Sign up here to get info on new releases and giveaways!

Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Writing Career Goals and What’s Next From Team Hurley

After a relatively quiet 2018 (comparatively), this year is warming up to be a busy one, with THREE book releases and at least one, probably two Big Book deadlines, and ongoing Patreon story deadlines each month as I continue to build a legion of heroes on Patreon.

Here are the big new releases you can look forward to!

  • March 19: THE LIGHT BRIGADE. THREE starred reviews already! My time-traveling Starship Troopers with time travel novel.
  • July 21: MEET ME IN THE FUTURE: STORIES. My “best of” short story collection, featuring all your favorites from the last decade. Cover reveal soon.
  • November 19: THE BROKEN HEAVENS. The FINAL, CONCLUDING volume in the wickedly wonderful Worldbreaker Saga.

My focus, of course, isn’t just on promotion related to book releases but also finishing up NEW work. I have the rest of The Broken Heavens to finish this year, with a hard cut-off of March 1st if we want to get it out in time for the November date.

My next project is a LITTLE up in the air, still, as we are waiting on some contract paperwork for my Genderbent Die Hard in Space novel (I already have a title! But I’ll save that for the official announcement). If that falls through, I will likely be writing my next novel on spec (which means writing a whole novel but not having a contract for it), for either that or my Weird 80’s Murder Mystery novel. I’d like to line up a few more years of contracts, going forward, now that I’m nearly done with my second trilogy obligations.

I also plan to start work on repurposing a lot of my Patreon stories, getting them reprinted for a wider release and putting the older ones up as singles on Amazon. I don’t make much on self-pub titles, but that shit does add up. I’d also like to get back into more long-form blogging. Certainly, my time is better spent creating things than consuming them. The allure of so many social media sites has been that it’s a wonderfully passive way to feel as if one is “doing” something. Alas.

I’ve also put more time into the care and feeding of the Kameron Hurley Workshop, where I have signed books and paintings for sale. I’m always telling writers to diversify income streams, and while the store doesn’t bring in a ton of money (neither does my self-pub) I’m playing the long game here, and again  – it adds up over the long haul.

This focus on work means I’ve ratcheted back my travel plans for the second year in a row. As of right now, I’ll be at ConFusion in Detroit, MI later this month and POSSIBLY London Comic-Con in May (this was planned before the shake-up at the publisher sponsoring it, and I’m waiting to verify that this is still on). Aside from that, I’ll be doing my yearly family trip to ABQ, but that is IT.

Hunkering down and DOING THE WORK is my motto for 2019.

One of the things I was reminded while working on THE LIGHT BRIGADE earlier this year is that I honestly enjoy writing. I know, wild, huh? But in the wider world of publishing, it can be easy to lose sight of the work while getting tangled up in business and promo and sales concerns (oh my!). I cherish the times I’m able to shut out the publishing noise and just focus on the work itself. In the case of THE LIGHT BRIGADE, I think that really paid off.

Mid-career writers spend an awful lot of time complaining about publishing woes and less than we should, probably, about reinventing our careers, leveling up our craft, and writing a breakout novel (if that’s our goal). I found that setting a career goal early on helped me focus on projects and – most importantly – helped me say “no” to projects that didn’t fit with my overall career goal. I want to the absolute master at what I do; I want to change the world, I want to create a career legacy that outlasts me. If your longterm goal is relevance as opposed to quick money, that… can be demoralizing sometimes (you are always second-guessing your choices), but it does mean spending more time investing in a career and less in treating the novel writing like each one is a work for hire or freelancing opportunity. Instead, I view each book as building on the overall body of work; they are all in conversation with one another. I’m creating a body of work, not just singular titles.

That also means folks who come to my novels at any point and are fans of one book tend to really enjoy the others, too. That helps keep my backlist shuttling along (and keeps stuff like my God’s War novels still on the shelves after eight years!). Come for one, stay for the rest, because while they may be different genres and sub-genres, they are likely to all feature badass women (and no women are sexually assaulted!), morally gray choices, war and rebellion, and complicated frenemy situations compounded by incredibly dense and weird worldbuilding of the sentient plants, magic bugs, and parallel timelines variety. Basically, if you dig the shit I’m personally into, you will find that same shit in all my books – one way or another.

