17 Apr 2014, 8:06am
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Two More Things To Say To Young Writers

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called Ten Things I’d Like To Say To Young Writers (the man likes his lists) and I think it’s good, solid advice. Me, I’d like to add two more things. Here goes:

Really study text that works.

Have a favorite short story? Retype it. A favorite novel? Type out that first chapter. There really is no substitute for retyping a whole mess of text–just reading it, even aloud, doesn’t bring the same focus. Then read it through with a yellow legal pad next to you and, every five pages, jot a line describing what happened.

How quickly does the book get to dialog? To the main characters? How quickly does the book describe what the main character is searching for, if it does at all? How much space on the page is given to description of people or places? How soon does the conflict start? Depending on the genre and the style of book, the answers can be quite different.

Best of all is to choose a successful book that is very like the one you hope to write. Study it. Try to get a feel for it, because:

Understanding how a piece of writing makes readers feel is the real prize

The universe is full of writers who crap on a keyboard and call it gold. Those people do not understand the way readers respond to their text; they know what’s in their head, they’re sure that’s what they put on the page, what’s wrong with readers/editors/agents/the world that they can’t see the awesome?

But, in fact, it can be very difficult to judge your own writing the way a reader will. We might hope the scene we just finished will be scary, or funny, or sad, but until we show it to complete strangers we’ll never really be sure.

What move people never say is that the ability to accurately understand the effect your own words will have on the reader is the first (and most difficult) step to becoming successful. So try to get a feel for your own books the way you do when you read the ones written by other people. Revisit stories you wrote the year before. Invite readers to tell you how they reacted to the story (but never what they think you should do.) Understanding those feelings are the way to mastery.

Randomness for 4/8

1) What is NeoRealism? Video. Extraordinarily interesting contrast between neorealist and Hollywood movie techniques. h/t @RodneyRamsey

2) The Uncomfortable, a collection of deliberately uncomfortable everyday objects.

3) Sony gets Blender-made animated short pulled from YouTube even though they have no copyright claim to it. You can still watch it on Vimeo, though.

4) Vatican to digitize 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts. Of course, the manuscript pages themselves will outlast whatever file type the Vatican chooses to put them in.

5) Workouts inspired by your favorite fandoms. Heh.

6) What if the moon was a disco ball? Video. A question we’ve all asked at one point or another.

7) The Love Me Letters, Open Letters to Random People.

26 Mar 2014, 12:53pm
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Kindleworlds expands to include Veronica Mars(!)

You guys know about Kindleworlds, right? It’s a system that Amazon set up some months ago to let people write, publish, and sell fanfiction based on established properties like The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, GI Joe (not the movies) or “The World of Kurt Vonnegut” (and so on). All you have to do is follow the content guidelines and not suck. Complicated, right?

Well, today I discovered that there’s a Kindleworld license for Veronica Mars, but only for the years covered by the TV series. The content guidelines make it clear that anything taking place after the end of season three is verboten.

Yet again, I wish I could be prolific. It would be tremendous fun to tear off a quick VM whodunnit, preferably hammering at the class warfare aspects and digging into the private lives of some of the supporting characters. (Like Cliff! “These are my people, V.” I love that dude.)

Alas, I do not have the time for it. Even as a novella or something, it would take too much time.

Randomness for 3/25

1) The inevitable D&D-themed yoga. So cool, Brewster.

2) True Detective as Hardy Boy’s style covers.

3) I have never been as deeply moved by anything as this lady is about curtains. True salesmanship. Video.

4) The High Five Camera. Video.

5) Which pet should I get? A Flowchart.

6) Visual charts showing how people around the world communicate. Very interesting and completely authentic, I’m sure.

7) The ten words in English with the most meanings. Another chart.

25 Mar 2014, 12:36pm
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Sample of new Veronica Mars audiobook, read by Kristen Bell

Posting an audiobook segment to YouTube is a great idea. Give it a listen.

Randomness for 3/6

1) First sentences of famous novels, diagrammed.

