People in the Detroit area...
August 31, 2007
Well, today’s a two-fer.Part I: Announcements
For anyone in the Detroit area, my interviews on CULT POP and FOCUS will begin running soon. Here’s some basic info:
It airs Downriver on Comcast Channel 20
Tuesdays 5:30pm & 8:30pm
Wednesdays at 3:30pm & 9:00pm
Thursdays at 7:00am
It airs on Comcast Channel 18 (Dearborn, Plymouth, Canton)
Tuesdays at 7pm
Thursdays @ 1:30am
If you’re a Comcast customer in the Detroit area, check it out!
For the rest of you, I’ll be getting these up and available on my website eventually.Part II: Rats on an Island
I highly recommend all writers, aspiring or otherwise (we’re all aspiring, trust me) to check out this website:http://writeattitude.net/
In particular I want to recommend the article, “Rats With Islands: How To Survive Your Publishing Career” by Jennifer Crusie, here:http://www.jennycrusie.com/essays/ratswithislands.php“But, you ask, how I can let reality go, don't I need to face reality in order to survive in publishing? First, what has reality ever done for you? You write fiction, for heaven's sake, reality has never been your strong suit. Second, whose reality? I understand there were several realistic editor panels at National that depressed the hell out of people because the editors were so brutal. Well, it's a brutal business, folks, but what does that have to do with you? According to conventional wisdom, only one in a thousand writers who submit get published. Is your reality that you're one of the 999, or the one who gets published?”
It’s a particularly good article and I highly recommend it. In a way, it provides scientific validation for a rather famous quote by Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds!”
See ya on my island!
Mark Terry, Internationally Published Author
August 30, 2007
After what can be safely described as persistent nagging, we have tracked down the current status of our foreign rights sales.
Both THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS will be published in the following languages by the following publishers:
Ada Editors, Inc., Quebec, Canada
Verlagsgruppe Lubbe GMBH & Co., Germany
IKAR/Euromedia Group, Slovakia
And some trivia for those of you who notice these things (and if you're an aspiring novelist, you should at least learn some of this). IKAR is owned by Euromedia Group. Euromedia Group is owned by Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann is a huge German publishing conglomerate, which also owns Random, Inc. Random, Inc. publishes something like 40% of all books that come out of New York (or maybe the U.S. They're huge).
Pretty cool, overall.
August 29, 2007
When I took Frodo out for a walk this morning, I saw that one of my neighbors had a slim billboard/sign in their front lawn that said, simply: IMPEACH. It was a narrow, vertical sign and it said: IMPEACH on both sides.
Maybe they were referring to the Oxford village counsel (I've heard of worse ideas than impeaching all of them, actually), but I doubt it.
I think Bush and all his flying monkeys have been a train wreck of almost Biblical proportions, but a year and a half from the end of his final term, I can't imagine any real political futility of impeaching Bush.
Here's the nightmare scenario, not even accounting for the fact that government grinds to a complete halt when impeachment is considered.
We impeach Bush.
Dick Cheney becomes President of the United States. (Oh yes, you would need to impeach both Bush and Cheney, darlings! Then you would have President Pelosi. Hmmm...) Cheney, finding no one who really supports his policies in Iraq, nominates John McCain to Vice President. Cheney, who claims he will never run for President, finds himself in the dubious situation of being a sitting President, decides to run, with McCain as his running mate.
A potential eight more years!!!!
Please, please, won't someone wake me!
Writing And Getting Published
August 27, 2007
I've been poking around in my archives, looking to see if I've ever actually said anything useful.
Here are link to six posts (yes, I know there are only three links. They're archived by month.) that focus on business aspects of writing and publishing that I thought might be worth revisiting. Enjoy.http://www.markterrybooks.com/archive/2006_08_01_archive.html
August 31, 2006--A Subsidiary Rights Sandwichhttp://www.markterrybooks.com/archive/2006_09_01_archive.html
September 26, 2006--How To Get Published
September 14, 2006--New Math
September 9, 2006--Making A Living As A Writerhttp://www.markterrybooks.com/archive/2006_10_01_archive.html
October 13, 2006--The 15% Precedent
October 11, 2006--Royalties, Basketing and Money 101
August 25, 2007
Well, due to popular demand (okay, Aimless...), here are at least some of the lyrics to Frodo's Blues.
