Mark Terry

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Intellectual Property

March 31, 2011
Soon I will release a nonfiction e-book, FREELANCE WRITING FOR A LIVING. Part of it is revised and edited blog posts, although there is quite a bit of new content in it as well.

Like a lot of writers, I've been doing some e-book publishing and recently I've been taking a very hard look at my unpublished novels, incompleted novels and 7 or 8 years worth of blog posts, thinking, "Hmmm, there's a hell of a lot of intellectual property just laying around here that could be revitalized and marketed as e-books."

My friend Tobias S. Buckell, for example, has done something very interesting. It's called Nascence. What is Nascence? The subtitle is: 17 Stories That Failed and What They Taught me.

Basically he took 17 short stories that failed or failed to get published, picks a writing lesson to go with them, like "Write Compelling Characters" and then points out why the stories failed.

Veddy intervesting.

For a lot of writers like myself, I've got a lot of IP laying around going to waste. But not for long.

How about you?

p.s. I just spent the last hour or so skimming through blog posts from 2005, my first official year of blogging (egad), looking for blog posts that might, possibly, maybe, potentially, be of broad enough appeal they might end up in a book of essays in the future. And I did find some. And I found some that might have a paragraph in the middle that might make for an interesting start of an interesting essay. But tons of them were, well, the usual, which are fine the first time, but hardly worth re-publishing and have a fairly narrow appeal (if they have any at all). So I would like to perhaps suggest that an important addendum to this post is that just because you have IP laying around doesn't necessarily mean it's worth re-purposing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moving Parts

March 30, 2011
It's safe to say my readers here have heard of Amanda Hocking. If you haven't, good for you, you're in a minority and probably not involved in the publishing industry or interested in self-publishing. In which case, I salute you. Congratulations, you have a life.

Ms. Hocking has been in the news lately for 2 related reasons. First, she made a ton of money self-publishing e-books. By ton I mean, well, $1 million plus in a very short period of time.

The second reason is, despite that, she's apparently close to signing a 4-book contract with SMP for $2 million. One of her reasons she offers is because she wants to concentrate on writing and not on cover art, layout, etc.

I'm not commenting on Amanda here. Her rationale is as good as any. And I'd be quite pleased to be in either scenario. It would undoubtedly create some problems, but I can think of a few it would solve, either way.

Anyway, aside from my general skepticism that Hocking will get what she wants out of this deal, today I had the thought, "My writing career has a lot of moving parts."

For that matter, my life in general has a lot of moving parts.

For example, this morning, once I made it to my office around 8:30 AM, I sifted through my e-mail, then wrapped up a column I write twice a week which is due tomorrow. Then I started working on Monday's column.

After doing that and the usual Facebook dithering, I had a fairly lengthy back-and-forth via email about various things with the executive director of the organization whose technical journal I edit.

Then I took care of a little "writing test" a potential client wanted me to do. Then I went off to the gym, had lunch, ran an errand, came home and cleaned up dog diarrhea (you wish you were me, don't you?) all over the house, and now I'm blogging before I start in on a project for another client.

And with any luck I'll finish that in time to look through some job postings, work on two novels, deal with some marketing materials for the next novel, and do some band booster-related correspondence before going to see my son give a mini-jazz band concert at the high school tonight.

I can only say that for years, when I was working full-time with 2-3 hours of commuting a day and I was able to write at least a novel a year along with some miscellaneous freelance work, I always wondered what a full-time novelist did with their day if they only wrote one novel a year. I still wonder, as a matter of fact. I'm fairly certain they either write more than one novel per year but only publish one, and the bigger they are the more likely they are to do a lot of marketing of one sort or another, but I also suspect they dick around a lot. I've often noted that William Styron spent something like 22 years writing Sophie's Choice. It was a masterpiece and a fairly large book, and there's little doubt clinical depression slowed him down, but gimme a break. It doesn't take 22 years to write a novel unless you're writing a paragraph a day. My guess is he was dicking around, or, just as likely, some tool got stuck in the gears of his life.

Anyway, does your writing career have a lot of moving parts?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Word From Our Sponsor

March 29, 2011
Books by me.