2) Guy creates Kickstarter to interview loving couples to find out what makes relationships last. His results.

3) Pedestrian rollercoaster not as cool as it looks. Why couldn’t they just make the stairs twist so you could go up the loop?

4) Medieval Pet Names.

5) Ursula Vernon on becoming tired of reading fantasy. I’m having similar feelings.

6) Star Trek Into Darkness: What Came Next. lol

7) In 2005, a fifth-grader wrote a letter to her 20-year-old self.

19 Feb 2014, 6:41pm
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This is how it happens

I took my son downtown to see a movie and we missed the start. So, to kill some time, we wandered into the Barnes & Noble to browse around and pick up some books. This is what we came back with:

IMG_2616

EX-HEROES was for my kid; I’ve been pretty upfront about my distaste for zombies in all forms. The others were for me. You know what I didn’t realize until later that night when I took them out of the bag? They were all books by dudes.

It’s just too easy to stay in a comfort zone. It’s easy to stick with habits that we don’t even recognize as habits. I don’t talk about it much, but some time ago I decided that I was going to be more mindful about my book purchases; it’s super-easy to just buy books by all men. It’s pretty much the path of least resistance. Oops.

So I’m going to pull Dark Places off the shelf next. And I’m not doing it because it’s the right thing to do (although it is) or that it’s what other people think I should do (they don’t actually care). I’m doing it because carelessly limiting myself will weaken me when I need to make my writing stronger.

If you’re someone who only reads one type of writer, you should try new things, too.

17 Feb 2014, 7:16am
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You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

13 Feb 2014, 9:19am
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MIT tries to turn shitty books into great ones through crude VR

Via fastcodesign, the folks at MIT have tried to create a book with a crude virtual reality component: a programmable book and vest that supposedly makes the reader feel what the protagonist feels.

Follow the link if you’re curious how it’s supposed to work. There’s an embedded video, too, which I didn’t watch.

Personally, I would be embarrassed for any writer that used this technology. Text will already made the reader feel what the protagonist feels, if you do it right. That’s the point of books (well, one of the points) and having a vest that constricts, warms or cools to simulate emotions is just a distraction from the work a writer’s words are meant to do.

11 Feb 2014, 4:47pm
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FYI: I don’t care about readers, clearly

My previous post about the Amazon reviewers who follow Harriet Klausner around Amazon to harass and mock her has now revealed an unseemly and unsettling truth about me: I don’t care about readers!

Yep, shocking but true. I spent decades of my life reading and writing, studying texts and story, and sweating over revisions of my own work only to hoodwink readers. You got me!

Or maybe I think that Amazon reviews are not especially important. Maybe I think an unknown number of the reviews are completely fake/done as a personal favor. Maybe a substantial number are written because the reader has some weird axe to grind that has little to do with the book at hand. Certainly many of the reviews are written by readers eager to share their honest opinions without much evidence that those honest opinions actually have an impact.

I’ve been trying to come up with a metaphor for this, but nothing seems right. Not every reviewer is being paid, so you can’t call it a whorehouse. Not every reviewer is friend or family to the author, so you can’t call it a theatrical review of a grade school play. Not every reviewer is a twitchy reactionary lunatic, so you can’t call it a recruitment session for the Libertarian Party (I kid, I kid).

I suppose I could ask if anyone reading this can think up an appropriate metaphor, but seriously, fuck you guys.

11 Feb 2014, 4:41pm
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“Legacy John” claims he’s been misquoted

Yeah, I’m aware of the website http://www.authorearnings.com/, which supposedly contains the results of a big data-crunching project instigated by Hugh Howey. Apparently, a coder/analyst/whatever approached Howey with the idea of taking self-reported sales to Amazon sales rankings and using them to analyze Amazon’s bestsellers list to see which types of books (self/other/small press) do best for authors.

I say “supposedly” above because as I write this, high traffic has crashed the site. [Update: I accessed it a few minutes ago.] The only place to find the data at the moment is on Joe K*nr*th’s blog, and he’s added long exchanges with a straw man figure “Legacy John”.

