Demolition Man

Back in 1993 the world bore witness to the majesty of Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes trading barbs and beating the shit out of each other. Demolition Man was mostly just a fun popcorn movie, but at its core, there was an interesting look at society as a whole. Now, I won’t delve into the details of the movie – it’s readily available and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re not likely to see it now. And that’s okay; it’s not a movie for everyone, even if Snipes does a wonderful job of playing an overpowered psychopath and Stallone does a surprisingly good job at playing someone who’s completely at sea in a world he doesn’t understand.

Not the poster you’re used to seeing, huh? I scour the edges of the Internet to find interesting things for you.

Interestingly, the basic story of a bad guy and a good guy frozen and reawoken to find violence purged from society was lifted (uncredited, I might add) straight out of István Nemere’s 1986 novel Fight of the Dead. From what I’ve heard, this wasn’t the first time Hollywood filched a plot out of some Eastern European author’s work (Nemere is Hungarian) and used it as their own, nor would it be the last. I’ll let the courts handle that one, although it’s probably only a matter of time before Hollywood writers turn their greedy eyes toward the indie authors knowing full well we don’t have the economic resources to fight them in court.

But that’s neither here nor there and, since to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet, it’s a waste of time to fret about it. I would like to point out to Hollywood that there are a wealth of stories out there that could be bought on the cheap from authors who’d love the exposure. Or they can keep cranking out sub-par remakes of existing properties. Also, my email address is in the contact link. Let’s talk.

And let me just say, “Ole!”

No, the reason I bring up Demolition Man today is because I just watched it again recently and something about it tugged at me. Deep inside its funny, black heart lies an interesting question: at what point can we say that a society that is functional for most needs to go? This is a question I’ve been grappling with in a book I’ve been writing off and on for a couple years now (dysRUPT, if you must know). The general gist of the story is society has become so enamored with safety, that it’s now illegal to do anything unsafe. There are rippling effects of this philosophy through the fabric of society: consumerism keeps people happy, even though they’re just buying slight variations on a theme, and it’s impossible to buy fried foods. As a result, some college kids start doing little things to shake up the world and soon it all blows up in their faces.

But Demolition Man got there first, even if its message was masked in explosions and shots at Taco Bell. That’s the subtle brilliance of the movie. Most of the action movies of the 80s and 90s didn’t even bother with a pretext of having a serious message underneath the big guys beating the snot out of each other, Total Recall notwithstanding. Demolition Man hinted at the idea that society should have some sort of balance between the safe and the unsafe, the good and the bad, and that even dangerous things can be okay (rat burgers). And yet, at the same time, it also asked an important question: If a society, no matter how lame it is, works, what right does the individual have to change that because it doesn’t work for him or her?

And that’s an important question to ask even in our real world. Theoretically, we should stick to a society that’s best for most people and it’s unlikely we’d ever create something that works well for everyone. So, for instance, if the plurality doesn’t give a rat’s ass what bathroom you use or if you’re doing a little wake and bake, what right do we have to create laws regulating those things? If a small handful of people get weirded out when someone says, “Fuck!”, should we fine people one credit for violation of the Verbal Morality statute? Or, should we tell people to shove it?

Sandra Bullock got the best lines.

I’m not a fan of going out of my way to be a jerk toward people I don’t agree with or making fun of their feelings, but at the same time, I don’t feel that lying down and taking it is the best answer, either.

What are your thoughts on this? Outlaw everything you don’t like or learn to live with the things that skeeve you out? I’m on the learn to live with it side, personally.

 

Another Week, Another Whiner

rant

My grandfather was an engineer in the defense industry back in the day. Like most engineers, he had all kinds of corny jokes like pointing at water tanks and asking, “What are those?” When I’d answer, “Tanks,” he’d reply, “You’re welcome, but what are those.”

And so it went.

But his favorite joke still makes me chuckle every now and then. It seems the when Japanese auto industry was starting up, they wanted some expertise to help kick start their processes and designs, so they went to the source and hired a German guy. He worked tirelessly, creating their process flows and initial engineering designs of what would eventually become some of the most iconic cars on the road. After he finished and was about to go back to Germany, flush with the knowledge of a job well done, he met with the company owners in the boardroom.

