View From the Hotel Window, 8/27/14: Austin, TX

I am particularly pleased to have a view that overlooks newspaper offices, being a former newspaper person myself. Also, the Austin American-Statesman has been promoting the heck out of my appearance here, so it is now my new favorite newspaper.

Tonight’s event: 7pm at BookPeople. Tomorrow: Raleigh, North Carolina! Quail Ridge Books! 7pm! In both cases, if you are in the area, please come and bring every person you’ve ever met. Because, you know. It’ll be lovely to see you.

Today’s Thought Expressed on Twitter

Yeah. Moving on. I’m not saying you have to. Please, follow your bliss. But I’m already looking toward next year. Which should be very interesting because there are so many good sf/f books out this year.

View From the Hotel Window, 8/26/14: Houston

Hello, Houston! I made it into town more or less on time, had lunch at Goode Company BBQ, and am now relaxing in my suite with a view of the tennis/basketball court. Life is good. If you are in or near Houston, remember that I am having an event at Brazos Bookstore tonight at 7pm. Come be part of the first stop of the Lock In tour! Bring youself! Bring your friends! Bring every single person you’ve ever met in your life.

Lock In: It’s Out!

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Today’s the day: Lock In is out! And because it is, now, in one handy post, here is everything you could possibly need to know about this book.

The novel is getting some of the best reviews of my career to date, include starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist. Io9 calls it one of my best novels yet; others have also been nicely positive.

You can read the first five chapters at Tor.com. You can also read the related novella “Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome” at Tor.com.

I encourage you to buy your copy at your local bookstore. You can also buy the book at these online stores: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Indiebound|Google Play|Kobo|Powell’s. The electronic version of the book (in North America) comes without DRM.

The audiobook, published by Audible.com, comes in two versions: One read by Amber Benson, and one by Wil Wheaton. Both versions come with the full text of the novel and also include an audio version of “Unlocked,” read by a full cast. Click here to be taken to Audible’s Lock In page, which includes purchase links for both versions.

See Wil and Amber talk about the book in an interview here.

The book also comes with its own theme song, by William Beckett.

I am on tour supporting the book. Here are the tour dates, and a tour FAQ. Please come see me on tour!

I am super proud of this book, and I am so very happy it is finally out there in the world. I really hope you all like it as much as I do. I think you will.

 

The Tour Baggage This Time

The Lock In tour lasts for four weeks, but the good news is that Tor arranged the tour so that I come home about once a week for a day or two. Aside from being an awesome thing that will let me save my sanity by allowing me to see my family, and thus not turn into a gibbering, insensate lump two weeks into the tour, it also means that I can pack quite a bit lighter, secure in the knowledge that I will be able to do laundry within a reasonable span of days.

So above, please find my baggage for the first leg of the tour, which takes me to Houston, Austin, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Decatur, GA. The brown bag consists of clothes for six days (minus tomorrow’s clothes, which I have ready to deploy the instant I wake up), while the computer bag holds a computer (duuuuuhhhh), a tablet, cords, extra battery for tablet and phone, and pens. They’re both very small (the clothes bag is 17×9, and the computer bag is probably 16×4), which means that I will never have to check them or leave them at the side of the plane. This is key when you’re touring; never never never let them separate you from your luggage when you tour because if you do, you will be three cities onward when they finally locate it.

The flip side of this is that I am so tightly packed I have no room for anything else, which is why I warned people in my tour FAQ that if they give me a gift on tour (which does happen, and which is always very sweet), they may see me hand it over to a bookstore staffer or my media escort, who will mail it home for me. I will literally have to leave it in a hotel room otherwise, and nobody wants that. So please don’t be offended if you see me do that.

In any event: Thank you, Tor, for arranging my tour so I can travel light. I actually very much appreciate it.