Derek Stillwater #3 - The Fallen (trade paperback - out August 11, 2011)

(This title will also be available on Kindle, etc., but the links aren't up yet)

Deadly By The Dozen (Editor & Contributor; short story collection; Kindle)

I actually am working on a 2nd book featuring Austin

Joanna Dancing #1 - Edge (trade paperback)

For Kids

Just a note about this book. It seems to be picking up steam, so it's quite possible I will write the 2nd in the series this year, tentatively titled The Specter of Avalon.

Dirty Deeds (trade paperback)

Catfish Guru (trade paperback)

31 1/2 Essentials For Running Your Medical Practice by Dr. John Guiliana and Dr. Hal Ornstein with Mark Terry


Monday, March 28, 2011

In This Market...

March 28, 2011
In an e-mail this weekend my agent said something along the lines of "no rush in this market..."

Somewhere between the lines is an apparent optimism (maybe) that says, "But it'll improve, don't worry."

Now, setting aside the not-so-slo-mo implosion of traditional publishing, anyone who's been involved with publishing for any length of time knows that "the market's not so good right now" has been on the lips of publishers, editors and agents for at least 25 years. It seems to me that somewhere in the 1970s or 1980s Lawrence Block wrote a column in which someone told him "the market's not so good right now" and he pretty much commented that he'd been writing and getting published since the 1950s and the market was never good and publishers, editors and agents were always using that line as an excuse for why:

1. They rejected your work;
2. Their advance offering sucked
3. Your book didn't do well;
4. All of the above and more.

I confess that my real response to my agent's comment was a raised eyebrow and the thought, "Does she seriously think it's going to get better the longer I take?"

In a weird way, she may be right. So many entrenched writers like Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath and Connie Brockway and many others, are choosing to leave traditional publishing and venture out on their own that I suppose it's possible there will be more openings for new authors in traditional publishing.

Okay. I don't actually believe that. I think traditional publishing will focus more on bestsellers and on protecting their steady sellers while their lists grow smaller, which will bring in less profit, which will lead to downsizing, which will...

I don't actually think that the publishing industry's problems du jour have anything to do with the overall economy, they have to do with a paradigm shift in book delivery, i.e. e-books. And I think that the traditional publishing industry as a whole seems to be thinking short-term instead of long-term and that few writers are going to sensibly sign a contract that gives the publisher 75% of their e-sales forever, which is the current level traditional publishing has decided is acceptable.

What do you think? Do you think that it's acceptable for your publisher to get 75% of the revenue from an e-book sale forever? Think about that. E-books may be forever. They don't go out of print, at least not as far as we can tell. And the publisher is saying, "I'm going to give you, the author, 25% of the e-book rights, and that will never, ever change, even if the book is still making money and selling copies 100 years after you're dead."

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Serpent's Kiss

March 25, 2011
This showed up at my door yesterday. It's the hardcover of the German edition of The Serpent's Kiss. I was certainly surprised, because I already received the paperback German edition of the same book -- in green --a year or so ago. Why the Germans would release the hardcover version after the paperback version is an interesting question, one I don't have any answer to.

The gold-ish color is sort of interesting, although the cover itself - to me, anyway - is a real puzzle. I guess that's some sort of tank of gas and it's overlaid with a bunch of American money, five dollar bills, and there's a bull's-eye that seems to get lost in all the busy-ness.

The other oddity is that I got a single copy, although who knows. My former publisher, Midnight Ink, holds most foreign rights, and they handle these things, and it's not like they communicated that much with me when I was actually actively published by them, let alone being several years down the road after they dropped my contracts. Did we say publishing is weird? Yeah, it is.

Anyway, here's the German version in hardcover and that's pretty cool.

Die Schlange hatte sich aufgerichtet und war bereit zuzu-schlagen. So dachte sie von sich - so dachte er von sich.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Your Wild Weekend!

March 24, 2011
Congratulations! Starting at 5:00 PM on Friday, you have exactly 48 hours to spend $100,000. Any money not spend by 5:00 PM on Sunday will be returned.

Limitations: You cannot buy any things (houses, cars, motorcycles, boats, etc), or pay bills.

Now: What's your plan?

One, two, three, go!