“You have done an excellent job,” the CEO said, “but we have more request. It shouldn’t take much of your time. It would seem we need to change the name of the company and would like your input on what to call it.”

“Can I take a few days to think about things?” the German engineer asked.

“Unfortunately, no. We must have the required paperwork ready to go today, so we need a new name in the next ten minutes.”

“Dat soon?”

If you get that joke, congrats, you’re a car geek. If you don’t, well, don’t worry about it. But here’s a hint:

datsun240z

Fun fact: my dad loved these cars.

Back in the 70s and 80s, the Japanese auto manufacturers were making great inroads into the American market. American cars of the time used a lot of gas and had all kinds of reliability issues, so the cheaper, more efficient, more reliable Japanese cars started to look attractive to American consumers. Sure, early Hondas and Toyotas lacked the luxury of some of the American brands, but they were almost maintenance-free and didn’t use much fuel. Those things, coupled with the low cost price points, put a huge amount of Japanese cars on American roads in short order.

American manufactures, stung by their dwindling markets, did the logical thing and slammed the Japanese manufacturers and anyone who drove one of their cars as un-American and referred to those early Japanese vehicles as rice-burners, Jap scrap, and a variety of other less-than-pleasant epithets. Not to mention pointing fingers at people buying Japanese cars and complaining about how they were giving their money to Japan. I’m sure those insults and slurs were small comfort to the people standing on the side of the road because their Chevy just spontaneously dumped all its oil or standing over the charred remains of the AMC that exploded after a minor rear-end accident. Especially as a Honda CVCC buzzed by with the windows down and the stock AM radio blaring.

Still, for the US auto industry, sales were dropping and every little dip took away more jobs and more money. Ultimately, it took years for the American auto manufacturers to get their collective shit back together and ask what the hell happened. Surprise! It turned out the people buying Japanese cars weren’t un-American assholes, they just wanted cheap, reliable, efficient cars, something the American companies seemed to have forgotten how to make.

The American auto manufacturers are getting back on track and have learned to make cheaper, more reliable, more efficient vehicles of their own, just like the Japanese companies figured out how to add amenities and make some truly luxurious vehicles. Entire lines of vehicles from both sides of the ocean have vanished to the dustbin of history because they weren’t profitable and what’s left over comes and goes as the sales ebb and flow. But, both Japanese and American auto industries are still running strong.

Oddly, now the US cars are often cheaper than the Japanese cars and the Koreans are about to do to the Japanese auto companies what the Japanese did to the American companies. A lot of Japanese cars are now made in American and a lot of American cars are made in Mexico. And Mexico has developed its own kick-ass supercar: the 1400bhp Inferno.

Inferno

Slicker than snot on a greased doorknob. I want one.

So, what does all this have to do with writing and whiners? Funny you should ask.

Late last week, a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page to a diatribe some traditionally-published author had written about how horrible the indie authors were. It was cleverly titled “We Live In A Literary World of Terrible Self-Published Authors”. Launching from that subtle point, Koz continued a nuanced discussion of how every indie author everywhere was just … terrible. From the covers to the writing it was all bad.

All bad. And he continued to whittle away at the indie author world with the tell-tale restraint you only get from traditionally published authors who are watching their sales plummet:

“Normally, traditionally published books have an expectation of quality. This includes great editing, cover art, formatting, and foreign translations. I am not saying all traditionally published books are good, but the average indie title is utter trash.”

As indies, we’re apparently cutting into sales and, gasp, probably won’t join any respectable writing organizations because we’re not professionals. He even statistics to prove his case and used big words to back it up.

“This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”

But the funny thing is, once you strip away the bullshit, you’ll see Koz isn’t ranting from the window ledge for the good of all mankind. He may be advocating better quality control in the indie world (which, admittedly, it can use), but the reason why he’s so hopped up comes down to the one thing that’s repeated over and over in the article: sales of traditionally published books are down.

In other words, money.

