What You Do When Your Book Gets a Bad Review

 

You know, I wish we didn’t need to have this conversation, but yeah, we do.

GOT-pleaseEveryone has their own way of dealing with reviews, and let’s be frank—not everyone will like what you do. Reviews, good or bad, are part of the territory. Reviews are a rite of passage for authors, the objective points-of-view that sit down with the final product and say, “Holy crapbuckets, this is the best book I’ve ever read!” or “Many trees died to make this book. Avenge them.” Whenever a new work hits the shelves, virtual or literal, I am always on edge. You have been working closely with editors and peer readers who all invest a part of themselves in your title because they believe in what you do; and if you are fortunate, these voices because they believe in you are going to be blunt, honest, and sometimes cruel to be kind. “My job as an editor is not to change a book,” I heard Ellen Datlow say on a podcast. “My job is to take a good story and make it great.” Continue reading

4 Things that Star Wars Fans Should Be More Upset About than Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath

 

chuck-wendig-aftermathSo, if you might have heard, author Chuck Wendig released a book.

Chuck is the author behind Star Wars: Aftermath, the first (of three) books bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Since its release, both Jedi and Sith alike are losing their midichlorian-laced shit over this book.

The common threads amongst haters are:

  • Chuck wrote the story in 3rd person present tense. Very different from previous Extended Universe books.

    • In Aftermath, we meet a character that is gay.

    • This is Star Wars done in the style of Wendig. If you have not read some of his other works like Blackbirds or Zeroes, this is a very different approach.

    • There is an unexpected crossover between new Star Wars character Norra Wexley and Marvel favorites, Rocket Raccoon & Groot.

Okay, I might have totally made up that last one, but those other gripes are what a lot of panties twisted in special knots only learnt at Jedi Summer Camps. After reading thinly-veiled attempts at hiding homophobia or anti-Disney sentiments behind various “This is bad writing…” comments, I’m a bit stunned. Star Wars fans are pissed over a gay character and Chuck’s style? Seriously? After everything we’ve dealt with across six movies?

Over the decades, we fans have weathered some serious missteps. And no, I’m not talking about:

  • Midichlorians
  • Jar-Jar Binks
  • The feeble attempts to have Han Solo appear to shoot in self-defense

We’ve talked about those (and continue to talk about them) at length. What I’m talking about is the kind of writing or direction that should have made fans call them out to the center of the octagon, but I’ve rarely seen happen. If you really want to be pissed off about something in the Star Wars universe, have you considered… Continue reading

Edge of Tomorrow: Concerning Tom Cruise, Pacific Rim, and Something Original

Last Thursday, Pip and I went to see Edge of Tomorrow, currently playing in theatres. This is the latest summer blockbuster featuring Tom Cruise in what may are calling a sci-fi spin on Groundhog Day. One look at the trailer might make you think that, but there’s also some influences of Starship Troopers, Aliens, and even a nod to D-Day.

hr_Edge_of_Tomorrow_9Yes, the Allies’ Invasion of Normandy. In a Tom Cruise summer science fiction blockbuster.

Edge of Tomorrow, based off the novel and manga, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, follows Public Relations officer Major William Cage. Tom Cruise’s Cage is the Tom Cruise we know very well—very polished, brilliant smile, and slick in his approach and handling of situations thrown at him. He’s the “face” of the war against Mimics, alien invaders who seem to have an uncanny ability to predict exactly what the United European Forces unleash on the battlefield. This Tom Cruise graces the movie with its presence…

…for about ten minutes.

Much like Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Cruise’s Major Cage is suddenly thrown a curve that lands him in the middle of battle, something his Public Relations job allows him to avoid. After finding himself on the wrong end of a taser, he wakes up at Heathrow Airport, the training camp for the United European Armed Forces. Strapped into an exo-suit, Cage joins J Company in a massive amphibious landing happening on the western coast of France. Led by the inspiring “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt), Cage stumbles through the battle only to find himself out of ammo and facing a Mimic up close and personal. The monster leaps on top of him, but (more out of futility and desperation than heroism) Cage takes the alien (and himself) out of commission with a landmine sandwiched between them… Continue reading

You Know I Can Hear You, Right? — Revelations about the Internet and the Lesson of St. Fu

“I think the Internet is a grand arena for poorly thought out words.” — Philippa Ballantine, 2/18/2014, on Facebook

1000px-Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895Presently, The Science Fiction Writers of America are at odds with one another once again, its members still in a brouhaha over the divide between men and women in the business. It’s hard to say when this rift started. I know this debate has raged for a long, long time as I remember people engaging in spirited conversations about this when I first entered the publishing game in 2002. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about feminism, misogyny, old guard mentality, new blood in SFWA, and the like, especially in the wake of the 200th issue of the SFWA Bulletin which attempted to harken back to nostalgic days of the Red Sonja-esque fantasy covers.

