Sunday, May 31, 2009

Apropos of Nothing

It's not entirely literal, but snarkiness trumps consistency any day:

Total Eclipse of the Heart: Literal Video Version

ADDENDUM: The earlier--and, arguably, much superior--"Take On Me" Literal Video:


Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Vampire Robot"

I know what you're thinking: Why would anyone build a vampire robot?

Read "Vampire Robot" at 512 Words or Fewer


Friday, May 22, 2009

More on Self-Publishing

I'm sure many people will miss the crucial bits in today's Washington Times article on self-publishing (featuring outlier Wil Wheaton), so I'll highlight them here. My emphasis below:

Melinda Roberts ... admits it's been tough going: "When I sell a book, I can buy a Big Mac, and that's about it. My last quarterly check, which is sitting on my desk waiting to be deposited, was $24."

Translation: Don't quit your day job. All writers get this advice, and self-published writers are no different.

Mr. Wheaton argues, "There's a sharp distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing." He encourages writers who are serious about their work to self-publish — if they're certain they've written a good book... "If you're serious, hire an editor. And pay for it. Listen to the editor. If you think your story about magic ponies is really awesome but nobody wants to buy it, there's probably a reason for it."

Translation: Get a second opinion (or even a first) before proclaiming your genius from the rooftops. You could avoid a lot of embarrassment.

Hope this helps!


Friday Flash Fiction: "Creation Blues"

This is not my best work, but bad is better than unfinished. Yeah. I'm going to keep telling myself that.

Read "Creation Blues" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Observation

John Scalzi is the only person I know who regularly and unironically uses words like "ginchy" and "cromulent" in casual conversation.

That is all.


Monday, May 18, 2009


In the same vein as today's "Writer's Block" prompt on LiveJournal ("Same Name"), here are a few other people and things with similiar names...

Ken Levine: There's the TV comedy writer and the video game designer. I met the former at last year's Sitcom Room, and heard the latter give the keynote speech at last year's PAX. They're both quite accomplished in their respective fields.

Chocolat/Chocolate: One is the Academy Award-nominated 2000 film directed by Lasse Halström and starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The other is a 2008 Thai action movie featuring "[a]n autistic woman with powerful martial art skills" (IMDb). Don't get them confused when you're at the video store.

John Sheppard/Jack Shephard: John is the officer in charge of military operations on Stargate Atlantis. Jack is the Doctor who makes bad decisions on Lost. And there are, apparently, way too many Jesus freaks naming TV characters these days.


Star Trek in 11 Minutes

As previously mentioned, I did enjoy the new movie, but there are plot holes aplenty. And, like Scalzi said, would it have killed them to get some basic science right?

Spoilers abound in Samuel Bierwagen's Bad Transcript: Star Trek (2009). Enjoy.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

My New Computer Redux

Just in case you were unclear on how much of a huge geek I am, here's what the back of my new iPhone now looks like:

(Decorations from Star Trek Sticker Book; ClearShield from



On Thursday and Friday, I was an extra (background performer) for episode 204 of Leverage, which is shooting their second season in Portland.* Since there's a lot of waiting around during each day, I thought it would be fun to Twitter a few interesting, spoiler-free remarks about my experience.

That worked out pretty well, and tonight I decided to reformat and post those tweets in a more permanent location and a more readable format. I discovered that no single application exists to do what I want, which is to export a specific subset of my status messages and conversations. (C'mon, Interwebs, this is the one time you don't anticipate my needs? We need to talk.)

Twitter's search interface only exports to a noisy XML feed, and what I really wanted was a simple, denormalized CSV data file which I could slice and dice manually. I found three web apps that claim to do this:
  1. TweetDumpr only exports status messages (without timestamps) to a flat text file.
  2. Twickie offers several formatting options, but the "Get CSV" link doesn't work.
  3. Tweetake is the one that actually worked, but it didn't provide many filtering options.
Of course, Twitter's own filtering abilities are pretty limited. What I really wanted was a custom timeline including all tweets which:
  • were posted by me and
  • were posted within a specific time window and
  • include the hashtag #Leverage and
  • include one of the hashtags #extra or #extras; or
  • are part of a conversation (replies, retweets, etc.) linked to any tweets matching the above criteria.
I guess I'll be digging into the Twitter API later.