So, here’s something to ponder: If sales of traditionally published books are down and people are buying up what Koz calls “utter trash”, why would that be? It seems to me to be counter-intuitive. Why buy crap when you can get the best books out there with great editing, cover art, formatting, and foreign translations?

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Shut up, Zoidberg.

If you ever want to find out why something is happening, follow the money. From car manufacturers, to politicians, to publishing houses, and beyond, money will always tell you the truth about reasons, because almost all reasons come down to money. You can chuckle all you want, you can say it’s not true, you can even stick your fingers in your ears and yell, “La la la, I’m not listening to you! Fake news! Fake news!”, but the truth is money is the root of most decisions.

I think I’ve pointed out on this blog multiple times that publishers are in the business of doing exactly one thing: making money. The fact that they publish books is just the means to the end of making money. Sure, in order to make the most money, they have to produce a good product or they’re gonna go the way of the AMC Pacer in short order, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Part of marketing your product is finding the appropriate audience. Or creating one. In any given group you’re likely to find a large percentage of people who will buy product X, but you’re never going to get everyone to buy it. Certainly, that’s part of the reason there are so many genres and sub-genres – to cover as much ground as possible. But, if we accept it as an axiom that publishers want to make money, we have to accept they’re going to publish the titles that will give them the best bang for their buck. Publishing traditional paper books is hugely expensive and there’s probably an algorithm the publishers use to determine whether or not a book will be profitable.

In case you’re wondering, yes, that could well be part of the reason you got that rejection letter. It’s not that your book sucked, it’s that might not make enough money to be profitable. If that’s the case, try self-publishing it. If it’s good enough, it’ll sell. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make it better. Or write another one and another one and another one.

idiocracymoney

Make money, money. Make money, money.

So, money isn’t flowing to the big publishers in the same quantities anymore and people like Koz are screaming at all of us for buying and writing indie books. I get it, they’re losing money and that’s no fun, but just like the American auto manufacturers in the 70s and 80s, Koz and crew are asking the wrong questions and pointing fingers in the wrong directions.

The problem, obviously, isn’t the quality of the work out there. If all Indie works were truly trash, no one would be buying them. Covers and editing are probably holding some people back, but those people are still selling books. So, then, what’s causing readers to flock to Indie books?

Remember, in any large group of people, you’re going to find a subset that will not accept the mainstream ideals and will seek out their own interests. That subset may not be large enough for a traditional publisher to cater to, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a tappable market. Witness the huge amount of money Christie Sims made of dinosaur erotica. If there’s a niche market out there, it’s got to be fans of dinosaur erotica. Note to those fans: I’m not dissing you, I’m just saying you’re an, uh, elite group. Carry on and read whatever makes you happy. But I wouldn’t expect any of the major publishing houses to read a manuscript based on dinosaur erotica and decide to publish it.

And that right there might have more to do with declining sales in traditional publishing than anything Koz can come up with. Some people are still amazed at his great editing, covers, and foreign translations, but a lot of people are just bored with his shit and want to read something else.

So, all you traditionally published authors out there might want to take a step back just like the American auto manufacturers had to all those decades ago and find out just what’s really going on. Pointing fingers and flinging shit is all fun, but it’s not solving your problem. Rather than writing hit pieces, why don’t you take a gander at what your problem really is.

As for the rest of you, keep writing. Remember, a pro is an amateur that didn’t quit. Keep moving forward and getting better at what you do.

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Even though I’m loath to give Koz and crew more clicks, I believe in fairness. If you want to read the article I’ve been referring to, check it out here.

How Indie is Indie?

Late last year I was at Page One, one of the few remaining local independent bookstores in Albuquerque. The other is Bookworks. Both are great places and are generally much more pleasant to hang out in than any of the bigger corporate joints. Anyway, when we were at Page One there was a small spot in the back where some local indie authors were doing a little meet and greet. It was quiet, so I went up to say hello and meet some of the other Albuquerque authors.

So, what was the first thing they ask me? “Who are you published with?”

When I told them I self-published my three they got that look. You know, the one that says, “So, you’re not good enough to get published?”

