WEDNESDAY MORNING DOUBLE-BARREL BOOK BOMB! My friend and colleague Larry Correia has been kind enough to double-promote Tuesday’s releases of A STAR WHEELED SKY and Dan Willis’s IN PLAIN SIGHT. Please, please, please, share wide and far! Dan’s noir urban fantasy is only 99 cents on Kindle right now. It’s a steal! And there is a paperback to boot. (I have three paperbacks on order myself, in addition to the Kindle download.) I will vouch for Dan, as one of Utah’s veteran authors, and a great guy as a person. You cannot go wrong putting down dollars on both books for the holidays!
Posts by Brad R. Torgersen
FOR OVER A THOUSAND YEARS the Waywork has been both boon and bane: an alien interstellar highway system, which offers instantaneous travel between a closed network of stars. Within this bubble, the orphaned refugees of Earth—long lost—vie for control of humanity’s destiny. Can the beautiful daughter of a royal family, together with the rugged son of a shipping magnate, join forces with a proud but disgraced flag officer, to seize the initiative? Because the Waywork may at last be ready to give up its secrets, and one woman—a merciless autocrat, from the Waywork’s most brutal regime—is determined to ensure that she controls it all . . . Read more
I won’t devote too much time to rehashing this past week’s slanderous sabotaging of Larry Correia (at Origins) which bore an eerie similarity to the slanderous sabotaging of John Ringo (at ConCarolinas.) In each instance, it was a political hit job. And in each instance, there was no proof offered to substantiate the lies which preceded both Larry’s and John’s disinviting.
I find this timing rather remarkable, only because I am presently on TDY to Washington State for the purpose of serving on a separation board. Now, for those not familiar with the term, a separation board is a military legal proceeding in which officers will review cases to determine if the cited servicemember has in fact done something egregious enough to warrant discharge — and if so, what the nature of that discharge will be. Not every discharge is honorable, and there is more than one kind of general discharge, above dishonorable. So, it’s the board’s job to determine if the preponderance of evidence supports the recommendation of the offending soldier’s chain of command.
Preponderance of evidence . . .
Life, The Universe, and Everything is Utah’s premier symposium for serious SF/F creatives (who aren’t always so serious!) and has been an ever-expanding project of the local SF/F fan-creative community for almost four decades. My first one was in 2009, and by the following year I wound up on the other side of the panel table, dispensing what knowledge I could about this nutty new career I’d invented for myself. Due to military deployment and other issues, I wasn’t able to attend in 2016 or 2017, but I was thrilled to be back for 2018, and even more thrilled to find the symposium had grown even more — attracting an ever-larger pool of professionals, semi-professionals, and aspirants. Both from around the state of Utah, and from across the country as a whole.
A couple weeks ago I had the great pleasure of seeing an old favorite from the 1980s: Silverado. In its time, it was not a blockbuster. Nor did it achieve the iconic silver-screen cultural footprint of other contemporary Western productions like Young Guns or Unforgiven. But it did have a long life on the cable movie networks, gaining a substantial amount of audience traction among those who appreciate a good old-fashioned Western feel-good drama. Silverado has an excellent ensemble cast, with numerous faces familiar to anyone who knows the eighties. But more than that, it has great story elements which are instructive for anyone considering how to properly plot and pace their writing.
HOOK BEGINNING. Everyone talks about how the opening of Star Wars hit them. With the Imperial cruiser roaring over the top of the audience, blasting away at the Rebel blockade runner. I think Silverado does a very similar trick. With very little context — other than a slow, silent pan shot across what is clearly rustic cowboy gear in a rustic cowboy shack — we’re plunged directly into the action, as nameless desperados shoot up the shack, attempting to kill our as-yet unnamed protagonist. He gets the best of his opponents, of course. In a feel-good Western, the hero always does. And in the process, we discover that our man is lightning-fast with a revolver, as well as a rifle. He’s got skills. And the canvas for his story is going to be the gorgeous backcountry of the American Southwest. The entire sequence taking less than two minutes. That is how you rope your reader in. Hit ’em quick, show ’em a lot, and given ’em something compelling. Don’t meander into the thing, over chapters and chapters. Put the stakes up front.
ORGANICALLY BUILD YOUR CAST. Just as the opening credits finish, we meet our next hero. A man down on his luck. Left for dead. With very little dialogue, we learn that our gunslinger is also a compassionate man, while the new guy has a sense of humor; even in the face of personal catastrophe. Together they ride. It’s an association of expediency, sure, but we sense quickly that these are decent men. Even if they’ve both become more acquainted with jails than is healthy for honest citizens. It’s discovered that the new guy was the victim of still more desperados, though not the same bunch who targeted our initial protagonist. The two men suddenly have an alliance of interest: who did this to us, and why?
I don’t have much for you on this wintery Sunday morning, other than to tack up a broadsheet with information on it. Since Facebook has deemed such information beneath its community standards — in the same manner that the Bolsheviks deemed both the White Guard and the Trotskyites beneath community standards — I feel compelled to record these things in an independent space. Because when the jelly beans are aligned, and a troll is revealed for who and what he actually is, I think it’s important to pay attention.
Long-time Mad Genius Club readers are familiar with Camestros — often dubbed Cameltoe, by those who’ve dickered with the man in the comments sections of various libertarian and conservative SF/F author blogs — mainly for his outsized ego, and a penchant for assuming he is several orders of magnitude more intelligent than not only the host(s) of the blogs he trolls, but also the comment participants to boot.
