For many years now I’ve been out there, selling books to people, through a little bookselling operation called Author Guy.
I started selling shortly after my first novel was published and i found out the hard way that no bookstores were interested in carrying it. It was a small press title. I wasn’t already famous. It was POD. Bookstores, like a lot of businesses, are trying to make money, which means they have to sell things. My book, in spite of being the best thing since sliced bread, was unlikely to sell with so many strikes against it. Large presses have a number of faults, but one of their benefits is their number of different parts, and connections to other companies’ moving parts. This is where the fabled ‘buzz’ comes from, as people in the industry start talking up this book or that.
There was a nice little publishing movie called ‘If You Believe’, about a woman who slips on ice at Thanksgiving and starts seeing a version of herself when she was younger, berating her for having gotten so dull and boring as she grew up. The woman worked for a publisher, and as she was helping her latest author edit his magnificent novel ‘Phooey’ she starts to get in touch with her former self. It’s a nice little movie, not great but I like it. Anyway, at the end of the movie, she’s presenting her book to the meeting and no one on her list has read it and she has to defend it as an acquisition, when suddenly someone she didn’t like speaks up from down the table, going on about how everyone in the copy room was raving and he bootlegged a copy for himself. He gets the others on the board interested, and before the meeting’s over, the chairman is saying “I can’t wait to read your new guy.” That’s buzz, or the beginnings of it.
A small press has no or few connections. No buzz. My book came out to a whimper, not even a whimper. Even worse, it was POD, which meant, to the bookstores, that it couldn’t be returned. Unfortunately, as my publisher discovered, they could indeed be returned. There’s nothing about POD that says it can’t be returned, that’s really a bookstore excuse for not buying POD. What POD really means to a bookstore is that individual copies of the book are expensive, which means they don’t make as much of a profit as they want. Large presses can print up large quantities, at low cost to them and maximal profit to the store. A paperback costs about a buck and a half to print, the publisher sells it for five and the bookstore sells it for fifteen.
So, to make a long story less long, I ended up creating my own bookstore. I started selling my books at craft and gift fairs, but I eventually turned it into a genuine business, a portable bookstore called Author Guy. (I originally wanted Books and Beasties, but the lady in the office where I was registering didn’t like ‘Beasties’ as a word, so I chose Author Guy instead, after a character in a story I’d just written, named Author Guy. Other characters were Fearless Hero and Evil Enchantress. The only one with a regular name was the Damsel in Distress, named Loretta, but I digress.) Author Guy exists to sell books, mostly my own but I carry all the books my publisher makes so a lot of others as well. Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts don’t need me, but these other guys are as unknown as I am, so I gave them a chance too. It helps that my publisher has the same taste in books that I do, strongly character-driven stories, so I could read all these books in genres I don’t usually read and enjoy them. More important, I could talk about them to customers, since none of the titles or authors were known to them. One of our slogans is “If you’ve heard of it, it’s not here.”
And now Author Guy is on the web, too. AuthorGuy.biz is live online, with all the books and deals we’re known for, but now available to people who don’t happen to be standing right in front of me. I even have my own little icon, a piece of art that I commissioned years ago and never used before.
Ever since I finished my fanfic series I’ve been trying to catch up on other stories I’ve been interested in seeing but put off. I didn’t want to see other things while writing in the Chuck vein, sometimes I have trouble getting back into that mood.
First off, naturally, was to review and re-edit my last novel, Ghostkiller, which I was able to finish mainly because of Chuck (I alternated writing chapters) but I see now wasn’t done very well. The story is complete, but much of the ending is in dialog form, with only enough narrative material to connect the dots. But it’s worse than that. I spent the last several days revising a single chapter, which is top-heavy with some backstory. I had to rewrite several times before I finally got a chapter I liked, and now I’ve moved on, but that doesn’t mean it’ll get easier from here.
