Episode 36 - Special Guest John Helfers (Part 1)
With us today we have a special guest, John Helfers. John is an award-winning author and editor. As an author he has published more than fifty original short stories and twenty-three novels. He has published a number of non-fiction articles and seven non-fiction books.
In 2009 he was nominated for a Hugo award for is work on "The Vorkosigan Companion". In 2013 his bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg, titled "I have an Idea for a Book..." was nominated for the 2013 Hugo Award in the category of Best Related Book.
John has edited more than 50 novels and more than 30 anthologies including the 2010 Origins Award-winning "Spells & Chrome: A Shadowrun Anthology" (2010 Origins Award for Best Game-Related Publication)
Works in Progress
[00:01:29] Eric isn't doing a lot of writing, he's been creating Christmas presents in the workshop.
Mike is creating the content for his website relaunch at MikeHale.me. He isn't working on any creative fiction work before then.
John (Uhri) is still working on his novel about drones, hobos and the mob. He started writing some of the fun drone and train-hopping stuff, but needs to do some work on the world-building and the plotting since his character motivations are pretty weak.
John Helfers is working on all sorts of stuff, considering its his full-time job. To get an idea, this is the sort of workload a professional author and editor has on his plate: He's ghost-writing for a New York rap artist. He wrote his first novel under his first name in over a decade this summer, and needs to go back and edit the draft. He has three short stories he needs to work on, some editing for a Shadowrun novel as well as coordinating and taking-over a website for a fiction site. Finally, he has a novel to edit and provide notes for the author.
Mike suggested we no longer have professional author/editors on the show after hearing everything John has to get done. John's just happy that his freelance career is busy because of the lean years when he first became an independent editor.
John has written a number of books under house names (James Axler's Deathlands, Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan). The bulk of his novels have been written this way. Even the "thank you" at the beginning of the books almost always use a pseudonym as well.
He has had so much fun writing these characters in these worlds as he (and John Uhri) has been reading these books for
What's happening online
When Eric is having trouble writing and needs the little dopamine fixes only pictures of kittens can provide, he can use Written Kitten, a writing web application that shows a picture of a different kitten every time he writes 100 words.
Settings allow you to get kittens, puppies or bunnies based on every 100, 200, 500 or 1000 words. You can also hack the URL to see whatever types of pictures you'd like. Eric will probably want to see wood lathes.
Writing Work Days
John Helfers asked us what our writing day looks like, and we got into a discussion on that.
Currently, Eric spends his lunch breaks reading and is working on his rewrites
John Uhri tries to walk the dog, and then trying to write about 10:30 in the morning. Most of the time he ends up staring at the screen writing nothing. Once that time is up, he ends up doing his writing about 8pm when he can finally dedicate more time to writing again.
[00:10:56] Are you a crappy typist? Want to get better and have fun at the same time? Perhaps ZType is the typing game for you. Reminiscent of the old Asteroids video game, you are the pilot of a spaceship in a world of dangerous space junk. In order to shoot the junk before it crashes into you, you must type the word for each
451 Error codes
[00:11:21] When your web browser requests a page from a web server, a response code is sent. In most cases, the page loads correctly, and the response code is "200 OK". The other most familiar response code is "404 Not Found". There are other codes as well that mean more to web developers than authors, but a new error message has been created and given the number 451.
This is in reference to Ray Bradbury's novel Farenheit 451. The Error Code 451 is given when the file exists on the server, but for legal reasons, it will not be sent to your browser. It is intended as a way to show that documents have been censored.
It's not clear whether Bradbury would have welcomed a proposal to honour his memory in an internet error code. He said in an interview in 2009 that "the internet is a big distraction". "They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? 'To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet.' It's distracting," he told the New York Times. "It's meaningless; it's not real. It's in the air somewhere."
[00:12:52] John Helfers brought us Writer Beware. This is an informational site that's part of the Science Fiction Writer's Association, but is open for anyone to read. It provides information about agents and whether or not that agent is a scam artist. Host Victoria Strauss has gone to court on behalf of authors and the site co
There is no barrier to becoming an agent. Anyone can put up their single and say they are an agent. Many try to take advantage of authors claiming to be able to put them in front of publishers.
John (Uhri) asked if there were similarities with Query Tracker and while they cover some of the same things, although Query Tracker is also for keeping tabs on how long your queries are out in the market.
We talked some about the Science Fiction Writers of America site of which Writer Beware is a part. There are different levels of membership and you can work toward getting your membership based on your publishing. They've helped to get better contracts for authors with publishers and are a great group to network.
30 Best Book Covers of 2015
[00:16:14] The 30 Best Book Covers of 2015 can give you some ideas of what the best book covers for the year look like to help you when deciding on covers for your own work.
[00:17:39] Mike picked up Hack the Entrepreneur by Jon Nastor. Jonny is the host of the Hack the Entrepreneur podcast, co-host Showrunner podcast and the Showrunner podcasting course.
Eric is still reading - The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
John Uhri is still reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
John Helfers is reading about a gazillion books, but that's part of his job. So, yeah. He's reading about 12 anthologies of short fiction for work.
As a professional author/editor, John only says "I'm not a fan" when something doesn't pique his interest. The publishing world is relatively small, and there's just no room to be a jerk to one another. Be diplomatic. Everyone knows everyone, and you can't say something without it getting around.
John doesn't see a difference between the published and the unpublished. Jealousy goes both way.
"You guys are amateurs. You're not wanna-be authors because you're writing, but you're putting in the work, you're trying to find the tools, you're trying to do your research about how to make yourself a better writer --"How do I learn about the craft?", "How do I learn about the business?" -- and that's invaluable. And that goes a long way, too, because it will show in how you deal with people when you guys start dealing with agents and publishers."
Most people in genre fiction are very nice and willing to help one another. Not every community is 100% pure, but the community is willing to help one another.