So You're New Here?

NBC-the-more-you-know-300x197There's always someone diving into the writer pool. Some new, hopeful soul wanting to "make it", or "get published". Someone who decides they're going to be an Author-with-a-capital-A. All of us start off as rookies. And being the newb can be scary. I mean, traditional publishing already comes with this weird cloak of mystery. It can sometimes feel like you need to know the secret handshake just to follow someone on Twitter. So, here is some free Rookie Author 101 advice for those who are doing the writing thing and want to go pro. 1. Research.

Seriously, I can't stress this one enough. I know I've gone on and on about it at length before, but it's ridiculously important. If you're going to start submitting to magazines, agents, publishers, editors and such hoping for publication, your first job (other than writing a good piece) is to do your research. Follow publishing professionals on Twitter and other social media. Join up on the message boards on Absolute Write Water Cooler, QueryTracker, The Grinder, and Preditors and Editors. Whenever you're looking at potential submissions, check them out at the above places. Look up their submission guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Find out how your favorite authors got where they are and learn from that. Above all else, you need to do this legwork.

2. Get serious about your social media.

blogthisIf you're on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, know that once you start submitting your work to agents, editors and publishers, other people are going to come looking for you. Those same people you've researched? When you submit work to them, they will probably check you out if they're interested in your work. They want to know that you're professional, that you can work well within certain confines of the job, and that you can also be discreet.

How can you appear more professional?

  • Don't flame other authors, professionals. Don't like something someone said or did? Get a rejection letter from that agent? Don't go plastering it on your Twitter feed for the world to see.
  • Did you get an offer of representation or publication five minutes ago? Sweet! Don't post about it on Facebook yet. In fact, many publishers and agents ask that you don't mention anything until after you've all signed the appropriate contracts. Hell, I've got amazing news that I'm still not at liberty to tell you guys. I've been holding on to it since before Christmas. Part of the publishing industry is keeping things close to the chest. It starts with your social media before you've even gotten your first contract.
  • Do NOT post screengrabs of rejection or acceptance letters. Why? First of all, if it contains a professional's email address, that's highly unprofessional. Many agents' emails are public due to the nature of the submissions process, but some agencies rely on a generic slush email and distribute to specific agents after that first contact. Editors? They can be EXTREMELY secretive about their professional emails and with good cause. Can you imagine if your already burgeoning inbox suddenly got a glut of slush stories because some author posted your email address on Twitter? Furthermore, not every acceptance is identical. Your letter may offer something different than the next author, and those terms can be sensitive. And, again, posting these things shows a lack of discretion on your part. Authors who can't be discreet can be harder to work with. Authors who are hard to work with....? They get less work.
  • Do NOT solicit advice from strangers on the Internet. You think you want your favorite author to read your story? Don't ask her. Did you get a contract and now you need another set of eyes on it? Do not go asking random authors/strangers on Twitter to do this for you. You're about to make a major business decision. Now, if you've met an editor/agent/author at a convention and they've offered to help you, or if a professional has a blog that is open to questions and such, by all means, use that resource. However, it is bad form to send a total stranger a message asking, "Could you please help me make a legal choice?"

3. Remember that people talk with one another.

judging you

That shit you talked online? Yeah, someone saw that. The comment you made at a convention? Someone heard you. The letter you sent to that agent who rejected you? She told her colleagues about it.

Publishing is a very tight community. We all talk to each other and word travels quickly. Remember that.



4. Talk to other people.

See that above comment? Make it work for you. Talk to other authors in the querying process. Get involved on forums, use private chats, and talk. Just as word about authors behaving badly will spread quickly, so will news of an agent being a dick. We authors talk. We know who to avoid, who is a total douche at conventions, who is an absolute dream to hang out with even though her Twitter is acerbic and vulgar....we know which editors get back to authors quickly and we know which agents take 6 months to request a partial. Make the community work in your favor by digging into it and being a part of it.

5. Remember Wheaton's Law.

Don't be a dick.