For now, you can see the crappy Excel HTML dump of my tweets from two days of being a #Leverage 204 #extra. Note that all times are GMT; subtract seven hours to get local time in PDX.

And yes, I still refuse to use the unreadable abomination that is LoudTwitter.


* You can be an extra too! Here's how.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "I Can See for Miles"

This week's story is not about remote viewing. Not really. It's what we writers call a "plot device." My first draft was almost exactly 1,024 words, and I considered simply splitting it into a two-parter, but there wasn't a natural break, and I didn't want to venture into serial territory just yet.

Read "I Can See for Miles" at 512 Words or Fewer


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

J.J. Abrams' Awesome Trek Fanfic!

That's my one-line review of the new Star Trek movie.

D and I saw it yesterday, and we both enjoyed it, but I have to be honest here: regardless of its provenance, the story still felt more like fan fiction than actual canon--Trek-flavored, if you will; much better than Enterprise, but still not the real thing.

Before I dive in, a couple of non-spoilery remarks:
  • As the end titles started rolling, I thought: "John Cho gets top billing? Represent, brother!" Then I realized the principal cast were listed in alphabetical order (Ben Cross being the second name was a big hint). Oh well. At least Cho's starring in another Harold & Kumar flick next year.
  • The score started out perfectly, with a lone French horn, but the overall tone of the theme music was a bit too martial for me. Which leads nicely into my next point...
One of my earliest memories is of standing up in my crib and watching television. The three shows I remember most clearly are Space: 1999, Star Trek, and Bewitched. (I can just imagine some of you nodding and muttering, "That explains a lot.") For me, the thing that always distinguished Star Trek from other shows was its stated mission:
To explore strange new worlds;
To seek out new life and new civilizations;
To boldly go where no one has gone before.

At its core, Trek was all about exploration and discovery. The best stories they ever told, IMHO, involved the crew learning something new, either about the universe or about themselves (ideally both), figuring out how something worked, and--if it was broken--fixing it. It often also pitted personal principles against rules and regulations (e.g., Kirk vs. Prime Directive), and above all, it emphasized that science works. It wasn't always the right answer, and sometimes it was even the cause of the problem, but there was no question that science and research were the key to a greater understanding of our universe and ourselves.


The new movie gets the characters right, even while tweaking them a little. I agree with screenwriter John Rogers that "[a]lmost every choice was the best possible choice" in that regard. You should go read his excellent analysis of "how what will be the most successful movie of the summer kicks conventional screenwriting 'rules' in the junk." You could also read film critic Anthony Lane's thoughtful review of the new Trek's "recklessly rolling plot... [which] powers along, unheeding of its own absurdity, with drive and confidence," even if he is a bit of a downer.

I have issues with the new Trek's wacky pseudo-science (yes, even wackier than the usual technobabble), multiple deus ex machinas and MacGuffins, and nonsensical villain motivation (hello, Evil Overlord); but, as D said, whenever the story stopped making sense, the filmmakers just threw in a big action scene to distract us. That's one advantage movies have over books, at least in the hand-waving department. They can always flash something shiny--or naked, or explodey--to distract you from a weak story. It's a problem when spectacle overwhelms storytelling (insert Michael Bay joke here), but Abrams understands and respects that balance.

As a longtime fan, I'm still ambivalent about the massive continuity changes wrought by this reboot. The alternate reality angle, even more than the Spock/Uhura 'shipping, makes this seem like fanfic; and though I understand why Abrams and company chose to destroy Israel Vulcan and kill Amanda, it feels to me like The Powers That Be just gave up on trying to deal with that culture. I'm glad they recognized that Spock is an integral part of Trek--you could argue that this is really his movie, not Kirk's--but I think his story was already interesting enough, and obliterating his homeworld just seems mean-spirited.

At this point, a sequel seems inevitable, and maybe the Vulcan diaspora is part of the plan for rewriting the Trek universe: to shift the fundamental balance of power in the galaxy away from Vulcan, which was previously depicted as a highly advanced civilization and one of the governing races in the Federation, and toward Earth. I noticed that while several alien Starfleet officers got screen time in the new movie, very few of them actually had speaking lines: Kirk's obligatory green-skinned honey was little more than a prop, and Scotty's little Ewok friend doesn't actually do anything useful. Um, xenophobic much? Let's not do that, guys.

