Saturday, June 24, 2017


Years ago someone asked in a panel discussion;"Where do you get your ideas?" to which I replied that there was a man in NJ who sent me a postcard of ideas each month for a few bucks.  Afterward several of the audience asked for his address*....  Such is the desperation of the idea-poor whose desire to have written often exceeds their common sense.

When I began writing I had too many ideas and, honestly, most of my ambitious concepts were beyond my fledgling ability to write competently, although that did not stop me from doing so, submitting them, or stem the tsunami of rejections that resulted.  Eventually, I began to reduce the scope of my ideas to match my ability and produced some decent short stories. This did not unfortunately stop me from having ambitious ideas, so for years I maintained a file of story ideas and prompts in hopes that one might be interesting enough to write.

Few of these ideas ever managed to encourage me to write the stories, but those that did kept coming back, time and again, until I could no longer ignore their cries.  I often wrote just to get them out of my head and, of these, a few were published. Many more of my ideas remained too ambitious to be completed and languish still in the file. Someday, I promise myself, I will finish them.

Some day.

Other ideas arise from reading magazine articles, newspapers, or someone else's story.  A few come from chance conversations at conventions or overheard remarks. One was scribbled between panels on the back of a program book so I would not forget it.  Sadly, the note made no sense when I later read it, much like the scribbled notes of half-remembered dreams.  For me, dreams seldom ignite a spark, although they seem to be a source of inspiration for others.

Rarely do ideas come from editors and, of those that do, are mostly for themed anthologies where an external prompt is provided to inspire the story and whose length, scope, and deadline constrain the story possibilities.

 So the true answer to the question of where ideas come from is "everywhere."

* This was a lie: There 
is no such place as NJ.


Saturday, June 10, 2017


As most of you know I am the SFWA CFO,  job few want and even fewer care about.  Nevertheless that makes me a member of the SFWA Board who are fucking desperate to get a grip on SFWA's membership demographics and wishes.  This is part of a multi-pronged effort to align SFWA's operations and policies with the problems facing all writers in this emerging chaos of writing and publishing where no one not only grasps where the changes are taking us nor understands how to survive, given the tiny rewards from the e-publishing industry and the declining number of pro magazines.

Recently SFWA created a survey form that now resides in your in-box that attempts to gather such data as we move forward.  Filling out this form gives you, the writer, a voice in how SFWA is governed, the policies that are written or modified, and the actions necessary to improve the lot of all of us.


Historically response to anything having to do with SFWA has been poor; few people recommend stories for the Nebula Award, fewer yet vote for the final awardees, and only controversy seems to impel members to become involved.  I've often joked that were SFWA to have a survey on apathy we'd only get a 16% response - which coincidentally is about the same response we get on recommendations or awards.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Shop Talk

I came to the realization at BaltiCon that writers at conventions talk a lot. A whole lot.  They babble on and on as they sit on panels.  They gabble in the con suite.  They converse in the Green Room.  And, whenever they meet in the hallways between panels or while wandering aimlessly in the dealers' room(s) or art gallery they talk, talk, talk. It's very much like the evening congregation of crows squawking their  presence to each other as if the flags on their badges were not sufficient evidence  of their existence in this time and place.

Sometimes liquor is involved and always, food!

I used to attend business conferences and, inevitably, there would be a gathering of like-minded souls in the bar exchanging friendly insults, observations, occasionally politics, and always focusing attractive people who were also attending but never among your group.  Sometimes the conversation would veer into business-land for a few moments, or turn to the subject of the conference.  Hardly ever would there be discussions of hobbies, pastimes, or family. Certainly no one mentioned being blocked, or feelings of alienation, or having fits of intense creativity.  Self-doubt was NEVER mentioned although Imposter Syndrome was laughingly referred as a small bother at times.

And yes, sometimes liquor was involved and always, food!

So what do the authors discuss you may ask?  Well, we talk about where the green, party, and con suite rooms are located, what panels we're on, and where the most convenient rest rooms are located. Seldom is there serious discussion of our current undertakings or the craft of writing.   Contracts are seldom discussed but opportunities frequent populate the conversation.  We talk about who is writing what, gossip about the industry (altho this had diminished enormously with the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, and similar social time wasters), and commiserate with one another on the cruelty of editors and slow payments from publishers.  In other words, writers at conventions have much in common with shoe salesmen, accountants, or engineers.

Including the liquor and food.

The one thing that differentiates writers is that occasional spark that ignites the what-if-ness within each writers' soul and flares into an intense conversational conflagration of ideas, concepts, and suppositions that everyone involved is eager to steal adapt to their own uses. The ad hoc discussion that might encompass this (and other) universe(s), each person contributing to the  crowd's mix that is altered as the participants churn like a pot of stew.

It is for being a part of these impromptu  conversations that I am willing to put up with the craziness and chaos surrounding every convention. Yeah, that and the adulation of adoring fans.

As if!