On The Matter Of When to Buy Lock In and In What Format

Whenever a new book of mine comes close to a release date, I get emails and social media queries from folks asking me what format they should get the book in and when, in order to give me the most money/exposure/whatever. Which is very sweet. Okay, since you asked, here are some thoughts on the subject.

1. Buy it in whatever format you like, whenever you like. Honestly, you’re the customer. You want it in hardcover? Get it in hardcover. Want it in ebook? Get it in ebook. Want it in audio? Get it in audio. Want to wait until the price goes down? Get it in paperback or in ebook when then paperback comes out. As long as you pay for it, I will also get paid, and in every format I get paid a fair share of the money. The variations of what I get paid in each format are small enough that on an individual level (that’s you), it’s not worth your time to fret about it. So please, buy the book in whatever format pleases you, whenever it pleases you to do so. And thank you.

(Dead broke? Ask for it at your local library, because they buy the book, and I’ll still get paid.)

That said, if you want to be baldly strategic on my behalf about your purchasing and have not already pre-ordered a copy in the format of your choosing and/or feel like picking up another copy to give as a gift/to have for yourself/to use to prop up a wobbly table:

2. Buy the hardcover and buy it in the first week of release. Because that will be useful for the book scaling up the New York Times hardcover best seller list, which remains the gold standard for successful books, and which helps a book get immediate attention. When Redshirts plopped onto the list, I suddenly got lots of interest in the book in the media and in LA, and other opportunities opened up as well. So yes, as a practical matter, having Lock In show up on that list would be groovy for me.

And now, with that said:

3. You should still buy the book in whatever format you like. Because, one, the NYT best seller lists aren’t figured simply by raw sales (the Times uses its own secret sauce of an algorithim to make its calculations which includes sampling from specific bookstores); two, the Times also has ebook and combined print/ebook lists as well, so it all goes into the hopper; three, if I show up on any best seller list, you can be assured Tor and my agents (and I!) will be super-pleased and will promote the fact; four, you’re buying the book for you (or for whomever you’re buying it for, if it’s a gift), not for me. So come on, get it however you want to get it.

And finally, while getting onto the NYT hardcover best seller list would be useful and nice and something that would make it easier to talk about the book to people who have no idea who I am, including some who might adapt it for a screen near you, here’s a fact:

4. There’s more than one way for a book to be successful. Did you know that Old Man’s War has never been anywhere near the NYT best seller lists? Ever? It hasn’t. And yet, to date, it’s my best selling book. That’s because for ten years it’s sold, week in and week out, a solid, consistent number of books that’s nevertheless below the “best seller” threshold. In this case, constant and steady adds up, in sales, in reputation and in terms of being able to make opportunities (other factors, like the Hugo nod it got, helped too).

Nor is OMW the only book about which this can be said — I can reel off lots of classic books, in whatever genre you like, which were never “best sellers” except that they sold for a very long time, keep selling, and have developed reputations from years of readers praising the book to someone else. Meanwhile books that showed up on the official best seller lists one week have dropped off into oblivion the next, never to be seen (or cared about) afterward, the equivalent of one hit wonders on the music charts. There are no guarantees about anything ever.

Which is why I say that you should get the book how you want, when you want to get it. No matter when you get the book, or how you get the book, if you get the book, it’ll make a difference to me, and I will thank you. And while I do appreciate when people want to help me to make any book of mine a success, at the end of the day, what you should be focused on doing, if you are gracious enough to buy a book of mine, is enjoying the book. Leave the rest of it to me and my folks. That’s our job, and we’re pretty good at it so far.

Pre-Tour Procedural Bits

A bit of housekeeping here for folks.

First, as most of you know, tomorrow I will be starting a fairly long book tour, one that ends on September 20 (there are a couple of dates past that, but they don’t require me being out on the road on a more or less constant basis). Here’s what me being on the road will mean in terms of this site and being able to contact me.

1. Comments will (generally) be turned off on Whatever from 5pm (Eastern) tonight until September 21st. I’ve previously explained the reasoning for this here. Comments will be left on for Big Idea posts, and occasional posts for when I have a bit of time to chat. Regular commenting here will resume September 21st.

