Sunday, February 2, 2020

Forrester Found, Dog.

The new semester is now in full swing. As always, though having time off is really nice, getting back to work felt good. I mean, don't get me wrong--we have our problems...enrollment is down, there's intrigue behind the scenes that's causing trouble as always...but overall, it is nice to be back to work.
My first signee to the Queer Space imprint pulled out at the last minute, which bums me out. I was really excited for us to publish this book. I think sometimes people don't realize how the business actually works. They have this idea that it's still the land of million dollar advances and appearances on Good Morning America, but it hasn't been like that for a long time, even for the big publishers, let alone those of us down here trying to keep our ear to the ground.
Remember: if you write speculative fiction of any kind, or if you have a friend who does, and it has positive representations of LGBTQ+ characters, send it my way! I want to see it. 
Writing is going well. I'm in the process of finishing the rough draft of my first full-fledged science fiction novel. If I can get it done and in the pipeline, it may wind up being out in 2022, which would be nice.
I had a really funny misfire about two weeks ago. I had this idea for a novel that I was excited about and developing and about three days in to the process, I realized I was just remaking "Finding Forrester," only with a gay kid instead of a young African American guy.  I laughed and laughed.
Working through Cody Goodfellow's Unamerica right now.
It's really good. The book isn't cyberpunk, but it has a very cyberpunk aesthetic, both in what Goodfellow is describing and in the language he uses to describe it. I'm not done yet, but as long as he sticks the landing this is going to be a solid 4.5 to 5 stars for me.
Having become enamored with K-Pop like the rest of the world, I decided to branch out and see what else might be out there. I'm glad I did, because I found Hyangni

Their latest album, titled "3", is magnificent. I've never heard anything like it.
We're only 2 episodes in to Star Trek: Picard, but already this feels like a massive course correction from where Star Trek: Discovery started. Some are complaining about the pacing, but the producers already warned us ahead of time that this was not going to be action/adventure. It is, instead, a drawn out character study, they said, and it very much feels that way.
I've just recently finished digitizing my entire Tom Baker Doctor Who collection. The project is to get all of this DVD collection I have put onto a hard drive that stays connected to my television...a kind of "my collection only streaming service." I'm tired of looking at all the clutter. It's been so nice to go back through proper Doctor Who, though, Papier-mâché boulders and all. If you haven't gone back and watched the classic Doctor Who in a while, I recommend it. It's a hoot and a half.
Okay, off to go grocery shopping before the whopper of a snow storm they say is supposed to come in tomorrow. As I've said before, I never know if they're right about them or not, but better safe than sorry.
As always, thanks for your support. If you get a chance, make sure to recommend a small press book to someone for their reading. Purchasing one book from the big guys won't make a big difference to them, but it really makes a difference for all of us.
See you next month.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of the Decade

There are a lot of things that I want to say, but right now you're being deluged with much of it from other sources. The "where are the jetpacks?" jokes are already annoying and it isn't even the 1st yet. Still, there is something to be said for a look back. The ones I find least onerous are the book recaps, so let me tell you about my month, then I'll give you my personal best of 2019 (I'm not going to do a "best of decade" thing).
This past month was my first as editor of a book imprint. Lots to learn. Lots of mistakes to make. Still, I already found a gorgeous book that I snapped up and I can't wait for you guys to read it. It's a dynamite love story set inside a tense fantasy political intrigue book. I think you're going to love it. I have to be honest--being able to say to someone that their dream is going to come true and their book is going to be published? That's a really good feeling.
It will come as no surprise that I have managed to come down sick right here at the end of the year. It's like clockwork. 
Students are of course students. Still, this semester was far more positive than the last few have been. I felt myself relax more than I have in a while.
Many students here are now connecting me to my pen name. The most interesting result has been that more of them are coming to me to look at their creative writing, especially if they are writing novels.
The Facepod interview was a great time. You can find that link in last month's post is you want to. What I liked most about it was that they have a sense of humor. One of the problems I have with a lot of podcasts (and, if I'm honest, with a lot of people in general) is that they are deadly earnest. Life on this planet as a human being is utterly ridiculous. If you can't laugh at yourself and the world, then I don't know how to deal with you. I think this is one of the reasons that I am not more of an activists, even though I feel the same levels of outrage that a lot of activists do--I can't get along with the type of person who is earnest 100% of the time. I think this is why almost all the podcasts that I listen to are from comedians or comedic actors.
Finally, I have pulled the trigger on a huge project that I have wanted to get started on for a long time. I'm tired of looking at the huge DVD library I've built up. Certainly tired of lugging it around should I have to move again. So, it's time to digitize them. Early days on this at this point, but my goal is by this time next year, I'll be down to nothing but the blu-rays. Everything else will be on a hard drive connected to the TV.

