The Private Lives of Writers and the Blurred Lines of Ministry

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot).  His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II & III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine.  He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology (Apex Books).   Read his blog where he often opines on issues of race, religion, writing, and pop culture and learn more about him at

One of the on-going conversations that took place during Mo*Con this past year (a convention I throw each year) involved guarding our personal lives.  Writing would be so much easier if all we as writers had to do was write.  Yet there is a business side to the craft.  One of the hardest things to put my mind around is that I am also a brand and I have to protect my brand.  Part of that mentality fuels my belief in publishing well.  But that also bleeds into putting myself out there and marketing.  On the flip side, being a commodity also means that there are those who want to treat you as theirs.

Jim Cobb gave some great advice about online privacy protection. This hit a little too close to home as I never thought about how “available” I am.  A lot of folks have my address, for example, as it’s in the phone book, on my business cards.  Granted, I’ve not had too many incidents.  When I had my local column, folks would call the house to let me know if they agreed or disagreed with me.  I’ve also been fortunate in that the only things my fans have ever sent me was books they thought I ought to read.

One of the reasons fans scare me is because they want a piece of you.  It’s one thing to have the writers conceit that something we’ve put to page is important enough to (demand to) be read.  It’s quite another to realize there are folks who want to (demand to) consume you, use you, and otherwise be in your orbit.  Some people have twisted needs, perhaps stemming from us being [wired to worship], some need partially met from pastors, musicians, athletes, artists or whoever they connect with.  But how much of our lives do we shut down to protect ourselves from one or two nuts?

On the more cynical side of the discussion, a side borne out with the dark side of the experience of the cost of fame as they rose in prominence.  There is the dawning realization that all relationships become suspect and that the reality may be that you have no real friends.  No longer do people want to get to know you, they want to get with what you represent:  a possible blurb, an introduction, a connection, “star author”.  Some “friends” will resent your success.  Some people are there to use you.  Others will simply break your heart.

My struggle is that this can be said of life in general and how then are we called to live?

I discussed this with some pastor friends of mine, after all, they often deal with similar things.  I’ve been in church leadership circles long enough to know that it sees its share of crazies.  Congregants can hold pastors in reverence, maybe not the rock ‘n roll star struck brand of fandom, but there is certainly an aura about them.  The type of consumption is different, also, as their “fans” are there out of a desire to learn from (and follow) them.

Many pastors have a dividing line between their home life and their church life.      Protecting themselves by being not especially relational with their congregation.  Part of this is the fact that they are not able to be themselves around everyone because of some people’s preconceived notions about how pastors should behave.

Beyond the fact that I suck at setting boundaries, I think we’re called to live differently.  The idea of protecting ourselves might be one of those American/western values that we’ve embraced to our detriment.  If we believe that we’re called to lay down our lives, then our lives are not about us.  We’re not called to protect ourselves.  We’re not called to be safe.  But we’re not called to be foolish either.  At the end of the day, my wife puts it this way:  that’s some great theology, but I have two children to protect.  So the conversation will continue.

To Comfort the Disturbed, and Vice Versa

Jha is a Malaysian intersectionality blogger studying in Canada. Her proposed MA thesis is on steampunk and postcolonialism. She can bake a mean chocolate cake. You might note that she is also a ridiculous optimist at times.

A few years ago, when I was a wee one in the social justice blogosphere (ok, who am I kidding, I still am), I read a quote that went, “Read six disturbing things a day.” A little after this, I ran across a saying, a kind of motto, that ran thusly: “Comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable.” The motto is a modified version of a longer saying about newspapers, “Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward” credited to one Finley Peter Dunne.

What I really like about fiction in general is that it does both. The SF/F genre has even more potential for comforting and disturbing, because of the slightly-beyond-reality elements the genre has to offer. [Read more…]

Maestro!: Nine Movie Composers to Know

Genevieve Valentine’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and anthologies Federations, Teeth, and Running with the Pack. Her first novel is forthcoming from Prime. She is a columnist at Fantasy Magazine and, and writes about movies of questionable taste on her blog.

So, I am a writer and a movie nerd. These go together, largely because the sound of a keyboard in an empty room tends to freak me out. (I’ve watched too many horror movies.)

On the other hand, if I actually put on a movie, I will never get anything done (for the rest of my entire life).

Enter the movie scores!

By now, everyone who has seen Inception has seen this (and if you haven’t, for goodness’ sake don’t click!):

Spoiler-free description: it’s an example of a great composer at the top of his craft, pushing a movie moment over the edge from solid to sublime.

For those looking to boost their music libraries, I lined up nine awesome composers in no particular order. Most of them have done science fiction or fantasy movies; a few haven’t. All of them have at least one or two not-so-hot movies under their belts. (Luckily, the double-edged Sword of Credit means that while they don’t get enough praise for magnificent work, no one ever looks at Howard Shore and says, “That guy sunk The Cell.”) All of them are well worth listening to if you’re looking for a little inspiration.

