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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Twinfessions Collection #2

It's that time again. Another 15 confessions of twindom.
Enjoy.

***




Twinfession #16: The only reason I haven't faked my death and gone on a crime spree blaming my brother is that I'm lazy.


Twinfession #17: The dichotomy of being a twin is that I am unique because I am not unique.


Twinfession #18: If something ever goes wrong with me, I've got a complete set of spare parts!


Twinfession #19: Every magician has a trick that uses a twin. Some can only use that trick once, though.


Twinfession #20: All twins have superpowers, but we don't like to show them off. That would be rude, and we're better than that.


Twinfession #20 b: Except for the Wonder Twins. They suck. You're allowed to hate them.


Twinfession #21: Twin languages are based off the ancient language, Comic Sanskrit.


Twinfession #22: He may be taller, but I'm better-looking.


Twinfession #23: Why yes, we do finish each other's


Twinfession #24: When a twin has twins, it is called "twinception."


Twinfession #25: When twin toddlers use twin language around you, yes, they are talking about you. And no, you don't want to know.


Twinfession #26: You'd think being twins is good on April Fool's. It's not. It's not a prank if no one ever finds out you're not your twin.


Twinfession #27: The StarTrek negaverse is populated by lost twins. If you have a twin in this universe, there is no negative you there.


Twinfession #28: Twins don't really exist. It's all just smoke and mirrors.


Twinfession #29: Twins have different fingerprints, which is why I made gloves that have my brother's prints. You don't want to know how.


Twinfession #30: When twins faceswap, nothing happens... until you look away. #faceportal



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Website!

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night!

Since I have been focusing on becoming more professional, I took it upon myself to begin setting up a personal website.  I went ahead and got a head shot, asked my brother to work on a few images for me, and started working on the layout.

Although it is still a work in progress, spencerhixon.com is now live!

Don't worry, faithful readers; I have not abandoned my blog.  Granted, I should be posting more often in it, but I will still be posting regularly here.  I have simply linked here from my website.  And I'll likely start putting my new website info in all the right places as I discover them.

However, I have more good news.

On June 1, 2017, I was given my third Daily Deviation award on DeviantArt.com!  It was for my Twinfessions Collection #1!  Amazing!  I now have over 400 followers over on DeviantArt!  So, I will likely start updating there was well as here.

Things are looking up!  But I've still got my fingers crossed that I will get the agent I really want.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Power Overwhelming

Hi.

My name is Spencer.

And I'm an altaholic.

What is an altaholic?  Well, it means I play video games (or at least I used to).  It means I play MMORPGs.  It means that WHEN I play an MMO, I generally make a lot of characters.

For instance, my favorite game of all time, City of Heroes (may she rest in peace), allowed me to have something like twelve characters per server, and there were some twelve or so servers (rough estimate, I can't really remember the exact numbers).  I had easily eighty characters on that game, and each one had a back story, and I played each one (some more than others). Of course, only two or three of them made it to max level. Can you guess that I'm a writer?

There's just something satisfying about being a hero and saving the day.

I play Gemstone 4, a text-based MUD (Multi-User Dimension) and have quite a few alts on that game, but it is more intense in its player interaction, and the drama at times is too much.

I've been playing Lord of the Rings Online (LoTRO), and have tried to break that trend.  I have one character I actually play, a Beorning (think "werebear").  And I like her a lot.  But I do somewhat miss the ability to just jump around from one life to another.

Sadly for all of these games, writing has taken its toll.  City of Heroes/Villains is alas no more, but I never have really replaced it.  I love GS4 and my friends in it, but it seems I have less and less time, and when I don't show up I feel guilty and then stop answering/looking at emails from friends about it.  I haven't played it in months because I've been so focused on finishing my novel.  And though friends from college are trying to get me to play LoTRO with them, the timing is terrible because of the kids.  I feel guilty asking my wife to feed, bathe, and put the kids away once or twice a month on a Saturday so I can play a game online, even though I spend most of my time with the kids and do not often get to spend time of any sort with adults.  And now my second- and third- favorite games (Starcraft and Guitar Hero/Rock Band, because let's face it, they're close enough to the same game) have come back into my life, but I feel guilty again when I try to play them during my free time, because I could/should be spending that time writing.

