Category Archives: Uncategorized

Washington DC reading! April 23 2017

If you’re in the DC/MD/VA area, come to my Sunday April 23 book talk and reading at Soapstone Market in northwest DC! It’s a benefit for the local DC news site – and the venue has fine coffee and good beer. Here’s the flyer –
Anthony Dobranski at Soapstone Market, 4465 Connecticut Ave NW, Sun April 23 3-5pm

Giving to, not just dealing with

Sometimes leaving is a process. I’m off to Hartford’s Connecticon this weekend to work my publisher’s table and learn direct sales by doing. Which means I should have spent the week blogging reflections on the industry and marketing and such. Instead I did a lot of weeding and yard work, which was twice as hard and thrice as hot as it would have been a month earlier – but we were busy a month earlier too.
I suppose this is a note about work-life balance, or about how to maintain when one doesn’t see balance coming anytime soon. It’s a simple note where I pass on a friend’s advice – to treat your acts as gifts not chores. 
It helped my stress level, at least. Certainly, thinking about getting things done to spare my family or make things more fun for them in my absence made the pouring sweat and the bent lawnmower shaft and all the cleanup a bit easier! 
As my efforts for my own book take more time, the rest of my life will not stand still. I have to give to it, rather than deal with it. 

AwesomeCon DC 2016 – this weekend!

AwesomeCon is a large fan convention in Washington DC this weekend, focused on visual media – this year especially, it’s a Whovians paradise. Are you going?
Saturday will just be splendid fun, but the Friday and Sunday sessions have several good panels for my booklife.
I’m hoping to see: Comics in WWII, Giant Robots, Strong Women Characters, Nanobots – which together cover my debut novel, my serial novel, and my crazy SF work-in-progress – and attend at least one of the marketing panels. Continue reading

Pandoc makes for easy document conversion

NaNoWriMo 2015, Day 01by the site’s count, 1966 words, seventy more than my goal. It went smoothly, without many breaks. When I was within 300 words of the goal I was more interested in using them to flesh out what I had already written than to push forward. This kind of internal editing is what they all tell you not to do, but it helped me find places I was repeating myself and places where I hadn’t gotten the point across.
My serial novel developed an idiosyncratic workflow for each week’s chapter:

  • I wrote plain text files using Markdown syntax which I discussed here
  • I send my editors Word docx format
  • My final version goes out in HTML

It works for the project. I like to compose drafts in plain text, with no settings to change or distracting questions from the software. Using Markdown syntax, I tag words or lines for later formatting. It’s also easier to write on the go. Markdown-aware smartphone text editors are nimbler tools on phones and tablets than full word-processors.
In Word docx format, my editors can use the Track Changes feature, letting me accept the edits into the final text with a click. Since the final destination is a WordPress website (and, an ebook), it “goes to press” as HTML.
Thanks to a nimble command-line document converter called Pandoc, I can get clean trustworthy conversions between different formats. I can use each app for what it does best, and maintain a smooth process. Continue reading

On technology in fiction

Modern and future readers don’t need to be convinced that technology will improve to magical levels; we’ve seen it happen in our lifetimes, in our children’s. To explain more than absolutely needed is to write for the past, but the dead will not read us.
So I have become pointedly effacing on the subject of gear. I don’t want to say anything not immediately needed for the story to continue. It is enough that a tool acts; the tool itself should be as invisible as a butler, and the action the thing of import.
This is a stylistic choice, a convention, but it is informed by function. Continue reading

Making a busy life into a busy blog

The blog has been stale although I have been busy.
In posts across the web, that “although” is a “because” — you know you’ve read it, here and a thousand other blogs. Which is a problem. It’s one thing to know silent business is a missed opportunity to self-promote, another to make it an aspect of writing and not an intrusion. With Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife, I am learning how to change that.
I am late to Jeff VanderMeer’s excellent fiction, but when the esteemed Paulo Bacigalupi mentioned VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, & Acceptance) on three separate panels at CapClave, I took it for advice — and I loved Annihilation. (The others wait for Xmastime.)
But, in the dealer’s room at World Fantasy Convention, after VanderMeer signed my copy of Annihilation, I passed a table that had his book Booklife. Just the title made my heart both sink and rise. A booklife? What’s that? I want one. I really do. Continue reading

On scaring people with writing

The Atlantic notes with alarm the bizarre saga of Patrick McLaw, a writer and teacher put under medical evaluation seemingly for the violent story lines of his self-published novels, to media reports wholly absent of reminders of the right of free speech. Although subsequent reports hint, weirdly, at greater issues, Ken White nicely states the concern that not only do governments overreach, the media often serves them as “obliging stenographers.”
I’m curious about the more general notion, that an imagined horror is somehow more threatening when the person imagining it is somehow related to the situation. Is it really so much worse if a teacher pens a novel about a school-shooting? If a colonel penned a novel about a rogue officer, would it affect the colonel’s career in a way Stanley Kubrick never had to worry about? Can an air-traffic controller not write about a disturbed pilot, or a lawyer write about a corrupt judge?
Must we outsource our dark sides to disinterested parties, absolved of ill intent by the condom of “research”?

Russia, a cautionary tale

A short note, for those who read my last post: I made my goal, reducing my novel 10.2% down to 124,400 words. Not merely a slimming — at least ten passages, or one every 15,000 words, needed a complete rewrite just to make sense, and in some cases had to grow. It was a grueling process, and I was exhausted for several days after. But it’s done.
Russia haunts my novel. I say haunts because I only gave it a short nod, but it wound up reappearing, unintentionally but naturally, in surprising ways.
My earliest inspiration, my reassurance that I could use fantasy to describe the heart of a real people, was Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a satiric romp in which the Devil holds a grand ball in the heart of an atheistic society. Now it is viewed by those who lived under communism as a true document, a history of the soul’s sadness in those times. If only I could find a way to tell my times through that same lens, I thought, and my story was born.
I only meant to use Russia in my novel as a light on my character Gabriel — on his rigidity, his desire for order and clarity, his deep angry passion; his refusal to drink alcohol, forbidding himself the only Serenity Prayer that Russians allow; that Gabriel learned Russian at birth, educated by Cold Warriors for the world they expected to continue until Armageddon — until the Wall fell, making Gabriel and his Russian know-how into a thirteen-year-old buggy-whip.
But Russia kept returning, in scenes comic and topical. Of course an East German of Gabriel’s generation would speak better Russian than English, allowing a secret language to the security guards of Eurocentric technocracy. Of course new Silovik money would seek the status markers of golfing and Scotch whisky. But why my immortal smoked Russian cigarettes, why a Haitian loa told a Pushkin joke, why Gabriel’s mother found happiness through a different Pushkin joke — ask my muse. I can see the connections in retrospect, and credit my unconscious with wisdom. But maybe in the great Immateria where stories are born, Russia bullied my muse, as if offended by (or sniffing opportunity in) my casual usage. So you want a taste? Russia said menacingly. That makes it my pie.
I think it’s saying the same to the whole world right now.  Continue reading