To end on an "up" note: I did enjoy all the little in-jokes and callbacks to previous Trek incarnations, especially the sound effects and the return of the 47s. It's a sign that the writers were paying attention to at least some of the details, and it gives me hope that this new Trek will respect the history of the franchise while putting an interesting and different spin on it.

(ADDENDUM: My Facebook friends inform me that Abrams previously and independently did the 47 thing in Alias. Guess Paramount picked the right man for this job, then.)


Monday, May 11, 2009

My New Computer

I know what you're thinking. But despite the fact that it's called an "iPhone 3G," the telephone is the least useful part of this device for me.

Consider: In the five days I've had this thing, I've spent all of 16 minutes on phone calls, but sent and received almost 25MB of data over the cellular network. That doesn't even include all the surfing I've done over WiFi, both at home and in various cafes and restaurants. If you figure the voice calls at 28.8kbps, 16 minutes would amount to barely 3.4MB, or less than 12% of my cell net bandwidth usage.

I've retired my Sony CLIE, the last PalmPilot I'll ever own, because the iPhone does everything it should have done--especially syncing over the air with my calendar and address book, and running a real, full-featured web browser, not some lobotomized "mobile" version. I've upgraded to the iPhone version of Secret!, the single most useful application I've ever had, and already downloaded a whole slew of free apps, including Twitterrific, Shazam, and Lightsaber. You know, the essentials.

I'll be even happier after this summer's 3.0 update, which promises to add a voice recorder, proper Bluetooth support, and (gasp!) cut and paste. The iPhone's not perfect--the $18 "upgrade fee" for current customers was a bit of an insult, as is the fact that AT&T will still gouge charge me for individual text messages*--but it's pretty damn good for an early-21st-century handheld computer. Now where's my flying car?


* Easily avoided using any number of free SMS apps, but still, WTF?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reasons to Buy a Blu-ray Player

The way I see it, there are only three right now:
  1. Pushing Daisies, Season 1
  2. Pushing Daisies, Season 2
  3. LittleBigPlanet (NSFW)
Because, let's face it, if you're going to spend $400 on a DVD player, you might as well get one that can play some games, too.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Science Fiction Writers Take Note

From io9's Top Ten Rules of Space Opera:

9. There should be a captain. If there is not a captain, there should be a special agent. If there is not a special agent, there should be a cadet with a future. If there is no cadet with a future, there should be a mercenary with a dark past.
If there is no mercenary with a dark past, there should be a wisecracking stowaway. If there is no wisecracking stowaway, there should be a witch. If there is no witch, there should be a scientist. If there is no scientist, just remake Spaceballs.

-- Annalee Newitz

Has there been a really great science fiction satire recently? And no, crap like Superhero Movie does not count.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Streaming Consciousness

Free writing results from this morning's Writing Group session at BarCampPortland:


Things--physical objects--give a sense of place, but they're not the only thing. The sound of traffic outside might tell you you're in a city. The smell of grass and flowers might indicate the countryside.

I once heard a lecture by a computer science professor who had developed software to tell, from the shadows visible in a photograph taken outdoors, exactly where on the planet and at what time of day that picture was taken. But the computer only does analysis. It has no memory of that place. It doesn't know who took that photo, why the woman on the left looks a little sad, whether this was the end of the party or just the beginning.

One of my high school teachers told me that you can frame a photograph when you're taking it--choose where the edges are, where the image ends--and leave out certain things. He thought that a written account was a better memento, because you can include as much as you want. I think it's also better because it's an active recalling of the event.


The Fourth of July! Celebration! Parades, flags, music, marches, people everywhere. Fireworks show audiences are always crowded. Not just because the pyrotechnic materials themselves are closely regulated, but because it takes skill and expertise to deploy them. Any kid with a sparkler can shoot off some sparks, but it takes real, professional telant to put on a show.

Where does one go to learn the fireworks trade? Are there vocational schools? Correspondence sources? (Probably not.) The biggest fireworks manufacturer in America is a family business, and has been for decades. They have trade secrets--even their powder mixture and construction techniques are proprietary. It would be a tragedy if all that knowledge was lost one day because they held on to it too tightly.

On the other hand, "open source" firewords probably wouldn't work, either. These are high explosives. You can't experiment with them the same way you can tinker with computer code--crashing a web server is not as bad as blowing off a finger, or an arm. We need to build on the knowledge of others, a tleast for the fundamentals. The artistry comes after the craft.