Which… ugh. So. Much Smug.

As a so-called hybrid author who has self-published before and will self-publish again this year (thank you, Kickstarter backers) I’m interested in this analysis. Unfortunately, Howey and K*nr*th are not exactly the most trustworthy of sources. If confirmation bias were a medical condition, both men would have to be kept alive by a machine in some ICU somewhere. Anyway, the numbers are interesting but I’m reserving judgement on them until someone with more time and expertise picks them apart.

Randomness for 2/11

1) An alternate history of “Flappy Bird” a successful game that was pulled from sale because of the gamers abused its creator.

2) Marvel opens its image archive and api to the public. I’m pretty sure this is cool, and if I were ten years younger I might understand why.

3) Calvin and Muad’Dib. Calvin & Hobbes cartoons with quotes from Dune to replace the dialog.

4) Teddy Roosevelt’s 10 Rules for Reading. Sensible guy.

5) Male artist creates art show with woman’s art, doesn’t feel he needs to name her.

6) An Infinity of Alternate Batmen.

7) Well, Valentine’s Day is coming, and this tumblr has created Valentine’s messages from actual comments on Pornhub. NSFW, obviously.

8 Feb 2014, 12:33pm
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“Klausner” became a verb. Now we need to coin the word “Anti-Klausner”

For folks who don’t know who Harriet Klausner is, a brief introduction. Here’s the full text of her review of my debut novel, CHILD OF FIRE:

In Hammer Bay, Washington, the ecomony is booming due to the toy factory; however, residents even those who work at the prime employer fail to realzie that some of their offspring can use magic.

Twenty Palace Society field agent Annalise Powliss hunts and kills rogue magic practitioners. Convicted felon Ray Lilly is her chauffeur, but they share a not so kind past as he betrayed her so he knows she plans to kill him at the most opportune time. The Society learns of the goings-on in Hammer Bay and led by take no prisoners Annalise plan to destroy the factory and kill anyone of any age who uses magic. However, the execution fails and Annalise is hurt; Ray must finish the assignment against a much more powerful sorcerer who sacrifices humans especially children to gain incredible amounts of power.

The key to this small town fantasy is the use of magic as collateral damage is not only acceptable it is preferable if needed to complete a mission. That premise ties the rogue and the Society together as innocent bystanders die in high numerical waves, which in turn brings a sense of realism to the exciting story line. The dysfunctional relationship between the driver and his boss enhances the tension of an exhilarating High Noon paranormal thriller.

Harriet Klausner

All spelling infelicities in the original; this is just a cut and paste.

As Klausner’s reviews go, this one is better than average. Yes, it appears to have been written as quickly as possible with little regard for spelling or how it reads. Yes, some details are wrong; Ray isn’t anyone’s chauffeur, although he is driving the beater van at the start of the book. However, most of the plot details are correct, which isn’t always a given in Ms. Klausner’s reviews. However, she did give my book her lowest review: only 4 stars. For her, that’s practically a slam.

So, yeah. Her reviews are not insightful and some this year she will post her 30,000th on Amazon.com. That’s, er, a lot. I’ve heard that some times she posts as many as six reviews a day; how many books could you speed read in a day?

But whatever, right? No harm done… unless you’re the sort of person who’s Bothered By Things. See this 2012 “investigation” into Klausner’s reviews, which discovered that she received free ARCs from publishers, gives them positive reviews, then hands them off to her son to sell for COLD HARD CASH.

Nevermind that The Strand bookstore is floor to rafters with resold ARCs from other book reviewers. Nevermind that there’s no difference in what Klausner does and what other reviewers do besides scale. Apparently, she’s a woman reviewing badly for nefarious purposes and a group of people have begun to follow her around and badmouth her reviews. That link takes you to Sharon Lee’s new book Carousel Sun; how pleased would you be to discover that, on the week your book comes out, Internet Melodrama is breaking out on the book’s Amazon page that has nothing to do with the author. (Buy her book, folks, to help soothe that pain.)

