Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where will I be?

Where will I be on June 4th, from 10:00 in the morning until noon? I'm glad you asked.

I will be here.

UVU puts on a great conference about teaching and technology. Registration is free, and the sessions all look very interesting.

I will be talking about an interactive GPS game that we created that allows you to talk to characters, pick up items, and solve puzzles--all based on your location. You'll learn how to both play the game, and create your own.

See you there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interesting Results, Wrong Conclusion

I think I'm the only author in the known universe who doesn't follow Nathan Bransford, so I'm slow on the draw with this one.

Last month Nathan held a contest on his blog. He gave out 50 query letters to 300 regular citizens, and he asked them to pick the best ones. Hidden in that pile were 3 query letters that ended up getting their authors book deals. If each person got 5 guesses, could any of the 300 folks pick out the 3?

As it turned out, only 2 people picked all three. I find this interesting, but what I find even more interesting are Nathan's two conclusions. I think he misses one point, but nails the other one.

First Nathan seems to be saying, "See? This is why being an agent is so hard. You didn't pick the right ones, but we agents can. Being an agent is harder than it looks. We don't look to see if a query has met all The Rules (insert angels singing), we look deeper into the soul of the work." I find this interesting because Nathan's blog, every agent's blog, and every publisher's web site is FILLED with advice on how to follow The Rules (insert angels singing). And every last one of them will tell you that if you fail to jump through their, I mean, follow The Rules (insert...oh, you get the point), then your manuscript is tossed into the fire.

I don't buy it.

Second, he goes on to say, "The other main element I'd take from this challenge is how subjective this business really is. What resonates with you might not resonate with someone else."

This is where he nails it. It may resonate with somebody else. In fact, it may resonate with a lot of somebody elses. And those people might just be paying customers. And they might really enjoy that book. But because it didn't resonate with the agent, they will never get that chance.

Does anybody else see what is wrong with this? Not the conclusion, but this simple fact? A few days ago I posted a link to an article that named 30 authors who were rejected multiple times before they finally got published. J. K. Rowling, Steven King, Ayn Rand, and Anne Frank were among those rejected. I think it's time we asked the obvious question. Should agents and publishers still be looked at as the gatekeepers to what we read? Sure there is a lot of garbage out there, and they do a lot of sifting. But how many really good books never get into our hands because somebody started their query letter with a rhetorical question? Or misspelled an agent's name? Or went really off the deep end and used...I don't know...Helvetica sans-serif!

New technology has allowed musicians, artists, photographers, and directors get their art straight to the public. Why not authors? Why don't we have a YouTube or a Flickr that gets us directly in touch with our fans? We know the model works. We've seen it work for other crafts.

When will we finally step up and say it's our turn?

Monday, May 25, 2009

The sure thing, or something new?

When I go into one of my favorite restaurants, I have a really hard time ordering something new. My conundrum is thus: I've been to the restaurant before, and I know what I like. In fact, the whole reason I've returned is because of that particular dish. So when the waitress asks for my order do I order Dish A, the one I know is good, or do I try Dish B?

On the one hand, Dish B might be better. If they can cook Dish A so well, why not assume Dish B is also tasty? On the other hand if I don't like it I've wasted all that time and money. I don't want to leave wishing I had stuck with the sure thing.

I have the same problem with I go into a video store (OK, I never go into a video store. I use Netflix). Do I get a movie I know I like, or try something new?

The reason I ask is that I just picked up a book. Lieutenant Hornblower by C. S. Forester. I've read the book before. In fact, I've read it twice. I love it. I love the character, I love the era, and I love the voice. Not many folks know that Gene Rodenberry based Captain James T. Kirk after H. Hornblower. It really is a good series of books.

But, shouldn't I be expanding my horizons? Shouldn't I be trying new things? In the back of my head, I think I should. But then again I usually order Dish A, and my queue is filled up with mostly movies or TV series I've seen before. I like the comfortable and familiar.

Maybe that is a sign I'm getting old.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

All you authors out there...

I was in a session yesterday at CONduit where they talked about active voice/passive voice. The difference can be seen in the following.


The chair moved by the robber.


The robber moved the chair.

Active = good. Passive = bad.

You can find passive voice by searching for words such as was, is, were, be, been. But my question is do you get rid of all of these? What about this sentence? It comes from the first page of my book.

While the bench was ordinary, the piano itself was most certainly not.

How do you cut those instances of the word 'was' out? I could say 'ordinary bench', but the whole point of the sentence is to state that the bench is ordinary. Just saying ordinary bench is not a complete sentence.

And what about this one?

Rafter knew he was grinning like an idiot, but he couldn’t help it.

I could change it to

Rafter grinned like an idiot, but he couldn't help it.

But that changes what I'm saying. Rafter is self-aware of the fact that he is grinning. So should it be:

Rafter knew he grinned like an idiot, but he couldn't help it.