In talking with some other writers, I’ve pointed out the importance of career goals and project management, for me. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed out here, trying to just write something sells, or just some other random idea that pops into your head. Being strategic about my projects and career (and having an agent who is actively engaged in and involved in those discussions) has been a really vital part of coming back from overwork a few years back. I realized that my problem was I was churning out book after book expecting the “next” book to be the breakout book… and when it wasn’t – again, and again, and again – I realized I didn’t have anything left to get me to the next book.

It’s like that scene from Gattaca (which I LOVE, coincidentally) where the brothers are always competing to see who can swim the furthest, and the older brother asks the younger brother how he always won, and the younger brother says, “Because I never saved anything for the swim back.” This was my fucking MOTTO for YEARS and… alas, if you never start swimming back it turns out you do eventually drown. Ooops!

What I was starting to realize was that if I burned out all my energy swimming in early books, I wasn’t going to have the energy to keep going once I had, you know, become a technically more proficient swimmer. You need to know when you’re making progress and when you’re just allowing yourself to get strung out and exhausted. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.

So 2019 is the year we get back to basics. We write good books. Focus on launching these excellent titles. This year we don’t get distracted by bullshit. This year we become a more technically proficient swimmer, instead of JUST a persistent, bull-headed one.

Go team.

 

2018 in Review: Writers Do Things

I put off doing all my year-end admin, mainly because I wanted to have a couple of days that were actually days off, and then because I’ve been head down working on The Broken Heavens and then my latest Patreon story there at the month’s end.

Year-end is a time of reflection for good reason. When you get to the end of a year during the coldest, darkest time of year, it can feel like you did absolutely nothing.

So, to dispell that notion, here’s some shit that got done despite 2018’s desire to murder me:

Kameron Hurley Does Things

  1. Released Apocalypse Nyx, a collection of Nyx novellas
  2. Finished writing The Light Brigade
  3. Wrote twelve short stories for Patreon (one every month! Whew, and you can read the whole set for as low as $1 here):
  • Monsters Do Not Die Quietly (a Nyx adventure)
  • Among the Chosen Girls
  • The Woman’s Art of War
  • Powder Burns
  • Citizens of Elsewhen
  • Echo Echo Echo Echo
  • Corpse Soldier (a Nev adventure)
  • We Burn
  • Flicker
  • Glottal’s Gift: An intergalactic fairytale
  • The Conclave of Ravens (a Nyx adventure)

4. Held down my day job, and did a couple of campaigns I’m particularly proud of

5. Resolved a five-year-old publishing dispute (mostly my agent did this)

6. Got together all the paperwork for Canadian residency application (except that goddamn piece from South Africa – hello 2019)

7. Traveled to Spain for Celcius Festival and three city book tour stuff (holy shit that was THIS year)

8. Traveled to Aspen, CO as GOH at Sirens.

9. The Stars are Legion was published in France – my first appearance in French!

10. Turned down doing a Star Wars novel (sorry, fam – those deadlines are not for people with day jobs)

11. Wrote six columns for Locus magazine

12. Produced five more episodes of Get to Work Hurley

13. Paid off my LAST student loan!!

Overall, there were some less-fun adventures in adulting this year, including my spouse taking over sole guardianship for his grandmother, which adds an additional crunch on us financially, and alas, further complicates the whole “run away to Canada” plan I had that was going to get me the writing-full-time-by-the-time-I’m-40 dream. I’m soothing my adulting angst by spending more time at the gym again, and trying to at least get another dog out of this because at this point, dogs are therapy.

Occasionally I get really pissed off about having to work twelve jobs just to live something close to the middle class life my parents had, and I grouse and grumble and then I yell aloud, “Life isn’t fair, princess!”

The fact that I JUST paid off my student loan and then picked up family care bills is not lost on me. And we haven’t even started in on taking care of our own parents yet, which… lord. And they wonder why millenials don’t seem to have any retirement or disposable income? By the time our student loans are paid off we have to start caring for our parents, and our health insurance premiums and medical bills are basically a mortgage payment every month in and of themselves.

Welcome to the millenial adulting dream!

