March 24, 2012

Po Tay TOOOOOOO!

Before we begin, watch this. You can thank me in the comments.



Alright, now that you've watched that two or three (or twenty) times, let's continue, shall we?

I have a draft post that I've been working on for weeks. This isn't it. It's a picture of my bookshelf. When I envisioned that post last year, I had no idea it would take me so long to finish. That's how much I love you. I'm working hard on a picture post.

BUT, so that you don't forget I'm here, let's talk! Not about work. Work is busy. Stuff that was supposed to be turned over in December is turning over now, so I have to do a whole lot of stuff in a few weeks. Mmmm, publishing. Gotta love it.

But publishing isn't the only industry going through digital upheaval right now. Sure, CD vs MP3, DVD vs streaming, but those battles are actually old battles (just like ebooks are an old battle--the public just wasn't involved in the first part of it). The big deal now is mobile connectivity. And actually, this has been a big deal for years as well, but again, industry fights its own battles internally and then format adoption moves that fight out into the open.

Smart phone adoption is so prevalent now that I actually forgot not everyone has one. I use my phone more than I use my laptop (including for watching streaming movies). The only thing my laptop is really for any more is writing, because I write a billion times faster on a real, full-sized keyboard than I do on a touch screen. And, now we're getting 4G technology (a rant in and of itself because the G just stands for generation, which means companies hold onto technology until they've milked us for all we're worth and then they move on to the next generation to start all over).

Awesome phones, cloud-based services, and high-speed mobile connectivity. You know what that means? Science fiction is becoming science fact! Or it would, if we weren't limited to 2GB of data a month. For all the people fighting over self-publishing vs traditional publishing, I think the larger impact on us as a society is the control of bandwidth. The "all information should be free" justification for thievery is bunk, but there are some serious implications of a non-neutral, ratcheted internet. So many services are moving to a mobile interface. More over, those services are also going to a cloud system rather than a delivery system (to simplify it, if they don't give you an end product, everyone has to go to them and they make more money--same is true for ebooks which is why the "publishers don't want ebooks" argument is so stupid).

What happens is they take information and services and put it over there. Then they say you can get it over here on your phone. Pay for the service to get it from there to here. Oh, but now we're going to limit you because it is more profitable for us to restrict your access to the materials we've taken away from you than it is to increase our network to handle increased volume.

I left Sprint because of horrible customer service and a poor selection of phones. They're improving on both, I hear, especially the latter. Their bandwidth speeds aren't top of the line, but they still offer true unlimited. Verizon and AT&T charge over 2GB and with music and video going to cloud-based services, you'd be amazed at how quickly you can pass that mark.

How much, do you ask? I average 15GB of usage a month. That's how much. I'm considered a top-tier user in that regard and I'm doing it on purpose. I'm part of the grandfathered Unlimited Data customers from Verizon. If I were with AT&T, they'd ratchet my service so that anything over 2GB would be so slow that I wouldn't want to use it even though I could. Verizon will probably end up doing the same, and frankly, it's the wrong direction.

At some point, the majority of the digital goods we consume will be done through a mobile platform, and as long as our access to that material is constrained, it will only foster piracy and theft rather than inhibit it. More over, it will stifle growth and innovation. This is where the entire industry is moving and has been moving for years. The attempt to constrain that result now is like trying to turn the titanic. There will be a big ass crash when more people discover they're willing to use mobile solutions for high-bandwidth services.

There's a fight a brewing, and it's much more relevant than self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

March 15, 2012

The Other Side

I don't only read fantasy and science fiction. I think that's a good thing, to read outside of one's preferred genre. Keeps things fresh. Keeps things interesting. You get a view of how things are done elsewhere (setting doesn't matter as much in some genres as it does in sff where many call it another character in the novel). And you get a view of how things are changing there, maybe something you can use in your own work as well.

For me, when I'm not reading sff, I usually turn to a biography. Jerry Lewis' DEAN AND ME, Steve Martin's BORN STANDING UP, Craig Ferguson's AMERICAN BY CHOICE (a much more solid offering than his fiction BETWEEN THE BRIDGE AND THE WATER1), and more. Some are awesome (see Ferguson). Some are completely self-serving (see Lewis). Some are a train wreck of good intentions (see Meghan McCain's DIRTY SEXY POLITICS). Currently, Russel Brand's first autobiography, MY BOOKY WOOKY. I tend to lean toward performers rather than historical, political, or military figures, who so often make up the bulk of the biography section. I like to see how they were drawn to their art, how they suffered, and how they overcame (if they did). Artists often tend to leave off a lot of the polish. Even with Jerry Lewis writing about how he and Dean Martin loved each other to the very end, he speaks on infidelity and ties to the mob.

