Thursday, December 31, 2009

Testing testosterone 2010

Nothing says "I love you" like a chainsaw.

My beautiful wife gave me a chainsaw for Christmas and it coincided with a major ice storm. So it's been a frenzy of firewood, beaver fever, wood woodies, bzzzzZZZZ. She digs the smell of sweat and sawdust so it all works out.

In writing news, I'm in the stretch run of the last paranormal novel and continuing on with the Richard Coldiron follow-up and planning a cool YA novel. It looks like 2010 will be a great year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Testing the e-book waters

With so many Kindle readers being sold and success achieved by writers like J.A. Konrath and Lee Goldberg, I am testing the waters with a couple of e-book releases. The first one I have planned is "Burial To Follow," a novelette originally appearing in the Cemetery Dance anthology Brimstone Turnpike. It's a test case to sort out formatting, but it's also one of my Top Five works ever, and the original release was limited to 626 copies. So this is a chance to get the story into the hands of many more readers, which of course is the real point. It also doesn't hurt that the money flows directly to the writer's bank account.

I am divided on e-books and I remember in the 1990s when everyone said e-books were the immediate future (indeed, some said it was the present). I guess along with personal jet-cars and robot house servants, we'll just have to wait a while, but the undeniable truth is that bookstores are closing, paper books cost money to bind and ship, and distribution is still the largest single barrier between a good writer and an audience. Like Konrath and Goldberg, I still say writers should get the agent/major publisher paper deal and try the most difficult path possible before taking the easy way out and slapping up a bunch of e-books and hoping someone will recognize genius.

Another undeniable truth is that a lot more e-readers are being produced and sold, not just the Kindle. If you use one of these devices, I'd love to hear from you. If my "Burial To Follow" experiment proves worth the effort, look for possible re-releases of The Red Church and a story collection. Now time to go last-minute shopping (no Kindles in the stocking this year, though.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Giant Robot Panic in Hollywood

I'm all for the "little guy makes good" in the creative world, because every one of those overnight success stories involves years and years of craft and hard work. But the "Giant Robot" YouTube bidding war strikes me as a little extreme even for Hollywood. Sure, there's talent here, and excellent composition, but I wonder if Fede Alvarez can hang a story together. Most people can only sit still for about three uninterrupted minutes of blowing stuff up, no matter how cool. What do you do for the other two hours? Where are the people we care about? But I'm a writer so I think character arcs are necessary, or maybe I'm just jealous and want a job...but I'd have brought back the little kid near the end, given him a crumpled baby shoe or something poignant. Are you reading this, Fede Alvarez? Sam Raimi? Let me put a heart in your robot! Make me an Internet sensation and send me viral! Let me--

(Writer is incinerated by alien robot ray)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some writing links

One of the pieces of writing advice I often give is "Be a student of the game." Like most people who give advice, I usually stop taking my own advice once I think I'm smart enough to give it. The 20th book on "How to Write And Edit A Bestselling Novel" is often quite the same as the first, and "How To Promote Your Book" is dated by the time it rolls off the presses. But in the interest of catching up from those years where I was raising tomatoes and chickens, writing comic books and screenplays, and finishing a few novels while not pushing the envelope (mass queries in the mail), I've begun reading some industry blogs I'll pass along: toothy blog by an agent's assistant
Miss Snark has not been updated in a couple of years but it shoots from the hip on agency submission procedures, including the ever-popular terrible query letters
Joe Konrath's Newbies Guide to Publishing--here is a role model for any aspiring writer
Nihilistic Kid, author and editor Nick Mamatas's blog, full of brash opinion on the industry (as opposed to the many "It is what it is" blogs of people who are afraid to offend anybody, including potential employers or agents)
Scary parent, blog of writer Joe Schreiber

Monday, December 7, 2009

The changing publishing industry

Someone was asking me about publishing industry changes and I don't even know the half of it because everything has changed since I started, and I obviously don't know even half the story. But here's my ill-informed perspective, based on experience, observation, and talking to a few people in the know. The major change that I see now is that most agents don't even bother to respond to you, even if they ASK to see your manuscript. And the publishers are even worse, because they're doing the same thing to agents. I believe everybody is running scared both because of the economy and the rapid changes in the industry and technology that are blurring the definition of "published" and even the chain stores aren't sure how to deal with it.

