Archive for February, 2012

Ebooks set to become largest trade category in 2012

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 27th, 2012

The folks at Mediabistro.com reported the American Association of Publishers sales for December 2011 and YTD: “The December report represents data provided by 77 publishers and only sales of the participants are reported. NOTE: All numbers have been rounded to one decimal point and may not add up to 100%”

The key takeaway, I think, is that ebooks will become THE largest book trade category in 2012.

Sales only need to grow 33% to surpass that of adult hardcovers.  See the chart below. They already dwarf adult mass market, which took a HUGE hit last year. Sales can’t keep growing at more than 100% year after year. They must eventually slow down.  But, given projections, it’s not going to be hard to make 33%. According to the estimates of a Barclays Bank analyst (link below), Amazon will sell an estimated 35 million Kindles and Kindlefires next year. Each owner would only have to purchase $10 worth of books in the year for the segment to grow 33%. And that doesn’t count the sales for the Nook, iphones, ipads, or any other ereaders out there.  

This year ebooks become king of the heap.

Media Bistro report of AAP numbers: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/mass-market-paperback-sales-down-nearly-41-in-december_b47625   

Barclays analyst project sales of 35 million Kindles and Kindlefires in 2012: http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2012/02/23/amazon-barclays-cuts-kindle-kindle-fire-estimates/ 

 

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Bad Penny – working title

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on February 24th, 2012

I’ve decided to tentatively call the first book in my Frank Shaw series “Bad Penny.”  This is the thriller I’ve been talking about. It’s a working title, so it may change.

As for progress, I’m close to 14,000 words. Huzzah! And I’m having a blast writing it. Every day I look forward to my writing time.

For those curious, the book takes place in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The plot will move it across eastern part of the state and then down into Colorado.

Frank Moses Shaw, ex-con . . .

Ah, folks. I’m just loving it.

I’m also generating options for a pen name.  Althought I know there’s overlap between readers of epic fantasy and thrillers (hey, look at me!), I still think the genres are too different to try to spread a brand name across both.  I read about Tess Gerritsen, who started in romance, using the same name for her thrillers, which is all I think she writes now. She reports that she had a number of the thriller readers pick up her romances and vice versa, and then get frustrated because her brand meant one thing to them, but they got another.

If I was writing thrillerish SF, like Card’s Ender’s Game, or thrillerish fantasy, like Correia’s Monster Hunter, then maybe the stretch wouldn’t be so far.  For those of you who are thriller readers, I’ll be posting some possible names in the near future. I’d like your reactions on the options, so keep a look out.

As for CURSE OF A DARK GOD, no word yet from ye Editors. I’m expecting a reply March or April. Yeah, I turned it into my agent end of November. She submitted it to Tor in December. No, I don’t like these lead times any better than you do. But it is what it is. My job is to produce. My target this year is two novels–DARK GOD’S GLORY (book 3 in the series) and BAD PENNY. My stretch goal is to finish the working outline for the second Frank Shaw book (already have the premise) and actually start on it before the end of the year. We’ll see what happens.

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Writers of the Future, the Church of Scientology, and Killing Puppies

Posted in Blather, On Writing  by John Brown on February 18th, 2012

Author Jim C. Hines recently posted a thoughtful blog about connections between Writers of the Future and Scientology. There are a number of folks who have issues with Hubbard’s metaphysical claims and the church he started. Some folks claim that supporting Writers of the Future (WOTF) in any way supports the Church of Scientology (CoS) and the abuse of the young, the innocent, those who are vulnerable, and the stupid.

I won a first prize in the Writers of the Future. I received $2,000 cash for the prize and subsequent publication. I also recieved a paid trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida to workshop with the other winners and pro writers. I tell new writers to submit to the contest all the time. I do not feel I’m supporting any wickedness. Let me walk you through this. You tell me if I’m killing any puppies.