Rain is not always cold. People complain about the weather here in Portland, joke about the rainy season being "January 1st through December 31st," but I've seen days where it's sunny and rainy at the same time. Okay, so it also hails in April, and last December was the snowiest for something like 40 years, but I like the variety.

What I don't like--and my wife hates--is driving in the snow. We drove down to California, the bay area, back in February, and putting on chains to go through Grants Pass was terrifying for her. She's lived all over the US, including Minneapolis, where it got so cold that the ground was literally frozen when her brother had to go outside and bury a knife (that's another story), but she's never had to put on tire chains before.

When she lived in Chicago, they didn't allow chains because they would tear up the road--everyone had snow tires or 4-wheel drive instead. Also, they plowed the streets regularly. Last December, Vancouver, Washington, was totally buried for days because the city didn't have enough snowplows or drivers to clear the streets. We were very glad that we only lived half a mile from the grocery store, because it was kind of fun to trudge through the snow and go shopping. But only once.


Friday, May 01, 2009

April Readings

So, what did I learn about myself this month? I tend to take breaks from reading when I'm busy (shocking, yeah?) and that the days when I finish more than one book tend to be the days when I've got a migraine that's just bad enough to make me want to lie around with earplugs in, but not so bad that I can't think at all.

Also? If I intersperse my novels with graphics, I get to look like a fast reader.