Snoozing all the time.
Dozing all day long.
Dozing all the time.
Afraid of the toothbrush.
Dozing all the time.
Sometimes Ya Gotta Get The Blues
August 24, 2007
Today was the last day of "Blues Camp" for my two sons. It was run by their guitar teacher. From 11:00 to 1:00 each day this week they got together with another kid and listened to the blues, talked about the blues, and I think more importantly, wrote their own blues tunes.
They came home with a music CD they recorded yesterday. Peter (their teacher) had set up mikes in his studio and recorded them all playing their songs together. Peter did the singing because, apparently, all the kids were too shy to sing. The kids wrote the lyrics, each tune had a solo for them, and they made their own cover art and, uh, liner notes, I guess you'd say.
Sean's blues tune was about our dog, Frodo. I believe it was called "Lazy Dog Blues."
Ian (who wants to be a writer) wrote a blues tune called, "Blah, Blah, Blah."
The lyrics go something like:
I see your lips are movin'
But all I hear is
Blah, blah, blah.
You're drivin' me crazy.
All I hear is
Blah, blah, blah.
Ya know. I'm pretty much blown away by what these kids accomplished in what was essentially 10 hours.
August 22, 2007
Please note that the title isn't "Writer's Bitch" or "Writers' Bitch." No possessives here. That's a different kind of bitch.
Anyway, I think I might be entitled to a little bitchin' about the publishing industry--yesterday I received rejections #10 and #11 for a project that I'm very positive about. There's no rhyme or reason to these rejections, either; they're just, "It's a very competitive market, blah, blah, blah..."
But I'm not going to bitch about it. Ha! See, it's possible.
Get a bunch of writers together and they tend to bitch, whine, kvetch, complain and generally have a pity-party about how miserable the publishing industry is, how they got screwed by their publisher (editor, agent, publicist, fill-in-the-blank), how their advances were too small, how their publisher dug in on foreign rights, how their agent doesn't get a big enough advance, how their copyeditor is an incompetent hack, how their publicist doesn't do enough (or anything). We'll complain about the business models of publishers are idiotic (returns, anyone?), how their distribution is horrible, how Kirkus always runs negative reviews, how we didn't get reviewed at all, how weird (awful, terrible, surreal) our last book signing was...
Somedays I think we should all just SHUT THE HELL UP!
As far as I can tell, none of us are being forced into writing fiction. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've got that obsessive-compulsive disorder thing going, we've "got" to write, it's "what we were born to do," blah, blah, blah.
Yeah? So go ahead and write then and file it away in a drawer. Fine, you've satisfied your OCD and you don't even have to flip for a prescription for Prozac. Feel better now?
I think there's a lot wrong with the publishing industry, by the way. I'm unlikely to be its greatest defender. But it is what it is and I seriously doubt that people go into the business of publishing with the idea that they're going to do things half-assed and get rich by screwing the writers they depend on. I think they get into publishing because they love books. I think they might even love (or at least like) writers. I wouldn't be surprised if many of them were writers (or at least aspiring writers) themselves.
If I were going to open a business strictly on the basis of the chance to make money, I wouldn't pick publishing, for God sakes.
I think the current business model is fallout from a different era and relatively recent tax changes that inadvertently (can you say the words "politicians" and "unintended consequences" in the same breath without screaming, boys and girls?) affected publishing.
I think publishers are doing the best they can under what, in this day and age, is not the best environment for books to be published and sold, at least in this country. [A poll I saw just yesterday found that 27% of people polled in the U.S. had not read a single book in the last year! The average--the AVERAGE!--was 7 books a year.]
So for today, anyway, I'm not going to bitch about the writer's situation and the publishing industry.
Tomorrow, though, as they say, is another day.
Mark Terry Interviewed on MyShelf--hey, that's me!