But the truth is we’re in a place where we CAN help with these things, and that part is good, I suppose. I’m not dead yet. I’m writing great books, each one better than the last.

Onward, and onward.

Not dead yet.

 

GET TO WORK HURLEY: Episode 9. Real talk about why women in every industry are done with the bullshit, why it’s OK to delete Facebook (yes, even if you have books to promote!), writing and mental health, and some advance craft discussions about how to manage burnout and writing expectation

Heya folks!

 

The GET TO WORK HURLEY podcast is a monthly rant about the hustle of making a living as a writer of All of the Things. You can support this podcast each month as a Patron or make a one-time donation.
  • EPISODE NINE: Real talk about why women in every industry are done with the bullshit, why it’s OK to delete Facebook (yes, even if you have books to promote!), writing and mental health, and some advance craft discussions about how to manage burnout and writing expectations. Listen below or on iTunes.

From Good to Great: Starting With “Why”

I’ve been working on getting better at building good habits and cultivating greater discipline. It’s been far too easy to fall into lazy habits recently. While my doctor did up some meds, and that will surely help me stay on task, I’ve realized that my lack of purposeful habit has a lot to do with one simple issue.

In book after book, article after article, they say good discipline and good habits rely on having a clear, passionate goal that you’re striving toward. For most of my life, that goal was to publish a book. Then to publish a series. Then to make a living writing. And while I can’t quit my day job because I need health insurance, if I wanted to live bare bones and never travel, I could probably survive on my writing money (mainly because of Patreon). So when I gaze into the abyss of the future, I find myself casting about for goals that will inspire me to action.

While I look a lot like my mother, as I get older I notice that I have a lot of my dad’s traits. My dad’s goal in life was to have a family, to be a good dad, and to be able to support them. Once he achieved that and all of his kids were employed and (mostly) out of the house, he confessed to not feeling very motivated any more. He achieved everything he wanted out of life.

Perhaps my goals were too modest. After all, I’ve noted before that I not only want to make a living writing, but to change the world and people’s perceptions of it. I want to have a place in shaping what comes next. But a goal like that is a bit wishy washy, like saying you want to win a bunch of awards or sell a million copies. A lot of achieving those kinds of goals are out of your control.

The goals I succeed at are the ones where I have the most control. I wanted to be a better person, less selfish. I wanted to write a lot of books. I wanted to make a living writing. As I’ve gotten older, things I thought were super important to me became less so.

While I would love to go back to taking boxing classes, and learn how to fly a plane, I don’t find myself overcome by a passionate drive to do so.

As noted, this may simply be a brain chemistry issue. Maybe I’m just depressed? My anxiety is pretty much under control now, which is fabulous. I’m clunking away at various writing projects – slowly, because this is fucking 2017 – but I’m getting in words every day, and that’s something. That said, my inability to be disciplined in my fiction writing has been wearing on me. It’s this part of my life I want to focus on, because I’ve become incredibly undisciplined about it. Writing happens when it happens.

This is the thing with goals. You have to set up a plan to reach them. If I want to produce more work, better quality work, then I need to have a better writing regime. And I need to understand my “Why.” Why do I want to write more? Why do I want to be the best writer? Why do I want to excel? “Just because” or “why not?” don’t seem to be the sorts of answers that generate a lot of momentum on my part.

I’m at that middle-aged crossroads in life where you have had your adventures, slain your dragons, and achieved a measure of small-town success, and now you look out at your dogs running around in your yard and you go, “This is great, but I’m going to try and be around at least another 30 years or so and… what am I passionate about, now?”

It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re crushing yourself against a system. I loved being a young, scrappy writer in my 20’s, speaking truth to “the establishment,” and coming up through the slings and arrows of SFF publishing to claim my space within it. But what happens when you become the establishment? Do you just head off to do the movie deals, to expand your work to a new audience? Do you spend your time mentoring new writers? Do you just blurb a lot of books?

Accepting that I was an established author has been a hard road, for me. There are young people coming into SFF now who don’t know of an SFF without me in it. I’ve been publishing novels for seven years, which feels like a blink compared to my hard road to get here, but plenty of readers have come of age during those seven years, and for some that’s half or a third or a quarter of their lives. I know I have a long way to go, still. A huge career ahead. But I need to find my passion again for why I’m doing this. I have to find the why, or the road just stops here.