Seriously. Everyone has an off day. Everyone gets rejected, or pissed off, or confused, or scared. Writing can be lonely. Pursuing publication can be terrifying and isolating (because your friends and family don't always get it.) But remember that everyone you're dealing with is a person with their own story. That agent is just getting back from maternity leave. That editor who hasn't responded in the past two hours? Just had neck surgery. That author you're trying to talk with at a convention is on a deadline, stressed about family and really doesn't do well with crowds. One of the best lessons to learn early in your career is to treat people with respect and humanity. Be kind.


Not everyone has an Obi Wan Kenobi to show them the ropes of the publishing industry. A lot of people have learned by doing, making mistakes and getting back up. But a lot of resources exist to make your job a little easier. Blogs, message boards, books, social media feeds, websites... it's all there for you to use to your advantage. (You'll still make mistakes, but hopefully they'll be less painful than they otherwise might be if you go it alone.)

#YesAllWomen... Even Me.

WARNING: This post will have some very personal information detailing my experiences with abuse and misogyny. Family may not want to read this post. Also, it may contain triggers for those who have had similar experiences with violence, sexual assault, molestation and rape. Please feel free to click away and join me at another time. Also, I suggest that everyone who feels they can take the time to read the #YesAllWomen thread on Twitter. It is illuminating, inspiring, sickening and devastating.  So... I've been sitting here staring at this blank screen for a while now. I spent a lot of yesterday the same way. Just looking at this blank space to write a blog post and wondering how or where to begin. If I should write it at all.

"Because 25 years later I'm scared to tell..."

I've written before that I was molested before the age of 10. I've told people--mostly women and my sexual partners--bits and pieces of that experience. But I've never told any one single person the entirety of it. I've been too scared to give any one person that much power. Even the people I know who love me and would never abuse that power. I have been too afraid to grant it. I've doled out certain details of my experience while holding back. For 25 years.

He was my neighbor. He was 13. I was 9.

Don't write this, Jamie. You can't tell. You'll hurt people. You didn't know what was going on so you misinterpreted it. He was scared and coming from an abusive home. He was dealing with homosexuality and didn't know how to cope with his own shit. Don't write this. It won't help anyone.

You see? This is what it's like in my head. And that's what it was like before I tweeted EVERY. SINGLE. TWEET. to the #YesAllWomen hashtag. That reluctance to speak up.

Don't make waves. Be a good girl. It's over. That was 25 years ago. Don't go back to the past and dredge it all up. It can stay where it is locked inside. You're over it. 

Apparently, I'm not. Because I've not only tapped into my own shame and self-doubt, I've also found catharsis in reading the #YesAllWomen feed. And I've found strength. The courage to say...

...he tricked me. We were playing a game. Pretending to be Ghostbusters. We went into the apartment building across the street from our townhouses and...

Don't do this. You've never told anyone all of it. How can you possibly think about blogging it? Telling EVERYONE? Don't do this. 

...he took me to a closet downstairs. It was supposed to be a laundry area with a single washer and dryer for the tenants to use, but it was empty.

My hands are shaking as I type this. 

He said we could pretend it was an elevator.  Then, "Uhoh...looks like the elevator broke." He put his arms around me and shoved his knee between mine, forcing my legs apart. He started to kiss me.

I didn't like it. I felt uncomfortable. Like I would get in trouble. And I was afraid, though I couldn't quite understand why. I pushed him away with an awkward smile. "Nope. It works just fine."

I made to open the door and he got in front of me. "Nope. Broken again. Looks like we're stuck."

He put himself between me and the door, locked me in his arms and again put his knee between my legs. He started kissing me again, rubbing his hands on me and grinding against me.

My stomach knotted. This was wrong. I didn't want this and I didn't feel safe. I felt scared. But is this what boyfriends and girlfriends were supposed to do? If I stopped him, would he--then my only friend in the new apartment--stop being my friend? Seriously...these were my thoughts at the time. I was 9 years old and already I'd been conditioned to worry about what he would do if I tried to stop him (again). I'd heard him screaming outside at night, yelling at his mother. I'd seen the holes punched in his walls. He'd said his stepdad did that. Right? What would he do if I tried to make him stop?

All while I'm thinking this stuff, I'm frozen. I'm not kissing him back or doing anything to physically urge him on. I couldn't say anything because my brain was locked up. And I was afraid. I could see his eyes in the dark closet and they were hungry. He didn't seem to see me. It was like he saw prey.

