Rogue Warrior

The new book and the game are coming out together (well, almost together) this fall. There's supposed to be some sort of press stuff and information in March (??) and a regular promo campaign and all that crap, but wtf. Bob Gleason is the editor at Tor/Forge who's now shepherding Rogue Warrior . . . as much as anyone can "shepherd" Dick . . .

There was a typo in one of the titles on this vid that no one picked up on for, I don't know, a month? . . . I musta missed it a million times myself. Finally the video got around to one of our agents, who pointed it out right away. Obviously it pays to have someone on the team who can read.
Why does Hillary take it on the butt?

I'm not a Hillary Clinton supporter and not a Democrat, but it's really interesting to hear the spin she gets in supposedly neutral reports on the election.

You expect people on the right to be against her (Ann Coulter aside), though the vitriol from people on the left is even worse. (If I didn't know better I'd swear Frank Rich thinks she's an ex-wife.) But their comments are generally labeled as opinion.

I was listening to a radio news spot the other day that started out with the headline that Hillary had strongly criticized Barak Obama at the latest debate. The newscaster then played an actuality (if they still call it that) of Obama speaking at the debate that neither responded to the point or even mentioned Clinton. Next sentence, John McCain got some licks in - not about either Democrat - and then the piece ended by making fun of Mike Huckabee making fun of himself on Saturday Night Live.

Clinton's points, ostensibly the "lead" and most important news of the piece, were not so much dismissed as completely ignored. And that's probably the gentlest spin she gets.
I don't think it's just because she's a woman, but I think that's a big part of the reason. She's in a full-spin zone that has very little to do with her positions or even who she is, and everything to do with the prejudices and preconceived notions of the media and the people who consume it.

As are we all, I suppose.
The future of publishing (part three) . . .

. . . giving it away

Book publishers are where the record companies were before the Ipod & Itunes were announced. The technology for a revolutionary music machine was almost there. People could almost see it. And then, within a year or two, it was the way that a large number of people were getting their music. It didn’t eliminate CDs or record stores, but Apple (and of course everyone on the same bandwagon) changed the business dramatically, cutting those sales dramatically.

Recently, a number of book publishers created a mini-flurry inside the industry by giving away ebooks. All of the reported comments that I’ve seen have been positive. None of the authors I’ve spoken to about it, however, think it’s anything like a good idea. They don’t blame the other writers for going along with it – and that’s the way they tend to put it – but to a person they believe the thinking behind the program is flawed. As do I.

It may be argued that giving away ebooks will help publishers do #2, make the publishers known to their customers. It would be a good argument if the giveaway was part of a comprehensive program to drive readers to their site. As it stands now, the activity is very passive – you go once, give them your email address, and have no reason to return, even if you like the books. The publisher’s identity is not going to stick in the reader/user’s head, or even necessarily their favorites list.

Worse, they’re teaching readers that ebooks should be free.

One illustration of how flawed the thinking is on so-called “new” media and how to deal with it was the reporting on the effects of giving away Suze Orman’s book as an ebook as part of-in the wake of publicity from Oprah. The stories claimed that there had been no decline in sales – and they did this by citing the book’s ranking on Amazon.

Of course, anyone who has ever sold a book through Amazon knows that the numbers are not exactly a scientific measure of anything in the real world. Putting that aside, the fact of the matter is that Orman’s book benefited first from the Oprah connection, and secondly from the wave of publicity relating to the giveaway. Surely those are the reasons it sold well.

