Author Archives: kilteDave

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*flailing and tantrums, divers alarums*

Amanda just reminded me today’s my day. Mrs. Dave is in the middle of a five week course in Virginia Beach, and I’m playing single dad, and we’re out of bananas. And apples. It’s that bad, ’round here. Not excusing, just summing up.

 

Referring to the title, we’ve been seeing a lot of unprofessional behavior from all quarters recently. What have you learned to do, or bot do, recently, about how to behave as a professional writer? I’ve been watching some authors do everything they can to drastically cut down their potential market. That just seems … ill-advised to me.

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In the spirit of the thing…

I had one of those nights where I slept like the proverbial rock. Trouble is, I’m still scrambling to get a couple of brain cells to rub together. I’ll be back later with actual thoughts. In the meantime, what’s everybody working on? How’s that going?

 

UPDATE: The littles conspired to prevent writing time, tag-teaming naptime and requiring ALL of Daddy’s attention. So, no post, but I’m pleased everyone is doing well.

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You Don’t Look So Good

You may have not noticed, but I’m not Jason Cordova. I know this comes as a shock. I mean, we’re both writers, both devastatingly handsome, and he’s almost as brilliant as I am, and while – much like Batman – he and I have rarely been witnessed in the same place at the same time, allow me to confirm that we are indeed separate entities. Also, this is not a plot – nefarious or otherwise – on my part to take over the Friday slot at MGC. I want that stated up front, in no uncertain terms. It’s not like I want more advertising. More articles under my byline. More books sold … bestsellerdom … film options … a burgeoning media empire …

 

Sorry: I kinda spaced out there, for a moment. The bare facts are Jason has a thing he’s going to do later this month that he wants to write on, so we’re trading slots. Simple as that. Seriously, nothing ulterior or underhanded about it. *cough* That said, he’s going to get into some nuts and bolts about writer-as-business stuff toward which I, for one, am eagerly looking forward.

 

Get to the point, Dave, I hear you say. That’s right, I heard you mumbling, you in the back. Well, let me fill you in on a little of the back alley RumInt (that’s Rumor Intelligence, for those not in the know: the gouge) that’s floating around my darkened corridors of the Interwebz. Word on the street is that attendance at Book Expo America this week is pretty thin on the ground. One notable attendee with an accounting background suggested an estimate of no more than ten thousand. I’d honestly be surprised if that included vendors, but still. That’s …

 

Look, nearly two decades ago, BEA had right at 30k attendees, all told, including industry professionals. By 2015, that had slipped to just a bit over 17k. I don’t care who you are, you can’t claim that your industry is healthy when the pre-eminent business gathering – the one where publishers make announcements about upcoming books, and where vendors make purchasing decisions for the year ahead, and where your special events include people of international profile (this year would be an Evening With Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m crushed that my schedule wouldn’t allow) – has slipped in attendance by that much over not-quite a decade.

 

If these numbers are legitimate – and I’m taking them right off the pdf of the official BEA fliers they circulate – then tradpub is looking more than a little green around the gills. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the attendance at the major convention is a fair barometer for the general health of an industry. Sit down, tradpub. You aren’t looking so good.

 

The other half of this is the aggressive – I’d say extortionate – pricing of tradpub ebooks. There’s no reasonable excuse for pricing electrons at the same price as a mass market paperback. No inventory, no printing fees, no additional salaries paid. Everybody works with digital files, and it’s almost push-button simple to format for ebook. (And the too-aggressive pricing of the mmpb, for that matter. Why buy an inferior paper copy of a book when Amazon will sell you the hardcover for not much more? And if you need something for a flight, odds are you’re more interested in an e-copy, anyway.)

 

Indie is eating tradpub’s lunch, and that’s only going to become more apparent as time goes on. The concern is that while traditional publishers work overtime to prop up shrinking markets (and really, work to ensure those markets shrink even further. I’m looking at you litSF) their tumble into financial insolvency and eventual obscurity is going to make for a rather volatile time for those of us laboring in the word mines.

 

I don’t really have an answer. I suspect there will be opportunities aplenty for those with the drive to exploit them. Keep writing. Keep publishing. Keep a weather eye out.

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Every Author for Branding

No, this isn’t about body-modification. That’s next month. This is, well, it’s less about writing, and more about the author-as-public-figure. Now, for those who aren’t aware, former NYC mayor and billionaire in his own right Michael Bloomberg formed a gun control advocacy group a number of years ago. They’ve lent weight – and money – to any number of state and national political campaigns and legislative efforts, as well as bankrolling other astroturf gun control groups.

