The Issue has Landed. June 2016 Asimovs with my cover novella, What We Hold Onto, is on the stands now!

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So my novella, “What We Hold Onto,” is out there. The 36 thousand word thing is maybe a three hour read, if you’re a deliberate reader, a two hour read if you read fast, and represents hundreds of hours of my time, and the work of a dozen beta-readers, workshoppers, and editors.

What’s it about?

I’m not qualified to say, as my subconscious and conscious mind coughed it up, but I think it’s about a near future based on trends we see today; things becoming digital, physical possessions feeling like impediments, boat-anchors, Marlie’s chain; how we value our skills and our relationships over our cars and houses, at least those of us lucky enough to still have professional identities.

It’s about how climate change, and the threat of an uncertain economic future, wipe away a lot of what has comforted us in the past.

It’s a hopeful vision of a world in turmoil and an artificial race of human beings who respond to that turmoil rationally–and irrationally, with love for their fellow person and narrow tribalism constantly at war. As always.

It’s also a manic pixie dream boy story with a menopausal female protagonist.

I have invented a new(ish) trope.

Even Maude in Harold and Maude, is a Manic-pixie dream girl. Nobody inverts this story.

I did.

Buy it. Read it. Please.

Review it. Share it. Talk to me about it.

Be honest. Be respectful. Be a friend. Show grandmotherly kindness, if necessary.

Thank you.

 

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications

First reader responses on What We Hold Onto in the June 2016 Asimovs…

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Read this issue of Asimov’s for FREE with a trial subscription to Asimov’s on the Kindle!

I received two fan notes yesterday on What We hold Onto, in this month’s Asimov’s. (the idea that I could have fans seems absurd to me but the word was used by one, so I’m running with it.)

One was from a man who loved the world-building; my half-destroyed world struggling to fix itself; my Nomad culture of people without physical possessions, technological affluent people who don’t do real estate, who keep all their property in a digital cloud. The Nomads, with their mission to heal the world, help displaced people, help humanity let go of the things in culture that no longer work.

The woman, who I made weep on Mother’s day, a fact for which I am both happy and sad, loved the way that the spec-fic existed in service of the human story, how it didn’t drown it out; it was about the people; their world, the gizmos, didn’t drown out their humanity.

This is as good as it gets.

Ok, picture me smiling, as well as I am able, as I say that. I’m not being ironic.

This is wonderful.

This is all I ever wanted to do. Now I just want to do it a lot more. And I would dearly love if more people felt the same and got something out of what I’m writing.

I think maybe they can. I think maybe I can do this now. I thought this twenty years ago, after my first sale to Charlie Ryan at Aboriginal SF, but I was wrong then. I hope I’m not wrong now.

OH! I wanted to  urge people to write nice notes to the writers they read. Not to be morbid, but writers drop dead at any age. If you intend to say something good, something supportive, something decent, to someone who has made you feel something you appreciate, don’t put that off. Do it now. Do it when you think about it.

Oh. And, if you can, call your mother. I know mother’s day is over, but call her again.

We don’t know how long we get to be with each other in this world. Do not delay gratitude. Never postpone an act of love.

 

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications

FSI Queers Take Over Issue Kickstarter is Live! Please help!

takeoverCan you do me a favor?

This is Jay O’Connell. Lovable, foul-mouthed, angry, forehead-vein-throbbing defender of trans kids, teens, and adults, and his GLBTQIA friends and family. Proud ally. Writer and illustrator. Whose work will not be in this book; (Don’t cry! there are plenty of places for me to publish) what we’re creating here is something I’m proud to shill for.

Following in the footsteps of other great recent anthos, we bring the entire spec-fic spectrum to the GLBTQ themed antho. Fantastic isn’t just SF– it’s SF and fantasy, and everything in between; it’s a big tent.

So the potential for this Queers Take Over anthology is enormous.

Please share this project; please contribute. You’re going to want to read it. Because the outpouring of great work from under-represented GLBTQ voices nowadays is awesome, and it’s only just beginning; diversity breaths life into the genre as we see our beloved tropes, alternate histories, dystopias and utopias from a fresh angle.

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We have an entire genre to rewrite; revise, celebrate, reimagine, remake; venerate and excoriate; the future isn’t what it once was, that that’s a wonderful thing.

Guest Editor: Lynne Jamneck

Lynne Jamneck has agreed to helm this special issue. You may be familiar with her as the editor of Dreams from the Witch House and the Lambda-nominated anthology Periphery. We are overjoyed to have such a steady and competent hand steering our first Take Over issue.

