Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Legacy of an Imperial Presidency

One of the most fundamental aspects of our democracy is the balance of power between the three branches of government. It was designed to ensure that no one branch became more powerful than the others. The framers of the Constitution knew well how the use of arbitrary power could harm a nation. Unfortunately, the current occupant of the White House is not a student of American history.

To get a sense of where "The Decider" comes from, the following quote pretty much sums it up. Mr. Bush, in Bush at War, states, "I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Mr. Bush (and the majority of his minions) have forgotten who actually "owns" this country. We are the shareholders. We're the ones funding this "company". When the CEO isn't doing what we want, he should go. If the Board of Directors ignores our pleas, they should go as well.

The White House has consistently taken an end run around Congress, often with their tacit blessing. They have made a mockery of our judicial system and played politics where law says they should not. They have eroded our civil liberties in the name of security. It is as if the rules do not apply.

I know Nancy Pelosi has said she does not want to take up the matter of impeachment. I strongly disagree. Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Gonzales have damaged our democracy and I, for one, do not want that to stand. It sets a very dangerous precedent.

Would I take this same stand if the parties involved were Democrats? Yes. Partisan politics is not the issue, though those in Washington would love to have you believe that. The issue is the need for the citizenry to show those who hold office they do so at our good will and they'd best remember that. Impeaching Cheney, Bush & Gonzales will indicate to the rest of them that we will NOT allow anyone to hijack our country just because they think they own it.

It's time to send a message to the folks in Washington. Help us rebuild this nation and we're with you. Hare off on some delusional agenda and ignore the Constitution, we'll hold you accountable.
We're the deciders, not you. Until they understand that, our democracy is risk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Let There Be Questions (Part II)

More questions from the Entertainment Marketing Class at Kennesaw State University --

Antonio O. asks, "Your biography mentioned that you do not wish to become overly popular in order to avoid public gossip and ridicule. Would you say that you have successfully reached most of the audience through your literature you intended?"

Remind me to reread my biography. It obviously needs some tweaking. I'm coming across all wrong. I would prefer not to hit the same level of fame/fortune as Ms. Rowling (and others) because your life ceases to be your own. At present, if I schlep out to the grocery store looking like the Bride of Godzilla nobody cares (except the poor checkout person who has probably seen worse). Once you reach a certain level of fame, you acquire folks who will want your photo to sell for LOTS of money. How much? $100K and way higher. Some of Kate Middleton's (Prince Wm's ex-girlfriend) were going for $250K. That's ridiculous. It's a bleedin' photo, folks. No wonder the woman is being stalked (literally) by the paparazzi.

Unfortunately, with the fame and $ comes the downside -- no privacy. Authors are less likely to be targeted than people who date the future King of England, but still that "moat" is breached. I like being a private person and so I'd much rather have a successful career, but not one that puts me in the Rowling stratosphere. She carries an immense weight on her shoulders because of the popularity of the kid named Harry. I'm happy to watch from the sidelines.

As for the ridicule or public gossip part, I'm not much worried about that. As long as my conscience is clear, I'm good to go. As to the actual question Antonio poses, I'm still reaching that reading audience book by book. It's a long slog until you reach critical mass. But just like a nuclear reactor, you don't want too many rods out at once.

Sarah B. -- "Where would you like to see the Time Rovers series go from here? How many novels to you see as part of the series?"

Well, if I ignore what I just said in the paragraphs above, it would be great if the Time Rovers series was made into movies, on TV, as little pocket watches in Happy Meals, etc. In all honesty, I would settle for solid books sales but I wouldn't bitch too much if they made a TV series out of Jacynda's exploits. It's not hurt Jim Butcher and his wizard Harry Dresden (great books, by the way). Much more than that is a bit over-the-top. I currently see about 5 or 6 books in the series. This is contrast to Mr. Butcher who says there are 20 and he already knows what is happening in them. Sigh... writers like that make me double the amount of single malt scotch in my glass. I only see a few books ahead which is an issue if you're trying to pull a big 3-book apocalyptic finale such as Jim is aiming for. So I just keep moving forward one at a time and hopefully I'll know when it's time to wrap things up so the books don't become STUPID.

Emily H posed a good question-- "You say that word count is not important when you are self-published, but is when you are writing for someone else. Why is this?"