That’s for my mornings. In my afternoons I’ve been watching DVDs of some shows I discovered a while back. I saw seasons 1 & 2 of Castle a while ago, and discovered my library had acquired seasons 3 & 4 while my back was turned, so I got those and we plowed through them. More focus on the relationship angle, which was okay by me. I was less than thrilled with the mystery-of-the-week format of the first two seasons, one of the reasons I was willing to wait so long to see the rest. The manipulations were more obvious, though. Beckett retcons herself, stating she has walls she’s built up, which is the first I remember hearing of them. And there are only so many times you can play the sudden interruption card, but practically every start of an intimate conversation ended with “Beckett, I got something…” I much prefer the scene in Notting Hill, where the rather brainless reader is walking in on the Important Conversation and Hugh Grant tells him to go away. But there was enough of it that when she finally did choose him over the job it wasn’t totally out of left field. But S4 only showed the beginnings of that in the finale, they could still get hit with a rocket launcher on the way to bed. Michael Dorn as the therapist was good to watch, his role had more weight than Christopher Lloyd’s therapist in Chuck, which was a wasted opportunity on several levels.
And then I finally got started with Dexter. I admit the main reason I want to see it is because of Yvonne Strahovski’s appearance in season’s 7 & 8 (another film I got from the library is The Killer Elite, because she’s in that as well), but the show seems to be highly developed over time, and I’ve heard many good things about it, so I’m starting at the beginning. I found the S1 DVD set at BJs and picked it up, but waited until now to open it up and watch. Now that is a wonderful show! Dexter as the outsider, commenting on human foibles as he tries to copy them, while at the same time so blasé about his own hidden predilections. I don’t think the show would work without the star. Playing a man who’s playing a man isn’t at all easy. The ending was a little bit off, though. Too many sudden reveals diminished the dramatic impact. Harry is supposed to be this compassionate man who cares for Dexter, but there’s an older boy in the trailer who gets ignored? What? The killer makes mistakes because he’s in a hurry, but no one’s close to catching up to him, and they’re not even really looking. Deb is unconscious and misses the revelation that Dexter is a serial killer, but wakes up and instantly twigs to the fact that Dexter stops the killer from killing her. Huh? The conclusion was lacking from a plot perspective, but the impact on Dexter was still worthwhile, thanks to Mr. Hall’s acting, and that’s the central focus of the show so I’m good with it.
Other high points for me were Officer Doakes’ treatment of Deb Morgan. He chews her out when she screws up, but is also free with praise when she does good work, as does Angel. I liked the way he does what Dexter does at one point, but gets away with it thanks to official connections (and defends Angel to boot, who had to choose honesty over loyalty), which could be some foreshadowing for Dexter. He could easily have been a caricature, as could Lt. Laguerda, who’s extremely petty and vindictive, but does redeem herself at times. She deserves what she gets, but she’s a better character at the end than she was at the beginning.
I can’t see myself writing fanfics for either of these shows, though. Okay, back to chapter 19…
It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally beginning to move on from my epic retelling of Chuck’s third season, a 190K long, 20 episode, 80 chapter monster that consumed my life for more than a year. I finished it. I made an omnibus version, which I PDF’d and sent to a few people who asked for it. Then I read it and re-edited it and re-PDF’d it. I still find myself checking the special mail folder I set to receive mail from fanfiction.net, hoping that someone would have left me a comment. That’s a very addicting side effect of that site, getting feedback on what you wrote and put up there, pretty quickly. For my books I have to go searching for any comments people may have left about them, and that isn’t as often as I’d like.
I really need to start posting on Twitter and stuff, doing more blog posts here. I tend to get very single-minded when I have a project, I focus on it and not much else.
But eventually the PDF was as finished as two rereads could make it and then I put it away, and started watching Castle. Not that I like Castle all that much, but I’d already seen the first 2 seasons and discovered my library had the second two on the shelf, so I figured, “What the hell.” I have to say I’m liking these second two much better. I can’t say I hated the first two but I don’t really remember them all that well, which is indication enough. I do wish they’d get the romantic angst stuff out of the way, though, and move the story onto some other topic. I like the way they expanded the roles of some of the other players, and brought in a different Captain for the precinct.
