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Roundup & Potentially Obnoxious Publicity

1. In less than 24 hours, the Mermaid’s Madness auction for NCADV is up to $65.  Y’all are awesome.  That is all.

2. My friend Pearl North has a new YA novel out from Tor Teen called Libyrinth [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  I think I want to live in this world:

For as long as she can remember, Haly has heard the voices of the books.  Growing up in the Libyrinth, a library so large that people sometimes get lost in it and never come out, she has been surrounded by words and stories her entire life.

3. I’m not happy, but I’ve asked for and received a two-week extension on Red Hood’s Revenge.  In the larger scheme of things, this shouldn’t make much of a difference.  Sometimes it’s more than two weeks before the editor has a chance to read the manuscript anyway.  And given how lousy the writing is going this week, I think it’s better to have the cushion.  It still makes me grumpy, though.

Potentially Obnoxious Publicity Questions:Yesterday I posted a graphic for the Mermaid auction, along with the code for folks to copy and repost.  Partly I did this just because it amused me to stick purple ribbons onto my characters, but the real goal was obviously to get some links back to the auction and spread the word.  (Huge thanks to those of you who did so, by the way!)

At what point does this sort of thing become annoying to you personally?  Reading through my own friends list, I saw where several entries in a row with my own graphic.  When does “effective word of mouth” become too much and turn into “if I see this crap one more time I’m gonna drive to Michigan and crotchpunch this guy!”

It’s tricky.  Someone with a large blogroll will tend to see the same promo a lot, whereas less obsessive blog readers might only come across it once.  From my standpoint, I want to reach as many people as I can, but I don’t want to piss them off in the process.

Ideally, when Mermaid comes out, I think the ENTIRE INTERNET should be talking about it.  Realistically, I’m working on ideas that would hopefully generate some buzz and links, but would also provide unique content as opposed to simply repeating the same graphic, interview, or link 100+ times.  Even so, there’s still an oversaturation risk, and I want to be aware of that.

What do you think?  What works, what doesn’t, and where is the line?

Mermaid’s Madness Auction to Benefit NCADV

Last year, I auctioned off an autographed Advance Review Copy of The Stepsister Scheme to raise money for National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  With ARCs in hand for The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], I’m doing the same thing.  The themes of the series in general and this book in particular make NCADV a perfect recipient for this fundraiser.

Rather than using eBay again (and letting them take a portion of the funds), I’m going to try hosting the auction on my own site.  Please post your bid in the comments at http://www.jimchines.com/2009/07/mermaid-auction/ no later than midnight EST on July 23. 

The rules:

  1. Starting bid is $5.
  2. Bids need to be in at least $1 increments (though you’re welcome to go higher).  No penny ante $5.01 bidding wars, please.
  3. Make sure you include a valid e-mail address (which won’t be published).
  4. Bids must be placed at the jimchines.com address.  Bids at LJ, Facebook, Dreamwidth, or anywhere else the blog is syndicated won’t count, ’cause that gets way too confusing.
  5. I’ll mail the ARC to the winner within 2 business days of receiving payment.

I’ll mail the winner an autographed ARC of the book.  If bidding exceeds $100, I’ll throw in an autographed copy of another of my books (your choice) to go with it.

If you don’t want to bid but still feel like donating, the NCADV donations page is at http://www.ncadv.org/donate.php

Please feel free to spread the word, either by copying and pasting the code below, or simply mentioning the auction on your blog.  Thanks in advance, everyone!

Vacation Wrapup

My wife laughs at me for ripping open all of the mail the instant we get home from vacation.  Sure, some people might want to get some sleep at midnight after a seven-hour drive.  I am not those people.  I mean, come on!  After a week and a half away, the pile o’ mail included:

We also came home to find the new playset assembled in the backyard.  The deductible will sting a bit, but the insurance company covered most (not all, sigh) of the damage from the storm, including sending contractors to set the thing up.  I spent Sunday mowing the jungle while the kids explored the new playset.