2. All September Big Idea slots will be assigned by the 8pm (Eastern) tonight. If you have not received a September slot by then, then you may assume the slots are all filled.

3. From tonight at 5pm (Eastern) until September 21st, I will be reading email but NOT responding to most of it. Unless you are my agent, editor, publicist, wife, child or friend I’m trying to schedule a tour meet-up with, for the next four weeks, the chance of me answering your email is pretty slim. This is mostly because I’ll be traveling and being a performing monkey, and will still have to fit business and writing into the times I’m when I’m not doing wither of those two things. So responding to email goes way down.

As noted, I will still be reading the email that is not spam, so if for some reason you feel compelled to send me an e-mail while I’m on tour, go right ahead. Just don’t expect a response. If it is something you want a response for, I’d suggest waiting until September 21st to send it.

My email address will have an auto-responder on it through September 20th, reminding people of the stuff I just mentioned above.

4. While I plan to be writing here on Whatever, for the length of the tour, I’m most likely to be found on Twitter. It’s simply more congenial to the “I am rushing around the country what airport am I in now is this Denver I think it’s Denver honestly I have no idea where I am ” lifestyle I will be living the next few weeks. I have my tweetstream over in the Whatever side bar, and of course, you can follow along on Twitter either by following me or visiting my Twitter page.

That’s the housekeeping for now. If you have questions, drop them into the comments (until, uh, 5pm tonight).

A Moment Of Recognition

It’s a beautiful, sunny August Sunday, I’m in my kitchen, listening to mellow music, just before heading off to do a bit of shopping for my book tour, at which I will get to see a bunch of friends and fans all over the country. My plans for the evening: Spend it with my wife and kid and enjoy being with them, and also maybe get ice cream.

Life is really good. I think it’s worth noting that it is, and that I’m grateful for it.

Some Lock In Reviews for Your Weekend Pleasure

As we go into release week for Lock In, a quick look at some reviews of the book from the last several days, all positive (hooray!):

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[T]here must be magic (defined here as a combination of skill, vision and intuition) behind Scalzi’s talent for turning out one compulsively readable book after another. Reading his novels is like watching the finest episodes of your favorite sci-fi series, with provocative ideas, high-stakes conflicts, gripping action scenes and a leavening touch of humor.”

Austin American-Statesman (registration required): 

Lock In actually works best as a smart novel about the future of disability, about the moment when those whose physical bodies have failed them have the chance to become human-plus and the jealousy and resentment that could engender in everyone else.”

Washington Post:

“Witty banter between Shane and partner keep the novel from becoming too philosophical while exploring what it means to live a virtual existence.”

20Something Reads:

Lock In is a fast and thrilling read, with plenty of character development to support a satisfyingly twisty plot.”

So far so good.

Henry Rollins Shows His Ass, Gets Told, Owns It

So, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, Henry Rollins wrote a piece in LA Weekly called “Fuck Suicide,” in which he basically engages in a bit of “tough love” victim-blaming. This caused the world to drop on Henry Rollins’ head (here’s a fairly representative sample). Henry Rollins, to his credit, has offered up a reasonably decent apology, and plans to follow up in the same forum where the original piece ran. So that’s good, so far. Apologies are hard and hard to do well, and I think he hits the basics (and for those who don’t know, here are what I think are the basics).

A number of years ago a girl who I knew in high school committed suicide in college, in a way that at the time I thought was astoundingly dramatic. For years, when I thought of her at all, I was kind of pissed off at her. I thought of all the people she hurt with her actions, and I thought that fundamentally, what she had done was selfish and stupid and designed to get her attention that she thought she was owed and now would not be able to appreciate because she was dead — not that I thought she had thought about what would happen after she committed suicide. So that was my thinking about her, like I said, for years.

