Progress report

I have to report some aggravation on the home front: I need to have the interior of the old house painted before anything else can happen, and as it turns out, it is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE to find painters in the Pacific Northwest in the summer--I had one guy tell me they don't start doing interiors until October! I am going to keep looking, but I have to go out of town again in a week's time, so . . . grrr.

ANYWAY, I decided that I might as well do something I enjoy and get some writing in during this weird period of frustration. Today I started by reading the YA fantasy over and editing what was written--pretty happy with it, actually.

Things are moving along

I met with the real-estate broker about the old house today. It was one of those things where you're really apologetic about the state of things (it's musty! I haven't really been taking good care of the yard!) and the person all but has a visible thought bubble over their head that reads, "I don't know WHAT you're worried about! I've seen FAR worse!"

Anyway, the stuff it needs now (paint & carpet, mainly) is stuff that professionals should provide, so hopefully I will be able to return my focus to something I actually enjoy doing sooner rather than later.


I'm looking at my life, and realizing that the next thing I need to focus on is selling the old house. I'd really rather write, especially because things have been going so well, but that house is not going to go away on its own. At this point I really hate going over there even just to mow the lawn, so I feel like I should put the effort in now and get it over with before the temptation to ignore it results in some very expensive catastrophe. It's going to be a big pain, but once it's done, I can get back to writing!

Oh, so interesting

I'm back from my trip--still getting settled back in and readjusting to Pacific Standard Time.

I've been catching up on the Wall Street Journal, and there is a fascinating review of a biography of Robert Heinlein in it. The really interesting bit is that the reviewer puts their finger on something about Heinlein that I think is really true: His early books are much more political/persuasive (I am of the school that feels they can be propaganda-ish and annoying), but his later books are just kind of meaningless.

From the review:

The novels for adults that followed were just as emotionally compelling. And that's exactly the problem. "Starship Troopers" is about a future society facing a total war against an implacably hostile alien species: Heinlein does not just describe the war with his typical vividness; he conjures up a high-tech military culture, with a worldview and ruling ideology to fit (among other things, only veterans have the right to vote), and hurls the reader into its midst with such imaginative force that its rationale seems not only inevitable but somehow desirable. Many readers have been deeply moved (I know of more than one enlistment in the real-world military inspired by it); others have felt that they're being bullied by a brilliant piece of fascist propaganda. Five decades on, it remains the most bitterly divisive book in the history of sci-fi.

Heinlein himself was greatly upset by the controversy. He wrote that he had no idea whether the militaristic society in the book would really work. . . . And when, in 1974, the young Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman published a direct attack on the politics of "Starship Troopers" in his own sci-fi novel "The Forever War," Heinlein repeatedly went out of his way to praise it.

Heinlein grew to be just as ambivalent about his other masterworks. "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" is a visionary epic of a lunar colony breaking free from earth's government and establishing an anarchist-libertarian utopia. But even as it was being enshrined by the libertarian movement as a foundational text (it was endorsed by Milton Friedman), Heinlein turned cagey and evasive about whether he was advocating its revolutionary agenda. Once again, it was as though his own persuasiveness was making him uncomfortable. This discomfort escalated exponentially into nightmare with "Stranger in a Strange Land." Heinlein always insisted that he meant it as nothing more than a satirical and ironic fantasy à la "Candide" (the working title was "The Man From Mars"); he was both amused and appalled when the hippies took it up, enchanted by his luxuriantly sybaritic portrait of a Martian free-love commune. . . . But he was horrified to discover that the novel was the bible of the Manson cult.

I don't think it's entirely a coincidence that the catastrophic fall-off in Heinlein's work began after the 1969 Manson murders. The novels he wrote in the 1970s and 1980s wholly lack his old persuasiveness. Nothing in them is real, nothing is at stake and nobody takes anything seriously. . . . The overall effect is so low-energy and stupefying that it's hard to believe it isn't somehow deliberate—as though Heinlein is out to repudiate his greatest talent and make sure no reader is inspired to take any action whatever.

That really does kind of sum up Heinlein, right? More generally, you can never know how people are going to take a piece of science fiction, especially one that engages with political ideas. Firefly, for example, is sometimes touted by libertarians as depicting a sort of paradise--you know, the kind of paradise where slavery exists and where you have to ready a firearm before you answer a knock at the door.

Progress report

Yah! I am making progress! Between the end of the school year and the having two houses to look after (note to self: Never become a landlord) and some family crap, I've been swamped by stuff that is both annoyingly minor and totally urgent.