Here are the books I read in April:
  1. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link (4/3): This is a YA story anthology. I don't know how Kelly Link manages it. Somehow, her stories manage to be both deeply weird and satisfyingly consistent at the same time. I enjoyed every story in the book, but found The Constable of Abal the most satisfying. I read it, took a deep breath, and flipped back to the beginning to read it all over again.
  2. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner (4/6): This is a YA fantasy. It is also one of those books with a beginning that has its own undertow. I was sucked right in. After reading the prologue, I HAD to read this book. It was good story. I enjoyed reading it. But after I finished, I was... unsatisfied. So I went back and read the prologue again. The story I got was a good one, but it was not the story that prologue told me I was going to get.
  3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (4/6): This is another YA fantasy. It's setting is a world many years after the Zombie apocalypse. The people live their lives in a village, surrounded by a fence, surrounded by a forest full of zombies. It's an absorbing world, and I enjoyed reading about the people trying to live in it. I found it interesting that, given the tense and scary situation, I was never all that afraid. The author did an excellent job of distancing the reader from the true horror of the situation.
  4. The Female Brain by Louanne Brizendine(4/11): This is a nonfiction book by a neurobiologist. It provides a lot of interesting information about how our hormones affect our brains. It felt very one-sided, not so much because the premise was that men and women end up with differently structured brains, but because the relentlessly pushes toward the idea that women's brains are somehow structured better than men's brains. While I was reading, I kept wondering why so few of the facts were backed up with data. When I got to the end, I found the list of references. Each one was matched to a chapter and a portion of a sentence. So I could go back and find out where a fact came from. Without a computerized search function, however, finding a specific references certainly wasn't easy.
  5. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (4/13): This is YA urban fantasy, and also Happily Ever After for the Twilight series. It's a big book, broken into three sections, told by Bella, Jake, and then Bella again. The Jake section is the one where Bella suffers a lot of physical torments that ultimately end up with her getting everything she wanted. If the story wrapped here, we wouldn't have perfect happiness for anyone, and the characters's lives would have some uncertainty. But this happiness was earned, and earned well. But then, we get another section--hundreds of pages long--that brings in some fine world-building and politics, as well as a whole lot of wish-fulfillment. There's a big, dramatic showdown, which ends in a stalemate. And that is where the book ends. Bella feels like she's gotten her happily ever after, but I wonder how long it can possibly last. Long-lived bad guys aren't likely to away and stay away.
  6. River of Heaven by Lee Martin (4/16): This is literary fiction. The main character of River of Heaven lives a small, lonely life, full of regret. Something terrible happened when he was a boy. My previous experience with Lee Martin was his novel The Bright Forever. It's an amazing book. I keep giving away my copy. Other people really need to read this book. This month, it finally occurred to me to get something else the author had written. I enjoyed this book, but more than anything else, it made me want to read the Bright Forever again.
  7. House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham (4/17): This a graphic novel story anthology. The framing device is that some people come into a house and can't leave it. Others come and tell their stories. Hungry Sally's story is utterly horrifying. I was so creeped out, I had trouble falling asleep after I read it. I even have nightmares about it. Weeks later, it still gives me chills.
  8. Finder: King of Cats by Carla Speed McNeil (4/18): Finder is an indie graphic novel, published by Lightspeed Press. I'm reading the stories all out of order, and I love them. I love the way the world feels so big and inexplicable. I love the page notes at the end of each book. I love the art. Mostly, I love the way the stories feel so much bigger than the little bit I actually get to read in the book. I want them all, but the Lightspeed press website gave me a page load error. Sigh.
  9. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard (4/22): This is a memoir, of sorts. Here's the premise: the author went to a random city with $25 and a sleeping bag. He wanted to see if he could work his way out of homelessness within a year, and have a job, a working vehicle, and $2500 in the bank. Presumably, the idea is that if he could work his way out of dire straights, other people can follow in his footsteps. It's an interesting read. The part that I found most interesting about the book, however, was something that the author very rarely discusses. Wherever he was, he became the people around him. When he was homeless, he became a homeless guy, unwilling to use a washing machine, and unworried about his stink. When he upgraded to mover with a housemate, it became okay to tolerate his housemate stealing his stuff, and, ultimately, battering him into a bloody pulp on the floor of the home they shared. But then, maybe that was his point. He was willing to put up with anything, no matter how crazy or dangerous, if it got him closer to his goal. So, yeah, I think a person could follow in his footsteps. I'm just not sure why someone would want to.
  10. Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki (4/23): This is a graphic novel. I found a list of Eisner nominees, and have been working my way through the interesting-sounding ones. Skim is definitely interesting, engaging, and... ultimately unsatisfying for me. As seems to be my usual, I felt like too much story was crammed into too few pages. But I've finally figured out why so many one-shot graphic novels leave me flat: there's a novel's worth of material crammed into what is, essentially, a few chapters worth of space.
  11. Finder: Mystery Date by Carla Speed McNeil (4/24): This is an indie graphic novel. After I finished this, I wanted the rest of the series, right now. But I'm lazy. is still giving me page load errors. The cache just says "it's working," which is not very helpful. And Amazon doesn't have the books. I guess I may have to give in and create an Ebay account after all. Sigh.
  12. Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (4/24): This graphic novel is more than 20 years old. This is one of Neil Gaiman's dreamlike tales where the narrator tells us his story -- which part of other stories--and we have to fill in all the rest for ourselves. Dave McKean's creepy art brings it to life. Good, good stuff.
  13. The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold (4/25): This is a fantasy novel, the fourth in the series. By book four, the story is less about the main characters romance an more about making a place for their family to call home. We get plenty of drama and conflict, and a good, satisfying, well-earned, happy ending. It's a very satisfying conclusion to the series.
  14. Powers by Ursula K. LeGuin (4/26): This is a YA fantasy, the third in a series of novel that all take place in the same world. Like the other two books, this one stands alone just fine. In this book, a slave boy wanders through life until he finds his place in the world. It was a dreamy sort of narrative, interspersed with contrasting bits of dialogue and action. Huge, momentous, things happened--murder, mercy, betrayal in a variety of permutations--but they all flowed smoothly through the story. Fair warning: the dreamy tone may have come less from the book itself and more from the migraine I had the night I read it. That said, it was a deeply satisfying story with plenty of interesting themes.
  15. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn (4/26): This is an urban fantasy, which may or may not be shelved with paranormal romance. This second book in the Kitty series was perfect reading for a day with a migraine. In this outing, our werewolf DJ protagonist is summoned to speak at a Congressional hearing in our nation's capitol. She meets others of her kind, stumbles across evil plots by some baddies, and defeats them all, and even hooks up with a tasty Brazilian guy. Reading the story was like taking a tiny vacation: escapist fun.
  16. Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell (4/26): This is a science fiction novel, stuffed with amazing, interesting elements. A few of the elements in this book: aliens, cities floating in the sky, a democracy where everyone votes on every governmental action, zombies, the borg (more or less), and a plot to destroy worlds. It's fascinating stuff. And then I just couldn't find my way into the story. The writing is good, the words looked good on the page, but fall into the story and have it come to life for me. I'm afraid Tobias Buckell may be like Kim Stanley Robinson for me: a great writer, with a well-deserved following, but not to my taste. I'm going to have to try another book, however, before I give up. I mean, look at those ideas!
  17. Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (4/27): This is the first graphic novel I've ever read where I was upset because it was a graphic novel. I got the first four chapters of a deeply creepy horror novel. Too short! Too short! I want more.
  18. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (4/27): This is another piece of literary fiction, which makes two in one month. It may be some kind of record for me. My April theme seems to be finding a place in the world. In this case, we have a young girl named Lily who flees her home at the rocky beginning of desegregation. There's a dusty-sweet, but very well-realized sense of time and place here. The plot is almost too neat, but I really liked the way that each character is her own person, who behaves in ways that make sense for her. I especially liked it that Lily just didn't understand a lot of the things she witnessed. It's another in a long list of books that I'm glad I read.
  19. Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell (4/27): This is a graphic novel. And it took me for a ride. Even after reading most of it twice, I just couldn't figure out what was real and what wasn't. But then, I guess that was the point.