And then somewhere along the way, and I don’t remember when precisely it was, I realized that someone in this scenario was indeed an asshole, it’s just that I was putting the finger on the wrong person. The asshole was me. Because in fact I knew nothing about what was going on her head, or how much pain she may have been in, knew very little about depression or how it works on people — basically I knew nothing, period, about anything relevant. All I knew were my own opinions, based on my own life experience, in which neither suicidal thoughts, nor depression outside of a few occasional bad days, had ever featured. I wasn’t qualified to judge. Life is one long process of discovery about just how little you know about pretty much everything, and that includes people and the insides of their heads.

When I think of this young woman now, I mostly, simply, feel sad. I wish there would have been a way she could have seen her way through to sticking around. And I’m sorry that I spent years generally being pissed off at her. It was wrong of me, and it didn’t do either of us any good.

This is my way of saying that I get why Henry Rollins wrote what he did, and why he was the asshole in that scenario, and why I’m pleased, in that vague way that one is when thinking about people more famous than you, whose work you’ve enjoyed, that he’s accepted that he blew it and is trying to walk it back. As I’ve said many times, we all show our ass from time to time. I certainly have. What you do after you show your ass matters.

Things To Do Before the Book Tour, for Both You and Me

Things I need to do before I start my book tour next Tuesday (in no particular order):

1. Get a haircut

2. Finalize my reading selections (currently: A deleted chapter from Lock In, a sneak preview of the upcoming sequel to The Human Division, and… see, this is why I have to finalize selections).

3. Finish up a couple more promotional pieces/interviews

4. Go shopping for travel-related items

5. Sleep as much as humanly possible

6. Decide whether or not to keep the beard or go out on tour clean-shaven

7. Finalize tour commitments

8. Make plans to see friends and such at various stops

9. Pack

10. Something I’m no doubt forgetting at the moment which I will remember at the last minute, or not, in which case I’ll be on my way to Houston when I loudly proclaim, “oh, fuck,” on the plane, causing the incognito US Marshall to take me down with a taser, followed by an emergency landing in, oh, let’s say, Omaha.

Things you need to do before I start my book tour next Tuesday (in no particular order):

1. Find out which tour stop of mine is closest to you

2. Procure a large van and shove every person you have ever met into it

3. Drive them all to the tour stop of mine that is closest to you

4. Enjoy me be a performing monkey for you

5. Get a copy of Lock In or another one of my books for me to sign

6. Have me sign it for you and share a very special 30 seconds with me and also a picture and possibly a soda

7. Drive yourself and everyone you know back home in the procured van, stuffed with happy memories and signed books and maybe some Taco Bell because you all got snacky

8. Return the van, remembering to wipe away any fingerprints

9. Act surprised the next day when your neighbor rants about the damn kids who stole his van and returned it smelling like chalupas and Baja Blast Mountain Dew

10. Floss. Because that’s just always a good idea.

Let’s get these things done, people!

The August 26 SF/F Line Up

In case you’re wondering what other science fiction and fantasy books are coming out on the same day as Lock In, here’s a fair (but by no means complete) sampling of the day’s releases:

Again, this is not a complete listing — there’s also a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy that shares the same book birthday, plus lots of smaller press and self published SF/F that will arrive in the world next week.

The point is: For every one of these authors, next Tuesday is a nerve-wracking day, not only because their book is out in the world, but because they know so many others are fresh out in the world, too, waiting for readers (and buyers). It’s a miracle we’re not all puddles of neurotic goo.

Now, certainly I want you to buy Lock In starting next Tuesday, if you’ve not already pre-ordered it. I want it to be successful, hit the best-seller lists, get optioned in Hollywood, and become a non-stop marketing monster to the point where there are such things as Lock In chewable vitamins. I mean, I’m not gonna lie about that. But I also hope that next Tuesday your book buying menu also includes another book or two, not neglecting the examples above. The best possible way to support the authors you like is to buy their books. It’s pretty simple, actually. And this August 26, at least, you have some pretty great choices for your bookreading dollar. Happy reading.

