Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Procrastination

I should have finished Chapter 20 of my current novel yesterday.
(pause to open file, go to end of document, and add two more sentences)

Chapter 20, unfortunately, is not going well at the moment. What I have done instead of writing my novel:
  • this blog entry
  • added the Kindle edition of Red Sun of Darkover to Marion Zimmer Bradley's website, Facebook, and Goodreads
  • read all my e-mail--not to be confused with answering all my e-mail
  • backed a Kickstarter project for something I really want to read--two new Sylvan Investigations stories by Laura Anne Gilman
  • eaten way too much chocolate--which at least got me away from my computer at intervals
  • played I don't know how many rounds of Disney's Worlds of Wonder--I tell myself it's good for my vocabulary
  • downloaded free novels from the Kindle store, read some of them, deleted a couple as "not on my wavelength" (I will never finish reading this), and added some to my to-be-read list. 
If I could write as quickly as I read my life would be so much easier.
It would also help if procrastination included useful things like exercise, cleaning house, and doing laundry.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The People We Honor

When I started school, we had two holidays in the first two months of the year: Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, and Washington's Birthday on February 22. (Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731, but that was according to the Julian calendar, and his birthday moved to the 22nd when the British Empire changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.) Lincoln's birthday was a state rather than federal holiday, but I grew up in Connecticut where it was observed, so I didn't know the difference.

We still have two holidays in the first two months of the year, but now they are Martin Luther King’s Birthday on the third Monday in January, and Washington's Birthday (also called Presidents' Day) on the third Monday in February.

Washington is called the father of our country. Lincoln is credited with ending slavery and keeping the United States one nation. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for civil rights. None of these endeavors was a one-person job, but it is useful to have a single person to serve as a symbol for the struggle. All three men risked their lives for what they believed in, and it is ironic that the one who actually fought military battles died in bed, while the two who sought peace and justice for all were assassinated. I wonder what this says about the relative popularity of war and peace.

I really don't feel the need for a holiday less than three weeks after New Year's Day, which is a week after Christmas, giving us three federal holidays in less than five weeks, especially when the next holiday on the calendar isn't until the end of May. I do feel, however, that it is important to honor Dr. King's memory and to continue his work. The fight for civil rights isn't over yet.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This Year's Schedule

I think that a certain amount of agoraphobia can be a positive trait for a writer. It does encourage one to stay home and work. This year, however, I am planning to attend at least two conventions. There is no CONduit in 2014--it's being merged with Westercon--so I can spend Memorial Day weekend at BayCon, which I don't think I've done in this century.

I have registered and submitted my programme questionnaire for the Worldcon, which is in London in August. I've also made my hotel reservation and bought my plane ticket, so now I have loads of time in which to get nervous about it. I think this will be my third Worldcon, but all the previous ones were in the US. Oddly enough, this convention is being held in the part of London that my great-grandfather emigrated from: East London. Yes, my great-grandfather was a Cockney. Sometime I wonder what he would think about a great-granddaughter who has a Master's Degree and is a published author and editor. He died about the time I was born, so I'll never know.

I just added a page with my 2014 schedule to my website. In addition to the conventions, I have volunteer work doing tax preparation until April 15, followed by the four-week reading period for Sword and Sorceress 29. There is a reason why the reading period runs from mid-April to mid-May. It fits right between tax season and Memorial Day weekend.

Sword and Sorceress 29 will be published on November 2, at the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. After that, I'm planning one more trip: to spend the season of Advent in a convent. By then I'm certain to welcome the peace and quiet.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 Writing Income

Jim C. Hines has a new blog post about his writing income last year, and he cautions that it is a sample size of one. In the interests of making it a sample size of at least two, here's my writing income for last year.

I sold my first short story to the Darkover anthology The Keeper's Price in 1980. There have been twelve more Darkover anthologies since then, and I have a story in each of them as well as in #14, Stars of Darkover, which will be out next June. I sold four new short stories last year, and re-sold one previously-published story. My most recent published story is "Fire's Daughter" in Elementary, an anthology in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters world. Advances against royalties for these stories came to $585, and I do expect to receive royalties.

I sold my first novel, Changing Fate, to DAW in 1994. It earned out its advance, paid royalties, and eventually went out of print. I got the rights back, and it served as the MZB Literary Works Trust's test volume for Kindle, so I'm still getting royalties on it in both eBook and print-on-demand formats. Actually, I'm still getting royalties on every story I've ever written, thanks to self-publishing--and a prospective reader knows that an editor liked the work enough to pay for it (and that it was copy-edited and should have decent spelling and grammar). Royalties came to $3,480.

In 2013 I also edited two anthologies and a story collection, The Complete Lythande, and co-edited another anthology with Deborah J. Ross. Advances from editing (I'll get royalties on these books, too) were $2,800.

So my writing income for 2013 totaled $6,865, broken out as follows:

  1. 50% from royalties for prior work
  2. 41% for editing
  3. 9% for new fiction sales

If that were my only income, I wouldn't have to worry about paying income tax--in fact, I believe I would qualify for the Earned Income Credit.

I suspect that there are a lot of writers in this "don't quit your day job" bracket. Comparatively few people make a living exclusively from writing.

While I love the TV show Castle, I don't know any writers who could afford (a) that much space in Manhattan--they had five people living in Castle's apartment earlier this season, (b) that many cool toys, and (c) that little time spent actually writing. It's a lovely fantasy, but it is fantasy, which is they call it fiction.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Meditations on a New Year

You know you've been reading too many Regency romances when you wake up on New Year's Day and think it's 1814 instead of 2014.

Of course, when you're a writer and don't have a day job, you don't really have to know exactly what day it is, but this is the first time I've been off by two centuries. And it's not that I have the slightest desire to go back in time. One of my hobbies is genealogy, and it is a sobering thought that there was a time in Massachusetts when they hanged Quakers. My father's ancestors came from England to Massachusetts in 1635, as a church group with their minister. My mother's ancestors were Quakers; they came to Pennsylvania in 1682 as part of William Penn's "Welcome" fleet. (The Welcome was his ship; they were on The Lamb, which sounds funnier if you say it out loud.) As far as the English were concerned, both sets of ancestors were criminals. Having grown up in a country with religious freedom, I have trouble thinking of religious dissent as a criminal action, but England collected taxes to support a state church (to which, ironically, I belong). My paternal great-grandfather came from London, and the women who married into the family all took their husbands' religion and raised the children in it.

Another thing floating through my mind today is that January 1st is a very arbitrary time for the New Year. It would make more sense to set it back eleven days to the Winter Solstice, when the days begin to get longer. Or there's always the Spring Equinox; there was a time when the year started on March 25. This gives us dates like 26 Feb 1750/1751, which was when my 5th-great-grandparents got married. For us it was 1751, for them it was still 1750, and to make things more confusing, they were married in a Quaker meeting. Quakers did not approve of days and months named after pagan gods, so for them it was the 26th day of the 12th month of 1750. Some of their confused descendants think they were married in December. (One of my friends quoted some Elizabethan prophecy about the "ninth month" after 9/11, and I pointed out that at the time of that prophecy, the ninth month was November. Just look at the prefixes: Sept; Oct; Nov; Dec.)

I don't really make New Year's Resolutions, but I do have a goal. I would like to be more organized and less exhausted by the end of 2014.