Archive for July, 2010

I Am A Fraud

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 28, 2010 by Jaym Gates

This is a joint post with Don Pizarro. His take on feeling like a fraud can be found at (link will be added when he WAKES UP!)

I’m a fraud. I don’t deserve to be here.

Those were the thoughts, on repeat, in my head as I left the bar. It was Friday night, Boston, my first ReaderCon. I’d been drinking with friends, old and new, discussing writing, music, fandom, relationships.

Normal-people stuff.

Apparently, no one guessed that I’d been so afraid to walk into the room that I’d paused outside, literally too sick with fear to move. But the group was filled with genuinely wonderful people, and I at least stopped cuddling my wine so closely.

After a while, Don Pizarro and I, in desperate need of coffee, took our leave of the group to venture into the depths of Cambridge. By this time, my hands were trembling, my voice was trembling, my heart was trembling too.

Silence reigned for a few moments, and then we both let out a deep breath. One of us made a comment about being a fraud. Suddenly, words couldn’t come fast enough. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were both breathing a little better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been crippled by these fears. I hate it, having lost out on opportunities because of it. I tell myself, other people tell me, that I’m talented, that I deserve to be here.

But, when you’re standing in a room of some of the best writers and editors in ‘the business’, it suddenly crashes down. “I haven’t done all that much.” “I don’t deserve to be here.” “I’m not worth talking to.” “Ooo, I like this corner. No one will trip over me here.”

I have an excuse, in a way. Words are my life, my love, my perspective on life.

If I have a religion, it is a religion of the mind. I worship the weird, the jagged, the extreme and tortured and shocking. Not for the shock value itself, but because of their courage in looking at the fringe.

I’m a synesthete. Reading The Scar was emotional, physical. Words are experience, touch, taste, scent, sound. I am there. I am there because someone went there first, led me by the hand into a world only they could imagine.

So when you are standing in a room of your idols and heroes and role models, it’s hard to keep perspective. I was raised with a keen understanding of my own inadequacy, and the respect and distance awarded to age, experience and talent. Added to that, my personal devotion to their work, and the pedestal has soared perilously close to the ceiling, and I’ve forgotten that they are just like the rest of us, award-winning or not.

We raise them on too high a pedestal. Not that they aren’t that good, not that they aren’t worthy of respect, admiration or perhaps a little awe, but because they are not gods, but humans.

I’ve talked to many authors, many people I respect. From each, I hear a variation on the same tale. Their path was no different from ours. They have struggled, and failed. Picked themselves back up, dusted off, taken another run at the next hurdle. They have collapsed beside the trail and cried, and wailed, and berated their gods for callous indifference.

They have felt like frauds, like failures. They have made stupid mistakes. They have stood up, squared their shoulders, and kept going.

That emphasis is necessary. Too many of us shamble through life, afraid that our incompetence will show, that someone will realize we didn’t come through the same door that everyone else did.

But we did all come through that door. We just couldn’t see it because of all the people blocking our view of the empty door, and the sign over it, saying The Right Way.

It isn’t a matter of success or failure, of genuine talent or hackery. It is a matter of honesty, within as much as without.

You will never succeed because someone else believes in you.


Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 by Jaym Gates

The camera pans into the scene. Broken buildings. Fires in windows, shattered icons, blood. Sometimes there are looters, sometimes zombies or bugs or aliens. Occasionally, it is simply an empty wastelands. Oddly, it is almost always raining. Oh, wait. This is Hollywood we’re talking about.
It’s a familiar trope, mainstreamed and popularized by films such as Matrix, Blade-Runner and Terminator. Dystopia, post-apocalypse, grunge, zombies, war. The future has been a dark and dirty place recently.
Of course, there is plenty of reason for such a dark depiction. It seems like every new discovery, every bit of progress we make, just turns into one more thing to go wrong. The oil disaster in the Gulf, the garbage patch in the Pacific, the rising ill-health and falling education of our nation. Iowa approves gay marriage, Arizona approves racial harassment.
The future could be a very dark place indeed. But a powerful, often-ignored entity in the direction of our future is the mechanisms of social globalization and the psychological impact of rapid, wide-spread social evolution.

Exiles, refugees, immigrants, emigrants, tourists, business travelers and merchants. People affect people. The only way a society might remain static (Amish, Amazonian tribes, Basque) is if there are no outside influences. Even one person can trigger an avalanche of social change. With the ease of travel, the world can’t really be mapped in solid lines any more, but in an ebbing, flowing, living picture.

Tourists are a particularly under-utilized group. Bleak future or not, tourists are like cockroaches: only the total destruction by fire of their entire species is going to stop them. Philadelphia got eaten by giant scorpions? Have an underground trade of stingers, or have hucksters sell Real (imitation) Scorpion Shell.