[Edited to add: There are, as of this writing, 46 comments under Klausner's review, many justifying the decision to follow Klausner from page to page to taunt and mock her including one comparing her to Timothy McVeigh(!). Ugh.]

And if you think that’s the only review this self-appointed posse has hunted down and attacked, you would be wrong!

You might think I would be upset about what Harriet does–write universally positive reviews so she can continue to churn out incomprehensible reviews on books she’s barely skimmed for a few thin bucks, but once again you’d be wrong. My take is this: It’s a hard hard world. If she can make a few bucks (nobody is getting rich selling ARCs on fucking half.com) for herself and her family, and if publishers want to keep sending review copies to her, let them. As sins go, this isn’t half so terrible as the moving flame war hitting the Amazon pages of author after author.

Klausner-stalkers, find something useful to do. Advocate. Make something. In fact, Instead of reviewing Klausner’s work (fish -> barrel) write your own, and make them good. If your lives are so comfortable that a minor transgression like this annoys you so much, give thanks to whatever deity you worship and go volunteer at a food bank.

Because this thing where you follow a woman from page to page to insult her? That’s just sad.

#SFWApro

Women online receive threats of physical harm, part 2,000,342

How surprised would anyone be to learn that Shay Festa, the “Quid Pro Quo” book review blogger I wrote about over the weekend has not only been called a cunt and a bitch but has also received threats of physical harm?

Over a book review policy?

I really, really hope that no one who followed one of my links to her site was involved in that at all, because if my blog posts start inspiring threats against women online, I’m not going to write them. It’s not worth it at all.

In the meantime, I want to thank Michelle Sagara for pointing out this blog post: Reviews: A Service for Authors? by Chrysoula Tzavelas.

The gist of Tzavels’s post is that the Bookiemonster site is open to reviews by indie authors, who constantly struggle to get reviews of their work so they can stand out from the crowd. She suspects (and the request for more reviewers seems to confirm) that they’re inundated with books from people with little other opportunity to find critical attention and who are desperate to stand out from the pack. Self-published writers are likely to be a major portion of the Bookiemonster readership, too. You know, in the old days of the turn of the century, it was a truism that the main readership for self-published fiction was other self-publishers. They were all reading each other’s work. I thought that had finally changed with the release of ereaders, but maybe not for everyone. Maybe it’s only the bestselling self-pub and hybrid authors with a readership beyond other authors in the long tail. I’d be interested to know where that stands.

Anyway, it demonstrates the way subtle pressures can drive people to make decisions they wouldn’t ordinarily make. Like doctors who, with only their patients’ best interests in mind (as far as they’re concerned), schedule as much followup care as they need to make their monthly nut, so too does a site like Bookiemonster respond to subtle incentives. I had recommended that Ms. Festa turn to her readership for the SEO books she was seeking; readers are incredibly generous, especially if they’re grateful for the writing being offered. What hadn’t occurred to me was that the readers and the writers might be pretty much one and the same.

In any event, none of that matters now. Ms. Festa has posted a mea culpa followup post called Sometimes We Just Get It Wrong, in which she expresses gratitude for the non-vicious, non-threatening feedback people have given her and withdraws the whole idea of asking authors for likes, follows, and upvotes. I will say: far too many people would have looked at the most extreme criticisms she received–the name-calling and the threats–and used that to dismiss all criticism. That’s what Bill Keller did after his disgusting editorial about cancer patients and social media, and that dude writes for the NY Times. It’s to her credit that she sorted the rage-aholics from the fair responses, even ones that were extremely critical, like mine.

And that’s that.

31 Jan 2014, 2:52pm
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Reviewer Expects SEO Payback From Authors She Reviews

You know how it is: you write things, you put them out into the world. Sometimes people like them, sometimes not. Worst of all, sometimes people just don’t seem to care.

But let’s imagine you’re a book reviewer who is becoming frustrated by the fact that you aren’t becoming as prominent as you used to be: What’s the next step? How do you give yourself the boost to prominence you’re hoping for?