Guest Illustrator: Holly Heisey

The issue’s illustrator will be Holly Heisey: an illustrator / designer with a lifelong love of SF and fantasy. She’s produced a series of exquisite covers for hot indie authors and small presses, and when not working on commission, she can be found painting spaceships. Holly is also an author and member of SFWA.

So please. Share. Contribute. Make this thing real. This is a Kickstarter; if we don’t make the minimum amount this won’t happen, but we wanted to make sure we had the money to do this right, so we went all out.

So now, while it’s on you mind, share, and if you have a few bucks to spend, please do. 

It’s worth it.

Here’s the closing pitch for the thing, which I wrote with Warren.

We Need Your Help!

We’re very excited about these issues, and we wanted to be able to do them right. If you want to see GLBTQ characters reimagining, rebuilding, remaking, genre fiction you need to stand up and be counted.

Genre fiction is a family, a family that has always included GLBTQIA. Now, the deepest and most intimate relationships shared by these family members can inform a new kind of story which is welcoming, diverse, and most importantly, Fantastic.

See what we did there?

Written from the heart, these stories can have a huge impact on our genre fiction family. The recent struggles in our awards culture are a sign of how important, how seminal these new voices have become.

The Women and Queers and People of Color are here, they’ve always been here, but only now have we had the courage to publish, read and enjoy these stories without artificial, mass-market constraints.

This particular project is close to the FSI staff’s heart because our families are GLBTQIA families, too. As friends and allies and fathers and we have cheered at the great strides made in recent years by and for and with our families.

This issue (hopefully antho, see our stretch goals!) is our small part, what we can do now, and we offer it to our genre family and our GLBTQ family, with great love and affection.

Sincerely,

Warren Lapine & Jay O’Connell

Posted in Fantastic Stories, Making a Writing Life, My Publications, Reinventing Science Fiction, Social Media Suicide

Cover reveal: Bad Gurus! Three stories by Jay O’Connell from the pages of Asimov’s and F&SF.

BAD-GURUSTo celebrate the publication of my new cover novella “What We Hold Onto,” in the June 2016 Asimov’s I will be releasing an ebook of three reprints; two stories from Asimov’s and one from F&SF. The title is Bad Gurus, as each is a tale of transformation facilitated by an irresponsible agent; a trickster spirit.

Morgan is a rogue amateur psychotherapist obsessed with suicide. Will he fall in love with his new client Ariel or murder her? Or perhaps both?

Achilles, a body-building personality implant, threatens to supplant Garrison, his creator, who loses himself by degrees to the image of the man he thought he wanted to become. Can Achilles be destroyed?

Manuel Peebles–certified Zen Master, Private Detective and Attractiveness Consultant, promises his client Chris love and friendship–if he’ll take his advice, and a dangerous foreign pharmaceutical…

Two of the stories are romances; one is just about personal transformation. All three take place in a quasi-real, weirdly retro near-future I call Black-Net. They’re packed with pathos, dark humor and fun spec-fic gizmos. They’re accessible to genre and non-genre audiences.

 

 

Posted in My Publications

When Dreams Come true…

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 5.43.28 PMSo, this issue of Asimov’s isn’t on the stands yet, I’m guessing, but you can get it on your kindle here.  You can also buy it from Magzter. If you haven’t read Asimov’s, or haven’t read it lately, I suggest you do a free trial.

Read my novella, “What We Hold Onto,” —and the rest of the issue, because Asimov’s stories rock. The Editor, Sheila Williams, has won the Hugo award twice, and is up for it again this year. She deserves to win.

She changed my life, a few years back she bought a few of my stories, and her unwavering support has made all the difference. I write now knowing that I’ve got a decent shot at publication, if I give it my all.

I’m in a different place now, than I have ever been.

I’ve had a bunch of wonderful editors buy my work over the years; Charlie Ryan, Warren Lapine, Ed McFadden, Patrick Swensen, and lately, Gordon Van Gelder, C.c Finlay, and Michael Resnick. But something happened, a few years ago, and I think, maybe, I’ve gotten better at this.

I’m desperately trying to be in this moment and realize, I’m here; I’m being waved in for a landing.

If I want to write novels, theres a chance one might sell.

If you’re lucky in life, you set out to do something hard, that not a ton of people achieve, and you work hard, and you do it. And it feels good. Maybe it takes a year. Maybe it takes five.

Maybe it takes twenty. But you get there.