Two Truths and a Lie With John Scalzi

First, yes, that’s supposed to be me with an old-timey mustache. That’s one hipster moment I’ll never have to have now!

Second, over at Google Play, I’m playing Two Truths and a Lie, in which I, on video, tell two stories that are true and one that is a lie, and you have to decide which is which. And while you’re there you might note all of my ebook backlist is 50% off at the moment. So, you know. Pig out.

(Also if you scroll down to the bottom of the linked page you’ll discover the answer, as to which one is the lie. It might surprise you! Or if you’ve been an obsessive reader of this site since the early days, possibly not.)

The Big Idea: Kat Richardson

This is the end! Or at least, for Kat Richardson, her new novel Revenant represents the end of a certain part of her writing career. What is it, and how did she know it was time to turn off the light? She’s here to tell you.

KAT RICHARDSON:

Endings. Ah, now, that’s the tricky bit. You build to an ending—the proper ending—that reflects and is indelibly linked to the beginning. And in the course of a long series all the little endings lead, through inevitable change, to the great, big, lollapalooza in the final book—plus some explosions, some gore, sex, death, and general mayhem, of course. And that was were the Big Idea for Revenant came in—because it’s not just a book; it’s The Last Book.

As a writer, you design the whole story for the ending. It doesn’t “just happen.” It’s engineered. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, cheating, or lucky. “I don’t know how it ends,” is not a luxury in which writers can long indulge. Oh, you can get away with it a bit at first, when you’re doing something new and exciting and your instinct is dragging you through the brush and wildfire like rider tied to a mad horse. But eventually—especially with a long-running series—you have to have a destination you mean to reach and go there. It’s not just a road trip through the writer’s imagination—it’s a journey to a specific point in that landscape. No matter how awful, or difficult, or heartbreakingly beautiful, that’s where you’ll take your readers, because you have to and in setting up your series, you promised them that you would.

And so I came to the end that is the beginning, because the word revenant means “that which returns.” The book Revenant came out August 5th and it’s the last novel in the Greywalker series—at least it’s the last for now. Not because the publisher didn’t want more—they did. Not because the sales sucked—they were all right, if not exactly stellar. Not because I was bored or had no ideas left. It’s the end because I’m done. I finished what I started and I took the characters where I wanted to take them.

Essentially the Greywalker saga (as some folks took to calling it) is one long, nine-part novel and, like any story, it has an end that was engineered and intended. That’s where the Big Idea lies—in what I intended and what I hope I accomplished—not in the details of the very last confrontation of the very last book. What I meant to do was to bring the last book back to the beginning and illuminate the main character’s change over the course of the longer arc. Well, and tell a creepy adventure story as well, of course.

When I started, the protagonist, Harper Blaine, was a chilly, stubborn, inflexible loner. She was smart and driven, but she had issues, few friends, and her charm was reserved for getting people to answer her questions. She had what she thought she wanted in life: control. But then someone bashed in her head and that control was taken away from her. Everything she thought she had and was—everything she’d built for herself, by herself—was upended. Over the course of the series, she’s had to figure out a lot—who she is, what’s important enough to fight for, what she’s willing to do, and what she wants to become in spite of what others try to force her into. She’s had to endure a lot: death, disillusion, despair, the loss of friends and lovers, and revelations she didn’t want to have. She’s also had to learn to be a whole person who understands friendship and love and pain rather than avoiding them. Within the larger arc there are three smaller arcs about reclaiming herself, learning to trust others, and finally, forging family links and friendships of her own.

There were also, y’know, ghosts and witches and monsters and mages, kidnapped children, dead wives, devastating earthquakes, world-threatening plots, and a particular vampire who’d been lurking about since the beginning and needed a little fixing, too. Plus a lot of loose ends, lost friends, and family problems that needed to be tied off or cleaned up, not to mention the matter of undead spies that may have started everything….