Armies. A massive, insular and antagonistic stress on any society. An army leaving a country will open dozens of holes in the economy, familial structure and work-force. An army coming in will create chaos and facilitate the success of drug, sex and entertainment industries.


Missionaries. I really want to see someone writing about post-apocalyptic missionaries. No, really. Anywhere you have religion, you’ll have eager young people burning to share their faith.

The environment. No, not as a living entity. The environment is now hugely affected by people.

Imagine that the Garbage Patch washes/builds up to the edge of a remote beach, somewhere that modern society hasn’t been able to catch up to. Suddenly, all these pieces of an unimagined future inundate their lives. How long until someone starts connecting wires, rearranging elements, and inventing things that wouldn’t even occur to an American scientist? What sort of science-fiction, alien culture could build from such a unique viewpoint?

As these catalysts interact with each other, various forms of societal landscapes begin to form. Ethnic lines, technological landscapes, lines of ideas, finances and media.

No Puppets On Premises

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 by Jaym Gates

So, I’m just back from ReaderCon (check out the Apex Books blog for a recap, won’t be putting one up here due to time issues), and the ass-end of a lot of thinking it about to catch up with me.

I drove up to Boston from North Carolina, a 16 hour drive on almost no sleep. I was already tired and a bit stressed, knowing the workload awaiting me when I got back. I was able (had to, really, due to a lack of internet) to put aside most of that while in Boston. It gave me a chance to just enjoy people, thought, all that good stuff. I even took NAPS!

(A quick digression: the people of ReaderCon are amazing. Huge thanks to Christie, John, Eric, Don, Doug, Blake, Amy, Conni, Elizabeth, Marlin, Bart, Athena, Adam and everyone else I ran into or spent time with. Too many good memories there.)

And with the work stuff on hold, I had time to think. Maybe too much time. There are reasons that I stay so busy, and one of those is to avoid thinking about personal stuff. Anyways, I did something that I’d been avoiding for a long time, and came to some decisions about past, present and future.

On top of that, I’ve had half a dozen people comment in the last couple of weeks to some variation of ‘wow, you’ve been so happy lately’.

Obviously, I’m doing something right.

I’ve realized that I *love* writing. I really do. I can’t go without it. But I’m no longer churning out 5000 words a day. Some days, I won’t do more than 200. I *can* do 5000 words a day, but it doesn’t leave me with the love that 200 words can inspire.

Besides that, I’ve got little love for the traditional publishing model. I can’t churn out 3 books a year, not without burning out. I might get 1 done, 1 rewritten. I love small presses though, and love working with them, but I can’t sustain the production necessary to make a living at it.

Finally, I’ve discovered just how much I love being an editor. It started with LD. Rigor Amortis clenched it. Working with the authors, planning promo and researching markets, that’s the stuff I have fun with. I’m not terrified of it, the way I am with writing. I trust myself more.

So, where does that leave me?

I’m planning two more anthologies this year. Rigor Amortis (Ardens), an invitation-only for the people published in the original, and the working-title of Deus ex Machina, which has no planning behind it yet. I’m also applying for a job as an editor. More on that later, I hope.

But the real news is about the writing. I’m scaling back. I said about a month ago that something had to go, or step into the background. At the moment, I’m at a stalemate. I have no time to move forward. Writing my own fiction is that tentative victim.

This is practicality, as much as anything. Novels are time-consuming, brutal and annoying. I love writing them, but…yeah. My skill-level is not where I want it to be. Short stories don’t bring in the money anymore. I want to be able to submit to whatever market is out there, paying or non-paying. I want to take my time, and write what *I* want to write, all the weird, surreal, awful stuff that my beta readers hate me for.

So I’m not giving it up. But I want more pieces like Climb and Dark Fire, and no more write-to-someone’s-theme pieces like Salt and Beautiful. I just don’t write that stuff very well. I’ve got all of these ideas, and keep thinking ‘yeah, but really? Who’s going to buy that?’

I feel like I’ve lost my integrity a bit. I’m going to go rediscover that. I’ll write like I used to write, stealing moments when no one is looking, walking sideways to the plot to see what it looks like from different angles. Creating works of art, rather than commercial fiction. Or at least that’s my goal!

So you’ll see less writing from me. I’m going to finish Haven, and see what people think. I’ll rewrite Red Sun and Inherent, and write Clay and Chain, but I won’t be pushing other things aside to work on the novels.

Wish me luck. I know where I want to be by this time next year. I’ll let you know if I’m there, when I get there!