I shook hands, nodded and smiled, and moved on to see what else the store had to offer.

The whole interaction got me wondering, though. These guys had publishers, editors, book designers, book formatters, and so on. Granted, they were published through a small press, but they had actual publishers and people who, ostensibly, were there to help them out. If their publishers were anything like the other publishers I’ve heard about, the authors had to give up rights to their books and get a pittance from each sale, but they had a larger support structure than I did when I started out.

How exactly is that independent again? If we say you’re an indie author because you’re with a small press, then independence is simply a matter of scale. The difference between publishing through Hachette and a local publisher is just that the publisher is larger and you get even less of a pittance from each sale.

And in return, you get to look down on people who decided to publish on their own.

Does that mean that their work was any better or worse than anything self-pubbed? No, not necessarily. Certainly there’s a ton of crap being self-published these days, but there’s also a bunch of crap coming out of traditional publishers both large and small. Where the publishing happens is largely a matter of choice and has no real impact on the quality of the work. As a buddy of mine says, “Crap abounds.”

Publishing is an interesting world these days. It used to be you had to get a rep, send a manuscript around, and tack rejection notices up on your wall while you drank scotch and hammered out the next great American novel. Now, I can pretty much guarantee you there’s someone out there that will happily publish your book, but that acceptance letter will probably come through a small publisher. Don’t expect much in the way of an advance or help with marketing, though. Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, you’re pretty much on your own making sales. Fortunately for King and Rowling, they’re both excellent authors with a long history, so marketing their books can consist of “New Stephen King novel coming in a few months. We’ve already deducted the cost from your checking account and you can expect the book on your Kindle when it comes out.”

Does all this mean I look down on people who went through publishers? Not at all. I respect the gumption to get out there and wade through the Byzantine maze of publishers and find someone they can work with. That takes a lot of patience and more wherewithal than I can usually muster. And traditional publishers offer some intangible benefits that self-publishing does not. A lot of book awards won’t even look at self-published books. Ditto for a bunch of the bigger book review blogs. Another benefit is you can look down your nose at self-published authors.

Self-published people, on the other hand, get the benefit of keeping the rights to their own works and generally get larger royalties. The downside is you don’t have the resources of a publisher to help you out.

Which means you are well and truly on your own with self-published works. You make the call about how it gets edited, designed, and marketed. Fortunately, there’s an entire cottage industry out there doing cover design, ebook formatting, print book formatting, editing, and so on. In fact, if you need covers or formatting, drop me a line. I’m good and I work pretty cheap. If you take a quick look at the bottom of this post, there are some links to people who can help you format your book, design your cover, provide editing and proofreading services and so on.

In both cases, self-published and traditionally published authors are usually on the hook for their own marketing and that’s the thing that’s truly brutal. You may think pouring your life into a book for a year is rough. Wait until you have to get people to read it.

In case this was a tl;dr moment, to sum up:

There are pluses and minuses to self-publishing or going through traditional publishing routes. Traditionally published authors get more resources, better awards, and also get the ability to look down on self-published authors. Self-published authors get to keep the rights to their own works and usually get better royalties. Both are valid ways forward because when you’re writing the only important thing is someone out there is reading.

In the end, it’s your choice to determine just how indie you want to be. I write, format my own books, and design my own covers. Others are quite content to farm out some of that work. It’s up to you and no one else.

So, either way, if you’re just starting out and are looking for some resources, here are some folks I know that might be able to help you on your way.

Resources:

Editing

Kelly Hartigan

Kim Huther

Michelle Dunbar (email)

Cover Design

Sharon Brownlie

Eric Lahti

Melanie Smith (sells photography, can be used for cover art)

eBook Formatting

Eric Lahti

Print Formatting

Eric Lahti

Marketing

Melanie Smith

ilovebookz.com

You can also try to send me a review request for this blog.

If you know of anyone who should be added to this list, leave a comment with his or her contact information. At some point in the near future, Ian D. Moore of bouncepen.com is going to make a more permanent version of this list.