So I packed the whole kit and caboodle off to Lisbon so I could talk about family and friends and life and death, contrasting one character’s past with another’s, burning them all down and then forcing them all to build something worthwhile out of the wreckage. If I did it right—and I think I did—you should be able to see the beginning of the story reflected in the end and a protagonist who has come back to exactly the right place at last. In the end, we are at the beginning.

—-

Revenant: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

Posting For Posterity

A mini rant on politics and assholes that I just put up on Twitter:

My Social Media Center of Gravity

I’ve discovering, particularly in this last year, that the center of gravity of my online presence has shifted away from Whatever entirely and has moved more than a bit toward Twitter. The graph above offers some evidence of that — in the last 28 days, the things I’ve said or retweeted on Twitter have gotten eight million “impressions” (the term meaning “the number of times users saw a tweet on Twitter”). Meanwhile Whatever is on track to get something like six million views for this entire year — down from 2012, the peak year for the site with 8.1 million views recorded by the WordPress stats package (as always, see this caveat about stats here). Likewise, the number of followers I have on Twitter (currently 68k) is higher than the number of unique daily visitors the site gets (the high point number for August: 23.4k).

Breaking down what the stats mean after this point gets complicated — starting with the question of whether a 140-character-or-less tweet can be meaningfully compared with a 500-word-or-more blog post — but no matter how you slice it, it seems pretty clear to me my biggest online audience at this point is on Twitter, not here at the Whatever home base.

How did this happen? I have hypotheses, which include:

1. The relative decline of the blogosphere in a general sense, as blog writing and reading are transplanted for most people by easier-to-use social media like Twitter and Facebook;

2. The UI dynamic of newer social media, which makes it easy to Like/Retweet/Share what people write on them, making for an easier spread of posts;

3. My tendency to put short, funny bits (i.e., sharable) on Twitter that in earlier years might have gone to Whatever, leaving Whatever as the repository for longer, more thinky (i.e., less immediately shareable) bits;

4. My increased travel and work schedule leaving me relatively less time for thinky/funny Whatever posts, but apparently the right amount of time for snarky bits on Twitter;

5. My relative lack of political posts this year, which are traditionally drivers of traffic (why fewer political posts? Because my general feeling this election year has been fuck all these assholes, which doesn’t make for great writing);

6. The various ways of sharing material on Whatever has increased, not all of which show up on the WordPress stats — for example, RSS reader views, which show up in some places in the stats package but not others, and which can be a significant part of readership (40% of the recent “Get Out Your Bingo Card” entry’s readership, for example), but not reflected in the site stats — because, after all, it wasn’t read on the site;

7. I can write a couple dozen tweets a day (or more if I’m exercised) whereas I rarely most more than three entries a day here, so there’s more opportunity to run up numbers on Twitter as opposed to here.

There are other likely hypotheses as well, but this is enough for the conversation at the moment.

For those of you who might be worried that this means I’m about to announce that I’m abandoning Whatever for a full-time residency on Twitter, relax: it’s not gonna happen. One, not everything I want to write online can be encapsulated in 140 characters. Two, I’m a proponent of owning one’s own space online, so when Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Etc inevitably go the way of Friendster and Myspace, I will still have a place to be online, doing my thing. Three, because six million visits here each year isn’t a thing to sneeze at, either. Whatever’s not going anywhere, and neither am I.

But it does mean I’m aware that my online presence is spread out more than it used to be. It also means that I think about the ways the two platforms work for and with each other. I will use Twitter to link back to things I’ve written here, for example; conversely, if I have a particularly interesting set of tweets, I’ll post them here for posterity. I think about how they can complement each other, so that both are useful (and fun!) for me, and for the people who follow me on either, or both.

Speaking of which, now I’m off to Twitter to tell people I’ve posted about this topic here. See? That’s how it works, people.