August 21, 2007
Dennis Collins also interviewed me on MyShelf.
Most Likely to Succeed
Interview with Mark TerryI first bumped into Mark Terry at a small writer’s conference in Ontario, Canada. There were only a handful of Americans there and Mark and I were both from Michigan and so we naturally chatted a bit. Over the years our paths crossed numerous times at conferences around the midwest and we seemed to frequent the same online writer’s forums. We got to know one another in a casual sort of way and although I always loved the titles of Mark’s books (Catfish Guru is a great title.), I never read any of his work until I read The Serpent’s Kiss, for review right here on MyShelf. If you want to know what I thought of it, check out my August review.
Mark agreed to share some of his thoughts with us so here goes.Dennis Collins: How long have you been writing?Mark Terry: I started writing seriously my senior year in college. My girlfriend (now wife) had graduated and moved back home to work and my roommate took an internship for the summer, so I was living by myself—and reading a lot. I stumbled across a collection of essays about Stephen King and he had written the introduction called something like “The Making of a Brand Name.” What struck me most (besides his $400,000 advance for the paperback rights to “Carrie”) was that writers write. They don’t necessarily go to school for it, they sit their butts down in a chair and write and then send things out. It was a revelation and I promptly sat my butt down in a chair and cranked out a science fiction short story called “When Red Eyes Blue” about intergalactic war. It didn’t go anywhere, but I was hooked.
To read the rest click here.
MyShelf.com Reviews THE SERPENT's KISS
August 21, 2007
Dennis Collins reviews THE SERPENT'S KISS for MyShelf.com
Author Mark Terry has done and absolutely masterful job of matching the overall pace of the story to the sense of urgency that the characters feel. His short chapters and terse dialog complete the picture and pull the reader into the pursuit. This story really moves.
The Writing Race
August 20, 2007
Eric Mayer has an interesting post and dialogue going on his blog
on "the writing race." Check it out.
Promoting Your Novel the New-Fashioned Way?
August 20, 2007
This was in today's ShelfAwareness. I admit, I have to raise my eyebrows. There's not enough information here and it's entirely anecdotal, but...How does a bestseller happen? At the Huffington Post, Tim Ferriss wrote a "case study" on the recent appearance of his book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. "How is this possible?" he asked. "How could a book from a first-time author--with no offline advertising or PR--hit both of these lists and stick for three months and counting? . . . Is it all luck? Not all. Luck and timing play a (sometimes big) part, but it seems to me that one can still analyze the game and tilt the odds in their favor. I don't claim to have all of the answers--I still know very little about publishing--but I've done enough micro-testing in the last year to fill a lifetime.The conclusion, in retrospect, is simple . . . It all came down to learning how to spread a 'meme,' an idea virus that captures imaginations and takes on a life of its own."Along with a great meme strategy, Ferriss cited eyebrow-raising advice he received from other bestselling authors in answer to his question, "What were the 1-3 biggest wastes of time and money?" First on that list turned out to be "no book touring or bookstore signings whatsoever. Not a one. All of the best-selling authors warned against this author rite of passage."
Too Many Damn Ideas
August 17, 2007
Supposedly the biggest question writers get asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"
Honestly, I haven't been asked that too much. People seem more inclined to share THEIR great idea for a fantastic book they're sure will be an instant bestseller, sell to the movies and become a blockbuster film made by Stephen Spielberg, all I gotta do is promise, PROMISE, to split things 50/50 after I write the book.
Ideas are the least of my problems these days. As I'm wrapping up the fourth Derek Stillwater novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, I've got two or three ideas for more Stillwater novels. But since SHADOWS isn't scheduled (optimistically) for publication until November 2008, a date I suspect will shift because the third book, ANGELS FALLING, got moved from Feb. 2008 to May 2008, I'm sifting around for another project to write.
The one I'm probably going to work on, and which I already have 50 pages or so written, is an espionage novel that takes place primarily in Beijing.
I'm also dabbling with a tech thriller that takes place mostly in Antarctica, a political thriller that takes place in Washington, D.C., and a supernatural police procedural (yeah, odd, huh?) that takes place in Detroit. There's also an older unfinished Detroit police procedural that I keep taking out and looking at and wondering if too much water has gone under THAT bridge. Let it be said that I'm doing here what David Morrell wrote about once, called "test borings." His mentor said he'd try out ideas and called them "test borings." David went on about how they were like drilling, looking for oil and his mentor gave him a "look" and said, "No, I just want to see if they're boring."
What I do is write a few pages and see if the story takes off for me, if I'm eager to get back to it, if when I do get back to it I actually work on it or I just stare at the blank page going, "Uh, now what?"
My agent is also marketing another thriller and a children's fantasy novel. I probably wouldn't write a spec follow-up to the thriller, but I've considered writing the second book in the kids' series just for fun. And maybe I will.
And today, while walking Frodo, I was puzzling over why, given the potential money involved, I've never given writing a feature screenplay a second shot (Probably because the first shot was a disaster, but that was abouat 15 years ago. I've learned a few things since then). And I've had the notion of writing a spec TV script for "Bones" just because, well, I like "Bones" and I wouldn't mind writing for the show and, well, you've got to fill up the time somehow, right?
There's also a young adult story idea I've got that's pretty good and my oldest son thinks I should write it. And then yesterday, I pulled the USA Today out of the mailbox and on the cover was a little thing drawing attention to an article on the front page of the Features section about a bestselling YA novel (that knocked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows off the #1 spot) about vampires.
And I thought, "Why is it always vampires? Why not werewolves?"
And as I walked from my mailbox to my living room my brain conjured up a title, "I, Wolf," and a first line: "My mom and dad don't know I'm a werewolf."
You see? Where do you get your ideas is not a good question. The real question is, Which ones are good for me?
Apple Versus PC
August 16, 2007
I'm thinking of getting a new computer before the end of the year. I've been using PCs my entire computer-life, typically Dells. I'm seriously considering making the jump to Apples, specially a new iMac and quite likely, if I can swing the money, a MacBook to go with it for my occasional travel needs.
Here are my concerns.
1. Money. Macs are just plain more expensive. The upside of this is that because they seem significantly more resistant to viruses, you may get a longer life out of your Mac. (And I'm still surprised that old Macs seem to have resale value. Can you imagine a PC having ANY resale value?)
2. Viruses. As mentioned above. There are over 100,000 viruses aimed at Windows and only a hundred or so written to attack the Mac OS (based on Unix). Mac claims this is because their Unix-based system is less susceptible. I suspect it's because virus-writers think that Steve Jobs is cool and hip and Bill Gates is a nerdy rich guy. (Honestly, guys, Steve Jobs is a pretty nerdy rich guy, too. Really.) This is actually my #1 reason for considering a Mac, because my last Dell became totally corrupted from viruses and my current Dell--now 3 years old--has these bizarre periods of sluggishness. I don't know if it's from viruses or just heat and humidity. It's a Dell XPS mongo laptop and laptops aren't necessarily designed to run all day long due to heat issues.
3. You can get MicroSoft Office for Mac, but Mac claims the new iWork can handle it. I'm skeptical. If it were strictly writing, I wouldn't necessarily have a problem here, but I do a fair amount of Excel work with surveys and government databases, so I'm inclined to think I'm going to have to flip for MS Office either way. Also, I'm an editor, so people send me manuscripts in various formats, although unlike 5 years ago, MS Word format is almost all I get. And RTX change handle almost anything. Either way, the expenses start climbing.
4. The iMac (and MacBook) seem to be really smartly designed so you don't have to do a bunch of add-ons. In fact, taking a close look at the iMac, I'm really impressed with the design. I spent some time on the Dell website looking at a PC and by the time the $500 system had everything I wanted it costs over $1000. And what's the deal with their sound system add-ons, anyway?, the sound system on my Dell XPS is fantastic for a laptop, but we've got a cheap laptop we bought for under $500 2 years ago and the sound system is practically nonexistent. How's the sound on a Macbook, anyway?
Okay. Just some thoughts. I'm sure you've got some opinions. Lay 'em on me. I'm all ears.
Labels: Apple versus PC, computers, Macs, viruses
Stephen King, Vandal
August 16, 2007
I love this little story, from Shelf Awareness:Horrors! Traveling unannounced in Alice Springs, Australia, Stephen King quietly signed six copies of his books in a Dymocks store on Tuesday and was reported to the staff by a customer for "defacing" books, the AAP (via the Age) reported. Bookstore manager Bev Ellis speculated that the culprit might be King, but he had already left the building. She caught up with him in the fruits and vegetable section of Woolworths. She said that King was "polite and well spoken," adding, "He introduced me to his friends and we had a talk and then I said 'Well I'll leave you to the tomatoes.' "
A Writer's Ups & Downs
August 15, 2007
With apologies to the ladies, I feel like I've got male PMS, at least in regard to my writing.
Much of this has to do with a conversation I had with one of my biggest clients concerning some ancillary aspects of working with them. That is to say, it had almost nothing to do with the work I do for them, but it was all pretty much critical, and it reminded me all too vividly of being back in the workplace.
So I'm a little grumpy about writing at the moment, to say the least. Hopefully not grumpy enough to go jump off a cliff, literally or figuratively (cliffs being rather hard to find in this part of Michigan). It did finally occur to me this morning that they were bitching at me about aspects of the job (travel) that I do voluntarily and they apparently do not require me to do, and if it's going to piss me off and they're not happy about it... Well for God sakes, don't do it!
Anyway, the point here is that things go up and down in the writing life. Generally speaking I feel pretty much like things are going well, that I'm a success. I would be fooling myself and everybody else if I were to constantly give the impression that things are always 100% fantastic, even in the fiction department. They aren't and most of the time these days I have a good enough attitude about life overall that I just say, "Hey, that's just part of the business. Live with it."
Is this too vague? Perhaps this is a small example: back in January I met an editor with a major New York publisher who, under no urging from me (I was just having lunch, I didn't try to sell him anything) asked me to send him something. So I had my agent send him off a project we'd been marketing.
As of early this week, he STILL has not made a decision on this. For that matter, he hasn't completed reading it. This is almost 8 months. And HE asked for the material.
Now, this doesn't really drive me crazy, but when my agent asks for an update and he doesn't respond or when he does respond promising (again) to get to it "this month," I get that crazy little bit of hope going, then a few days later slide into the "oh what's the use" mode. Maybe that's just me. One of the problems with the highs is you tend to hit the lows sometimes afterward (sounds kind of bi-polar, doesn't it, but hey, that's the writer's life), or worse, simultaneously. Sometimes the whole thing strikes me as trying to pay your bills by buying Lotto tickets.
Which reminds me: we were watching the news last night and they had surveillance footage of a couple guys ripping off a party store and they were throwing the lottery tickets into their bag of loot.
I looked over at my wife, puzzled, and said, "Are those easy picks, do you think?"
I mean, makes you wonder, doesn't it?
What I've Been Reading
August 14, 2007
Before I get to my last batch of reading, I just want to point anyone in the Michigan area to my news
page, which we updated to include a number of events I'll be doing in a couple weeks.
Now, on to reading.Bag of Bones by Stephen King
One of my all-time favorite books, which I try to read or listen to every couple years.The Cleaner by Brett Battles
A debut novel and a very strong one. Did it live up to what I perceive as a lot of hype? Welllll, probably not, but it was a very enjoyable book.Hunter’s Moon by Randy Wayne White
Another outing for Doc Ford and although I enjoyed this book quite a bit, it is, to say the least, a fairly improbable plot, with an ex-president asking Doc to sneak him out from under his Secret Service protection, etc. If you like Randy's books you'll probably like this one. If you haven't read any of his books, don't start with this one.The Second Horseman by Kyle Mills
A fun, enjoyable thriller. I really, really like this one, which isn't always how I feel about Mills' books.Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
Another terrific outing in the Alex Rider YA adults. Alex is a high schooler in England who periodically is blackmailed and/or recruited to work as a sort of James Bond for MI6. In this case he's loaned to the CIA to provide cover to a couple of CIA agents who are trying to infiltrate a Russian general who is staying at an island near Cuba. When they die Alex is on his own to find out what the Russian's nefarious plan is.The Judas Strain by James Rollins
A Sigma Force novel involving Marco Polo's lost journal, a plague, an evil conspiracy, science, adventure, etc. Fun.Spare Change by Robert B. Parker
Well, another Sunny Randall novel. Although it was readable, I hit a big technical error--cops hunting for ejected cartridges from a revolver--that made me wonder why I still bother. Particularly since, although Parker is one of my favorite authors, I thought BLUE SCREEN was just plain awful.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Although I have some clarifications I would like to corner Jo Rowling with and I'm sorry to see the end of the series, I enjoyed it. It's one of my least favorite (but better than The Chamber of Secrets) of the books, but I found it very readable and particularly the last third of the book was very exciting.No Man’s Land by G.M. Ford
I had this book for over a year and I have no clue why it kept getting backburnered. Ford's Corso novels are so damned good and this one is, too. Corso is a true-crime author/investigative journalist. A guy named Driver who is in a supermax prison takes over the prison and with the other prisoners starts a riot, holding the guards hostage. Corso had written a bestselling book about Driver's crimes (killing his wife and her lover) and Driver indicates they'll start killing a hostage every hour unless Corso shows up. Excellent.Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka
Another novel--probably the last novel--featuring bodyguard Atticus Kodiak. If you haven't read his previous AK novel, CRITICAL SPACE, there's a good chance you won't have a clue what's going on in this one. It's a very good novel, very exciting, with a slightly depressing feel to it, probably because Rucka seems to be ending the series and bringing the main character's totally changed life to some sort of resolution. If you haven't read anything by Rucka, don't start here. Start somewhere, because he's terrific, but this isn't the place to start.Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
I was on vacation when I read Patriot Acts and the next book I was going to read was THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH by Simon Beckett, but it became clear to me after reading the first three chapters of Beckett's first novel that following PATRIOT ACTS with this intense, moody, British forensic procedural about serial killers was going to be a downer for a bunch of beach days. So I hit the local Wal-Mart and picked up MOTOR MOUTH, Evanovich's second book in her "Barney" series. What can I say? It's light and funny and sassy and sexy and completely disposable. It's like a meal of cotton candy. It was exactly what I needed, even if I think the first one in this series, METRO GIRL, was a lot better, and I think both probably pale to her Stephanie Plum novels (which may be losing steam, too, but I'm one or two books behind on those, so maybe not).
So I'm reading THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH
right now and unless he falls apart before the end, it's really a terrific book that I would highly recommend. It's paced much slower than what I usually prefer, but it's very engrossing and I find the narrator very sympathetic and believable.
Where Are You?
August 11, 2007
As I tried to write earlier, I had dinner with my friend Stephanie Newman when I was in Denver back in June. I see Stephanie about once a year (she's the executive director of an organization for which I edit their technical journal and we see each other at the annual meeting) and she asked how the writing was coming and I said the same old usual self-deprecating bullshit, punctuating it with a shrug.
Stephanie said, "Well, you've certainly come a long ways since I've known you."
Well said, Stephanie. And she didn't just mean writing fulltime. When we first met I don't believe I had a novel published yet, although I'd have to double-check to see if CATFISH GURU had been published yet. Maybe. But since then, I've moved from more or less self-publishing to a small press to multiple contracts with a small imprint of a large non-NY publisher. I've also got French translation rights and (in theory) Slovak and German rights sold. My film rights are being shopped around by Hollywood hotshot Joel Gottler and book scouts are regularly contacting us to read copies. My books are being published and I've got some other projects being marketed.
Huh. It really is true that you can't see the picture from inside the frame. I'm so busy doing what I'm doing, trying to claw my way up in the publishing world that I forget to glance around and notice how far I've come from where I've been.
I think every writer at every level should probably do this from time to time. Unpublished still? Did you get an agent? Did some agents nibble? Some editors? Did you finish a manuscript where before you didn't? Did some kind words, a small sale, or anything similar come your way? Or hell, maybe you've published 7 novels already and somewhere in your mind don't think that's successful. (Yeah, hard to believe, but I'd lay money down that many feel that way).
I'm aware that there's at least one person who regularly reads this blog who regularly gets published under a pseudonym and probably makes more money from her fiction than I do, but seems to think she's not as successful as she actually is. She might need to step back and take a look around, too.
So yeah, I guess I've come a long way. For going on four years I've had a sign above my desk that says: Success is a journey not a destination.
It's staying above my desk. I should have it matted and framed.
How about you? Where are you?
August 10, 2007
I had a nice post about success and evaluating your writing career, but the only thing that published was the title and the date. Sigh.
I Am Here
August 10, 2007
What Us Writers Gotta Do
August 8, 2007
I'm over on Inkspots
writing about creativity and execution today. Enjoy!
The Book Promotion Dance
August 3, 2007
Whew. My blog is back and working again. I've been trying to post here for a couple days.
Yesterday was cool. I drove down to Woodhaven, Michigan--south of Detroit--to the Comcast studios to tape a couple interviews with Jim Hall, who hosts a couple shows for the cable network. One was a short interview, about 7 minutes, that will run on their original content show, FOCUS. The second interview was longer, about 20 minutes, which will run on Jim's CULT POP show. I'll be able to post the interviews here and I'll find out when they're running later this month so any of you who live in the Detroit area can catch yours truly running his mouth.
Here's the thing. As I'm sure I've made clear, either by being straightforward about it or by my subliminal (or otherwise) attitude, I'm not a huge fan of book promotion. I tend to view it as a necessary evil. Over the last couple years I've come to terms with it, the internal argument being something like this:
Either do it or don't do it, but if you do do it, stop whining about.
I think the second part of that goes something like this:
You have the option of not writing fiction and even of writing fiction and not promoting it. But you know damn well that if you do no promotion the odds are that you won't be regularly published because your sales will suffer, so... shut up, make the best of it, and do your best to promote your books.
So I just want to say for the record that I had a hell of a good time yesterday.
Jim Hall and his director Jerry (sorry, didn't catch the last name, Jerry) were fun and friendly and made me feel very relaxed. This is my third TV interview and I've done a couple radio interviews and a fair amount of public speaking. I don't get too nervous about it. I say "too" because clearly I was a bit nervous before getting in my car to drive south, but once I was on the road I was fine. And once I was there I was very relaxed. Some of this may be because my father was a semi-professional photographer and I grew up with a camera in my face. Some of this may be because I find the technical end of TV kind of fascinating. What goes on behind the scenes is so different from what appears ON the screen that I have this real curiosity to just sort of absorb the whole experience. Also, probably even more so, Jim and Jerry did such a great job of making me feel comfortable and not getting stressed about things.
After all, most of us like talking about ourselves (some more than others) and the biggest danger is running on and on and on. At least for me. Sometimes, if you can get me in a talkative mood I notice that I speed up and I wonder if people think, "Gee, speed kills, Mark." But if I can just rein that in, things are pretty cool.
So yeah, I had a good time. Very cool. Thanks Jim.
Should You Write Every Day?
August 2, 2007Joe Konrath
had a recent post on his blog concerning 9 writing myths. His first one was Writers Write Every day. Here's what he had to say:Myth #1 - Writers Write Every DayI'm sure there are some writers who actually write every day, who force themselves to sit at their computers until they get their three hours, or four pages, or 1500 words. I'm not one of them. I do prioritize my writing, as all writers should. It's important to submit stories, finish books, meet deadlines. Hence the label writer. But in today's hectic world, I simply can't find the time to write every day. If you can't find the time either, don't sweat it. Write when you can. You can prioritize something without being a slave to it.
I don't actually disagree with Joe here and I think his last line: "You can prioritize something without being a slave to it" is absolutely true for a balanced, enjoyable life.
But, should you write every day?
I'm a fulltime writer, which means I make a living doing it, but I don't write every day. I try to. Although actually I now try to take weekends off unless my deadlines get crazy. But a significant chunk of my workdays are spent on research, interviews, transcribing interviews, promotion and just generally dithering around.
At the same time, I think there's a point in your life if you're trying to break into this business, if you're trying to develop your craft to a professional level, that you should probably try to write every day.
I also think that if you're honestly in love with writing and have fantasies about doing it for a living, you're kidding yourself if you're not compulsive about sitting down at the keyboard and writing just about every day. (But that's okay. If you can't lie to yourself, who can you lie to?)
As a fulltime freelancer, I pretty much treat it like a 9-5 job (more or less). In the summer I'm actually to my desk earlier than during the kids' school year, but I typically am to my desk by 9:00, work until 10:30 or so, go to the gym, then catch lunch, then work from 12:30 or 1:00 until 5:30 or 6:00. I'll work in the evenings and weekends if necessary or if I'm caught behind a deadline (it happens from time to time).
Other freelancers, like, say, Eric Mayer and Mary Reed
, I believe tend to work more like noon to eight or nine (or ten or eleven or twelve). I heard freelancer and novelist Lev Raphael say once that he couldn't stand a regular schedule, it was soul deadening or something like that, so he works more irregularly. I think that's fine if it works for you.
Ultimately, one thing I've noticed about writers who actually make a living at is we get a lot done. If that means we sit our asses in the chair at 8:00 in the morning and work until 5:00 like a real job, then so be it. If we're night owls and prefer to work at night, hey, if it works for you. My friend Tobias S. Buckell
seems to be much more of a crash-through-the-night kind of writer.
I like to point out a couple things to people who say, "I don't have time to write."
One is, we all have 24 hours a day. What we do with it is pretty much up to us. If you can't find time to write in that period, it's probably not that important to you. That's okay. Life is full of other things to do that you might find more rewarding.
Two, when I worked 9:30 to 6:00 at the lab in Detroit, had a 1 to 1.5 hour commute both ways, with young children, I still found time to write. Not much time. Thirty minutes, maybe an hour. Typically after the kids went to bed at 9:00 or so in the evening. A lot of times I would be so tired or fried that I didn't want to go down to the office and write. But most of the time I would say: Come on, write one page. You can do that in five or ten minutes, then you'll be done. Then I'd go to my office, write a page and it would often turn into two or three or five pages. Because writing energized me. But if it was a struggle, I wrote the one page and called it good.
One page a day for a year is a novel.
THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK was mostly written during my lunch hour in longhand at the hospital where I used to work. I had other writing projects going on that paid me some extra money and those were my writing priorities in the evening, but I wanted to keep writing novels, so that's when I found time for it.
So, do you HAVE to write every day? No, of course not.
SHOULD you write every day? Well, that's up to you. Priorities and all. But if you have hopes of getting published and maybe even making money doing it, chances are you're going to need to write every day for at least a while. It's like any other skill, whether playing the guitar, painting, cooking or baseball. You might have talent, but it's going to take practice--regular practice--to get good at it.
I do want to confess something, though. Over the years, as I was able to write a novel a year (at least) while still managing to hold down a day job, I was puzzled as to what fulltime novelists did with their time. Like a lot of aspiring novelists, I dreamed of writing novels fulltime (still do) but on my more honest days couldn't quite figure out what they did with their time. Unless you're one really slow-ass writer, it just doesn't take 8 hours a day, five days a week, 50 or so weeks a year to produce a good, clean, publishable 400 page manuscript.
Now I understand that a lot of time and energy goes into promotion, etc., but even then, I have to wonder. I'm a fairly fast writer, but even if I slowed way down, I can't imagine a fulltime writer (except maybe William Styron) only writing a paragraph a day or a page a day when they have all day to do it. Anyway, I'll let you know if I ever get to that point.
Labels: time to write, writing, writing every day, writing myths