And, you know, I realize this sounds like, “Wah, wah, I got everything I wanted!” but I’ve seen how many people get stuck at “good” on the way to great. And I don’t want to just be good. I want to be great. To get to great requires continuous learning, interrogation of what you want, and leveling up again and again. So while I may not have all the steps mapped out to get me to “great” yet… at least that seems to be the place I want to reach. I don’t want to stop at good. I’ve gotten to good.

There are fewer resources for you, to get from good to great. Everyone puts out work and advice for newer writers, but less for old pros. It’s assumed you’ve gotten to the mountain; and of course from a marketing perspective, there are also simply fewer people who get to this place. That means a smaller audience for all that writing advice.

This, then, is my new journey: the one from good to great. The acknowledgement that I am good at what I do, but that there’s a level I need to get to that requires this better discipline, these better habits. Going from good to great takes more time, and the wins are far smaller, almost imperceptible. It’s taken me years to begin to figure out structure, and I still fall into bad habits the vast majority of the time while trying to build new works.

I never understood the whole “life is a journey, not a destination” thing until now, when I realize that you can’t always give yourself a single mountain to climb. For some, that mountain is the right height. For others, they need more mountains, higher mountains, a whole mountain range. They need to be at base camp on another climb, right when death claims them. To stop is to lose momentum. To stop, for me, means to lose my will to be great.

Instead, we go up. We go onward.

Broken Heavens: Update (Amazon pre-orders, shifting release dates, etc EXPLAINED!)

Howdy folks!

As I’ve discussed on Twitter and on the podcast, The Broken Heavens mostly-sort-of-done-kinda-partial? draft I sent to my agent/editor was found wanting, and requires a lot of revisions. These things happen. In the mean time, the due date for my next book, the military SF novel THE LIGHT BRIGADE is due to Saga Press on February 1st.

Deadline #2 LOOMS.

Ever since we snuck GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION into our existing schedule a couple years back, I’ve been struggling to catch up on my deadlines. Add in the weird break between the first two Worldbreaker books contract and the third Worldbreaker book contract, with the Saga contract between them (since Angry Robot was sold, they couldn’t buy the third book for like six months or something), and my deadlines got ultra messy. Also, the US descended into fascism, of course, which is bad for everyone’s deadlines.

Anyway. Agent and I discussed these issues and decided it would be best to hit the Saga deadline on time, since I’m clearly not going to get any less late on delivering The Broken Heavens. My agent let my publisher know this just before I left for Scandinavia. The publisher did note that pushing out the date could cancel people’s pre-orders, but my agent forgot to forward me that part, so I was just as taken aback as all of your. These things happen.

Now that I have the heads’ up, well – yeah, cancelling pre-orders is pretty shitty on Amazon’s part. Though shifting the date out to 2019 or 2020 may not have cancelled them? Maybe? Who knows? It’s a thing that can happen, and I’m sorry it did for all of your who pre-ordered through Amazon and I wasn’t able to give you a heads’ up (I’m getting emails, DM’s AT WORK, and notifications of all kinds and I’d rather be writing). Writing is great, but the wheels of publishing can be really shitty sometimes, because there are a whole lot of moving parts and pieces.

Ultimately, the fault is with me for writing a book that’s very late. At this point, as said, I’m trying to save the publication schedule with THE LIGHT BRIGADE since the Worldbreaker timeline is already fucked. Sometimes you can’t force a book. I churned hard on The Broken Heavens, but my agent promised me she’d tell me when stuff wasn’t up to snuff, and she called it with this one. It will get there, but I needed to cut a lot of stuff, and as said – that Light Brigade deadline was getting closer and closer.

So despite what Amazon may tell you, no, the book is not out in 2035 (my on-signing payment for this book was $5k. I would just send it back if that were the case and move on!). It’s still on my schedule, I’m still working on it, but LIGHT BRIGADE has to take priority so I don’t miss that deadline, too. That said, it’s had to come off of Angry Robot’s publication schedule since we no longer have a firm turn-in date (“after Light Brigade” is best I can do), which means we’re not sure when we can get it back in. That will depend on when I can turn it in. And that’s all on me.

