Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing to try to hit commercial targets

As I mentioned in my post on the Barnes & Noble group panel last week, one of the questions we received was whether we ever tried to write to hit particular commercial targets.  The questioner was also wondering if we felt writers should do that.

As I said then, my answer was a resounding, "Never!"  I wanted to go a bit more into my thinking, though, because the question is fair, and I see a lot of writers choosing to go the other way.

One of the reasons I don't bother even trying to shape a work toward a target is that the whole enterprise is a mug's game. No one knows what makes this book a bestseller and that one a commercial failure.  No one has a formula for success.  Sure, many people know how to leverage an existing author's well-known name into additional successes, but the path to making any arbitrary book a hit is simply unknown. 

Another of the reasons I don't go down this road is that I'm not writing solely to make money.  Yes, I like selling my work, and, yes, I deeply wish every single one of my novels was a multi-million-copy-selling, New York Times list-topping bestseller, but I write for the only reason I consider worthwhile: because I have to.

The biggest reason I don't aim for commercial targets, though, is in no way practical. It's personal: My writing is the one thing in my life that is utterly and completely mine.  Here I'm discussing the work, of course, not the rest of it--not the marketing, the covers, etc.  Others control all of that, but I control the work itself, the words on the page/screen.  It is my art, as pretentious as that may sound, and I want it to be my own.  So, if you like it, great, I get that credit.  If you don't like it, I'm sorry, and I get that blame. 

My way, of course, does not have to be anyone else's way.  If you're a writer and a given path works for you, great; go for it.  For me, though, the only way forward is to tell the stories that I most need to tell, and then to hope for the best commercially. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's time to award John Picacio a Hugo

John Picacio, who by way of disclosure is a friend and the man who did the cover art for two of my books, is up this year for the Best Professional Artist Hugo.  The nomination is quite an honor, one I strongly believe he deserves for the quality of his work in 2011.  (You can check out those pieces here.)

It's also an honor that John has experienced before--seven times before.  Yes, this is his eighth Hugo nomination.  Seven prior nominations, but no prize.

It's time to break that streak.

The other nominees this year--Stephan Martiniere, Dan Dos Santos, Bob Eggleton, and Michael Komarck--are all fine artists whose work I quite like.  Each and every one of them deserves a Hugo. 

With no disrespect for any of their work, though, we can award only one Hugo in each category each year.  Let's send 2012's Best Professional Artist Hugo to John.

By the way, John has no clue I'm doing this and will probably be mortified when he finds out, but he'll have to deal; I want to see him win this year.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Please buy this book

No, I'm not pleading here for you to buy copies of No Going Back, though I certainly would like it if everyone in America did. 

Instead, I'm talking about a particular paperback edition of Robert A. Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon, which you can find online here and here and no doubt in other places, as well as in some bookstores.  Baen Books, which owns the rights to this particular Heinlein title, has about 2,000 of these in stock, so we need to find 2,000 people to buy them.  Until we do, Baen won't reprint the book.

I need Baen to reprint this book.

When it does, Publisher Toni will do the same things she's been doing with other Heinlein titles that have needed new editions: commission a new Bob Eggleton cover for it, and have one of her authors write an all-new afterword for it.  

That writer will, she assures me, be me. 

My name would then be on a cover with Robert A. Heinlein.

How cool is that?

I am so excited at the prospect that I am now hand-selling this book everywhere I go.  It's a marvelous volume, and its Harriman stories were incredibly influential on me when I was a boy.  You need this book.

My name with Heinlein's on a book cover.  Damn.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday night's group signing at the Cary Barnes & Noble

Tuesday night, I joined four other local SF and fantasy authors--David Drake, Kelly Gay, Lisa Shearin, and James Maxey--in what has become an annual event, our group panel discussion and signing at the Cary Barnes and Noble. All of us had books that had recently appeared, and the store had them all in stock, so the timing of the event was great. I even got to see for the first time the paperback version of The Wild Side.

