The Road So Far

All Covers 2017

Five years.

The Last Key came out  five years after my first book and short story in print.

The full score is 6 Novels, 1 Novella, 3 Anthologies I edited, 1 RPG manual with 2 short stories in it), short stories in 18 Anthologies edited by other people (including 3 reprints), and comics in 2 episodes of 1 magazine.

I have 2 Novels ready to go whenever I decide to buckle down and send them in, and 4 short stories going into Anthologies coming out in the future (including 1 reprint). I’m currently working on a new novel, which I paused to experiment with a serial story.

I hope this doesn’t come off as bragging. I’m just taking stock of where I’ve been, as a way of deciding where I want to go next. It’s been a rough year, and I think I need a little direction and motivation before I start to build up momentum again. Seeing this block of covers really makes me happy.

A writer’s only real success is the readers, of course. I’m immensely grateful to my readers, fans, friends, and family. So much that I want to give you a thank-you gift. So how about a bunch of free collections by some famous authors to fill up your kindle?

Just follow the links!

Franz Kafka

H. P. Lovecraft

O. Henry

Saki

Rudyard Kipling

James Joyce

Oscar Wilde

Herman Melville

Lewis Carroll

Plato

Joseph Conrad

Okay, technically I didn’t make those gifts. But there are plenty of free ones on my Short Stories Page. Plus, I’ll leave you with some eye candy from the first test version of The Last Key by cover artist Eugene Teplitsky.

Here’s to the next five years!

cover 4 test cropped

 

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Book Piracy

I love a good pirate story.Remembering Emily

I’ve been enjoying the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series a lot. I even included pirates in my Actuator series. There’s something appealing about bucking unjust authority, although it requires some pretty advanced mental gymnastics to justify the heinous things done by real pirates.

These days pirates tend to be the type who steal media. Most of them do it because they want to see movies for free or before the release date. There are also plenty of people looking to get free music or books. Consequently, most or all of my books have been pirated. perf6.000x9.000.indd In fact, one of my books, Exacting Essence, has been pirated so extensively that it hasn’t even sold many legitimate copies. I’ve even found discussion boards where people were recommending it to each other… which struck a whole range of conflicting emotions. At the very least, they could have reviewed it!

I can’t help thinking back to my teens when I pirated music. First of all, I should say that I also bought a lot of music. However, my humble means and the exceptional importance of music to my social group and our generation added a lot of pressure. Plus, I had this neat boom box that had a double cassette deck with high speed dubbing that made it sooo easy… So I copied music from and for friends. Later, I mended my ways and now I get my music legitimately. Movies and books, too. I later bought most of that music legitimately, but I’m probably getting my just desserts.

Cyber CowboySo what can an author do? The Internet makes it so easy to share files now, I suspect there’s not much we can do. Technically, one can pay a lawyer and try to sue people for it. But most of the “sharing” on the Internet is done by anonymous people who try not to leave any detectable trace. I have one publisher who sends “cease and desist” orders to anybody they find posting their books illegally, but it’s a never-ending game. The truth is, if somebody decides they are going to pirate something, the effort it takes to stop them is usually a lot more time and money than it took them to do it. They even program bots to do it, leaving almost no trail. So it’s a game that can’t be easily won. (Maybe a super-corporation like Disney can make some headway, but not an independent author.)

Oscar Wilde is an example of an amazing writer whose life turned tragic because of an emotionally charged law suit. Imagine how many more great works he could have written if he spent his efforts differently.

So I think the only healthy attitude is to not burn energy getting angry and trying to fight it. Pirates gonna steal. But since they aren’t likely to have ever bought my book in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. I just chalk it up to “exposure” and hope over time it will contribute to a general increase in name recognition. Maybe they’ll recommend it to somebody who’ll buy the book in the future. It’s not all that different from libraries lending books to many patrons… except nobody bought the first book. Honestly, I’ll just give my books to anybody willing to review them. So if you ever stole one of my books, please leave a review and we’ll call it good.

