Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #4

Welcome back, readers, to yet again another Monday Being a Better Writer post that has obviously been relegated to Tuesday. Someday I’ll make enough money from my writing to be able to give up my part-time job, but right now … if they want me on Mondays, they unfortunately have me.

So, this week we’re doing another Micro-Blast! New? Wondering what a “Micro-Blast” is an what it has to do with writing? Thoughts already jumped to something non-writing related already, like those tiny fruit snacks with juice in them?

Okay, maybe I’m just hungry. Anyway, a Micro-Blast is something that usually happens as I near the end of another topic list. This being a real, physical list that I keep on my desk and consult each week to select a topic for the upcoming post. The topics on this list are collected from a variety of sources, usually anything that makes me think “Hey, that would be a good BaBW topic,” but also from readers that write in with questions and requests.

Anyway, these topics can often vary in the amount of effort needed to address them. Sometimes it’s simply a topic where I’d be better suited saying my piece and pointing readers elsewhere, other times it’s just a quick answer that isn’t really deserving of a full break-down on it’s own, but at least merits a paragraph or two, and sometimes it’s just a topic I haven’t done much thought about, and therefore needs more research before I can weigh in one way or another. And then, of course, there are the topics that don’t have any of those issues, and I can write a full post on.

But at the end of a list, what results is often a small collection of leftover topics, a hdgepodge of tiny summaries that, for whatever reason, never got posts on their own.

Micro-Blast BaBW posts are the answer to these small collections of topics. A way to “finish off” each topic list by rapid-fire tackling each remaining issue with a small posting of its own.

So, this said, it’s time to finish off, once and for all, Topic List 8 so that next week, I can start anew with Topic List 9! Which also means you can expect a post later this week asking for suggestions for the list. I’ve got a bundle of my own from the recent LTUE conference, but as always, reader suggestions are a welcome way to add topics.

Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s clear this list!

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The LTUE 2017 Report

As usual, this year’s LTUE report is going to take the place of today’s (well, technically yesterday’sBeing a Better Writer post. Three day’s summation of the best writing-related con stuff ever? You bet!

So, where to start? How about with a quick reminder of what LTUE is? For those who’re missing out (and yes, you are), LTUE is short for Life, The Universe, and Everything, and it is a writing con by writers and editors of genre fiction, for writers and editors of genre fiction. And anyone else who wants to come (*cough cough* unlike certain other cons I could think of).

Which basically means it’s freaking awesome. The guest list is, as always, insane. L.E. Medesitt Jr. Mary Robinette Kowal. Dan Wells. Lisa Mangum, Larry Correia … Seriously, that’s barely scratching the surface. Everyone from Sanderson to Wiesskopf has showed up at LTUE before (and many are regular attendees). It’s probably one of the best-kept “secret” cons out there.

And you really should be going. Seriously.

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LTUE Tomorrow!

Just a quick reminder, but Life, The Universe, and Everything, the writing con of writing cons, starts tomorrow, and if you’re not there, well …

You’re missing out. Seriously. LTUE is the writing experience to go to, and it’s not to be missed.

Anyway, as usual, I’ll be there tomorrow morning, hitting panels and chatting with folks, so keep an eye out if you’re going to be there as well! Want something signed? Want to discuss your favorite moment from Unusual Events or best theory for Colony? Track me down and let’s chat!

See you at LTUE!

Being a Better Writer: Taxes

Fair warning, this is not going to be a happy post. A lot of times I try to deliver good news or positive vibes with my posts, but today? Well, today you’re probably going to leave unhappy. You’ll see why in a bit.

So, you’ve been published! Your book is out in the wild, selling copies and making you dough! Success! You’re on the way to riches, watching with glee and satisfaction as money slowly funnels into your bank accounts or arrives in publisher’s checks.

For many young authors, this is “the end” of the line as far as they are concerned when it comes to money. They wrote the book, and now royalties roll in. End of story, right?

No, unfortunately. It’s the end of the book’s story, but it’s not the end of the writers. Even if they create a one-hit wonder and call it quits afterwards … they can’t just sit back and relax. Because sooner or later, the IRS will come calling.

Now, from my mention of the IRS, you may rightfully realize that yes, I’m speaking about taxes as a US writer, and any specifics that I’m going to offer are going to be focused around my experiences with the US tax system. Which isn’t to say that if you’re not a US citizen you won’t find something to gain from this post, but it may be more general advice than specific. Regardless of where you live, after all, you’re going to have taxes of some kind. They may not be exactly like what I speak of here, but they may be similar.

Anyway, first things first. You will pay taxes on your book sales.