Put simply, Felapton is the proverbial pouting basement genius — because the universe is not sufficiently moved by his Brobdingnagian intellect. Read more
In no particular order. Your mileage may vary.
1) If you’re wondering about going indie, consider your lifetime fiction output. General rule of thumb — from a man I trust to know his business — is that “entry level” competency is reached when you have at least 500,000 words of books and stories in your trunk, and/or have several personalized rejections from trad pub editors. Prior to that, you may not have done enough “homework” to have your storytelling muscles up to the task of surviving in the indie marketplace. I know plenty of people immediately publish everything they’ve ever written, ever. I sometimes think that’s a mistake. I know I will get beat up for saying this.
2) If you’re wondering about going trad, consider your ability to withstand rejection. How long are you willing to wait for the editors/agents to decide you’re good enough? Keep in mind: waiting is not necessarily a bad thing. In my experience, breaking into trad pub print was one of the most satisfying events of my life. But I am from the old days, when the two options for authors were: outlast the gatekeepers, or shame yourself with vanity print. Anyone who has been through any kind of selection process — in any arena — will understand the joy of passing a tough bar. Just because it’s tough, doesn’t make it irrelevant. Although the tastes of many agents and editors can often seem wildly out of sync with the marketplace.
3) Editors and agents are not mind-readers. They cannot see into the future. There is no guarantee what will be a hit, or a dud, until it’s either a hit, or a dud. Some agents and editors develop reputations for “making” big-market talent, but this is akin to panning for gold: you have to devote a lot of time to sifting through silt, sand, and mud, just to get the little flecks and small nuggets of gold. In the words of one Hollywood producer, nobody knows anything. Ergo, the hits and the duds happen as they happen — and the one who ought to be a hit, isn’t, while the one who ought to be a dud, also isn’t. “Failure” in trad pub may have nothing whatsoever to do with the author or the stor(ies) and everything to do with events beyond an author’s control. Which is perhaps the #1 glaring flaw of trad pub that drives so many people to indie in the first place.
4) But indie isn’t an instant road to cash and fame, because now the slush pile is the whole world. Millions upon millions of books and stories being shoved at the audience, with fire-hose force. Standing out in that torrent, can be just as much of a chore as waiting in line at the gatekeepers’ transoms. You aren’t guaranteed anything. No matter how zealous you may be about the mode of delivery. Yes, indie grants the author full and total control, from start to finish. As well as the lion’s share of the take. But this also imposes the lion’s share of the responsibility. And if you thought it was painful waiting on editors and agents, it can be equally painful waiting on the audience at large. If you publish an indie book in the forest . . .
5) Don’t go cheap on covers. I know I am cutting against the grain with this. But seriously, don’t go cheap on covers. You want your cover to look like the trad pub covers that caught your eye when you were just a reader. Most artists will license an extant piece of artwork. May cost you anywhere from $200 to $500 dollars, which is stunningly inexpensive, considering that some of these men and women have done posters for Hollywood and done famous works which are known across the industry. I know many indie authors are poor as church mice, but still, don’t go cheap on your covers. You have a vanishingly short period of time in which to capture a prospective buyer’s attention. Pouring your heart and soul into a manuscript, then spending an hour on a free, terrible cover that you kludged yourself — with poor photoshop skills — is like devoting months of hard work to your diet and the weights at the gym, then going to the beach in dingy, grease-covered auto shop coveralls.
6) You can do everything right — according to the pattern established by your successful friend(s) — and still get bupkus. This is because the market is not a science. 1 + 2 does not necessary equal 3. It can equal 10,000 or it can equal zero. Consumers are legion, but they are fickle. They want a “sure thing” and herd dynamics dominate in every corner. Mountains of marketing advice is put forth, regarding ways to “game” the herd dynamic: get your product viral, so that the inertia of talk is on your side. When people are buzzing over your novel, especially if this buzz tends to self-reinforce as buzz-about-the-buzz, you can rake in wads. But there are still no guarantees. Like fishing. You can have the same type and kind of lure as your buddy next to you in the boat, with the same rod, same reel, same everything, and he will catch a dozen, while you reel in just one or two. Or none. And you have to be prepared to live with this. Pick yourself up off the hot pavement. Go wash your face and your hands. Then try again. And again. And again. And if this sounds way too hard for way too little return, there are 101 careers which serve as far easier paths to far better money.
7) So don’t quit your damned day job. Seriously. Do. Not. Quit. Your. Day. Job. It sucks trying to write full-time and work full-time. It sucks more not paying bills and being forced out of your house or your apartment. It sucks even more depending on the good will of your relatives, or your church, or government programs. If I had $10 for every embarrassed pauper author who proudly proclaimed, “I am a full-time writer, so fuck you,” and then (s)he went back to begging for lunch money, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Starving artistry is not a holy calling. Really, it’s not. I know I am gonna get burned at the stake for saying it. But seriously, do not check out of the “mundane” work force. Not unless you’ve got a metric ton of dough in the bank, or you’ve got a spouse who eagerly volunteers to carry the mundane load — while you labor at the desk in the attic. But if you’ve got responsibilities to meet, and mouths to feed, please, meet them and feed them. As Steven Barnes said at Norwescon ’07, suffering for your art may be noble, but making your family suffer for your art, just means you’re an asshole.