Tag Archive for Buy Stuff

Princes, Paupers, and Authors

The article “From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life?” by Robert McCrum over at The Observer sounds kind of scary at first: a couple of award-winning literary darlings have fallen on hard times due to the changing face of the publishing industry.

Oh, the horror! Maybe I should go back to selling electronics.

Then I considered the stories of the first two authors McCrum sites as examples. The first, Rupert Thomson, is clearly living beyond his means. The second, Hanif Kureishi, was “swindled out of his life savings.”

Are these sad stories truly the fault of the publishing industry? Either situation could easily befall anyone in any job situation. A McDonald’s employee could be swindled out of his life savings, too. Or consider the number of professional athletes who are bankrupt within just a few years of the end of their career. Consider the number of Hollywood celebs who find themselves in the gutter after their big break doesn’t pan out.

The gravy train is not a perpetual motion machine.

Yes, the publishing business can absolutely be fickle. Readers’ attention spans are short and shelf space (or prominent screen space) is finite. Editors change. Publishing houses merge or fall. Oprah’s Book Club will always have a new selection.

Writing sounds like a glamorous career, but it’s also a job. Like any other job, its situation is subject to change.

I don’t doubt these writers are intent on keeping up their word counts, but what are they doing outside of the actual writing? Get deeper into the article, and there are the usual woes of social media, self publishing, and Amazon. Are the authors leveraging these tools themselves? Or are they just waiting for an editor to come along and do it all for them?

It’s the creator’s job to stay relevant, not the industry’s job to keep him there.

The article then goes on to take a shot at the “information should be free” trend and the Google Print Initiative, and their combined threat against copyright. I get why some authors and creators aren’t fans, but again, times change. Situations change. Sure, it sucks when books show up on torrent sites. When books (and movies and music) are easier to publish, they’re easier to pirate. Does that mean give up? To pack it in? To not take advantage of Amazon’s incredible reach (while it, too, lasts)?

Pandora’s box has been opened. When the refrigerator was invented, the ice delivery guy had two choices: starve to death while cursing new technology, or find new uses for his delivery truck.

Adapt or die. This is also a time any one of these authors can take direct ownership of their work and not rely on a middle man. This is a time they can reach more fans than they ever could before, whether through direct social media interaction or a simple electronic newsletter. Writers today can be their own publisher and publicist. The job has evolved.

Finally, awards don’t mean shit, son. They may raise an eyebrow here and there, but in the big picture they’re just another blurb to put on a cover or in a cover letter. Awards translating into piles of cash is a public perception, not an insider’s reality.

Pick a successful creator in any medium. There are more than a few creators someone might point to and say, “he got lucky, he met so-and-so at the right time.” That may be true, but you know what? He was also hustling when so-and-so found him. He was working.

It’s natural to be jealous of success. It’s okay to feel sorry for great creators who have fallen on hard times. Just remember, when it comes down to it, their job is still just another job.


About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

That Was Then

I saw this old pic in my Flickr stream and it made me think about time wasted.

My Gadget Bag

I carried all that crap to work

I took this for some tech blog or other which had asked “What’s in your gadget bag?” At the time I worked as the sysadmin for a small, family-owned dial-up ISP and had throw myself into IT. Writing wasn’t paying off, I had young children to feed, and I kept worrying I was wasting my time chasing a pipe dream.

This was about the time I had twelve different short stories and novellas lined up for publication, yet only three of them came to fruition. Not a one of those three paid a penny. This was a year after an editor told me he wanted my book for his mass market line and I never heard from him again. Yep, it’s a tough biz, and I flat out couldn’t afford to treat it as anything more than a hobby.

I know better now.

I was good at IT. Hell, I still am. I thought throwing myself into servers and networks would be a much better career plan. I worked at the ISP, I worked on a few computers on the side, and I even wrote a few technical articles and had them published. I read a lot to expand my skills and build up my resumé, and I did the social networking thing to make contacts in the industry.

Pretty soon I realized it was no easier in IT. Techs are a dime a dozen, employers don’t want to talk to a guy without a degree, and tech recruiters don’t know the first thing about the technology they’re recruiting for. I wrote technical articles because I was confident I could get them published, but they didn’t pay any better than the horror markets I was used to. If I wanted to make money writing tech, I would have to build my career the same as I would my horror career.

