Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Many Hats?

Long, long ago - they tell me - all an author needed to do was write. And maybe go on a speaking tour from time to time.
Now, an author wears many hats. How many hats can one person balance on their head before their neck snaps?
First, there's the Writing Hat. You have to get that rough draft done, or your writing career will go nowhere.
At some point, you will probably need the Research Hat, even if you write fiction. If your story involves some military, how is it organized? What ranks does it have? If it's science fiction involving humans, you might research militaries throughout history, and extrapolate from what you've learned. If you're writing a fantasy about dwarves, you might study the tales about dwarves, and try to figure out how they might organize an army. (Hint: A dwarf army is not likely to have cavalry. At least, not a cavalry on something as big as a horse.)
Next comes the Self-Critiquing Hat. You go through your rough draft and make it better by smoothing out rough spots and inconsistencies, adding description and explanation where it's needed, making sure you've said what you intended to say. Actually, you wear this hat more than you wear the Writing Hat.
Next comes the Listening Hat. You ask for feedback on what you've written, and you listen to what they say. Maybe your hero's eyes changed color mid-book, or you use the same phrase over and over, or 3 out of 4 readers didn't understand the first half of chapter eleven.
Back to the Self-Critiquing Hat as you go through your manuscript, considering the feedback, whether or not to change anything, and if so, what's the best way to do that?
Many authors are opting to self publish, these days. Once they've gotten their manuscript as good as they think they can get it, they probably hire an editor, maybe a copy editor, possibly a proofreader, and some will even hire someone to format the manuscript into e-book and print templates.
Or maybe they don't. In which case, those are all hats they should make sure fit their head; the Editor Hat, the Copy Editor Hat, the Proofreader Hat, and the Formatting Hat.
If they are making print copies, they must wear a Deciding Hat (What company will I hire to print this? Where do I get cover art, and who can do the cover layout?), the Receipts Payable Hat (How did the final printing bill get 30% higher than the quote they gave me?), and the Signing Hat (I only ordered *** copies, so why are there so many big, heavy boxes on my doorstep?).
Think they're done? Oh, no, not yet. This part is for all authors, even those with a publishing company, whatever that company's size. Very few authors don't have to wear the following hats:
The Marketing Hat (How do I let people know about my book?) often leads to The Social Media Hat (How many times can I announce something about my book on fb, twitter, linkedin, goodreads...?), the Webmaster Hat (How do I get this shopping cart to work?), the Personal Appearance Organizing Hat (Did that bookstore ever respond about the reading I wanted to do?), the Merchant Hat (Step right up! Get your brand new red hot sf book by that upcoming new author, me!), which, of course, leads to the dreaded Bookkeeper Hat (I gave away 5 books. There's no money involved, so how do I put those in the bookkeeping records?).
I will be wearing the Merchant Hat this weekend. I have rented a table in the Dealer's Room at a Dr Who convention in Wichita KS. Tomorrow, I will be madly trying to wear both the Publicity Hat and the Organizing Hat as I try to design some way to 'decorate' that table and decide how many copies of each book to take with me. A full box of John's book, because, you know, I still have 6 full boxes to sell, 15 of my first book, 12 of the anthology I'm in (plus 6 of the companion volume for that anthology), and 12 of my latest book. Wait, will all those fit in the car with John's suitcase, my suitcase, the costume suitcase and my full make-up case?

Too many hats!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Shake & Rattle

