Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That sounds like a lot of words.

There's still a week left in the year, but I want to knock this out while it's in my head.

This is how I spent my writing year (words-on-page, not including revisions):
  • 150k words on what would (or may, someday) be novels (including my WIP, which should be finished by the end of the month)
  • 5k words on short stories & poems
  • 3k non-fiction (journalism-ism)
  • 20k blogging (assuming 250 words per post, includes family blog)
  • 18k tweeting (assuming 5 characters per word, 130 characters per, that adds up fast. That's like six chapters.)
Just focusing on novels, shorts, poetry, and non-fiction articles, that puts me at about 432 words logged per calendar day on average--that's much higher than I would have estimated. Still, I need to do more.

My work towards a novel accounts for 95% of my creative writing. That was damn close to where I had estimated it to be.

I submitted work eleven times--six pieces of work in all--and had two accepted. That's 18% submit-to-sale, or 33% work-to-sale. My average wait time on those stories was 78 days.

My writing income for the year was $40. $15 of that went back to Duotrope.

My reading wasn't so hot--I think I read maybe fifteen novels, which sucks. That's all about time management. I'll do better.

Coming soon: 2010 writing goals.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Happy belated WIP Wednesday (we'll call it Thought I posted this Yesterday Thursday).

Great night of writing...I locked myself in the bedroom and pounded out 2,000 words (plus about 100 words on a short story over lunch), which, after not writing a damn thing worth their collective electrons for over a week, felt nice. If I can do that a few more times before I go on vacation, plus spend some vacation days away from home at the library with headphones and blinders on, I may just finish this book by month end.

In the course of the day, I made bad things happen to good people, turned the tides of fortune toward the morally ambivalent, and sent something horrible toward the citizens of a small town in the Rocky Mountains. It's good to rule your own imaginary worlds, but not always good to be a member of one of them.
This puts me on schedule to do some short stories in January, and start edits thereafter.

Which raises a question I have of all of you:

Crit groups. I've never done one. I've done some one-off crits for friends, but I've never had my work gone over. Everything I've heard says it adds value, especially at my level.


Do you do them? If so, do you do them in person, or distant?

Stephen King (pause for angelic harmonies) says not to let anyone into your first draft, but let your trusted critics tear your second draft to shreds. Thoughts? Does anyone find value in crits on D1?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Small Market Roundup 2009

Early in the year, a lot of us committed to doing more to support small market press--you know, the guys who pay to publish the stories we write, and who publish the stories we love.

I could have done better. In my defense, I spent most of 2009 waiting to get handed a pink slip from DayJob™ and was counting every dime (that has been delayed a little bit longer, if you're curious). But I did take advantage of a lot of the specials out there, and did my utmost to pimp small market magazines, anthos, and novels.

But, without further ado, the list of small market materials for the year (to the best of my cluttered memory):

  • Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy: this started good, but my dog tore it to shreds before I finished.
  • Cemetery Dance #59: Great Keene story at the beginning of this one.
  • Douglas Clegg "Afterlife": I think this was a Cemetery Dance pub, too. I paid an obscene amount for this book to support CD sometime early in the year (might have been late 2008, come to think about it), and felt dumb afterward because the dialogue irritated me and I had to stop reading. I'll try again in 2010.
  • GUD Magazine #2, #3, #4: at least one of these I got for free, I think
  • Robert Swartwood "The Silver Ring": I don't think Robert got an ISBN for this, but I did pay a buck directly to the author, so I get karma for that one.
  • Catherine Gardner "The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon"
  • Barry Napier "Debris": this is next on my reading list
  • Aaron Polson (ed) "Tainted": on order from Amazon, should be in my hands before the holidays
There were a lot more that I wanted, but once we really tightened our belts, it just wasn't, my apologies if you read my blog and wrote something that I didn't buy this year. I'll try to do better next year.