Scared, uncertain, stunned, I just stood there while he touched me and kissed me.

Then someone came up to the closet and pounded on the door. "I know you're in there!"

He shoved me over into the corner and blocked my body with his. I ducked down, making myself as small as possible...relieved that we'd been interrupted but also terrified that we'd been busted. What if they told my mom? What if I got in trouble?

The woman (late teens, early twenties I think? I never paid her much attention) who lived across the street from me was there with the head maintenance man of the apartment complex. I couldn't see them well, but I saw enough to know they were there. I stayed down and out of the way, hoping they wouldn't see me.

"I know you've got that girl in there," she snapped. He made excuses. I stayed quiet. She kept saying he was lying. The maintenance guy finally pulled her away, giving Bobby the benefit of the doubt or something. Rather than closing the door, though, Bobby was scared and pulled me out of the closet. We sneaked out of the building and around.

That was the first of 3 times he molested me...each time nothing more than touching above the clothes, but all of them terrified me.

I told an adult that he'd tried to rape me. I didn't know the words for what he did. What I knew was that he made me afraid and if we hadn't been discovered, I would've been in a very bad position. The adult I told didn't believe me. "You didn't understand. You don't know what you're saying. That's not what happened." And left it at that. I didn't tell anyone else because I didn't want to look stupid. I didn't want someone to not believe me again. And maybe I didn't know. Maybe that's not what really happened, right?

When I told someone that I thought we were boyfriend/girlfriend, he started chasing me home from school every day, screaming at me and hitting me.

He moved away a few months later.  I contemplated suicide. I went to a therapist but never mentioned anything about him or our time in the closet. No one asked.

Three years later, when I was in 7th grade, I saw him again at my junior high. I started having nightmares where he came back to my house and raped me, killed me. I had panic attacks every day because we passed each other in the halls. He moved up to the high school. I had another bout of suicidal depression.

Tenth grade... I walked into my psych class to find him sitting there. PSYCH CLASS! With the guy who'd caused a shit ton of my psychological issues. I remember one day the teacher started talking about aversions. He wrote the word "RAT" on the board and talked about how if people were afraid of rats, they might not even be able to look at that word. When someone chuffed a laugh at how stupid this was, the teacher changed the word from rat to "RAPE". People grew a little more somber. I crouched in my seat, burning with embarrassment and fear. Bobby was still sitting two rows away... just sitting there. The teacher described how someone who'd been raped might react to seeing that word... he described me to a tee.... burrowing down, shaking, sweating, red-faced.

I couldn't get out of that class... that would mean telling. That would mean dredging up the past. So I stuck it out. On the last day of class, I handed Bobby a note saying he had no more power over me.

I thought it was over.

I saw him a few times after that... and still had panic attacks. I still look him up online 25 years later to make sure I won't be surprised to see him at the grocery store. That's how I found out that Bobby is gay.

It has taken me 25 years to understand that he was dealing with shit. His stepdad was abusive. He was probably very scared to be gay in that house and trying to understand himself. I've made excuses for Bobby and what he did to me. It's also taken me 25 years to understand that the woman who discovered us in that closet wasn't trying to get us into trouble. She wasn't trying to haul me out and brand me with some scarlet letter.... she was trying to help. She knew--at least on some level--what was going on. And she was trying to stop it.

My daughter is one year younger than I was when all of this happened. And that's a fact that terrifies me. She seems so little. So young and innocent.

25 years later I still make excuses and question myself. Maybe it's not real. Maybe it wasn't actually so sinister. He was confused.

And that's what women deal with daily. We excuse the behavior of others. "boys will be boys". Or "he's just mean because he likes you". Or "he couldn't help himself". Or "You should take it as a compliment."

There's a constant prattle of shame and doubt and it's not just in the media or our culture it's IN OUR HEADS! We do this to ourselves. AND EACH OTHER! There are women using the #YesAllWomen to shame others into silence.

Misogyny, violence against women, rape culture, male entitlement... it's all real. We know it's not all men, but we're trained from an early age to be on guard because it could be ANY man. Friends, uncles, fathers, neighbors... you can't tell from looking. We know it's not all men! I'm blessed with a husband, and my father, and male friends that I've never feared.