A. What underlies the continued operation of WOTF?

  1. Hubbard wanted it (I don’t know why, although he states it was to help new sff authors and illustrators).
  2. The folks who run it have a very HIGH esteem of Hubbard and so have huge motivation to make it successful.
  3. A trust was set aside, although without looking at the books we can’t know exactly if it’s an independent thing or if money is being funneled from other CoS holdings.  You do not pay many to enter the contest, so all of the money to run the contest and pay prizes etc. comes from this trust, sales of the WOTF anthologies, and perhaps other CoS holdings.
  4. It’s used for positsive PR for Hubbard’s brand name.
  5. The judges, who don’t give a fig about CoS, want to help new writers.

B. What are the effects of the contest?

  1. No documented writer conversions to CoS.
  2. No documented WOTF anthology conversions of young skulls full of mush to CoS. Someone please show me some evidence of the WOTF antho being a gateway to anything, despite the rumored statements of some Scientologists someone’s uncle overheard.
  3. No documented donations to CoS that I know of.
  4. New writers get paid a whole bunch of money, get to network, and receive instruction from pros for a week.
  5. The winners, on average, think better of Hubbard, as do their friends and family.
  6. Most winners report it was a great experience and encourage other new writers to submit.
  7. WOTF sells some anthologies and makes a little bit of cash to offset expenses. I can’t imagine they’re ever in the black, are they?
  8. WOTF tracks winners and uses those who have done well as PR shiny for . . . WOTF and the Hubbard brand name.

I was a first place winner. I had a marvelous time. This was the one held in Cocoa Beach, Florida. One night I needed to go to a convenience store to get something (tooth paste?). One of the WOTF folks drove me there. A nice woman. It was raining. It was just the two of us in the SUV.

I’m a VERY CURIOUS guy. I’ve read most of DIANETICS. I stopped by a Scientology place in Seattle to chat. I like hearing people talk about their faiths, about their lives, about whatever. If you spend any amount of time with me, you will tell me your life story. You will. It just happens.

I tried my dangest to get something out of that woman, but she was as tight as a clam sealed in four feet of concrete.

Nobody talked Scientology. Everyone involved went out of their way to avoid it. End of story. I’ve talked to many other winners. They report the same.

On the other hand, they did have a PR guy there.

Mr. PR intereviewed us about the contest and Hubbard’s works and took footage. Our one-on-one interviews were on camera. We took still photos. He asked us in our acceptance speeches to thank Hubbard by name.

He was a PR guy.

It was very clear his job was to generate PR content for WOTF and Hubbard. How do I KNOW this? Because his questions all centered around WOTF and/or Hubbard. But never CoS.

Some of the winners did not like his solicitation for a mention of Hubbard’s name. There was some reality show behind the scenes grumbling and scheming, and they did not mention Hubbard in their thanks at the awards event.

That’s fine, although it didn’t make much sense to me. Maybe they felt gratitude needs to be spontaneous, not asked for. And I can agree with them on that. At the same time, why would I take $2,000 cash for the prize and publication, and the paid hotel, and workshop, and airfare and then slap the folks who gave it to me? I was indeed grateful. So I mentioned Hubbard in my thanks (oh, look at how noble I am; somebody should saint me).

What did the contest do for me?

  1. Gave me some cash.
  2. Validated that maybe I had some chops. No, I wasn’t competing against pros. But I was competing against all those wanting to break in. I talked to Wolverton, who was a coordinating judge for many years and was the first reader, about the numbers of submissions they received. Hundreds upon hundreds each quarter. Huge boxes full. Were some drek? Of course. Who cares? Others weren’t. I won.
  3. Planted an idea in me that maybe I could do this.
  4. Gave me great connections with some pros and other authors.
  5. Allowed me to tell people I won a big international award for my writing. A little PR for my own brand. Who doesn’t want to engage in a bit of puffery now and then (and so you see, Fred, I am a little fabulous, aren’t I . . . )?

So the contest, as far as I’m concerned, is a GREAT contest for new writers.