(to be continued)

The future of publishing (part two)

What's happened to the music and newspaper industries in the last ten years is admittedly very complex, and neither is an exact model for publishers. But it does seem to me that some lessons can be drawn from them:

1. You need to have an identity with your customers in order to survive.

2. If you devalue the product you’re selling, it’ll eventually catch up to you.

There are three things publishers can do to meet the challenge of the changing technology:

1. Increase the value of the product they are selling. They can do this by paying more attention to editing above all, but in other areas related to the books as well. Part of this probably means they should decrease the number of books they publish as well, allowing them to concentrate their resources to do a better job on the books they do publish. But it primarily means that they should pay more attention the quality of the talent they have working for them. Every editor I know is underpaid by a good mile, especially the young ones. Anyone entering the profession basically has to swear an oath of poverty and work under ridiculous pressure. Editing is a difficult art to master; many if not most publishers make it even harder with their work conditions.

2. Make themselves known to their real customer. Most readers don’t have a clue who publishes a book. There’s a legitimate reason for this: For years, the publishers’ customers have actually been the bookstores, and the people who deal with them. But the internet and other facets of modern commerce have weakened these middlemen, in some cases making them irrelevant. The publishers have to build a brand identity with the end customer, so that the house name means something. “We’re the people who bring you Stephen King and all those other writers you like...”

3. The publishers have to take back control of the distribution channel. If that sounds a little antagonistic, it is. The big mistake the record companies made was following the old model of letting the middlemen sell their music. Yes, the first threat was to record stores, etc., but the ultimate victim were the companies that depended on those stores for their sales. Why should I go to Itunes to buy music? If I’m buying my music on-line, it’s just as easy – or rather, it could be just as easy – to buy it from XYZ as it is from them.

. . . (to be continued)
It works

The official word:

During a Pentagon news conference Thursday morning, General Cartwright rebuffed those who said the mission was, at least in part, organized to showcase American missile defense or anti-satellite capabilities.

He said the missile itself had to be reconfigured from its task of tracking and hitting an adversary’s warhead to instead find a cold, tumbling satellite. “This was a one-time modification,” General Cartwright said.


Anti-missile technology, though it can never be the only defense against enemies who possess missiles (including terrorists and terrorist states), can work and is important, and why don't we admit it?

Good job, Navy. And everyone else who helped.

(The quote is from the NYT.)

The future of publishing . . .

. . . or at least publishers (part 1)

A few people have been talking with me about ebooks, giveaways, and publishing, and suggested that rather than being my usual wise-ass, I take a more serious approach.


If I were a publisher, I would be very worried about the direction of the industry. So many things have changed over the past two decades – the loss of independent stores and regional distributors among them – that it’s very easy to overlook the potential impact of the web, ebooks, and alternative delivery systems for books. Or not so much ignore it, but not position myself to deal with the revolutionary change that is coming.

But it’s an absolute necessity. What has happened to two other media – record companies and newspapers – are frightening examples. The music industry has been devastated by the technological changes in the way music is delivered to listeners. Large record companies, which had very little identity to listeners, once were able to have dominant positions because they added value to the music “product” – recording and making it into a format that could be consumed easily – and controlled the distribution. They no longer do the latter, and have seen their role in the former steadily reduced.

Newspapers were in a somewhat different position. Well ahead of the arrival of the internet, they had consolidated and achieved, in most markets, a competitive monopoly. Once that happened, they met any new economic pressures by taking a relatively easy route to maintaining profit levels – they cut staff and, in turn, harmed their product. There has been a steady erosion of not only quality but volume of news coverage in print newspapers over the past two decades. (While this is an industry-wide trend, it is not the inevitable result of inroads from television and radio, or the general decline of literacy, as is often claimed. Magazine pages have increased over the same period.)

To be continued . . .
Hitchcock knew

Get them before they get us . . .

Parks staffer goes on golf cart rampage in Lower Manhattan, kills 5 birds

Police say a Parks Department employee took his city-issued golf cart on a rampage, running over and killing five birds in a public park.

Police say they arrested the 45-year-old employee Friday evening after receiving complaints that he was driving erratically in the park in Lower Manhattan.

He faces charges of reckless endangerment and intentional injury to an animal.

Three pigeons and two seagulls were killed.

The arrested man had no listed phone number, and information was not immediately available on whether he had a lawyer.

