It's All In The Wrist
November 29, 2009
So, tell me, is Dan Brown a good writer?
One of my favorite novels is "The Deal" by Peter Lefcourt. It's rather dated now, but it's sort of a satire about Hollywood. Charlie Bern, a B (at best) filmmaker, is about to commit suicide, when his nephew from New Jersey shows up unexpectedly with a film script about the life of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Charlie then options the script for $1, submits it to a studio, convinces a Wesley Snipes-like black action star to star in it (because it has a "jewish element"), then pays a drunken scriptwriter to rewrite the script as an action film that takes place in Israel called Bill & Ben. And that's just the beginning, before things go apeshit.
Anyway, there's a very important scene (important to me and I think writers need to keep it in mind), when Charlie is talking to Deirdre, who's some sort of functionary at the studio, but she's essentially a script reader who makes recommendations to one of the studio executives. When she reads the "rewrite" she asks Charlie if he honestly thinks it's a good script. Hell, let me find the book and just quote from it.
He looked at her over his half-moon glasses, trying to decipher the expression on her face. She was a hard read. Obviously very smart, but not necessarily running on all cylinders.
Without any prelude she launched into, "I think you and I can cut through the bullshit and get right to it. Okay?"
"I hate the script. I hate it a lot."
"I appreciate your candor."
"It's awful. And you know it, don't you?"
"No, I don't know it."
She tilted her head the way one does to a child who has just told a fib. "Are you going to sit there and tell me you think it's a good script?"
"What's a good script?"
"Come on, Charlie, we're not going to talk Screenwriting 101 here, are we?"
"A good script is one that gets made...."
Well, what am I getting at today? Am I saying that any novel manuscript that gets published is good? That within the publishing industry there's no good or bad, there's just published and unpublished?
No, that's not actually today's topic and I don't have an answer for you anyway, although I don't doubt it'd make for a lively discussion. Maybe tomorrow.
No, today, what I'm thinking about is technique.
Like most writers, especially professional writers, I can read a piece of writing by somebody, published or not, and have a pretty good idea if they're a good technical writer. That is to say, whether they string their words and sentences together in a professional manner. This has absolutely nothing, by the way... well, almost nothing... to do with storytelling and hooks and marketing and publishability (which my spellchecker tells me isn't a word, but fuck it, if it isn't a word it should be).
My brother read some Dan Brown and recognized a good story, but commented to me, "He's kind of a clunky writer, isn't he?"
Stephen King slammed (supposedly) Stephanie Meyers for not being a terribly good writer. (From what I've read of her, she's not, which has nothing to do with her storytelling ability and her marketability and publishability, apparently, but says a lot about how she strings words together. I read a couple pages of her first novel and wondered if I was stupid or she was just using words in a strange fashion, because some of her word choices confused me).
As an occasional writing mentor I've read a number of manuscripts that were, line by line, word for word, pretty well-written.
But they weren't publishable. The story wasn't good, or rather, wasn't well told. (Often, the story was very damn good, just not well told).
And I'm here to tell you, you can be a bright and shiny, smooth, beautiful writer, but if your story isn't well-told, it ain't getting published (usually, although to my mind there seems to be some exceptions in the so-called literary world, but that, again, is a subject for another day, I think).
I think we writers (or maybe not, maybe it's just me) get caught up in good writing, all that word-for-word stuff. Hell, it's important to me. I spent a lot of hours trying to improve it. I'm still concerned with improving it. It's still important to me. It annoys me to read a really successful novel by someone who hasn't spent much time on their craft, or apparently who became so successful they never needed to bother (Clive Cussler comes rather immediately to mind, and although I have enjoyed his storytelling a lot over the years, his writing rarely failed to annoy me).