But am I supporting CoS? And is that a bad thing?

Every time I purchase a Kraft Foods or Nabisco product, I directly fund Phillip Morris tobacco company and their efforts to hook children on smoking abroad. Some of the tomatoes I purchase in Walmart and other grocery stores are tainted by slavery that occurs today in Florida and California’s central valley with migrant workers. Some of those tomatoes end up in various restaurants like Pizza Hut or Papa Murphy’s. Every bite of chocolate you eat funds slavery in the Ivory Coast, where the vast majority of cocoa beans come from. Not a few slavers here and there, but widespread slavery and abuse. There are many situations like this.

What do you do when you like a product or service, but don’t necessarily want to lend aid to an affiliated cause?

In many situations, I don’t do much.

Alas, there goes my sainthood.

I admit that I should and should probably think more about this.  At the same time, with regards to CoS, I don’t know that it is a wicked and exploitative organization.

I’ve seen nothing that suggests they’re into crime. Or systemic abuse. Or fraud. Or that they have a vendetta against dumb people. I don’t share one iota of their faith in Hubbard or his metaphysical teachings. But I do share other values and beliefs with them. Just as I do with Catholics, Muslims, Pagans, Athiests, Communists, and Realtors.

Besides, I never did PR for them. I’ve always said I DISAGREED with their theology, which is negative PR, if you think about it. Furthermore, I’m fairly confident the contest DOES NOT funnel large amounts of money to CoS.

What can they be making after taking out the expenses of the award week for all those authors, illustrators, judges, “luminaries,” etc. that they fly in and house, all in addition to the prize and publication monies? I’m confident they make nothing at all, but actually lose money each year.

So the net net is that they get some PR for WOTF in the SFF community and some for Hubbard’s name. That’s it. That’s what I’m giving them.

But I don’t see any documented stories of that leading to any donations or conversions to CoS. Or positive PR for CoS. Which, again, I’m still not convinced is a systemically exploitative and wicked organization.

But even if it were, am I really supporting CoS when I promote WOTF?

I don’t think so. I’m not giving them cash. I’m not giving them any positive PR. It seems to me purchasing one bag of Oreos or a Lindt chocolate bar does more harm than this ever could.

I feel so much better now. I am saving the puppies.

Of course, if you disagree, please post a comment. If you have reliable documentation, not hearsay and tabloid clamor, that can add to the discussion, feel free to share it. I’m all for good data. And if you see issues with my logic, share that as well. But no wild-eyed, Chicken Little, my mother was eaten by CoS aliens rants please.

As for that Twix I just ate. . .

(sigh)

EDIT 1: I just learned the Phillip Morris spun Nabisco and Kraft off in 2007.  So that frees up my Oreo conscience, but the principle remains.

EDIT 2: Okay, so I just learned that the CoS planned and authorized crimes in Operation Snow White. What to make of that? Comments? Talk about your corporate espionage. I know there are governments and organizations around the world and in the US that engage in that all the time. But this is the first I’ve seen from a “church.”

EDIT 3: Read through the links on this post by Deirdre Saoirse Moen where she explains why she no longer supports the WOTF contest. Primarily, she just can’t stand some of the CoS practices.

Of note is the link to the court report by the Village Voice at the Debbie Cook hearing. One question I have is why all those leaders were in the Hole to begin with? Was it some routine church program? Yeah, it sounds awful, but the military puts the SEALs and Special Forces through awful things. So I’m not clear on all of that.  And why haven’t more come out to complain? The unlawful detainment aspect of these allegations is disturbing. But are they really doing this? Are these isolated experiences, or SOP? I don’t know.

There’s another one farther down that lists alleged harassment of folks posting some CoS theology documents on the internet.  I sampled the documents linked to there. Most of those are just copyright violation letters. SOP for anyone trying to protect copyright.

