What Does It Mean?

I went to see Black Panther the other day. (Yes, there will be a more detailed report later.) And in a moderately crowded movie theater, filled with a nice assortment of people, I was literally the only person who stayed for both of the post-credits scenes.

It reminded me of the old days, when you had to turn around and shout at the projectionist, if he turned off the film when the credits started rolling.

Does it mean the people watching the film are not not comic book fans, or that they’re not comic book fans yet?

And the Pendulum Swings

I’m having one of those days where I’m fairly sure that my novel is brilliant. A little unfinished, but brilliant.

Yeah, I probably need someone to knock some sense into me.

Objectively? I’m swimming with some pretty serious talent.

So, maybe it’s time to sit back and enjoy one of those rare moments of confidence.

Know Your Readers

The newspaper in my small town is on a downward spiral. Just a matter of time before there is no newspaper, and I think we all know it.

You probably have some idea of small-town papers. Stories wired in from the Associated Press, and a whole lot of feel-good stories about the local kid who’s collecting cans for the food bank, or the fireman who saved Mrs. Murphy’s cat from a tree (again.) That’s about what we have.

You aren’t going to find one of our local reporters at a press junket for the latest movie, or at the White House, but they do pretty well going to the High School football games.

So, here is the honest truth of the matter:

People read small-town news to read about themselves, their families, their friends. They read the sports section, and the obituaries, and the community calendar.

Everything else… every other syndicated column and news feed… that’s on the national news… on the television, or the internet, or in the fat newspapers from bigger towns. (You can get at least three bigger-city papers delivered to your door, and more to your laptop.)

A newspaper has basically two sources of income. There are advertisements–and keep in mind that these are what has traditionally paid for the paper–and there are subscriptions. (Traditionally, this lets the advertisers know just how many people will see their ads, and also gives readers the illusion that they are the customers, but may not–in reality–cover the cost of the paper it’s all printed on.) (Yes, that’s a jaded way of putting it.)

The cost of advertising has gone down, no doubt about it. And Facebook has produced advertisers who expect a much more targeted (and measurable) approach.

So, what’s a paper to do?

In the case of my particular newspaper…

The newspaper is now charging for obituaries as if they were advertisements for the mortuaries. (Go to Joe’s Funeral Home. The way he puttied up Aunt Edna, she looks even better than she did when she was alive. Drop dead on Double Trochar Days for your chance to win a new car.)

The death spiral begins.

Because, after all, readers are reading the newspaper to hear about the small town. Not to hear about the latest political gaffe, or which starlet flashed some wardrobe-malfunction at the latest red carpet event.

So, readers stop reading the paper for obituaries, because honestly… between the mortuary websites and Facebook, who the hell would pay per-column inch to tell the world that Aunt Edna loved Jesus, her 1987 Chevy Celebrity, and her cats?

You know that joke about people only reading the newspaper for the obituaries? Well, in so many ways, it’s true. And by charging for the space, all the newspaper has really done is guarantee an obituary page that’s just a list of names.

People don’t read newspapers for lists of names.

And reduced readership means that ads in the paper are even less valuable than they were before.

If I wanted to sell newspapers?

If I wanted to boost the value of a newspaper ad?

I’d get people out there, interviewing a different kid every day of the week. Put people in a paper, and they’ll buy it. Free obituaries for everyone. And if an event’s coming up… well, I’d probably make sure it hits the paper before it happens. You know… while people still have the option of going. The community calendar as it stands? Mostly a list of AA meetings.

Sure, charge more for the subscription. Make it more like a magazine.

But legitimately draw readership to boost the ad revenues, too.


Turning Off the Television Tap

I was talking to coworkers over my lunch break today, and I wound up mentioning the fact that I do not own a television. I don’t know what response I expected, but it wasn’t the jaw drop and shock that I actually got. You mean… you don’t watch television? I don’t think I ever knew anyone who didn’t have a TV before. Well… do you have a DVD player? Or… anything?

I have a DVD drive in my computer. I believe I may have mentioned the quest for a region-free DVD player a while back. (To paraphrase Don Quixote: Well, hello, windmill.)

So, bit by bit, I got over it. The cable company helped, of course. Charging more and more for fewer and fewer channels. And the awareness that there are things I’d like to do with my life. (Do any of us really need another reality show?)

Well, there’s a difference between consciously enjoying a program and mindless consumption.

I finally broke the habit a couple years ago. The old television died slowly, one static-y inch at a time. By the time it gave up for real, it was a thin, belt of condensed people. And after that, there was the matter of paying money for a new one. Goodbye, television.

I can’t say I don’t watch anything. There’s internet news, and streaming movies, and from time to time, I buy a season of some program I really want to watch.

What I don’t have is entertainment on tap.

If I’m going to watch something, I need to consciously chase it down and watch it. There’s no coming home and flopping down in front of whatever happens to be on.

So, has it made a real difference?

I don’t know. I certainly find enough other ways to waste my time. But–and I think this is a big benefit–those time wasters have a tendency to involve two-way communication in a way that television does not.

I’m not even slightly going to claim that all the time goes into productive things. (Although, I think some of it does.) But I do think it was the right choice for me. (I never had any discipline to begin with.)

What is the Buy-In?

One of these days, I intend to get around to watching Black Panther. Right now, I’m dodging the opening-weekend crowds. I’m sure a lot of the other allergy-afflicted, grown-up, child-free introverts can relate.

I grabbed a burger at a fast-food joint not so far from the movie theater today, and literally every teen and tween in the place was talking about Black Panther. I didn’t see any cos-play, though. Maybe later, when the characters are better known?

