“Real” Writer vs Imposter Syndrome

Alien invasion by Flame Tree Publishing
I’m in this book

I’ve been writing for most of my life. That’s a number of decades, if you can’t tell from my profile picture. In grade school I told my teacher I wanted to write and direct a play. She gave me the go-ahead, but I never finished the play and it never happened.

In secondary school I started drawing my own comic books – more vignettes than full fledged stories. Our school didn’t have a newspaper, and frankly yearbook seemed less about creativity than sentimentality, so I avoided that too.

Then came university… Our newspaper wasn’t particularly open or inviting to people who weren’t part of the clique. So I started my own very sarcastic one-page newsletter, published whenever the mood struck me. That might be once or three times per week. It turned out that the school newspaper was making enough enemies that another group started a second newspaper, and one of the founders sought me out about joining it, as he’d enjoyed my one sheet newsletter. So I became an associate editor of a new newspaper, wrote sarcastic editorials, news stories, short fiction, and learned all about desktop publishing, back when it was new. Eventually I became the editor. Along the way, I also wrote and directed a play (finally). It ran for five or six performances over four days (I’m not sure if there was a Sunday matinee). It sold out the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night performances. And I started two different novels, both conceived as epics, one fantasy, one space opera.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

I’ve written a play, some short fiction, many editorials and a poem or twelve. I’ve got two trunk novels in my desk and a bunch more under development. After university, I went on to be the editor of a weekly entertainment newspaper, a copywriter for hire, and a communications manager for an educational charity. I’ve had big name clients (think pharmaceutical companies, expensive cars, large financial institutions).

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

SpecklitI’ve had six very short stories published on a curated website, and one longer short story included in an anthology published in the UK.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

So why do I keep saying this? Because I suffer from imposter syndrome as much as the next writer. And it sucks.

I don’t feel like a real writer. I feel like a wanna-be. A friend of mine recently said of my writing career, “It’s really more of a hobby, isn’t it?” I don’t think she knows how much that hurt.

Book in book store
For sale in my favourite bookstore!

I can counterbalance that with an experience I had last year. The UK anthology that contains one of my stories showed up for sale in my local bookstore here in Malaysia. There it is, a book with my story in it, for sale to anyone who walks in. I almost cried (seriously) it was such a re-affirming experience. Hell, that one story also got me entered into the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

Why don’t I always feel like it?

Has Mariah Carey Bing Crosbied Herself?

It’s a simple thought. Twenty, thirty, forty … seventy years from now, will anyone be able to name any Mariah Carey song other than “All I Want for Christmas is You”?

Look at this list of best-selling artists from yesteryear, and the one song you probably know them by:

Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas (1964)

Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) (1947)

Perry Como – Ave Maria

Gene Autry – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)

Brenda Lee – Rocking Around the Christmas Tree (1958)

Andy Williams – The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1963)

But Mariah might not be alone in joining this list. I think Faith Hill might only leave “Where Are You Christmas?” as her legacy and I wonder if any Wham song will outlive “Last Christmas”.

Isn’t it better to be known for something than nothing at all? Perhaps. But Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra also released Christmas albums. Their releases never became holiday standards, and we remember them for other works.

None of this is meant as a critique of the artists. I’m just noting how history has judged certain artists’ legacies and offering a few who may end with the same fate.

Merry Christmas (2019)

Christmas is in 8 days.

I thought I’d end the year on a festive note, so here’s some photos of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at Christmas, 2019.

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Carols by Candlelight, or Candles by Carol-light as I kept calling it. Holy Trinity Church, Dec 15, 2019
Live trees for sale at IKEA, this doesn’t happen every year.
One of the big shopping centres, Suria KLCC, looks nice, but don’t touch.
Mid Valley Shopping Centre is much more hands-on
The Gardens wants you to know that it’s upscale and elegant
I love decorating our faux fireplace. This year, it’s against the balcony doors.
The fireplace at night – the city lights show through the sheer curtains
We did buy that IKEA tree, here it is decorated in our living room.
This 100-word story of mine was published back in 2015. I own the rights now, So here it is, No Prize for Second Place

My Thundering Heart

Well, our hearts beat like thunder,
I don’t know why they don’t explode
~ Ain’t Even Done with the Night / John Cougar

John CougarI got into John Mellencamp’s music earlier than most. His first single, Ain’t Even Done with the Night, played with my nostalgia, capturing that awkward time with girls where your desire exceeds your knowledge and you feel confused and lost in a good way.