I have a ton of PDF magazines that I got free...I don't get points for not paying for them, but maybe if I give them some love here, it'll give them a half of a half of a fraction of a Google ranking:

  • Niteblade Dec 2008
  • James Moore: Home for the Holidays
  • Macabre Cadaver #3
  • Arkham Tales #2, #5
  • Crazy Horse #74
  • Ruthless Peoples Magazine March 2009
Definitely a scary year for small and large market press, and it goes without saying that the more we (read: I) can do in 2010, the better the odds that these guys will survive to end up on our 2010 year end roundup lists, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

John Cleese is Pinin' for the Fjords

I wasn't planning on posting this morning (only got 700 words in last night and need to make up for it), but I wanted to hit this while it's rattling around in the dusty, moldy-cheese-laden hamster maze that I carry around on my neck. So, I'll make it quick (yeah, right).

My thesis:

Surviving as a Producer of Popular Consumer Products in the New Economy; or: How Not to Use the Internet to Make Fans and Friends.

Some folks have it figured out; some are clueless; most of us are trying to get there, I think.

Amanda Palmer has it figured out. She tweets regularly. Not just tweets in a PR-heavy buy-my-shit kind of way, but really makes an effort to connect to fans. She has over 272k followers on Twitter, but actually talks to people who tweet her questions, comments, fan art, etc. She has responded to my lowly questions at least twice. She holds impromptu get-togethers before many of her shows and appearances, planned and announced sometimes an hour prior, always via Twitter--it's a little reward system for her followers. She tweets and blogs about her life, her problems, her victories. Zits on her ass (unfortunately, that's a true story). She helps her fans feel engaged, and part of her team, not just consumers of her products. She uses what often borders on over-communication to help her fans feel like they are truly integral in her successes and failures--the same behaviors you would find in highly successful managers at companies like Google.

Neil Gaiman has it figured out. Neil, who just happens to be making the two-back beast with Ms. Palmer, is a good Twit and blogger as well, but tends to be a little more private than Amanda--but that probably has as much to do with his British sensibilities as it does the sheer size of his following and respect for his own family. But, nonetheless, he keeps fans engaged at a good level, and it helps him stay at the head of his pack. Of note with Gaiman is that he was a relatively early adopter of this model--he started blogging his adventures while writing American Gods, sometime in 2000 I think.

Some other front-runners: Brian Keene, Adam Savage, Weird Al Yankovich, Cory Doctorow, Marian Call. They all seem to have their sea legs on the internet, for many of the same reasons as Palmer and Gaiman. You have to engage your fans, bring them into your circle (just decide which band of your circle to let them into), make it known that you recognize that your success requires a new kind of--to use the legal term--consideration. Quid quo pro. Tit-for-tat. This isn't the sheltered world of only seeing your heroes in magazines and TV. The wall is now paper-thin. Connect regularly and effectively, or get left behind.

John Cleese doesn't have it figured out. He tweets very rarely. In fact, there is strong evidence that John Cleese doesn't tweet, or at least pretends that it's not him behind the keyboard. He gets one point for trying, but the only time you hear from John's Tweetbox is either a random blip that makes no sense, or, more often, it's a direct and intrusive shill for a t-shirt. It doesn't work because he isn't taking the time to re-connect with his legions of fans, nor to open himself up to kids too young to remember Python, Fawlty, Wanda, or any of the other brilliant things he's done over the years. Cleese is the reason for this post, in fact--I just got a tweet from him asking me to click over and see what he's been up to. Well, he has been up to hiring a webguy to build a form on his website to capture my personal info so he can send me spam from third-party advertisers, as well as more t-shirt shills from his camp. Again, that's OK, but make it worth my while to continue to be a fan and give up my info--my time and patience aren't endless, and they certainly aren't free. Don't rely on your decades-old work to coerce me to open my wallet to buy a t-shirt.

Poppy Z Brite gets it, but she doesn't care. She has a good-sized following, she tweets regularly, connects with her followers, answers questions--but she isn't writing anymore and doesn't talk about writing much, and most of her tweets are either grouchy, angry, angry-grouchy, moody, or about football. But, such is genius, sometimes. I guess.