Only problem is writing those tech articles bored the shit out of me.The studying and reading also bored the shit out of me, and I hated the work. The dial-up ISP got gutted by the arrival of DSL, and tech support is a maddening, soul-sucking exercise in futility. Writing and developing software felt like an option to flex creative muscles, but in reality it too just bored me to tears.

Now which was the waste of time? I wasn’t afraid of hard work, I just misread the odds of payoff and the satisfaction I get out of one vs the other.

I wrote fiction because I loved it. I still write fiction because I love it, despite letting other facets of reality slow things down for much of 2011. I put togetherand had published—Werewolves: Call of the Wild shortly after that revelation. Now Winter Kill is doing well for itself, Lie with the Dead is in development, and the first of two short comics has been released. I had a few other projects published in the meantime, including some of the projects I assumed were dead.

Yeah, I’m still in IT, but doing it for education gives me more time to do what I love on the side. Now I have a much clearer idea of what needs to be done to go to writing full time.

And I also get to travel a lot lighter.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Editor or Adversary?

Any schmuck can claim the editor title. There’s no training for it, no formal certification. There’s a generally-accepted idea of what an editor is and does, but there’s so much leeway in its application that few people question it when they work with an editor.

One definition of the editor is the gatekeeper. He’s the guy putting together an anthology, and thus the guy the writer has to buy drinks for at a convention. To some he’s the Statue of Liberty, welcoming the tired and poor and huddled masses to his inbox. To others he’s Cerberus, viciously shredding manuscripts in his three sets of jaws and keeping the wannabes in their place.

Another definition is the editor as proofreader. Some editors will run a manuscript through Word’s spellchecker and call it a day, trusting the pro writer they admire to have the skill to turn in a flawless manuscript. Others wield their red pen like a scythe, slashing at the text until the manuscript looks like a murder scene.

Finally we have the editor as consultant, or perhaps developer. The easy-going editor asks the writer to tweak the ending because he didn’t understand it. The writer changes exactly three words and the editor says “great job” and moves on (possibly without even reading the revised manuscript). This guy’s opposite number is the micro-manager, the guy who forgets this is the writer’s story, not his own, and dictates changes down to the minutest detail.

For my money, an editor should be a blend of all three, and a good editor will work somewhere in the middle ranges of these scenarios. A good editor can make a decent writer look great, but a bad editor can make a great writer look like a monkey raping a typewriter. Just as a good editor should analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a writer, a good writer should analyze the strengths and weaknesses of an editor.

This is why a writer must ask himself whether this person is his editor or his adversary.

For those of us coming up during the POD boom ten years ago, we saw a lot of editors slap together an anthology and call it a day. The stories were uneven, some writers turned in crap because they could, and the books were often rife with typos and grammatical errors. We started to figure out pretty quick that this style of editing wasn’t doing any of us any favors.

I also know two guys who worked with a prominent editor at a New York publishing house. He asked them for changes to manuscripts that made no sense, and pretty soon they figured out this guy wasn’t even reading the manuscripts in the first place. This explained a lot of the other crap hitting the shelves under this guy’s watch, and my friends ultimately moved on so they wouldn’t be dragged down by the rest of the line.

These editors are your adversary. They do not have the writer’s best interest heart, nor even the book. They want their name in lights or to just collect a paycheck.

I also know editors who bring out the best in their writers. They understand good storytelling and they know what style guides are for. They take the time to check historical facts when necessary, and they know how to push a writer to make him work harder. They make sure the writer’s work is the best it can be, and that it works well on its own or as part of a collection or anthology.

These editors are the editors you want to work with, for obvious reasons.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with more of the good editors than the bad guys, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We may always turn in the best work we can (at least, I hope we all are), but there are times we also have to take the extra steps ourselves.

And in extreme cases, there are times we just have to walk away from a gig.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Time to Knuckle Down

It’s been a hell of a day.

It started with a crashed server at work. It took a turn for the better this evening when I burned through two more steps of my karate review process, leaving me only sparring and ju ju undo to complete to earn Ikkyu, or first-degree brown belt.

