Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to Recognize a Predator

1.  No eyewitnesses.  Privacy is an absolute requirement!  Eyewitness testimony can destroy the predator's credibility when they try to exercise rule 4 (see below).

2. Destruction of any evidence!  Facts have the uncomfortable habit of turning up when the predator least expects them.  They must be very careful to leave no sign of their actions. 

3.  Imbalance of power.  Effective predation requires that the recipient be fully aware of the consequences of resistance.  Unless there is an imbalance of power there is no telling what sorts of  baseless allegations the victim might make. Money may also be used, providing the (alleged) victim signs a legal agreement to remain silent.

4.  Deny deny, deny.  If the predator is careful to say it never happened, then what recourse does the recipient of their alleged attentions claim? When the predator has prestige, wealth, or position their powerful voice can overwhelm any feeble claims.  The predator often falls back on their charm or sterling reputation when pressed.

5. Cast aspersions on the accuser.  The predator's most effective defense is to raise doubts about an accusers honesty, motives, and/or life style, especially if they can suggest that something about these is "just not right." It does not matter if that something is relevant or not. Predators often suggest whatever ulterior motives they can imagine and proclaim them repeatedly and loudly.

6. Litigate. This is the atomic bomb of a predator's defense. Threatened legal action, whose defense would bankrupt the accuser, often works and, if that fails, they can follow through with the legal action and protract it to the limits of the accuser's financial resources.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Just Words

"It's just words," the Donald said, dismissing the power that "just words" have played in history.  The Magna Carta was just words, as were the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. "Just words" have the power to strengthen hearts, change minds, and open eyes to social and political injustice.  "Just words" have moved nations, crystalized political parties, and shamed demagogues, and exposed criminals. They have also been used to curtail criticism, stifle opposition, and promulgate damaging falsehoods.

But words have also been used to gladden souls through soaring literary prose that removes  us from the daily fray. Words have revealed the best and worst of humanity, showing its failures and foibles in dramatic, comedic, and tragic form. "Just words" have presented us with aspirational hope as well as forced us to face gritty reality. They've opened the mind's eyes to awesome vistas and the mind itself to brave, as well as horrifying, concepts.

"Just words" are all we have to convey our thoughts and feelings to one another, for none of us can  discern their unspoken thoughts or emotions and must rely upon words, words, and words using the imperfect tool of language. Words have the power to convey love and hate, happiness and sorrow, compassion and indifference. "Just words" can also expose who we really are.

There are no such things as "Just words."


Friday, October 7, 2016

Complaints from the Word Lathe

I've been receiving a succession of good news lately the best of which is that NON-PARALLEL UNIVERSES, a collection of my twenty favorite published stories from the last ten years (as of 2015) will shortly be available. With five other accepted stories in the pipeline everyone should see a lot of Bud Sparhawk fiction during the next six months.

Meanwhile, back on the forge where I am hammering on one of the unfinished novels, work is apace.  In the last week I've managed to bring its length to a mere 115,000 words, down from 150,000.
Such a severe reduction has not been trifling.  I had to cut one subplot, combine conversations, and compress twenty-seven chapters into nineteen somewhat longer ones ( the 20th chapter remains to be written.)  The sequence of events had to be reordered, and some characters were replaced, their actions and dialogue performed by others.  There are still, by my reckoning, a potential twenty to twenty-five thousand words to be trimmed. Whether this requires eliminating yet another subplot, silencing a particularly garrulous principal, or further trimming descriptive world building material of little consequence to the main plot remains to be determined.

There's a certain amount of  pain when cutting huge swathes of words, words that expressed ideas that were almost immediately reconsidered for better phrasing, a more precise word, or a complete reordering of sentence sequence.  None of these were trivial or random narrative, but instead were  the result of hours of  hard work and often anguish.  To cut them meant erasing hours or days of effort and forever dooming them to oblivion. It is not easy, especially when I am coming from the short story perspective where every fucking word has a huge impact and economy of phrasing is paramount.  Perhaps some novelists edit with ease, but such is not the case for me, alas.

The upshot is that NaNoWriMo is upon me and, rather than type another fifty thousand stream-of-concious, unedited, and poorly considered words, I will endeavor to use that time to torture this novel into final form.

Then all I have to do is find a market.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Reflections on My Writing Life

It's been quite a while since I consistently posted on this blog, a habit that I need to resume if only to maintain my sanity.