What’s Wrong with Movie Rights

the ocracide art*THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FOR FIRST-TIME AUTHORS SIGNING A BOOK CONTRACT*

I love movies. I have defended Peter Jackson against Tolkien purists in front of hundreds of people as a panelist and presenter. I even like the Percy Jackson movies and The Seeker (adaptation of The Dark is Rising). Although my art is writing books and short stories, I am a rabid fan of cinema.

So I get it.

After years writing books and sending queries into the abyss, somebody finally sends you a contract for your novel. Once the butterflies settle, and after you call your mom and go out to celebrate with your friends, you sit down and actually read the thing. It’s nine pages long and most of it is in passive voice using sentence structure your English teacher would punish you for. You make an appointment to have somebody go over the confusing stuff with you. But the one thing you know, is that it has a clause claiming all the movie rights for the publisher. And even though you don’t personally know anybody who had a movie made out of a book, you vaguely remember a fear-inducing tale about an author who didn’t get a dime when they made her story into a blockbuster and she couldn’t stop them from changing the ending so the noble unicorn heroine actually turned out to be a robot-zombie.

You raise your emotions against such indignities and tell the publisher you want to keep your movie rights. And for good measure you throw in TV, live stage play, and merchandising.

The publisher says no.

Now you have a tough choice to make. Before you do something you’ll regret, give me a chance to talk you off the edge. Or, if you happen to read this before it happens, maybe I can save you some stress.

Movie deals almost never happen. By almost never, I mean you have a better chance of winning the lottery. If you don’t have an agent actively pursuing a movie deal, the odds effectively approach zero. At a book signing, I heard Terry Brooks (yes, that super famous guy) explain how movie rights for his Shannara series had been sold many times. People even started making plans for a movie a few times, but it fell apart over and over. They did finally make a TV series, but that was decades later. What went wrong?

[Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on the moving making process, or even an expert on publishing. This is just my own perspective on information I gathered along my journey as an author and editor.]

As I understand it, there are many hurdles along the road to making a movie. Somebody (usually an agent) will contract to represent the author or publisher and take a large number of books and try to find one in which a movie maker will be interested. Movie making people (companies, directors, who knows?) buy a “movie option” from the publisher and/or author. It’s basically reserving the right to make that movie if they want. It has a time limit and usually it’s for little or no money. If a director or producer really likes one of the options they might pursue it further, but among so many optioned properties, they tend to only seriously consider a few. A small percentage of those get started, and even fewer ever get all the way to filming. Some movies even fall apart after they start shooting. Obviously, a NY Times bestseller has a better chance of becoming a movie than a first-time author’s debut book.

Even if the miraculous comes true and your book gets made into a movie, there will definitely have to be a new contract, and you as the author are guaranteed to get some of that money. Who controls what and how much will have to be ironed out. If the publisher does all that, you’ll get the percentage your contract promised.

If you or your agent makes the golden contact and bring that deal to the table, you can renegotiate with the publisher for higher percentages. They will love you for it. Or, if you really don’t want the publisher involved (which is probably unethical since they are partly responsible for making the book so popular in the first place) you can either buy back all your rights from them before making the movie deal or let the time run out and end the contract.

If you feel that way about the publisher, though, maybe you should question why you would sign a contract with them at all. In my own modest experience, publishers earn their share of the royalties. I make more even though I share the profits with them because they generate more than twice as many sales than I would alone. And since I don’t know anybody making movies, if one of my publishers landed a movie deal, it would all be free money for me since it wasn’t anything I did to make it happen.

So why, if the odds are so remote, would a publisher care about retaining those movie rights? First, the publisher is taking a risk on your book. Most of the time, they lose money on books. A small number of books make enough money to keep them in business despite the losses on the majority of what they publish. If your book isn’t one of the stars, a movie deal isn’t going to happen anyway. If you do make the money, shouldn’t the publisher share in the profits for taking a risk on your work?