That’s the best I have for you! Sorry for the confusion. I like to have a heads’ up before this stuff happens, but there are a lot of players here and I was also traveling for a couple weeks, and sometimes these things get dropped.

You know I love you all, and thank you for supporting these books. Sorry it’s where it’s at and Amazon is weird. It’s not the publisher’s fault.

In the meantime, remember that you can get monthly stories from me via Patreon, and I will let you know when I actually TURN IN A REAL DRAFT of Broken Heavens and the book is back on the publishing schedule.

THAT information, at least, I will know for sure!

 

The Bleeding Heart of the Story: Reflections on a Career in Fiction

My first novel, God’s War, came out in 2011. It sold long before that, in 2008, but due to the vagaries of publishing, came out much later from a different publisher. I started writing it in 2003 and finished it in 2007, when I was 27 years old. This was not, of course, the first novel I’d ever written, but the ninth. And I can’t say there was anything about that novel that made it sell while the others didn’t. In truth, that book was a really hard sell, and almost never made it onto the shelves at all. But unlike my prior work, it had a pretty simple quest plot, which helped keep readers engaged, and I threw in pretty much every great idea I’d ever had – Bug magic! Centuries-long wars! Violent matriarchies! Harsh desert! Colonized worlds! – and just had fun with it.

In discussion with my agent on the latest episode of the podcast, though, I started thinking about what it was that made these books to compelling for people, and why The Stars are Legion (which was, emotionally, the toughest book I’ve ever written) seems to be doing so well. The truth is there are so many things in publishing that are beyond our control that we can’t say, “Well, this one is just a good story!” to explain why some did well and some didn’t. The Worldbreaker books have all earned out as well, and sold more than the God’s War books, but people don’t get as emotionally invested in those books as the God’s War books and The Stars are Legion. People don’t cry over them the way they do my other stuff.

It’s the emotional connection that we make with stories that makes them mean so much to us. On the podcast Hannah mentions how much she loved the Twilight books, not for their clunky prose, but for how well they captured, for her, the experience of falling in love for the first time. That was a bit revelatory to me, because these were books that I never connected with. But talk about The Girl on the Train, and I’ll tell you it’s not only the mystery aspect, but the fact that it’s a woman who drinks too much who’s being (spoilers) gas-lighted. And whoa boy did I ever connect with that whole, “Everyone thinks you’re crazy but you’re actually being set up by a nutty dude,” experience. It’s something a lot of women in particular deal with, and I was wholly invested in her discovering she was not actually crazy because it mirrored so much of my own journey toward discovering feminism. I often think that the reason a lot of YA novels don’t connect with me is that they don’t explore emotional themes that really interest me right now the way that many adult novels do. YA tends to be about finding oneself, about the first discovery that the world isn’t what you were told it was. And I’m past that and on to other things.

This discussion about the bleeding heart of the story led me to ask what the bleeding heart of the story was in my own work. It’s interesting because you don’t always know what the heart of the story is when you first begin to write. It wasn’t until Nyx fell to her knees in the ring at the end of her big fight at the end of God’s War that I knew what the heart of that story was about. Nyx struggled with all sorts of issues related to faith and submission, and independence and dependence. These were issues I, too have and do struggle with. Much of Nyx’s emotional struggle throughout all three books springs from having someone I was in a relationship with say that i was a monster. That stuck with me for a long time. Was I monster? In rejecting the weak person I had been, had I become everything I hated? Good stories tap into the very darkest parts of us, and Nyx was certainly the female Conan I wished I could be, wading out into pools of blood and coming out the other side being just as true to herself before as after. She and Rhys are tangled in the sort of snarky abusive relationship that for many years I’d assumed was love. The way they actually end up shows that I have learned something since then. In God’s War, the entire drive of the narrative is to get Nyx onto her knees in that ring, to allow her to admit to herself that what she would love, more than anything else, is just to submit to God, to fate, to the world, and stop fighting it. But she can’t. She knows she can’t, even as she admits it. The drive in Infidel was always to break them down into their component parts, to have them both lose everything and see what it made of them. And of course, in Rapture, the terrible events that they endure there are meant to break them both down emotionally so that they can have, finally, for the first time, an honest conversation about their feelings and why they can’t be together. The rest of the books: the bug magic, the blood-eating sand, the giant hornets, the bel dames, the assassinations and beheadings – existed to tell that emotional story between Nyx and Rhys.

