Archive for the ‘About Writing and Publishing’ Category

SF’s Family Tree

October 25, 2008

Ever get fuzzy about where new/old Space Opera leaves off and old/new Steampunk begins?  Not to mention Nanonormal Xenobotic Romance?

If so, look at the series Fandomania’s Kelly Melcher has going, defining and discussing the branches of SF’s ever-broadening family tree.

Kelly hasn’t gotten to Military SF yet (it’s an upcoming installment), but she saw enough Space Opera in Orphanage to cite it there.


Testing brand-new Orphan’s Alliance

October 15, 2008

Ford Madox Ford, the 1920s English author and critic who Hemingway immortalized as Braddocks in The Sun  also Rises, may be better known for saying, “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”  Silly?  Enough not silly that the literaryblog The Page 99 Test applies the test to fiction and non-fiction works all across the book spectrum.

They honored just-released Orphan’s Alliance by daring me to apply the Page 99 Test.

See what happened at The Page 99 Test: Orphan’s Alliance.

Fandomania: The thinking fan’s podcast

September 29, 2008

I talked with Fandomania reporter Kelly Melcher at DragonCon in Atlanta earlier this month, about writing, the Jason Wander books and what’s new in Jason’s world.

Listen to Kelly and me on Fandomania’s podcast, “The One,” at

Give it up for the Paleozoic!

September 24, 2008

SF wallows in the Mesozoic Era (T. rex?  Gasp! You have a T. rex?)  The Cenozoic Era gets its due from mammoths, cave bears, and Neanderthals. 

But the Paleozoic Era gets scant love.  Of course not, you say.  Clams, frogs, the rise of the ferns.  You would sooner read the legislative history of the Glass-Steagall Act.  If you know an SF novel about the Paleozoic, it’s probably Robert Silverberg’s 1968 Hawksbill Station.  The Paleozoic was so boring that Silverberg exiled future politcal prisoners to it.

Now, as a former invertebrate paleontologist, this literary slight wounds me.  What libido fantasizeth not about a pyritized brachiopod with a well-turned lophophore (look it up)?  No matter that I, myself, fled paleo for law, rather than catalogue blastoids for six years.  Okay, Duhig v Peavey Moore Lumber was no page-turner, either.  But lawyering did put shoes on the kids.

Anyway, on October 28, 2008 the Paleozoic earns its moment in the SF sun.  Jason Wander, high school dropout, accidental Major General, terminal wise ass and reluctant hero returns in Jason Wander 4, Orphan’s Alliance.  Alliance continues as military science fiction with a healthy disdain for the military’s foibles and a deep respect for those who endure them.  But, like book 3, Orphan’s Journey, Alliance will take you and Jason somewhere military SF doesn’t generally go.

Secrets of the Jason Wander series.

September 18, 2008

If you would like to know more about why and how I wrote Orphanage and the other Jason Wander books, take a look at my interview with Gary Reynolds, which appears today, at the UK Ezine Concept Sci-fi, .

Publishing a first novel

June 9, 2008


Lots of you read my May 14 post about completing a “New York published” novel. One reason you did seems to be that you write, or hope to write, fiction of your own. So, I’ll expand on the topic.To paraphrase the Red Queen, things on my ‘blog mean exactly what I want them to mean. First, my definitions of selected aspects of U.S. fiction publishing.

“New York published” means published by one of the remaining six major US publishing houses, all of which office in Manhattan, as opposed to published by a Legitimate Independent.

“Legitimate Independent” means a publisher, often outside Manhattan, run by people as passionate about books as any “Big Six” editor, many of whom cut their publishing teeth at the major houses. Legitimate Independents lack the distribution avoirdupois and vast resources available to the Big Six, but can offer writers marvelous opportunities. A Legitimate Independent is NOT a Vanity Press.

“Vanity Press” means an outfit that, no matter how creatively it disguises its “assistance” to aspiring writers, is paid by the writer to print whatever the author has written. Vanity Presses are at best Kinko’s-by-mail and at worst confidence schemes as vile as stealing a blind widow’s wooden leg. That’s not to say that a legitimate author can’t be Self-published.

“Self-published” means doing, or subcontracting, it all yourself, from writing to editing to printing to arm-twisting booksellers to stock your books to putting up all the money to keeping all the profits. I know a few (very few) authors who operate in the black doing so, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Within this heirarchy, I’ll confine my remarks to the little slice within which I have a little experience, which is an author’s-eye view of major-house fiction publishing.

What many of you who write me seek is a “silver bullet” that will get your debut novel published. I know of no such. On the contrary, I do know of a very smart and personable aspiring novelist who was closely personally connected to an influential New York editor, which sure sounds like a silver bullet. But the editor’s house rejected the person’s manuscript, nevertheless, because it just wasn’t good enough.

Four steps worked for me. The first three steps are:

1. Learn to write well, then write lots;

2. Rewrite;

3. When you think you have created a masterpiece realize that you haven’t, and reinvent. I reinvented by more or less completing seven novels that never saw the light of day before Orphanage. Your mileage may vary.

Fourth step, after you have completed those first three steps: Follow the suggestions for querying and getting an agent and so on that you can find in any number of “how to” books. If anybody expresses interest, I might expand on these suggestions in a future post(s).

Steel yourself to persevere despite rejections. Virtually no New York editors have time any longer to read material that has not been vetted by an agent they trust, and editors have to reject most of even the agented material they do read. That said, a legitimate agent today receives on the order of 25,000 queries per year from non-celebrity debut novelists, and rarely chooses to represent more than one of them. However, if you find the road rocky at first, remember that if I got New-York published, it can’t be that hard.

