On Nimoy, The World Shrinking, And Growing

So Leonard Nimoy died, and I almost called in sick and took the afternoon off.
And I worry about other people.
Me, I’ll be fine, though losing Leonard was a great loss to me.  I remember being ten and going to my first Star Trek convention – a shameful thing back then, to be held in back rooms of Shriners’ clubs, things only children and stunted adults would desire.  And my Uncle Tommy, ever fearless, went with me, and I bought Spock ears because Spock, like all of us, seemed baffled by these huge desires that swept through him.  Spock wanted to be calm and logical, but he wasn’t – and yet somehow, he was the most capable of all of the crew for that.
Now he’s gone, and that part of my childhood goes with him.
Yet I know too many people who attended those conventions, and never bothered to find anything else to love.  I have a good friend who only sees remakes of things she already knows, stuck in the past, endlessly buying deluxe versions of 1970s and 1980s movies and not acquiring anything new.
For her, Leonard Nimoy’s passing is a great loss because all her beloved heroes are so old, they can do almost nothing but die.
For me?  I’ve had lots of new and wonderful fandoms.  The Flash is a delight.  I adore Better Call Saul.  I’m still flying high on Avatar: the Last Airbender.  I am so ridiculously enamored of new shows and movies that yes, Leonard Nimoy’s passing is a great loss but I still look to the future, confident that there are still things as wondrous as Star Trek yet to be created.
For my friend?  Spock is a grave in a yard that will fill with nothing but more holes.  As she ages, the bottom will drop out for her – Shatner and Takei will pass, and she’ll complain bitterly that there’s nothing like the old days, and it’ll be like the world is crumbling around her.  Because it is.  Because she’s mired in a past where the only good shows where the ones she knows, and that sad land will only grow stonier over time.
But I think Leonard was delightful at embracing new things as he got older – he certainly seemed to love his time on Fringe – and me?  I’d rather be like Leonard.  It’s a huge world, full of wonderful things.  There are new characters to to fall in love with – maybe not filled with the same history of childhood nostalgia as Spock, but delightful nonetheless. And no one can replace Leonard, but I have far more fictional worlds to hold fast in my heart, some of them new and blossoming, all of them exciting.
When I think of Star Trek, I think to the future, and the future is one glorious now.
Don’t get me wrong: His loss is profound to me.  I haven’t stopped crying for half an hour.  But there is still such beauty in the world.
Thank God I have the eyes to see it.

Hear Me Talk About Books With My Friend Monica For 45 Minutes

I promised I’d remind you when that podcast dropped, so here it is:

In this episode of Rocket Talk, Justin is joined by authors Ferrett Steinmetz and Monica Byrne. They talk about their experience at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 2008, how genre classifications worry them as writers, and about how alt-sex influences their writing.

I make a lot of really awful jokes, and Monica is obviously fascinating to listen to or else she wouldn’t be my friend. So check it out, if you like hearing me say “I mean” every fifteen seconds.

How To Buy A Book To Benefit Your Favorite Author

My book Flex is coming out next Tuesday, and I’m getting asked the same question a lot:
“Where do I buy your book?  I mean, so you get the most benefit out of it?”
Now, I am no special snowflake among authors.  So let me tell you how it works for pretty much all authors, and give you an answer you can use to benefit any author who you deem worthy of earning a living.  And the answer to your question is this:
It’s not where you buy the book, but when
The sad truth of this industry is that pre-orders drive sales, and most sales of a book come in the first three months of a book’s release.  Buying a book before it comes out is a stamp of approval that can actually boost sales across the board, because it leads to conversations like this:
Representative to bookstore buyer: “You sure you want to lowball this one?  {$OTHER_BOOKSTORE} has 250 copies reserved against advance orders.  You might be missing out.”
Bookstore buyer: “All right, I’ll buy some more just to hedge my bets.”
(NOTE: Before you tell me this doesn’t happen, kindly recall I worked as a book buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks for half a decade.  This trick doesn’t always work, but it can make someone reanalyze a new book, sometimes favorably.)
And “having more copies in” can lead to better shelf visibility (customers are far more likely to buy a book from a stack of books “faced out” than a singleton spined), better promotion (hey, we bought in deep on this, we should do something to ensure it sells), better awareness (that book got advance buzz, I should check in on that one to see how it’s doing, oh, it’s out of stock!).
Basically, pre-orders are golden for any author.
If you can’t buy in advance, then if you want to benefit the author, buy as close to the release date as possible.  As noted, that first swell of sales is critical.  One of the reason classic “backlist” books are so treasured is because you don’t need a new Harper Lee book to boost sales on To Kill A Mockingbird – that book sold steadily, without a scrap of promotion, for decades.
Most books, however, are in and out, which is to say the author pretty much gets one initial flush of success and then the book slowly dwindles and isn’t reordered – so making the most of that initial boost means the author maximizes sales for the bookstore, which ensures the bookstore thinks more kindly of this author come their next book.  If you buy a copy ten months later, odds are decent that the bookstore is not thinking “Joy! A sale!” but rather “Lucky me, that’s one less book I have to return.”
So.  Order early, order often.
But then I get asked: “Should I buy it in ebook or physical copy?”  And there’s one overriding answer to that:
If you’re going to see the author at a book store – like, for example, some insane schmuck like me who’s doing a book tour – then buy the book at the store, if possible.  That ensures the book store goes, “Oh, this guy sells books!” and then they like us.
If not, well, let’s discuss ebooks vs. paper.  (NOTE: This is what I understand to be the case; if I’m wrong, I’ll correct in edits.  This is my first book sold, so I’m going off many publisher discussions here, not personal experience, and I could well be misguided.)
Like a lot of authors, I make more money on ebooks.  My royalties per book are way better, so on paper (heh) ebook would be the way to go…
Ebooks have two issues for authors.  The first is that when physical books get discounted, I get a royalty off the full price.  See that $29.95 Stephen King hardcover you bought at 40% off?  Unca Steven gets paid off that $29.95 price, no matter how much the store knocks off the front end.  (Unless it’s a bargain book, but those play by frighteningly different rules.)
But ebooks, I get a royalty off of whatever the bookseller decides to sell it for.  If Amazon decides to make Flex the Daily Deal and sell it for $0.99 (HINT: they won’t soon), I get the royalty off of that.  Hopefully the Daily Deal sells enough copies that I make up in volume what I’m losing on a per-book basis, which it usually does (I’m told), but there’s no guarantee.
Then there’s the fact that “counting eBook sales” is something of a dark art, because there’s no centralized reporting to track eBook sales.  So what can happen to an author – and it’s an edge case, but I’ve heard some rumors – is that they sell so many copies via eBook that it actually becomes difficult to sell their next book to another publisher, since they sold a lot of books but in a place that other publishers can’t verify the numbers.  On the other hand, “selling a lot of copies of eBooks” can be seen as a plus, because that means you’re appealing to a younger demographic and may have longer legs as an author.
So.  After that flurry of facts, do you know which is better?  eBook or paper?
Neither do we, so just buy it in whatever format makes you happy.  Seriously.  That’s the answer of almost every author I know.  We’re just happy you’ve opted to buy our book, man, so we appreciate the concern, but whatever is convenient for you.  And thanks.

