Thursday, December 12, 2019

Work, Stress, and Perspective

Earlier this week, I launched my first novel: Random Walk, Book One in the Fractured Galaxy series. Very exciting.

Also a little nerve-racking because, as my first novel, there's a lot riding on this project's financial success. I moved half-way across the country just so I could afford to live without a day job in order to write this book (and some other writing projects), and many friends and family gave generously of their time and money to help me bring it to fruition.

As such, this novel is theoretically a major litmus test for my future plans to continue not working a day job and writing pretty much full time instead. It's been a tad stressful to think about at times. As the launch of the book and, with it, the proof of the pudding approached, I found myself spending a lot of time in prayer about that. Here are a few things I've learned during this process:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Adventures Abroad

I'm in Bratislava for a night or two, and it was already dark when I got here, so I was prepared for an adventure finding my hotel...or so I thought! I arrived at the main train station safely, found the buses right away, got my bus ticket with ease, and lo and behold - my bus pulled it! I took it to the correct spot and that's when the fun began. The instructions for getting to my destination from that stop are for people arriving at that stop by train. I found out, thanks to a couple nice women, that I was not quite where I thought I was when I got off the bus - I needed to go underground under the train tracks and up the other side. Once there, I quickly got my bearings (verified by asking another nice lady) and headed down the semi-lit road ready for a 10-15 minute walk. I again verified my location (by asking a nice man walking in the opposite direction - streets aren't always clearly labeled, and it was dark) and when I got to my turning, everything was fine. Or so it seemed... I was supposed to take a left and quick right to get to the hotel, but there was no left and it was blocked off by high fencing as though under construction. After some though, I skirted the fencing and found myself on an overgrown dirt path. IN THE DARK. I made it to a bit empty parking lot area and took my designated right turn...which lead me to more empty parking lot and then nothing. I figured out, judging my my tiny map (I had my flashlight) and the way I'd come, that my hotel was just to my right...on the other side of a wall of trees. I had some indecision as to what course of action to take, but ultimately I backtracked to half-way up the dirt path, where I remembered seeing a fork in the trail. I took the fork, which did not take me to the other side of those trees. It did take me to a parking lot between the backs of two buildings. I walked passed a run-down camper and some cars, thinking I must by walking along the back of the hotel. I rounded the far end, and there it was: the signage! I entered the hotel restaurant, and got directions to the lobby, where I checked in. Tomorrow before I head out for my meeting, I will ask the front desk person the best way to get there (it's back the way I came). Hopefully, I won't have to brave that dirt path through the jungle for a third time. :)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Random Walk's "Mission Stage One Complete"

Those words are uttered by Colonel Derek Williams, Mission Commander and Pilot of Air Force Space Command's first manned mission into space. They are the last words spoken in chapter one of my science fiction novel, Random Walk, after the crew achieves orbit around the Earth.

I too, have completed what I consider to be Stage One of my mission: writing the book! I finished the draft at the end of July, but I only just completed my developmental revisions earlier this week. With those done, the story itself is now locked-in; there will be no major changes.

That's a significant benchmark, but when you're independently publishing your own novel, it's only one stage of the work. So now, as I wait for my editor to return the manuscript again, this time with copy edits,* I am my shifting mental and creative gears for phase two: production & marketing.

To that end, I read IngramSpark's user guide yesterday to make sure I remember how  to upload my book and understand the extent of their services; I've started sending out requests for blurbs and drafted a press release; I'm working on a synopsis, back cover copy and front and back matter.^ I'm even starting to think about a book launch party!

So as I turn the corner of the midweek and prepare to enter the weekend, my hands are full with grading a writing test I gave my 3rd year students, and juggling all the little, important, time-consuming tasks associated with actually producing and selling a book. It's a busy time, but I'm excited to see how it goes. :)

*Minor changes, like misplaced commas, spelling consistency for proper nouns, awkward phrasing, etc.

^The copyright, acknowledgements and about the author content.

Monday, September 9, 2019

How to Move Abroad in Four Days

On Tuesday, I found out I might be able to teach English for a year in Slovakia, but their school year had already started so I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. Turns out spending four days planning is what constitutes "as soon as possible:" I left home on Saturday morning, almost exactly 96 hours after getting that email on Tuesday. And you can too! (Theoretically.) Here's how:

1. Be flexible. It's best if you are self-employed or can work remotely (and not full time), or don't have a job back home at all.

2. Practice packing. Consider taking a couple three or four week vacations first. I found my packing time decreased significantly with each trip.

3. Find an opportunity. In my case, I knew of a Christian school in Slovakia through my Aunt; I got in touch, they said come any time, I said how about now, and they said sure! And off I went.

4. Have experience living abroad. I was an exchange student in Germany for a year in high school and taught English in China for a year after college. I also spent a month in Jordan and over seven months in Afghanistan. The idea of moving to Slovakia was not scary.

5. Pray about it. This is step five, but it actually takes place all through these other steps. Basically, I asked God for closed doors if it was a bad idea to go on such short notice, and open ones if it was acceptable or a good idea. In four days I was able to: get a doctor's appt, get a dental appt, go shopping for a few things I needed, hang out with local family, and, miracle of miracles, get a good flier mile ticket with a perfect-length layover in Newark. I was also able to check my roller carry-on plane-side for the express flight from Indianapolis, and check it again for the international flight - for free! Oh! And I got on an earlier flight to Newark that I was only able to grab because it was delayed, I got through security very fast and therefore was very early, and the plane was far from full. I even got aisle seats on both planes, despite not being able to choose my seat on the earlier flight or the international one. I'd call those open doors, wouldn't you?