If any of the foregoing sparks your interest, let me know, and I’ll try in future posts to expand on these and other aspects of my experience writing novel-length commercial fiction.

How to complete a New-York-published novel

May 14, 2008

One of my favorite people, famous Hollywood agent turned famous novelist Maggie Marr told me, when we were both unpublished and she went by Margaret, “There’s published, and there’s New York published.  We want to be New York published.”  And, only a few million words and a few zillion rejections later, we are.

A fan who was doing an English paper about Orphan’s Journey asked me how long it would take to “complete” the next Jason Wander book, Orphan’s Alliance, which Orbit will release in November, 2008.  My answer may be of interest to someone who also wants to be New-York-published.  Here it is:

When will Orphan’s Alliance be complete?  Not such a simple question.
It took me about six months to complete the manuscript for Orphan’s Alliance.  But there is no good writing, there is only good rewriting.  This is as true of English papers as of novels, by the way. 
So “completing” a manuscript isn’t “completing” the book you will see on store shelves.  I turned my manuscript in to my editor in New York on 1/1/08.  She and an assistant editor sent me back comments and proposed changes 1/31/08.  I rewrote some things, then sent the new version back to New York on 2/21/08.  Next a “copy editor” reviewed the revised manuscript for grammar, and for stuff like on page 2 this character has red hair and on page 200 he has brown hair.  She sent it to me again to decide which of those changes I would accept.  I returned the Copy Edited Manuscript 4/24/08.  While all of this was going on, I also submitted the first few pages of the next book, which will appear at the end of Alliance as a “teaser.”  And the publisher sent me the Orphan’s Alliance cover art and cover copy for comment (comment: the cover looks wicked cool). 
Soon I will receive yet another version, the typeset pages, called “first pass pages,” to review one last time for errors.  In a prior book, I noticed that the first pass somehow left out two lines on page 12.  Without them the rest of the book would have made no sense.  This version will also be bound as a small printing of Advance Reading Copies, also called “galleys,” that will be distributed early to reviewers at newspapers, at the SciFi Channel, and so forth.
Then, the first run of the books will be printed and shipped to booksellers in the US and the British Commonwealth countries.  On November 1, 2008, eleven months after it was “completed,” the book will go on sale in stores and for download in various ebook formats.



The week that was

April 19, 2008

The second most frequent question that writers yet to publish ask is “what’s your day like?”  The most frequent is, “where do you get your ideas?”  (Answer: If I knew, I would open a charge account there)     

Usually, my day is like the day of any contemporary office worker.  Commute.  Sit down at the desk, check email, respond to the ones that need a response, then try to catch up with what you are behind on.

The differences?  My commute is fifty feet.  I don’t have to process emails from corporate, or from HR, or from angry clients, or from stressed supervisees, mostly just from happy fans.  What I am behind on is invariably the next book, and being behind is a necessity for me, because what I write when I’m not under time pressure sucks.

This past week, however, a number of items, ah, assisted in providing me additional time pressure.

Monday:  Because Orphan’s Journey just came out, drive to most of the bookstores in metro Atlanta to say hello, and to autograph books in stock.  A full-day job, even with a nav system.  Enjoy when a store CRM (Community Relations Manager) is so excited to see me that she calls her husband, who is a huge Jason Wander fan, at work and asks him to guess who is standing across from her helping her unload books.  (Guess:  The UPS guy?)  Enjoy less when another store’s employee asks whether Little Brown is a local vanity press.  (Answer:  Mostly.  But I think they may have paid advances to Poe, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and James Patterson.)

Tuesday:  Touch base with Alex Lencicki, Orbit’s marketing and publicity wizard about the favorable Orphan’s Journey review featured in Science Fiction Weekly, and my interview piece to run later in the week on SciFi Wire, and about ideas to flesh out my future appearances calendar.

Wednesday:  Realize that I have totally screwed up my future appearances calendar, and write mea culpa  to resolve conflict.  Prepare Q&A for a “Guest ‘Blog” with fellow Orbit author Jennifer Rardin, who writes Urban Fantasy about vampires and women in tight leather pants.

Thursday:  ‘Blog with Jennifer.  Realize that her ‘Blog graphics are sexier than mine, and so is her writing.  Receive from my Agent, and review, contracts from my Czech publisher to sell Czech language rights to Orphan’s Journey.    Pat myself on back for, as a former corporate lawyer, reviewing my own contract.  Realize that I have a fool for a client.

Friday a.m.:  Receive from Orbit, and begin to turn around, the copy-edited manuscript of the brilliant next book in the Jason Wander series, Orphan’s Alliance.  Realize as I read that I am even less brilliant than I thought I was when I turned in the rewrite.

Friday night, late:  Realize that not only am I unbrilliant, I am farther behind on Book 5 than I was on Monday.  Commute fifty feet and call it a week.

Adventures in SciFi Publishing

April 8, 2008

I recently enjoyed an interview with Shaun Farrell, co-host of Adventures in SciFi Publishing.  We talked about the business of writing genre fiction, the dearth of old-fashioned heroes in current SF/Fantasy, and, of course, the Jason Wander books.  As of today, you can hear the whole interview, and more, at “Episode 47”, here:

The site and the program are devoted to the news of SF/Fantasy/Horror publishing, from Borders’ financial woes to media reviews to interviews with the likes of me.  Sort of NPR for literate Klingons.  

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.