Your dream has come true, and you are now living on the moon! You start your new job in the morning, so you should get some sleep, but you doubt if you can. After all, you're on the moon! Your suitcases aren't even unpacked yet.
Not that you've been sight-seeing since your arrival, although you have craned your neck to look around as you were hustled from one safety meeting to a technology overview to another safety meeting to... What was with all the safety meetings?
You were thoroughly trained before you left Earth, but these people treated you like a child, repeating the same mantra over and over: "If things start shaking, get into a spacesuit or a rescue pod - whichever you find first - and stay there until you are personally told you can get out."
Shaking? That tiny hint of vibration you felt travel up your legs during the last safety class? That was when the grizzled instructor lunged for a locker and tossed a spacesuit your way as he simultaneously shoved himself into another. He was locked inside his before you could stop gawking and start putting on the oversized thing. You were supposed to worry about that?
He stared at you, didn't even offer to help. Confused and embarrassed, you had just started inserting your second leg when a buzzer went off in 3 short bursts. You could hear it coming through the suit radio as well as the base intercom. You stopped to listen to the voice that followed. "Okay, this appears to be just the normal monthly deep quake, people. It should fade away eventually. But as always, be alert and ready in case it gets worse."
Sound like fun, living on the moon? There's no weather, so you don't have to worry about hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning strikes. There's no tectonic plates, so there wouldn't be any- Wrong! While it is true the moon doesn't have any tectonic plates, it does have quakes.
Scientists are still trying to figure out what causes the 4 types of quakes that happen on the moon. They have figured out 2 causes; the strike of a meteor sets off a quake, and the first thaw after a region has been frozen hard for 2 weeks is another cause.
The quake I spoke of in my little daydream was a 'deep moonquake'. They occur about every 27 days, and are apparently located 700km below the moon's surface. Scientists thought they were caused by the same gravity force that produces Earth's tides, but the computer models are not completely bearing that out. Deep moonquakes might reach a magnitude of 2, which few people feel.
But the ones that a lunar colony would have to watch out for are the shallow moonquakes. 'Shallow' may not sound like much, but the shallow moonquakes have reached a magnitude of 5.5, which can topple heavy furniture and crack walls, here on Earth, in the less than 2 minutes that it rumbles. A lunar colony would have to be built to withstand that kind of torture, because if a wall cracks, it could lose all its air in short order. And you couldn't just stand there and think, "It will all be over in a minute" because on the moon, a quake could last for hours! I think I'd be jumping for the nearest spacesuit or rescue pod for the duration.

And here I was thinking of building a colony under the moon's surface! For a story, of course.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Secret

This year's World Science Fiction Convention was in Spokane, WA. The layout of the convention center made absolutely no sense. You entered on ground level, only to take an escalator to the 2nd level, where you could find registration, the dealer's room and the art show. From there, you could do one of 5 things:
·       Take an escalator down to one set of rooms,
·       go down a few steps to a down escalator to another set of rooms,
·       walk down a long corridor, turn left, follow a hallway to an (inadequate) bank of elevators to get to the hotel lobby, which you walked across to another set of rooms (I never personally made this trip, although I did try, once.),
·       don't turn left but continue down that long corridor to a down escalator to another set of rooms, or
·       walk past that set of rooms to take an elevator up a floor to yet another set of rooms.
Rumor has it that there were even rooms in another building that one had to go outside to get to.
Even with a map in the pocket program book, convention center staff were stationed at corners so people could ask, "How do I get to X?" We got our exercise!
There were wild fires in Washington, one of them north of Spokane. The city wasn't threatened, but on Friday, the smoke was as thick as heavy fog. Even inside, you could smell it. Played heck with people's sinuses.
But the thing I will probably remember most was The Secret. I heard it in a panel given by authors, and one of them quite nonchalantly stated, "I hate to give away secrets, but we authors don't come to conventions to see our fans; we come to network with other authors and people in the business."
I was shocked!
Now that I have thought about it, I wonder, Then why do they attend the smaller conventions? I mean the smaller, regional conventions where they may be the only 'known' author attending. No editors, no agents, only small press publishers. What would local authors and small press people offer?
I suppose networking is networking, and you never know, the person who is completely unknown this year could the Big Item next year. But still, the fan is in that mix somewhere, right?
How can you sell books if nobody wants to read it? If fans aren't important, why are newbie and wanna-be authors advised to produce the most excellent work they can, because "Your first book is what sells (or doesn't sell) your next book."

Okay, maybe this 'Secret' doesn't say it all. Maybe it was just my personal wake-up to use conventions, not just to have fun, but to network with like-minded people. That's not an easy thing for me to do. But I can talk to people, one or two at a time. Time to give it a try.