Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

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Kickstarter: Pimpbot

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Who would ever expect the “local warm up” band to be as good as the headline act? Not me. I’ve been to a couple rock concerts on Maui that were almost done in by the sorry quality of the first act, but that act wasn’t Pimpbot.

They are good–really good–and lots of fun onstage.

Pimpbot is more than just a warm up act of course, but I don’t get to spend much time around the Honolulu music scene, so the two times I’ve seen them they were opening for “name” groups from the mainland.

Now they’re using a Kickstarter project to finance their third album. Click here if you want to help out!

Source Code (the movie)

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

The husband wanted to go see a movie; he suggested this one. We watched the trailer. “That’s completely ridiculous,” I said. We went anyway, and am I glad we did. This was an enthralling, very well done movie. So well done that I didn’t spend a moment worrying that the “science” didn’t exactly add up.

If you want to know about the plot, go watch the trailer! 😉 All I’m going to say is that I thought the last couple minutes of the movie weren’t entirely necessary, but then again, they didn’t hurt. Other than that, no complaints.

I just wish there were more movies (and books) on this level.

Follow up: An Invitation to Preview The Wild

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I’ve sent follow up emails to everyone who contacted me, but haven’t heard back from a few people. So if you haven’t heard from me and are still interested in being an advance reader for The Wild, please send me an email as soon as you can to linda at mythicisland [dot com]


Comments Are Fixed!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Phone call from my daughter: Mom, the comments on your blog are broken.


Fixed now!

Career Day

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I did a Career Day presentation at the local prep school today. It went more or less like this:

When Mrs. Hart asked me to participate in your career day and talk about what it’s like to be a writer, I agreed at once. Then I assured her that by the time I was done talking I would have convinced everyone present that they did NOT want to be a writer. So beware.

I write fiction. Novels, to be specific. So when I talk about being a writer, what I really mean is being a novelist. Making a living writing non-fiction is a whole different world and honestly I know almost nothing about it.

In its essence, the typical workday of a writer is utter simplicity. You sit down in front of your computer and you write. Or you try to convince yourself to stop surfing the web and start writing. Or you start thinking about all those other things you really need to get done and since you’re not making any progress on your writing anyway you might as well do them. And wow, the house sure is dirty.

In other words, it takes a lot of self-discipline and a lot of focus–we could say “obsessiveness”–to be a successful writer, because whether you finish a project or not all comes down to you and your own personal drive. In typical employment–in an office environment, or in the field–you have to account to someone for your time and your production, you have deadlines, and evaluations, and concrete tasks to complete. If you don’t show up for work on time, somebody notices. Even if you run your own business, you are accountable to your employees, your creditors, your clients. But when it comes to writing, you are almost always on your own. You might have a supportive spouse who reads all your work at the end of each day; I’ve heard of writers who do, but I don’t know any. Maybe you’re under contract and you have a deadline–but knowing that a manuscript is due in 18 months isn’t a real strong motivator for sitting down today to work. So that’s a big part of the job–just showing up at the computer and writing until the book is done.

Another big factor in a writer’s day is isolation. Most writers spend hours and hours everyday on their own. Personally, this doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been something of a hermit. But a lot of people find it really hard not to be able to stop and chat with someone every now and then throughout the day. Perhaps that’s what MSN is for, or writing in a coffee house . . . though I’m sure I couldn’t manage to get anything done in a coffeehouse. But the isolation is something to consider.

There’s also the dilemma familiar to most self-employed people: when is it okay to stop working and relax? You don’t have fixed hours. If you didn’t get very far with your writing during the day, should you work into the evening? Should you spend all your weekend writing? If you have a day job, do you do anything besides write in what is amusingly known as your “spare” time? If you’re single and unattached, the answers to these questions might be easier, but if you’ve got a significant other, a spouse, children, you owe them something of yourself.

The next big issue: Money. Well, money and ego. You will need to deal with these every day. Money you will rarely see, and as a consequence your ego will be frequently bruised. Yes, it is possible–though it’s not common–to make a lot of money as a writer. But even a successful writer is not going to get a paycheck every two weeks. Could your ego handle going two years without an income? Could your bank account handle it? Could your spouse? When you’ve spent two years writing a novel that sells for $20,000, is it time to start thinking of a career change? Can your ego handle not being a stellar breadwinner?

