Friday, May 20, 2011

"Sweet #$%#ing Mother of #$#@%!" Or, "An Announcement"

Dear Everyone Ever:

If the interwebs are to be believed, it would seem I have a book deal. Not only a book deal, but a two-book deal. Not only a two-book deal, but a two-book deal with one of the hottest publishers in all of speculative fiction. (Yes, I'm aware that if the interwebs are really to be believed, the world is going to end on Saturday. Which would be a bummer, because I've been assured on many nonconsecutive occasions that I do, indeed, really for-seriously actually have a book deal, and that this isn't some kind of elaborate prank.)

Said book deal, for those who've yet to click through (quite possibly due to the same baffling paralysis that struck me upon hearing the news, which, in addition to greatly hindering my jumping up and down, also prompted me to exclaim to kickass-agent-slash-fancy-pants-haver Jennifer Jackson "I CAN'T FEEL MY FACE!") is with Angry Robot. If you're not familiar with them, well, you should be. They've been amassing accolades left and right since their founding two years back, and just last month took home the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lauren Beukes' ZOO CITY. (Okay, in fairness, I'm pretty sure the mightily talented Ms. Beukes actually took the award home, but you get my drift.) And as an added point of asskickery, they also publish K.W. Jeter, godfather (not to mention coiner) of steampunk. I mean, c'mon.

Oh, right, I should mention which two books! (Hey, gimme a break; I've never broken news of a book deal before.) The first of them is DEAD HARVEST, which is slated for an April 2012 release. It'll be followed by its sequel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, that fall.

Enormous thanks to aforementioned fancy-pants-haver Jennifer Jackson, as well as Marc Gascoigne and the rest of the Angry Robot crew. Thanks also to all of you, for spreading word of my strange little stories far and wide. Looks like you'll get to read some strange big stories from me now...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Value of Free

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. It's been about a year since my last real blog post. Sure, I've posted news aplenty since then, held a couple contests -- even hosted an interview. But I haven't talked much of late about my writing life. Partly I've been busy. Partly I've been lazy. And partly, I feel like there are already more than enough people in the world talking about the art and business of writing. The louder the clamor of contradictory opinions gets, the less I care to shout to be heard over the din. But lately, I've come to realize I'm in a unique position to provide a little perspective on what's emerging as one of the hottest hot-button writing issues of the internet age.

No, not $0.99 ebooks. That debate, I suspect, will prove short-lived, and anyway, I've already said my piece. I'm talking about a belief so ingrained among writers, so prima facie obvious, only a fool would dare argue against it. I'm talking about the edict that (cue echo effect) The Writer Must Be Paid.

Turns out, I am just the fool for the job. 'Cause as far as I'm concerned, sometimes (like buskers, ice-cream shops, and Anthony Kiedis) the thing to do is give it away.

Now, I'm no expert, and I'm not one to prescribe, preach, or proselytize; at best, all I can say is what's worked for me. Thing is, giving (some) fiction away has for-seriously worked for me.

The first story I ever gave away was "Seven Days of Rain." To Demolition, this was. I confess, though I was delighted they'd accepted it, I was bummed I didn't get a check for it. Particularly since I'd gotten a lovely rejection letter from the editor of EQMM telling me it was a fantastic story, if not the best fit for them. Then "Seven Days of Rain" wound up winning a Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web (an award it would have been ineligible for had I placed it with EQMM), and I didn't feel so bummed anymore.

The second story I gave away was "The Toll Collectors," to Beat to a Pulp. That one (he says bitterly, waving a clenched fist at the cruel, uncaring world) didn't win a bloody thing. It did, however, kick off a rewarding relationship with editor David Cranmer, which has thus far yielded four additional publishing credits (three paid) and what I suspect will be a lasting friendship.

I'm not sure you can say I gave away "Eight Pounds," since Thuglit sent me a kickass T-shirt for my trouble, but I didn't, strictly speaking, get paid a dime. Upon publication of that one, I got a letter from a fancy-pants agent, asking if I was in need of representation. I was not (having already procured an agent of sufficiently fancy pants). But when Stuart Neville got a similar letter, he wasn't agented, and as he's written on his blog, the whole thing worked out pretty well for him.

