Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My website is UP and I'm moving!

It's been in development a while and it will continue to grow and get tweaked, but my website is now up and running! The contents of this blog have been exported there, but it's still called Writer's Grove and new entries will appear there from now on. I hope you'll all stop by to check it out and come back often. Feel free to comment!

It's easy to comment, by the way; you don't have to follow me or register. And once I figure out how to do it, you can even have a little avatar doodad show up next to your name. Also, if you're on Facebook, there's a cool goodie on the home page you can click to "Like" me without leaving the site. Same goes for Twitter.

Know what else is super cool? If you go to the Books page on the site you'll see the final cover for my third book, HAMMERED! It's been up on Amazon for a while, but I haven't posted it anywhere myself.

There will be a free short story posted on the site in the coming weeks, along with some other goodies—keep checking the Goodies page. :) 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sentence Envy

Sometimes I congratulate myself for something I’ve written, a sentence or a phrase that I think is fairly succulent and worth chewing on for a while. But most of the time, when I read, I’m struck by Sentence Envy. Other authors write delicious things I wish I’d written. But there’s one particular author who writes sentences that just get in my head and kind of turn in circles, like a dog settling down for a nap, and then they rest there, fat and sassy, a tether to a different world. It’s William Gibson. Here’s what I mean:

The receptionist in the cool gray anteroom of the Galerie Duperey might well have grown there, a lovely and likely poisonous plant, rooted behind a slab of polished marble inlaid with an enameled keyboard.  —Count Zero
His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines. —Neuromancer
“Call him,” he repeated, wrapped in Japanese herringbone Gore-tex, multiply flapped and counterintuitively buckled.  —Zero History

His worlds are at once slick and dissonant, a polished surface with an invisible coating of malice on top, constant tension embedded in the language itself. I can’t write like that, but I’m glad somebody does. If you’ve never read Gibson, you’re missing out one of the premier wordsmiths of our time.

Does anyone else get struck by Sentence Envy?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stuff They Never Told Me About Publishing #1

You know those video games where all of the unexplored portions of the map are covered in darkness—they call it “fog,” and you have to go there to reveal what’s hiding? And sometimes the stuff that’s hiding is freakin’ awesome (like a special weapon or nummy digital food or an extra life), and sometimes it’s an obstacle you can’t get around and you have to go another way, and sometimes it’s stuff that wants to slay you and splatter your viscera on the walls? Publishing is kind of like that, except for the splattering viscera. The sense of adventure is really honkin’ cool, so if you’d like to learn everything as you go, then by all means, stop reading now. But for those aspiring writers who’d like to know, I thought I’d share a few things I didn’t find out about publishing until after the deal was made and I started walking through the fog. This will be an ongoing series with absolutely zero splattered viscera.

Book tours aren’t cost effective.
I’ve been surprised at how many people ask me if I’m going on a book signing tour. There seems to be an assumption that all authors do it. I knew that couldn’t possibly be the case before I signed my deal, but I didn’t know the reason why. I discovered that, economically, it’s not sensible for a publisher to lay out that kind of bread—airfare, hotels, meals and so on—when you might get twenty to sixty people showing up to buy a book at any given site. The publisher’s money would be better spent on marketing and social media networks. Most authors you hear/see doing tours have established reputations or prior celebrity status and are sure to draw big crowds of fanboys and fangirls. But debut authors like me? Nah. It doesn’t make sense to expect people to skip their favorite TV show and go to Borders on a Wednesday night to meet a dude they’ve never heard of before. What I’ll probably do is a few signings in Arizona because the books are set here, but that will be it to begin with. I'll continue to appear locally as often as I can because it'll be on my own dime. But honestly, a large part of this process is still in the fog for me, because from what I understand signings don’t get arranged until a couple months from the release date, and I'm still four and half months out.