Recently, Everytown has announced the formation of an Author Council. 130 authors have signed on to prevent gun violence. Notables include Jodi Picoult, Lev Grossman, and Tim Federle. (Truthfully, those were the only names I recognized. I don’t know whether that reflects the make-up of the group, or of my reading tastes. (I’d also like to note that I’ve never read a Jodi Picoult novel. Not my fandom.))

I’ve seen a middling amount of reaction from my online circles. Everything from shrugs to calls for informal boycott. Me, I don’t care. I’ve never let political leanings get in the way of enjoying (or writing) a good story, and I don’t look to start. That said, as so few names are even on my horizon, I’m unlikely to look to this list for my new favoritest author evar.

Regardless of your opinion on gun rights, Bloomberg’s opinions, or politics in general, the Author Council’s call to action is an important point for writers to consider.

Do you like money? Do you want people to commit egregious commerce with you, turning gobs and scads of their money into your money? I know that’s one of my major writing dreams (too far off to be a goal, at least until I get more writing time into the schedule). I’m really somewhat admiring of this council thingy. They’re rocking their market targeting by doing this. By simply publicly signing their names to a gun control group, they’re advertising what kind of people they want to buy their books. Jodi Picoult could probably drink puppy smoothies for breakfast and not lose her readership, and Lev Grossman has a successful television series based on his big work, so there’s less courage there.

But for anybody less well-known, or well-selling, this is a great way to tell whole swaths of readers that you do (or possibly more significantly, don’t) want them to give you money for your efforts. As an author, causes you come out in support of or opposition to are going to mark you to readers. Some readers. The ones who pay attention to that kind of thing, at least. And among certain genre (like ourn) this is a more fraught venture.

Witness the fallout of the Puppy campaigns.

Any number of writers were outted (rightly or wrongly) as one thing or another, and calls for boycotts were loud and shrill. “Friends” were shunned and writers lost readers. Which is a shame.

How does this matter to you? Simply put: be aware. Know your genre, know your industry, and know your readership. For example, I suspect most of the authors on the council aren’t writing milSF. Joining a gun control group and writing scifi gun porn would be almost as poor a choice as writing stereotypical high fantasy and publicly raging about the evils of western civilization.

Should you then not stand for principles in an effort to gain more readers? By no means. If you’re passionate about something, you should advocate for it. Just be aware that doing so will likely lose you some readers, though that may simply be in potentia. I doubt my eventual milfantasy will get me many leftist readers. Certainly my views on individual liberty and the proper role of government would lose me them.

And I’m fine with that. They wouldn’t have read me in the first place. I’m too publicly associated with the rest of this band of reprobates, and I don’t much care who knows it. I’m also the smallest fry among the MGC.

It likely doesn’t matter, anyway. Who we are as writers comes out in our writing, and people will love or hate that as they’re individually bent. I don’t read Larry Correia for the heart-wrenching scenarios (though I still haven’t forgiven him for Sam), just like I’m not pulling out my much-thumbed copies of David Eddings to read his exhortations about which firearms to choose and how to plan a military campaign (he rightly implies that the most exciting campaigns are often the ones where things go spectacularly wrong. At least for the heroes.)

Look at Sarah’s Darkship books. Written by a statist, they ain’t.

The message to you, the writer, is as I said above. Be aware of your market. Know what they want to get out of your writing. Do they want polemics? Do they want entertainment? And what kind? I read for fun, and tend to avoid certain things. Lev Grossman’s Magicians looks (admittedly, from the television spots) like a rich world with complex characters and a compelling plot. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. The way it was first described to me didn’t sound like something I would actually want to read. Which is fine. You can’t snag every reader, and he won’t miss my book budget.

And be wise about how you choose to advertise your causes. I suspect most of the authors on the council aren’t trumpeting their involvement. Certainly not where it’s impacted my life. Maybe a blog post. “Hey, all, I’m in a thing,” is probably the extent of most. I hope. Should your championing of something extend beyond that to, “and everyone must kowtow to my thing for reasons,” you might want to consider dialing back the intensity. Just a mite.

Penultimately, please accept my fulsome apologies for the timing of this missive. I’ve chosen to put family ahead of career, at this point in my life, and that means things like my MGC posts come after the kids are cared for. I’d like to be able to manage things concurrently, but I wasn’t given enough hands for that.