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Kindle Unlimited, LTUE, and Other Things

KINDLE UNLIMITED

So, I actually like seeing reads for my books on Kindle Unlimited. Especially for Colony. And not just because Colony is long enough that I pretty much make the same amount of money off of a KU read as I do a purchase. Nor because I like KU—which, for the record, I do; it’s as close as we’ve gotten to “Netflix for books” so KU readers, enjoy! But because it’s one of the closest available methods I have to tracking reader’s reactions to my work short of reviews, ratings, and sales.

See, KU gives me, the author, access to the daily page count totals for each of my books. Someone read 100 pages in a day? I can see that. Not who it was, nor when save a date, but I just get to see that someone’s reading my book.

The thing is, I can sort of track someone’s engagement with my books. And I can see how, over a few days, they get sucked further and further in, until reading Colony is all they’re doing. The first day, someone will read maybe 100 pages. The next day they’ll read 100 more. Then the day after that … they’re reading 150. Following that? 300. From there it turns into a sprint to the finish—we’re talking 500 or 600 words in a single day.

I love seeing these little patterns in my KU readers. It’s a good way to tell how readers are being engaged with my books—they’re getting caught up in the action as the book moves towards the end! Granted, I still get those who read through the entire 1100+ page work in a single day, which is also good and fun to see, but it’s pretty satisfying to “see” a reader go through this progression of “Okay, this is pretty good” followed by “Okay, this is really good” to “Drop everything I need to know how this ends now!

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Being a Better Writer: Don’t Neglect Your Backdrop

Apologies for the delay. My other job scheduled me for several Mondays in a row, and I wasn’t able to get this post done well enough in advance to make the release date. Next week’s post should be done more in advance, however.

There was a post I made here, once, where I brought up the “painted on backdrop.”

If you’ve not seen a lot of old movies, this may take a small bit of explaining, but not much. But in the days before computers, if you wanted to shoot a scene someplace and make it look like somewhere very different (say, your desert lot was perfect for the shoot, but didn’t have the canyon-filled background you needed), you didn’t need to travel somewhere expensive. Instead you would just use a cleverly design backdrop, a piece of canvas with the background you wanted painted over it. Carefully, mind you, so that shadows and whatnot lined up.

Now, sometimes, especially for a film that had either lower production values or was designed to mimic a stage production (such as a musical, where backdrops are a part of the charm), you could clearly see that the characters were interacting in front of the backdrop. But for a lot of other productions, sometimes you would be hard-pressed to tell that what you were seeing wasn’t real.

None of this is news to anyone who’s seen an old movie, or has any familiarity with practical effects. Oftentimes it’s very impressive to see the “how it was done” for an old film and discover what was a special effect, or a model, etc, etc. It’s impressive how often we were all fooled by something!

Okay, okay, so what does this have to do with writing? Good question! Obviously we don’t have painted backdrops.

Or do we?

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Some Colony Review Excerpts

Colony continues to do well, so I thought I’d share with you guys some highlights from the various reviews it’s been collecting!

—An action packed sci-fi adventure filled with excellent, detailed world-building, Colony is a treat for any lover of sci-fi.

—I’m gonna have to redefine ‘BFG.’ In the book, it means ‘Big Freaken Gun.’ But I’m looking at it as ‘Brilliant Freaken Genius’ …

—Totally worth it!

—Max Florschutz is now in my “read everything this guy writes” category.

—I loved the characters and world-building, and was glued to my Kindle pretty much all weekend.

—This book is right up there with Ender’s Game as an original futuristic universe filled with world building, fully fledged characters, and an underlying plot that will leave you guessing until the final act.

—The first part of the book reads like Michael Crichton at his early techno best … The MIDDLE of the book, with the combat scenes, reminds me more of Tom Clancy … go for ‘Red Storm Rising’ or ‘The Hunt for Red October.’

—It’s futuristic—and maybe a bit cyberpunk—enough to appeal to the “what if” in most of us, yet still grounded in enough actual science to still be a believable tangent of future human development.

—An enjoyable Gibson-esq cyberpunk story that feels like it belongs in the annuls of Shadowrun.

—It is my PROUD opinion that ‘Colony’ deserves to be a smash hit. Highly endorse.

Seriously, it’s an amazing feeling to see something do so well. And to those of you who have read it already, just so you know, Colony is an eligible title for the 2017 Dragon Award nominations! Just something to keep in mind when you start wondering on what the best Sci-Fi book you’ve read recently was.

Anyway, I need to be back at work on Jungle! It’s coming along nicely, so expect more hints and tidbits to drop soon!