Second, you should remember that the story is still yours. You own it. Your contract only “loans” that property to the publisher for the duration of the contract so they can use it to make money. And if they are good, you’ll make more money, too. They can’t do their job effectively if you are able to sell the same story to other companies. That’s why they retain foreign language rights and such. Even if they aren’t planning to translate it into Japanese, their investment in the book is damaged by other companies selling the same story. So, for the duration of the contract, they need to be part of all such negotiations. It doesn’t mean you or your agent can’t make such a deal. Any extra deal would always come with another contract where you can negotiate for more if you feel you deserve it. Working with a publisher is a partnership. It’s only fair that both partners work together to make as much as possible out of your book, regardless of who brings the deals and how much each partner deserves.

If you have any real contacts that might lead to a movie deal, it’s reasonable to ask for that consideration to be in the contract. If you don’t, I recommend NOT hanging up a publishing contract because of unfounded fears that you might be taken advantage of. The publisher is taking a risk investing time and money in your book. It’s only fair that you share the benefits of any fruit such an investment yields.

For the record, if anybody reading this really does want to make one of my stories into a movie, I’ll probably let you do it for free, just to see it happen. 😊

Call for Submissions: Press Forward, Saints

CotS CoverD. J. Butler is the leading, if not only, author in “Mormon Steampunk.” His four book series, City of the Saints, is now an omnibus that reaches a very wide and eclectic audience. Since its publication, a large number of readers have asked for more and a good group of authors have expressed interest in writing something similar. In 2018 he decided to collect short stories in the same genre and put together an anthology. I’m thrilled to be working with him as co-editor on this project.

PRESS FORWARD, SAINTS Call for Submissions

Immortal Works (editors James Wymore and D.J. Butler) hereby call for submissions for an anthology of MORMON STEAMPUNK to be called PRESS FORWARD, SAINTS.

Here is the deal:

1. The writer’s religious affiliation is completely irrelevant. We don’t care; we don’t even want to know.

2. The story does not have to be set in any particular world. The story must be in some sense “Mormon” and in some sense “Steampunk.” We’ll try to interpret those categories both broadly.

3. If your story is faith-promoting (Mormonism is “true” in the story), we’ll stop reading it. If it is mean-spirited (Mormons are all idiots), we’ll also stop reading it.

4. Stories should be at least 2,000 words long and generally no more than 8,000 words.

5. The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2018.

6. Authors will not receive up-front payments. Authors will share in the revenues from sales of the book over time and will receive one (1) complimentary author copy.

7. Send submissions to david.john.butler (at) hotmail.com. Include the words “PRESS FORWARD SAINTS SUBMISSION” in the subject line.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at jameswymore (at) gmail.com as well. If you aren’t sure what Steampunk is, check some of these references…

schism-e-book-cover   Under a Brass Moon Coveractuator-1-e-book-cover

Writers Must Read

Tome

In On Writing by Stephen King, he says that it’s vital for authors to be voracious readers. I agree. Not only is it important for the purposes of knowing what’s going on in the book world, it’s critical to love the product. Unlike drug dealers who are not supposed to sample the wares, having a passion for the written word is the only way any author can write authentically or powerfully.

If you don’t love reading, how can you believe anybody will love what you write?

Personally, I recommend a balanced diet of genre fiction, classics, bestsellers, books outside the genre you write, and non-fiction. I had a tablet on which I read e-books for quite a while. While I read those, I built up a large stock of paperbacks. When the tablet broke, I started reading paper thinking I’d replace the tablet when I finished the pile. I keep buying e-books with that end in mind, too. However, the funny thing is, I haven’t managed to work through the stack yet. It keeps growing faster than I can keep up. So I still don’t have a tablet. *shrug* The majority of books I read are written by friends and associates. I know some extremely talented people.

I also love audio books. I usually have one I listen to when I’m driving. Sometimes I read books aloud to my family. As an acquisitions editor, I often have a manuscript I’m reading to decide if it should be published or not or one I’m editing for a friend. I usually read those on my computer. That means I’m usually in the middle of three or four books at any one time. I’m not a fast reader, but I make up for it with chaotic simultaneous consumption.