Finally, however you honor my fallen brothers and sisters in arms (or not), this weekend, please be courteous to those who do so differently than you do. Some awesome folks will be found in our national (and other) cemeteries, cleaning, tidying, and placing flags and flowers and suchlike. Y’all rock. Many, many more will be found hoisting beverages of varying levels of inebriability. Or applying heat to flesh, via grill, or outdoors at a beach or park. Or both. This is cool. Most of those who’ve died in service of our country would appreciate that, too. Be well, be safe, keep an eye on your buddy, and if you’ve had too much to drive (read: any) call Chief, or failing that, the Old Man. Both will be happy to make sure you get home alive.

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Remain Calm

We’re Just Fine

Some news on the publishing front from the literary boffins at Al Grauniad. Apparently, ebook sales in the UK are down 17%. This, while print sales are up 6%, according to this article (corroborating, if drier information here, which I’ll revisit, as well).

There’s a mess of op-ed muck gumming up an otherwise useful article on interesting trends in the publishing industry. Of course, the relevant information would only take a paragraph. Two at the outside. I gave you the first half at the top, though the author of the Guardian’s shining example took to the bottom of the second paragraph to get to the point. The rest of that space was taken up with lauding the tactile joy of book destruction.

My father taught me to respect books after one of his that I lent out came back more or less destroyed. I think I replaced it. I sure hope I did, though it’s been a few decades. I should buy him a book. Well, I should write him a book. The chat we had certainly changed how I treated his. Dog-earing pages and breaking book spines are pleasures? Those are killing offenses where I come from, but apparently that’s what indicates bibliophilia for the author. YMMV, I suppose.

The author spends a great deal of space bashing the Kindle. She even recruits an ally from inside the publishing industry to help. “It was new and exciting … But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they?” It would seem new versions of the Kindle are so terribly difficult to find that the Guardian felt the urge to take a shot at a more-than-decade old piece of hardware.

The agent quoted above goes on to speculate that readers want “trendy tech” and that Amazon just doesn’t have that. MGC’s own Amanda Green is the proud owner of a Kindle Oasis, and spent a few minutes of her precious time talking it up to me this morning. It sounds mighty impressive. She’s charged hers twice in the month and more since she got it. The accompanying carry case contains a secondary battery that greatly extends its battery life, and at 5.6″ x 4.8″ x 0.13-0.33″, it’s more than small enough to fit into a pocket. I could probably load an entire family’s worth into one of my kilt pockets, and have room left over.

The second article linked suggests readers are giving up ebooks due to “screen fatigue.” Now, I get that. I stare at a screen for several hours each day, whether I want to or not (good, solid exercise) and it can get pretty tiring. But that’s a 28” monitor with fairly bright lighting. That’s not E-ink on a paperwhite screen. A screen with LEDs that illuminate just the surface of the screen, for those of you who read after bedtime.

The first article goes on to suggest that readers are buying fewer devices upon which to read, and apparently that translates to fewer ebooks bought. It’s not explicit, but they sure seem to want me to make that connection. I don’t really understand why. I mean, if I get the Oasis I’m now lusting over (don’t mind the drool) I’ll be working to make sure that lasts me at least a few more years than the cited trend from ’12-’14. It’s expensive, and I don’t want to have to buy another one terribly soon (no matter how shiny newer models might be). I expect most readers share my outlook. I’ve had the same phone for three years, and unless the OS leaves it useless, will likely use the same one for another three. It works, and I don’t want to pay for a new one.

The next several paragraphs are a paean to the magic of printed literature. Well, sort of. I guess books-as-objects are now being celebrated again. One thing I’ve learned in my adventures in publishing is my sense of taste isn’t mainstream. The thing now is apparently to use books as a sort of objet d’art, the centerpiece for temporary displays recorded (as everything these days) and uploaded to Teh Interwebs. There’s even a hashtag.

I tell the truth, this writer kinda boggles. I love attractive books as much as the next writer, but mostly what I love is the information. The story, the use thereof as a means to transport my psyche to somewhere I’ll never go physically. Also, I have a toddler, and a soon-to-be-toddler, and nothing pretty is safe unless it’s locked up. In a chest. In another state. And even then…

The author make the interesting observation that children’s books and cookbook sales haven’t transferred to digital as well as other genre. I, for one, am shocked. Wee Dave is astonishingly deft for a nearly-three-year-old, and he manages some of the strangest physical combobulations. Especially when it comes to objects. The notion of handing him a brand new Oasis to read on makes me outright twitchy.