But the fact is, technique can be secondary to a story well told. And that's a different skill. Creating tension, freshness, controlling pace, teasing and intriguing the reader, having a commercial hook, etc., those are very, VERY difficult things to learn. In fact, I think that compared to learning to be a better "writer" in the words, sentences, paragraph sense, is a lot easier than all that other stuff. Being a writer--getting technique--is largely a matter of mechanics and craft. Learning to tell a story, sifting through ideas, creating compelling characters, controlling pace, etc., well, those are techniques as well, but I think they're probably the difference between driving your car to work and winning the Indianapolis 500. It's basically the same, but... it's not, you know?
Anyway, your thoughts?
Gobble, Gobble, Gobble
November 24, 2009
I'm going to be a little scarce here until after the weekend, you know, deadlines, holidays, cooking, cleaning, bowling, stuff like that. Anyway, have yourself a good Thanksgiving. And if it's not clear, I'm thankful for you.
Have You Failed Yet Today?
November 23, 2009
I've been thinking about failure lately. Partly this is due to reading an article about California in Time Magazine from a couple weeks ago. They noted that among the start-ups out in California and the entrepreneurial types, it's practically a badge of honor to have a couple failures behind you.
I think by now we all know that Thomas Edison attempted around 10,000 different techniques on his way to developing the electric light bulb, saying they weren't failures, he just discovered the 9,999 ways that didn't work.
A gentleman known as Colonel Sanders reported wandered around for years offering to cook his fried chicken for restaurants, supposedly over more than 2000 time, before opening up his own restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the rest is, as they say, history.
I remember reading something in a how-to writer's book or in Writer's Digest, somewhere anyway, that it said if all your queries were being accepted it was time to try new and better markets.
I think that's true.
I also wonder about the folks out there (I know there's a couple of you, but I'm not picking on you, honest) who wrote something, sent it out, it got accepted, and they were on their way.
I don't know whether to be wildly jealous or to wonder if they shouldn't stretch a little bit. Certainly they've got talent, but is their career where they want it to be?
Hey, everybody's reach outstrips their grasp some of the time. And if it doesn't, you must be sitting in a very comfortable spot, indeed. Or are you just afraid to reach for the brass ring?
I do think if you're going to be a writer, either fiction or nonfiction, you're going to fail. I can't think of a way around it. You're going to write something that gets turned down, you're going to work on a proposal your agent doesn't like, no editors will pick up, or that doesn't do as well in the marketplace as they hoped or expected. Stephen King, in the introduction to one of his short story collections, mentions a story, "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," that got rejected a few times, and comments that people claimed he was famous enough he could publish his laundry list. Well, that argument would probably work better if it hadn't eventually gotten published not once, but again in a short story collection. Still, the point is he was getting rejection letters.
At times I feel like the King of Rejection. I've had waaaayyyy too many novels rejected. I apply for writing gigs I should get, but don't.
And that's just life. I have a friend who runs his own company and one would suspect he's been golden his entire career, but from talking to him it's clear he's lost clients, had problems with clients, taken aim at clients that he hasn't been able to get to. He confidently told me that if he can get his foot in the door he can get work with them, but getting through the door is the trick. I actually understand that. From the POV of my freelance writing, I feel like that, too. If I can just get a publication to give me an assignment, I'll do a good job for them and they'll want me to do more work. Doesn't always work that way, but I'm confident of it anyway. There are other factors involved than competence and timeliness; personality and style come into play. But getting through the door is the tough part.
And I do think there's a dichotomy, a push-me-pull-you to this. Because although I think persistence is important and I think failure is a necessary part of eventual success, I also think sometimes people pursue things they might not be terribly well suited for and they'd find significant success in a different direction (success being defined by an external source, in this case, rather than by the person doing it; only YOU can decide what success means to you).
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief--Trailer #3
November 20, 2009
Looking cooler and cooler!
Have a good weekend.
Random Musings In General
November 19, 2009
So. Just off the top o' my head.