For me, a formerly-avid gamer, becoming a writer has been a sacrifice.  Combined with being a stay-at-home dad of two, even my hobby of brewing beer has taken a major hit.

But it's not just my hobbies.  I used to be very social, and, as I mentioned before, I now have only a few opportunities to spend time with adults. I've joined the Masons, but can only meet with them about once a month, and I'm much younger than most of them.  I have friends who come over once a week to play board games.  And I go to church with the family once a week.  But I do not have work mates.  I do not have nearly as many friends as I used to.  I do not have any family in the area except for my kids and wife.  You must remember, I'm an identical twin, so having someone with me all the time is part of how I was raised, of how I think.

This week, my wife went out of town and I had the kids.  This isn't the first time this has happened.  But it *is* the first time this has happened while both kids were able to walk/run around, to get into things, to get on each other's nerves (as well as my own).
It is exhausting.
I get up by 6:30 (and being a night owl, I'm unused to this) to get my daughter off to school on time. I spend the next hours playing with my son, who now wants to get into everything and chase the poor kitties. While he naps, I try to get some work done in finding an agent. Usually I have to hold him to get him to sleep, and if I put him down he wakes up cranky.  Lunch happens at some point, and if I need to go out, I have to do it after he wakes up. But I have to be back early to pick my daughter up from the bus. By 3, she's complaining about being hungry (even though I just gave her a snack) as I feed the baby. By 4, I've been arguing with her for an hour about getting her five minutes of homework done. Cleaning has to happen while I watch them. Normally, I get dinner started at 4:30 to 5, but luckily I was able to get a bunch of pre-made tacos this week. Still, I've had other things, like dance and making food for the Masons, that have taken up that time instead. After dinner, there's a brief period for play (and cleaning/feeding the baby more), followed by bath and bed time at 7. She's hopefully actually IN bed by 8, and I'm sitting there with over-tired baby who is fighting sleep until 9:30 (I need to work at getting a sleep schedule down for him). And then I'm dead tired and just go to bed. Of course, he often wakes up a few times at night, which can lead to hours of lost sleep.  I understand now why my wife turns in so early.  Previously, I got up at 7:30 to 8:30, when the baby woke up.  I went to bed somewhere between midnight and 2, usually because I'm writing at night.  It's amazing how much more energy it takes to care for the kids with no relief.

How do single moms do it?
I can only imagine that they have some sort of support system of friends and family that I mostly lack. Either that, or they make enough money to afford a nanny or daycare.  Because it's not like I can just choose to stay up later.  I'm exhausted at night. I'm lucky I haven't fallen asleep before the baby does.
So hats off to single moms and dads.  You are the true heroes.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Branding

So a good step in getting an agent is to get an audience first.  Agents like knowing the person has saleability.  In an attempt to get a larger audience, I have decided to do several things:


  • Return to writing short stories.  I will be writing more short stories that involve my characters and genre, and sending them to actual journals like http://glimmertrain.com and the like.
  • Create a website.  I need a professional author website to give agents and readers some place to go to if they show interest in me.  I'm still figure out exactly how to do this...
  • Professionalize.  I need a headshot, icons, business cards, newsletter/email list, etc.
  • Start a Patreon.  In case you aren't aware, patreon.com is a place where artists can offer special incentives to people in exchange for money.  I may very well use this to promote myself using unique short stories and other opportunities.
  • Social Media.  I already have a facebook page (and now I have two), a twitter, a Tumblr, and a DeviantArt page. Now I need to start utilizing them better, to start using them more, and to spread to other forms of social media.
  • Try out other forms of media.  I have an idea of making a trailer for my book, as well as possibly a short webcomic series to familiarize people with my characters and world.  Images could also be very helpful.
It is a LOT of work.  Whoever said being a writer was easy never tried.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

How to get Published Step One: Don't Despair

I've spent the last several days reading up on just what it takes to be a published author.  Let me tell you, it's not easy. Then again, you knew that already, didn't you?

There are a lot of things that one needs to consider, not the least of which is "HOW do you want to be published?"  Do you want to go through a traditional publisher?  Would you prefer a smaller one?  Want to crowd-source your novel?  Print-by-demand and do all the work yourself?

The trouble I see with ALL of these approaches is the same: fat chance.