A Thing I Have Waited For, Literally, All My Life.

So this happened yesterday:

If you’ll recall, it took me decades to write a novel good enough to sell.  I literally wrote seven terrible novels before finally uncorking this good one.  And so to have it in my hands, was…
Like touching a dream.
A box of me.
So this box sits on the counter, and Gini, who is usually Not A Fan of clutter, has said not a word about it, as she is as proud as I am.  Eventually it’ll go in a closet somewhere.  I have books to sign (and I plan to number the books I sign, a little personalized hashtag, just to see how many I do), and I know Gini gets my first signed book, and then I gotta figure out who gets the rest.
And yes, I know I’m being slightly ridiculous about all this, but it’s my first novel.  My absurdity extends to feeling a strange kinship with Brenda K, who so kindly packed these books for me. But I only get this opportunity once, so I’ll run wild through the fields of the Lord and I promise you when The Flux comes out in October, I’ll be more subdued.
Then there’s the dedication page:
It's here. In my hands. My debut novel FLEX, turned to paper.
Those of you new here probably know about Rebecca, my goddaughter.  But it occurs to me that most of you don’t know my Uncle Tommy, who passed on in 2005.  Which is a shame.  He was my best friend and savior when I was a troubled teen.  He had a basement full of books he let me read.  He was a frail hemophiliac who taught me how to be fearless.  He gave me Stephen King, and Dune, and the Belgariad, and Stephen R. Donaldson, and all the worlds within Flex would never exist if it were not for him.
I know Gini gets signed book #1.  But I think Uncle Tommy gets signed book #2.  I’ll keep it for him. On my bookshelf.
I really think he’d be proud of me.

Protect Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self

“I thought you’d be mad at me.”
“Because you’re a depressive.”
I wasn’t mad.
My friend had gone through a bit of a breakdown; after dealing with the stress of trying to resuscitate a severely depressed buddy, she’d bottomed out.  Couldn’t take supporting this person any more.  And so she’d retreated for a good long time, freaking out because she was a terrible friend.
Thing is, you have to protect yourself, too.
A lot of the posts and cartoons about supporting the depressed treat the caretakers like they’re some sort of Love ATM: Just get in my pillow fort with me.  Don’t question me when I’m too sad to do anything.  Support me unquestioningly. 
That’s lovely, but if you are the caretaker, then even just being in the pillow fort takes its toll.  You really want to leave this pillow fort to go out dancing, see a movie, fuck, just get out of the apartment… but the depressive needs you to stay with them, in quiet solitude.  You don’t want to exacerbate the depressed person’s problem by telling them to get over it, but sitting by while they cry in front of the television for twelve hours straight can be devastating to watch.  Spending weeks convincing them *No, you really need to get some therapy, please call a doctor* can be a low-grade tidal strain that can suck all the joy out of your life.
I am a depressive, and the ugly truth is that I can be really hard on the people I love.
This isn’t to say that I’m undeserving of that love, of course: this is a disease I can’t help, and I have other features on top of my depression that make me worth loving.
But it is true that when I’m mired in my worst moments, I can burn out my loved ones frighteningly fast.  Some people poured all their love into me, convinced they could fix me with the application of enough caring, and then left me when they discovered that no, I have an endlessly leaky bucket that cannot be patched.
And in truth, it’s better for me if my loved ones learn the times when they can leave me to stew for a bit so that they can recover.  Because they can’t be strong all the time.  And even if they could be, I love them, and I don’t want them to wreck themselves in some endless effort to lift me up; that just makes for two effectively depressed people.
Some days, I need to cry alone in my pillow fort while they go dancing, so they can take care of me far better in the long run.
So no, I don’t get mad when caretakers need to attend to their own well-being.  They matter to me, too.  And yeah, my life will be worse without them for a while, but it’s way worse for me if they spend years devoid of pleasure tending to me in my pillow fort prison, then eventually stage an escape because they can’t freaking take it any more.
When you’re the caretaker, you matter, too.  Take your breaks where you can.  It’ll actually make it better for everyone, even though it might not feel that way at the time.