* * *

I'll plan a trip to Hawaii (probably Maui) for select family and friends, leaving on the first available flights (we gain about 6 hours on the flight out), first class. There I'll rent vehicles for everyone, and put us up at top level hotel rooms on a resort on the beach. From there, we have approximately 48 hours of sun, surfing, snorkeling, eating, drinking and doing all sorts of cool things like flying helicopters over the volcano.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Because It Matters To Me

March 23, 2011
I want to thank y'all for being my unpaid psychiatrists. Yes, I've been going through a somewhat cyclical angst about writing fiction. I'm sure most of you have the reaction of, "Yes, yes, yes, uh-huh, now, how about your mother?"

Partly this has to do with all the changes in the publishing industry; some of it has to do with my being sick the last 2 weeks; some of it has to do with work; some of it has to do with, well, me.

But I woke up this morning -- okay, well, I slept on the couch because the flu came back at me hard again (9 days and counting) and I wanted Leanne to get some sleep, then took Sean to school, then ate breakfast, then went back to bed and slept until 10:30 in the morning, so that's when I eventually woke up -- and thought, "You do it because it's important to you."

Not unlike the reason I play guitar, work out at the gym, study karate, bike, gym. Because I enjoy it and because I get something out of it, even if it's not always clear what that is.

All told, I would prefer that a larger chunk of my annual income came from writing books -- both fiction and nonfiction --and quitting writing fiction won't make that happen, will it?

Ultimately, I think this is true for everyone, though, isn't it? Why do you write? Sometimes it's money. Sometimes it's a compulsion. Sometimes it's how you process the world. Sometimes it's...

A million and one different reasons, but it may all come down to: because it's important to you.

Which is where I am today. Writing books are important to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


March 22, 2011
So, yesterday the news is all about Barry Eisler deciding to self-publish instead of taking a $500,000 2-book deal with St. Martin's Press.

Betsy Dornbusch brought this to my attention, that Amanda Hocking, who has made a gazillion dollars self-publishing, is now having her agent shop a four-book series to major publishers with over $1 million for world English rights.

All together now: WTF?

I'm sure JA Konrath will have something to say about this, as will everyone else in the blogosphere. (Does the writing blogosphere seem sort of incestuous? Hi, this is my writer friend Darryl, and my other writer friend Darryl!)

As I mentioned yesterday in my addendum, if I were offered Barry's deal, I'd take it. Not an eye-blink.

Now, Lee Goldberg commented yesterday that he's projected to make about $80,000 off his e-books this year and those are primarily a backlist of previously published books that have gone out of print. I'd be slightly more than ecstatic if I were looking at that kind of money for my e-books. Unlike Lee, I'm currently on track to make about $1200 this year from my e-book sales. Whoa. I know. You're jealous, aren't you?

We'll see, though, because I expect to e-publish a nonfiction book in the next month or so and I have high hopes for it.

My point here is that everyone is a eunuch. No, wait. Wrong word. Everyone is unique.

I just read a quote by Margaret Atwood yesterday where she commented how the publishing business drives traditional business people crazy, because it's not like selling one type of car to a million people, it's selling a million types of books to a million different people. (Actually, I'm totally paraphrasing and I like the way I say it better, so bleah!) In other words, each writer is unique, each book is unique, and each reader is unique. And writers are eunuchs. Oh. Never mind.

I currently find the current e-book thing sort of freeing, although I haven't found it to be the economic solution to all my money problems. But from a creativity POV, yeah, it's cool to figure you can just go ahead and publish it and there'll be distribution.

Am I still going for traditional book contracts?

I don't know. And that's the honest answer. My current publisher is involved in working up the promotion/publication of my next novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, which comes out June 7th. Once we see how that does, maybe we'll discuss the next one, assuming there will be one. I'm tinkering with several different novels, including being about 85% through another Derek Stillwater, but for the moment my fiction writing has lost a lot of its momentum. I'm tired of fighting the industry and a client that last year brought in almost $60,000 is going through restructuring, etc., and apparently has no need for my services in 2011, so as you can imagine, my mind is focused a little more on paying gigs (and I'm doing fine finding replacements so far, with a good reminder to myself that when one client is responsible for a huge percentage of your income, you're only asking for trouble).