I can’t help but think of Bones, though, and how they changed her boss from one season to the next. I can’t really say, since I don’t watch TV much at all, but it does seem like these shows are starting to cannibalize each other. I don’t care when the story is good. Seeing a little shout out to some great moment in another show I liked is kind of fun, then. When I can predict the entire course of an episode because it looks so much like some other TV show or movie, well, not so much.
But Castle is for the afternoons. In the morning I reread Ghostkiller, and try to add little bits of text here and there. I plowed through the last several thousand words by alternating with my Chuck stories, and I have to make sure they don’t read like that. When I’m in a hurry i usually focus on the dialog, and let the story just flow as characters talking to each other. I have to go back over the text to fill in the action and movements and stuff, which is what I’m trying to do now.. So far I’ve added about 1500 words, enhanced the backstory, etc. It’s actually quite a delicate business, since sometimes it’s adding three words to a line, and other times it’s rewriting 5 paragraphs to make the story flow work better.
I sometimes wish I had a beta-reader, though, I don’t know how much is really needed and how much is me being paranoid. One of the better aspects of my Chuck writing is that it pulled me into areas I don’t normally write, made me practice different styles. At the end I had to do an entire action-packed episode for my season finale, when my group, fractured into multiple groups, nonetheless manages to come together and bring doom to the villains, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It”s not a style I do much, and I had to figure out a lot about pacing to make it work. My ending for Ghostkiller needs some of that same attention. The climax is just a little too breakneck.
I’ll get around to doing that nine2five prequel. Just not now.
And everything looks different! I hope I can figure out how to post stuff in this new environment.
I just posted the very lastest chapter in one of the longest ongoing stories on Fanfiction.net, my story nine2five. It’s actually 20 episodes with 4 chapters each, so it doesn’t look as big as it really is. I’ve been gathering all the chapters into one document, though, and this monster is 190K words! On the other hand lots of the people writing fewer chapters have many more words in them, so from a word count perspective my story is nowhere near the largest.
I wouldn’t have thought I could do such a thing, and to be honest I think there are several factors that made it happen. Most important was my love for the show I was writing about, especially the characters. Second was the support from several readers on the boards, who would write in to comment on every chapter. This support is wonderfully encouraging, even though I would have written the story even if no one had said anything. (But I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.) Last is the fact that the story already existed. I was rewriting an entire season of the show, which had a deep and subtle storyline that the writers buried under a mountain of poor writing, lack of continuity, and my own personal pet peeve, lack of story logic. While many call my story an AU, I think it is in fact very close to what the producers were really doing, even though it isn’t very close to what they were trying to do, and further still from what they did.
This project has been monopolizing my time for months, and the closer it got to completion the more I wanted to get it done, but at the same time, get it done right!
I think it helped that last weekend I was at Readercon once again. The man running the dealer room was trying to get more self-published authors in there, so he offered me a space (under my publisher’s name, but no matter) with the proviso that I would host these authors’ titles. So I was in Burlington MA last weekend, and with the press of business I didn’t really do much writing, so I ended up thinking a lot about what I wanted to do for this last chapter, and it came out pretty well.
Readercon itself was good, from a dealer perspective. A little cold in the ballroom, but we sold more books this time than we did last time we were there, so that’s a win. On the other hand I found only one panel I wanted to attend, on the subject of POV, which gave me some ideas for new panels which I suggested to the programming group. So if I’m lucky maybe I’ll be asked to participate in a panel or two next year. (Hey, I’m a fantasy writer, it’s practically my job to dream!) Last time there were four, on subjects of genre evaporation and interstitiality. Good stuff, but not everybody’s cup of tea, just as the dominant topics of this year’s con weren’t mine. I spent a lot of time in the con suite having fun talking about various bookish topics with just lots of people. I met the editor who rejected Ghostkiller, and I met another editor that I’ll be sending Ghostkiller to in the near future! But I want to reread it first. After so long on nine2five, I think I can bring fresh eyes to the project!