And that's pretty much all there is to it. Easy, right? :) So jump right in and have an adventure! It'll be the experience of a lifetime.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Why Sci-Fi?

A few people have wondered why, as a Christian, I would write science fiction - and not even Christian sci-fi but mainstream sci-fi. Allow me to explain...

First, let me say that I totally understand the question. Why would any Christian want to delve into the world of mainstream science fiction? Characterized primarily by an atheistic worldview and, in many cases, material inappropriate for more conservative readers, science fiction does not appear to be a natural choice for a Christian writer.

This is a legitimate concern, which I am happy to address.

It's true that popular science fiction tends to have at its heart an atheistic worldview, whether it's presented obviously or remains a more subtle undercurrent in the story. Science fiction lends itself to the propagation of this worldview more obviously than many other genres, in part because of the nature of its subject matter - in a culture that has pitted science and religion against each other, it's not difficult to see why. Additionally, some call science fiction "the genre of ideas" - its penchant for futuristic or alternate universes as a backdrop provides fertile ground for waxing philosophical in a way that is engaging and can feel very reasonable - even prophetic. Given that the realm of popular science fiction is mostly populated by non-Christians conveying a not-Christian worldview (or at least seems to be), it's easy to see why many Christians might look askance at the genre, and at any Christian deigning to write it.

I would like to challenge that impulse.

If science fiction is the genre of ideas, lending itself to the propagation or discussion of worldview, isn't that precisely where Christians should be? Should we not be participating in the discussion, bringing our worldview to the table? Why should the next sci-fi book or TV show or film that you take in present atheist scientists as though that's the only kind of scientist? If I write a mainstream sci-fi book that, while it doesn't have religious overtones, does have a Christian worldview underpinning it, and presents a scientist who is a Christian without commenting on the fact as if it's incredible, I'm offering a counter-perspective; an alternative to the prevailing cultural narrative. This is a quiet outreach to non-Christians, and a potential balm for Christians who love the genre but not the messaging so prevalent within it. It's a ministry.

So why am I writing science fiction? Because I love the genre, and I believe I can scatter the seeds of truth into that culture. It's not quantifiable. It's not obvious. But it is legitimate.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Exciting News!

In case you were wondering what I've been up to lately...

I have exciting news!! I have been hard at work setting up an author website, and re-writing the draft of my debut science fiction novel, which I'm independently publishing - Random Walk, Book One in the Fractured Galaxy Series. 😃

At the same time, I've been planning a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo to ensure the finished product is sleek and professional. I launched the campaign this morning, and you can check it out here!

This project has been a long time coming. I first decided to indie publish a science fiction novel about a year ago, and I've been researching and writing since last October! The series is set in the near-present day and follows a team of US Air Force astronauts who unexpectedly find themselves in the far reaches of our galaxy. Cut off from Earth with no idea where they are or how they got there, they have to work together to find a way home before their life support runs out.

So why SciFi?

Believe it or not, I used to think I didn't like science fiction.* When I did find something I liked, I called it an exception. Stargate SG-1 changed all of that, and I soon blossomed into a veritable nerd. However, just like it took me until college to discover that I actually do like SciFi - a lot - it took me until last year to realize I could maybe write SciFi. Once the idea struck, I was hooked, and I'm so glad; I have been having the time of my life writing this first novel.

My initial idea was to write soft SciFi** because I'm no scientist. But much to my surprise this project very quickly became hard SciFi^ and I found myself up to my brains in scientific research. Thankfully, my oldest brother is a scientist and a born teacher - he's spent countless hours explaining concepts and providing feedback on my ideas. The result is a great story with great characters, that a physicist could read without rolling their eyes at made-up technobabble. Which was my goal. :)

For more information and updates, you can sign up for my newsletter.

*I have no idea why.
**Aliens, warp drives, etc.
^Rooted in real-world science.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Work and Trust

"The Lord helps those who help themselves," said no Bible verse ever. However, we are encouraged to work "as unto the Lord," which implies a certain amount of energy and dedication.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Big, BIG Changes

Perhaps you noticed. It's been a while since I last blogged. I apologize.

But here's the good news! I've moved! I had to leave my beloved Pacific Northwest mountains behind and trade them in for Indiana uplands (which are themselves rather picturesque, thankfully), but it was for the best. Now, instead of working a nearly full-time day job and editing in my free time and not having hardly any time or energy to write in my other "free time," I am now a full-time writer and editor. !!!

I moved back in October, but it's taken a while to get settled in and figure out how to actually do this. I feel pretty situated now, and just in time for the new year! :)

So. It's going to be interesting to see what all I get done. I'm working on a middle grade fiction novel that has eluded me for ages, and a SciFi trilogy that I'm unexpectedly excited about. I've got a middle grade historical fiction novel planned and another in the idea stage. I'm working on trying my hand at writing for television, and of course, I still write poetry.

There's a lot going on and I'm not sure what will actually stick. We shall find out together. :)