Looking at Operation Snow White, the Debbie Cook hearing, and the copyright violation stuff, it’s becoming fairly clear that the CoS has taken an extremely aggressive approach against some of those who speak out against them (maybe it’s over the top) and a similar approach with protecting their materials. Although I think they’ve lost the battle about their materials on the internet. 

Instead of trying to win public opinion with the truth, it seems in some cases they’ve instead attempted through various methods to try to silence detractors.

Anyone have any more links to substantive material?

EDIT 4: Here’s a letter from Joni Labaqui, a Scientologist and the person who runs the whole WOTF shooting match, to Frank Wu, who was an illustrator winner, and had posted some stuff about WOTF and CoS here: http://www.frankwu.com/illo.html (I found the letter at the bottom).

Dear Frank,

Hi! It’s Joni Labaqui here. Haven’t seen you since you blew me off at LA Con a few years ago and now I know why. I didn’t understand why you didn’t want to talk to me for very long. I loved your write-up on your site about the contest until you got into talking about Scientology. I know what you mean about feeling hurt when people put down your church. I happen to think you are NOT stupid because you are a Christian. I have many Christian friends and I respect their beliefs and even fight for them. But then you get into my religion on your site and putting out falsehoods, then I realized you didn’t have all of the info. We don’t sue people for bad mouthing our religion. The Church sues when there is slander and liable of considerable magnitude involved. Lets use an analogy here – lets say someone accused you of raping the girl next door, but you didn’t do it. Would you be upset? Lets say the parents then sued you or had you put in jail or both. Would you be upset? Would you hire an attorney? Gee, you’d be involved in a legal suit wouldn’t you? What if the father of the girl made sure you were lied about in the newspapers and on TV and he tried or succeeded in ruining your reputation? How would you feel? On top of that, lets say what really happened is you simply talked to the girl and were trying to help her and she turned around and accused you. How would you feel? And how about all those people who love to gossip? (I personally hate people who gossip as all they are doing is hurting others and they are basically low-life losers – lots of people fit into this category, I’m afraid). How would you feel?

You were actually wrong in that Scientology pays for the writers and illustrators awards. The Hubbard estate (which is not the church) makes so much money on royalties from his hundreds of published fiction it would make your head spin. You were right about the fact that every one of us who works at Author Services is a Scientologist, but the judges of the contest are not. They share the same goal that Mr. Hubbard did in starting and paying for this contest – to help the new guy, just like yourself back then when you won. So I don’t understand, a nice person like you has to even bring up the subject in your write-up. You think we are interested in “converting” any of you winners just because we have you tour the Life Exhibition? The answer from the horses mouth is NO. We are simply showing you more about his life and works so that you have the facts about the other part of his life, not the bullshit and lies that has been put out by vested interests of multi-billion dollar drug companies and the psychs that can’t stand us. Have you received tons of unwanted, unsolicited mail? The answer is no. Trust me, if we wanted to convert you, you would sure know it. Believe it or not, Mr. Hubbard in founding this contest just wanted you guys to be seen and heard because he knew how hard it is to get started. Period. Its not about Scientology. That is the simplicity of this contest. Anyone reading anything else into it has their own issues and I feel sorry for them. I guess maybe you ran into someone bad mouthing us and you listened to them. If someone badmouthed you – to this day – I wouldn’t buy it. I’d tell them to take a hike. Do you know why? Because I know you are a good person. I met you, I shared some of that joy you experienced when you won, and I was truely happy for you because I like people being happy, winning in life and doing well and winning this contest. I still like you, but I’m a bit disappointed that you felt compeled to write what you did. I don’t get it. I personally put in hundreds of hours of work to help give you the event that you won your award at, so how do you think I feel?

I hope to hear from you. Best, Joni

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Work hard for 45 minutes, then take a break

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 12th, 2012

My first semester in college I earned a GPA of, ta dum, 0.68.  How do you earn such amazing grades? Well, I’ll tell you: the super secret strategy is to get an F in everything except ballroom dance. In that you get an A.