I should have qualified that a bit. It is not as important when you're self-pubbed. If you want to go on for five hundred pages and can afford the printing bill, have at it. When you become traditionally published it is best to keep the books in the 80-125K word range. These fit better on the shelf. If your book is coming out as a mass market, then the 90-110K range is better as the booksellers can get three books in a rack that way. You get fatter books in mass market size (the paperbacks) when you get to be a big name author.

The key thing is that sometimes longer is not always better. I've read certain authors who could have trimmed two hundred pages easily, but their editor didn't take out the chainsaw. Pacing, as they call it, is everything. You want a page turner. That's not always easy to deliver.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Despite the "con crud" (as we call it on the convention circuit) that I managed to pick up at RavenCon, the news was good today. I love answering phone calls with this kind of information.

SOJOURN is a finalist for the National Readers' Choice Award (Oklahoma Romance Writers.) And I've heard that the book has been nominated for a Pluto Award, courtesy of the good folks at Yellow 30 Sci-Fi.

Hence the "WHEEE!!!!" in the title. It appears my book plays well across the genres. Makes this little author quite proud.

Monday, April 23, 2007

RavenCon Etal.

What a kick! I started my weekend in Richmond at Monacon High School doing a presentation to Miss McGrath's Humanities Class with Jean Marie Ward . We spoke about the use of history in science fiction and fantasy. It's not the most riveting subject, but we tried to bring it alive. On Friday we returned to part of a panel presentation with Tee Morris as moderator. I really liked talking to the kids. Authors, artists, etc., should do more of this. I went to high school with famous authors' kids and in the same city as the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. Even though our high school was actually affliated with the University of Iowa, none of them schlepped over to talk to us. Instead, we got lectures on drugs. Go figure.

Jean Marie and I roomed together. Other than a couple near misses in her automobile and my threats to do her in so I could steal her hardcover of the latest Harry Dresden novel (Jim Butcher, author) we did just fine. We both have a sardonic outlook on life and that plays well together.

RavenCon began that evening. I had heard about how organized this con was from last year's participants. There's organized and then there's ORGANIZED. Tony Ruggiero (Herr Program Director) walked the halls, notebook in hand, guiding guests to their panels and making sure everything was on the level. If there were problems at the con, I never saw them. The hotel staff treated us great. Sad to say, RavenCon has already outgrown the facility which is a mixed blessing. Not all hotels welcome SF&F conventions and can treat the fen shabbily. The DoubleTree did it right, much to their credit.

I had a Social Commentary Panel right off the bat with Author GOH Robert Sawyer, David Coe (who I hadn't seen in TWO years!), David Shelton and James Maxey. It went very well (she says, polishing her fingernails on her shirt). I was moderator and a bit nervous about this one--it's not an easy topic.

By the time we hit the 11 p.m. panel (OY!) we were a wee bit tipsy (okay, we were very tipsy) and it only got worse. Combine a liberal helping of single malt scotch with Tee Morris' Preferred Stock Rum and you have a very happy Jana. And a very happy Jean Marie... and a (you get the picture).

Saturday wasn't any less slow. I had the pleasure of signing next to John Wright. Actually, it was John signing and me watching, but that wasn't a hassle. I'd already heard scuttlebutt that John was "good people" and the rumors were true. He was great to talk to. Then this fellow walks up and asks me to sign this large (and gorgeous) print of my next book cover. And so I finally got to meet Christina Yoder (one of my cover artists) and her cool hubby Steve. My Plotting Workshop in the afternoon was to a full room. I made notes how to improve it the next time around. (Yes, that would involve PowerPoint -- groan.)

Throughout the weekend we talked politics, what's up with SFWA?, what's new in our lives and where our various careers are headed. It's always great to catch up with folks who share your passion for words and just kvetch.

By Sunday I was winding down. My final panel was on self pub, vanity presses and small presses. Rich White, CJ Henderson, Steve Cross and myself gave a good overview of what you can expect from all of the above.

After a strong appeal from David Coe, it appears I'm off to World Fantasy. Given the Compton Crook & ForeWord Awards hanging over my head (chuckle), it's time to make some more forward moves in the career. So I'll be off to Saratoga Springs, NY in November. For those of you who are geographically challenged, this is upstate NY. In November. This Georgia weenie is gonna freeze.

Off to find the Advil and the throat spray. A cold is settling in...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Let There Be Questions (Part 1)

I recently made another jaunt to fair Kennesaw State Universiry and spoke to this semester's Entertainment Marketing Class. I give them an overview of how a book is produced and also talked about my buddy Scott Sigler's remarkable marketing skills.