Okay, so here is my 2019 books, tv, and movies in review (remember that these are things I consumed in 2019--they may not have come out in 2019, though). It won't be nearly as exciting as Dennis Cooper's, but may be of some interest to you:

Books: This year I only got through 23 books or so. Definitely no pizza party for me.  Of the ones I have 5 stars to on Goodreads, these are the ones that made the biggest impression on me:

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

The one that made the biggest impact hands down was The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. I loved it so much, I made it required reading for my second semester freshman comp kids.

What surprised me most about my top list, though, was that it was mostly nonfiction. There was a time when that would not have been the case.

Music: I bought a lot of music this year, as usual, but not nearly as much as in years past. I'm still very much a "one album at a time" guy--streaming services just aren't for me.

Barrie's Happy to Be Here
Beck's Hyperspace
Hayden Thorpe's Diviner
Steven Gunn's The Unseen In Between
WayV's Take Over the Moon

The one album that impressed me the most was Beck's Hyperspace. That won't surprise anyone who knows me. I'm just in awe that he can, after all this time, after all he's done, still come forward with something fresh and innovative. I can't recommend the album enough.

Barrie's album Happy to Be Here was in heavy contention for this spot all year until Beck's album came out, though. I would recommend it, except that almost immediately after it came out, the band announced they were breaking up. It was a huge bummer, because they produced a gorgeous little pop record that I still listen to. 
SM's Chinese boyband unit, WayV, is not to be missed (by the way, do you know how good a boyband has to be to make me get over the fact that, after having lived through their heyday, I *HATE* boybands? That should tell you something). That record is pure fun all the way through, and I love it. If pressed, I don't know that I could choose who is the better between WayV and NCT 127. It's a good thing I don't have to.

Movies: My movie watching slowed W A Y down this year. I don't know if that's because there were fewer movies that appealed or what, but I didn't go to nearly as many as last year. Of course, my choices is Once Upon A Time in Hollywood...  That will surprise none of you, because you know that I'm half in the bag for Tarantino, anyway. I will say this, though; I thought Craig Brewer's Dolomite is My Name was really fantastic.
All the other films that made an impact on me were genre films.

Anime: Thanks to the wonder that is Hulu, my anime viewing has increased tenfold (and I couldn't be happier about it). Besides being able to satiate my Gundam addiction more fully, I also discovered some older shows that I fell in love with. Of them, my highest praise goes to Death Parade. What a fantastic twist on a fairly old concept. Stylish, full of twists, amazing theme song. Sure, there are always your My Hero Academias and your Demon Slayers, but to find a tiny little gem like this way in the back catalogues was a treat. I highly recommend it.

TV: It was thanks to Hulu, as well, that I discovered what became my biggest new TV show surprise, an Australian gem called "Please Like Me." I've hardly ever seen a more honest look at what it was like to be a young gay man. While I loved HBO's Queer as Folk dearly, and still consider it to be foundational, it was always so serious. What I like about Josh Thomas' show is that it has drama, but it's also funny (and I mean that in both the broad "ha ha" kind of funny, but also some very dark humor, too). Do yourself a favor, tuck in to this one.

The one thing I'll say about this last decade is that it was a rollercoaster. I started out frantically trying to finish my dissertation between crying jags so that I could get that done before going on the job market and here I am at the end of it with a good job, owning a home, having a paid-off car, and relatively happy. At the beginning I had one book so new the ink was still wet on it and now I have four out, a monograph of literary crit., and two in the pipeline.
Here's hoping that the next decade ends even better!
As always, thank you for your support of all of that. Not just my work, but small press publishing in general. It means a lot.
Be safe, be happy, and we'll see you in the new year!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Watch This (Queer) Space!