Danny Devito...Jesus, I don't even know what to say about this guy. I can't decide if he's a brilliant Twit, or just freaky-wrong. His tweets are random and often nonsensical (every time I read one of his wackier posts, I think about his drunken morning TV interview earlier this year, and the fact that almost every twipic he posts has a bottle or glass full or booze in it). Almost every post has a reference to his feet. It borders very closely on creepy. 90% of Devitos's tweets are like being drunk-dialed over the internet. But, goddamit, I can't bring myself to unfollow him, because he regularly tweets, he reveals details about his personal life (more in picture form than sentences that make sense--him and his wife in Paris, him behind the scenes at some play he's producing, him at the Venetian gondolas this morning). It works, I think, because it's intimate, it's voyeuristic, and it's like watching a slow-motion train wreck. I guess that counts as a win.

So, here's the challenge to all of you writers and new-media folks: after the books are written and the songs are recorded, what lessons will you take from these folks to help take your hobby and make it a career that actually pays the light bill?

Because your odds of getting that big book/record deal are getting slimmer every year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nook Review Time

I got my greasy little typing sticks on a Nook last night at the Barnes & Noble by UNLV.

Summary review: daddy want.

Detailed review: when I picked it up from the display stand (to which it was bound with a white cable that, presumably, would reveal itself to be an iPod cable-white Coral snake if I made a run for it), I thought it was a mockup unit, like the cell phones with pictures of functional interfaces adhered to the screen that are actually hollow and once used to smuggle cocaine from, oh, let's say Tijuana.

The reason I thought it was fake was that the image on the screen--a hedcut image of Mark Twain--was obviously not a sticker, but obviously not a digital image. I asked the guy at the information desk if he had a real one, and he reached over coyly and hit the power button. Mark Twain dissolved in a black mist of e-ink, and was replaced by text.

I was impressed already.

Seriously, it looks that real: e-ink is absolutely indistinguishable from paper, albeit paper under a thin layer of glass-like screen material.

If you haven't seen the pictures, here's the layout: a smallish e-ink screen above--about the size of a hardcover book page--and a color LCD below. The LCD is used to navigate: scroll through your books, change settings, buy books, etc. Both screens look brilliant.

  • E-ink is awesome, and, IMHO, the only acceptable way to read anything longer than a blog post on an electronic device. Remember that little voice in your head that eighteen years ago suggested that going to see Ratt and Winger concerts with no ear protection was probably a bad idea? That's the same voice in your head telling you not to read The Lost Symbol on your iPhone. (What's that? Couldn't hear you.) I said, don't read novels on your iPhone, you old goofball! Geez...
  • It's very small. Look around the room for a 5x7 picture in a small frame. It's about that big, maybe a little longer. It does not, however, have an image of you and your fabulous 80s haircut--but it does display pictures in black and white e-ink, so you could do that, if you wanted to...I guess.
  • It plays MP3s, which seems like a totally worthless feature to me, but somebody probably wants that. Ever read Skymall catalogs? There are toilet paper dispensers that play MP3s now. No kidding. Christ.
  • It supports ePub and PDF, so you can read those magazines you've been collecting in the internet for the past three years, as well as the large collection of third party books published in ePub, which seems to be the standard ebook format. Many, I believe, are free.
  • It runs the Android operating system, which means it is probably going to be more hacker-friendly than the Kindle. I'm sure someone has already modified a nook to do something related to porn, funny cats, Warcraft, or porn. My hope for this feature is that third parties will release modules and hacks to open it up to other formats, like Kindle books and Word docs.
  • If you're at a B&N store, you can read one book per day free via the wireless connection.