[Read more…]

Oedipus Hex

Anil Menon‘s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Albedo One, Apex Digest, Chiaroscuro, Interzone, LCRW, and Strange Horizons. His most recent story, The Poincare Sutra, can be found in the utterly gorgeous Sybil’s Garage No. 7. His YA/SF novel The Beast With Nine Billion Feet (Zubaan, India) was released in November 2009. It’s been shortlisted for the 2010 Vodafone-Crossword Children’s Fiction Prize. He blogs at Round Dice and can be reached at [email protected] He doesn’t typically refer to himself in third person.
This is a story. This is a true story. This is the story by a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. This is an unpublished story by Kafka, found in the coat pocket of a dead Jew. Paul Verlaine scribbled this story on a napkin at the Le Chat Noir the night before he shot Rimbaud with a 7mm. This story is like a chess game played with a machine. This story was told by your mother the night you were conceived. This is the tale Shahryar told Scheherazade on their wedding night. This is a story never read before. This is a 2,500-year old creation myth extracted from an Egyptian sarcophagus. This story was found in Sigmund Freud’s pocket the night he died.

These stories are not part of the story I will shortly tell. In fact, to avoid testing your patience, here is the story:
[Read more…]

10 Important Things I’ve learned about Indie Publishing

Alisa Krasnostein is editor and publisher at Twelfth Planet Press, an Australian indie press for fresh, new speculative fiction. She is also Executive Editor of the review website ASif!, member of Not if You Were the Last Short Story on Earth and part of the podcasting team at Galactic Suburbia.

In the latest episode of Galactic Suburbia, we were talking about the recent apology to writers from Nightshade Press and their subsequent suspension from the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA). An excerpt of their apology is quoted below:

Night Shade has grown faster and more uncontrollably than we had any idea how to handle. What started as two guys shipping books out of a garage now consists of a full staff working out of an office in San Francisco. We’ve shuffled around a lot of our responsibilities, but in many ways, we’re still figuring this out as we go.

This has led to some major miscommunication, and sometimes flat-out lack of communication, with our authors, sometimes, even amongst ourselves. We screwed up: Details were missed, one of us assumed another was handling a situation, or a reluctance to deliver bad news turned into an unprofessional excuse to procrastinate. The issues that have come up today, at their core, are really ones of communication. All this could have been avoided through simple phone calls and emails, through us letting people know what was happening.

That said, this has been a wakeup call for us.

This struck a chord with me as I have struggled managing growth in my own, still new, indie press. On the podcast, I mentioned how I think it’s hard for emerging publishers to find mentorship and guidance compared to that available for writers. There’s a lot of information out there to help writers set themselves up for writing as their career. But I’ve found it much harder to find similar formal assistance for the establishment of a small press and for guidance to grow my small press into a more professional business. Probably that’s because there are far fewer major success stories and because those that have been successful have used unique, and specific to their business, models.

In establishing Twelfth Planet Press, I have been very lucky to have had support and guidance from many small press publishers in Australia as well as more recently, elsewhere in the genre. But I thought, for my guest blog post, I’d share ten of the most important things I’ve learned so far and that I give as advice to emerging publishers when asked.

1. Treat your small press like a business from the get go.

I learned this the hard way and to be fair, I’m not sure you ever really know at the point that you begin your first project what you are going to need or how your press will grow. It starts out innocently with one project, which you can quite clearly remember all the costs of – they came out of your own pocket anyway. And then the sales come in, other projects start up, you have authors and writers to pay and advertising and postage costs, ebook sales across three different online stores, other people might invest in particular projects with you, you split catering costs with another small press at a book launch once, you need an ABN or Tax File Number (in Australia) and then you need to register the name and have a bank account to attach your paypal to and the next thing you know is that you have to trawl through three years of 6 different bank account transactions and paypal receipts and figure out what you lost or earned and what you do or don’t owe the tax man. And where your business stands, financially…

This happened to me. It was an excruciatingly painful experience. It made me cry more than a few times. And it took me months of solid weekends and one three week holiday between day job contracts to forensically audit about 5 years worth of records across 2 paypal accounts, 7 bank accounts and 9 publishing projects. I wish that on no-one.

Just recently, I applied through my bank for an eftpos machine to take electronic payments at Aussiecon 4 in September. It was only in this process that I finally had banking advice on the kind of products and packages I should have to manage my finances. But even in that process, the kinds of questions asked – what proportions of sales come in this form or that form, what turnover do you expect – were ones I could only now really confidently answer. I would have had no idea when setting up Twelfth Planet Press and I also would not have had a transaction record and cash flow through the accounts to show the bank.

My advice though is to set up a unique paypal account for your small press and record your transactions as they happen. Don’t take my approach of “having a paperwork trail” that you can fall back on later. Trust me, that way leads only to pain.

[Read more…]