Dogboy's mailbox

So Dogboy and I were in the bar the other night, and all of a sudden he gets real quiet. Turns out the two guys at the far end were county highway workers.
Plow drivers, actually.
After a few minutes, he asked the bartender for a couple of Buds. Then he walked over there with them. A few minutes later he came back, all smiles.
"I thought you hated the county guys 'cause they blew out your mailbox," I said when he sat down.
"So why'd you buy them beers?"
"Just had to confirm something."
Dogboy just smiled.
"One of them the guy on your route?" I asked.
Another smile.
As the plow drivers were leaving, Dogboy said good night and left.
I'm thinking there's another mailbox down around town, but I can't say for sure. Could be a lot worse.
Free e-books

A couple of publishers have gotten some news this week, inside the industry at least, with new free e-book programs. There's been a big conference in NY about new media, and that's generated a lot of talk about how great it is to give away your stuff. Especially when it's not really your stuff, I guess.

I'm against it. I think publishers should be giving away guns. Or at least bullets.

Drinks, too. Maybe not at the same time, though.
Talk, or you'll drinking Maxwell House from now on . . .

Who needs waterboarding when you have a Starbucks handy? Once they're hooked on lattes, they sing like canaries . . .

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

The admissions made by the men -- who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- played a key role in the government's decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

From the Washington Post story on the charges against the 9/11 Six. A little breathless, but what the hey - the guy probably needed a fresh jolt.
Balls, baby

Driving a plane is like driving a bus, right?

The computer graphics were made with a 777 image, but the photos are real. I'm asking for these guys next time I fly . . .
A master has passed on

"Fine espresso paints the tongue."

-Ernesto Illy, 1925-2008
One last time . . .

Pitchers and catchers, one week away.

Franky’s a trooper up at the barracks. Usually you don’t find him at O’Hara’s, but tonight he was there. Usually he doesn’t talk much, but tonight he did.

“They gave me the job because the zone sergeant was away. One of the BCI guys offered to do it, but there’s something about the uniform, you know? Supposed to steady them. I went over right away, figured get it going, get it done. The lieutenant was on his way behind me, and maybe I should have waited, but I’m not good at waiting. I got out of the car and put my hat on, started up the driveway. Halfway to the door I saw a kid’s trike.

"It was too late to turn back.

"She knew as soon as she opened the door. I don’t know how, don’t know why, but she knew. The tears were rolling out of her eyes before I even told her. Before I even said the word, before I said dead . . .”

Somebody came over to the end of the bar and asked for another Scotch and a bag of chips. The bartender flipped the TV over to the Knicks, and started drying glasses.

I bought Franky another beer. After a while, I drove him home.


Dreamland 10... due out this summer.

I can't believe it's number 10....
Nobody is perfect. Nobody . . .

It's even better in Japanese.

But what I meant was . . .

One of the great things about writing a book is the fact that you make mistakes.

Not that I like making mistakes - just the opposite - but they're inevitable, or at least they are for me. On the bright side, they give readers something to say to you. Most are pretty nice about it. I've met a lot of interesting people that way.

Somewhere in Rangers at Dieppe, I started talking about the M1 and for some reason I got confused between the standard rifle version and the carbine. Probably I started to pontificate on the different versions, realized I was just going on, then cut out stuff haphazardly. But who knows.

Damned if I haven't been hearing about it ever since the book came out. Just goes to show: the only thing a writer really owns in a story are the mistakes he makes . . .

The funny thing is, I first learned to shoot with an M1 that belonged to a friend's father. There were some great stories attached to the gun, which supposedly had been used in WWII. Most if not all of the stories were probably apocryphal - and I strongly suspect now that it hadn't been in the war at all. But just holding that rifle (and yes, that was definitely the rifle version) was an awesome feeling.
Today's helpful copy editor hint

The second "H" in H-hour is not capitalized.