Started to listen to Diane Riehms today on NPR and it was Julie Andrews and her daughter pushing latest book/collection of poems, etc. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, actually. I respect Julie Andrews' talent and career, but you're encroaching on my territory (books and writing) based on your known name. This annoys me. Whether it's Ilie Nastase and/or Martina Navratilova writing mysteries about tennis or Whoopie Goldberg writing children's books, I realize that their place in the book market and success there has little or nothing to do with their writing ability, which may or may not be considerable. How about you? Does that annoy you? Do you think actors get annoyed when rock musicians and/or models get film roles?
How much would you be willing to be taxed in order to get "free" universal healthcare? 5% more? 10% more?
We all play roles, don't we? Don't our characters? I was thinking about a very funny conversation (maybe you had to be there) my brother and sister and I had one day while we were tending to my father and mother when my father was going through at-home hospice. We were discussing how we have different roles. Beth was the "caregiver." I said I was the "crabby curmudgeon." My brother said he was the "cold, aloof academic." Then my sister wailed, "I don't like my role! I want a different role!" And we all started laughing. Do you think your characters know the roles they play and want out? Do you?
Oh, wow, I think I'll go do some work, a bunch of e-mails just came in.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
November 18, 2009
As promised to the publisher, I'd see what I could do in terms of reviewing/displaying/and generally creating notice of BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest
. I finished reading it today.
My review? I liked it. I liked it a lot. Did I love it? No.
Anyway, the novel takes place in 1879 in an alternate time period in a Seattle we wouldn't recognize today. During the Klondike gold rush the Russians offered a reward for any scientists who could develop a drill that could drill through hundreds of feet of ice. Leviticus Blue develops the boneshaker, but before it can be used, he/it goes crazy, drilling all over town, destroying banks and houses, and, worst of all, breaking open a rift in the earth that releases "blight gas," which turns anyone exposed to it into a zombie.
Okay. Cut to 16 years later. Leviticus Blue's widow, Briar, is scraping by in the Outskirts. Seattle has been basically abandoned, a 200-foot wall built around the city to keep the blight gas in. The Civil War has been going on for 10+ years back east. Some people--always the entrepreneurs--have figured out how to use the blight gas to distill into a drug called "lemon drop."
Briar's 16-year-old son, Zeke, decides he wants to go into the city and prove that his father wasn't really the bad guy everybody makes him out to be. So he sneaks into the city. Once Briar finds out, she pursues him. The narration pretty much flips chapter to chapter between the two of them and their often deadly adventures. Rotters (the zombies) are still around the city. A number of people live in the city in underground tunnels. A crazy mad scientist who may or may not be Levi Blue who calls himself Dr. Minnericht runs the city like a demented Wizard of Oz, and dirigibles (airships) occasionally sneak over the walls to collect blight for "lemon drop" and/or to sell whatever else they can. One of the more interesting aspects of the story, for me, was that it was often difficult to tell who the good guys were versus the bad guys, and there are a lot of seemingly unreliable characters in this book--which was great, it really keeps you guessing because it's hard to tell who's telling the truth and who's lying and who's shading the truth for their own benefit and reasons.
I like Cherie Priest's writing style a lot. She's very adventuresome with her word usage and she creates a nice sense of atmosphere. This is a subgenre of SF called "steampunk" and it's the first of its breed I've ever read, which is perhaps why I liked it a lot, but didn't love it. The other reason I didn't love it is because, although I liked her writing style and all the descriptions, it did slow the pace down a fair amount. I mean, this novel's got flying machines, zombies, mad doctors, crazy drugs, weird machines, etc., so to me it seemed quite fresh and new, but I sometimes wished it would move faster. I also suspect my tolerance for "steampunk" is fairly limited. It requires a slightly different type of suspension of disbelief than other forms of SF seem to require, and mix it with this being "historical steampunk" and it's carrying a fairly heavy burden.
But I liked the characters, I liked the weird, creepy setting, and I liked the surprises she had in the end, although not completely unexpected, were good enough to surprise me a little bit. The ending is fairly ambiguous and I suppose it's up to the reader to decide exactly what happens next unless Priest has plans for a sequel. I made up my mind what would happen next and, had I been the author (a very unlikely event, all things considered), I would not have written the epilogue the way she did.
Nonetheless, would I recommend this book?
To readers of SF and steampunk? Absolutely.
To general readers? Yes, give it a try, it's a lot of fun.
November 17, 2009
The full question is: Who decides what gets published?
I'm sure there's a lot of frustrated wannabe writers who think it's agents.
And there are plenty of us who think it's the editors and/or publishers.
Now, I got this e-mail from my agent today, it's a rejection for a children's novel I wrote a while back and in fact, I didn't know we still had the manuscript out in the marketplace. My guess is this publisher had this manuscript for months and months.
Sorry to be so late in responding. I’m afraid we’ve decided against PETER NAMAKA. Our sales department maintains there are a lot of mermaid-type books available just now and fears we couldn’t be successful enough with this book.
This is not the first time, recently, that the sales department claims to have rejected a manuscript of mine. I don't know if this is the case, actually; I don't know if the editor likes it, they take the manuscript to a committee meeting and all the heads swivel to the sales department, who then give a thumb's-up or thumb's-down and that's that. I wonder, if editors are going to turn all decision-making over to the sales department, if agents should start bypassing editors entirely and just submit to the sales department. I'm not being snarky, either. I mean, doesn't that make sense? If you're an editor and presumably your job is to acquire manuscripts, but all you're really doing is making recommendations that are then decided on by someone in sales, should agents be going out to lunch with sales staff instead of editors? It makes sense to me. Don't you want to make contact with the actual decision makers?
Alternately, I don't know if this is just a slightly creative way of editors making rejections, but not taking responsibility for them by blaming the sales staff, thus staying on good terms with the agents. It's possible. Over the years I've had editors say they've liked the manuscript, but they showed it to a colleague, who talked them out of publishing it; I've had agents say the same thing. Now they're saying the sales staff is turning the manuscript down. Maybe it's a trend in publishing or maybe it's just the way things have always been done, but the editors are passing the buck.
But it does make one wonder, right? Who actually makes the final decision?
November 16, 2009
I was finally sitting my ass down yesterday to practice the guitar, was at it for 10 or 15 minutes, when my wife came in with the cell phone, somebody to talk to me. It turned out to be a student at Michigan State University doing that fundraiser thing, and he was a chatty fellow. Finally, after about 5 minutes of chit-chat I said, "Um, why don't you go ahead and tell me what you want, because this IS a fundraiser, right?"
"Well, we think of it as a friendraiser."
I just bet you do. And as pleasant a conversation as it was, "friend," I wasn't as a matter of fact sitting around on a Sunday afternoon waiting for you to call. I was actually doing something.
Which today made me think about the publishing business, because, well, it's Monday morning and I might as well think of something besides crawling back into bed for a couple hours. And along with such pleasant topics as genocide and healthcare reform, the publishing industry was there, waiting for me to think about it.
Agents, seemingly, ARE waiting around for you to contact them with a good, publishable project.
Editors? Same thing.
Readers? Hmmm. I'm always glad to find a new author, but frankly, I've got enough unread books lying around the house I could probably read one a week for the next year-and-a-half before I needed to go look for something new.
Which made me think about all this social media writers and aspiring writers have hooked themselves into: Facebook, MySpace, CrimeSpace, Twitter (dear God save us), blogs, listservs....
I know I started blogging as a way of selling books, of which it is a fairly mediocre medium. I stayed for the company (and the habit, probably). I rather like Facebook for its sense of quasi-community and I'm more in contact with my brother and sister there than I have been in years. MySpace is a distant memory, CrimeSpace never took off for me and Twitter I'm hoping will just go away in the near future, talk about a waste of bandwidth.