If you answered: “Write better, more insightful book reviews and dare to be honestly controversial in a way that gets people talking,” you clearly need to be more entitled. Try this instead:

I operate on a Quid Pro Quo system. I will continue to promote authors that do the same for me. Not only that, but the more times promoted, the more buzz you will see. Tweet to your followers, post on Facebook, etc.

See, getting a review is a service provided to the author. If you mark her Amazon reviews as “helpful”, sign up for her newsletter, like her Facebook page, circle her on G+ and… oh christ time to start skimming this ridiculous list.

Anyway, “Bookiemonster” is frustrated that authors just aren’t meeting HER needs.

What I would (gently) suggest in response is that reviews are for the benefit of readers, not writers. Sure, it’s publicity, and yeah, it sells a few copies, but not many. Not many at all. I can see my own sales, and I know what the bump from a review looks like (spoiler: not large). Reviews are not for writers. In fact, a great many writers never ever look at their reviews. Not ever.

If you doubt that reviews are for readers, not writers, consider reviews in other fields: are film reviews just unpaid publicity? Nope, they exist to drive filmgoers to a newspaper (or whatever) so they can decide what to watch. Same for theater. What about critiques of art galleries? Nope. they’re an attempt to say something worthwhile about art, and to engage the aficionado on the subject.

It’s the same for books. Reviews are there to share an enthusiasm for the written word with other enthusiasts; in fact, a decent reviewer should excite readers with their expertise. This is about an exchange of ideas, not moving product.

You write reviews because you think there’s something worth saying to other readers. Maybe you think a book is wonderful. Maybe you think it’s toxic sludge. Maybe you think it’s emblematic of the sort of toxic sludge we see all too much of lately. Maybe it’s part of a movement that no one other than you has noticed. Maybe it reflects a certain kind of cultural change. Maybe you could talk about those things.

Or you could just write stuff like this:

The novel is witty, intense and keeps your interest from start to finish. It reads fast, I mean super fast and not that the book is short, it just reads that well. Nothing stumbled me. And that rarely happens. While some Zombie snobs may not like this book, I certainly did.

or

I also felt that prior to Mary becoming a prisoner in a walking dead corpse, her conflict with Azrael the Angel of Death was vague and undefined. More details on how Mary discovers Azrael’s scheme to take over the spirit realm would justify him sentencing her to an undead dungeon as well as her rage toward him.

or

Dead Boys was a welcome departure from what I find myself usually reading. Would I have picked it up had it not been submitted? Probably not. Why? Because short stories aren’t my normal thing. Simply because I enjoy investing the time to get to know the characters and follow a story through it’s arc. Penkas succeeded by giving me the appetizer, but I still wanted the main course. Thankfully, his concepts were intriguing and thought provoking enough to make the read satisfying.

(all sic)

You say your book review site is not as prominent as you’d like? Inexplicable.

I’m a writer. I put non-fiction on the blog and fiction in my books, and when they don’t sell or languish in obscurity, it’s not because someone didn’t hold up their end of the quid fucking pro quo. It’s because the thing I wrote didn’t earn it.

The same goes for reviewers. Your words will bring you the attention you deserve. If you feel you deserve better, do better. Be more thoughtful and original. Write with care and style (advice I could certainly bear to take myself). If some of your reviewers can’t manage that, let them go and put less (but better) content on your site.

But don’t come around with some quid pro quo, because ugh.

30 Jan 2014, 8:55am
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Kameron Hurley’s post on persistence

Last week, Kameron Hurley wrote a long guest blog on writers and persistence. If the descriptor ‘long’ makes you hesitate to click, be assured that she does that writer trick of being interesting the whole way through.

She makes a good point: Persistence is how it’s done. And by “it’s” I mean “become a professional writer”.

However, there are a few things I want to add, because I don’t think “You have to be persistent” is enough. I think it’s useful to talk about how, as well, and that sometimes persistence is bullshit because the goal is bullshit. So:

1. Persistence is just the pursuit of the goal via managed expectations and the certainty that writing professionally is a thing that can be learned. That’s it. If you can stop yourself from thinking “This book I’m writing is going to win an award/make me rich/get me laid/win the admiration of the right people” that’s half the battle. The other half is recognizing that, even if you fail this time, you can do better next time.