Then it ramped up again when I got some good news from Evileye Books, which I hope to share with you in the coming weeks. It means more work, but that’s a good thing.

Now I’m all amped up and need to burn off some energy.

A belated song of the day:

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Discovery of Process

There’s a dearth of hotties in bikinis, but I’m still rather enjoying Spring Break this year.

Most school breaks, I try to spend them as though I’m a full-time writer: I’ll put in plenty of keyboard time, then spend a few hours taking care of housework or whatever else I’ve been putting off. Usually it works out well, and I get some solid progress done on a project.

This time around has been a bit different. Part of it is I allowed a few other things to derail my time. For starters, the rugrats are a little older and a little more active. Also, when I go full time I also would like to hit karate more often, but I didn’t take into account the travel time and the other stops and errands I add to those extra trips. Finally I decided to finish prepping both the motorcycle and the grill for the season.

Long story short: if I’m going to write full time, my time management is going to have to get much better. It’s already lacking during the regular work weeks, but this is just irritating. Fortunately I can still regroup with the remaining days.

That’s not to say I haven’t gotten any work done (that whooshing sound you just heard was my editor at Evileye breathing a huge sigh of relief). I squeezed in some work here and there, even while on errands or grabbing a quick bite (I love my Moleskine), and I solved a few plot and character issues. I also have the luxury of staying up later and being able to work at night while it’s quiet in the house.

Sitting down on the front porch, tapping out this post on my iPod touch with a cigar in hand, I’ve come to a few of conclusions about my writing.

1) I really do love doing this. I’m as excited about new ideas, characters, and stories as I ever was. Creating is just plain fun, and though the business side can be aggravating sometimes, it’s not as aggravating as the network switch at work that decided to fail in the middle of Spring Break and leave the district bookkeeper and a few teachers playing catch-up unable to get their work done (and thus ruining my Wednesday afternoon).

2) I’ve reaffirmed I’m a night owl. I spent a couple of nights up past one or two in the morning and slept ’til eight or nine, and I got more work done and have felt more energized and positive. Doing those late nights and getting up at 6:30am for the day job just doesn’t cut it after a few days, and it does little to help my day job or the writing gig. I really, really need to find a way to take this full time.

3) I’m not as slow a writer as I think I am. The ideas for the second Pack novella have been percolating in my head for some time now, but it wasn’t until recently that everything started to gel. I may not be happy with my keyboard time, but what happens is eventually something goes click, and all the little pieces fall into line and form the big picture. Better still, in the case of this series, they even link right in to the overall continuity, fueling the future and bringing clarity to the past. When I do chain myself to the keyboard, it’s that much easier to pound away and turn in a solid first draft.

That’s an important key. Part of the problem with my trunk novels is I just charged ahead without a clear picture of where things were headed. I may have had solid ideas, but the execution just wasn’t there. The little details that are so important to the stories fell flat.

Maybe it’s time I stop calling these delays procrastination and understand that maybe this is just my process. Everyone has a method that works for them, be it a specific way or place they have to write or a given method for getting the words onto a page, so maybe it’s just taken me this long to grasp my method. Some of my best work has been done by sitting on things and then making a mad rush before a deadline, and to be honest, I didn’t feel all that rushed at the time I punched the keys.

Sure, I needed to hurry to make deadline, but the words were already there. It’s easier when the key-punching feels more like transcribing notes than creation, and the work is probably better for that.

Does that make sense or did some wiseass spike this cigar at the factory? I’ve never fully bought into things like writers block and waiting on one’s muse. Maybe they’re just an easy way for writers to say they just haven’t sorted their shit out yet. I can’t say I haven’t thrown those terms around, but they always felt like the literary devices they are. They’re our job bleeding into our lives.

Heavy stuff. Now if you’ll excuse me, this cigar’s almost done. I have more percolating to do.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Snow Day!

The snow came in heavy last night, resulting in a school closing today and a day off for me. With tonight’s high winds, I may even have the day off tomorrow, too.

The trick, then, is capitalizing on the bonus time and being productive with other projects. Today I decided to get back to work on my pig sty of an office. I put a dent in things, but there’s still a ways to go.