I think a key here is something I just wrote: "I stayed for the company."
I gotta tell you, I like Facebook a lot, but if someone I don't know asks me to become a "fan" I hit IGNORE pretty quickly. And people are constantly using Facebook to invite me to various online readings, etc. Which I also hit IGNORE pretty quickly. Hell, I'm too busy to sort through my own inbox half the time. [Actually, I lied. I don't hit IGNORE quickly. I just delete the invite and next time I bother checking my Facebook inbox I'll typically accept most Friend requests and go through and hit IGNORE for all the other stuff, which by then has expired anyway.]
Because really, I'm just not sitting around waiting to be invited.
Of course, I suppose, like being invited to events you never go to, it's nice to be invited.
How about you?
November 13, 2009
I just received in the mail 4 copies of the German translation of THE SERPENT'S KISS, which is titled GIFTHAUCH, which as far as I can tell means "BLIGHT." And they designed a new cover for it, which although pretty abstract, is pretty cool and sort of resembles a biohazard symbol if it was re-imagined by a modern painter (I guess).
Anyway, what I was saying in the earlier post? This is pretty cool.
A Success Checklist
November 13, 2009
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
has written a whole slew of articles on the freelance business that can be applied to writing novels or running just about any type of business. She's recently written a series on "success." Highly recommended.
In response, writer Brad R. Torgersen
wrote a checklist of when he will be a successful profession writer. It looks like this:
(X) … He makes his first professional short fiction sale.
(_) … He makes his 5th professional short fiction sale.
(_) … He makes his 10th professional short fiction sale.
(_) … He makes his 25th professional short fiction sale.
(_) … He makes his first professional novel sale.
(_) … He makes his 5th professional novel sale.
(_) … He makes his 10th professional novel sale.
(_) … He makes his 25th professional novel sale.
(_) … He has the entire mortgage paid off, through fiction revenue.
(_) … He has the equivalent of the mortgage in savings, as a financial cushion.
(_) … He is able to quit his corporate day job and write full-time.
I thought that was interesting. I would get to check off the same one he did, then be able to check off the "first professional novel sale" and the "fifth professional novel sale."
"He is able to quit his corporate day job and write full-time" I'd be able to check off as well if I was counting my nonfiction, but Brad doesn't seem to be looking at things that way.
I confess that the idea of this sort of checklist makes me ever so slightly uneasy. I think it's because "success" is largely a matter of definition and at different times in your life your definition changes, sometimes drastically. Go back and read Kris's things on success, especially when she talks about Robert Silverberg's essays, on one of our most successful SF writers who nonetheless "retired" from writing twice, apparently out of frustration.
But it does make me wonder about my list, so let's see if I can throw some sort of quasi list out there.
(X) ... Gets something (anything) published, even if it's not paid writing.
(X) ... Gets paid for his writing.
(X) ... Gets an agent (I've had 3 for fiction, and one for nonfiction. Maybe I should write about this again)
(X) ... First short fiction sale.
( ) ... He makes his 5th professional short fiction sale. (I rarely write it)
(X) ... He makes his first professional nonfiction article sale.
(X) ... He makes his 100th professional nonfiction article sale (I'm not even counting, but I'm way past that).
(X) ... He makes his first professional novel sale.
(X) ... He makes his first professional novel sale that has an actual book advance.
(X) ... He makes his fifth professional novel sale that has an actual book advance.
(X) ... He gets foreign translations of his books published.
(X) ... He gets movie studios/producers interested in his books.
( ) ... He gets a film option of one of his books.
( ) ... A film is made out of one of his books.
( ) ... Audio book rights are sold.
( ) ... He gets a novel advance that exceeds $5000.
(X) ... After being dropped by one publisher, he gets picked up by another.
( ) ... He gets a novel advance that exceeds $10,000.
( ) ... He gets a novel advance that exceeds $20,000.