I fell in love with it. Continue reading “My Thundering Heart”

Character Intro: Char Osbaldistan

I doubt it’s a surprise that I’m working on a book. I’m actually working on a lot of them – a duology, a stand-alone novel, a novella and a five-novella sequence. Oh, and a few short stories, too.

The five-book sequence follows the crew of a ship as they get into a series of escalating adventures. I’d like to introduce one member of the crew here. Her name is Char Osbaldistan, and when we meet her here (in a flashback), she’s a smuggler, freshly captured by the Interplanetary Union (IU). But when we actually meet her in-universe, she’s a full-fledged member of an IU crew.

Char was first mentioned (but not seen) in the short story Dee, For the Win which you can read here.

Let’s meet Char Osbaldistan:

It was an office, why an office, Char didn’t know. Usually court rooms looked more like, well, court rooms and not office. Yet there he was the tired old magistrate sitting behind a pompous desk, flanked by an inquisitor. The room was plush, velvet and wood against gold highlights. It spoke of power and authority, order and rigidity. The inquisitor spoke first.

“How many identities do you have? Your ship … what’s it’s name?”

“Why do you ask?” Char chafed against her bindings. There was a very comfortable chair in front of her, but sitting in like this would be awkward.

“Your ship, for one, appears to have four different registrations.” Char bit back a smile – there were seven, but they’d only found four. That was good.

“For the record, what is your ship’s name?”

“What do you want it to be?”

“Don’t play with me, girl.” The judge’s contempt spoke of impatience. So, time to go slow.

“Woman. Twenty-seven. Clearly, I’m a woman.”

“I have grandchildren your age, child.” The judge dismissed her response with a wave of his hand.

“Still, woman.”

“You, yourself,” The inquisitor ignored the exchange, “appear to have five different identities, all of whom,” He spoke in an aside to the judge, “pay taxes, by the way.”

“Seriously?” Char always left the money laundering part of the operations to the experts. All she knew was that she got paid her share, and it was a nice share.

“Yes, it’s an efficient way to look legitimate – pay taxes on income earned from fictitious jobs to cover that it was actually earned illicitly.” As if he needed to explain it to her. No, he was stating it for the record. This was being recorded, surreptitiously.

“I pay my taxes. Still, you arrest me?”

“You pay taxes for five people, at least four of whom are fake. Before we finish, you will tell us exactly how and from whom you got those identities.”

She chuckled. “Probably not.”

“What’s with her ship?” The judge asked.

“It’s a little planetary system slug modified with a hyper drive.” The inquisitor read from a note screen. “Slugs are everywhere, working boats that might move cargo pods, align construction segments, move a hulk around. They often hitch rides with cargo carries from one system to the next. It’s so common, and so universal, that a new one in a star system would never raise suspicions. It’s the perfect smuggling vehicle.” He turned back to Char.

“From your vessel’s logs, we’ve learned that you’ve worked in the Hadriatik Republic, the Triple Alliance, the Non-aligned territories and around Melakka. The ship’s history appears to suggest that it originated in Melakka, which would tie you to the identification of Char Osbaldistan.” The inquisitor nodded toward the judge. “Thus we have determined that for the purposes of this hearing, you will be identified as such. Miss Osbaldistan, do you object?”

“Of course.”

“Then what name would you prefer?”

“No, any name will do. I object to being captured. I object to being tried. I object to my ship being confiscated. I object to it being the bloody useless Interplanetary Union that arrested me and not some respectable government. This isn’t a real judiciary, you have no authority. This is a kangaroo court.”

“Char Osbaldistan, you’re charged with illegal operation of a vehicle, four counts of impersonation, smuggling, piracy and theft. You will learn to respect this court’s authority and you will do so quickly.”

“Oh, please.”

“What?”

“You want me, you want people in general, to respect your authority? You don’t know the difference between smuggling and piracy.”

“Both act outside of the law.”

“So does speeding. You don’t equate it to piracy … bloody kangaroo court, full of amateurs.”

— 30 —

Rise of Skywalker Theories

As most of you, I was surprised at how quickly Disney released the D23 footage of The Rise of Skywalker.