  • The wireless function can use any WiFi connection, but can only be used to buy more book from B&N, or, if you're in a B&N store, read a book from their library. To read your own non-B&N books, you have to transfer them over manually via USB or a memory card. Which seems like a waste, but you don't really want to be surfing the internet on this thing, because...
  • E-ink is great for text or lineart/hedcut images, but anything more than that and it blows. Pictures look grainy, and the refresh rate is extremely slow. The time to flip pages in a book is about 2-3 seconds. I wonder if that would be distracting, or if you'd get used to it after a few pages.
  • For how small it is, it's heavier than it seems like it would be. I guess it has all of that electronic junk inside, but it's Bible-heavy--not a little tiny Gideon Bible, but not quite the leather-bound kind hand-written by Franciscan monks that came with a free deerhide bookmark and a hunchback named Eoderic to carry it around for you, either. But a big, solid hardcover Bible.
  • The interface in the LCD seems slow and bit clunky, but I can deal with that. After all, you're buying it to read books, not flip through settings screens. If taking ten more seconds to find your bookmark is the worst thing that happens to you all day, things are going much better for you than you probably know.

In all, I think the Nook is a winner. The only thing stopping me from buying it is that my physical, non-electronic TBR pile is immense thanks to Paperbackswap, and it would probably be a good six months before I read anything but PDF magazines on it. Not that that's a bad thing, but I just have to decide if that's worth $260.

The other thing worth mentioning is that there will be a lot of competition coming out in e-readers this year, and that always spurs innovation (no fewer than 4 major newspaper/magazine publishers are proposing their own proprietary readers, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and ESPN). Can someone else do it better? Maybe. Probably. Will they do it in a reasonable timeframe, and at a decent price, and not have it locked down to their sandbox with proprietary formats and binding subscription agreements? Probably not.

I'll decide in the next week or so--no rush, since I won't be able to get one shipped until likely late January. I am strongly leaning toward getting one, though, primarily so I can get through the 50MB of PDF magazines I have sitting unread on my computer.

That, and I want to see what it's like listening to Winger's "She's Only Seventeen" while reading New Moon. Creepy, I suspect.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Film Noir

I sat down to write some insightful and/or funny post on some topic that I had not yet decided on when my wife pinged me on Messenger. It was horrible news:

"The Road" was not released to any theaters in Las Vegas.

A small tragedy, indeed--I slipped through all five phases of grief within about ninety seconds, all expressed in tweet form. Heartbreaking. Well, OK, not heartbreaking. But a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing it more than any movie this year since probably Order of the Phoenix.It was supposed to be the movie that balanced against Wolverine on my internal movie karma scale.

And if the hype holds up, this would have probably been the first time I had actually seen a movie nominated for an Oscar before the actual award ceremony.

I checked a few movie sites. I searched a few random zip codes on Fandango--nothing. I checked had the word "Limited" right by the release date. Jeremy Kelly tweeted that it wasn't in Atlanta, either.


I blame myself. And you. I blame you, too. I blame us.

Last summer, I took the kids to see Pixar's "Up". In line to buy tickets, they saw the poster for the Will Ferrell live action poo sculpture "Land of the Lost". They wanted to switch movies. We debated. They won. It cost me $25 plus a few ounces of my ever-dwindling soul.

In the Spring, we saw Wolverine. I literally can't remember a single plot point or interesting bit of dialogue. I think there was a talking beaver and an evil ice queen in the beginning; the ending is just as hazy, but I'm pretty sure the little boy--young Logan, I presume--found his golden train ticket in enough time to save Christmas for Cory Feldman and the kid from Malcolm in the Middle.

It seems like I wait to see the good movies until they come out on DVD. Mostly because of the kids, I guess.

And I now you're there with me--well, some of you. It's our fault. We are the market. We pay to watch schlock with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta and anybody from Saturday Night Live and the bald guy from Moonlighting.

The good news, I guess, is that it makes books even more attractive.

A few years back, my wife and I discovered the splendor of Netflix. One of the biggest criticisms of Netflix has always been that they don't carry many popular movies, and are overstacked with TV shows, classics, and independent movies that nobody has heard of. We aren't big TV watchers, but we have gotten brave enough to check out some of the independent flicks on there (via mailed DVDs and, our absolute favorite distribution system in the universe, Watch It Now). Now, the heavy catalog of unpopular fare has become, for us, the greatest part of Netflix.

