Strong Branches

I’m not going to lie, folks: I’m not struggling. I see the posts from my fellow artists: out of work, facing homelessness, doubling down on their side-hustle to try to make it through this mess, and I recognize how solid my ground is. I don’t wipe my brow and give a sigh of relief. I don’t pound on my keyboard, demanding that “somebody” fix it. My very first instinct, as always, is to help.

But how? I’m not rich, not even close. My ability to remain financially stable during a global pandemic is directly tied to the same skills I’ve developed to remain successfully self-employed for almost the entirety of my adult life. I know how to create things that people want/need. I know how to adapt and innovate, and adjust my course to take advantage of the currents and the winds. These are skills I’ve taught to others, and it hasn’t been lost on me that my best students are not the ones currently offering to sell their panties on reddit.

My first thought was to try to teach more people faster, but as I am already donating my time to making masks and keeping my Etsy shops running at full speed, making a video series just isn’t plausible at the moment. Not to mention that artists need help now, and although the knowledge will certainly help them further down the line, it doesn’t meet the immediate need. I can teach the man to fish, but he’s going to starve while he’s still learning to bait the hook.

Then I started to look at what else I could sell to try to raise funds, and again, ran into the problem of a lack of time. While I have an overabundance of raw materials, they would need to be photographed, listed, and shipped, and without being able to have extra help in my workshop due to the virus, I’m already in a labor deficit.

Then it hit me. The Egodrive series is all about people who help people who need help. (Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct.) The Security Specialists of Egodrive are all just random folks who went out of their way to help others, usually at great cost or risk to themselves. I haven’t sent out any query letters this year, so the books are no closer to being published than they were last year, but they can still help people, even if just on a small scale.

I decided to put all of my un-signed titles up on Amazon as Kindle eBooks, and am using 100% of the royalties to support other people. Not only does that help balance the karma of using Amazon as a distribution service, but creates an immediate product that requires no additional labor time from me. If I survive 2020, and find the spoons to continue sending query letters, maybe I’ll find a literary agent to sell the books to a publisher, and then I can help in a much bigger way. But in the meantime, I think Remy and Rose would approve of this plan.

I set up a new Facebook page, The Ulysses Project, to feature any art I commission with the royalties. All of the art will be based on my books, so I’ll be able to use it for promotion right back into the the royalty stream, and commission more art. That’s one sexy circle, baby! – K

You Better Hold on, Coz’ This Train Don’t Stop!

Although, sometimes, I wish it would pause long enough for me to get some real sleep.

My long time friend and editor, Marcia Brown, does her best to help me maintain, what passes for, my sanity, but even she is boggled by my most recent outpouring of work.

After completing Becoming Ulysses, I asked my brain if I could take a little break from writing to catch up with things like cleaning my house, and seeing the sky without glass in the way. My brain gave me a few weeks, so I rushed to catch up on Etsy work, and then the bastard dropped two books into my loading screen at the same time.

As I’ve touched on before, the way I write isn’t based on any sort of outline or need to express a creative idea. It’s more like a DVD being shown in my consciousness, and the only way to move forward in the story is to write down what I see. I can’t fast forward, and I don’t know anything the characters don’t know. So, about two weeks ago, my brain loaded up the paused first scenes from two different movies, and basically flipped between the two every hour until I pressed “play”. I picked one, and had to get through it before I was allowed to sleep again.

Now the other one is coughing politely.

There are a few upsides to this method, as insane as I know it seems. Firstly, I write only final drafts, and aside from the occasional typo or odd phrasing, they don’t require much editing to polish. I realize that anyone who reads this proclamation will see it as complete hogwash, insisting that I’m espousing to have a literary genie in a bottle, and I can’t really fault their skepticism. All I can do is ask them to talk to my editor, who watches me crank out 10,000 words per day like a possessed typewriter.

The speed makes sense, once you consider my long history of short deadlines. At one point in my life, I was writing and drawing a monthly comic, ghosting for a video game website, creating wig tutorials, and animating car commercials… all while still answering 80,000 customer and fan emails per month. I dare you to do that math.

Another bonus to the “movie in my head” method is that I can rewind and revisit a scene after I’m done. By default, my SFF stories seem to land solidly at 70,000 words, but I can always go back to a scene and “look around” to see if there was anything I missed. Sometimes, I’ll take a little more time to describe the room. Sometimes, I’ll examine the protagonist’s fingernails for evidence. It’s as if I’m in the scene, so I can see all of the details and choose which ones are important to mention, or which are just background noise. My brain is downright scary with the clues it sneaks past my radar, so I’ve learned to trust it, and tell it like it is.

And that’s the final positive, I never get writer’s block. This agreement that I’ve worked out with my brain means that it takes the wheel, and I’m just the keyboard monkey. While there is always a point around the 50k mark that I start biting my fingernails, unsure of how the mess the characters have gotten themselves into will be resolved, I never have to figure it out for them. They’re not controlled by the iron collar of plot, and as long as I keep typing what I see them do, they’ll find their own way out. – K

Other Ramblings…