When I first started to write this screed my intent was to write a post per week as an exercise in writing something other than SF.   I kept that promise for nearly three hundred posts before I fell off the wagon, so to speak.  Personal reasons, depression on the sad state of lucrative (ha!) short fiction sales, and being busy, busy, busy with SFWA and family business.  I won't bore you with details.

A lot has happened since the last post:  I've sold six pieces that will appear in the next nine months ( I have no control over publication schedules) in anthologies and magazines.  There's also my novel SHATTERED DREAMS coming out in May 2017, and hopefully a collection of previously published shorts sometime in 2017.  As of this moment four short stories are sitting on editors' desks and another half dozen are in messy, somewhat finished short story drafts.  Then there's the three almost completed novels that loom like patient, intimidating vultures waiting to steal even more time from my short fiction struggles.

I am back working on the picaresque novel I started writing in 1988 and have been haphazardly and periodically revising ever since. I will finish soon, I tell my muse as I work on revision number forty-something to get the word count back down from 150K words to a more reasonable length.  Maybe in the process of editing I might be able to figure out what the final chapter of this monster should say.  Until last week I thought the conclusion  might require another 20-30K words, but with a clever rearrangement, brutal editing, and incorporating advice from my beta readers, I'm trying to fit it into a smaller compass.

But then, isn't that what writing is all about?


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Relief at Last

For months I complained to my writers group (among others) bemoaning the unresponsiveness of editors and the dearth of ideas tickling my few remaining brain cells.  There was a vast swathe of not- exactly-writers-block so much as an inability to scribble more than a half coherent sentence much less an entire paragraph of an SF story.  I was willing but the ideas were not forthcoming and the gloom was deepening.  I had ten pieces in circulation and there was no word, not a peep from any editor.  This is it, I told myself, as I prepared to whimper off the field sans bang.

Then I suddenly and miraculously received four (4) acceptances in the same day!  A novella, a novelette, and two short stories.  Glory rained down from the heavens, angel voices rose in the background and happiness descended on the good.  Did I mention the (much amended) book contract being signed the same week? My virtual cup overflowed! I felt so validated that the two (2) rejections that followed did not disappoint but were submitted to other editors on my list.

After a brief celebration I realized that I now had only a few stories in the pipeline and had to get busy. It was as if the floodgates had opened and ideas, plots, situations, and stories began churning once more.  I resumed work on a novelette I had abandoned, penned another short story, sent it off, and then began another small piece.   Pop, pop, pop - off they flew, one after another to roost gods know where. My inventory of stories is building once more!  

Strange what a little encouragement will do.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Post - MidAmeriCon

Monday morning was a big let down despite the cool temperatures and clear skies.  The reason was that I did not awaken to find myself in KC and a block away from MidAmeriCon for one more day.

The Con was wonderful.  I got to meet old friends and new, fellow writers, editors, publishers, booksellers and jewelers, and so many wonderfully praising fans (yes, I do have fans!)  I could hardly   move between sessions, which was often a half mile rush, without running into someone who I knew or who knew me. The schedule was daunting due to the SFWA Board meeting - a full day of intense and sometimes fractious discussion - and a two hour SFWA Business meeting squeezed between panels at opposite ends of the convention center.  I wonder why the WorldCon people can't find a circular center where one could minimize run distances? My full schedule made this as great an exercise as was LonCon where the distances and confusion reigned as exhausting.  But I survived and have some wonderful memories, especially of dear FRED who greeted me in the exhibition/dealers'/gamers space in the vast upper level.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


I hear the drumbeats of WorldCon in the distance approaching closer by the day.  I have my days carefully plotted, a time for each panel where I am participating, schedules for the SFWA Board and Business meetings, and panels I want to attend.  Yes, lunchtimes will be a challenge, dinners less so, and evenings will no doubt be spent socializing with other writers.  That leaves about forty hours I'll probably piss away with sleep, bathing, and wandering around in the dazed confusion of TOO MUCH and TOO MANY CHOICES, not to mention spontaneous hallway minicons, autographing, random encounters, and - OMG, I forgot that terrible time-sucking dealer's room visits!

Where's my time-stretcher when I need it?

That said, here is my schedule:

8/18  9:00 - 5:00     SFWA Board Meeting
8/19  1:00 - 2:00     Finance Panel
8/20   10:00 -11:00 SIGMA Panel
8/20   11:00 - 2:00  SFWA Business Meeting
8/20  3:00 - 4:00     Group Reading
8/20  4:00 - 5:00     Aging in SF Panel