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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

I wasn’t planning to write one of these, but it occurred to me, almost too late, that while 2017 has been a horrible year for many people (for reasons outside the scope of this blog), for me, professionally, it has been not only successful, but actually profound. This was the year that everything changed, maybe forever. With that in mind (and because, like all writers, I’m just obsessive about these things), I’d like to list some of my achievements over the past twelve months.

Summarily, I sold five short stories this year, one of which was a reprint. I had four stories published, mostly those I sold last year. Just as importantly, however, I sold a record number of copies of my various self-published books, particularly in the fourth quarter. I hope to see this trend continue in the new year.

But sales were only part of the story, and not the largest part. Where a novel used to take at least a year, in 2017, I published two, and am dangerously close to finishing a third. One was written in less than two months. This represents a huge leap forward in my production, and opens up an new business model where self-publishing may become a viable part of a hybrid career path (self-published novels/traditional short stories).

I also expanded my authorial presence this year, appearing on three panels at my second consecutive Loscon as a guest. At no time did I faint, get horribly sick, or otherwise condemn myself to 1 million hits on Youtube.

And last but not least, two of my stories appear on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List for 2017.

All in all, I’m pleased. I’m writing, I’m selling, and I still have a few ideas on the drawing board. So to all of you out there who support me, or support other writers, and especially to those who are trying so hard to make it when all the odds seem to be against you, have a Happy New Year. Make 2018 the year you want it to be.

#SFWApro

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Who wants to wait until Black Friday? And who wants a sale that only lasts one day? (Hint: the answer to both these questions is, “Not me.”)

Therefore, on the theory that it’s no good selling something if you can’t give your friends a good deal, starting tomorrow, November 23, and running all the way to December 31, all novels in my electronic catalog are being reduced by 25%!*

You want time-traveling adventure on a far-future Earth where aliens rule mankind and recreated dinosaurs roam deserted cities? We got that.

You want to go back to the 1930s, where mysterious dangers hide behind every door and globe-trotting heroes fight the forces of evil and tyranny? We got that.

You want to visit a fantastical (and hysterical) medieval land where an exiled samurai and an untrustworthy card shark turn out to be long-lost brothers, battling fashion-obsessed Valkyries and the Pirate Brother’ood while arguing over whose fault it was they got kicked out of another tavern? We got that, too!

Act now, because prices like this do not come along every day!**

 

*Except for The Invisible City, because it’s already free!

**Every year, yes. Every day, no.

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I am fond of saying that one of the reasons I’m a writer is because I have absolutely no talent for higher math. I’m pretty good at straight arithmetic, I managed to hold my own in algebra (with a great deal of struggle), and geometry was relatively easy–but when I try to advance beyond that, forget it. Many of my friends can read complicated equations like I read the newspaper (yes, some of us still do read the newspaper, and not on our phones), but to me they don’t even form a language, let alone a readable narrative.

Words, on the other hand, have always been my bread and butter. I was always the best speller in my elementary classes (among the boys, anyway), and I was a top English student in high school. Now I’m a writer. My friends with physics degrees can build models of quarks, but I can build models of worlds.

It is ironic, then, that so much of what I do is defined by numbers. There are sales numbers, obviously, and numbers of reviews (never enough), and ranking numbers at Amazon (although I realize as well as anyone how arbitrary they are, it doesn’t stop me from looking). And there are other numbers, as well–first among them is word count.

When you’re writing a short story, word count defines what kind of story you’re writing: flash, short, novella, etc., and where you can sell it, because magazines have parameters, based on their page counts and budgets. Some are firm, some have a little elasticity, but they all have the limits. You have to know this if you’re going to have any success at all, because your 17,000-word novelette may be brilliant, but its potential markets are few.

Word count also defines something quite different: It defines how difficult this job is. Think about it. A commercial short novel these days runs no less than 65,000 words, and you’ll find damn few of those. Most are at least 80,000 words. My longest novel so far ran 122,000 words. The novels I’m writing now are designed to come in at 60,000. And these words are not random; every one of them is specially selected. How hard is that?

Let me give you some context: The average person speaks about 16,000 words per day. That means that my typical novel is the equivalent of everything you say for four days. And it all has to be entertaining, suitably paced, and come to a point. You think you could talk that way for four days straight?

I do. Granted, I plan some of it out ahead of time, and it may take me ten weeks, but in the end it’s the same thing. The next time you’re reading a book, take a look at its page count, and multiply by 300. That will give you a rough idea how many words it is (depending on the book, of course, but bear with me). Then ask yourself, “Could I write that many words in a fashion so entertaining that people would pay money to read it?”

If the answer is “yes,” then close this window and get to writing. But if the answer is “no,” then the next time you finish a book, take a few moments to rate or review it on Amazon or Goodreads.

After all, in writing, it’s the numbers that count.

#SFWApro

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I have a friend who has an advanced degree in science, but he can’t spell worth a damn. I, on the other hand, am a professional writer who failed introductory calculus. It’s not a stretch to say that the world is made up of a lot of people with varying skills and talents, and that it would be a poorer place without any of us. We need each other. We need each other’s skills.

So why is it that for nearly my whole lifetime, so much time, energy, and money has been spent on that area now known as STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math? Granted that these are very important, but you know how a lot of your STEM geeks got there? By reading. By reading a story someone had written. That’s written, not derived, not programmed, not built.

Literature (and art of all kinds) forms the basis of our culture. From the very beginning of Man, storytelling served to pass the wisdom of the ages from one generation to the next. Long before there were lasers, there were legends. People were writing on tablets long before you had to have a Ph.D. to design one.

So why this emphasis on one over the other? Why do girls have to be pushed toward physics and engineering? And why can’t boys be pushed toward creative writing and literature?

I’d like to introduce my answer to STEM. It’s called BREW: Books, Reading, English, Writing. In a world where most of us (not just scientists) can’t use an apostrophe correctly, should we not be putting as much effort into making sure students can communicate their accomplishments properly as in the accomplishments themselves? And should we not tell them that communication can be an accomplishment in itself?

Yes, there are already those who can do both, Isaac Asimov, for instance. But even Asimov spent less time making discoveries than communicating those discoveries in a way that the common man could comprehend.

So I’m calling on readers and writers and humanities majors everywhere to stand up for their rights. Insist on equal time for books that aren’t full of numbers. Demand that kids who can add and subtract and extract cube roots be able to spell and punctuate–and maybe even tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Because if our technology ever gets away from us, and we go back to living in caves and ruined cities–what else will we have?

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