Here are a few good ones we've found...feel free to add your own:

Adam's Æbler (Adam's Apple). My wife spent several months going through the Danish-language catalog, mostly because of Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen (of Casino Royale fame). The Danes have a national film board that produces many (all?) of their movies, so you find a lot of the same actors working together. They really put out some good ones, and Mads seems to have been in every one. Anyway, Adam's Apple was my favorite--the story of a pre-release convict trying hard not to be reformed while he watches the people around him contort under their own emotional loads. Very well done, and the subtitles are not as distracting as you may think.

Primer. I found this movie in a reference in an xkcd comic. It  was good--not fantastic, but I defy you to find a solid, well-written sci-fi movie with fewer (or no) special effects that is half as believable. It's a time-travel movie that is more thought-provocation than action, but that's good. It's a movie for people who like to think. It's also cool to see all of the credits fit on one or two pages, and only like five names, including the catering, which was probably someone's mom. Be prepared to watch it several times, or take notes. See the xkcd comic for details on that.

Run, Lola, Run. This was an artsy movie. My wife loved it, I thought it was pretty good--a very refreshing alternative to what we usually see. I think we liked it for different reasons--she liked the story, I liked the arsty-fartsy quality, how the characters and scenarios were kind of caricatures of reality. German with subtitles.

Idiocracy. From the creative team behind Office Space, a horrifyingly prophetic look at the future of mankind. A little bit ha-ha funny, but mostly oh-my-god funny.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A Jimmy Stewart classic featuring an amazing performance by Jean Arthur. Frank Capra obviously doesn't qualify as indie, but if you're looking for a good rental, don't neglect the oldies (my wife now almost exclusively watches B&W movies).

I am far from a film snob, I guess I just don't like being played to like I was a high-fiving, spiky-haired, bluetooth-headset rube. I don't mind being made to think a little bit for my entertainment, as, I suspect, doesn't most of the world. But, as always, the only way to change it is to vote with your pocketbook. Or make your own movies.

In any case, I will be protesting this year by not wearing my best clothes to watch the Oscars on TV. In fact, I may not even wear pants. That'll show 'em.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Shoot

Back to reality from a lo-o-o-ong Thanksgiving break. The time off was nice...I didn't get  a single line of writing done, but the break was much-needed.

Living in Vegas, Thanksgiving with out of town guests is different that what I've experienced in most cities I've lived in. We spent most days all together in our tiny house, but the last two days we split up--girls did shopping and girl-oriented shows, and the guys shot automatic weapons and did boy stuff. Most of the time was spent with the kids--we did a Renaissance-style show at the Excalibur, a movie, and some time in a massive underground video arcade.

And, of course, way too much food and drink and not enough going to the gym.
I mostly focus on long-form stories, which is why I have so few credits to-date...but, every once in a while, I sneak in a short story between failed attempts at finishing a 70k manuscript that is worth revising. I mentioned a couple of months ago, I recently wrote a poem (yak, that even looks weird written down). Like I've said, I'm not a poet; most poetry to me is as abstract and hard to understand as Pollock paintings. Sometimes I "get" the cadence or emotional outflow, but a lot of the time it's just stuff.

But, apparently that isn't enough to keep me from writing one.

The Woodsman's Son, published up at New Myths today, started out as a short story that was heavily inspired by the Dresden Dolls song The Gardener. Whereas, I think, the Dolls saw their tale as more of a co-dependent, love/hate story, mine went more in a hero-worship, misplaced trust direction. As I wrote it, it took on a natural staggered cadence that kind of reminded me of Poe's The Raven (not in quality, per se, but in rhythm), so I decided to re-do it as a poem over a couple of months last winter.

Anyway, it's different. It was fun. I'm very curious to see if people who read it interpret it the same way I do. I suspect the reactions will be mixed.

Enjoy. And, congrats to everyone who finished NaNoWriMo! Now go take naps.