Fat chance getting the eye of an agent.
Fat chance getting selected by the publisher.
Fat chance that the publisher will give your novel more than 90 seconds to sell it to a distributor.
Fat chance the publisher will do very much to promote your book.
Fat chance that a smaller publisher will give you the audience you want.
Fat chance that you'll be able to find a large enough audience to successfully crowd-source your novel.
Fat chance that you'll be able to get your novel into any stores if you do it all yourself.
And no matter which route you take, fat chance you'll make any money at it.

Of course, fat chance is better than no chance.  If you don't try it, you have no chance at succeeding. And, of course, you can increase your chances by doing the right work.  Make a blog.  Use twitter.  Read the work of others.  Write short stories to promote yourself.  Learn how to write a synopsis, query letter, outline, etc., then DO IT.  Learn how to brand yourself.

Take the time.

But most importantly, don't despair.

Despairing is what I'm struggling against right now.  I just came off the high of having finished my novel and now I see that the chance that my work of the last 6 years will succeed is low.  What have I been doing with my time?  And I've never HAD to brand myself, so I don't really know how.  More research is needed.  I'm going to need to learn how to adjust my time between being a stay-at-home dad, a writer, and a promoter. It's hard enough just finding the time to WRITE while watching the kids. I've had to surrender most TV and some time with my wife. Now I have some major decisions I will have to make.  It is a lot of work.

I just want to make sure that it is worth it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Sinister Love

I have finally done it!  I have finished my first novel!  Hopefully soon, you will be able to purchase A Sinister Love and enjoy it yourself.

I started this journey about 6 years ago.  I've dedicated endless weekends and getaways, nap times and nights to the pursuit of this goal.  In that time, I've had 2 kids, moved, discovered that I have early-onset arthritis, and made dozens of friends. The rough draft was finished nearly 4 years ago, but the editing process has been grueling, fulfilling, time-consuming, thorough, and all-too-often side-tracked.  Despite this, I did not relent. Despite the self-doubt that I would ever finish or that it was any good, I pushed through.  Despite giving up TV, games, and really most of my free time, I pressed onward.

I'm stoked. I'm proud. I'm ecstatic that I'll be taking the next step to sharing my writing with everyone.

So, in the days, weeks, months (years?) to come, expect updates from me about my journey through the publishing process.  I do not plan to stop writing, but I do plan to split my time between writing and pursuing publication.

Next on my writing agenda?  I have a number of projects I want to pursue.  In no particular order, the first is a sequel (or two) to A Sinister Love, which is still being brainstormed and fleshed out.  Second, I would like to try to return to short stories once in a while.  Third, I have a creative nonfiction story about a girl with cancer that I wish to tell, based loosely on my family's experiences. It is my hope that these do not take me 6 years to write.

In case you want to know about how I wrote the story, I'll tell you below.  If you don't care, you can get off the train now and no one will blame you.  But I am happy you were here to share in my victory.

So there are a ton of blogs and books and courses on "how to write."  The topic is huge and includes grammar, style, plots, tropes, dialogue, and pacing. Because of this, I will not go into details here. I would say that the general rules I've gleaned are: 1) Know your audience. Write with them in mind, even if "them" is "you."  If you enjoy reading it, chances are someone else will, too. 2) Don't stop.  Write everyday. 3) Don't be afraid of editing. It is your friend.  Erasing huge swathes of your novel is just part of the game.  Think of it more like a chance to replace a flat tire with a brand-spanking-new one. 4) Don't stop. Write everyday. 5) Don't be afraid of critiquing.  Not only should you critique other works (it can really help you out as a writer, too), but you should be open to the criticisms of others.  That doesn't mean to make all their suggested changes; it's your novel, not theirs.  6) Read.

So, first, when I wrote, I tried to set aside an environment for it.  For me, writing in public helps keep me focused, especially if I'm plugged in to some non-distracting music. What that music is changes according to my mood. It ranges from the soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi to Debussy to Metal.  But most of the time I had to write at home.  Keeping awake was a problem when at home, where being comfy leads to sleep.

When writing, I first outline.  Then I wrote the first draft.  That was the longest one to write, taking a good 2 to 3 years. It was not pretty.  I even had a section that just said, "COME BACK TO THIS POINT AND FILL IN WITH HISTORY." After that, I went over it again, filling in holes, reworking dialogue, and generally working at the grammar.  This, which I called my first draft, I was willing to have a select group of people read.  I did so and got some general feedback.  The second and third drafts were based partly on this, but mostly on my own feedback.