It all boiled to a fever pitch yesterday when John Scalzi posted this quote on his blog:

“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.”

— (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.

 Wow. Just…wow.

I have a lot of opinions about SFWA, about the Bulletin, SFF.net and LiveJournal (where a lot of this discussion has raged), and about women in the business; but that is not what is driving me bananas. What I find to be completely and utterly nuts is this fallback position “professionals” (and when you think comparing your experiences with a celebrated Science Fiction author to “your irrational fear of dogs” is a good analogy I use the term “professional” loosely.) are taking. These defensive crouches range from a First Amendment-“I have the right to freely express my opinion on this…” argument to “I’m calling my lawyer!” which, I bet, the lawyer is thrilled to know you’re pulling them up on speed dial.

I have a piece of free advice for these professionals: Please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up. You’re making asses of yourself on many levels, the highest of these being—and let’s be blunt—that you honestly don’t know how the Internet works. Continue reading

It’s Not about Joss: Concerning The Avengers, Science Fiction, and New York Times Critics

Since 3 a.m. last night, I have been singing the praises of The Avengers, the über-anticipated epic directed by one of the deities of fanbois everywhere Joss Wheedon. Now while this may make me sound like I’m looking down my nose at fanbois and geeks, I disagree — I’m just practicing full transparency, just as I practice in my life a blatant display of geekiness. It’s part of my job. It’s part of my life. I have no shame being a geek. It’s who I am.

This morning (as in the midnight showing) Pip and I saw what I would argue is Joss Whedon’s second-best film (still not as shiny as his best) but his greatest triumph as a screenwriter and filmmaker. Whedon took four of Marvel’s heaviest hitters, threw in three more for good measure, shook well, and created a script and a movie that was balanced, entertaining, and good fun. And when I say fun, I mean “original Iron Man” fun. Already on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews are coming in and the movie will, as summer blockbusters do, raise the bar for other movies of its ilk…

I will go on to say, though, if Battleship breaks The Avengers records, I am seriously going to wrap up this blog and hide. For a decade. Continue reading

Steampunk is Dead …and Other Stupid Things You Might Have Heard This Week Concerning a Justin Bieber Video

So this week, you might have heard from SyFy’s Blastr that steampunk is dead, and let’s face it — when it comes to really knowing what fans of Science Fiction think, you can’t really argue with the same people who cancelled Farscape, Eureka, and Stargate Universe to make room for reality TV and professional wrestling…

…but I digress…

From high profile blogs like Gawker to passionate fan sites like Stellar Four, the death bell tolled for my beloved genre of gears, cogs, and steam. It was all over. Time to dismantle the analytical engine, box up the boater hats, and put your goggles away. Steampunk, a genre created back in the Eighties due to a group of authors that challenged this boundaries of imagination, had officially been ruined, all due to a single music video from a beloved pop star.

My own response to this?

Seriously? Seriously?! Steampunk is dead because of a Justin Bieber video?

I think the guy who’s face truly is next to the definition of steampunk, Jared Axelrod, said it best:

“If having a teen heartrob play your sandbox ‘ruins’ it, then it probably wasn’t your sandbox to begin with.

If you haven’t seen the video, I insist you watch it. I will say this much — it’s a step up from Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”
Continue reading

I May Not Be Able to Hold Your Phone, but I Can Count!

I have been accused of being a real devotee of the house that Steve built. I admit that yes, I do love me my Apple gear…

  • MacPro…check
  • MacBook Pro…check
  • iPod…check
  • AppleTV…check
  • iPad…check

I have drank the Kool-Aid and I want more. I am impatiently waiting for October so I can treat myself to an iPhone 4 for my birthday. I love-love-love-love Apple…

…but today, my dearest love punched me in the nose. Really, really hard. Continue reading

Write, or Go Home!

As you may know by now (provided you subscribe to Imagine That!, or follow either of my Twitter accounts), I’m working on a new book: All a Twitter, from Que Publishing. I’ve seen the tweets and also taken some heat from other DC consultants (and here’s a shock – these consultants are NOT on Twitter, but will give an opinion nevertheless…) concerning books about Twitter. I am still very optimistic, nay confident, nay cocky, that All a Twitter will be unlike the other books hitting the shelves between now and the summer.