I’ve been getting into the TV series Bones lately. (I know, I know, a lot of you are no doubt saying to yourselves, “But how can you expect to finish your fanfiction series when you’re watching another show?” All I can say is I’m trying my best.) It’s another show like Chuck with a strong central romantic couple with real chemistry to them. Unlike Chuck it doesn’t make romantic angst and its resolution the central theme of the series, which works for me. I was perfectly happy with the idea that Booth and Bones could be the couple they were without feeling the need to make it ‘official’ in some way. The fact that their emotional connection was so blatantly obvious is quite enough for me. I was probably the only one who thought that there was no reason Chuck and Sarah needed to be married, after all they’d gone through. My own ending for season 4 features a double wedding of Morgan and Casey to Alex and Kathleen, with Chuck and Sarah as primary witnesses.
One thing that did bother me about Bones though (the show, not the person), is the way they made her a best-selling mystery author. First of all, we’ve seen that before, from Murder She Wrote to Castle. There’s even an episode of Bones that has murders like those in her book, which was the idea behind the Castle pilot. Unfortunately, I see a lot of ideas redone from one mystery show to another. Fortunately, it’s not the gimmicks that matter, but the characters, and it’s kind of interesting to see the same idea become something very different with a different character dynamic. (I very much liked the High School reunion episode, and couldn’t help comparing it to Chuck’s version. And kudos to Robert Englund for doing such a wonderful job as the creepy janitor!)
What bothered me about her author status was that, given the character of Bones herself, I couldn’t believe that she’d be a good writer at all. I had no doubt that the technical accuracy of her stories would be spot on, like the science of many contemporary SF writers today. But since she has only the most rudimentary empathy or intuition, I couldn’t believe that she could portray a decent character to save her life, like a modern-day Agatha Christie, who for years put me off reading mysteries due to her emphasis on plot over character.
Finally, in a recent episode (I’m plowing through the series on DVD, so for me it’s recent), she gets involved in a case while dealing with an interviewer from Japan, who keeps asking her questions about the characters, while Bones keeps emphasizing the technical aspects of the chapter in question. She finally admits (not that she was keeping it a secret, but she simply didn’t think it mattered) that those elements of the books are supplied by Angela, her friend the sketch artist and her beta-reader, who reads her stories and makes suggestions for the more human scenes. While it’s still not perfect, since I still have trouble believing she could write such a scene once the idea for it had been pointed out, it makes a lot more sense to have someone else as the inspiration. Bones thinks so too, and gives Angela a quarter of the proceeds as recognition of the contribution, once she recognizes it as a contribution. I wonder how many of her fans went home wondering why they came, after hearing her talk about forensics at a book signing. I can only imagine public appearances having a negative effect, like the court appearances she makes.
The next question is, why do they always have to be best-selling?
My fourth novel, Ghostkiller, is completed at long last. It is the fastest novel I’ve written to date. The earliest copy of the file that I can find is dated January 2011, which means this story wrote itself in considerably less than two years. Which I think is pretty cool, my fastest time ever. My previous fastest time was two years exactly, for A Warrior Made, which was also a somewhat longer book.
I described the first and only origin story of this novel here, although I have a vague feeling that I may have had some other ideas which were shapeless and allowed themselves to be taken over by this one. But that origin only got me the first line, and the rest, as usual, spun out from there. I know some of my usual tricks came into play early on. With a first line like “Aren’t you a bit young to be raising the dead?” the obvious follow-up is that the guy is as old as they come.
My first tag line for this thing, back when I had no idea what it was going to be about was, “It’s about a man who kills ghosts for a living”, which I would tell to anyone who asked and then watch their brains explode trying to figure out how to kill something that was already dead. Now that I actually almost a little bit maybe know what the story’s about, I have no idea what the tagline should be.
One brilliant idea later…
How about, “Stealing from the dead is no way to get a life”?