Probably, though.

I think writers and aspiring writers who spend too much time online (that would be most of us) spend entirely too much time obsessing about this sort of thing. Keeping up on the business is good, and the industry is changing so fast right now that it's almost impossible to stay current, let alone predict what's going to happen next week or next year, let alone make the "right" decision for yourself.

Anyway, that's where I am today. No conclusions. Just musings. Maybe tomorrow I'll have puppies and rainbows.

Monday, March 21, 2011

4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking, Lee Goldberg..

March 21, 2011
I imagine that most of my readers--yes, both of you--are already aware of today's blog post by JA Konrath in which he has a very, very, very lengthy discussion with Barry Eisler. I haven't read all of it yet (did I say it's very long?)

Here's one of the key things to take away from it. Barry Eisler, who is a New York Times Bestselling author, has declined a $500,000 book deal to self-publish.

Okay. Let's take a deep breath and wait for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to pass by. (And to think, I always thought the Four Horsemen were Conquest, War, Famine and Death. Now we come to learn that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Amanda Hocking and Lee Goldberg. Who knew?)

One reason this feels like a tipping point to me is because of who Barry is. He's a very successful writer. No, he's not a James Patterson, Stephen King, John Grisham, or Janet Evanovich. Although King is often happy to play around with different types of story delivery, as far as I know he hasn't given up on traditional (legacy) publishing just yet.

And although Barry and Joe have always seemed like an odd pair (I've met both, interviewed both, read a great deal by both, both blogs and fiction), one thing they have in common is a fairly deep understanding of the business aspects of publishing and an intensity about their marketing efforts.

A couple other things to consider about Barry in the context of giving up a legacy publishing contract. His wife is a literary agent. (Not his, I don't believe). He's a former attorney. And until quite recently, he's been an advocate of legacy publishing. But clearly for him, something turned. I don't know exactly what that is, but I can guess.

First, Barry dabbled in e-self-publishing this year with a short story. And if sales continue as they are, the short story will make $30,000 this year alone.

Which, were I the swearing type (okay, I am), would make me say, "Jesus! Are you shitting me?" A short story?

And second, as I've noted to-date, e-books seem to keep on selling. Paper books seem to go quickly for 6 weeks then peter out. E-books seem to build and although I question whether the build will continue forever (unlikely), it does seem likely that a typical e-book will continue to bring in money to the author (and publisher, if that's your route) long after a publisher would traditionally have had your book go out of print. (Which in my case, with the first two Derek Stillwater novels, was within about a year of publication).

I'm sure Barry has his reasons, but I was frankly very, very surprised by this. I'm sure at least part of it has to do with what is the traditional publishing industry's current offerings on e-book sales--25% royalty. Forever.

The 25% e-book royalty is a joke, frankly, if you can self-publish with a 70% royalty. And secondly, what agents and writers need to push for if they're going to go along with this 25% charade is a time limit. That is to say, something like, Year One: 25% e-book royalty; Year Two-Three: 50% E-Book Royalty; Year Four: 75% E-book Royalty; Year Five: 90% E-book Royalty. After 5 years, e-book rights revert solely to author.

That kind of thing would at least create a possible incentive for authors to stick with legacy publishers, although it still sucks, frankly.

Anyway, this is a big deal.

P.S (Addendum:Oh, and I would also say that if a publisher were to offer me--today--a 2-book publishing deal for $500,000 I would take it with very little contemplation or analysis. Because where I am now at this point in my career, that would be a win-win. And no, Joe could not talk me out of it with any arguments he's given so far. My situation has not applied to any of them.

Hell, if someone were to offer me a 2-book contract for $50,000 or less, I'd probably take it.

But if they offered me one with the same contract terms I've had for my last 2 books ... much harder to say.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The E-Pub Bingo Card

March 20, 2011
Courtesy of John Scalzi.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Artist

March 19, 2011
I confess that I am not comfortable with the type of person that goes around calling themself "an artist." I had a very good friend (who died tragically at the age of 47 just a year ago) who was very much an "art for art's sake" type of person, who would repeatedly say, "If the artist says it's art, then it's art." Which was how modern artists can pile up bubblegum in a corner and call it art or nail a short piece of rope to a wall and call it art.