For starters, my book will be written from a user’s perspective. Other titles (that I am aware of) are being written by people in Marketing, meaning the underlying intent of these books will be “This is the way you leverage Twitter in order to monitize your Social Networking experience.” I could go on a tear about that…another time. This isn’t what my rant is about. It’s concerning another quality of this future book.

All a Twitter will say on the cover “by Tee Morris” meaning the book will be written by me.

This is what my rant is about.

My revelation that people claiming to be writers but in fact are not writing books even though their names are on the cover, started at the beginning of the year. In a social setting over good food and good wine, the subject turned to how much work goes into a book. I pulled from my own experiences with the For Dummies crew, which really blew away those at the table. I told them the breakneck schedule of writing computer books was not uncommon. That was when I turned to another author, one I had just met that had written a book on Twitter. I asked the author “How long did it take you to write your book on Twitter?”

The author looked at me as if I had asked the question using the Lothlorien Elvish dialect. The (self-proclaimed) best-selling author scoffed and said, “I didn’t write the book.”

“But your name is on the title?” I asked.

“Yeah, it is, but I didn’t write the book.” The author then told me, with an alarming amount of pride, “I went to my network on Twitter and asked my followers what they wanted in the book. They wrote what they wanted, I took what they sent in, and put it together.”

Say what?!

Yes, I know, ghost writing is nothing new. Happens all the time. You have people helping others behind the scenes (as Wikipedia states with Alan Dean Foster writing the novelization of Star Wars, but handing credit to George Lucas), so I know that bylines may not always be as honest as they should be. Where I call “Shenanigans!” is when the books in question are “How To” books.

When you pick up a “How To” book and look at the title’s byline, you make a strong assumption if not conclusion that its author is an authority on the subject matter. How much confidence, then, would you have in an author if they were to tell you they farmed their work out to other experts, and then granted it a cursory eye once it came in? So let’s set the scenario: An author, based on their expertise and a proposal they have put together, is hired to write a book. Instead of researching their expertise further and actually writing the manuscript, these authors-under-contract have others write sections or chapters for them. They then shape the content in a fashion that fits their own needs, and then send off to the publisher the material under their name, not the individual who actually wrote the chapter.

Allright, that doesn’t make you a writer. That makes you an editor. An Acquisitions Editor. Barely. This was a similar process I followed as an Acquisitions Editor for Ben Bella Books’ So Say We All with one major difference: The individual chapters all carried the author’s bylines so you knew who wrote that particular essay.

When I agreed to write All a Twitter, Que Publishing sent me a list of guidelines and this is their standing on Citations:

Such use should be limited. Readers are paying for a book that shares your practical experience of the subject and they expect that the material in the book has not been published before.

“Readers are paying for a book that shares your practical experience…” Huh, what a concept!

The business behind “not-really-writing-a-book” I also have to wonder about. At Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Breakfast in Washington DC, I mentioned that I had just taken on All a Twitter. One of the attendees asked me “So you’re actually writing the book?” It turns out he was approached to write a chapter for another Twitter book being produced this year. His reply to the offer was “What’s in it for me?” A valid question, seeing as he wouldn’t have a byline in the final published work. The “author” of this Twitter guide didn’t reply to his query.

What. A. Shock.

These “smoke-and-mirror writers” take questionable business tactics one step further as, with byline under their belts, they bill themselves as experts and sell seminars to conventions, expos, and special events. Money – in some instances, big money – is now exchanging hands. I’m not sure who makes me angrier: the people claiming to be authors and taking credit for work that isn’t theirs, or the organizers of these events who don’t take a few minutes before planning their schedules to evaluate a speaker’s street cred. When you carry around on your blog, website, or resume a publishing credit, there is a measure of trust involved that a book carrying your name on it was written by you. I doubt if I could sleep soundly betraying that trust because I believe in the “Put Up or Shut Up” ethic. If a book is going to carry my name, I’m going to be the one held accountable for it so I’m going to make sure the words are truly my own.

Chances are, with this blogpost, I’ve effectively painted a bulls-eye on All a Twitter, and on anything else with my name on it. Critics, nay-sayers, and maybe a few guilty will hold my work under a magnifying glass. And you know something? I’m okay with that kind of attention because I can stand by what I write. Oh, I did ask for some help here and there, but you can be assured those who helped me out will be given salutations and citations.

You can also be assured that when a book says “by Tee Morris” on it, that is the truth. So keep an eye out for All a Twitter this summer. It’s written by Tee Morris.

Seriously. It is.