It showed some interesting new footage and offered a few possible hints as to some of the film’s plot points. I’m going to make some potentially SPOILER-y guesses ahead. Continue at your own risk. Continue reading “Rise of Skywalker Theories”

Nurturing the spark (or not)

lightbulb with ideas

I only ever took one creative writing elective in university. The course was supposed to be taught by one professor, a respected author and editor, but she had to pull out, so we got a new guy instead. This professor wasn’t great. Hell, he wasn’t even very good. I couldn’t tell you a single thing he actually taught us. I haven’t retained any lessons learned or insights garnered from that course. Continue reading “Nurturing the spark (or not)”

Shouldn’t fans decide what’s canon?

I’ve had an idea in my head for a while, and along with it, a word: fanon.
It seems to me that there is a very real but simple problem in much of science fiction fandom. For our beloved universes, the wrong people get to decide what is canon.

Not the sequel you’re looking for

I’m not deeply into the Star Wars mythology. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (“the sequel to Star Wars!”) is one of the few Star Wars books that I’ve read, and I was growing beyond comic books around that same time.

I’m baaaaaack!

I understand that LucasFilm (a.k.a. Disney) has moved a lot of material out of the Star Wars canon, making it ‘legend’. I don’t have a beef with that, because I don’t know the rich history of the multitude of characters and myths that get lost by such a move.

Even as some people have been getting pissed that The Last Jedi is canon while Thrawn isn’t (update, apparently he is now), I’ve been doing a slow burn over the other franchise that J.J. Abrams has wrecked: Star Trek.

Yeah, I’m an old-school Trekkie. I’ve been to those conventions (Met Jimmy Doohan once). I love Star Trek the Motion Picture. It’s Star Trek’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I grok Spock. And I love Lucy. Basically I’m the type of fan that was being mocked in Galaxy Quest. And if you don’t understand those references, then, well… you’re young, aren’t you?

The Kelvin timeline was an absolute annoyance. Chris Pine will never be my Captain Kirk, I’ll never accept that you can beam the whole way to Qo’noS. Kahn was played by Mr. Roarke, not Sherlock Holmes.

Sorry, Checkov

I’m just old enough to remember seeing the Star Trek cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I loved catching the original series when it came on after school. I bought those giant poster magazines with the pull out posters of the Enterprise, Kirk at the OK Corral, etc.

Every engineer should own one

Hell, I owned the Starfleet Technical Manual (and also, somehow a tech manual on the cockpit of the Huey AH-1 Cobra gunship – don’t mess with me, man, I got game!)

Over the years, Star Trek has made some questionable choices (like the theme to Enterprise. Everybody sing it now: “It’s been a long road getting from there to here…”), but for me the most questionable was creating Star Trek: Discovery. This show isn’t Star Trek and you can’t convince me otherwise. It keeps trying to link to the existing canon, but in ways that are far more damaging than Enterprise ever was.

The bean counters at CBS, who may or may not have even seen Star Trek, are declaring what is and isn’t canon.

And I’ve decided NO. You don’t have the right to decide for me what is and isn’t canon. I’m and adult, I’ll do that for myself. And I’ll call it “Fanon”.

But this got me thinking about how I would define what is or isn’t fanon in Star Trek.

First there are three simple rules that filter out much of the crap.

1) Spock is an only child.

This gets rid of Star Trek Discovery in its entirety, and also Star Trek V, a film so bad I can’t even remember its name (The Final Frontier, I looked it up. You’re welcome. Now forget it. Please. Uhura finally gets a boyfriend, and it’s Scotty? Lass, ye kin do much better.).

2) Data is a singular and unique creation.

This gets rid of all of the stupid Next Generation stories involving Lore and removes B4 (and thus Star Trek Nemesis).

3) The Enterprise was built at Utopia Planitia, a facility based on Mars.

This gets rid of the whole “Kelvin timeline” in which the Enterprise was built on the surface of Earth and could do atmospheric landings. (“But, Roddenberry wanted that in the original series.” Yeah, but he gave the Big E straight struts to mount her engines, not curved shit that would collapse.)

Those three rules clear a lot of the crap out of Star Trek, but of course, there are also singular episodes that may need to be culled from the remaining canon.