I did catch a short clip of Roxane Gay talking about the movie, and her characters that made it into the movie. Somewhere along the line, she mentioned that comic books can be cost prohibitive. That they cost $3.99 and they come out every week.

Well, she’s right, you know.

And the cos-play I’m missing? Well, that’s probably even more cost prohibitive, depending on how willing the kid is to actually wear the clothes he makes in day-to-day life.

So, here I am, looking down the barrel of economics and science-fiction. Books? Well, that’s a trip to the library. Comic books? Well, that’s gonna cost you… particularly if you want to stay on top of your franchise. And conventions, cos-play, and memorabilia collections? Well fu–dge. Some of that stuff, I can’t afford.

I’m crazy about the community that’s built around Science Fiction and Fantasy. I hate to think of kids being priced out of it. But yeah… there’s a price tag on lightsabers.

Maybe the library needs a dress-up collection.

Maybe the theater does.

I’ve gone to parties where the host has a big ol’ box of costumes at the door, and it does make the atmosphere more inclusive, whether you couldn’t afford a costume, or just didn’t have time. (Or, gee… did your boyfriend really need his own coconut bra?)

And maybe we all need to work together to emphasize the stories over the merchandise.


Celebrating With Internet Friends

One of the great things about the internet is that you can go out and find people with the same hobbies and the same level of motivation you have.  Anything from hey, look at my doodle to hey, look at my Sistine Chapel. Locally? Well, the last person I told about my novel… And why do I do that, by the way?… told me about the fifty page story he wrote… back in high school.

And when you’re around people who are actually putting the work in, and who you’ve watched working, you feel happy for them when good things happen for them.

Let’s be honest… you start to see their achievements as an indicator not just of their own hard work, but of the entire group moving forward. You start out with other people who are actually writing a novel. And you write with them, and then, eventually… good stuff starts happening.

Can your own good stuff be far behind?

One of my internet buddies just announced that she got an agent. (I’ll put up a link later. As of right now, she hasn’t posted it on her own blog.)

This is motivation. Keep going. It can happen for somebody like me.

Keep going. Keep working.

I appreciate the feeling of things happening. This is not something I’ve generally gotten in real life. Now and then, people ask me about my book, or they tell me about their own projects (which may or may not ever exist), or whatever variation of non-progress it is that goes on in the local world.

I don’t know if I would keep going, if it weren’t for the internet. Maybe I’d be selling whole life insurance or used cars by now. Maybe it would be the go-nowhere hobby I keep a secret in the back of my closet.

The internet brings me proof that what I want is possible.

You bring me proof that it’s possible.

Thanks, everybody.

Tor Book Club Reopens

I got the email we’ve all been waiting for this morning. No, not that email! The other one. No,  the other other email. Well, anyway, the Tor Book Club is back. For those of you who don’t know, the fine folks at Tor–who love us very much, and want us to be happy–have a book club which discusses Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, which they give away for free.

Now, admittedly, the free books tend to be the first book in a very long and very addictive series, but they are free. You just sign up for the newsletter. The books are only available free for two or three days.

This month’s selection is The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Yup. The first book in the Wheel of Time series. (A series, by the way, which is so long the author literally died writing it, and so addictive they raised a boy-child from scratch to finish it.)

No, the business model is completely different than selling cocaine.

A Sigh In Food

Today has not been the best of days for food. I plummeted to the rock-bottom, least-favorite flavor of meal-replacement shake. It’s growing on me… which means I’ve gotten used to the taste enough that I’m no longer convinced there’s something wrong with it.

I tried to make eggs with cheese, but by golly, the cheese musta been a little moldy because as soon as it started to melt, there’s that musty dish-rag smell. (I can smell things before I can see them.) Had to start over on that.

And the mochi I ordered off the internet?

Well, the taste was fine.

The appearance?

Well, they sure as heck didn’t look like the picture. A little blobby–not the beautiful, round shape– and the filling was solid, and not as appealing a green. They stuck to their… uhm… is that a cupcake liner? something fierce.

So much for celebrating.

Maybe that’s the universe’s way of telling me to get my butt back to work.

Not finished yet.

No chewy, gooey, mochi for you.

So, It Had To Come To This…

I’ve been revising all day, so here is my very lazy post–which happens to line up pretty well with my other rants about asking creatives to work for free.

Yup. The fine folks at Toronto advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo actually went around and asked non-creative professionals to work for free, and recorded their reactions.

Enjoy, and I’ll try to have something more write-y tomorrow.

IWSG: The Genre I Write In Most

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?
The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!
A couple years back, I switched from writing mostly mysteries and thrillers to writing mostly science fiction (or fantasy, depending on the day.) And I love the sense of community, and the positivity, and the imagination. Thrillers were fun, but there’s a darkness there that wasn’t all that fun to live with.
My insecurities right now? Well… as always, I’m mired in my revision, but I’m down to single-digit chapters on my revision to-do list. I’ve saved the toughest revision for last, and I’m insecure about every single one of those seven or eight chapters. (Among other things, I still can’t decide whether my main character marries the love interest at the end of the book.)
But it’s nearly finished, and I’ll have to make those decisions sooner or later, no matter what.
This is where my mind wanders to the social implications of business decisions. I have forums and blog hops and writers’ groups, and I’ve made amazing friends over the course of the creative process. When I start thinking about what to do with the book after it’s finished, I’m discovering that in addition to a Muse and an Inner Editor, I have an Inner Social Director.
Inner Social Director is currently reminding me that no matter how I publish the book, half my friends are going to hate me when they find out. (For heaven’s sake, don’t bring it up over dinner, and are you really wearing that?) Inner Social Director is kind of a bitch, actually.