And you work hard along the way and you make friends. And you help them get there, too, because even though they’re your competition, in one sense, they’re also the only people, who know what it is, to do this thing.

So maybe you find out eventually that the thing you always wanted to do is a thing you can do.

If you never give up.

Never give up.

Never.

Ever.

Give.

Up.

You’ll watch people ten, twenty, thirty years younger, hit your milestone, and you’ll be happy for them, and you’ll try not to be angry at yourself, for giving up, for so long, for not trying harder, for giving in to despair. Oh! So much despair.

For letting go of the dream for five or ten years at a time…

But now is a time for celebration and forgiveness for Not Living Up to One’s Potential. I know time is no longer on my side. Men my age keel over and people kinda shrug; as Louis CK said, there are no candle-light vigils for people dying in their 50s. So I have to get cracking. And I am. I am.

Anyway, I’ll be posting about this issue a crap load of times. This is just the first post. This is the longest piece I’ve sold; the longest piece I’ve written.

I hope you like it. I worked as hard as I know how to on it.

It was also effortless.

The way something you love is effortless, even when it’s more work than you ever imagined.

Excelsior!

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications

A Day Worth Five Thousand Words

So after a few days off traveling with my family—I tried and failed to write crammed in a hotel room with three other people, two of whom I’d helped manufacture—I finally got my ass back in the chair, at my glorious Cafe Mariposa and banged out five thousand words.

They came out sketchy and runny so I pumped them out as audio and listened to them and keyed back into them as I did so, smoothing and straightening and fixing. Five hours whistled away into infinity, gone forever, leaving behind a trail of prose.

Five K is a crazy awesome day, if you’re Ernest Hemingway, and it’s even a good day, if you’re a Indy Pulp writing hack. Could you do that each and every day, you’d write close to two million words words a year, or three short novels a month; or nine big thick novels a year.

Truth be told I’d been thinking up and saving scenes for this thing for awhile, so it was mostly a matter of getting stuff down on pixels that was floating around in my head.

I did a tiny bit of production work for FSI, working on a video for their GLBTQIA Takeover issue, a few loads of laundry and made dinner for the family, and walked a few miles in the freezing fucking cold.

There’s a lot I should talk about. Being off Facebook gives my brain other things to chew on. But I’m wiped out. Maybe tomorrow. But only if I finish my 1800 word minimum.

I’m still behind. I still have 200 and 300 word days. The question is, will I make myself stop having them?

Writing fiction is beginning to feel as deeply wired a habit as, well…

Facebook was. For years and years.

It takes months, to create new habits. I know I’m nowhere near that; this is just a blip on the radar.

But I’m beginning to think that maybe, maybe some sort of success is possible.

 

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

The Value of a Pound of Facebook

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So you know about my Facebook addiction and my Facebook fast, and if you don’t, well, yeah…

Think years of hours-a-day commitment to Building My Brand Online and Creating Reader and Fan Engagement in My Self-Employed Professional Career of… of…

Writing the occasional short story!

While doing this I kept thinking (and dear god I see the meme of that cat behind the newspaper) I should really be blogging, because at least, then, I own that relationship and maybe it is, ah, worth something.

Well. I should really be writing fiction (or non-fiction) that I can sell, right? Well, if you see this, and you know my NO BLOG BEFORE FROG rule you know I wrote my 1800 words today, so I’m indulging myself with conversational typing.

So part of this indulgence is making sure this bullshit I’m typing now actually get’s read. My blog, after publishing professional fiction presented to maybe, total, a million people over the last few decades, gets one to five hits a day. Mostly, people are interested in my post about The Stranger from the Depths, a scholastic YA SF novel from the late sixties.

Because that’s what google is for. Finding out about that stuff.

So, irony of ironies, I decided to use Facebook ads to advertise in Facebook about my Facebook addiction and withdrawal. I popped into my author page (which, in my rules, isn’t cheating, I’m allowed to be there and engage with both of my fans.) and plugged 3 bucks into my Facebook ad account.

I’m also looking for new Indy Author clients, so, you know, soft-sell. Get them over here. See if they want that service and click on that link, there, that one, in the previous sentence, he says, slyly.

Which gets us to the point of this post. Seen in the graph below:

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My time in FB, in terms of converted clicks, turns out to be worth about 37 cents an hour when compared to paid post boosts. (My FB fast is irrelevant; that pre-boost level of clicks from FB never changes. Unless I pay.)

Putting 3 dollars in, two days in a row, more than doubled my traffic from FB; I replaced my 2-4 hours a day of liking, writing, sharing, commenting with 3 bucks, the price of a cup of coffee, and doubled the amount of monetizable movement from FB to something I’m kinda trying to monetize.

