Ramping Up For The SF Project

UFO fan pic of two aliens

Photo: Anthony Appleyard, used under GNU FDL

The initial revisions on Holland Bay are going swimmingly. I fully expect, by the end of the week, to send the second draft to First Reader with the following instructions: Until you finish, this WIP does not exist to me. It never existed. It never will exist. Between drafts, I need to completely ignore a work’s existence.

“So, Jimmy, what are you doing between now and Labor Day? And what’s with those funny looking green guys to the right?”


“Richard Bachman,” who used to live in Stephen King’s skull.

Glad you asked that. Most of July will be spent writing and revising some short stories. My summer semester ends on the 31st. That week, I will begin my first science fiction novel. And that will be done under a different name. As Stephen King has Richard Bachman to write some of his work, so I have have a Dick Bachman to my Steve King. My Dick will be writing a novel. (Pause for groaning from those of you sick of that joke.)

I’ve made case before that SF pays better than crime. It’s true. Crime has taken a nosedive in the past decade as a marketable genre. It’s there, but it’s hard to break out. And I am writing in a vacuum. I have plenty of friends online to help out. And Li’l Sis, just up the pike in Dayton, has always been available. But for crime, Cincinnati is kind of a wasteland for writers to hangout. I still see the odd writer from my Bouchercon days when they come to Joseph-Beth, but there’s never been a sustained crime-oriented writing group. Had I moved to Chicago back in 2008 like I’d pondered before meeting this little miracle, I’d be boasting about having a beer with Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover, or whatever Joe Konrath’s latest antics were. Chicago is a crime writer’s paradise. Cincinnati?

Not so much.

I tried a few general writing groups, but in the end, I found them unsatisfying. There was the incident I rail on to this day where one lady berated me about having a female character drive a Miata. “That’s a man’s car. Women don’t drive Miatas.” Never mind that two thirds of the Miatas I saw on the road are driven by twenty-something women and quite a few middle-aged ones. I tried again with another group that met up in a small restaurant in West Chester, about 20 miles north of here. It was a nice group, but did not have the format I liked. Plus it was a bit large.

Going into my SF project, however, I hit on an idea writers Michael Black and Julie Hyzy tried in Chicago. They and a couple other writers formed a closed group. Well, now, that’s not hard to do. Almost. Cincinnati has always been a hotbed of geekery. We’re even getting a ComicCon this year. Finally. We used to get a Creation Con, them that did the bulk of Star Trek conventions in smaller markets, throughout the 1990’s. And there have been no shortage of cosplay fan clubs since before I moved here in 1991. If anything, they’ve grown in the years since I briefly donned the Klingon gear. Not only are those that indulge in that type of fandom incredibly loyal when they find something they like, many of them are very creative and quite talented.

klingonIt took me about two weeks to put such a group together. It started with an email to a gent I’ve known from my Klingon days (or, for those who remember that, my Year of Living Ridgely). He’s been trying to get a handle on a project he’s been working on for about five years. He was in. Then there was a man I met while attending Wilmington College’s Cincinnati campuses. He has been in every class the resident fantasy and literature adjunct has taught. I thought he was a natural and asked him. He was game. That same night, a classmate in my accounting class mentioned a coworker who had been working on a novel for some time but, like me, feared finishing in a vacuum. One day and a couple of emails later, we had our four. We’re looking for a female writer – a local one. Like crime, when you get a group that’s heavy on testosterone and light on estrogen, they start doing Big Dumb Man things. I like balance.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Like painters or sculptors, we work alone with the world shut out. Actors have an entire cast and crew to give instant feedback. On stage, they can adjust to the audience. Musicians have the crowd and the jam session. Writers have few options to “jam” and the audience doesn’t see what we do until we’ve already performed. There’s no instant feedback.

The right group can make sure a writer follows through with his or her plans. They can also keep their flights of fancy from getting too far off track. The wrong group can be useful. If you can’t tell a story, they can be brutal.