Okay, not everyone can improve. If you’re in a coma, no. If you’re so convinced you’re already a genius that you think every rejection Proves What Fools They Are, no. If you’re incapable of learning that text affects readers in ways that the writer might not intend, no. But for someone who can pick up a manuscript they “finished” last year and think “Look at this paragraph! I’m not still making this mistake, am I?” there’s no reason to expect they can’t make their goals.

Plus, it’s the big goals–that vile four-letter word: hope–that breaks the will to write. Like a weary traveler, writers think their destination is just over this next hill. And the hill is so steep and muddy and exhausting, they force themselves to push on, only to discover that the other side is just more road leading off into the distance.

If you fervently hope this is the book that will win an award or become a bestseller, and it doesn’t? That shit is disheartening as hell.

Plus:

2. Nothing bad happens to you if you give up.

Sure, you probably won’t finish that book, but if you get more time to spend with your friends, go hiking, maybe volunteer at a food bank? I can’t really see how that’s a bad thing.

The point has to be this: Do you want to write more than you want to do other things? Video games/TV shows/Other time wasters notwithstanding, if creating literature is not really what you want to do, you might as well be doing something else. You’ll be better off. Fuck persistence.

3. I know some people will bridle at the word “literature” but that’s what writers make, even if it’s Bigfoot porn. Maybe it’s not great literature, maybe it’s rote, or trite, or commercial or derivative. Maybe it’s a big steaming pile of goatshit. Who cares?

4. The point is, it’s really really hard to put aside those big expectations, but one of the best ways to do that is to drill your focus on the book. Whenever I start daydreaming about the reception my book might get (basically, whenever I get weird, starry-eyed high hopes) I stop, remind myself that those thoughts are poison, then refocus my attention on the characters, the voice, the plot. Whatever. Not only does this help throttle the strength out of Hope, that miserable enemy of all good things, but it helps keep my energy and effort where it belongs.

5. What’s more, the idea of a “successful writer” (earning enough to forsake all other employment) is a really strange thing. As Ursula Vernon says, pro writers are simultaneously “fetishized and devalued.” As soon as you start finding fans for your work, people encourage you to toss your day job. Then they complain to you in emails that they got a computer virus from a pirate copy of your book and where can they find one that’s safe and free?

The truth is, writing as a day job is completely awesome and completely nerve-wracking. Not everyone wants to spend harrowing hours wondering if they can pay their rent, or tightening their food budget yet again until that check turns up. Add to that the unhappy fact that a great many writers outlive their own careers and you have a pretty stupid career choice.

And, even if you keep the day job, Persisting can take up a helluva lot of your free time.

But let’s say you want to go for it anyway and stick with Persistence:

6. As I mentioned above: big daydreams are poison. If you can be zen about how well the book will do after you finish, that’s great. If you can’t, there are a few tricks that can help distract us from inflated expectations: first, pay attention to how much a mid-list author makes and how many copies they sell. That’s where realistic expectations should be set. Whatever genre you work in, someone out there is sharing their numbers. Check them out.

Second, a trick I use is that I don’t write for a large audience. I pick three people to write for. They become my primary readers. I choose new ones for each book and never tell them, but when it’s time to ask myself how a scene will play for the reader, I don’t have to picture a long line of people in line at B&N. I have specific people in mind: Will she feel cheated by this revelation? Will he like the way this character changes?

Even if I don’t know anything about them except what they post on their blogs (and yeah, some of the primary readers are pretty much strangers to me) I can do the important work of imagining the effect of the story without poisoning myself.

7. Not matter what anyone says about talent, inborn ability, natural aptitude, or whatever, people can teach themselves to write better. I mean, seriously, if there’s a placebo effect for sleep, there’s a way to improve writing, too. Obviously, that subject is too big for this post, but knowing it to be true is the important thing. You don’t have to give up after any one particular failure.

