Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Experienced Writers Won't Babysit You

A lot of newbie writers ask experienced writers for help, and then get very upset at the response they received. Why? Because the experienced writer does one of two things:

1) Graciously, or sometimes not so graciously, refuses to read what the newbie has written.

2) Doesn't tell the newbie what the newbie wants to hear.

Let's start off by saying I've made this mistake as a newbie, and yes, my fee-fees were hurt. Years later, I understand where the experienced writers were coming from.

First of all, writing full-time is more than a full-time job. A career writer works 60-80 hours a week. So every little e-mail takes time away from either work or their personal life. And it's never one request.

For example, I'm no one famous, and I still get a couple of requests a month. Someone like Neil Gaiman or Nora Roberts gets thousands. There's no way they can possible answer them all, which is why a newbie will get a polite "Sorry" or "Please see Famous Writer's FAQ" from Famous Writer's assistant.

The experienced writer, who falls between barely known and famous, knows the newbie wants to be told they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Actually Betty White IS greater than sliced bread, but that's a story for another day.) The newbie may be. But usually they aren't. If the experienced writer gives the newbie advice, s/he knows from bitter experience that they will probably be cussed out. So why put themselves in that position? So they give a polite "No."

Unfortunately, the newbie doesn't understand why they've been told no, so they cuss out the experienced writer anyway. Which is why writers like Harlan Ellison chew a new hole in a newbie's ass if s/he dares to ask  him for help.

If the experienced writer does give any advice, the advice is usually rejected. I've been called several "B" words, the nicest of which was "brutal" when I didn't tell the newbie writer she was perfect.

So I've learned my lesson. If someone wants to talk business and s/he's finished AT LEAST one novel, I'm more likely to reply to a question. Otherwise, the newbie is still learning craft, and I'll steer them toward books/blog/classes that can help them.

I'm not trying to be cruel if I don't answer your question. We all have to learn to walk before we try to run a marathon. And the only way to learn to walk (or write) is to practice.

So hang in there and practice. Even Michael Jordan practiced twelve hours a day after he got his first NBA Championship ring.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm Glad I'm Not an Oscar Hipster Weiner

This subject comes under the Roger Murtaugh Rule. In other words, I'm getting too old for this shit.

Last week, a young gentleman named Oscar decided to criticize the Author Earnings Report on his blog. No, I'm not going link to him. If you really want to find it, you will. I'll give you a hint. Passive Guy linked to him.

First point--I did check out his blog. How do I put this? I'm old enough to be his mom.

Second point--If GK acted like a total douche online, I'd rain down on him like the Baltimore mom on her son in the middle of the recent riots.

This gentleman's criticism of AE wasn't the problem. It was how he reacted when others started poking holes in his criticism.

Which leads to my typical constitutional law lecture on the First Amendment. Sure, it gives you the right to say what you want. It doesn't protect you from the consequences when you say something stupid.

Instead of meeting the criticism with facts or an intelligent reasoning, this gentlemen decided to lie and insult his critics. Referring to all indie published writers as unintelligent housewives was the kicker that alienated any allies the gentleman had left.

A friend of mine, who was semi-sympathetic to the gentleman prior to that last insult, sadly noted that Oscar was probably used to being the most intelligent hipster in the room.

I realized my friend was right. This gentleman was someone to be pitied, not reviled. This gentleman has only finished one book and working on his second. The writing community is very generous to newcomers. They would have bent over backward to answer questions, relate experience with particular vendors and publishers, and help with promotions.

Even more, this gentleman proclaims on his website that he plans to become a bestselling author. Maybe he will.

But one thing I do know is you can't have a career in this funky business without help and support from others. Insulting and demeaning experienced folks in the publishing biz is not the way to attract people who want to help you. And it's small enough that your reputation for acting like a douche will follow you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Newbie Impatience

I'm not sure if I'm finally understanding career writers, or if I'm just getting old. I'm seeing a lot of impatience in new writers. By new writers, I mean those folks seeking a trad publishing deal and those indies who've published within the last couple of years or only have 1-3 books out.

Now, let me be clear--I started indie publishing on April 29, 2011. In other words, just four years and twenty-one days ago. But I wrote a magazine column for three years before that, plus tech writing, legal writing, training manuals, etc. over the last thirty years.