Vacation itself was very nice, as you can see.  I got about 20,000 more words done on the Red Hood rewrite, as well as finishing the page proofs for Mermaid, but I also had time to relax with the family.  There were parades, swimming in Lake Superior, a few small fireworks, various kid’s day events, strawberry picking, late night cribbage, a little reading … and yes, I did squeeze a quick booksigning event in at the end.  Still, I might be starting to get the hang of this whole vacation concept.

Tune in soon for a chance to get your very own Mermaid ARC 🙂

On Turning a Blind Eye

Before I left on vacation, I was planning to do a post about the sexist aspects of Transformers 2.  I enjoyed the movie, but it has some seriously problematic aspects, from our opening shot of Megan Fox on the motorcycle to the Decepticon pantybot* to the Infinite Dorm of Gorgeous Girls.

But as I was reading other reviews and commentary, I kept coming across the same reactions.  “It’s just a summer action flick.  What did you expect from a Michael Bay movie?  Stop analyzing and just have fun!  Why do you have to suck the fun out of everything with this P.C. garbage?”

I find it interesting which stories people believe are worthy of literary analysis and critique.  The attitude seems to be that critical analysis is best left for dusty old tomes in the ivory tower.  Joyce, Melville, Shakespeare, and so on.  If we’re going to think about movies, we’re supposed to limit it to the highbrow art-house films.

Maybe I’m crazy, but that seems backwards to me.  How many people actually read Joyce these days?  Compare that to the number of people who went out to see Transformers.  So wait, we’re saying discussions of racism, sexism, and so on are fine, so long as they’re not about the stories most people are actually reading or watching.

I don’t write deep literary fiction.  My books have flaming spiders and nose-picking injuries and Sleeping Beauty & the Little Mermaid kicking the crap out of each other.  Because my stories are “bubblegum fiction,” as one reviewer described them, does this mean I should be given a free pass on issues of race, sex, and so on?  Because I find that a little insulting, to be honest.  When I screw up–and we all do sometimes–I expect to be called on it.

I understand these discussions can be uncomfortable, especially if we’ve enjoyed the story in question.  I’m still struggling with major dissonance over Transformers.  I have serious problems with the stereotypes and clichés in this thing.  I also had a lot of fun watching it.  What does it say about me if I enjoyed a movie while at the same time finding it problematic on so many levels?

Personally, I believe it’s important to examine and challenge popular culture, whether that’s movies, TV, books, music, or whatever**.  It’s important because it’s popular.  Because racism and sexism have survived and thrived in large part because we make excuses and turn a blind eye.

—–
*Decepticons can create perfect human doubles, and the best plan they can come up with is to send her to hop into bed with Sam?

**I say this as a man who wrote about Darth Vader in my Master’s thesis.

Vacation and LOLPrime

Tomorrow morning we head off on vacation.  I’ll be away from cellphone signals, wireless … not even reliable land lines to dial out and connect.

I’m sure I’ll be sneaking out with the laptop to hunt the Wild Wireless Signal of Northern Michigan from time to time, but there will be little blogging for the next week and a half, and if you e-mail me, don’t expect an instant response.

In the meantime, negative reviews or other complaints should be directed to my friend Optimus.

Bookscan

Busy day, so this is gonna be quick.

Agent Andrew Zack blogged the other day about Bookscan, a service to track and report book sales: The Lie that is Bookscan.

My own agent, Joshua Bilmes, has posted his own thoughts, disagreeing with Zack’s assessment: A Bookscanner Darkly

Personally, I tend to agree with Joshua, and not just because he sells my books.  As far as I know, most writers, publishers, and agents know perfectly well that Bookscan represents a percentage of total sales, and that percentage could be anywhere from 70-80% for one author but under 50% for another. Bookscan seems to capture a lower fraction of mine, since I do better with independents.

I don’t think Bookscan ever claimed to report ALL sales. It’s more data than anything else I’ve seen, save from the publisher itself, but it’s definitely not 100% of my sales.

A publisher using Bookscan as the sole criterion for rejecting an author (as described in Zack’s post) is troubling, but I see that as a problem with the publisher, not with Bookscan.