But today I wrote 1,495 words on the fantasy novel!


Progress report(!!!!)

Not a lot of progress (the cat decided to meow all night last night. Like a creature that wishes to be sold for dog food), but I did read over what is written of the fantasy novel and do some editing. Trying to get back into Writing Mode here....

Or, maybe I won't write today

This morning nicely encapsulates the way the writing process has been lately:

WONDERING PART OF BRAIN: You know, I really want to work on Trials! I wonder what this character should say when presented with horrible news about that character--I really want it to be a big emotional moment!

EVIL PART OF BRAIN: They should say exactly what you said when you heard your brother had died! It was heartfelt, moving, and actually appropriate to this fictional situation.

Uncontrollable weeping.


Mmm...kay. Maybe I should work on the other book instead....

Down to the closets

Moving in and getting organized has been taking forever (the old house had a lot of built-in storage, so I've had to spend a whole lot of time assembling shelving), but I am pretty much past the point of having to organize entire rooms, plus I now have all appliances (YAY--that stove took a whole lot longer to get here than was reasonable). So, I'm gearing up to get writing again--it's about time!


Still moving--I'm doing it one carload at a time, so it's taking forever. I'm semi-settled into the new place, though--still lots of piles o' crap around (it's actually rather discouraging to realize that I have so much crap, since as a rule I try to live uncluttered), but I can sleep at the new place and I have Internet and tomorrow I am supposed to get an actual stove.

I've been doing so much hoisting, plus the new place has stairs, that I've been pretty much exhausted all the time (yes, overexercise is real). But hopefully soon I can strike a balance between moving and the rest of life--just spend an hour or to a day on moving-type stuff, and then spend time on other things. Of course, I still have to get the old house ready to sell--UGH. I will be very happy to get rid of THAT commute....

From the Annals of Marketing Neglect

So, Alicia had a good question:

I'm curious - when you have a moment - how did your books do while you had no time to promote and pay attention to them? I hope well.

Or did you find time for at least keeping track of that?

Now, it seems she thinks that I haven't been paying any attention to my books for the past couple of months as I fixed up the new house. But the truth of the matter is that I haven't done ANY marketing since my brother passed away late last April--in a crisis, I've found that it's best to simplify one's life as much as possible and focus only on the things that are truly essential. As a result, aside from the stuff that cropped up because of something I did a couple of years back, there has been no marketing of my books for almost a year--no Facebook ads, nothing.

How have sales been? Remarkably steady!

With one important caveat: Whenever something changes with Amazon, the level of my sales changes--but then remains steady. Sales are lower since Amazon switched from have a Science Fiction: Series bestseller list to having a Science Fiction: First Contact list--but they have been quite consistent at that lower level.

Compensating somewhat for that lower level is the fact that the book is now on the Science Fiction: First Contact list at Amazon UK.

Wait! This means I am now an INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!! Oh, that's hilarious.

The reason it's hilarious is that I'm still not selling tons of books--not nearly enough to make a living off it or anything. If I needed to do that--well, for starters I would actually write more, but also I would push to get on a bigger bestseller list, like getting back on the general Science Fiction list. Back in those days I was making about $500 a month off of sales of Trust--obviously still not enough to live off, either, but if I had more titles out....

It's getting, it's getting, it's getting kinda hectic

Moving in! It's happening! It's kind of a complicated process because the new place still lacks some key things (like a stove and curtains) but hopefully it will be done fairly soon!

In the meantime, here's a couple of article I thought were interesting but didn't have time to actually write posts about:

This one is about the music market in Japan. Japan has been notable because it's resisted digitization, but guess what's happening right now? Oh, yeah, digitization is happening with a vengeance and all the Japanese labels are being caught out because they thought that Japan was the one market that would never, ever change, so why should they prepare?

I also have to point out something that has always annoyed me with reporting about the Japanese music market: People always report the revenues. So they say (or rather, they used to say), Oh, the Japanese music market is so much better than the U.S. music market because evil, awful digitization hasn't happened there so their revenues are still high!

Anyone see the problem there? Revenues are not profits. If I sell something for $10 that costs me $8 to produce and ship, I have revenues of $10 but profits of only $2. What's so nice about digitization (be it music or books) is that you can sell something for $5 or $3 that costs you next to nothing to make. So yeah, your revenues go down, but who cares?

That one is about dodgy on-line reviews. Businesses are starting to sue people who post negative fake reviews for defamation--something to keep in mind if you're ever tempted to trash someone via sock-puppet.