You need a platform.
You have to blog and tweet "and stuff." If you do it well, then you have this thing called a platform, and this is something you absolutely must have. Everybody says so. But here I must confess that I’m not too clear on why. It’s kind of like the importance of getting good grades in high school: all the adults tell you it’s vital for your future, and so you study for the quadratic equation test because you hope it will make sense someday.  That’s kind of what I’m doing with my blog. I try to provide some info for aspiring writers (because I know what it’s like to be one) and some entertainment as well (mostly for myself), but I’m sort of in a continuous cringe, waiting for someone to swoop in and say, “No, no, no, McFly, you’re doing it wrong!” And I’m also waiting for someone to explain exactly how x number of followers on my blog or on Twitter translates into x number of sales I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I don’t mind blogging or tweeting—I enjoy both quite a bit! But I don’t understand how the mechanics of this platform thing truly works. (Does anyone? I've heard of social media experts, but I don't know them socially, so how expert can they be, right?) This is one of those things that don’t get adequately explained to newbie authors and thus you might as well get used to it. You need a platform because everyone says so and everyone’s doing it. Now go and build one, and don’t forget to write your next book. ;)

There are many people involved in publishing a book, and they’re all awesome.
Agent. Editor. (Those are the two I knew about because those are the people aspiring writers are understandably obsessed with getting to.) But since the deal, I've played jokes on my Assistant Editor and have been pranked in return. And then there's the Copy Editor. Managing Editor. Marketing Dude. Publicity Dude. (Marketing and Publicity are two different departments and I didn’t know that before; I know who my marketing fella is, but I don’t know who’s in charge of my publicity yet—that’s still in the fog.) Typesetting House. Art Director. Photographer. Model. Digital Artist. A department of people who deal with Subsidiary Rights. The nice lady at the security checkpoint in the Random House building who prevented me from injuring myself. There’s somebody named Phil in Accounting and he sounds like a cool cat. And then there’s the printer, of course, and the people in Sales who take my book to the buyers for the bookstores and say LOOK, THIS BOOK IS FRICKIN’ RAD AND I WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND IF YOU MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES TACKLE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND THRUST IT INTO THEIR HANDS! And we can’t forget the distributor, the warehouse workers, the nice guys who drive my books around, and the spiffy people who work in bookstores and never tackle their customers. I’m sure there are plenty more but I’m not aware of their existence yet. All those people have buttloads of work to do to make sure my book hits the shelves on time and calls to people with the lure of a siren. They come online at different stages of the process and I couldn’t possibly thank them all, but once you think about it, it makes sense why it takes about a year for a book to get “out there.” And it also makes sense why self-publishing often doesn’t work out so well; it’s because you’re trying to do all those jobs yourself and you can’t.

That's all for this installment. If you'd like to hear about something specific, let me know. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Write more

When it comes to writing novels only one thing is easier—knowing I'll finish. I have a confidence there where there used to be gnawing uncertainty that I might be wasting my time. Now I know that I can probably crank out two a year if I have an outline for them. That's vastly comforting. But there are other parts to the writing process that will never get easier. 

1. Revising. There aren't any shortcuts. I revise quite a bit before my agent and editors take a peek, and then revise more after they give me their comments. I don't think anyone writes the Golden Draft...maybe I'll produce a copper or bronze one someday. :)
2. Waiting. Once I send work to my agent, he sends it out on submission...and I wait. Sometimes the wait isn't all that long, but sometimes it's months. I try to deal with it by writing more. And if there's a deal, then there's another wait on the contract (which is where your agent truly earns his money and is worth every penny of his commission). Sometimes that wait is only a month or so, but I've also had to wait close to a year because of problems with boilerplate contracts, and my agent had to take on Viking Death Ships full of lawyers. (Luckily, he ate his spinach.) And after the contract is finished and you sign it, there's another wait for the money to arrive—anywhere from a couple of weeks to three months, depending on where it's coming from. If there isn't a deal, well then...
3. Rejection. It still happens. Getting published once isn't a golden ticket to getting published again, and getting published in the U.S. doesn't mean other countries are going to hand over bags of money for translation rights. One market will look at my series and say "Gimme!" and another will look at it and say "Meh." The answer to rejection, like waiting, is to write more, because otherwise I might chew glass. 
4. Fear of #3. Even though I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm capable of writing publishable books, I still look at my writing at times and conclude that it isn't good enough. "Whine," I say to my wife, "whine whine this sucks whine whine." She tells me to shut up, I do, and write more. It's the only thing that can possibly make the sucking stop, after all.