I also admit I had my own share of impatience in trying to build my fledgling fiction career. But I read something on a closed loop Alter Ego is a member of that blew my mind.

A young writer (YW) had one trilogy out (one book per year) and was only on Amazon. YW was complaining that she was only selling 300 books per month.


YW expected to be making millions of dollars in a subgenre that has been slowly receding to normal sales levels after a particular break-out book went mainstream in 2012. YW had no sense of the normal market for that subgenre. YW refused to expand into other markets. YW complained about visibility.

Thinking you're going to makes millions with one book (or one trilogy) is lottery thinking.

If you're selling 300 books a month, you've got a fledgling fan base that needs to be nurtured. They like you. They're telling their friends about you. Why aren't you feeding them?

If you have work/family situations that keeps you down to one book a year, it's going to take you a little longer to build that fledgling fan base into a massive one. Before you get your panties in a wad, let me remind you I've been there. I was practicing law full-time with a toddler when I wrote what eventually became Blood Magick, Zombie Love, and the unnamed really crappy first book that will never see the light of day.

Are you willing to work past the obscurity? The initial long hours with no financial reward in sight? The thousands, or millions, of words you'll need to commit to screen or paper to come up with a story a total stranger wants to buy?

E-books and POD have opened up incredible possibilities for writers, but it doesn't mean instant fame and riches. It means passion and a lot of hard work.

Don't believe me? That unnamed POS that's under my figurative bed was started in 2003 and finished in October of 2004.

On Monday, I made my second trad sale, and on Tuesday, the lovely Elaina Lee of For The Muse Designs delivered the cover for Ravaged (Bloodlines #7).

So, for all you folks just starting on this incredible, frustrating, rewarding path, be patient.

Trust me, you'll get there.

If you have fortitude to keep plugging away.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Let's do it! (Shouldn't this be the Doctor's theme song? Captain Jack would make an excellent Dr. Frankenfurter!)

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Happens When You Can't Fulfill a Publishing Contract?

The short answer to the title question is it depends on what's in your contract. This is a issue that can hit both indie and trad writers. And it's especially true if you have a co-writer(s).

How this issue came about is personal, so if you don't want to read a discussion about lady parts, CLICK AWAY NOW!

As I've said before, Xxxxx Yyyyyy and I are writing a superhero novel. We'd planned to have it out by May 1, but we both had issues with elderly family members that had to be dealt with right that moment! So we consoled ourselves that we'd buckle down in May and finish the damn thing. (FYI - We're at approximately 62K words with 10 chapters to go.)

After the parental drama, I went in for my annual gynecology exam recently, and they found something. In fact, they did the biopsy right then and there.

I've already been down the cancer road with DH. I've already had my own lumpectomy when GK was still a toddler. I wasn't going to panic until there was something to panic about. But that didn't mean the waiting didn't affect my productivity. (However, I take total productivity responsibility when it came to the Rockets and Cavs NBA play-off games. *grin*)

Thank the Goddess, I got the call from the doctor that the suspicious tissue was benign.

But what if it hadn't been? What would have happened?

A lot of writers don't take into account life crap when they sign contracts.* Let's face it, most of us don't want to think about bad things happening, much less death.

With the BHP contracts I've seen, if a writer doesn't deliver a manuscript on time, then the publisher can demand the advance money is returned. And yes, they can and will do this. They don't care if the writer has already spent it on food and electricity. And in most cases, that's exactly what the writer has done.

Generally speaking, most contracts can be renegotiated if you're going to be slightly delayed. I've known writers who've been able to do this when dealing with sick/injured family members. It's a little harder if the writer is the one laid up.

But you can't ask for an extension if you're dead. In which case, the publisher may become a creditor of the estate, trying to get that advance back.

Again, generally indie writers don't have to worry about publishers, but they should be worried about their editors, cover artists, etc. For example, what if I hired the incredible Dan Dos Santos to do the cover for Justice? He's not cheap. What happens if he can't finish my cover because a bunch of paint cans falls on his head and he's in the hospital in a coma?

You don't need a huge, complicated twenty-five-page, double-sided, eight-point font legal document, but you should have some sort of agreement about what happens if your independent contractor can't fulfill his agreement.