I'm currently buried under snow. I'd make some kind of Hoth joke, but Disney owns Star Wars, now, and they are famous for protecting their IP. Seriously, though...when will I learn and buy a snow blower (or whatever you want to call them)? Conspiracy theory thought of the day: isn't it funny how these major storms keep hitting on the exact few days that everyone needs to travel?
Hold on - adjusts his tinfoil hat -
So, here we are at the bottom third of the year. Turkey day has just blown past us. I hope yours was great. I tend to spend the holidays alone, but that's not sad to me. When I was growing up, holidays always meant a lot of activity and noise and overstimulus. In my old age, what I really like is that I can control the space, now. I say who comes in, I say what the level of activity is. It's very healing.
The semester is almost over, so that means that next week is a blur of activity and then we're done. Grade like the wind! lol
In huge news, I have just started as editor of Queer Space books,

Rebel Satori's LGBTQ+ speculative fiction imprint! I'm over the moon with the idea, and I can't wait to start digging in to all the submissions. So, if you're reading this, on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, have a speculative fiction book that involves positive representations of queer folks, I want to see it! To be fair, Rebel has already been very open to spec fic books--I'm thinking of books like Tristram Burden's My Hero
 or Charlie Vazquez's Contraband
--but it'll be nice to have one imprint where fans of that kind of work know that they can find it going forward. Exciting times.
On a completely separate note, Rebel Satori is also where the urban fantasy novel has found a home. I know that might sound a little hinky, but trust me--the two things were 100% completely separate conversations. I'm very happy, too, that it finds a home with Rebel--the audience they connect with is the exact audience this book was written for. My hope is we can have it out by Fall of next year. Fingers crossed.
I managed to snag a speaking gig for the academic book for next February. That's super exciting for me. I love the subject of dystopian literature and so getting to talk about it is really exciting.
On a completely separate note, I'm going on the Facepod podcast later this week. Even if I wasn't being interviewed, I'd tell you that I love their project. The fact that I am a lifelong Trekkie (and I agree with Wil Wheaton on this--however a person who likes Star Trek wants to be identified is 100% valid) should surprise exactly no one. The fact that places like their podcast exist where we can talk Trek is wonderful. So, look out for that. (By the by, if you haven't had a chance to hear it, remember that I was on the Wrote podcast back in 2017 to talk about the release of Remains. You can find that here--it is insane to think that was already 2 years ago).
Last thought: I recently took a break from Instagram as a test for taking what the kids are calling a "social media fast" sometime in the future. It was enlightening, and I recommend it.
As always, thank you for supporting not only my books, but small press publishing in general. Right about this time on Twitter, many small presses tweet out links to other presses that they recommend. It's a trend that I really love. I recommend going to those links and having a look around. As we roll in to winter and you need new books to read, remember that buying even just one small press book makes a huge impact for that company and that author. If you have readers on your Xmas list, consider giving the gift of small press work. Lots of the presses have e-gift cards available.
See you next month for our 2019 wrap up (not only the wrap up of a year, but the wrap of a whole decade)!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trying to Accept

The academic book is out.
It is absolutely insane to be able to say that.
But there it is.
If I look to my left, there it is on top of the stack of my novels.
People who don't know me are reading it.
...and I got a speaking gig to do for it coming up in February.
A dear friend of mine who is an amazing therapist tells me "just accept." I'm trying to.
She was there along with lots of other folks when two of my dearest friends threw me an incredible book launch party.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by J. Warren (@author_j_warren) on

at my favorite distillery's tasting room (they have only just started tapping their aged spirits, so they are literally a "gin joint," which tickles me to no end). It was magnificent. They even got cupcake toppers made to look exactly like the book cover. 
Somehow in all of that, I also managed to get the edits done on the latest novel (the urban fantasy one) and get it turned in. The publisher and I are looking at possible covers now. Could be out as early as this time next year, maybe! I know you're not supposed to talk like this, but it has one of my new favorite characters that I've ever written...a non-binary gendered, Harley-riding, knife-wielding psychometrist. I think you guys are going to like them as much as I do. 
I got a chance to speak to a group of folks doing NANOWRIMO a bit ago about plot. I had a lot of fun, and I think they may have, too. Our conversation about how one way to plot a book is as a confrontation between a protag and an antag who represents the protag's Jungian Shadow-self especially seemed to resonate. 
Chuck Palahniuk is finally publishing a book of his advice on writing, Consider This
 and I'm beyond super excited. I have a feeling it's not going to be for everyone in the way that King's On Writing was, but I've been jealous of people who get to take his classes and participate in writing circles with him for years and years. 
In other news, there will be an announcement about something BIG very soon. I can't tell you how excited I am for it. Keep watching my Instagram and Twitter for it. 
For now, I leave you with this thought:
I can now purchase Gundam action figures at my local WalMart...that's where the money went. 
As always, thank you for the continued support of not only my work, but of small press publishing. Buying even one book a year from a small press is a huge deal in more ways than I can even begin to explain. 
See you next month. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Befuddle and a handy vibroknife