I'm skeptical.

I have always been an art for commerce kind of guy, although that's probably not really true. I've done fine as an amateur musician over the course of 30 years or so simply playing because I liked to play. Granted, I taught piano for a while and I did it for money (why in the hell else would you want to teach piano, I'm inclined to ask), and when I was in high school I was the designated junior choir accompanist at the church and had a monthly honorarium of $50 for it. (An elderly gentleman with a fair chunk of money who was enamored with music at the church left a decent amount of money to the church for just this sort of purpose when he passed away, God bless him).

Recently I've been busy with paying work, frustrated with the publishing industry, my agent, and my own writing efforts, so I haven't really been writing fiction. I'm also curious to see if I miss it (jury's still out, but I've been sick this last week, so I haven't been much interested in doing anything but sleeping).

It does strike me that I might be far happier with Ye Olde Fiction Writing if I do it because I want to do it, not because I expect to make any money at it. Which does make the e-self-publishing market a far more pleasant experience than all the other hoop-jumping aspects of fiction writing.

A buddy of mine and I had a cordial disagreement over a piece of his writing that in many ways I thought showed our inherent writing philosophies. And yet, Steve told me he got what he wanted out of that piece of writing (I did not, no matter how many times I read it). And sometimes, recently anyway, I've been contemplating that statement he made to me: I got what I wanted out of the experience.

I'm not 100% sure what it was he got, but part of it was to tell the story he wanted to tell in the way he wanted to tell it without regard, necessarily, for its publishability or even pleasing, er me.

And I know for a fact that when I have anything resembling writer's block, it's because I'm obsessing about whether the work in question is going to be publishable. But if I accept that it will be simply because I'm going to publish it, perhaps all that angst goes away and I can enjoy the process once again.

Because, frankly, if you don't enjoy the process of writing and you're not making much money at it, there has got to be a better way to spend your time.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who Would Play You?

March 16, 2011
I read that there's an unofficial biopic coming out about JK Rowling's life. So I was wondering, if they made a movie about my life, who would play me? Hey, who would play you?

Physically, Michael Chiklis would probably work.

Otherwise, hmmm....

[I have temporarily taken comment control off because I'm under the weather and will not be on the computer regularly. Enjoy}.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Working On It

March 15, 2011
Ides of March, I guess, which was when one of the Caesars was killed and marked a Roman celebration of the God of War, Mars.

I'm fighting off a cold, getting my taxes done, and working on a couple articles, wrapping up a nonfiction book that will be published as an e-book, and messing around with various fiction projects.

In other words, business as usual.

How about you? What's going on in your writing life these days?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Puppies And Rainbows

March 14, 2011
Because, admit it, that's what you want. Puppies and rainbows. And maybe some big red non-anatomical hearts. And if I could throw in a unicorn and some kittens, you'd want that, too. Admit it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Skewed, Which Rhymes With...

March 13, 2011
I hope everyone is having a good weekend. No matter how bad it gets, hey, you're not in Japan. Those poor people. Every time I go online to see what's up things seem worse. So, hey, ultimately, I got nothing to complain about.

Anyway, I just spent the last hour or so organizing my taxes for meeting my accountant later this week and because I was in a statistical, bookkeeping mood, I started analyzing my expenses for fiction versus my income for fiction. Which in 2010 was pretty damn shitty. So, out of curiosity, I went back to 2009 and factored in that year (although I didn't break out fiction expenses) because I had two book advances that year (And none in 2010). Then, I also factored in the expenses and income from fiction to-date for 2011.

And, Mark, what did you find?

I found that I have spent roughly 1.45 times the amount of money on promoting and/or advertising and/or e-book production costs than I've made on them. And that does not even count the 1,369 miles I put on my vehicle for book signings or the gas I spent doing it.

Now, granted, I haven't received a royalty check yet this year from my novels from Oceanview--sometime in the next month or two, I would hope. And most of the e-book expenses were in December, so they're making money month by month over the course of, well, forever, so I can't really get a good and accurate sense of things until 2011 is done (if then), but as of today, well, it sucks dead bears.