Then there's my situation where I'm co-authoring a novel. In our case, Xxxxx drafted what she refers to as the "What if a bus hits us" clause in our agreement. We negotiated ownership percentages (for both early stages of drafting and the completed work), buy-out terms should the affected writer need to withdraw from the project (including buy-out terms for after the novel goes on sale), and what terms would apply to our estate representatives.

Considering how far along we are when I was biopsied, I could have finished my share of the writing if I had cancer before chemo brain set in, but poor Xxxxx probably would have been saddled with the majority of the editing and marketing. Like I said, no one wants to think about worse case scenarios, but any time you're working with another person, you need to have contengencies in place.

This is hardly a comprehensive list of items you need to consider. Every writer's personal situation is different. It's also best that you check with your own attorney prior to signing a contract.

In our e-mail exchange concerning my situation, Xxxxx asked that I add the following:

Maybe add a paragraph to your blog about the need to be flexible on the timetable as you go along. Especially if you're middle aged women, because -- if the past couple of years are any indication -- it's not IF the catastrophe occurs but WHEN.

Which is very true. We're at that lovely age where we're caught between two generations, both of which need our help.

A lot.

And if you're a generation younger than us fifty-something broads, please, PLEASE don't make the assumption that this crap won't happen to you. DH was diagnosed with cancer seven months before our wedding, two months after his thirty-first birthday. A close friend of ours was diagnosed with testicular cancer at eighteen. And my karate instructor's son was diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of six.

I beg you, don't take your life for granted, whether you're a writer or not. But always, ALWAYS cover your ass.

*I'm no longer a licensed attorney, and nothing I've stated on this blog constitutes legal advice or legal representation. As always, please consult with your own attorney prior to signing any contract.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday Movie Mania - Avengers: Age of Ultron

This is the first Marvel release where you needed to watch a couple previous releases to have some clue of what's going on if you're only watching the MCU (aka the Marvel Cinematic Universe). And if you're already a Marvel fanchild, you've got a clue who and what Ultron is.

As the middle of the Avengers trilogy, it's obvious Joss Whedon is following the George Lucas trilogy pattern, which Whedon freely admits in interviews for this film. This means a certain bittersweet ending instead of "Hot damn! We won! Let's have shawarma."

No one ends up encased in carbonite like The Empire Strikes Back, but four of the team, well, to quote the fabulous Professor River Song of a totally non-related franchise...




1) Linda Cardellini! No, I'm not spoiling it more than that. Go see the damn movie.

2) Vision! Okay, that's not really a secret if you know your Marvel history. Holding Scarlet Witch! Also, not a secret 'cause history. But they've always been one of my favorite super couples.

3) Switching Ultron creator from Hank Pym to Tony Stark. I admit I wasn't sure how I felt about this when I first heard it. I also admit that I was a little peeved that Ant-Man (Hank Pym) and Wasp (Janet Van Dyne Pym) weren't involved in the first movie.

But let's face it, you can't cram fifty-plus years of history into ten hours of film. I should have trusted Joss as a writer. This worked well with Tony's ego and his fears after the Chitauri invasion.

I'm slightly mollified that Hank and Janet make appearances in Ant-Man later this summer. Let's face it, Michael Douglas can do charming and batshit crazy very well in same performance which fits Pym to a T.

4) The Infinity Gems. If you've been paying attention to the eleven movies that have been released so far (including Guardians of the Galaxy), those little buggers keep popping up.

5) Team switch-up at the end. I think this is where many of the nay-sayers are peeved, but I'm not. The Avengers has always had a rotating cast in the books, starting with the Hulk leaving shortly after Captain America joined the team. I loved that War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Vision are officially members in that last official scene. Just in time for Avengers 2.5, the unofficial name of Captain America: Civil War.

1) Quicksilver. AAARRRGGGHHH! Marvel went through all that negotiation with 20th Century Fox to get the rights back, only to whack him. Are you people out of your ever-lovin', freakin' minds!

2) I don't know if I can take too much more Josh Brolin/Thanos teasing.

Overall, this movie is the first real stab at a richer, more complex Marvel Universe, And I loved it! 9.5 stars!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015