For example, the last episode of Enterprise, the one that turns the whole series into a holodeck reenactment designed for fat William Riker and thus undoes the whole series. Yeah that’s gone. Along with it I’d throw out the Borg episode and the Nazi time travel episodes (I’m OK with the temporal cold war and the Xindi. I thought it gave an interesting look at the evolution of Starfleet’s codes of conduct. I miss the MACOs).

I guess we should eliminate the Voyager episode where Janeway and Parris are turned into slugs and have sex.

There was a Next Generation episode where Riker gets stung by a flower and hallucinates his past. It was a clip episode, Nothing happened in it that we hadn’t already seen – apparently he had no life before the show started and it’d only been on for two years.

Let’s get rid of the “Tasha Yar fights a woman to the death” episode too. It was, well, racist.

Maybe because it was all I had for the longest time, but I have a hard time finding any original series episodes to cut from canon. I know many people dislike Spock’s Brain or The Way to Eden, but I’ll take them.

Additions:

I’d include Star Trek Continues as canon. It was a respectful and well-done extension of the original series, even if creator Vic Mignogna has become a troubling figure.

I’ve read a few Star Trek books, all original series crew, and I’d include them as canon, except maybe Spock Must Die. Even then, I could be talked into it.

What about you? What’s your canon? What isn’t? Who should get to decide what’s truly canon, the fans or the money-grubbing weasels (“There is no bias detected in the wording of this question.”)?

Hit me up with Star Trek, Star Wars or MCU.

The Research Is In: Cats Know Their Names

I wish she’d learn “get out of the bloody way!”

The science is in: cats know their names. New research proves what every human slave has known for centuries. In science-speak: “We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences.”

As someone who has lived with cats for most of my life (and occasionally dogs) this seems like a forgone conclusion, but I guess we needed the science to make it official.

I have a cat right now, and she understands a lot more than just her name. Here’s a list:

No. If she’s contemplating something that I don’t want, I can tell her ‘no’ and she’ll object, but won’t do it.

Her name. She knows her name applies to her.

Belly rubs. Say “belly rubs?” and the cat meows, moves to the middle of the kitchen floor and rolls over so you can rub her belly.

Food. When the cat is insistently meowing, I can say a bunch of words to her and gauge her reaction. If she’s hungry, when I say ‘food?” she changes her meow and walks to her dish.

Second scoop. Her first food is wet meat, delivered on a plastic lid in the back, her second scoop is dry food delivered in the kitchen. She knows the difference between ‘food’ and ‘second scoop’ and will lead me to the appropriate place.

Beautiful girl, love you lots, hope you enjoy it. She won’t start eating her food (wet or dry) until I say these “the magic words.”

Show Me. If I can’t figure out her needs, I say “show me” and she walks me to whatever is bothering her (her dish, her water, her box, a door she wants to get through).

(edited to add these two)
Play?
I can ask her ‘play?’ and if she wants to play, she springs off to a corner and I’m supposed to chase her. Sometimes, rarely, she chases back, but usually it’s up to me to ‘catch’ her.

Treats. Each afternoon, around 5pm, she gets three small treats. When the time is right (often in her head, that’s two hours early) she asks for them by sitting in the middle of he kitchen and meowing until I say the word “treats?” then she heads to the fridge where they’re kept.

My favourite picture of her

And here are a few that I’m not sure she understands, or that she sometimes appears to understand (but that may be coincidental):

Dig. when she wants to scratch something, she has limited places that it’s allowed. I’ll put her on a spot and say “dig” and she does.

Stretch. This one I say when she’s doing it, but a couple of times I’ve said it and she’s looked at me, then done it. Again could just be coincidental, more me predicting what she’s going to do than suggesting it to her.

Sshhh! My wife works shifts. When the cat’s making noise, I can say “sshh,” and she will lower the volume, but not shut up. This one has taken a long time and I still don’t know that she gets it.

My wife’s name. The cat also seems to know that my wife’s name applies to my wife. It’s worth noting that my wife and my cat don’t get along all that well, so it’s hard to judge if my cat always recognizes my wife’s name and only choses to react some times or if she doesn’t quite get that one yet.

I know that she also recognizes a lot of body-language clues and physical gestures. If I snap my fingers three times, moving my hand from her towards me, she knows it means come to me.

So, what does your cat know? How many words or expressions can he or she process successfully?