The Stars are Legion was, famously, a difficult book for me to write because unlike with the Nyx books, I knew exactly what the bleeding heart of the story was going to be before I wrote it, and understood what I would have to write about, and that’s some scary stuff. At its heart, Legion is about women’s control (or not) over their own bodies and reproductive power. It also has not one, but two wildly abusive relationships at its core. I wrote deeply about things that mattered to me, issues related to fertility and bodily autonomy and of course, the monster inside so many of us. Once one has been monstrous, the book asked, is it possible to go back, to repent, to become someone different? Those were the bleeding emotions of the story, the burning questions, and I faced them down in all their cold, stark truth. Those are deep, powerful emotions, and beyond the gooey ships and birthing ship parts and struggling through the spongy center of some world, it’s the emotional stuff that we can all relate to on some level that powers its heart and makes it so unforgettable.

As the saying goes, folks may forget what you say, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Fiction is very much like this, and it’s another reason I don’t like to tie up my stories into nice neat packages. I want to leave the readers with questions that they can mull over as they contemplate the story itself and how it affected them. There’s a reason I ended Nyx’s story the way I did in Rapture. And it’s not because I’m an asshole. Like the reader, I too, like to wonder what fate Nyx deserved, and whether it was the lady or the tiger stepping out of that bakkie. Nyx has done terrible things, but I understand that it’s not up to me to judge her, after all. Rhys would say it’s up to God; I would say it’s up to each individual reader. It’s not for me to decide. Such are the endings on which much great fan fiction can be imagined.

When I sit here looking at Broken Heavens and the original emotional heart of the story, I understand why it’s collapsed, like a souffle, now that I have a different ending. I had spent a great deal of time in the prior two books setting up a very specific ending. What I had failed to do in this latest draft of Broken Heavens is make it clear what the emotional turning point is for the character here so she understands she doesn’t just have two choices, those two choices I set up so many books ago. I realize that the character needs to have the same kind of emotional moment I did after the election, when my entire conception of my country and where it was headed and who were not only were, but who we wanted to be, got flushed down the toilet forever. I will never forget that moment. How betrayed I felt; how my own people had voted to destroy everything I knew and loved. It was a break in reality, for me, the moment when I felt the whole world literally lurch onto another timeline. It was among the most surreal moments of my life. And I knew I had to accept immediately that it had changed everything I knew, and was going to profoundly affect the future – my own and those of my friends and family and the world itself – in terrible ways.

Those are the emotional turning points we talk about. It’s the moment I got out of the hospital after nearly dying, and had to ask for help cutting asparagus because I was so weak. It was laying out the syringes and medication I would have to take now everyday for the rest of my life, or die. It was that understanding that I was not as strong and robust and invulnerable as I’d always assumed, that knowledge that everything I believed about the world and myself had been irrevocably changed. My future, my expectations of such, were rewritten before my eyes.

These are the emotional experiences, and the emotional moments, that we often use fiction to explore. I may not know what it’s like to chop off someone’s head, but I know what it is to be called a monster, and to wonder if it’s true. I may not have ever given birth to a world, but I know what it is to be at war with one’s body while the world itself tries to control you. We use these emotions as leaping off points, and memorable fiction understands that to endure, to touch people, takes more than explosions. It takes tapping into these very vulnerable parts of ourselves, often the very worst moments from our lives, and translating them onto the page.

This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of bestsellers that don’t do this. I just read a bestselling author who wrote a mystery novel that was absolutely emotionally devoid. I also tossed it immediately into my Goodwill pile to give away and promptly forgot even the names of the characters. But making work that lasts needs to touch people in some way. It must be memorable. It must bleed all over the page.

