Archive for March, 2008

Navigating the Amazon

March 25, 2008

Orphan’s Journey officially appears on store shelves in a few days, but is already selling briskly via Amazon.       

So fans are already writing that they love it.  One urged me to create more books, faster, because otherwise she has to watch Bachelorette reruns.  Fair enough.  I’m lucky enough to call fiction writing my job, and I love it. 

The catch is publishing.  Downstream from us authors, people choose jobs in the business of publishing because they love to create wonderful books.  However, to survive, publishers must create books that are not merely wonderful, but books that readers buy, in preference over competing entertainment.  What books do readers buy?  Books that other readers tell them are wonderful.  Today, telling others happens mostly via the Internet.

So, here’s the thing.  It makes my day when you take a minute to write me -or any author – about a book you love.  But if you really want to influence the publication of more books you love, when you take the time to write an author, also take a minute and write one of those brief 5-star reviews on Amazon, and shout out to blogs you visit.

Well, gotta goThey’re rerunning Bachelorette Albania Part Deux.

Time Travel in the Real World

March 18, 2008

“Time begins to slow down with higher speeds…at the speed of light it stops totally and beyond that begins to run backwards.”  So said Einstein.  But for that pesky constancy of the speed of light, backward time travel would be as easy as forward time travel. 

Every filmologist knows how easy forward time travel is.  Charlton Heston rockets off into space at near the speed of light.  Therefore, time slows down for him.  By the time he gets back, much more time has passed on Earth, and fundamentalist orangutans have seized control.

Real world example:  It is already April 1, 2008 in Australia.  I know that because Orphan’s Journey won’t be released in bookstores until April 1, 2008.  But Orphan’s Journey has already made Australia’s Galaxy SF/Fantasy/Horror Bestseller Top 10 list.  So reports Sydney’s Galaxy Bookshop, Australia’s oldest SF/F/H bookseller.

So, if you’re bound Down Under, pack heat.  It could be a Koalaocracy down there by now.

Q&A about Today’s Tibetan Unrest and Orphan’s Journey

March 17, 2008

News reports leaking from Tibet this morning tell of rebels in Lhasa suppressed by Chinese tanks.  Coincidentally, Orphan’s Journey begins with Tibetan rebels battling Chinese tanks.  Orphanage, the story of an invasion that responded to city-destroying surprise attacks, appeared a few months after the invasion of Iraq, and one reviewer called Orphan’s Destiny “positively prophetic,” because it treated government reponse to disasters, just as the Hurricane Katrina debacle unfolded.  So, were the Jason Wander books designed in advance to be contemporaneously relevant on their release dates?

Do I look like Nostradamus?  No.

So what were the books designed to do?

Tell a story.  By happy coincidence, an early reader’s brief review of Orphan’s Journey just posted at SFFWORLD.com summarized the Jason Wander series to date, so I don’t have to.  Read the whole thing at http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=454368 

Bottom line: 

“the [first] book [is] fast, funny but sometimes tragic…in the second book, Jason…gets in trouble again…in the third book…Jason is still in trouble…surprising things happen and strange secrets are revealed that carry this series to another level.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes mil-sf, or adventure sf for that matter. And some say that people do not write sf as in the so called Golden Age.”

Monsters and Critics

March 9, 2008

The title of this post is borrowed from a website that reviews SF/F/H, including, I gleefully report, enthusiastic reviews of my books.  But I could have called this post “do you think critics are monsters?” because people ask me that.  Short answer:  No.  I love to read what others think about my work, and (almost) always write better for it. 

Critics divide into three categories:  Pro reviewers, fans, and anonymous rants.

Pros.  I’ve been lucky that formal critical comment on my books, from traditional print media like The Washington Post to the SciFi Channel’s literary arm to web publications has been enthusiastic.  That makes it easy to absorb the rare “howevers” in such reviews, and use them constructively to make my writing better.

Fan mail and ‘blog comments.  Fan mail is by definition positive.  Once in a while it includes a question about an apparent fact slip-up, or a lament about a character’s fate.  

A specific example?  Jason as an infantryman used a fictional modernized version of the Vietnam-era M-60 machine gun.  An infantryman in Iraq emailed (emails from current and former service personnel always flatter and move me) that his squad loved the books, but thought my 2040s army should have updated the modern SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) now in use, not the antique M-60.

The comment illuminated for me that readers can only know what you tell them.  Jason’s 2040s army updated the M-60 for two reasons.  First, I had hands on experience with the older gun, so I could describe its workings confidently.   Second, as I wrote the book earlier in this decade, reports from Afghanistan and later Iraq showed that body armor was improving radically.  One reason that the real SAW replaced the real M-60 was because the SAW fires a 5.56mm round, that, among other advantages, is much lighter than the 7.62mm round.  So a GI can carry more ammunition.  But it seemed (and seems) possible that a beefed-up version of the “obsoletely heavy” 7.62mm round might make a comeback in order to penetrate improving body armor, so in the book I updated the M-60, not the SAW.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include that rationale in the book, without having some character give a lecture.  Lectures can slow a story, so writers always have to balance explaining everything for specially-informed readers against pace.  But I learned a lot about balancing from that exchange.

 Anonymous rants.   These are a recent, web-enabled phenomenon.  The late Kurt Vonnegut said, approximately, that angrily criticizing a novel is like taking a battle axe to a hot fudge sundae.  But rants happen, sometimes taking the writer to task, personally.  Even the likes of Kevin J. Anderson.  Kevin, a professional’s professional at the business of writing, doesn’t even read them.  As he says, they are a distraction from his work, and are more a product of some abberation in the ranter’s life experience than knowledgable criticism.  That’s probably the best way to handle rants, though I haven’t been able to resist sifting through the couple I have come across, in search of a constructive kernel that will make my work better.

 It all comes back to the fact that all you need to know about life you should have learned by kindergarten.  Sticks and stones…

Orphan’s Journey is out!

March 9, 2008

I’m pleasantly surprised to report that Amazon is already shipping the third Jason Wander book, though it isn’t scheduled to be available in bookstores until April 1, 2008.  Amazon is also shipping the new-cover reprints of the first two books, Orphanage and Orphan’s Destiny.  I just received copies of all three finished new books from Orbit, myself.  They look great, though I’m biased.  And I’ll never get over the demise of the marvelous original covers, by Fred Gambino.  But then, I don’t have to, because Fred gifted me with signed originals which will forever hang on the wall behind my writing desk.

The reprints contain additional material, notably an interview added to Orphanage.

I also just got the almost-final cover art for Book 4, Orphan’s Alliance, which will be released in November, 2008.  If the Orphan’s Journey art has a “Halo Master Chief” look to it, with the green armor and opaque faceplate, Book 4 looks more “post-apocalyptic Terminator.”  I’ll post it on my website when it’s nailed down, and you’ll see what I mean.  Let me know how the books look to you when you see them in stores, and I’ll pass the word back to Orbit.