I couldn’t squeeze any juice out of my textbooks, but I sure could fox trot.

And I wasn’t partying. Dope and beer bongs were never for me. I wasn’t skipping class. I was lugging this huge valise around with every textbook I had. I think it weighed something like forty pounds. I was stitting in classes looking studious and taking notes. Well, except for physics which started early. 7:30 a.m. if I recall. What kind of a nut job takes a class at 7:30 a.m.? I did. I tried really hard to stay awake. I know I saw the professor shoot a gorilla with a tennis ball once. But the rest of the time I was in la la land catching z’s.

A 0.68, and I was in the honors program.

Obviously, I didn’t know how to go about learning. I’m glad the university didn’t give up on me. They put me on probation and told me I had to take a class on studying. A class on how to take the reponsibility for learning into my own tentacles. A class that shared techniques that actually helped.

One of the techniques was taking breaks. You were to work hard for 30 or 45 or 50 minutes and then take a break. Why? Well, because studies had shown that someone who, for example, was going to study for two hours could learn more by taking a ten or fifteen minute break in the middle than someone who worked the whole two hours.   Spending more time on studying actually meant you learned less.

I’ve found this method applies to more than just reading textbooks.  It also applies to writing. My practice is to set a time for 45-50 minutes. My goal is to write as hard and fast during that period as I can. To be totally focused on the task at hand. And then, when the timer dings, to literally get up out of my chair, walk about, and take a break. Then come back at the top of the next hour and start another 45 minute session.

But I’m not the only one doing this. A lot of folks use this method. Author Annie Bellet writes about her use of it in The Quest for Productivity and shares some of the reasons why it helps her. Read what she says there. If you haven’t done a 45/15 or 48/12 session, give it a go. See if you don’t actually get more done in less time.

Oh, btw, as for my grades, not only did I NOT drop out (or get kicked out) and become a hobo living in a trailer by the river, I ended up getting a 3.8 in my masters of accounting program. I think it’s safe to say I figured that school thing out. :)

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How author Rachel Aaron wrote a novel in 12 days

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on February 8th, 2012

Well, not quite. It was 15.

First read her essay “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day”.  Now read about her 12 day triumph in “12 Days of Glory”.

Amen on the pre-writing! I’d be lost without it. LOST. Sketching out scenes beforehand makes them SO MUCH EASIER to write. I can focus on the delivery, characters, dialogue, etc. instead of the events. It frees my creativity to focus on other things. Sketching out a novel beforehand does the same for the whole book. I have a simple sketch of the scene I’m going to write today. There’s no dithering about what to write. I KNOW what I need to write. So I do another more detailed sketch, the pre-writing for the scene before I jump into the day’s work. When I get the scene in my mind, the draft comes so much more quickly.

Amen on time! I’ve found my mind is like a furnace: it takes time to get hot, and if I only dedicatetake small chunks of time, I’m forever warming it up. When I get 3-4 hours a day, I far more productive on a per hour basis than when I only get one.

Amen on enthusiasm! There’s nothing worse than trying to write something that bores me. I can’t do it. And her little method for reviewing scenes is very similar to what I do.

Great posts, Rachel! Now I just need to get back into my dedicated time groove.

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Brown’s Breakfast Burrito, The Way Back

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever  by John Brown on February 7th, 2012

The Way Back

GULag is the acronym for the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems in the early 1900’s. In Romanized Russian that’s “Glavnoye upravlyeniye ispravityel’no-trudovih lagyeryey i koloniy” which means “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.”  The term “Gulag” quickly morphed to represent the camps themselves, which housed a wide range of convicts and many political prisoners.  It’s also come to stand for the repressive Soviet system with its arrests, interrogations, transport in unheated cattle cars, forced labor, destruction of families, years spent in exile, and early and unnecessary deaths.

The Gulag was a meat grinder. An estimated 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953.