As usual, the students handed in questions so over the coming weeks I'll be answering some of those queries. I plead a heavy schedule right now, but I will get to them bit by bit.

So let's start with this one from Ben C:
"On your website there is obviously a bit of sarcasm toward Rowling -- what are your true sentiments about what she has done with the genre?

Oh dear, it might be time for me to reread my website. If my comments came across as sarcastic then they're not right. I am awe of Ms. Rowlings' accomplishments in the face of a less than enthusiastic initial response to her first book. The woman didn't give up. I can't say much about her writing talent as I've only read the first three books and will finish the series when the last one comes out. As much as I want to know Harry's journey, I'd like to see the writer's as well. What Rowling did was reintroduce kids to fantasy and for that I heartily thank her. Once you've pried a kid's mind open with a book, it won't easily slam shut. Also, I sincerely respect her charity work. That being said, I have no desire to have her fame or her wealth. For me, it would distract from the writing.

Ben also asks: Do you feel that being adopted made your mind wander to sci-fi and fiction than that of someone raised by birth parents?

Now that's an intriguing question. I don't think the adopted bit actually skewed me in that direction. Instead, I think I was wired toward the supernatural. As an only child, I amused myself by reading and dreaming up stories in my head. I read almost no science fiction and only a bit of fantasy as a child, yet I write in those genres. Jim Butcher(The Dresden Files) on the other hand, was spoonfed science fiction and fantasy by his sisters. We come to the craft of writing in different ways. I suspect the adopted part of my past plays into my books somehow, but I haven't spotted it yet.

More down the line -- stay tuned....

Good Cover Chi & The Work At Hand

First thing -- the cover for Virtual Evil (Time Rovers - Book 2). It rocks. Between L.W. (Lynn) Perkins' work on the image of Harter Defoe in a Victorian back alley (complete with rats!) and Christina Yoder's cover design artistry, I'm so spoiled. To see a larger version, go here.

So what's up? Every writer has their delusion that once they turn in their current manuscript life will settle down to a dull roar. We all know that is a lie, but we still like to wrap ourselves in it nonetheless.

At present I'm engaged in a beta reader-induced tweaking of Virtual Evil (beta readers are a godsend but sometimes you wish they were a little less astute). I've rewritten the first half of the book and am working on the back half. This is in conjunction with making the editorial changes requested by the Divine Ms. A (my editor) for the first 100 pages.

Then there's the short story I'm penning for Aberrant Dreams. I got myself into this one. I said "Sure, I'd love to try a short story." Oy! It took a while to get out "novel mode" and into short story thinking. Once that happened, things started to move. Actually, I'm hoping AD likes the story. It's not often you combine an imp, a 5-yr old boy, a teacup hedgehog and a heiress named Paris Impton. Think Terry Pratchett if he'd gotten the bad drugs.

A nice bit of news surfaced in the last week or so--Sojourn is a nominee for the Pluto Award for Best New Voice in Science Fiction, courtesy of Yellow30 SciFi. And as a nod to my fantasies, The Circle of the Swan and The Summoning Stone are nominees for their Charon Award for Best Book from 1999-2005. WHEEEE! (Thanks, guys!)

And now back to that work at hand. Soon I'll be able to sit in my hot tub, Oban at my elbow, and know it's all behind me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just Like Indiana

A curious sideshow played out in an Baghdad market this week. Senator John McCain along with three other congressfolks visited the Shorja Market to show how well the new security plan was working. As Mike Pence, an Indiana Representative said, the market was "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime."

What McCain and Pence didn't bother to mention is the entire COMPANY of soldiers (100+) deployed in armored Humvees, the snipers on the rooftops and attack helicopters in the air. The soldiers redirected traffic from the market and let our elected officials wander around buying rugs.

Yup, that sounds like a market in Indiana to me. Or Iowa, for that matter.

The merchants weren't having it and, according to reporters, let McCain and company know that life is NOT better for them. (See the NY Times article.) They know a publicity stunt when they see one and are bitter when they are used as "backdrop".

Perhaps the security plan is working, but not in this market. They've been bombed six times since summer. For McCain and buddies to tie up all those resources (which could be used to secure the peace) for what amounts to as a campaign photo-op is obscene.

Follow-up to the above courtesy of IraqSlogger blog: "What the American public did not know is that McCain's primary purpose is to get location and interview footage for a 60 Minutes segment with Scott Pelley to be broadcast this Sunday."

You just had to know it....