But hey, Mark, how about in nonfiction? Or, how about, overall?

Glad you asked. Overall, with writing in 2010, I made 14 times my expenses. It was a good year. The problem, of course, is that about 53% of my total expenses in 2010 were related to fiction. Another way to put it is that I earned more than 26 times the amount of money on nonfiction than I spent on it.

So, clearly, the figures are skewed. So to speak.

Nonfiction, as you can see, subsidizes my fiction. Maybe, over the course of a couple years, the fiction will at least pay for itself. What's most difficult for me with this are two things. First, it's a stupid way to run a business. Second, for the last 20 years or so authors and publishers and agents have assured me ad nauseum that the promotion time and effort and money you put in doesn't show up on this book, but on the next and the next.

To which I'm inclined to respond in my politest way by saying: "Boloney."

But who knows? It's so hard to predict what's going to happen in the future.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Words Are Funny Things

March 11, 2011
I was reading a press release about the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards and read this:

"Nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson for The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House). "A magisterial work, taking its title from a poem by Richard Wright, that chronicles the movement of the six million African Americans who left the Jim Crow South starting in the early 20th century and spread throughout the country."

My understanding of the word "magisterial" was a little vague. I tended to define it as "majestic," but I didn't think I was right, so I looked it up.

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, there are a couple definitions.

1 A(1): of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a master or teacher: Authoritative

Okay. That makes sense and in fact, I would guess that whoever wrote that little description of this book probably had that in mind. But because the NBCC Awards can be a bit snooty and self-important, I continued to read further and found the second definition:

(2): marked by an overbearingly dignified or assured manner or aspect

Well, interesting. Not nearly as complimentary as the first definition. "Overbearingly" seems to be the key word there. According to the same dictionary, "overbearing" means:

1 a: tending to overwhelm: Overpowering
b: decisively important: Dominant

2: harshly and haughtily arrogant

"Overbearingly" is the adverbial form of overbearing.

Another definition of Magisterial is: "of, or relating to, or required for a master's degree."

That's interesting, because it shifts the meaning of the writer's description of Ms. Wilkerson's book.

So let me get this right. With the use of a single word and however one tends to interpret that word, the description could be interpreted to mean:

"An arrogant, overbearing work that reads like a Master's degree dissertation."

Well, like I said, words are funny things. I believe the NBCC's intention was to describe it as authoritative. Now, that's a good word. It's definitions are:

1 a: having or proceeding from authority: official
b: clearly accurate or knowledgeable

Of course, the second definition is:

2: Dictatorial (with no definition)


1a: of, relating to, or befitting a dictator
b: ruled by a dictator

2: oppressive to or arrogantly overbearing toward others.

Okay, so it's possible we've circled back...

Ah yes, words are funny things.

But I'm sure it's a fine book.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yeah, Okay

March 10, 2011
Yeah, okay. Glamorous and exciting life of the freelancer. Around 3:30 or so in the afternoon I was contacted by a new client to do a copyediting gig. They're a big outfit and the pay rate was OK (not great, but adequate) and they're the type of client that pays OK, but can possibly send you an unending stream of work, so I took the gig, which was projected to take 9 hours (which was pretty damned accurate, I must say).

Then after accepting the job around 3:30 in the afternoon I realized that their deadline was 9:00 THIS MORNING!

I had 18 hours or so to do a 9-hour job and I wasn't starting until 4:00 PM or so.

Well, crapola. So I worked until 11:40 last night when I seemed to be running into, shall we say, diminishing returns, so I went to bed, but set my alarm for an hour earlier (5:00 AM), crawled out of bed, ate a Pop Tart, worked on the project until 7:00, took Sean to school, jumped back on the project at 7:30 and wrapped it up and invoiced it right around 8:00.

I've got an interview scheduled for a series of articles I'm writing, then I believe I'll take a nap, have lunch somewhere, return and transcribe the interview, then take the rest of the day off.

How are you? Having fun today?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Japan Attacks Alaska!

March 9, 2011
Eric Mayer suggested I write about non-writing topics, which seems like an interesting idea. I've been slamming away at novels almost non-stop since 1985 and been blogging about writing for 8 or 9 or 10 years, so maybe I'll try an ANYTHING BUT WRITING blog for a while.

I'm reading Albert Cowdrey's FIGHTING FOR LIFE, which is about medicine in World War II. I have come across tons of things I didn't know; for instance, did you know that Japan attacked Alaska? Yes, everyone knows about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but there actually was a WWII battle on American soil.

As part of Japan's ambitious Midway campaign, it bombed Dutch Harbor, Alaska in mid-1942 and took control of two islands in the Aleutian chain, Attu and Kiska. Then Japan got their butts kicked at Midway and pretty much abandoned their people on the islands. The U.S. military, not surprisingly, wasn't too happy to have Japanese troops in their backyard, even if the troops weren't exactly doing anything. On April 1, 1943, Admiral Nimitz and the U.S. Army's Alaska Command invaded Attu.

On May 11 about 11,000 U.S. soldiers went ashore. It started out okay, then got bogged down, primarily due to weather and the environment. One factor was that the invading Marines and Army had been trained in Monterey, California, so they weren't really prepared--let alone dressed--for slogging through Alaskan weather in May, especially wading through Arctic waters to get there.

Cowdrey says, "Green troops, poor leadership, lack of reliable intelligence--the litany was long, sad, and all too familiar at this period of the war."

Eventually the U.S. took back the islands, although it was a bloody mess. The statistics don't quite tell the story: 549 Americans dead and 2,350 Japanese killed. But more than 1,100 Americans had been wounded, and given the lopsided numbers on each side, American battle casualties were around 70% compared to Japanese losses. This figure was only surpassed on Iwo Jima.

He goes on to say that due to the weather and poor preparation there were more than 2,100 nonbattle injuries. "All in all, three Americans had become casualties for every two Japanese who were on Attu at the time of the invasion, and five of every hundred medics had been killed in treating or moving them."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hiatusing Maybe

March 8, 2011
It's fairly interesting to me that when I really focus on getting new nonfiction writing business and really focus on my existing nonfiction writing business that I get really, really busy and as a result, tend to make a lot of money (well, plenty, let's say, since I can't quite define "a lot.")

If I compare that to my fiction writing, what I've found is that with my fiction writing, when I really, really concentrate on it, I have a lot of fun, get a lot written, but there's absolutely no difference whatsoever in what gets published or in my income level.

That's rather anecdotal, granted, but if I were to chart it out with nice and pretty graphs, I'm fairly certain it would prove out.

So, since I got a new client, did his gig, and he came back with three more at the same price range, possibly have hooked into a major new client to replace the one I seem to have lost (that last year gave me almost $60,000 worth of work), and have a couple other possible new clients, I might be scarce around here. And besides, I haven't really had much to say lately.

So just pretend that I'm on a tropical beach somewhere drinking an umbrella drink while lounging on a hammock. I'm not, but if I keep it up, maybe I can afford to. So maybe it's a hiatus. And maybe it isn't. Maybe I'll be soon struck with inspiration and want to blather on here. Who knows?

And don't forget:

And for all your physicians running your own medical practices: 31-1/2 ESSENTIALS FOR RUNNING YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE

I Don't Care About Money (And Other Lies Writers Tell)

March 8, 2011

Chuck Wendig has a blog called Terrible Minds and today he writes about Lies Writers Tell, which I recommend highly. Even if you don't care for what he's saying, you should probably care about HOW he's saying it, because the guy apparently stuck an electrical wire up his ass before sitting down at the keyboard. My favorite, not surprisingly, is:

"I Don't Care About Money."
Oh, aren’t you fucking special. You’re above money, are you? You have transcended the need to exist in this material world? “I write my inky words on paper and then I eat that paper and live within the ether of mine own storytelling!” Hey, good for you, you crazy little Bodhisattva, you. I tried not paying my mortgage and when you do that, the bank sends ninjas.

I do not have the luxury of caring naught about currency.

This lie is the sneaky mule-kicked cousin to, “I Write Only For Myself.” It is once more a deception sold by those who want to excuse their work not selling, who want to make themselves feel unique or somehow above other writers (“those greedy hacks!”) because they don’t care one whit about getting paid — it’s all about the art, you see. Mind you, this is a lie of artistes, not artists. Artists need to eat. Starving is neither glorious nor honorable — in fact, it’s not even that interesting, trust me.

