Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Around Each Corner They Lurk

I teach a (free) writing class hosted by the local public library. It's a good way to meet and get to know other writers, and torpedo their careers by spreading lies and misinformation -- er, I mean, to give back to the community. Also, people bring snacks. Just kidding about the lies and misinformation

But not about the snacks. I do love a homemade cookie now and then, sooner or later, and indeed at all other times.

The class format is pretty simple. I invite everyone to read a sample of what they've written since the last class. If they're not comfortable reading it aloud, I read it for them. Then we all talk about what we perceived as the strengths and weaknesses of the sample.

I also try to inject a few bleak realities of the publishing industry from time to time. One of my students had fallen prey to a certain scam outfit we all know and loathe. He'd wrecked himself financially, had a garage full of printed books no bookstore would touch with a twelve-foot battle lance, and he was still convinced all he needed to do was buy a little more 'advertising' and he'd surely make the leap into the heady air of best-sellerdom.

I was as gentle as I could possibly be, but I explained why that leap would likely end in bankruptcy.

Never saw the person again -- in the class, or on the NYT Best Seller list.

Reality is tough to face. I'm certainly no fan of it. I remain deeply and wholly convinced that in any truly reasonable world, the Markhat series would pay all my bills, the Paths of Shadow movie would fund my world travels and my hobby of restoring antique aircraft, and I'd be forced to stop writing this because my agent called with good news about yet another seven-figure bidding war over a book I haven't even started yet.

Now that is a world controlled by rules of which I approve.

If anyone knows how to get there, please let me know. Until quantum jumping becomes commonplace, though, I'm stuck here with you folks, and we have to muddle along as best we can.

I had a book come out on the 17th. It's the 8th book in the series, so I'm not exactly new to the process. I will say the thrill never gets old -- there's nothing quite like finally seeing the fruit of all that bloody awful labor out there on the shelves at last.

Of course, anytime people see you thrilled, there are a small but vocal subset of them who decide your joy MUST BE SQUASHED in the most heartless and violent way possible lest, I suppose, happiness spreads unchecked.

Let me state up front that none of these people are in my writing class. No. They might be work-place trolls, or distant relatives, or strangers from across the world with access to email and possession of severe personality disorders.

I'm not quite sure why writers are the targets of so much unsolicited offhand ire. I don't see insurance salespeople met with smirks and asked "Why do you sell insurance? There's no money in that!" As far as I know, people don't accuse my dentist of having graduated medical school because he 'was friends with the Dean.'

But if you write, the trolls will mass, and they will find you, and they will speak.

So, writing class, here are the kinds of people writers should ignore, especially right after a book release. Because assault with battery and outright gleeful murder are still frowned upon, and video cameras are everywhere these days.

1) The Gimmee a Freebie. "Oh," they'll say. "Got a new book out? Give me a copy." I encountered a Gimmee the day of the new release, and while on previous occasions I apologized for not having a copy handy, this time I merely fixed them in a steely-eyed glare and said "You can buy it like everyone else." And you know what? It felt wonderful. Now look -- I do in fact give away a lot of my books. I do so freely, and with a joyful heart. But I give them to people who will appreciate the book. Not to someone who is merely engaging in low-level passive-aggressive bullying.

2) The Nobody Reads Nay-sayer. Their opening conversational gambit is "A book? Nobody reads anymore," delivered with a smirk. I heard this last week too. I bit back my response of "I'm sure you don't read, favoring instead the refined arts of nose-picking and theatrical flatulence, but you are hardly representative of primates, much less the average reader." I hate coming up with the perfect retort hours later, but I will confess I saw this person coming later the same day and sent the elevator up before they could catch it. No vengeance is too terrible for the harried author scorned.

3) The You-Must-Know-Somebody Industry Expert.  "Oh, you have a book out? Who do you know?" Who do I know? Well, I know Mr. Write Every Day, and his friend Miss Submit Your Work to the Appropriate Markets After Careful Research. And I'm well acquainted with the unpleasant couple Mr. and Mrs. Edit, Revise, and Revise Again. But hey, you're right, I said hello to a famous New York editor at the laundromat in 1997 and everything I've scribbled since then gets turned into a 9-book series, you've discovered my secret, woe is me, I am undone. I swear if I hear the 'who do you know' question this time around I'm going to scream the lines above right in their face until the SWAT team opens up with those pesky rubber bullets.

4) The 'It Must Be Nice to Have Time to Write' Troll. This creature is by far the most common of the killjoys. They always deliver their trademark phrase with just a hint of condescension, making it clear that they could effortlessly fill whole bookstores with their deathless prose if only they weren't so burdened with more worthy pursuits. The only reasoned and proper response to such creatures involves bear traps, lamp oil, and the furious wraith of Barbara Cartland, and the specifics are too terrible to describe here. Simply turn and walk away.

Of course most people, especially readers, are only too happy to offer support and well-wishes. The people above are the exceptions.

They do serve one noble purpose, however -- they get mentions in my blog.

As someone once said, it is unwise to anger the man who buys ink by the barrel. So to speak.

New Kobo Banner!

I know I have a regrettable tendency to harp on the Amazon versions of my books. Sure, Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, which may be the only creature that makes me look thin by comparison, but there are many other sellers of ebooks out there as well.

Chief among them is Kobo, and my good friend Maria Schneider made this fantastic banner for my books, which are availble through the Kobo ebook store in every format imaginable, and a few that aren't!

Thanks Maria! And by the way, you should be reading Maria's books too. Here's a handy-dandy link:

My favorites of hers are the Moon Shadow books. They're urban fantasy set out west, with real (wait for it) -- bite. If Roger Zelazny had set out to write urban fantasy, he'd have come up with something very much like Maria's Moon Shadows books. And that's high praise, because I love Zelazny's books in much the same way Gollum loved his Precious, right down to the lisp and the loincloth, but we won't go into that here.

That's it for this week! I'm still working on the revisions to the new Mug and Meralda. And please keep your fingers crossed for the new Markhat, The Darker Carnival, which is still under consideration at Samhain.

Stay safe, folks, and buy some new books!


  1. You forgot about the ones like me, who give you about two days after your book is released before they start yelling at you to stop screwing around and get back to work because you aren't writing fast enough :). Loved the Five Faces, Frank!

    1. No, I *treasure* you! It's readers like you that keep me working! Thanks!

    2. I agree with her. The saddest time of the year is two days after a new Markhat book. All finished and nowhere to go!

  2. Hmm. My next Markhat book needs to be 150,000 words or more!

  3. That works for me. :) Excellent ending BTW.

    You need to keep us in books at least every 3-4 months. We might forget you. ;)


  4. Must write faster! Much faster!