The past month has been wild.
Lots of new irons in the fire. None of them quite done yet, but I can say that we're very excited over here. More details on things soon.
I held our school's 33rd annual literary conference. It was utterly fantastic. I mean, exhausting, sure, but when I'm standing there and the authors are all doing their presentations and the students and faculty and folks from the surrounding community are all present and their listening and asking questions and...there's just nothing like it.
AND who has two thumbs and brought the whole thing in W A Y under budget?
This guy.
The American Lit 1 (foundations to civil war) kids are in the middle of Moby Dick right now, which is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I'm all smiles in the afternoons. I use the Dover editions with them

I use them because, as you can see on the website, they're SUPER inexpensive. If you're a teacher and you need a set of books for your classroom, or a prof who wants to help your lit kids save money, I cannot recommend Dover editions enough. Give them a look see.
The notes came back from the publisher on the Urban Fantasy novel and they are very doable. We're talking now about the contract. We might have that out to you as early as this time next year, which would make me so happy. I dig the book. I think you will, too. 
The academic book is coming out in 15 days or so. I'm so nervous. Our first review is in and...well, it's a little tame...but at least it isn't negative, right?
Two of my amazing friends are throwing a party for the book launch at our local distillery, one of my favorite places to drink of all time. People have been very nice about celebrating with me when books come out before, but this will be the first time anyone has thrown a party for a book launch. I know it's a bit over the top, but I tear up every time I think about it.
Those same two people were with me when we went out to our city's new comic books shop. While we were there, I saw that they had a copy of the core rule book for the role playing game that I spent almost my entire youth on, Siembieda's RIFTS from Palladium books
No disrespect to Dungeons and Dragons intended, but for some reason that rule system just never clicked with me in the way that Siembieda's did. From sitting in my best friend's bedroom across from him making up things to happen to his rogue SAMAS pilot callsign Genocide to full table adventures where I played a lesbian archaeologist/anthropologist named Jones (who did, in fact, carry a whip), I have nothing but the fondest of memories of playing in this universe.
Well, they saw my reaction and immediately wanted to play. So that very day well all bought dice.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by J. Warren (@author_j_warren) on

A week or so later we made their characters. Just this last Friday we had our first game play first in 15 years, their first ever.
They learned the value of a good befuddle spell and a handy vibro knife. 
Watching the magic that happens to a person when they get their first natural 20 critical hit and do double damage is something you never forget.
I had them both take pictures of their first nat 20s and put them up on their social media. It was a moment.
Plus, one is a fantastic cook and the other has amazing veggies that she grows in her back yard, so it was a significant step up from just grabbing whatever fast food you can on the way to the game that night. Home made Shrimp Scampi and fresh picked tomatoes > a greasy bag of Checkers. 
To say the big man has bounced back after we adjusted his diet would be the understatement of the century. Honestly? I don't think he was this clear-eyed and...well...present...even when I first brought him home. Has my food bill gone up a bit from where it was? Sure. But it's worth it to see how healthy and happy he seems to be. The other two are gaining benefits from it, too. This new high protein, high fat, almost no carb diet has them both looking like little athletes. They're getting ripped, and their little coats are so sleek from all the fat that it's crazy.
 Kind of toying with the idea of going to AWP this year. It's close enough by that it'd only be 2 planes to get there. Do any of you go to AWP? If so, how is it?
As always, thank you so much for your support, and for supporting small press publishing.
It DOES make a difference, and we appreciate it.
See you next month.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Short Burst Communication

A day or so late, and I apologize for that.
So my main cat, the one who I said was adapting so well to his new situation took a sudden turn for the worse a few days after I wrote the last post. I took him in to the vet and we ran all his bloodwork. It turns out that he had a massively bad reaction to the anesthesia...
...and he's also as close to being diabetic as one can be without actually being at this point.
So, we radically changed his diet and feeding schedule and he's doing much much better.
But that makes for changes around the house. The other two cats are certainly not fans of moving from being free feeders to feeding on a schedule (and only wet food).
Still, this is what you do to keep from having to put the old fella on insulin. I think they would agree with that, too