8. But what if you do all these things but still can’t make persistence work?

Hey, for a person struggling with depression, who’s caring for a sick loved one, who is utterly freaked over impending job loss, or who is generally overwhelmed by life, no worries. Writing is secondary to all sorts of other things, like health and family. Don’t be hard on yourself.

If you’d like to be writing but you seem to spend all your time hanging with friends, checking Twitter, watching TV, or shooting zombies on your Xbox, see about about nothing bad happening if you give up that dream of being a writer. It’s kind of a dumb dream and you clearly would rather be doing something else.

9. Oh, what’s that? You really would like to put aside the games and internet and do the persistence thing, but it never seems to happen?

First, put the distractions away. Alternately, take yourself away from your distractions. I write outside my home b/c my family is very disruptive. I also have an app that blocks my internet for a set period of time. Maybe that will work for you or maybe not, but give it a try.

Second, keep in mind that it is much easier to fail in the face of luxury than in adversity. For many of us, adversity spurs the spirit to strive, but luxury gives us excuses to seek pleasure right now. (I used to have a sign in my office cubicle that read “Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.” My boss didn’t get it.) Take a hard look at the luxuries in your life–even if it’s something as simple as Bejeweled or Twitter on your phone–and limit them.

Last, friends of mine used to have this game they played every day called “Fresh Ten”. Every day they would write ten new words in the WIP, then post them online. After they did that, they could close the word processor and be done for the day, or they could write a little more.

Maybe even a little more than that. Just having to do ten new words a day gave them an excuse to sit down and start. Not every day was productive (and not every writer works every day) but it’s how we build our habits.

Well, that was longer than I would have liked, but I liked Hurley’s post and wanted to respond. I’ve struggled with persistence, too, and thought it might be helpful to offer a few mental tools that I’ve used to keep going.

Like Hurley, I hung a sign at my desk regarding persistence, but mine was a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

If you’ve been kind enough to read this far, you deserve a reward: Kameron Hurley’s book GOD’S WAR is available on Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

25 Jan 2014, 11:20am
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“If I were more trite I’d be successful!”

I’ve been neglecting this space lately except for link salads and new announcements (Twenty Palaces print edition! Buying from B&N earns more for me than Amazon orders do!) mostly because I’ve been on a big push to finish initial major revisions for all three books in The Great Way.

That’s done and I’ve sent them to my agent. Next I have a short story to revise and more Kickstarter work to wrap up. Unfinished tasks unrelated to actually making the trilogy include:

* Fate game supplement for TGW.
* New revision for A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK.
* Fate game supplement for KEY/EGG.
* Straighten out notes for Twenty Palaces short story.
* Write Twenty Palaces short story.
* Compile that story plus others (with introductions) into a collection.
* Assorted tasks associated with all that shit, including covers.

Actually, that list doesn’t look too bad from here.

However! In an attempt to remake the habit of posting here, let me resurrect a post that I started and abandoned last July(!) regarding British crime writer John Connor, spurred by this advertisement interview.

Mostly, I was annoyed by this quote:

He says: “It’s been a struggle all along. If you come at it from the point of view of wanting to write something interesting and worthwhile and entertaining, well, those are the three things that makes it hard if you want to produce something other than some stupid trite piece of content.

“You set yourself a goal of doing any of those things in one genre. It’s easy to do two of those, but doing all three feels like one long compromise. It ended up being a long way from doing what I wanted to do at the start.”

See, Connor (actually a pen name, for some reason) is a former prosecutor, and he pretty much hates the way popular mystery and thriller writers portray crime and its effects.

Which is completely fair. He has real world experience and he can call bullshit on what he (and others, too) call the torture porn aspects of the genre. Frankly, I’m not such a big fan of torture porn either, so I’m sympathetic.

And getting the emotions right–that is, treating tragedies like tragedies and not excuses for heroic rage–is a laudable goal. He earned another measure of sympathy with that one.