SIBA 2016

SIBA, for those of you not in the know, stands for Summer Indie Book Awards, an annual award for indie authors promoted by Metamorph Publishing. It’s a great (and free, free is important) chance for indie authors to get our works out a little further and explore some of what other people are doing. All in all, it should be fun time, especially since the rules are pretty lax. Essentially, during the nomination phase, you’re allowed to vote for as many books in each category as you feel like each day for ten days. Then some magic happens and something else will happen. I’m honestly not sure what will happen next; I was nominated and was pleasantly surprised to find Henchmen came in 2nd in fantasy. If it goes further, great. If not, that’s cool, too.

shockedpitbull

This was my shocked and awed face.

Honestly, I just thought it was cool someone nominated me. And contrary to what you might have heard, 2nd place is not the first loser.

Now, all in all this should be an easy thing. Vote. Count votes. Announce winner(s). Easy peasy, right?

Apparently, during the nomination voting phase a couple authors had to be removed from the competition for sending threatening emails, at least one winner that I know of got a 1 star review on his book from a friend of the 2nd place guy, and there were apparently vast accusations of cheating and other chicanery. I know a guy who’s getting off Facebook because he won his category and has gotten nothing but grief and nasty messages.

nicholsoninsult

Now, let’s be clear here: As far as I know the winner gets bragging rights and a featured spot on Metamorph’s web page; nothing more. It’s not like we’re all competing for a million-dollar contract or anything (those don’t really exist anyway), you get a featured spot and the ability to say you’ve won.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool stuff right there – and I applaud whoever wins in the end – but it’s hardly something worth threats, nasty messages, and accusations of cheating. And how, exactly, do you cheat in a contest where you can vote every day for as many books as you want and rope your friends into doing the same?

So, for a group that always pats itself on the back about how supportive it is, there are at least a few indie authors being real dicks. To those people, I say, “You’re acting like children, grow the heck up.”

vikingofdisapproval

In case you’re wondering who won the fantasy genre nominations, it’s this book and it looks like it might be interesting.

And thanks to Metamorph Publishing for doing this award and putting up with all the nonsense that came along with it. You people have the patience of saints.

Book Review – The Welcome by Tom Benson et al

For starters, the full title of the Book is The Welcome and Other Sci-Fi Stories but it just looked awkward sitting up there taking up all the space. It’s also not just Tom Benson’s work, although he was the primary author of the collection. Other writers contributed stories to The Welcome as well:

  • AA Jankiewicz
  • Pam Kesterson
  • Paul A Ruddock
  • Val Tobin
  • WK Tucker

So, that settled, let’s tuck in to the book. In case you hadn’t guess, this is a collection of science fiction stories that run the gamut from horror to hope to self-sacrifice and everything in between. It’s what I like to refer to as a smorgasbord of awesome. Tom even added a few bonus stories from his other collections including a bit of sci-fi erotica.

Like all good science fiction, the stories focus on the human elements of the narrative and use the sci-fi elements as backdrop. This kind of sci-fi gives writers whole new worlds to populate and cuts the restraining orders of reality to ribbons. Always, though, the stories come back to the people that populate those worlds and how they react to the adversity of being stuck on strange planets, eaten by blobs, put in a position where they have to sacrifice themselves to save others, or the woman who comes across a very special man.

Sometimes operatic, sometimes intimate, sometimes intimate in that way, The Welcome and Other Sci-Fi Stories provides a tasty treat of delightful morsels of science fiction. And, at only $1.99 it’s a steal.

thewelcome

Get your copy here

Follow Tom on Twitter

Check out Tom’s Website

Links for the other authors in the anthology

 

Absotively, Posilutely Free

Back in March or April of 2015, a little tipsy from good Scotch, I was browsing and chatting with some author buds on fb when inspiration – or madness – struck.  We’ve got a good group of indie authors that get together and share information, trade arcane secrets, and review each other’s works.  On that fateful night, when inspiration and good Scotch came together, an idea flashed: a horrible, wonderful, terrifying idea.

We should write an anthology of short stories.