Bookstore orders are roughly determined at about the time the publisher offers a contract--if the publisher pays you $10k it's going to print enough (and pretty much ONLY enough) copies to make its money back, and the bookstores see that figure and judge the publisher's amount of advertising (which will be none for practically any book below bestseller) and pretty much pick a "typical" number for that publisher's midlist sales in that particular genre. Say, Harlequin Hottie line sells 8 titles per store, so they will order 8 copies NO MATTER who the author is. Once your own name is out there for a couple of books, they go entirely on that data, which is why you need to do as many signings and promo events as possible in the three months after your book comes out. Very rarely does anyone suddenly get a big swell in sales, usually the opposite happens, unless you get great word of mouth or get real lucky.

There's really not much you can do besides all you can! Unfortunately this Amway method puts all the onus on the author, who can least afford the time and cost and has not much money to gain, with the real threat of never being able to sell another book if your sales tank (unless you get a pen name). Cheers. That's not to say I've been eating sour grapes. Authors are obviously still selling books and stores are still open, so somebody's doing something right somewhere. And I believe every great book--and most good ones--will eventually find a proper home.

The good news is, all that has not a lot to do with the real reason for writing--to express, to scream, to run naked, to giggle, to survive.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Handicapping Tiger's tarts

While the sports media focuses on "Can Tiger focus on the game?" and mainstream press is already spinning how he can rehabilitate his image, and tabloid blogdom tracks down photos of the major players, I am more interested in who is best going to capitalize on sleazy celebrity. As of this writing, there is no telling how many more tarts will come out of the rough (or how many have already taken their payoffs and will never be known, until they realize they can make more cash by spilling the dirt.) If you're offended by my referring to these women as "tarts," they ALL knew Tiger Woods was married, so I don't care how "misunderstood" Tiger felt, or whether it was fueled by drinking or Ambien, or if they secretly thought they could cash in at some point. It's not like Tiger lied to them about not being married. That makes them tarts in my book. But not all will actually strike gold and attain the level of true whoredom. Here are the odds:

Double bogey: Rachel Uchitel, the original tart, flubbed her golden opportunity by apparently lying about lying. She should have known there were more like her around, and now she's playing the "too many secrets to talk" game, hinting that she can spread the wealth if she so chooses and thus is a valuable asset to the trash media. Sorry, the spin cycle on any one tart will be too short and there are already so many players you need a score card. Still she nabbed a reported $3 mil, so at least she's set the bar.

One over par: Jamie Jungers, allegedly linked to alleged infidelity; tied with all the others who will soon emerge (a fifth has reportedly gotten a lawyer and two others have reportedly sold their stories to the press). The ones who move the fastest will strike the most gold, unless one of them hit the jackpot with a secret sex tape.

Par: Kalika Moquin, who apparently is playing it cool and seems content to cash in while not appearing trashy--presenting herself as an "above it all" no-comment and maybe hoping to come out as somehow respectable and thus having a chance at a life where she's not remembered as a tart.

One under par: Jamie Grubb--she is giving the impression that she will do anything (and probably has) for a buck, and she is eager to dish out whatever it takes, even if she has to err on the side of sensationalism. The only sand trap is she is a little trashier than the rest of the card, so attention may go to those with better quotes.

Hole in one: Elin Nordegren, the estranged wife. And after this week, no jury on Earth would convict her of assault. Considering the rich opportunities for disease, she could easily claim self-defense. But one wonders if it will be worth $80 million to show up at golf tournaments, smile, and wave to the camera while standing by her man?

And Tiger? You have to wonder why he ever got married. If it was just to further his image as the squeaky-clean, hard-working family man suitable for corporate sponsorships, then he deserves everything he has coming to him.

Another thought: Instead of trying to pay off all these tarts and turn them into whores, why doesn't he just tell them to go ahead and spill the beans? He might even get more tarts if the reports are favorable.