But I have stories. That one time at a concert when I said hi to a guy who then thought that was an invitation to get into my car and make out with me. AND HE WAS MARRIED! The time I was at marching band rehearsal and we were on a break. I left my drums on, but pulled them up to lighten the stress on my hips and a guy said, "What's the matter, bitch? Does your pussy hurt?" AND NO ONE THOUGHT THERE WAS A DAMN THING WRONG WITH THAT COMMENT. Just two weeks ago I told a complete stranger that I would pretend to be her girlfriend to get the creeper to leave her alone!

The catcalls. The slaps on the ass. The crass comments and rude gestures. The leers at the bus stop or patronizing comments at conventions. They are all symptoms of this BULLSHIT.

And that's not all of them. And I'm not the only one.

Someone tweeted to the #YesAllWomen thread yesterday that it's part of female bonding to begin comparing survival stories. It's true. I've been in a group of women where we traded stories and survival techniques. Being "just one of the guys" is not just part of my personality, it's a survival skill. Carrying your keys like a weapon. Having a knife under your pillow or in your purse. Fake names, fake numbers, fake wedding rings. Knowing where the exits are. Going to the bathroom in packs. Having code phrases to alert your friends that you need help. These are things that we have developed in response to societal cues that tell us we are prey. We are objects. That men can't help themselves.

It's all in our heads like a low drone. "Is my bra strap showing? Is this outfit too revealing? Call or text me when you get home so I know you made it okay." Walking quickly. Look over your shoulder but don't act afraid. It's all there. And it's part of EVERY WOMAN'S life experience. We may not all experience rape or sexual assault, but every woman knows fear and our social position. We all experience misogyny and harassment.

We know it's not all men who will shoot up a sorority house in response to being rejected by women, but all women have to deal with misogyny. You need only to see some of the comments from men saying, "See? A woman could've been a hero if she'd just given him some sweetness. Then no one would've died." It's a fucked up and flawed world. But we shouldn't be silent about it. We need to change this.

And that's why I had to tell the whole fucking world something I've not told a single soul in 25 years.

This needs to stop. What are you going to do about it?

Author Resources

73939_577048382318763_336731172_nHi! So I just got home from my first stint at a con as a guest! Thank you to CopperCon and all those who attended. Very special thanks to T.M. Williams and Michelle M Welch for sharing panels with me. And to Sharon Skinner for hanging out and talking. I've posted previously about using the internet/social media to promote yourself and extend your network. Well, I did that at CopperCon, too. If you were at my two panels today--Writers and Social Media and Author Resources in the Digital Age--I promised that I would post the links I talked about. Here, my loves, is that post.  Other authors, please feel free to add your own resources to this list in the comments.

Also, if we met at CopperCon, say hi!


Social Networks:

Twitter Facebook Google Plus (G+)


Pinterest - image sharing site Spotify - music sharing, playlists Instagram - image sharing site Flickr - image sharing site

Writer-centric websites:

Book Country - a workshopping website for authors to share work, find crit partners, talk about the industry on forums. Now has self-publishing options Absolute Write Water Cooler - forums that are a HUGE help! Preditors And Editors - watchdog site Writer Beware - watchdog site/blog Query Tracker - good info on what agents to query, forums, organizational tools Goodreads - book reviews Publisher's Marketplace - profiles on editors, agents; lists of book deals; good info on current events in the industry Hey Publisher - database of markets for short fiction

Some Twitter Chats: #askagent #yalitchat #writerchat #pubtip

Blog Hosting Websites:

Wordpress Blogger/Blogspot Tumblr

Some Authors/Professionals I Follow*: Chuck Wendig - author Paul Cornell - author Karina Cooper - author Cherie Priest - author Sam Sykes - author Peter Orullian - author Jim C Hines - author John Scalzi - author Delilah S Dawson - author Kerry Schafer - author Allison Pang - author Lou Anders - editor at Pyr books, author Lee Harris - editor at Angry Robot books Sara Megibow - agent Laura Bradford - agent Colleen Lindsay - former agent, professionally Random Penguin.