Novel writing is a sole-proprietor business, and like any other, it has expenses. Right off the top is a standard 15% commission to your agent. So that’s $3000 out of your hypothetical $20K advance. And since you’re self-employed, you get to pay all of your social security tax instead of just the half that an employee would have to pay. No health care plan, of course. But you do get to deduct the cost of some equipment . . . assuming of course that you have an income.

Then there is research! I think research is often seen as one of the romantic perks of being a writer. If you’re going to set your novel in Europe or Australia or even Seattle, you have to know what it’s like to be there, right? If you’re doing a historical novel, you need access to great libraries with lots of material on your subject. Or you will need to interview people who know about the science or profession that you want to write about. You will want to see where they work, you will want to ride along with them in the squad car . . . .

And most of this absolutely demands travel, which costs a lot of money. So, even though you have a great idea for a novel, can you afford to research it? My agent used to encourage me to move from science fiction into techno-thrillers. This was really good advice, except that I couldn’t afford it–the research, that is. Of course this is the great advantage of science fiction and fantasy–you get to just make stuff up.

As a writer, it’s important that you maintain a social circle–regular people are great of course, but you also need to know some other writers or excellent readers. Your book is unlikely to sell unless it is very close to being “publishable” when the editor sees it–editors don’t really do a lot of editing–so it’s very important that you have reliable readers to point out the problems in your manuscript. Just make sure your readers are also eager to point out all the good stuff too, because no artist wants or thrives on only negative feedback. (And if a reader gives you ONLY negative feedback, they are not the right reader for you.)

Like so many other industries, publishing is undergoing huge changes. When I started publishing, there wasn’t a lot I could do–economically–to promote my work. I would make a few cents in royalties for every paperback that sold, and at that rate of return it didn’t make sense to take out ads or travel the country promoting my book. (Some authors do get book tours paid for by the publisher, but this is rare.) These days there is a lot more an author can do by way of self-promotion. Of course you must have a website, a blog, and a twitter account. You’ll be way ahead of the game if you can get gigs as a public speaker–especially if you can get paid for it. But always be ready to attend community events like this one. You can offer online writing workshops. And you can even self-publish.

Self-publishing used to be looked down on. People would think “Oh the only way she could ever get that book published is to publish it herself.”

There certainly are advantages to having a publisher. The big one is that a publisher will (usually) pay you money up front–though with small press publishers this isn’t always the case. Also, publishers will (sort of) edit the book, they will have it copyedited, they will typeset it, take care of the layout, the cover, the printing of it. They will get it to the distributors, and if all goes well they will get it into the bookstores. They will send out copies to publications likely to review it. They will clip the reviews and gather great quotes for the paperback version. All this saves the writer a lot of time that can instead be spent writing (or avoiding writing).

On the other hand, your publisher may decide to publish a paperback original, instantly removing your book from the consideration of a lot of reviewers and awards. They may put a lousy cover or a horrible title on the book and you will have no way to stop them. They may forget they are editing your book and not contact you for six months. They may accidentally destroy all the warehouse stock of your book. They may print so few copies of your book that there is no way, mathematically, that it could ever be viable in the marketplace. Most editors will tell you they care about the books and the authors they work with, but the truth is that publishing works on the shotgun principle. Fire off a bunch of books, and hope one of them hits the target. Editors care, but they don’t care anything like the order of magnitude that you care about your book.

So for the clever, new-media savvy entrepreneurs out there who are not shy about self-promotion, self-publishing is worth looking at. If you can get a contract, consider it carefully. But remember that a contract with a New York publisher is no longer the only game in town.

There is another big advantage of being a writer: once you start to get known, you may find yourself involved in odd, and sometimes lucrative, side projects. For example, a year ago I was working with a Japanese media company, doing story development for a proposed docudrama on nanotechnology. Last spring I was lucky enough to be asked to deliver a presentation at a cultural festival in Mexico City. I have a friend who wound up founding a company doing creative promotions after being asked to work on an Internet game developed to promote the movie AI. I have another friend who has become a very successful speaker and instructor, with long-term engagements in Europe and Toronto among other places. Not that’s romantic.