As much as I like having an office, I don’t spend near enough time in there. I’m trying to get to the point where I get some writing business done every day, be it writing, plotting, editing, or even just research. However, I’ve not been very successful due to a combination of both things outside my control and a general lack of discipline. I’ve been trying to do it from a laptop in the living room, but the temptation to spend time with the family or stare at the television has trumped discipline.

When I go into the office, though, I only see all of the other work that needs to be done. I see the mounds of paperwork on the desk, and the comics the kids scattered around the floor. I see the unopened comics shipments and stacks of books that don’t fit on the shelves. I see the miscellaneous junk the wife finally got tired of seeing in the kitchen, and the various electronics I’ve squirreled away for no particular reason.

I don’t stare at the monitor, I stare at all that other shit.

It’s time to shake things up. There’s no guarantee it’ll solve my discipline problem, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

How Rumors Start

Karate class kicked my ass last night.

The last class on Tuesday is at least as much workout as karate, and this time it was just Sensei and I. We got in a good workout including kata (normal, tension, and balance beam!), push-ups, jump rope, and so on, and though it wasn’t a whole lot more intense than our typical Tuesdays, I was absolutely wiped out by the end. I felt like my gi was on fire and twice had to take a brief break to make sure I wasn’t going to puke on the mat (a cardinal sin).

Afterward I dropped off a load of old computers at a local recycler. This meant a little more heavy lifting, and the dusty old equipment got my t-shirt good and dirty.

That done, I saddled up to head home, only to see a text message from the Wife: “Stop and pick up some mouthwash.” The only problem is I have no cash; the Wife cleaned me out a couple days ago to buy something for dinner. I hate using the debit card for one item, so I called her and asked her what else we needed.

I head into the store. I pick up a giant bottle of Scope, a bottle of chocolate milk in a fancy glass bottle, and a bottle of ketchup. I go to the checkout.

Who’s manning the checkout? A student from the school I work for. I muster a pleasant greeting and hand over my selections. It occurs to me, then, that I look like a wreck and am making a rather odd assortment of purchases.

Holy crap, I look like I’m stoned. From a teenager’s point of view, I’m obviously worn out and bleary-eyed, I must need to cover the stench of something in case I get pulled over, and I have a really bizarre case of the munchies. It’s a damn good thing I couldn’t find the marshmallows. It doesn’t help that I wander the halls like a zombie these first few weeks of school because I’m constantly pummeled with tech requests.

I can see it now: “I saw Mr. Oliveri last night. Now I know how he copes with three buildings full of teachers and students chasing him around!”

*Sigh.* And my Wife wonders why I hate shopping locally.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The King and His Throne

The King and His Throne

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Even Conan never had it so good.

Our elementary school is going Apple next year, and we saved a few bucks by ordering the equipment early so it’s already here. I have three 52 Weeks pics to take yet (because I’m a slacker), so I thought it would be cool to work them in.

Now comes the hard part of unboxing all those suckers and setting them up… The first two or three are like Christmas, but after that it gets old quick.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I'm Good Like That

“Used-to-be” Key

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Would you believe I still recovered data off of this thing?

Our high school guidance counselor came to me with the remains of her USB flash drive in a plastic Zip-Lock bag. She said she’d accidentally sucked it into the vacuum (the brush caught the lanyard flash drive was attached to) and of course there was a lot of data on there she really, really needed. Specifically, pictures her daughter had taken for graduation and were not backed up anywhere else.

I was skeptical, but I told her I’d give it a shot (I’m good like that). When I first hooked it up, I got a green light but there was no reading the data. I took a closer look, and found that one of the components had been knocked off. It had corresponding contact points on the circuit board, so I held it on there and pinched the two pieces together between my thumb and forefinger.

Then I held my breath, hoped I wouldn’t get zapped, and plugged it back in.

Voila, the drive was back in business. I copied the files off it, burned them to a CD, and made the counselor very happy. I have a feeling her daughter wouldn’t have been too happy with her if this hadn’t worked. Good thing for her I’m a curious (and stubborn) SOB.

It amazes me what these things can survive. Freezing cold, high drops, car tires, and now vacuum cleaners. Makes me feel a lot better about some of the newer laptops moving to flash-based storage.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.