But that doesn't seem quite right.

I don't know. I don't think I should be cutting out every 'was' in my book, but how do I tell which ones? I still have hundreds left, and I want my manuscript to be tight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One step closer...

Every author, published or not, should be taking to the streets today. Cheer, celebrate, cause general havoc, but in a good way. Check out what Amazon is doing.

I gave a presentation at a recent conference where I talked about how up-and-coming authors can succeed in the new model of publishing, a model that we are now one step closer to with Amazon's announcement. One of the characteristics of this new model is that it is merit-based. If your work is good, you will be able to succeed. This wasn't always the case in the old (current) model. Bad or mediocre writing often gets published, while really good stuff is sometimes ignored. Amazon's service will allow customers to pick what gets pushed to the top. It is readers that will dictate what gets published and distributed.

Now, I can already hear some critics. "This will turn into a popularity contest. The only thing that will rise to the top is shallow, meaningless fluff. Books with true merit, those that tackle the hard topics, will be ignored. We need agents, editors, and publishers--true experts--to make sure the best books get to market".

To which I say this link should silence any such criticism.

I for one am very excited about Amazon's move, and look forward to the new model that is slowly being shaped. If you are a writer, put your chin up; good things are coming our way.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Public Appearance

I don't do many public appearances. It's because I'm a recluse. And I covet my privacy. And I'm part hermit. And...well, I don't get invited to anything. That last one is probably the main reason, now that I think about it.

However, all of this is about to change, at least for one saturday afternoon. I will be making a public appearance on May 30th, from 12:00 until 3:00 PM at the Maceys in Providence, Utah. Actually, I make a public appearance there at least twice a week, meaning I go out in public, and I 'appear' at that store. But since I cleverly blend in buy buying groceries, nobody realizes the guy rifling through family-sized packs of back bacon is really a celebrity. And they leave me alone. All...alone.

But, as I was saying, all this changes on the 30th. People will know I'm a celebrity. I'll be sitting behind a table. And I'll have books on that table. And I will be striking poses that will convince anybody in the area that I'm an author who has sold dozens, if not several dozens, of books.

So, if you're shopping, come on by and talk to me. If you're not shopping, come on by and talk to me too. I'll be the guy at the table, looking like a hermit.

Friday, May 08, 2009

What we've been waiting for...

Over the past decade I went to all three midnight showings of the newer Star Wars movies. Each one was fun, but ultimately disappointing. George Lucas just didn't have him in it, anymore. Star Wars was something magical from my childhood, and the magic couldn't be re-created.

And so it was that I went into Star Trek hoping for at least a decent movie that didn't wreck all the wonderful memories that I had watching the TV series when I was little.

As I sat in the theater, the thought that kept going through my head was, "This is what Star Wars should have been."

It was like returning home after an extended stay. Sure, things have changed, and you can never go home again. But some things never change, and it was so good to be back.

The cast was fantastic. I found myself not liking just Kirk and Spock, but Bones, Scotty, Checkov, and even Sulu. They all did great work. There were laugh out loud moments, tense moments, and 'yee hah'! moments.

It wasn't a movie that changed the way I looked at life. It wasn't a deeply moving or philosophical movie. But hoo dang it was a lot of fun.

I did have one disappointment with the movie. As the end credits rolled, I realized these guys aren't going to be back next week with a new episode. I have to wait two years before I see them again, if even that. Two hours is far too short for my taste.

Please J. J., you know how to do a TV series. Is an hour of Star Trek a week really too much to ask?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why is Radio not dead?

On the rare occasions that I drive without my iPod, I always turn on the radio expecting to hear nothing but static. Surely radio is not still around. Surely it's gone the way of ice boxes and candles. But no, for some reason that I can't understand, there are still radio programs and radio stations on the internet. Why is this?

I was driving back to work from lunch, and I started scanning the stations. These are the nuggets I found. I'll let you decide if they are nuggets of gold, or the nuggets that come out the back side of a bunny rabbit:

  • Annoying radio host who abuses and makes fun of guests who calls into her program
  • Political radio personality selling meat
  • Mexican music
  • Music from the 40s
  • Lots and lots of static

  • bad country (I know, redundant use of the word bad)
  • more bad country
  • commercials
  • more commercials
  • really, really, shallow music
  • classical music (which is great, I'm sure, but beyond my low-brow tastes)
And there you have it. The entire 10 minute ride wasted. However, when I take my iPod, this is what I have at my fingertips. And remember, any of these programs I can pause, re-listen to, or fast forward.

There you have it. Hours of entertainment, downloaded to my iPod every week, all of it free. There are ads on a few of them, and that is fine by me.

So, if you pay for ads on the radio, that is fine. But you might want to find out who is listening to podcasts, and find a cheaper way to get your message out. Because Radio is going to die any day now.