I get that, and yes, some days it does bother me, because frankly, I don’t want to revisit a lot of my most vulnerable moments. This is likely why I’m a discovery writer, because it allows me to sneak up on these emotions in a very organic way. It allowed me to simply write Nyx falling to her knees in the ring, longing to submit, knowing she couldn’t, and having no idea why that scene felt so powerful to me; why it felt just right. Not until much later.

But as I struggle with the massive backlog of projects I have right now, I realize that I have less time to allow myself the comfortable blinders of pure discovery writing in order to creep up on the truth. I have to face it head on, first thing. Even if it scares me.

Even if it bleeds.

GET TO WORK HURLEY: Episode 3. “You Don’t Own Meeeeeee” Chat about when one becomes a “real writer,” the Everest of publishing, who owns your time, Swecon roundup, and the annoying inevitability of publisher rights grabs.

Hej hej folks!
 The GET TO WORK HURLEY podcast is a monthly rant about the hustle of making a living as a writer of All of the Things.

You can support this podcast each month as a Patron or make a one-time donation.

  • EPISODE THREE: You Don’t Own Meeeeeee. Chat about when one becomes a “real writer,” the Everest of publishing, who owns your time, Swecon roundup, and the annoying inevitability of publisher rights grabs.

 

Direct Download Link

(still working on iTunes setup)

*Music credit. Remixed All Eyes and Teeth by Eaters. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlikeLicense. 

What More Can Be Said?

I just spent eight days in Sweden, and the come down after that experience has been rough. Getting caught back up on the latest bizarro world news to come out of the United States is like waking up with a terrible hangover. We passed under the big airport archway that said, “Welcome to the United States” and were confronted with customs agents who fingerprinted and retina-scanned non-citizens. What the fuck do we need all that data for? “Why are you taking a picture of my mommy?” says the little girl in the creepy customs video playing on the monitors. “So we can make sure no one else is pretending to be her,” says the jolly customs agent, like something out of Starship Troopers.

We have a backwards country, looking back, back, back, no longer forward, withdrawing from climate agreements, willfully blinding itself to what’s coming, ensuring that the people here are wholly unprepared for the new reality. Our schools are being dismantled. Our access to healthcare is being further curtailed. To be lucky in this country is to be rich. We are descending softly into the 80’s dystopia I was promised, and I am very, very pissed off about it.

I am pissed off because this was not (and, to a certain extent, still is not) an inevitable outcome. We could have, still could, change this path. But the greedy folks in power see only half a step ahead, just like the greedy corporations that they represent. We are all just so much human fodder for the corporate machine. We are human resources, to be ground up and distilled for maximum profit.

I don’t like living in a country that voted to kill me by making healthcare effectively out of reach. I’m pushing 40 years old, and I’m fucking tired of having to proclaim my humanity to a government that believes God ordains who gets sick and who gets rich.

The pendulum shifted here on that election day. All the villainy that we had been denying and tempering down and trying to tamp out has been unleashed, a Pandora’s box of the very worst in all of us. There was no pretending that this is not a country built on genocide and slavery. At best, we get a civil war. At worst, a nuclear war. But the most likely scenerio is simply more of the same – the same long, slow slide into backwardness and superstition, sorcery and lies. We could be better people. We could take care of each other. We could realize that we are all only as good as how we treat those who have the least. My realization over these last few days is that it takes a profoundly terrible and violent event to make people realize how much they need each other. My fear is that the US is going to need to have one great glorious horror show here soon if we ever want to turn the tide away from extremism. They have to get what they asked for first. And that’s the part that scares me, because we aren’t all going to survive that. I will likely not survive that.

Being back here after being away is like being a lobster saved from the slow warming of the water, only to be tossed right back in while it’s boiling full tilt. It’s a slap in the face. A rude awakening, death by a thousand cuts.

My hope for the future doesn’t rest here, so much, as with other places. There’s a whole world out there, and as long as we don’t blow it all up, they were survive. They will endure. They will continue to know what we could not: that we are all in this together, and that our greatest enemy remains ourselves, and the very people we propel into power.

Cultivating Compassion When We’re All Tired

I’m pretty tired right now, which is a feeling shared by a lot of folks, I know. During the brief period when I thought the latest healthcare-gutting bill was dead, I was feeling positively upbeat, but the blinds closed again recently and I picked up a couple beers and went back to bed for awhile.