The fourth and fifth rounds of edits were the most important, I feel.  I started taking my work with me, two chapters at a time, to a critiquing group that meets locally twice a month.  It took me a year (I think) to get through the entire piece.  My fellow authors were able to bring a variety of opinions and points of view to my work, and in good detail, highlighting what needed to be fixed (in both small and grand scales) and what needed to stay.  I learned a lot from them, and got to critique their work as well.  The fourth round of edits was mostly addressing their suggestions, and the fifth round was going back and tackling some of the major changes I personally realized I needed to make to the story after hearing their feedback.  Then, after a brief read through, I made the last edits on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017.

...at least until a publisher or agent gets their hands on it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What a novel idea

For the past *cough* years I have been busy writing my novel, as well as raising a family and being a stay-at-home dad.  Turns out being a stay-at-home dad is still a lot of work.  But I've managed to finish the novel and get through several rounds of edits!

At the moment I am finishing up the most major round of edits yet.  These are the edits that respond to what my critiquing group said about the novel.  Of course I'm not taking every suggestion; it is my novel, after all, not theirs.  But for the most part these are good suggestions and I feel the novel is much stronger now.

The problem is, I am in chapter 30 of 34 in these edits.  And I have learned something about writing a novel.

Edits are like snowballs.  They might start out small, but by the end of the novel, they can be a hassle to deal with.  If you start off with big edits, it's going to be quite a job rewriting the last few chapters to make sure everything fits the way it should.

I just finished a very difficult conversation in the novel, but I don't know if it's good or not.  I can't really tell.  I usually have good dialogue, but at this point I'm just going to rely on that and push forward.  The next chapter is going to be another major rewrite.  Then, I FINALLY will be past the hardest parts.  Once I am past 31, 32-34 should be relative smooth sailing!

And then the hard part begins.  Publication.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Let's celebrate

If you haven't guessed something about me, I am what most people would label a "liberal."  At least, the more polite would.  I don't like labels of this kind, as they do not fully encapsulate my mindset.  or instance, I am also pro-life.  Not crazy "murder the doctors" and "march through the streets with a dead fetus on a cross" sort of pro-life.  Logically pro-life.  But that is not the point of this.

I also do not like putting politics up on my blog.  It is a place to talk about and post my writings, not my ideologies, though sometimes the two will mix.  In fact, I am currently eating lunch while on my person writing retreat.  The goal is a lofty one: finish my novel!  Let's see if I can meet it.  I've got 7 chapters to go.  So I will make this short.

This IS a political post, because I cannot pretend that these things are not important.  I cannot remain silent.  I've watched this first week of Trump's unfold like a train wreck.  They said give him a chance.  Well, I think he's had it.  You'd think that the "president" with the lowest approval rating coming into office since they've started measuring approval ratings would have nowhere to go but up...  sadly that is not the case.

Trump is slapping America, and the world, in the face.  Here's just a hint of it.
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. How did Trump celebrate it?
He signed an order to implement "extreme vetting" on those coming to America from Muslim-majority countries (except for the ones where he has major businesses, go figure), which is currently causing many people to be stranded or held in custody.  And don't think he's singling out Muslims?  HA!  Those who go to the front of the line are those who belong to "a minority religion in the country of nationality."  Did you understand that?  Muslin-majority, non-muslims get priority.
Back in WWII, this is what the rest of the world (particularly America) did to the Jews who tried to flee Nazi Germany.

Let's recap.
Trump signed an order restricting members of a specific religion from fleeing to America from their war-torn countries on the day where we remember those who DIED in part because America refused to allow members of a specific religion to flee to them from their war-torn country.

This is coming from the most powerful and childish man in the world.
So what do I say?  I say, let's make sure to celebrate ALL THE LOUDER those who died, to remember more deeply the atrocities that were committed.  Whenever there is any event that Trump feels the need to sully, we must make sure to remind people of what really matters, not what the bloviating blow-hard-in-chief wants us to think.

It was also announced that he is indeed going to go forward with a Muslim registry.  Does this man not know his history, or does he simply think the rest of the world has forgotten?

So it is today that I would like to announce that, if a Muslim registry is created, I will be registering as a muslim.