Right now I'm enjoying coffee with this seasonal creamer in it—it's called marshmallow mocha. Mmm. Hope you're taking advantage of the season's opportunities for warm, comfy drinks. And writing more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's piñata time

I've always enjoyed my family tradition for Thanksgiving, but didn't realize it was out of the mainstream at first. I thought with a certain naïveté that since everyone got the day off and everyone was talking turkey, everyone must celebrate it the same way too. Eventually, after seeing several movies of people indoors and not beating the shit out of a piñata, I hypothesized that maybe my family did things a bit differently. To test it, I asked a school friend after Thanksgiving, "So what did you get out of your piñata?" and received a look of complete bewilderment in return. That clinched it. My family was the strange one. But also very cool.

We go out to the desert and have Thanksgiving dinner outdoors. We can do that because it's Arizona, and nine years out of ten the weather is just fine on the fourth Thursday of November. Refusing to succumb to food comas, we then climb a hill with a beautiful view of Rio Verde and some almond orchards, snap a few pictures, then climb back down and ritualistically, mercilessly, joyfully thrash an innocent piñata to death. Don't judge; it's great fun and we bond over the shared violence, and besides, that papier mâché had it coming.

There is much to give thanks for this year. Hope you have many blessings to count and you enjoy lots of warm fuzzies, and maybe hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Release date moved up!

I have always wanted to time travel, and for a while I held on to a tiny dream that one day I would find someone like Doc Brown, and he'd have a flux capacitor in a blue Shelby Mustang, and once we got hold of 1.21 jigowatts of electricity (the movie's approximation of gigawatts), we'd be golden. We (the Doc and I) would go back and see Hamlet when it first debuted in Elizabethan England, and then we'd most likely catch the plague and die. Or get hanged as witches. Today that dream sort of came true.

I didn't find a Doc Brown, but I did receive notice that my long wait for publication has just been shortened by a week. The release date for Hounded has been moved up from April 26 to a NEW! EARLIER! date of April 19! So in a way it's like I skipped a week of time there. And so did everyone who pre-orders the book or buys it the first week! All those lucky people have become time travelers and probably would be justified in becoming a bit snooty about it. I'm a wee bit saddened that it didn't involve a tricked-out Mustang (or a ride in Dr. Who's TARDIS—bow ties are cool), but I'm certainly not going to complain. A shorter wait is just one more thing to give thanks for on Thursday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Update

1. I'm frustrated that I can't seem to watch Sharktopus on demand. I've seen the trailers and it's chock full of ridiculous. The kind of movie where you just sit down with some friends and popcorn and laugh. I don't troll the TV enough to catch it when it's on the Syfy Channel, and it's a shame, because I think it has the potential to be a B (or C) movie classic.
2. My school's football team advanced in the state playoffs last night. They're in the final four; it's the best they've ever done. I won't get to announce anymore, though, since it must be in a neutral location and I'm not a neutral announcer.
3. Going to see Harry Potter at some point this weekend; kid is looking forward to it, to put it mildly.
4. Author Stacia Kane put up a great post about copyright and if you're a writer (or a reader) you should check it out.
5. My webmaster dude (IT term) is working on my site and what I've seen of it so far is pretty spiffy.
6. For two whole days this week, I had nothing to grade. It was awesome. But now I have a giant stack of essays to look over, so I'd better get to it.
7. All three books now have their cover art up at Amazon! And (ahem) they're available for preorder! :)