Friday Flash Fiction: "First of May"

That is today's date, isn't it?

Read "First of May" at 512 Words or Fewer


The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 5 (The Last): Flash in the WAN

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

It's no secret that I am a writer, and I aspire to be a professional. Since last October, I've been posting a new piece of flash fiction every Friday to 512 Words or Fewer and recording an audio version to podcast.

But wait! Why, you may ask, am I "self-publishing" these stories, when I've just spent the last four days railing against self-publishing? Why am I not submitting them to actual, paying markets so I can start collecting professional credits?

I'm doing 512 Words for three main reasons: practice, pressure, and publicity. Practice, because I'm still working through my million words of crap; pressure, because at least two people will notice and get on my case if I don't meet my deadline every week; and, of course, it's a publicity stunt to get my name out there (a story a week! kinda like Jay Lake! but not really).

Listen, I have no illusions about my "reach" (as marketers would call it). My blogs are essentially newsletters for my family and friends, because nobody else cares what I have to say. I do have longer stories making the rounds at several professional markets (I'm expecting that rejection from The New Yorker any year now), but if short fiction is to writers as the club scene is to independent musicians, flash fiction is my version of busking on a street corner. It gets me out there and doing something, and it keeps me writing. It's just part of the journey.

I also believe, as Tim O'Reilly famously said, that obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy. I support the Creative Commons (CC) movement to share cultural works freely (both as in speech and as in beer). I believe more artists should follow the fine example of forward-thinking people like Cory Doctorow and Jonathan Coulton, who release all their work under CC licenses for others to share. Let fans be fans, and they will show you love and support in ways you could never have imagined--or, sometimes, ever wanted to, but that's another story. So this is me, putting my money where my mouth is.

Even if you're a writer who would rather distribute your writings the old-fashioned way--encased in physical objects called "books"--the Internet gives you tons of opportunities to interact with your fans and keep them engaged. You may have heard of Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood, whose novels are published by Crown Publishing (a Random House imprint). Both of these guys do a ton of online self-promotion, including putting free content on and selling some crazy merchandise. Clearly you don't have to be as gung ho as these two to succeed as an author, but it certainly couldn't hurt:

Now, some people think it's fun to do all that self-promotion. But that's not writing. More to the point, if you can make others believe in your work, they will help you do all the things you're not so good at. When I get my first book contract, I don't want to comb through all the legalese myself--that's when I'll want an agent. When the book goes to press, I won't want to deal with typesetting and other production issues personally--that's why I'll want an editor and a publisher. And so on. I am willing to relinquish some control for the benefit of having a good team on my side, and I want them to be in it for the duration.

The American dream these days seems to be the get-rich-quick scheme. Every singer wants to be Gloria Gaynor, who built a career out of a single song ("I Will Survive") and is still raking in the royalties. A lot of unpublished writers seem to think they'll be able to write a single Great American NovelTM which rockets to the top of the bestseller lists and then immediately retire, having secured fame and fortune everlasting.

But no publisher or promoter wants a one-hit wonder. Forget about the lottery-jackpot aspect of this pipe dream; if a reader enjoys one book, she's going to look for more books written by the same person. Publishers want to help dedicated writers build careers as authors. I want to tell lots of good stories, and I want each one to be better than the last. I want my life to be something more than long.

Like the man said, always end on a song: