Author Archive

On Creative Burnout (#SFWApro)

I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about creative burnout and self-care. Because I think sometimes we all push ourselves too hard, and we all deserve a break.

There’s nothing wrong with stepping back from our work once in a while. Digging into one’s soul to tell stories, craft images, or to create anything, can be an exhausting process.

But life takes its toll on all of us. Health concerns, financial worries, family obligations, other full-time work … they all put stress on us. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I sometimes feel as if our field puts too much emphasis on the need to make measurable progress every day. Write “X” words every day. Post a certain number of tweets. Produce, produce, produce.

Artists are not machines. We need to recharge. To rest. To think. To dream. Sometimes, what we think is “writer’s block” is more than just a sign of a problem with our project: in some cases, it’s a warning of burnout.

Too many of us have been conditioned to stigmatize the idea of stepping away from our work, not just for a day, but maybe for weeks, or months, or longer. There are those who make us feel like failures if we do.

I’ve been my own worst critic in such situations. Beat myself up emotionally for not working when what I really needed was to embrace the downtime. I needed time this past year to process bad news on multiple fronts.

What I’m trying to say is, cut yourself some slack. If you can afford to do so, be willing to walk away from a blank page. Self-care — whether physical or psychological — is not sloth. Downtime is not a sin.

When you’ve healed, when you’ve regained your strength, your focus, your time … you’ll know it. Your muse will return. Ideas will flow again. But first you need to care for yourself and those around you.

There’s no sure-fire, one-size-fits-all formula for recovering from burnout. Maybe you need medical care, or talk therapy. Or the right chat with a friend. Maybe you just need time and solitude.

But when it comes to survival, you owe it to yourself to be a little bit selfish. As they say on airplanes, put your own mask on first before you try to help others. Catch your breath.

Remember: the creative life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Pace yourselves, my friends.

#SFWApro

Con Fusion 2020 – My Schedule

For those of you planning on attending or bar-conning How to Train Your Con Fusion next week, here is my schedule for the con:

THURSDAY 1/16

7:00 PM — St. Clair Room
Guests-of-Honor Dinner

FRIDAY 1/17

12:00 PM — Manitou Room
Finance for Career Fiction Writers
LaShawn M. Wanak (m), David Mack
 
4:00 PM — Charlevoix Room
The Business of Comics Writing For Prose Writers
David Mack, Seanan McGuire, Richard C. White

SATURDAY 1/18

11:00 AM — Saugatuck Room
Reading: David Mack, K.A. Doore, Richard White
 
3:00 PM — St. Clair Room
Mass Autographing Session
 
I hope to see old friends, make some new ones, and enjoy drinks and conversation with fans and pros alike!
 
The convention’s full schedule is here.

Neil Peart, Sept. 12, 1952–Jan. 7, 2020 #RIP

I was standing in a pharmacy this afternoon when my phone rang. It was my dear friend Randy Giudice calling from Los Angeles. I hadn’t heard from Randy in some time, so I picked up right away.

He was the one who broke the news to me that my hero, Neil Peart of Rush, had died:

Shattered. Gutted. Bereft. That’s where I am right now.

I never had the honor of meeting Neil, (as I did with his Rush band-mates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, in 2007), but Neil once sent me a brief but friendly email, as thanks for naming a character in his honor in my first pair of published Star Trek novels, A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal.

I wish I could have known the man behind the drum kit; I wish I could have had the chance someday to call the Professor a friend. Now that hope is forever quashed, and a measure of my joy in this life departs with him.

Neil Peart was more to me than a musician and an author in a band that I’ve loved most of my life. He was an inspiration to me, a guiding star, a talent who gave words and form to ideas that helped me find my own way as an artist and as a person.

Almost every work of prose I’ve ever published has contained some form of homage, either subtle or overt (usually overt), to Neil Peart’s lyrics. He was my idol — which, given his aversion to the notion of idolatry, is somewhat ironic.

I will always treasure the body of work that he and Rush created and shared with the world, and my grieving heart goes out to his family, his friends, and his colleagues.

All the world’s a stage, but the Professor has just made his exit, stage left.

Goodbye, Neil.

#RIPNeilPeart

I’ll be reading @ Fantastic Fiction at KGB Bar WED 11.20.19

If you’re going to be in New York City and just can’t enough of my prose style or the dulcet tones of my voice, know that I’ll reading at the next Fantastic Fiction at KGB Bar event, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, starting at 7PM.

I’ll be reading a couple of new scenes from my new Dark Arts novel The Shadow Commission (coming June 9, 2020, from Tor Books). Fellow author Max Gladstone will be reading new material, and trust me, you don’t want to miss that.

More information, including the event’s address and other details, at the link:

An art commission honoring Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy

Now that the news has been shared by the artist, I am excited to share this here: I’ve commissioned from internationally acclaimed fine artist Robert Mars a new original resin-coated painting that honors Star Trek and the late great Leonard Nimoy.

Rob has posted on his Instagram feed photos that document the creation of his work-in-progress. I don’t know yet what title (if any) Rob has given the piece (which is nearing completion).

I’ve loved Star Trek all my life, and my favorite member of the original crew was Spock. I asked Rob to incorporate the famous image of Nimoy in costume leaning against a Buick for two reasons:

First, it’s a damned cool photo.

Second, Rob’s oeuvre is based on nostalgia, 1960s Americana, pop culture, classic cars and signage, and other vintage iconography.


I felt the image of Nimoy/Spock and the Buick would lend itself to a work that would be both unique within Robert Mars’s body of work while also fitting organically into it.

I’ve loved Rob’s work for many years, ever since I met him. It has long been one of my aspirations to own a Robert Mars original, and very soon I will welcome Rob when he comes to install this gorgeous creation in my and Kara’s home.

Live long and prosper, Rob.

Iron Codex on sale, plus Dark Arts news (#SFWApro)

If you’ve read The Midnight Front, Book 1 of my Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books, and you want to read more of my black-magic secret-history series, eBooks of Book 2, The Iron Codex, go on sale this Friday, October 25, 2019, for just $2.99.

The Iron Codex is a classic Cold War-era spy thriller, in the style of John Le Carré or Ian Fleming, mixed with Renaissance-era ceremonial black magic. I like to describe it as “Hellfire heats up the Cold War.”

The fine folks at Tor Books are offering U.S. readers an unbeatable price on eBooks of The Iron Codex, this Friday through the end of Halloween.

With Dark Arts, Book 3, The Shadow Commission, recently back from copy editing and slated for publication on June 9, 2020, now is a good time to get caught up on my action-packed series.

If you’d like to know more about the Dark Arts series, check out this new video interview of yours truly, conducted by Carl Birkmeyer of the Baltimore County Public Library. We talked about the origin of the series, its magic system, and its principal themes.

#SFWApro

C3 Con Wrap-up

Kara and I are home and unwinding after a wonderful weekend at the Creatures, Crime & Creativity (aka C3) con in Columbia, MD.

I was the Friday night keynote speaker, and Saturday night’s keynote was by the delightful Julie Hyzy.

C3 also marked my wife Kara’s first time as a panelist at a con! (She’s in the picture above, seated to the far right.) After all these years of supporting me from the audience, Kara got to be one of the panelists, for Friday afternoon’s “Living with a Professional Liar: Writers’ Spouses/Partners”. As I’d expected, she was witty, charming, and relaxed.

I can’t say enough good things about C3. It was well-organized and housed in a lovely space, and the panels were run by superbly prepared moderators, and attended by keenly interested writers of varying experience levels. This is a relaxed con for people who take writing seriously.

I need to thank con organizer Austin S. Camacho for inviting me to deliver a keynote address (something I’d done only once before, as a commencement speaker at my former high school). But the best part of the con was making many wonderful new friends, including Dr. Glenn Parris, Dana King, Denise Camacho, Corky King, Shawn A. Cosby, Julie Hyzy, Serg Koren, David Simms, and others who I hope will forgive me for neglecting to recall their names off the top of my head, but it’s late and I’m tired.

The definite highlights of my weekend at C3 were getting to know Julie Hyzy (whose childhood and path to authorship paralleled mine far more closely than I had thought possible) and spending time with Shawn A. Cosby, whose “Noir at the Bar” reading (“Doubt Not That the Stars Are Fire”) blew me away.

A great weekend, and one I’d heartily commend to anyone who would be keen to spend a weekend among others who take the craft of writing (but not themselves) seriously.