The semester has started. Things are going very well so far.
The Literary Conference is approaching very swiftly. I think it's going to go well. I'm just concerned about our new feeding schedule and the sort of long days that the literary conference can have. Still, if all I have to worry about with a major event I've planned is whether or not I can get my cats fed, I think that means things are going well.
WIP sub 1 rough draft is about to break 75k words, while WIP sub 2 rough draft is about to break 30k. Better news is that I like them both.
I wish news was better on the publisher front. Communications with one of my publishers has completely broken down. The book is still available, so that's something, but going forward I'm not sure what's going to happen.
There's significant interest from a different publisher for the urban fantasy book, though. We're working together to make it even better than it is. So that's good news. I'm excited for you guys to get to read that one. Who knows, maybe late next year (if we can get a move on)
The academic book is coming soon, as I've been saying. October 15th.
I keep thinking about an author who showed a picture of the six or seven of her novels that were complete and yet never sold. I thought that was very brave. Stephen King has talked about that, before, too...novels just hanging out in a drawer somewhere. There's one that I finished that I adore, that I want you guys to be able to read...but I have to be honest in saying that the world has changed so drastically since I finished it, I'm not sure that it would be received in the manner I would like. I'm doing some edits on it, but...I fear this one might have to go in to the drawer for no reason other than that the culture is not the same as when I wrote it.
Ok--that's all for now.
As always, thank you so much for your support, and for supporting the books, as well as supporting small press publishers. It matters.
See you next month.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Missing Teeth

My oldest cat, my main man, my ride or die, just had to have A BUNCH of teeth pulled. It has me in that mode. You know the one--part mama bear, part "what could I have done to prevent this?"-style self bullying. That's always a super fun place to be, no?
The good news is that, like all animals do, he's adapting to it just fine. The only thing that he requested was a regular bowl for water rather than the fancy little waterfall one that I have used for them for a long time. With the shape of his mouth changing because of the lack of teeth, he can't quite get a good angle on it like he used to, so there's that.
The academic book comes out in just a bit over two months. I don't mind saying I'm starting to freak out a little bit. I think I'm right, but there are a few things that the book insists on that fly in the face of some fairly conventional wisdom in the field. That's a super academic way of saying "what if they don't like it and they all hate me?" lol.
I was all excited to go on a bit of a road trip with my mother to visit my sister. She and her husband have just purchased a new house. I got the dates of things all screwed up, though, and so it ended up that if we had gone with the original plan, we'd only have been able to visit for two days. I told her that I loved her, but over a thousand miles one way to get in a car and then travel another nine hundred one way only to turn around and do it all over again in the other direction for two days worth of visit was not exactly time-effective. She agreed.
I mean, I know our start back to school day falls on the right day, but it sure doesn't feel like it when you look at the date. I had gone by date, hence the screw up.
The Summer semester ended. I think that's sort of the best thing I can say about it. I think I need to teach Summer every once in a while to remind myself why I never do it. I won't be making this mistake again for a while, that is for sure.
I decided to grease the wheels on the former WIP that had been struggling by starting a new one, as I said. WIP sub 1 did, in fact, come roaring back to life and I'm chipping away at it daily. I hope to have a completed rough draft before school starts back in a few weeks. WIP sub 2, the new book, is also coming along swimmingly. I'm already about 20K words in on it. So, writing is going well.
I also decided to knock on an old friend's door to see if he'd like to work on one of the books that I already had done. He's had a lot going on lately, but he sounded positive. I'm interested to see what he thinks of the book (at least, this draft of it, before we dig in together).
One of the other ones that is done got rejected. That's no big deal, really; rejection is the name of the game when you're a writer. The thing that confused me is that they basically said that they wanted me to move the book into chronological order. The problem is, the whole idea of that book is that it isn't in chronological order, that you spend the time putting the puzzle together. I get that is the reason why there have been rejections for this book up until now, but this one was confusing, I guess--they had this reputation for being an edgy publishing house.
Oh, well.
V E R Y excited for the new Tarantino film. I may even be going to see it today, depending on how my cat is doing.

I know there's a lot of talk these days about him being this or that kind of not good person, and I get it. I am in no way attempting to invalidate anyone's point of view on this. However, I don't judge an artistic work by the...whatever you want to call it...shortcomings? flaws? of the artist in question. I've talked about that before. I wonder how many people who like to boycott (or at least say they are boycotting) films or music or what have you still consume the work in private. Tell me, how many Michael Jackson songs do you have on your phone right now?
As always, thank you for the support for the books. It truly does mean a lot.
Remember that there are lots of awful things happening to people like you and me out there right now. When you can, try to send a buck or volunteer for organizations that are trying to undo the machinations of the horrific bastards that keep finding their way into power like insects in grain.
Stay safe.
See you next month.