With Russell Brand, his fiction follows a consciousness delivery much like his stand-up. Tangents come and go and you have to hold on for the ride. I love the book already because he makes a statement that perfectly sums up my childhood as well. "I was awake as a child." It's such a profound statement that people have trouble understanding unless they lived it. I made the local news when I was in kindergarten. My school did a balloon release2, and I was one of a handful of students whose balloons were found first. They interviewed the larger kids first, so I heard the kind of questions they were going to ask. I was prepared with a cogent, intelligent response, but when they asked me my question, I stuck my finger in my mouth and twisted in place, looking horribly cute. Of course, the entire time, I'm screaming in my mind "WHAT ARE YOU DOING" like some guy at the helm of a spaceship, the controls not responding, the circuit boards sparking, and the ship setting course for the closest star.

I was awake as a child.

I don't think I would have ever heard, I don't think I would have ever articulated that experience if I had not read Russell Brand's MY BOOKY WOOKY. Thanks for that Russell. It's a good read.

March 13, 2012

A Body at Rest Tends to Stay at Rest

So yesterday I started writing again. Vacation + sickness means no writing, but taking that kind of break can make it hard to get started again. I compare it to a cold engine. It's hard to get the thing to turn over once it's been sitting still for awhile. Writing is definitely like this. I have some friends who are beginning their first efforts into writing and others who are renewing their efforts after a long hiatus. The same thing seems to happen. They begin with their first chapter, maybe the second, maybe even the third, and then they invariably stop. Something somewhere in what few words they've written isn't "right." They stop and like so many before them, they no longer continue forward.

I know some professionals edit as they go along, but for new authors, I always think this is a bad idea. Newtonian physics apply to writing as much as they do to bodies in motion, I think. Unless acted upon by an outside force, forward motion begets forward motion. Keep writing and you will write more and more until you have a finished novel.

Yesterday I think I managed only a few hundred words--and by few I mean 500 at best out of two hours on a train. I was tired and completely out of the habit of writing. Today, I wrote on the morning train (1300) words and again at lunch (1200) words. It feels great. It feels like my engine is finally warmed up. And it feels like I am in motion. As long as I keep writing, I will remain in motion.

March 8, 2012

Boy, Interrupted

I set ambitious writing goals for this year.

Goal 1: Finish the first draft of BENEATH A SUNDERED SKY (150,000 words)

Goal 2: Finish the first draft of WHAT'S BEHIND THE CROOKED DOOR? (15,000 words)

Goal 3: Finish the third (first final) draft of PRINCE OF CATS (50,000 words)

Goal 4: Rewrite BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE (150,000 words)

All in all, I set goals to deal with the largest word count I've ever attempted in a single year. (Granted, some of it had been touched before so maybe that should have a .75 modifier to the word count in terms of difficulty. I can't say for sure.) I didn't set these goals with a "let's see how much of this I can do" mindset. I set goals I expect to achieve. Thus I expected to achieve all four goals.

So why am I obviously leading up to the fact that I'm not going to achieve all four goals? Because it's March and I'm already sick FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR! I'm not one of those people that get sick every decade. I have a crappy immune system. January and I are not friends. I get sick in January almost every year. Then again at the end of autumn or around there when the weather is turning and my allergies are kicking my ass and everyone has forgotten how to cover their mouths for some reason.

The fact that I've already been sick three times this year is not a good sign. It certainly hasn't made writing easier. It took a bit to get back up to speed after the first time I got sick. Then, after the second time I got sick, I realized everything I had written between those illnesses was absolute shit and needed to be deleted. I not only wasted a month of writing time, I wasted the paltry 20,000 words I wrote in that month (which is half of what I usually write in a month, in case you're wondering).

Beginning the year with SUNDERED SKY and seeing how easily the setting fell onto the page, I didn't think it unrealistic at all to finish it in three months. Add a couple weeks to switch gears and finish CROOKED DOOR and I had thought to have points one and two scratched off by April. I thought maybe to add goals 1.1 and 2.1, revising a second draft over the summer for each of those stories.

It's March 8th and I'm at 50,000 words of goal one. At this pace, I'll finish the book by September! Horror! What a wasted year that would be. I don't expect that to be the issue, obviously. Once I'm well, the word count pace will increase, but damn it's hard to feel that way when I'm on illness number three and I can only manage enough mental capacity to realize I'm sucking it hard this year.

How's your progress coming? Hopefully better than mine.

That question is for everyone, but especially Nate. Everyone stare at Nate and remind him he should not be reading this journal entry. He should be writing his novel. Now. Go. Shoo. Be creative.