Some of those camps were in Siberia, one of the most remote and harsh places on earth. Sawomir Rawicz was one of those who claimed to have escaped such a camp in Siberia. He wrote about it and his subsequent 4,000-mile walk to freedom in India in The Long Walk. That story inspired Peter Weir to write and direct The Way Back, which tells the story of a group of men who attempt to escape out of Siberia, across the Mongolian wastes, and into India.

The film stars Ed Harris (who is interesting in anything he does), Colin Farrel (also starred in Ondine), Mark Strong (the villain in Sherlock Holmes), Saoirse Ronan (the fabulous lead in Hanna), and Jim Sturgess (the boyfriend in One Day). One of the group is an outright murderer. The others are all political dissidents—a teacher, priest, businessman, artist, etc. I found the performances honest and believable. But it wasn’t just the characters–the screenwriters subtly used syntax and word choice to transport the viewer.

But more important than the believability were the various tensions and stories contained within the escape plot. Each of the men, and the lone girl, has a story, and the film gives space for the stories to be told. As for the lone girl: Ronan was amazing in Hannah.  She’s amazing here. Furthermore, the role she played here leavened the whole film with something it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The story will surprise you, make you shed a tear, think, and laugh. When you’re finished, you’ll talk about it. It’s that kind of a film. If you like dramas with action and suspense, I think you’ll like this film.

As always, use KidsInMind.com to see if it contains things you might find objectionable.

Brown’s Breakfast Burrito

How about a meal that’s so good you’ll want to slow way down to savor each bite? A breakfast that will keep you full until lunch? A tasty repast that isn’t loaded with mind-numbing calories? Let me suggest the John Brown breakfast burrito. It’s full of succulent umami, bursts of piquant pepper, healthy mushrooms, and lots of filling protein. And it only takes about 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe below makes one burrito. Scale it up to feed more.  

VEGGIES

  • 1/4th red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ to 1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
  • Dash of thyme

EGGS

  • 2 eggs (120 calories)
  • 1 T milk or half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dash paprika
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash onion powder

 THE REST

  • Pam cooking spray
  • 1 tortilla (150 calories)
  • 1 ounce of Jimmy Dean Premium Pork sausage (90 calories)

If you don’t have one of the spices, don’t freak out. It will still taste great. But the spices really take it to the next level. Here are the instructions. 

  1. Start with your veggies. Spray pan with Pam and sauté peppers for two minutes on medium high heat. Add mushrooms. Give them a spray of Pam and dash with salt. Cover until the mushrooms sweat (release their water).
  2. Next is the sausage. While mushrooms are cooking, start your sausage frying.
  3. Finish veggies. Uncover mushrooms. Just before you finish them, sprinkle with a dash of thyme. When the spice becomes fragrant (its smell rises up in delicious glory from the pan), remove the veggies from the pan and cover to keep them warm.
  4. Cook eggs. Turn heat down to medium low. Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Spray pan you used for veggies with Pam, then cook your scrambled eggs on medium low heat, stirring and scraping the whole time. And keep it on medium low—no browning or burning of eggs allowed! Cook until the eggs glisten with the last bits of moisture. Remember: you don’t want dry desert eggs. You want soft succulent ones.
  5. Assemble the glorious concoction. Put the veggies, scrambled eggs, and sausage in your tortilla and wrap it up smartly. (What does “smartly” mean? I don’t know, but it sounded good, didn’t it?)
  6. Go to heaven and return singing. This means you eat your breakfast burrito, but you do it savoring each bite. This is food meant to be enjoyed, not gobbled.

 As for calories, I estimate about 360 for the main ingredients. Veggies really don’t count in my book. Come on! Nobody gained weight eating turnips. But I’ll round it up to 400 just to be safe. Add in a glass of water and a piece of fruit and you’ve got a 450 calorie breakfast that starts your day off with delight, gratitude, and the joy of redemption. It could also make those you cook for kneel down upon the floor in well-deserved homage. And that’s always a nice thing for the cook.

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