After bouncing around ideas for a theme and a title and various rules of writing, we settled on a theme of holes, a maximum word count of around 7500 words per story, and titled it Holes.  Nico Laeser illustrated the cover using various digital and arcane means, I did the cover text layout and eBook formatting, and thirteen authors (including myself and Nico) put together some short stories.  The result was pretty damned amazing.

The Indie Author Support and Discussion Group proudly presents Holes: An Indie Author Anthology
Starting with the theme of holes of any kind, an international group of indie authors put their writing minds to work to come up a collection of stories that will make you laugh, cry, shudder in fear, and want to clap your hands. Inside you’ll find stories about:

A twisted story about innocence and revenge.
A young woman racing for her life and her love against the age of clockworks.
A man who lost his life in a traffic accident and discovers the afterlife is being stuck in a classroom.
A young African schoolteacher who tackles a band of ruthless, marauding terrorists.
A Russian mobster who made a deal and thought he’d found a loophole to get out of it.
A cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for…you just may get it.
A place where life disappears to when you’re not watching.
A question about whether we are really the dominant species and masters of our own future.
A reader-interactive comedy of errors.
An anomalous client demanding something written from the soul, a soul he is threatening to take
An Inspector Winsford murder mystery.
A legacy gift that just goes on giving.
Slapstick comedy with a touch of British buffoonery
A pretty tease who toys with her theology professor until dark revelations stop her in her tracks.

Some stories are full of sorrow, others full of joy, but all of them will leave you wanting more.

HolesRevC

But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself.  It’s absolutely, positively, 100% free.  You can find it on:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

and

iBooks (sorry, I don’t have a link for iBooks, but I know it’s there.  Search for Holes by IASD)

Why are you still here?  Go get a copy and read it.  My story is Loophole, by the way.

A Smorgasboard of Awesome

Back in March I had an idea and approached an indie author group I hang with it.  I say hang with because it makes us sound like a street gang, like yo, I’m just hangin’ with my homies; they’re creating worlds and telling stories, yo.

Yo.

Anyway, the idea was to put together an anthology of short stories that would showcase our talents (which are significant).  Ian D. Moore, author of Salby Damned and generally all-around good guy, took the idea and ran with it.  While I’ve got a small group still putting together an anthology, Ian grabbed some folks and put together one of his own.  Mine is still in progress (but close!), his is done and all the proceeds are going to charity.

In his own words:

“An international group of indie authors, inspired by the personal grief of one, decided to collaborate in the spring of 2015 in a project to create this multi-genre smorgasbord of original short stories, all with the same potent theme – relationships. Some are heartfelt, some funny, some poignant, and some are just a little bit scary – much like relationships themselves. All are by authors fired by the shared enthusiasm to give something back in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Cancer touches us all. It has in some way affected those who have contributed their time and talent here. This is our way of showing that we care.

Indie authors carry forward a revolutionary shift in publishing, which allows the author to be creative director in their own work. There are many exceptional, experienced and acclaimed writers who have decided to take this bold step in publishing. In producing this anthology we have also had the inestimable assistance on board of artists, graphic designers, and bloggers – all of whom have a place in our acknowledgments. You, the discerning reader, are the other vital part of this equation. By buying this book you are supporting the work of indie authors, as well as discovering their worth. You are also supporting the charity to which we have chosen to dedicate our work.

100% of the royalties earned or accrued in the purchase of this book, in all formats, will go to the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.”

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Since I wrote one of the stories in the mix and it would smack of reviewing myself, I’m reticent to write a review of these stories, other than to say I really enjoyed them and there’s a great deal of talent in here.  I will say this, though, if you’re looking for a good read this is a good read.  Please buy a copy and enjoy it.