( ) ... He gets a novel advance that exceeds $50,000.
( ) ... He gets a novel advance that is six-figures, all six figures on the left side of the decimal point.
(X) ... He receives a $5,000 advance for a nonfiction writing job.
(X) . . . he receives a $10,000 advance for a nonfiction writing job.
(X) ... He is offered a contract for a nonfiction book.
( ) ... He actually accepts the contract for a nonfiction book.
( ) ... Nonfiction book actually gets published.
( ) ... Nonfiction book actually gets published, and in the process he does NOT want to beat up, maim, or kill his collaborators and/or publishers.
( ) ... He gets a contract and eventual publication for a nonfiction book that he did not ghost or collaborate on.
( ) ... He publishes more than one book a year.
( ) ... His annual income exceeds six figures, all on the left side of the decimal point.
(X) ... He is a full-time professional writer.
( ) ... His sole six-figure annual writing income comes from fiction only.
( ) ... He takes a week-long vacation and doesn't, not even once, field a business-related e-mail or take a laptop computer along to write.
(X) ... Is happy, contented, satisfied, etc., with his writing career, with the caveat that there's always more, more, more, and the goals and checklist continues to grow.
Looking at my list, there are things there that never ever would have occurred to me 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. I think if you had shown me this list and what I had checked off 10 or 15 or 20 years ago I would have been shocked at how successful I had become. That I don't necessarily always feel successful says something somewhat unflattering about me, although I think that's largely a process of being a human being, not me being an ungrateful swine.
How about you?
A Day In The Life Of A Writer
November 12, 2009
Yes, I sometimes pick very busy days for my "A Day In The Life Of A Writer" countdown, and here's yesterday, which was rather weird.
5:45. Up and not happy about it.
6:15. Checking e-mail and by 6:30 making my first Facebook entry. Leanne was off work so she did the kid driving, so I sat down with the laptop and finished reading the work I've done so far on my SF novel-in-progress, A Plague Of Stars.
7:30. We drive to the doctor's office. Leanne for a physical, me to give blood, try to get a swine flu shot, nag about prescriptions, and set up an appointment for next week.
8:15. Sit in doctor office trying to catch up on my medical newsletter reading that I'm 3 months behind on. Give blood. Set up appt. No H1N1 available. Read, read, read.
~9:45. Leanne's done, we drive back home and hit Big Boy for breakfast, which neither of us had because of fasting blood work. We're starving. (Whole grain pancakes for her; farmer's omelet for me).
10:30. Home. Jump on the computer, deal with e-mail, edit second galley for technical journal I edit.
1:00. Contact writer for ITW Report, set up e-mail interview. Send off materials to web maven for e-mail newsletter. Respond to various marketing-type stuff with book publisher's PR person. Finish some additional requests regarding figures for an article I turned in the day before.
2:00. Interview a California PhD and expert on cyber medicine.
2:25. Transcribe interview.
3:00. Interview an Alabama PhD and expert on computer engineering and wireless body area networks.
3:35. Transcribe interview.
4:15. Deal with late-arriving changes to technical journal galley. Send off interview questions for an e-mail interview for ITW Report.
5:00. Interview California PhD and expert on wireless body area networks.
5:25. Transcribe interview.
6:00. Go upstairs and work on reading/editing a fiction manuscript for the Mystery Writers of America mentoring project.
6:30. Put cheese on mostaciolli and put in oven. Get garlic bread prepped, then set timer for 10 minutes to remind me to raise oven temp and put garlic bread in oven.
6:55. Leanne and Ian and Sean come home from swim club and Leanne asks me why I didn't put the garlic bread in the oven. I realize that instead of hitting timer, I hit clock, reset the microwave clock to 10:00 and never thought to check. In goes the garlic bread. (And I reset the clock)
7:15. We eat dinner. I do dishes.
7:45. Practice guitar (working on Satin Doll chords and a fingerstyle version of Angels We Have Heard On High).