Writing Excuses 


*If I didn't mention you here, I'm sorry. This list of people I follow is in the hundreds. If you want a comprehensive list, visit my Twitter page and check out all the cool people on my "following" list. <3

An Open Letter to John Scalzi, President of the SFWA

The past few days have been interesting if you're a science-fiction/fantasy author on the internet. One of the author organizations, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, has found itself in a controversy. Their quarterly publication The Bulletin is under scrutiny for its choice of cover art and two particular articles regarding the role of women in science-fiction and fantasy.
In one dialogue between authors Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg, the two men are asked to discuss women in the field. This soon dissolves into water cooler conversation about how "lady writers" look in swim suits. In another opinion piece, C.J. Henderson recommends that women seek the "quiet dignity" of Barbie.
There have been many good responses to these articles, and John Scalzi--the current president of the SFWA--has jumped right in. He publicly apologized on his Twitter feed for anything that happened "under his watch" and has formed a task force to discuss the future direction of the SFWA. John has called for any and all complaints or comments on the matter to be directed to him ( Not to be a lemming (or a llama), but I need to say something. And I feel the need to not just share it with the SFWA, but with you as well. Below is my letter to John Scalzi in his role as President of the SFWA.
Dear Mr. Scalzi,
My name is Jamie Wyman and I was gifted with a unisex name. It's true that any amount of Googling will bring you to my site or Twitter and immediately out me as a woman, but the first impression of my name is ambiguous. This is sometimes helpful as we still live in a world where women are treated as second-class citizens, where having a vagina makes a person somehow inferior. You see, I can send letters and manuscripts with my name on them and generally not worry that I am immediately shunted into one mental bin or another.
I shouldn't have to think about these things, but I do. It's The Way Things Are, and I'm no stranger to professional sexism. I was a drummer from age 12 up. If you're not familiar, allow me to tell you that there are very few places where testosterone flows more wildly than in a drumline. I heard the jokes. I grinned and kept my mouth shut while my bandmates talked about this "piece of ass" or those "tits" or made blowjob jokes. I kept my eyes forward and my jaw set as someone asked me if my "pussy hurt" because I'd taken off my drum rig for a break. I dealt with all of that silently because that's The Way Things Are.
What's exciting about this day and age, though, is that Things are changing. Men and women alike are being enlightened that the 1950's are long gone and there are different ways to live. One way that our society is shown such alternatives? Media. Television. Movies. Stories. And what better place to look for a bright future or a warning to be better than in the realm of Science Fiction and Fantasy? Women can be captains, mechanics, warriors, presidents and no one bats an eyelash because Things can be different.I've been writing all my life and actively seeking publication for more than 5 years now. That whole time I've used a membership in the SFWA as a personal carrot, a reward dangling in front of me to keep me running. And this year I made my first two sales! While neither market is currently on a list that will grant me that coveted SFWA sticker on my Con badge, the organization is still one I aspire to belong to.Right now, though, I'm wondering if this is still a worthy goal. The past few issues of the SFWA's publication The Bulletin have been loaded with sexist gaffes. These articles are not just offensive, they are disappointing. The, I've got no gripe. It's stereotypical fantasy art. Does the cover play into a trope? Yes. But, I'm not one who usually judges books by covers. The sideboob is annoying and gratuitous, and we both know that. The real damage is in the articles. When I saw the comments about "lady writers" I felt transported to Don Draper's office.  Then the opinion piece that says women should strive for Barbie's "quiet dignity"? Seriously, the previous cover and these article combine to form one grossly unfortunate juxtaposition.What it comes down to is this, Mr. Scalzi: I'm a writer. My stories have merit. I work hard at my craft. I love what I do. At no time does my gender have anything to do with the quality of my work. You know that and I know you know that. Seeing such archaic ideas put forth in multiple SFWA publications, however, leaves me wondering if I want to be part of yet another organization that trivializes me based on my chromosomes. If I want to be objectified and put down for being a woman in a boys club, I could go right back to the drumline and take all the sexual harassment that entails. Why should I pay to be part of the SFWA if my merit is just going to be reduced to a discussion on how I look in a swimsuit?
It's not okay. And the reactions--these men saying that they are being bullied or censored because they are being called out as sexist bigots--is not okay.
I need you to do better, Mr. Scalzi. When writing a story about women in the publishing industry, perhaps it should be told by other women. Or better yet, why make that distinction at all? My looks, my gender, my skin color, my tattoos, my hair color, my dress size, my sexual preference, my religion.... none of this matters. None of these things are reflections on my worth as a human being nor should they be used to validate my career or the quality of my writing."She's good....for a girl. And she's cute, too." I heard that enough in the drumline. Then, I let my percussive skills prove to them that I was someone to deal with, that I was a force to be reckoned with and not dismissed. I will do no less here, Mr. Scalzi. I'll continue to pour my heart, soul and blood into my words and get better at storycraft. I'll make more sales and qualify for SFWA membership.
At this point, though, I don't know that I'll join. I don't know that I want that particular feather in my cap if it's just going to be pink in deference to my lady nature.
Do better. Do better by all of us. Prove that science fiction and fantasy aren't wrong when they tell stories of a better place where no one gives a damn about someone's gender, skin color or pointed ears. The SFWA is no more a utopia than Star Fleet, but we still look to it for guidance and validation. If the SFWA doesn't respect the role women play in all the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, why should people respect women in this world?
The place of women in sci-fi is the same place as a man; on panels, in the captain's chair, leading the charge, slaying demons and changing the worlds. Because that's the way Things Can Be.
Jamie Wyman, author.
I hate this. I respect Mr. Scalzi immensely. I just enjoyed seeing him at Phoenix Comic Con last week! And I know that he sees the ridiculous way women are portrayed on covers or in art. I know that Scalzi does not agree with these articles and he's a good man who just wants to spend his last month or two in office with churros. But I had to say this. And like the man said, it happened under his watch, so he has to take the flack.
Guh.Quiet dignity, indeed.
**Edited 6/3 to add: I've written a follow up post directly addressing comments made by Malzberg, Resnick and Russell Davis. Please read that as well as it further explains my feelings on this issue.