As usual, the crowd, which numbered something around 35 people, was a nice size, and the people acted interested and asked good questions.

We began by introducing ourselves and our most recent books. Here I am showing off (and flogging) No Going Back, whose lovely John Picacio cover always makes a great first impression.

As always, click on a photo to see a larger image. All photos courtesy of Gina.

After that brief bit of plugging, Linda Maloof and her fine Barnes and Noble team asked the audience for questions. Folks asked us about everything from Ray Bradbury to books we'd recommend, and from our writing processes to how much we altered our work to try to hit commercial demands. (In my case, the answer to that last question was a resounding "Never!" and then a bit of a rant.)

Here we all are watching James as he responds to a question.

I must be answering something in this next photo, but I appear to be trying to cast a spell on someone.

I really did, by the way, have a name sheet in front of me, or at least I think I did, but in all these shots I appear to be sitting in front of Lisa's. Sorry about that.

After we finished, we all signed books for those who bought them and generally hung out and chatted. I was pleased to see the store sold out of its (admittedly small number of) copies of both No Going Back and Children No More. Here's the audience dispersing as we moved into that phase of the evening.

My thanks again to Linda and her team. They did a great job with the event, and I look forward to repeating it next year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If you like reading lovely scenes and short bits of prose

then you should read the Tumblr to which Sarah contributes weekly.  Yes, she's my daughter, but her work is lovely, pillow soft and diamond hard, insightful, so sad it sometimes hurts this father's heart, and oh so very beautiful.  Check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Please don't let Jerry Sandusky kill himself

I was very happy to read about the conviction of child-molester and rapist Jerry Sandusky, once the defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team.  I was concerned, though, about the articles saying that Sandusky was on suicide watch and that fellow inmates were taunting him.

I don't want Sandusky to kill himself.  I really don't.  

I also don't want the other inmates to taunt him.  Taunting isn't nearly enough for this sick excuse for a shell of a man.  

In one of those statements that will ensure I will never hold an elected office, I want Sandusky in the general prison population so the rest of the inmates can give him exactly the same kind of love he gave to all the boys he molested and raped.  I want Sandusky to feel the helplessness of being physically overpowered, of having no one to tell, of having no safe place to hide.  I want him to suffer.  

I know that makes me less of a person than I should be.  I know I should rise above my base nature, forgive, and be a better person.  I know this sentiment makes me a terrible political liberal.  In this case, though, my fondest hopes are that Sandusky's fellow prisoners get the chance to show him the other side of the abuse and damage he did to so many innocent boys.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Honey Badger

That's not the title of the movie a large group of us went to see, but it might as well have been, because not a single fuck was given in this entire film.  No one gave a fuck about characterization, history, logic, weapons, technology, physics, vampire lore--you name an area, and no one who worked on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gave a fuck about it.

Which, in a very odd way, was exactly what made it so much fun to watch.  The first few minutes of the movie demonstrated clearly that there was no point in engaging your critical faculties, so you had to make a key decision right then:  Would you walk out, stay and curse the screen the whole time, or surrender to the absurdity?

I chose to let my mental surfboard ride the absurd waves as I settled back and watched the show.

Once you do that, the movie is almost two hours of grand silliness with an interesting visual style that used vast quantities of fog to help compensate for an entirely inadequate CGI budget.  Vampires teaming with the Confederacy against the Union?  Sure, you bet.  Abraham Lincoln running a Parkour course across the backs of a gigantic herd of stampeding horses while carrying an axe?  Why not?  Become strong enough to chop down a tree  in one swing because you revealed an utterly transparent truth?  I knew I was missing the trick! 

Of course, if you can't choose option three, then you are in for a truly terrible time should you be foolish enough to attend this film. 

Most of the folks in our group, though, were willing to dumb down for a couple of hours, so we had a lot of fun. 


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