8:10. Finish reading mentor manuscript.
8:30. Fire up laptop and work on Dressed To Kill.
9:00. Get ready for bed. Read until 9:30ish (Boneshaker).
9:30ish. Lights out.
Hopefully today won't be quite as screwy.
Don't Think About It Too Much
November 11, 2009
For you aspiring writers or soon-to-be-published novelists, pay close attention to this. For you who have been published, let me know your thoughts.
As some of you may know, the local newspaper ran an article about my novel writing lately. I followed it up with some other local stuff. When I went into the bank yesterday one of the cashiers wanted to buy my books, so I brought a box in and she bought three and another cashier bought two, and they told me to come back on Thursday when another of the bank employees would be in who had already expressed an interest in my books. Very gratifying.
I also send out numerous e-mails to local band parents. I'm the "voice" of the band program in some ways as the Band Booster secretary. After the article a number of people expressed surprise and interest in my books. So in my last email I threw in a link to my website and told them thanks for the interest, if you're interested in my books, contact me. A couple have, although it's been impossible to close the deals, assuming there are any to be closed.
Last night was a Band Booster meeting so I took a box of books, just for grins, and told people I had them there and would sell them at a discount. One of my friends who I've known since well before being involved in BB, bought two. The band director bought one.
No one else did.
Let me make it completely, totally, utterly clear: I am extremely grateful to ANYONE who shells out their money for my books. That includes many of you. Thank you, thank you.
The point of this, and I view it as an object lesson, is that sometimes, when we talk about publishing, we make comments about how the only buyers of your books will be your family and friends.
Uh-huh. Here's the bad news. Not all your family or friends will buy your books.
Not everybody reads. Not everybody would consider buying a book, they'll go to the library. (I love libraries, but there isn't a novelist in the U.S. who can make a living by only selling to libraries). Some people may actually assume that if YOU wrote it, it must be bad. Or they're just not interested. Or maybe there's some jealousy involved. I don't know. Or... whatever.
And vice versa, you know. Some family and friends can be wildly supportive. My brother and sister have been very supportive (although I give them copies of my books), as has a couple of other relatives, like my niece Sara and my cousin Bill. (Hell, Bill's practically a one-man sales force. When my books appeared in the past he'd go to the local Borders, buy up all their copies to give to friends and family, then tell the store to order more. A thousand more people like him and Dan Brown had better watch out).
But some good friends don't, for whatever the reason.
And you really shouldn't get your feelings hurt about this, you know. It's hard not to sometimes, but people don't care about your books the way you do. I can't possibly express the number of times I've talked to friends and neighbors and I mention my books and they express interest, but never buy the book. Or even a couple friends and/or neighbors who I've given a book to as a gift who then never read it.
The fact is ... well, people are weird. At least compared to writers (how's that for irony). The fact is, people have their own lives and tastes and everything else.
Well, either that or I'm just not that likable.
Either way, I think you should just value your friends and family for who they are without judging them on whether they buy your books or not.
But don't think too much about it. Just accept it.
Middle School Career Day
November 10, 2009
Yes, I participated in the Middle School Career Day, giving a spiel about publishing and writing and novels and freelance writing to about 60 6th graders. Overall, a cool experience.
I followed the owner of a Subaru, Honda, etc., dealership. He gave away hats to people who asked questions. I gave away bookmarks to everybody. He showed a video. I passed around books and stuff.
The guy who followed me does "airflow simulation." Maybe I should have hung around to see what the hell that is, but I had some business to attend to.
A Little Shot Of Reality
November 9, 2009
Spyscribbler pointed me to a post about the royalty statements
by a New York Times bestselling paperback original author. It's totally depressing, but a significant shot of reality. One of the things that's probably most interesting to me that's sort of new, is it's the first time I've ever heard anybody make a stab at comparing how much an author makes on a book compared to how much the publisher makes on the book. In this case, she had a $50,000 advance (and with 80,000+ sold and about 22,000 returned), probably no significant royalties showing up, she estimates the publisher makes, after their expenses, maybe $250,000.