Remember: Shakespeare got to get paid, son.

You don’t have to care about being rich. But you damn sure better care about money. As said in the past: your writing has value, so claim value for your writing.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Brain: Mush

March 3, 2011
I know when I did the Day In The Life 2 days ago, my day was broken up in the middle and ended at 5:00. Yesterday, it wasn't broken up in the middle and I started around 8:00 am and was still at my desk around 9:20 pm, in order to finish a project from hell that I very much wanted out of my life.

So today, while I've still got a lot to do, my brain and body are very much saying, "Um, yeah, no, not so much." Or, a lot like my friend pictured here.

Talk t'ya later.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

On Pleasure & Satisfaction

March 2, 2011
Years ago I was bitching about the whole writing/publishing thing to a woman I worked with and she said, "Do you enjoy writing?" I said, "Yes." And she said, "Then it's fine, isn't it?'

That's resonated for a long time and I'm inclined to say the real response to "It's fine, isn't it?" might actually be, "It's a hell of a lot more complicated than that."

I don't suppose it has to be. I just know that for me it is. Some of that is because I make a living as a writer and there's only so much time to go around and since I am a businessperson and family person and have other interests, when you start looking at how you're spending your time and what's eating into different segments of your life, you start weighing the "yeah-it's-fun" parts against the "is-it-carrying-its-weight" parts. I'm also one of those guys who thinks you need to occasionally ask yourself, "On your death bed are you going to be sorry you did or did not do this thing?" And that can be writing novels, exercising, staying at a job you don't like, taking guitar lessons, whatever. When you look back at your life from the grand old age of 101, will you say, "I really should have spent more time...." or "I really should have spent less time..."

Chief Grand Master Robert Dearman, the man who developed Sanchin-Ryu, the style of karate I study, noted at a workshop last fall that sometimes people say, "It's not fun any more." And his response actually is, "Of course it isn't. It's work. Work isn't fun all the time. But it can be fulfilling."

I think that's another factor you have to ask yourself about, too. In the long run, do I get something out of this, something that's less tangible than dollars and cents? Is that intangible something worth the time and energy investment?

One of the reasons I even bring this up is because I have a sense--in myself and others--that a lot of us who get involved more or less successfully in the arts often have a compulsion to do it--even if that compulsion doesn't exactly make sense. I've often thought writers who write every day in the face of so much opposition and lack of support probably suffer from a peculiar form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Whenever someone posts a "why do you write?" question and you read the responses, there's so many "I just have to" responses that it starts to sound like an OCD Support Group or a psychiatric convention.

Anyway... thoughts?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Day In The life Of A Writer

March 1, 2011

6:00 AM--Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:09 AM--Alarm goes off. Hit snooze again.

6:17 AM--Alarm goes off. Get up, get going.

6:50 AM--Read Time Magazine while eating breakfast.

7:10 AM--Walk Frodo. It's 15 degrees outside, but dry.

7:25 AM--Pour myself a cold caffeinated beverage and descend to my office. Check email, respond to a couple messages, then start working on a column for an e-newsletter that is due on Thursday.

8:15 AM--Blog

8:20 AM--Start working on an article/column that is due in a week or so.

9:20 AM--Work on proofing third galley of technical journal

10:00 AM--head to the gym and credit union

12:00 PM--home, deciding on lunch, plus one more errand, checking e-mail

12:20 PM--head to Middle School with youngest son to pick up sheet music for tonight's concert that's in his locker.

12:45 PM--head to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch. Text oldest son who is at school finishing up his ACT Test to meet us there.

2:00 PM--Home. Not the most productive day. Deal with e-mails and Facebook announcements about the fact that DEADLY BY THE DOZEN is now available for the Barnes & Noble Nook.

2:15 PM--Start on edits of a memoir I've been hired to edit.

5:00 PM--Wrap up edits for the day and field a phone call from a publisher about some questions about one of my clients.

5:15 PM--Handling a band booster email.

5:30 PM--start sending out queries for new work when I get called to dinner. Youngest has a concert tonight, so will be in and out for a while.