Get your copy on Amazon

Walter Gibson is My Hero

shadow9v

Ever heard of Walter Gibson?  How about Maxwell Grant?  Actually, they’re the same guy, so if you’ve heard of one you’ve heard of the other even if you didn’t realize it.  If you haven’t, don’t fret; not a whole lot of folks in this day an age have.  Walter Gibson was an extremely prolific author in his day (he died in 1985) and stage magician.  He’s estimated to have no less than 300 novel-length books (60k+ words) under his belt.  Gibson (as Maxwell Grant) wrote The Shadow novels that were popular in the 30s and 40s.  He also wrote more than a hundred other books on magic, psychic phenomena, true crime, mysteries, rope knots, yoga, hypnotism, and games and was a ghost writer for Harry Houdini.  It’s estimated that at his peak he was writing nearly 1.7 million words a year and to satisfy the demands of his fans he was writing two Shadow novels a month.  Each of The Shadow novels clocked in right around 60k words each.

By any reckoning, that’s a lot of typing.  And remember, he was writing on one of these:

Even works during blackouts; just add a candle.

Even works during blackouts; just add a candle.

For those of you too young to remember manual typewriters they were cantankerous beasts, prone to jamming, running out of ink, and breaking keys.  Also, here’s your intersting but useless bit of trivia for the day: the current standard keyboard layout is set up the way it is because of mechanical typewriters.  Each keystroke pushed a physical level forward that caused that character to impact on an ink tape and make a mark on the paper.  The way the letters were laid out meant that some of the letters had longer levers.  The longer the lever the more prone to breakage it was, so someone did an analysis of character use in the English language.  Characters that were used less were relegated to the outer edges where the longer levers lived.  The logic was since those characters were used less there would be less wear and tear on those longer levers and the whole typewriter would last longer.

If you ever get the opportunity, try writing on a manual typewriter; it’s definitely an experience.

I guess one thing spouses of serial writers have going for them is very few people use manual typewriters anymore.  Imagine living in a house with someone knocking out 10k words a day on machine that made a noise every time a charater was typed.  Now, you might have the click clack of laptop keys, but it pales in comparison the thundering hammers of a typewriter.

Last week we were watching Romancing the Stone and something about it clicked in my head.  Remember that scene where Joan Wilder is taking he latest novel to her editor?

Yep.  That's the one.

Yep. That’s the one.

See that big box of paper?  That’s her book.  That’s how manuscripts used to be sent to editors.  You type them out, put the pages (hopefully in order) back in the paper box and walk it over.  It was likely a huge pain in the ass and you had to have a ton of paper handy.  Also, try kicking back on sofa and writing with a manual typewriter in your lap.  If it didn’t break your knees it would cut off all circulation to your toes.

Writing was different back then.  If you had a story you typed it up, shopped it around, hoped someone would buy it and publish it.  From that point on, your words were out of your control.  Where it went, what it cost, how it was advertised, all that was out of your control.  You could make some good money writing as a traditionally published author, but the vast majority of published authors still had to have day jobs.  One of my favorites, John Steakley, made ends meet by owning a car dealership.  He was apparently part way into Armor 2 when he died.

Such are the ways and means of traditionally published authors.  For every E.L James there are thousands of John Steakleys.

Now, one advantage those traditionally published folks had over us indies?  All they had to worry about was the story.  Before everyone starts squawking, I get it: there are plenty of indie resources out there.  You can find people to edit and proofread, design your cover, format your ebook, and do everything but write the story for you.  Some folks go that route, others don’t.  I’m one of those that insists on doing as much as possible myself; I do my own covers, I do my own formatting, I make my own marketing decisions.  Good, bad, or otherwise, I’m pretty much on my own.  I’ve had help with editing and proofreading from a few trusted beta readers (editing is pretty much impossible to do on your own), but otherwise, I’m on my own.

Yep.

Yep.

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn or say I’m more indie than anyone else, it’s just how I am.  I enjoy writing, I’m actually learning to like editing.  I like designing book covers.  I like doing book layout.  I enjoy learning the little tricks that make things easier.

It wasn’t always like that, though.  I finished Henchmen in 2013 and thought it was the greatest story ever told (it wasn’t and it actually required some monstrous rewrites later on).  I’d heard it was easy to publish on Amazon but still largely didn’t what I was doing.  I knew what mobi files and epub files were but as for how to make one?  Not how to create one, mind you, but what they were.  I thought I was ready.

Boy was I wrong.