At 11,000 words, "The Hitter" was perhaps my most egregious violation of the pay-the-writer edict. One seventh of a novel just given away, and before I'd ever even seen an issue of the magazine I gave it to. But I knew the guy who'd asked for it a little bit from Twitter, and I believed in the vision he and his cohorts had for Needle. Plus, I was out of work at the time, so I figured why the hell not write something for them? I had the time.

Not quite a year later, me and Steve are friends, and "The Hitter" has been selected by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011 (which, incidentally, pays about as much as my EQMM and AHMM credits combined, making it the most I've ever gotten paid for one story), not to mention nominated for a freakin' Anthony. Which (and again I'm no expert here) I'm guessing doesn't suck for my writing career.

Look, I'm not saying you should give work away all willy nilly. In fact, careful readers will note I'm not saying you should do anything at all. What I am saying is I've had damn good luck giving stories away. Now, I wouldn't give a story away to just anybody; in fact, I'm far more likely to submit to a paying market than a non-paying one. But the fact is, if I'd only published at the venues that paid, chances are, you never would have heard of me. And, as a side note, the only publication that ever screwed me over was a paying market. (They'd accepted a story of mine and paid me $10, only to disappear without a word when it was revealed they were a vanity project for their editor, who'd been padding his bibliography by accepting dozens of his own stories under a variety of pen names. I only tell you this so my editor-friends don't get all nervous I'm talking about them.)

Believe me, if you want to stick to paying markets, that's cool with me. In a perfect world, all markets would be paying markets. But we live in an era in which anybody with access to the internet and a passion for the written word can be a publisher, and it's important to note most of 'em lose money doing so even without paying for content. That doesn't make their tastes any less refined, or the role they play as gatekeepers any less valuable. So to those folks who stick to their getting-paid guns, I say this: stop demonizing non-paying markets, and grant the possibility that they have a place in the world of fiction. 'Cause I'm for damn sure better off for 'em.

Monday, May 09, 2011

"The Hitter" Nominated for an Anthony!

It's been a good day. So good, in fact, I forgot to blog about it until it was almost over.

Today, "The Hitter" was nominated for an Anthony Award.

"The Hitter" first appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir (which, if you click through, is still available, by the way), and is scheduled to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler.

Thanks to Steve and John at Needle. Thanks also to Jon Jordan, crack organizer of Bouchercon, and official nomination announcer-guy. But most of all, thanks to everyone who put my name down on your Anthony ballots; you have my eternal gratitude.

Oh, and congrats to all my fellow nominees! And a little extra-special shout-out to Hilary Davidson, whose debut novel THE DAMAGE DONE was nominated for Best First Novel. Though for my money, to say THE DAMAGE DONE is a great first novel is both true and too faint of praise. In a world of popcorn thrillers, THE DAMAGE DONE's a five-course meal. At once dark, brainy, and propulsive, but with the guts and heart to match, THE DAMAGE DONE announces Hilary Davidson as a major player in the future of crime fiction. (In case you couldn't tell, I'm a bit of a fan.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

In My Element

Today, over at Criminal Element, Elizabeth White's got some nice things to say about yours awesomely. (Yup, way better than "truly.") She also name-drops some dudes named O'Shea, Weddle, Hockensmith, and Dave White, but I think it's pretty clear that secretly, she likes me best. (Editor's note: it is not.)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Kat Debuts on Criminal Element!

Some of you know my lovely wife through her Twitter feed. Others from her mystery reviews at The Season, or on her blog, The Maine Suspect. (If you don't, that's fine; I can wait while you go bookmark them.) But it seems the missus has fallen in with a dodgy crowd of late. A Criminal Element, as it were.

Peep her inaugural post here. And keep an eye out; there's more to come. (No, really. Particularly on account of today's post kinda sorta used to be half of a Katrina Niidas Holm double-feature.)

UPDATE, May 3: Boom: Part Two. (Or one, or whatever it is. This crazy post-splitting thing is getting tougher to follow than Inception.)