Still, it’s painful to see him blaming his perfectly ordinary midlist career on his integrity. Without having read any of his books:

First of all, as pen names go, “John Connor” is terrible. It’s bland. It’s easily misspelled (as “Conner” or “Jon”). It doesn’t even let the cover designer set his last name in huge type; six letters isn’t bad, but a four-letter long last name has size. It would be more memorable if he followed Donald Westlake’s advice of using a super-common last name and an unusual first name. “Connor Johns” is a better pen name than what he’s chosen.

Second, I’ve read plenty of books by actual cops and other people with law enforcement day jobs, and while it’s great for marketing, for the most part I prefer books by outsiders.

It’s not that I’m against realism; it’s that realism often has a certain plodding flatness to it. Every job comes with a certain amount of tedium, even the sort they make hit TV shows of. That’s why you don’t give the boring rote work to the lead character; that’s for the supporting cast to explain with a phone call. That’s why you don’t have them wander aimlessly through the clues; make that shit into a trail. Be fun.

Third, if you approach your own genre with this attitude:

“I have experienced those crimes – that’s half my problem. I’ve experienced them and I know what they’re like which makes me think: ‘You can’t do that just for entertainment!’”

Maybe you should be writing something else.

#sfwapro

Randomness for 1/21

1) The flowchart of medieval penitent sex.

2) Gorgeous high-magnification sand photos.

3) 15 Massive corporate logo fails. It’s amazing how many of these look like people having sex.

4) Researchers compare language in successful and unsuccessful Kickstarters and discover trends.

5) I’m old enough not to be up on the latest music (and feel perfectly comfortable with that) but I have to offer this: a band called Prodigy did a music video called Firestarter (video) and here’s the same video, but musicless (video). Reader, I lol-ed. h/t to @robertnlee

6) Hero Forge lets you design an rpg character, then print it in 3D. Gaming miniatures aren’t really my thing, but I suspect a few of you will be interested in this.

7) Hatchet Job Of The Year Shortlist – 2013′s most negative reviews in quotes. I confess to a weakness for savage reviews and these are pretty acid.

(I’ve been seriously neglecting this space. I plan to write a note explaining why soon.)

Project Ditch Smashwords Distribution and Fatten My Bank Account: Completed!

Like a lot of authors, I uploaded my self-published ebook to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords a long time ago. The benefit of Smashwords is not the direct sales they make (which are pitiful) but that they distribute to many other book vendors who, generally speaking, sell only marginally better than Smashwords itself: Kobo, Flipkart(?), Sony, Oyster(?)… actually, you can tell that I haven’t visited my Smashwords Dashboard in a while because some of these I haven’t even heard of before. Yeah, they pay quarterly instead of monthly, and yeah, their “meatgrinder” requirements are tedious and annoying, but once the hoops are properly jumped through, they do what they’re supposed to do.

They also upload to Apple’s iBooks.

However, I recently pulled my books from iBooks distribution and created an iTunes Connect account. You have to be vetted by Apple and of course you can’t sell your book by simply uploading a file and filling in some data. Apple makes you download a special program to enter all the metadata, select the proper files, then upload in one go.

Why go to all this trouble? For this:

Mac Discount

This year, we might be forced to buy two iMacs (low end ones, but still) to replace my rapidly-aging current equipment and I’m hoping we’ll qualify for the 20% discount for both.

Anyway, we obviously haven’t ditched Smashwords completely. It turns out that Flipkart is an ebook seller in India, which is nice since I refuse to let Amazon take a 65% commission or force my book into their Select program to sell there. Oyster turns out to be a subscription-based book service like Netflix or Spotify: users pay $X a month and read as many listed books as they like. I get my money if they read 10% of my book. (So hey, Oyster-users, why not slowly page through my ebook while you’re watching TV or something. My bank account will be grateful.) I’m pleased to be distributed to both services plus Kobo, plus Sony, plus whatever.

But I do my work on Apple computers and the savings I will get this Giftmas was worth a little extra fussing with the distribution of my books.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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