So.

Four hours a day of Facebook is worth a dollar fifty, to my brand, to my little frozen banana stand.

So, again, remember, at Facebook, you are the product served. You are the customer for the product you make. You make your friends on FB, you give them your content through the application–and Facebook sells them back to you.

You work for pennies an hour, playing in your feed. Which is fine, as long as you realize, it’s just for fun. It isn’t a professional activity; it isn’t building your personal brand. It’s a waste of time. You build your brand by creating great work that your fans love.

Facebook sells your friends back to you. Thats all it does, until you start plunking big money in. Which I may someday do. But I won’t be splashing around in the feed anytime soon, unless something happens to change my mind. The more I think about it, the more information I gather, the greater my horror is, at having spent so much time there.

My time is worth more than pennies an hour.

So do your work, and skip FB. If you ever want traffic, from your painstakingly built friends list at FB, you’ll have to pay for it anyway.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

A Facebook Addict’s Confession

This is Cal Newport. Not only is a better person than you, he's better looking.

This is Cal Newport. Not only is he a better person than you, he’s better looking.

The Story So Far

I wrote 1000 words of fiction after billing 4 hours, so, I’m letting myself blog. I ate two half-frogs. Google ‘eating the frog’ if that makes no sense.

To recap: I’m in week six of a social media hiatus as prescribed by Cal Newport—famously efficient efficiency expert on writing efficiency novels efficiently while being a tenured MIT computer-science professor and having two young kids who he plays with every night for hours.

Yeah, Cal is a better person than you are. Get over it. Move on! I’m trying to.

Still, I’m using his slightly infuriating and smug assertions from Deep Work to work on my writing, which means working on process, which means working on habits, which means working on behavior, which means working on my brain. My self. The core of my identity.

So. No pressure.

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I have related in this series of pieces the horrific withdrawal pains I’ve experienced. Let’s do a bullet list recap:

  • Insomnia
  • Full-body itching
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Word pressure

Let’s drill into word pressure; it’s a term generally used to describe schizophrenics. (I’m not, by the way.) What this means is that every conversation I have had for weeks, with everyone, I press to its maximum allowable length, and then, a bit more.

I’m exhausting to be around. I piss people off. To my writing-workshop friends and family. I’m sorry. This is still a work in progress.

I had a 2-4 hour-per-day social-media monkey on my back, and I’m hurling those lumps of excess mental monkey-chatter at everyone around me like an outraged poo-flinging orangoutang.

How did I get so sick?

I let myself believe that my social network had value; that those relationships were somehow, monetizable. Even though, at this date, my only monetized relationships grow out of a SF convention in the 90s and my real-world, meat-space writing workshops.

Maybe I’m bad at social media. Maybe I’m better in person. At any rate, the hundreds of days spent in social networks over the last five years have done nothing for me financially. I make one tenth of what I did in the 90s, when I worked in the tech bubble… overselling the internet… and the value of social networks…

Irony!

Here’s the thing about monetizing social networks; you need hundreds of thousands of people for them to be worth more than pocket-change, in the mass-market sense. While a few dozen or hundred people, in the right field, can get you a great job, it takes hundreds of thousands of citizens to generate enough money for you to live on.

Most people playing the social media game get to a few hundred people and get stuck. Now, here’s the horrible horrible thing; a few hundred social media friends feels like you’re doing something. And you are. You’re making fifty cents a day for Facebook. Or twitter. Or Instagram.

So they want you to keep at it.

But to clarify, you are doing nothing, nothing that will ever help you. Unless, as I said, you’re looking for a job, and then, really, use LinkedIn. The only way your social media will help you is if you become, wait for it, another nod to Cal who is better than me, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Social media is like kindling. If you have a spark, it can help that spark catch fire and go viral. No amount of kindling by itself ever ignites. So, look it’s ok to connect and share with friends and family and colleagues and your two fans on FB or twitter, that’s great, if you’re not an addict. Enjoy. You have my blessings.

But until you get good at The Thing Itself, social media isn’t going to help you; and if social media eats 90% of your free time, you’re never going to make it. Your 10,000 hours will be spread out over decades.

Mine were. Learn from me. Learn from Cal, really, but from me, if you find him insufferable.

Do your work; head down; joyfully, in the knowledge that your 10,000 hours will one day create a steel so hard that  you will be able to repeatedly strike a spark.