I just finished Origin by Dan Brown (paper), In the Warmth of the Sun by P. A. Podrazik (computer), and Split Second by David Baldacci (audio). I’m currently reading The Giant’s Seat book 2 in The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie by Dave Butler (paper), When Did You See Her Last? book 2 in All the Wrong Questions by Lemony Snicket (aloud), Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben (audio), and A New Trope book 4 in Death by Cliche by Bob Defendi (computer, editing). When I finish these I’m going to read Saved by H. A. Anderson (paper), book 3 in AtWQ, book 5 in DbC, and it’s a race between Salvation by James Wymore (coming soon!) or The Crystal King by John Olsen– depending which reader gets done with the audio book first.

I’m not sure how many books I read in 2017, but it’s probably around 30. My advice to anybody considering writing a book, stop reading if you need to make time to write. But only after you stop watching television and playing video games first. If you don’t love reading, why write a book at all? 🙂

What are you reading?

Hair

What’s in a name?

It’s been too long since I wrote a legit blog. Time is relentless in its march. Still, I want to talk about names. Really, I want to discuss made-up names and words of all kinds. Maybe the benefit of what I’ve learned will help you in your writing endeavors. If not, at least it should be interesting.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you probably remember the tragic first edition covers on my first two books. I’m embarrassed to show them now, but it makes a point. (Just to ease my mind, I’m putting the newer versions, too.)

 

 

To this day, the Space Balrogs won’t call my first book anything except, “The Cracide.” Which is what the title looks like on that initial cover. Since then, I’ve learned it’s best not to title a book after a made-up word at all. Not only because I get confusion by people who think the book is about killing God as some kind of anti-religious statement (which it isn’t, it’s about killing a Theocrat who claims to be God), but a lot of people aren’t attracted to the title at all because it inspires confusion more than curiosity.

I went to a book signing where Terry Brooks shocked the entire audience of fans by informing us that Shannara is pronounced Shan-uh-ruh, not Shuh-nar-ra. Every person there had been pronouncing it wrong for decades. I’m guessing after a lifetime of correcting people’s pronunciation of his title, he wishes he hadn’t used a made-up word in the title, too.

Exacting Essence isn’t much better. It sounds cool (to me), but nobody knows what it means. So again, it causes confusion instead of curiosity. So, by making bad decisions in the past, I’ve learned to title books using only common words people already know. It is much more likely to inspire them to want to learn about the book. Here are some better book titles.

 

Uniqueness in titles isn’t as important as getting the reader’s interest. Common words can make a really good title.

I think this has also affected how I think about made up words in the book as well. I have a few in Salvation, because it’s a straight up fantasy and monsters and towns need names. But even though there have to be made up words in it, I think I would advise authors to use as many common words and when they are made up, spell them in a way that’s easy to understand.

Schism is the name of the planet. An actuator is a legitimate machine part. The sense of something familiar being used in a new and “magical” way is more intriguing, I believe, than if I named the planet Blarghdorugh and the machine R.T.C.I. (Reality Transforming Computer Interface). There is a place for fancy made-up words, of course, but less is definitely more.

So what brought this up now? My work-in-progress involves me deciding what to call a city, the people in it, and various aspects of their culture. So I have been revisiting some of the wisdom I learned by past mistakes. The title will not be a word I make up. The city must be called something that sounds like a real city, named as real people would name one. And the characters will have names that are “futuristic” in the sense that they are names people might really use as a result of a real societal evolution… not Zaphanianna or some other nonsense that readers can’t pronounce. It’s unlikely that after people used the name Matthew for thousands of years it will suddenly disappear in 100 years and nobody will be giving it to newborns.

If I save just one author from making the same mistakes I did, this blog will have been worth the effort. 🙂

How Long is a Story?

Today I guest blogged on Forever Writers. It’s all about the arbitrary classifications publishers enforce on stories (genre, audience, word count, etc.) and how the Actuator series shatters them all! Check it out!

longstory2