Henchmen went live with a bad cover, tons of editing issues, missing an internal image, and was generally not a good product.  It was a product of “I’m tired of this, let’s just get it done.”  I tried to follow Amazon’s instructions and created an HTML document out of my Word document.  The results were less than spectacular.

Since then, I rewrote huge portions of Henchmen, wrote Arise, learned a lot about making a decent cover, figured out how to write a better blurb, convert and edit files before uploading them, make a decent looking Table of Contents, and a handful of other things.

In the interest of saving some other folks that kind of misery, when The Clock Man is finished and edited, I’ll be taking copious notes and screenshots about the process of putting it together, how the cover came to be, and some other technical issues that popped up.  Then, I’m going to take all that and compile it into a simple how-to book that will hopefully stave off some of my problems for others.

Consider it a thank you to all the authors, designers, and readers who have helped me out over the past couple year..

 

Anthologies

I’m involved in a couple anthologies we put together in the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook.  One is a group of shorter stories headed up by the talented Ian D. Moore with support from a whole whack of talented authors, designers, and editors.  The proceeds from that anthology will be given to a Macmillan charity.  My contribution to that anthology is a very late goodbye to my grandfather.

100% of the royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Pamela Winton Memorial Fund, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Illustration by Christine Southworth, layout by Nico Laeser

Illustration by Christine Southworth, layout by Nico Laeser

To see more about it, check out the group page on Facebook.

The other anthology, the one I’m heading up, will be out later in the summer and is a collection of stories about holes.  We’re still working out the details of how to distribute it, but that one will either be free or dirt cheap.  More on the holes anthology later.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Neither of my books have sold for beans.  It’s not entirely surprising; I’m an unknown author in a sea of people.  I wrote some fairly strange stuff.  It’s been called uncategorizable by more than a couple people.  People love categories; I find them kind of restricting.

I was pondering all this the other evening and wondering if I should change my style, make it fit a singular genre.  Maybe I could write a horror story where villains stalk virgins or a science fiction story where a valiant crew faces insurmountable odds, or a crashed spaceship on a world of magic leads to a clash of high technology and powerful magic.

Actually, that last one might be pretty cool.  I’m claiming that one.  No one else can write it.  And it doesn’t fit neatly into a category anyway and, as we’ve already established, uncategorizable is my category.  So there; it’s mine.

Anyway, as I was pondering all this I realized I had far too many ideas to just throw in the towel.  Besides, I’m not writing because I’m looking for fame or fortune (actually, fortune would be nice.  It’s hard to collect exotic cars on my salary), I’m writing because it’s fun and those ideas have to go somewhere, right?

So, your first book didn’t sell for squat?  Write another one.

Second one didn’t catch on, either?  Write another one.

Bottom line, just keep writing.

write1

 

I think everyone who writes a book somehow expects it will immediately become the next best seller and they’ll be showered with praise.  It can happen, but it often doesn’t.  That’s one of the things that I keep reminding myself of.  Well, that and I’m not really writing because I want to become the next big name; I write because I enjoy it and it’s nice to know at least a few people out there have enjoyed what I’ve written.  Consider it my good deed for the day; a half-assed atonement for all the things I’ve done wrong.

So that’s it.  It’s exactly as easy and hard as Neil Gaiman says.  There’s no magical formula, there’s no advice to give that will change your fate.  There’s no hidden secret out there that will suddenly make you a great writer.  I’m thinking writing is like anything else, the more you practice at it the better you’ll get at it.  The only way to practice it is to do it.  A lot.

That said, here’s some inspiration for you.  There’s a story in each and every one of these pictures, and that story is probably longer than a thousand words.

230-montroguemystery

 

panda-robot

Ancient-Chinese-dragon-Desktop-Wallpaper

Code-Monkey-Wallpaper

 

The-Fighter

Faked-Moon-Landing-Proof

big_e275b2fd5f529ec05440700177a9c55167ab7a92

Armored-Woman-with-Sword

tumblr_me42f8VUbg1rbss9eo1_1280

Go forth and write a story.  Expect my next book, a collection of stories called The Clock Man sometime this summer.