A dose of reality.

Hi all,

It’s officially spring break (because as all of us living in the Northeast would cheerfully acknowledge, it’s obviously springtime weather!  For the record, my breath froze as I was sighing after writing that sentence.), and that means three things: paper grading, writing, and catching up on everything I haven’t been able to after the whirlwind of the last few months. It also means, in this case, that I have to write a very difficult but important post, particularly the last part of it.  Warning: this is a long and (at the end) personal post, but I felt like I had to write it, and I hope you’ll understand why after you’ve read it.

1.  THE MOST IMPORTANT WRITING THING: the Icarus Kickstarter was a success.  A big success, actually, though in the middle of the Kickstarter I wasn’t totally sure it was going to be.  We had a big start and were funded ($8000) in a week; with three weeks to go, I thought we were in good shape.  Then we, uh, kind of fell off a cliff.  Funding dropped way off, and with friends of mine sending
me messages like “you must be happy that it’s all gravy now!” I started worrying that people had decided the project was in good shape and could look elsewhere.  But as anyone who’s ever run a
sensible Kickstarter knows, you set your funding goal at the lowest possible point that it could conceivably get done, then look to push into more reasonable numbers after that.  We could have done the graphic novel at $8K, sure, but it would have meant absolute bare bones distribution and, well, no money at all for me…which would have been a bit troubling, since, you know, I wrote the thing and all. 

But as Ron Garner from Silence in the Library Publishing (which is now five for five on these, by the way) made clear, Kickstarter projects always start strong, bottom out in the middle and (if they’re going to be successful) finish well.  And boy did we finish, with over $3K in the three final days.  When the smoke cleared, we hit $15,884 and 401 backers–essentially 200% of our original goal, which is a pretty significant success by any measure.  Add in the fact that it was during a down month for publishing Kickstarters, and you might get a sense of why my publisher and I were as happy as we were with how things ended up. 

A couple of things really helped, I think: my base in the fantasy and science fiction community (drawing from my readers, author friends and colleagues, bloggers and the good folks who listen to Speculate on a regular basis) was a huge factor, as was my audience from Twitch, which came through in a big way not simply as backers but as buzz-builders, Tweeting and Facebooking and spreading the word far and wide across the Internet.  Even in the down money days in the middle two weeks, Icarus stayed in or at the top of the twenty-five biggest Comics projects on Kicktraq, and a lot of that is due to the regular mentions of the project on Twitter and elsewhere–and a bunch of interviews and blog posts along with an AMA on the fantasy subReddit of Reddit didn’t hurt either.  And the Silence in the Library reader base really delivered as well.  All of that put together gave us a big final close. 

I may put together a post about what I learned about Kickstarter in the future, but for now I’ll just say that it was a wild ride and ultimately well worth it–and Silence in the Library did a great job.  Artist Matt Slay is now hard at work on the art, and we’re looking for an August/September release of the book–and there are more announcements about distribution and other related things coming in
the not too distant future.  If you were one of the folks who backed Icarus, thank you so much for the support–and if you weren’t, keep an eye out for the book when it hits the shelves (I might, you know,
announce something about that before it happens. 🙂 )

2. NOT AS IMPORTANT FOR THE AUTHOR SIDE OF MY WEBSITE BUT STILL IMPORTANT: I got promoted to full professor.  I’ll have more to say about this in a separate blog post on the Academic side, but I think it’s only right to mention a fairly big deal for me here too. A bit nerve-wracking but ultimately very satisfying; for more, check over there when that post comes out.

3.  NOT AS IMPORTANT INDIVIDUALLY BUT SUPER-IMPORTANT COLLECTIVELY: Speculate is continuing to do great, and as Brad and I enter our fourth year we’re looking forward to turning things up a notch.  We’ll have a couple of announcements to this effect not too long from now, but one thing we can say immediately is that nominations are currently being accepted for the Hugos, and Speculate is eligible in the Best Fancast category.  If you’ve listened to and enjoyed the show, and if you’re a voting member either of last year’s Worldcon in San Antonio, this year’s Worldcon in London or next year’s Worldcon in Spokane, we’d be most grateful for a nomination in that category.  The link is here, and the deadline is March 31st–so please go now and nominate if you’re so inclined, and thanks so much!


Confession time (deep breath). 

I’m still dealing with the aftermath of my atrial fibrillation episode from a few months ago, and since I seem to be in the mood for a confession…this has been a rough one, gang.  I kind of understated
what a big deal this was for me in my initial comments about the subject, and I don’t think it’s been helpful for me to keep it buried, so I’ll just be clear: I was terrified, when my heart was going 160 at rest, that I was going to die.  Drop dead, fall asleep right in the cardiac ward and never wake up, never see my daughter again (my wife was with me, but for obvious reasons we didn’t want my six year old
exposed to this situation), the works. The night spent in the hospital was probably among the worst two or three of my life.  And despite the successful cardioversion, all the follow-up appointments, tests and physicals, and my doctors’ assurances that there was no heart attack, no risk of stroke, highly favorable prognosis, I’ve been walking around for the past couple of months in a fearful fog.  One skipped beat, one slightly accelerated heartbeat, and my mind leaps right back to that awful twenty-four hour period.  Now I’ve never been totally comfortable with physical issues, but I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve been mostly healthy my whole life.  The worry that now that I’ve hit forty-one this constant health anxiety is the new normal is hard to shake.

Why am I going into all this publically?  I’ve always been cautious about revealing too much about my personal life, feeling it a. isn’t anyone else’s business and b. isn’t anyone else’s interest either.  I was
raised to believe you didn’t go around discussing your problems in the open, after all.  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly tired of concealment as a mechanism…and I’m convinced I’m not the only one.  My writing has gotten better as I’ve invested it with more emotional honesty, and it would be pretty hypocritical not to try to be the same way personally (as people like Myke Cole have been on their blogs, for example).

So: I was hospitalized, knocked out, cardioverted and am now working, not steadily, not easily but with help, back to stability and health–not physical health, which according to everyone who matters will be fine, but emotional health, which is obviously just as important.  I’m working my way out of fear.  And to be clear, I am in no way comparing what I went through in November with the horrible illnesses, tragedies, and personal disasters many of my friends in the sff and academic communities have had to deal with in recent years.  But to be equally clear, I’ve learned that the “how serious was it?” question really doesn’t matter.  I’ve been struggling with my own serious health situation, and what matters about that is it affected and affects me…and I’m trying to work through it.  Step One is admitting, here, that I’m doing so.

This site isn’t going to become a personal confessional; the focus of this blog is and will continue to be my professional life as a speculative fiction author.  But I officially reserve the right to intertwine the personal when the time is appropriate, and to decide when that time is. And I hope that others reading this who have also been (from politeness or uncertainty or discomfort or, most of all, fear) silent, will be inspired to speak out themselves. I have always wanted my life to be about communication and community.  I hope I can now add openness to that mix.

I’ll have further updates in the near future.  Until then, thanks as always for your support, and sincerely: much love from me to you all.