Pascal, Morgaine Finch, David Mitchell, Mary Ann Stout, Ric Locke, David Freidman, David Goldfarb , Melanie Hosmun, Jeanine Berry, and Rick Roots, Stan Jones and the whole gang at Chugiak Writer’s guild, and two or three others read and commented at length on one or more versions of Seraglio/Zook Country. Some of you have read more than one version, both with and without dragons. I think that for Morgaine, there came a point when she was spending most of her leisure reading hours reading new versions of my book. There was also a large collection of commentators on rec.arts.sf.composition.

I’m going to keep a contributor’s list with the next manuscript, for equity’s sake. In the meantime, I owe all of you a great debt of gratitude. It’s a far, far better book because of you. There will be a next adventure for Jake and Gary — they’re already running down an underground corridor watching somebody else’s plan go to pieces around them.

On the Verge, Again

On the Verge, Again

I’ll start a new job later this month as a technical writer and editor for a federal government agency. I understand I’ll be editing technical and scientific reports, providing web-site content, possibly visiting Alaskan villages, and using desktop publishing tools to lay-out a very large periodic report for the Alaska branch of the Bureau.

I’m not at all sure I’ll have time to write the things I love.

By the other token, when I wrote my last completed book, I was working full time on my Masters degree, working part-time for money, and teaching two classes in order to learn that trade/stay occupied. It’s possible that I need to be overworked in order to be really productive as a writer.

I hope that is so.

I said goodbye to a very successful agent not long ago. He seems to like me, and he likes my writing, but he just doesn’t understand this whole business about zooks, ghasten, and the sort of people who will put their lives on the line to save the world, but won’t answer to a strong central authority. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked for a somewhat schizophrenic strong central authority for most of my professional life, lived with the idea that I have to follow orders without question, except for the illegal ones which I must recognize and refuse, supported bosses I didn’t trust, even when they were transparently about to get themselves fired and tar my reputation, worked cheek by jowl with the mysterious powers that be, even when it was painfully obvious that they were as warty and human as I am – but I have no trouble at all seeing that some types of people just can’t work within a controlling system, yet will still live and die to protect the civilization that puts food on the table and movies in the theaters.

The downside of losing an agent in today’s market is that my odds of successful mass market publication appear to go down significantly. The upside is that now I can write my next story without having to wade through a barrage of off-target criticism by a committee of agents who make it clear every time they put pen to paper that they just don’t understand the story and want to pigeonhole the author. I have to keep faith that eventually, I’ll find a U.S. agent that loves my stories, and not the unwritten ones in his head that mine remind him of. I’ll have to believe that, because my odds of being published through the services of an agency that was never going to actually market a story they wouldn’t understand, were actually nil. Odds can’t go down from zero.

In going to work for the Bureau, I’m most likely saying goodbye to a career in academia. I’ve enjoyed working in a university setting for the last several years far more than I ever thought I might. I’ve always been a campus junkie, always loved open lawns with kids throwing Frisbee between classes. Here in Alaska, that campus isn’t exactly a rolling garden, but a lot of people bring their dogs, who seem quite welcome, which for me is a great benefit. I’ll still teach the occasional class, I think. I seem to be a popular teacher, as long as I stay carefully in the adjunct professor box.

My family said goodbye to our last puppy this week. She’s happy in her new home in Canada, and I’m exceedingly pleased with how well she’s fitting in. Over the next several months, we’ll need to decide if we breed Danika the dog again, or look for a new female to breed Danika’s twenty-two month old son Sirocco with. Or, perhaps we’ll give up on the stress of selling rare breed dogs from Alaska. Letting a dog go after four months tears at the soul and leaves the children moping around the house.

I’m fifty this year. Looking back, it seems as though we’ve always been on the verge of something. I hope it really is the journey that’s important.

Skipping Church

I’m skipping church because my daughter isn’t feeling well. I’m not helping her to get better, or taking care of household chores so that Teri can nurse her I’m not really sure what my logic train is, but since Alexa doesn’t feel well enough to go, I kept us all home, and now I’m hiding in the basement blogging.

Okay, it may be that I’m hiding in a more general sense.

We have two lovable puppies terrorizing the house, I owe a semester schedule to my late starting class, who just handed me a truly enjoyable set of first essays (which I gave back last week), and my regular classes gave me their essays last week, which means I owe them graded essays tomorrow. I’m having to take security and file management courses for the job I start in December. Unpaid hours and days of electronic misery, upon which my new job, which won’t quite pay for the creaky Alaska Dream Home/money pit, and our weekly forays to Red-Robin where we live beyond our means, depends.

My space opera lies fallow, badly wounded and perhaps dying on the vine, victim of unkind words by an agent I wanted but who I can’t work with, and by the fact that I must re-rack my thoughts to push writing down to tier two – stuff that I like to do, but shouldn’t obsess about since there’s no sign that I’m ever going to have an income stream from that avocation. I’ve got a bunch of agent queries out, and a whole new list of potential agents to query.

I’m not processing rejections well in two ways. One, I’m not keeping an adequate tracking sheet, so I’m no longer certain that I’ve sent queries or submissions to certain presses. I need to fix that. Two, I’m letting rejections for stupid reasons bother me for weeks, when I should just write them off. A major U.S. publisher can’t even look at Zook Country because I’m without an agent, and it’s being published in German, by a small press. I got a nice note from their slushpile editor and we went back and forth on the issue for a couple passes, but it comes down to she’s not allowed to read the manuscript because somebody in Germany liked it enough to publish a couple hundred copies – even though that version is entirely in German, and my English Language rights are completely unconstrained. Then, an agent who I had really thought would like my work rejects it after a full year for reasons that make it clear he completely missed a sub-text that every beta reader I’ve had picked up on immediately.

I’m whinging. I’m at that stage where I have enough things I ought to do that I’m sitting around talking about how busy I am rather than actually doing the work. And the sad thing is, my whole to-do list would have been minor chores back when I was on active duty.