(I do still track and graph my Bookscan numbers every week to fulfil my neurotic validation needs, of course. They don’t tell me actual sales, but they do help me see trends.)

Day in the Life

I talk about wanting to quit the day job some day and write full time.  Every once in a while I get a weekend with nothing planned, and I get to see what that might look like.  It ain’t pretty, folks.

Done so far:

  1. Wake up to a little boy crawling into the bed with us.
  2. Take care of dogs and cats.
  3. Quick home repair job, thanks to dog’s chewing habit.  Grumble.
  4. Front lawn mowed.  Back lawn procrastinated until tomorrow.
  5. Lunch for kids.  Lunchtime already?  Dang.
  6. Finally, some actual writing!  3000 more words on the final (for now) rewrite of Red Hood’s Revenge.
  7. Dinner break, courtesy of my wonderful wife — thanks, babe!
  8. Short story feedback for the writer who won my critique in the Brenda Novak diabetes auction.
  9. Start working on an interview with a tight deadline.
  10. Break to watch old Transformers episode while doing the 4-year-old’s nebulizer.

Still to come tonight:

  1. Page proofs for The Mermaid’s Madness.
  2. More work on the interview, hopefully.
  3. Read through notes on Red Hood to figure out the next chapter so I can do it all again tomorrow 🙂

Can someone please explain how 8:45 pm snuck up on me like that?  Seriously, what just happened?  Where did Saturday sneak off to?

On the bright side, I’ve got 12,000 words on Red Hood after four days.  If I keep up this pace, I should have no problem making my deadline.  On the down side, this is not my natural pace.  if I keep it up for a month, I’m likely to go a little nuts.  But I want to get a head start before we head up north on vacation.  I’ll be taking the laptop, but I doubt I’ll be doing 3000 words a day while we’re there.

SF Novelists & Electronic Goblins

Today is my day at SF Novelists, where I wax not-so-eloquently on what makes a story. I also offer another free book, ’cause I like giving away books 🙂

http://www.sfnovelists.com/2009/06/24/whats-a-story/

Oh, and before I forget, it looks like Goblin Quest is going to be released in Kindle and other e-book formats on July 7.  I’m excited, since this means the entire goblin trilogy will finally be available in electronic format.

Finally, I’m told I should be getting page proofs for The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] very soon now.  Between this and the rewrite on Red Hood, blogging and e-mail might be a little light for the next few weeks.

Series vs. Standalones

Why are all the SF/F writers doing series these days?  What ever happened to the good old standalone novel?

I can’t give you a thorough answer on that one, but part of it is simple economics.  Let’s start by comparing Goblin Quest and Stepsister Scheme, and please forgive me for geeking out with math and graphs.  Nothing here is all that complex or life-changing, but I tend to obsess a bit.

More

Rape Posts & Resources

I’m angry with myself.

Years back, I posted a page on my site with articles I had written about rape, as well as a link to a resources page I put together for a local crisis center.  (The crisis center hasn’t updated the page in several years, unfortunately, so those resources are now out of date.)

Anyway, this was right about when my career as a writer started to take off.  I revamped the web page to be more businesslike and focused on my writing.  I left the resource page posted, but it was no longer linked from the main page.  Looking back, I think I was getting all caught up in being a “professional.”  I was worried that including rape resources would take away from my image.

Looking back, I want to smack myself.  It’s the same sort of thing I’ve vented about: men not speaking out because it’s easier that way.  Because we’re afraid of what people will think.  Afraid of alienating potential readers, maybe.  I don’t know.  All I know is that in this particular instance, I chose silence, and I’m disappointed in myself for that choice.

I’ve updated the rape page on the new site, and I’ve put the link back in the menu bar.  I’m working on adding more links and resources.  (I’m open to suggestions if you have any.)

So, yeah.  Disappointed and angry with myself.  And grateful to the reader who indirectly kicked me in the pants to do better.  Thank you — you know who you are.

Jim C. Hines