I'm reminded rather brutally reminded of an interview I once read with Burt Reynolds. He asked his son what he wanted to do when he grew up and his son said be a producer. Burt asked him why. His son said, "Whenever we're at actors' houses, I see photographs on the walls of other actors. Whenever we're at producers' houses, they have Picasso's and Monet's on their walls."
November 9, 2009
Why write fiction? I know maybe why you do, I think. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a compulsion. "I have to." "It's what God put me on earth to do." (I hate that one. There's some poor starving, disease-ridden schmuck out there in the world, a bunch of them, and I doubt they're thinking: this is what God put me on earth to do. And if he/she did, well, what kind of a god is that?)
We watched W. this weekend, a weird movie, not the satire I thought it was going to be, a sort of half-assed biopic about George W. Bush, and if you take what is says at face value, George W. both felt compelled to run for President as a mission from God, as well as a way to prove himself to his father. I actually suspect both are true, but hey... just because you think God wants you to do it doesn't mean God actually wants you to do it.
I make a tidy living as a freelance writer, better than tidy most of the time, and my finances, from what I can tell, wouldn't be any worse off by quitting fiction entirely. And yet I keep coming back to it.
Because I can? Is writing fiction MY Mt. Everest? I climb it to prove myself? I climb it "because it's there." I climb it "because I can."
I'm always amused, a little distastefully, perhaps, when a novelist says something along the lines of, "I'm not well-suited for anything else"
Well, shit, Kemosabe, neither are most of those poor slobs that have been doing backbreaking manual labor in some hellhole 4th world country. They don't have education, haven't seen a computer, and wouldn't know what to do with a desk and chair. If you can't make a living as a novelist, poor guy with no other useful skills, maybe we can stick you out in a construction zone holding a flag that says SLOW on it, because maybe that's a sign you should carry around with you, if the only skillset you have is making up stories. Hell, go back to school to become a nurse's aid. At least the world NEEDS nurses. Just about the last thing the world needs is another freakin' novelist. If a selective plague killed off every novelist in the world, none of us would have a shortage of reading material, trust me on that.
Because I can, I suppose.
I May Be Stupid, But...Why
November 8, 2009
Not this stupid.
Here's the body of an e-mail I just received:
We have been waiting for you to contact us for your Confirmable Package that is registered with us for shipping to your residential location. You have a Bank Draft worth of $800,000.00 USD and some vital documents. Please do contact our delivery officer for more informations
Of course. I was EXPECTING a bank draft for $800,000. Who doesn't?
November 5, 2009
My website maven is in the process of revamping my website
. (You can also click on the top banner as well). Most, if not all, of the new content is now up. Most of the page redesign is in place, although some coding still remains to be done. The first 6 chapters of THE FALLEN are available as a PDF. There's a new interview up, new bio, etc. Check it out.
Can Book Promotion Hurt You?
November 4, 2009
3 Cool Quotes
November 4, 2009
Ran across these quotes today.
"A great story is life, with the dull parts taken out."--Alfred Hitchcock
"This is a book that should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." --Dorothy Parker
"If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too?"--Steven Wright
All right! I love this stuff. Do you have any great quotes that you love? That would make a great T-shirt? I ran across a website with cool T-shirts on it earlier in the week and rather liked the one that said, "Have a Pheasant Plucking Day."
And as for writing quotes, I'm fond of:
"A writer gets paid per word, per hour, or perhaps."--Robert Benchley
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."--Groucho Marx
Gives New Meaning To Driving Under The Influence
In Over My Head
November 2, 2009
Really, life's a little nuts this week. I don't know if I'll be blogging at all until next Tuesday. So go visit The Divine Ms. O.