You’ll be able to gather kindling, when you need it. Keep the little pile you have, but don’t sacrifice more than an hour or two a week to do so.

The thing itself. Your music. Your art. Your writing. Tend to the thing itself. Don’t be a social media addict. Just say no.

I can’t believe I said that.

But just say no.

 

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

Life After Facebook

silhouette in a subway tunnel. Light at End of Tunnel

I find myself clicking into other sites absently looking for something that isn’t there. Writing super-long emails to friends. I don’t have to listen to the mainstream media endlessly explain why I can’t have Bernie Sanders for my candidate, or how we Really Don’t Know what will happen at the GOP convention.

We really don’t know!

Two of the five hundred or so people on friends list have interacted with me, having noticed my absence. But that’s it, after a month.

My word count goals are still a hit or miss thing. Many variables.

How many hours a day was I on FB? For how long?

Say 1.5-2 hours a day for… 4 years? Five years?

(fumbles with calculator… subtracts the week a year fast…

120 days, 24 hour days… call it 200 days, with sleep and going to bathroom and such.

Two hundred days.

Reading. Writing. Forwarding. Liking. Posting photos.

I’ve compiled lists of people to try to stay in touch with in some other way.

I’m trying to pare myself back to something essential, to focus on what I have to do. I have to try to be better than I am. Stretch.

There’s a kind of sadness I call trying to be taller, where you just flail at these impossible to change things about yourself.

I felt like a lot of my striving as a writer was turning into that, but now, I think, maybe I can…

myelinate.

The takeaway: practicing skills over time causes those neural pathways to work better in unison via myelination. To improve your performance, you need to practice FREQUENTLY, and get lots of feedback so you practice CORRECTLY and enhance the right things.

I want to make a fucking t-shirt with the word myelinate on it.

I want to be better than I am.

 

 

 

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

Social Media Suicide Update

social-media-suicide

I could look back, and tell you, how long it’s been. I think a month, since I bathed in my Facebook feed.

Oh, my feed. My lovely, lovely feed.

Full of political outrage. Full of funny photos of baby animals. I haven’t seen a baby animal in a month. Full of the bits and bites of the lives of authors that are important to me. Michael Swanwick’s breakfast. David Gerrold’s latest six thousand words of effortless, sinuous conversational typing, in which he makes heartfelt points with which I always agree.

My political centrist friends will be arching their eyebrows, gently, at my social justice warrior friends, who greatly outnumber them. Sometimes the centrists are saying stupid things without knowing it. Sometimes they know, and just don’t care, that they’re being slightly dickish

And sometimes, they’re just kinda… right. Um.

Berniebots and $hillary fans are doubtlessly facing off against each other. I voted for Bernie, gave him some money, and I’ll vote for Clinton against whatever horror the GOP conjures up in November. Let it go. Let it go.

I’m writing this note, and letting a plug-in gently slip it back into the abandoned shell of my old social media life, to let whoever remembers me, in Zuckerberg’s arc, know that I made my word count today.

2000 of them, baby.

Now the struggle will be, I know, to wind down. To get ready to sleep; to slow my thoughts so that my brain works tomorrow. To obey the circadian rhythms laid down in millions of years of primordial hunter-gatherer noodling about.

To NOT blast blue light into my retinas, stay up all night and all day by electric light. To not work for 48, 72 hours and then collapse sick for a week afterwards.

The data shows, the tortoises win. Four hours a day, creative work, max, or your’e just running down  your machine. Blunting your mental scalpel.

Facebook. How I loved you. But I don’t think I’m coming back any time soon.

There are closed communities of writers; SFWA, indy writers on RRedit, people from whom I can learn, people to whom my chatter might matter and make more sense. I’ll move my social media party there.

I’ll let you know what I’m doing here; as I sink into the abyss of Facebook’s algorithmic afterlife, doubtlessly my posts will be deprecated; you won’t see my blog posts in your feed anymore. Not enough people will see them to like them or like them to see them or whatever, I won’t be making Mark Zuckerberg six cents a day with my 4-6 hours of gratis eyeball glue, so I don’t expect he’ll want to, you know, throw any traffic back at my little frozen banana stand.

That’s not how you get to be a billionaire. You don’t reward the quitters.

Someday, if I’m lucky, you’ll see a book with my name on it, or see an ad or a review for one, and you can buy it, and you’ll feel good about my absence.

Until then,

I bid you peace.

(Channeling an old PBS chef, who had an intern problem and then dropped dead. People in their 50s will remember him. Google it. Sad stuff.)

Ciao.

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Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide
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