The last couple months, I’ve started doing this thing where I clench my jaw at night; even during the day, now. I can feel it tightening up with worry and grim determination, and I have to force myself to relax. I make OK money right now, but I’m one job loss away from being uninsurable soon, and that’s a weight I haven’t had to grapple under since 2010. Note that I didn’t really start jamming out work at speed until 2011. That means my entire professional novel career, I’ve had the ACA safety net to take my mind away from the horrors of 2007. I could say, over and over, that yeah, things may get bad, but I’d never have to go through THAT again.

Working under this weight has been really hard. I have a health insurance plan right now with a $5k deductible, which means I paid $1500 for meds last month. Under the new plan, I could be charged like $20,000 a year just in premiums. I could have a $50,000 deductible on top of that, even on an employer plan, because all those regulations that the ACA made to keep insurance companies honest are very likely to go away, because they want people like me to “pay their share.”

Newsflash, folks: the whole point of health insurance is to have it cover you in case something horrible happens.

Something horrible happened to me.

The rhetoric coming out of this bullshit regime is like saying that the house insurance you bought isn’t going to cover damage from a fire because you should pay your share. Ummm… like… that’s not how insurance works. It’s literally hedging one’s bets against disaster. My disaster happened already. 

I am hunkered down and trying not to go all “worst case scenario” because the truth of what we end up with will likely be a middle ground, but when you live like I do, with an chronic illness that’s this expensive to manage, you have to think ahead. And that’s exhausting. At the very least, I have to stay employed at a traditional employer forever. Which, hey, fine. At worst, even making what I do at a traditional employer, I’ll have to cut back to bare essentials just to make ends meet. We already have medical debt from our last health insurance plan with a high deductible that we are paying off. We were super thrilled when we finally paid off my spouse’s cancer medical debt a couple years back. It’s like this revolving door that we’re on, always hustling, hustling, hustling, and never getting ahead.

To take a system that is already fucked and make it worse makes you the worst human beings imaginable. To have voted in people who lied to you boldly and baldly is equally unconscionable. The amount of money I’m paying in taxes, in premiums, in deductions, is more than a lot of people make, period. But I’m the one who should die? I’m the one who shouldn’t be covered, when literally the point of insurance is to cover catastrophic bullshit that happens to people?

It’s tough to do work outside what’s keeping you in meds and food when you’re this stressed out, too. I’m pretty proud of all the shit I’m getting done, honestly, even if stuff like The Broken Heavens is running late. It’s still moving, and let me tell you – that’s a fucking heroic act right now. And the short story every month? And the podcast? Patreon rewards? AMAZE. I am fucking AMAZED every fucking time I GET OUT OF BED in the fucking morning, these days.

But I am fucking tired. And when your own life is in the balance, you tend to get pretty annoyed with people and their petty bullshit. I’ve been working hard to stay as un-engaged from Twitter and other social platforms as possible, because you just want to dismiss people’s whiny bullshit with, “WE COULD ALL BE DEAD IN THE MORNING,” and that’s not helpful for anyone. Little things also make you want to go nuclear, even when it’s just clerical error stuff. Every little thing, from dishes in the sink to a snarky email, makes you want to BURN DOWN THE WORLD. I was DM’ing with another writer recently who was like, “Oh, you look so put together in public!” and I’m like… yeah. Yeah, well, I’m a pro, etc.

Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t wear at us, though, no matter our public faces or snarky podcasts and sly jokes or ALL CAPS. I deal with stress like this with raw humor, and yes, that includes the snarky podcasts and sly jokes and ALL CAPS. That’s how I cope, and I’m doing the best I can to cope in a way that helps other people cope, too.

So if you see me around the interwebs, or rambling through events (I’m GOH at a convention in Sweden in less than 2 weeks! Dear lord), and I seem to laugh a little too hysterically, this is what’s up. I don’t hate you, I’m not high. In truth, I am doing the very best I can to cope in what is a horrifying and literally deadly situation for me here. I am one job loss away from losing everything I’ve worked to build the last ten years, and living with that knowledge hurts.

I am an American pre-existing condition, and vulnerable to death by vote.