Say Hello, Too, My Little Friend

Hey! You! With the face! So, this week my blog traffic has been through the roof. There are comments and stuff on a couple of entries to prove it. A few of you have started following me on Twitter and a brave number have actually gone to my contact page and sent me an email. I've even watched the follower tally down there and to the right tick up by one! I have to say, too. The comments I've gotten, specifically the private emails, this past week have touched me. Seriously, woman, you made me cry and I find you to be a stellar person. Basically, I like knowing that something I've said meant a damn to someone outside of my head. And that doesn't mean that you liked it, but if you disagreed, meant something.

But the thing is, love... well, I'm the only one who knows that. My stats counter shows me that you've stopped by and that's fantastic. I'm glad we've had this time together. But, I'd like to take our relationship to the next level.

What I'm trying to say, dear readers, is that you're too quiet.

This blog isn't just me yelling into a hole, it's a place where we can have a conversation. All of us. Bounce ideas around, have a laugh or two. Unlike some other websites out there, this isn't meant to be a one-way thing.    I know there are some of you that are regular readers but you don't "follow" the blog officially with that little tab to the right. I know some of you are lurkers or family and friends from real life. And that's awesome, but why not talk a bit? Say hello!

You! The user in Australia who's been hanging around this week? What's your name? What brought you here? You! The brave soul using Internet Explorer. Friends from the UK and frequent fliers from Russia. You sick puppies in the states searching for me by my full name... say hello! Let's talk.

So here's what we're going to do. If you're a regular reader (or even if you're not and you've just come across this post) SAY HELLO! Pop down to the comments and introduce yourself. Where are you from? What brings you by? What keeps you lurking? Can I stalk you back?

The fact of the matter is that sometimes when I'm posting randomness and waxing poetical about strange accents, I get a nod or a comment or a random email that lets me know I'm not alone here on this series of tubes. That means a lot to me. I'd like to thank you properly. I'd like to return the favor sometime.

It's Friday. Let's turn my comments section into something resembling a mosh-pit only with a lot more laughter and love. And fewer spiked collars. (I don't judge, I'm just sayin' they hurt when you bounce around.) IF you're one of those people who's a bit shy and would rather not dive right into the comments, go on up to "contact" and shoot me an email, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

Let's have some fun. Together.