Similarly, I’m not clear that trying to use an ereader while cooking is a good idea. Kitchens are notoriously liquid-prone environments. Also heat, direct and indirect. Knives, spices, meat tenderizers, oh my. Then again, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. Suitably planned out. But there are plenty of reasons people wouldn’t get children’s books, especially, in eformat. Reasons that suggest there’s something at work besides “people don’t like ebooks as much as they used to. Back in the old days.”

I’m going to skip a bit. Honestly, you should go read the article. At least skim it. It’s an entertaining insight into the publishing industry, if nothing else.

Next, the author makes the staggering claim that digital publishing isn’t the enemy of print publishing. My jaw dropped. And then I read on. It seems augmented reality events and audiobooks are the evidence thereof. I can’t make this up.

But then, after a digression about a cheap ebook’s accidental success as a marketing tool for the print version, comes the most important paragraph in the entire article.

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

That’s right. The data from the Publishing Association ignores self-published ebooks. In point of fact, digital sales are actually up.

It’s traditional publishing that’s seeing a slump in ebook sales. The trads, who price their ebooks in the trade paper to hardcover range, who include digital rights management code in their ebooks, who actively work to discourage readers from buying their wares in digital. The rest of us? Well, it would seem we’re doing fairly well. I’d like to see more data, honestly, though I wouldn’t likely have time to do anything with it.

Frankly, both articles linked feel a lot like a desperate Chip Diller, screaming that all is well. No, really, traditional publishing is doing Just Fine. Thanks for asking. I said We’re Fine.

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Low Oxygen Environments and You

Here I am, again, and here you are, again. Welcome, welcome. I write to you, today, from the past. The not-to-distant past, but the past, nonetheless. From yesterday, as a matter of fact. And from somewhere above thirty thousand feet. (In the air, from the past, and on my hand brain? It’s practically a modern technological miracle!) Dave, dear readers, is getting a break. Mrs. Dave is taking some time off so I can go play, san pint-sized tyrants. I’m not hyperventilating, it’s just that the air up here is thinner than I’m used to, living at sea-level, more or less. It’s all right: soon I’ll have something slightly soporific at hand. It doesn’t matter that we went wheels up not long after noon. I’m time traveling, and that puts the usual rules in abeyance. And I’m not driving this thing.

I’m — honestly finding myself at a bit of a loss, up here, so high above the earth. I’m uncertain what to discuss with you all. My time this weekend is spoken for (hence the time-capsule-esque creationing), but without the pressure of a deadline, my mind isn’t ticking quite as quickly as I’d like (though that could be the reduced oxygen atmosphere in this tin can). In point of fact, all my usual fonts of inspiration are far, far below me, and I’m unwilling to cough up the exorbitant fee to access the wonders of the information superhighway from this far into the atmosphere. It’s practically Dave Unplugged, today. Untethered, wild, free! (Help me)

I’m doing a thing that (ahh, my beverage has arrived. The sheer genius behind putting ethanol in a caffeinated decoction is almost as blinding as the Sun with nearly seven fewer miles of atmosphere between us than usual) is significantly out of my ordinary. For the past almost three years, I’ve been The Guy for first Wee Dave, and somewhat later for Wee-er Than Wee Dave Dave, as well. On a daily basis. And for the next two weeks, I’ll just be Dave. Daddy is taking a back seat. I dunno. I feel weird. After a gathering of a chunk of my generation of Clan Dave (said weekend plans) I’ll be couch surfing at Chez Beautiful-but-Evil and just writing. A thing which has not happened in years. I’m somewhat trepidatious, to be honest. I’m concerned that I’m so far out of my routine that my creative gears are just going to grind. We shall see.

But what about routines? I’ve talked about them before. Mostly about how it’s good to form them around your writing, and about how much I wish I could make that happen in my own life (some experiments still in progress. You’ll find out results when I publish), but what about the breaking of routine? When should you step outside of your ordinary and do something different? Well, let me ask you this: how do you know when your routine has become a rut? No, I’m really asking. I chafe at the necessities of my daily activities. I generally want to be doing differently (with the added assumption that said differently would also be better, natch). I want more time available for the things I want to do. My children demand otherwise, usually, and so I grit and bear it, and keep feeding and changing them, etc. I’m looking forward to gradually realizing I’ve developed a routine in which I produce fiction more than I lament my general lackafiction situation. I’m given to understand parents stop being tired after a decade or so.