Of the group of writing friends I started with years ago–most of whom are award-winning writers–the sobering fact is that none are actually making a living writing novels, though all are still involved in writing, one way or another.

Someone once said, regarding young writers, “If you can be discouraged, you should be.” Those are words of wisdom. On the other hand, despite everything I have just said, I love being a writer. The freedom, the flexibility, the self-fulfillment are all great benefits. If you want to be a writer, go for it, but have a back up plan. Have a day job. Be adaptive. Be creative. Develop a thick skin.

And good luck.


Monday, October 20th, 2008

Though it feels like fiddling while Rome burns, let’s talk about writing….

Almost all the writing I’ve ever done has been on my own – on-spec stories and novels that I conceived and created in isolation, with little or no outside input until the work was done in solid first draft. Even after that, changes tended to be limited, and under my control.

A few weeks ago though, I completed a story development project for a proposed film that turned out to be something very close to a joint-author effort. This project has been ongoing and evolving for about two-and-a-half years. The latest iteration called for a detailed story synopsis that needed to be completed in a very short time frame. I can’t talk about the details of the project, but I can talk a little about the process, which was a new experience for me. The goal was to develop a dramatic, futuristic storyline. (How’s that for a useless general description?) There was a list of ideas, themes and locations that needed to be included, and we had already worked out the main characters during earlier phases of development.

Way back, circa 1999, I had written a novella from a similar “laundry-list” of requirements. That project collapsed, though the novella ultimately evolved into the story Goddesses — strangely enough, one of my more lucrative writing projects. At any rate, after initial discussions, I was on my own with Goddesses. Not so with this future-tech story.

I created the initial synopsis in about three weeks, and sent that off to the producer prior to a planned August meeting. The story did everything requested…but like painting a room in an unusual color, the final result only led to the realization “That’s not really what we wanted.” So with new requests in-hand I set out to produce a complete (and completely different) synopsis, this time in nineteen days. Then things stopped. For various reasons there was a delay in getting feedback – potentially critical because the production meeting was set as a fixed date so the story had to be ready on time. But after ten days, work began again – and once more there were extensive changes. I did a very short synopsis this time, again with extensive changes to the storyline. Now we were on track! From September 14 – 21 I was sending drafts to the producer every two days, with follow-up phone calls, implementing (or arguing against!) suggestions and requests. It was very intense, and also a lot of fun. It was also interesting to see the story develop through someone else’s eyes, and hear their thoughts on the factors that help a story connect with an audience.

The final result went out on September 21. I’m still waiting to hear if we get to move on to the next step, but whether or not that comes to be, this was a great project that taught me a lot, and I look forward to finding another collaborative project before too long.

Real America

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Joe Biden on real Americans:

The Choices We Make

Friday, October 10th, 2008

From Joe Klein at Time’s Swampland

“Watch the tape of the guy screaming, “He’s a terrorist!” McCain seems to shudder at that, he rolls his eyes… and I thought for a moment he’d admonish the man. But he didn’t. And now he’s selling the Ayres non-story full-time. Yes, yes, it’s all he has. True enough: he no longer has his honor. But we are on the edge of some real serious craziness here and it would be nice if McCain did the right thing and told his more bloodthirsty supporters to go home and take a cold shower. But McCain hasn’t done the right thing all year. His campaign is appalling, as the New York Times editorial board said today–and more, it is a national disgrace.”

More Politics

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

For those who watched the second presidential debate, this is from Andrew Sullivan:

Ethics Matter

Friday, September 12th, 2008

“In a democracy, we get the government we deserve.” Something to keep in mind.

Way back, shortly after Senator McCain won the Republican primary, I remarked to my son that at least (at last!) we would have two decent candidates running for the office of president. I was so very, very wrong.

From Andrew Sullivan

“We cannot control these despicable liars in the McCain campaign. We can only tell the truth as fearlessly and as relentlessly and as continuously as we can until November 4. We must do our duty. And if the American people want to re-elect the machine that has helped destroy this country’s national security, global reputation and economic health, then that is their choice. But I am not so depressed to think that they will.

We must give them the truth. And that will feel like hell. And we must tell it like Truman told it: cheerfully, passionately and relentlessly.”