As something of an aside, I’ve been finding the semi-conscious state engendered by a teething infant useful for solving the conundra my characters create. Add a dash of sleep deprivation, and a decided lack of caffeination, and I may have resolved some long-standing blocks. We shall see. I’ll let you know next time.

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Now, With Added Children!

It’s not my fault. I have littles, and the littlest little (that’d be Wee-er Than Wee Dave Dave, for those keeping track at home) woke up. That wouldn’t sound like an issue, but it’s a delay of at least half of a clock rotation. If you dig on analogue. Which I do. And them there’s the fact that Senior Plague Rat brought something home from Sunday School (I think, coulda been the winter market at which Mrs. Dave hawks the jewelry she makes for fun. Regardless, Wee Dave brought the crud, the crud has been broughten, shared with Junior Plague Rat, and passed on to yours truly. So no Daves slept well last e’en.

Second Coffee come early, and be ‘lert to me.

I love my littles, despite their habit of preventing paying work. They’re adorable, which is a survival mechanism for the small and vexing. And that’s more pleasant than it could be. Also, they generally smell good, which I’m given to understand is some kind of spiffy evolutionary marker. BZ, evolution. Well played, that mechanism.

They’re also helpless, which is useful to you, the writer.

I’m reading through several of Dave Freer’s offerings (I highly recommend Changeling’s Island. Point of fact, I have recommended it, and I’ll be pushing it at pretty much anybody with any interest in reading, young or less young) and a recent scene had a pair of sometime allies worked together to prevent a rather hard-to-kill magical hybrid from re-kidnapping one’s toddler daughter. Two highly skilled swordsmen should have been more than equal to the creature. Would have been. If they hadn’t had a small child to worry about.

Kids are physical complications. They just get in the way. They’re always underfoot, and, especially at certain ages, innocently suicidal. Almost *anything* can hurt or kill an infant. Or a toddler. Really, humans are just fragile. It’s a good thing we heal well, though both of those are subjects for future posts. But the physically immature are worst off. Lousy mobility, terrible coordination, and they all use everything as a dump stat. No strength or dexterity, no constitution worth mentioning, and let us not even speak about their wisdom scores! Kids just get in the way of doing. The littlest one is doing her darnedest to prevent me finishing this post, for example.

They’re always under foot and demanding attention. “Watch this!” “I’m cooking the food you were in tears for not having two seconds ago, Child.” “Yeah, but stop that and watch what I’m doing now! And then play with me!” And Dave’s veins start to throb. Or playing with suburban expedient caltrops in the kitchen. That’s a favorite. A Duplo took a nickel-sized chunk out of a buddy’s foot not that long ago. And then there are the miniature wheeled conveyances.

And they have needs. Changing, feeding, playing. Lots and lots of cuddles. And where does all of that come from? Yes, I hear that voice in the back! It comes out of Dave’s writing time!

And this is just in the mundane setting of the contemporary home. In a less advanced milieu, you have the added adventure of medical danger. Any cough or cold can become a raging fever, which can easily kill in a pre-industrial society. Or in many industrial ones for that matter. A nice stressor to heap on your characters. Good for relational stability, that.

Or suppose your characters are fugitives. Maybe the authorities view them as kidnappers, whatever they or the reader believes. They have a vested interest in staying undiscovered. Well, and has anybody let the child know that? And would a toddler even care? What about a babe-in-arms? How do you convince the tired, cold, angry, hungry, and now damp and souled infant to stop squalling before so the magically equipped tracker doesn’t discover them? Asking for a friend.

On the upside, children can make excellent comic relief. Wee Dave makes some pronouncements that have Mrs. Dave and I rolling. I’m given to understand this is normal. So pit that in your story, too. Is the plot getting a little too thick, with the darkness that makes your reader wonder if the kid is going to make it? Toss in a kids-say-the-darnedest. Maybe a mouthing off to a minor villain moment.

And then there’s the demideus ex machina moments. Characters – and more importantly, author – wracking brains trying to come up with a solution to one problem or the other? Out of the mouths of babes… Seriously, have the kid toss off a line that shines a light in your hero’s foggy thoughts. Great fun, especially if you can then twist it into a plot-advancing failure.

Everything always costs more and takes longer, and such is especially the nature of reality when dealing with children. So complicate your story, and your characters’ lives, and make them responsible for a child. Best way I know of to force them to grow.

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