George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman, Quartered Safe Out Here) has passed

Read here

Fraser is probably best known for his Flashman series and for penning the James Bond movie Octopussy. It’s in the field of nonfiction, however, where I think he was a true genius. Quartered Safe Out Here is simply one of the best personal memoirs ever written of WWII. Its raw honesty, brash humor and unflinching look at life as a soldier is as close as most of us will ever get to understanding what it was like. I know I was heavily influenced by this book and the ultimate rogue, Flashman, in writing the Iron Elves and I had always hoped I’d get the chance to tell him that. I waited, and now the chance is gone.

The Taliban in America aka the rise of Huckabee

Up to this point I’ve more or less kept my blogging to all things publishing, but I just couldn’t stay quiet after this latest sermon masquerading as an ad by Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. A cross, a Christmas tree (where exactly were these sold in Bethlehem?) and the belief that “What really matters is the celebration and birth of Christ and being with family and friends.” Really? Has he met my family? Seriously though, is there no room in Huckabee’s America for Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists? Couldn’t he have wished Christians a Merry Christmas and the rest of us Happy Holidays? Or better yet, donated his air time to something more deserving, like a clothing drive for those poor Hooters girls that will be freezing in those little shorts? Well, perhaps not that.

Theocracies are not conducive to free thought, free will, or women (or gays.) We already have a government that thinks waterboarding (which is drowning, not the sensation of drowning but actual drowning) is some kind of water sport. Do we really want one led by a man who believes that his god wants him to rule the world…oh, yeah, the last seven years…aw hell.

Hanging out with the paparazzi

I went to the Museum of Natural History this afternoon to meet a British publisher who was in town. While waiting outside between the two pine bough dinosaurs I noticed a couple of guys with camera gear. Turns out they were waiting for Kelly Ripa and her kids who were in the museum. A short time later out she comes with her kids, the photographers took a few shots, she smiled and waved and got into a black SUV and was gone. It was all so matter of fact I wasn’t sure it had actually happened. They didn’t run up and jam their cameras in her face, the kids weren’t scared, she didn’t yell…it was all rather pleasant.

The danger of smoothing out the message

I was filling out the comprehensive author questionnaire from the publicity department at Pocket the other day and caught myself thinking about how I was going to answer some of the more personal questions. Thinking, of course, is a good thing, but this bordered on censorship, driven by the most horrid of reasons – don’t offend anyone lest you lose sales. This is a line I walk everyday as an editor and rarely think twice about it. My goal is to publish good books that sell. I do my very best to keep it in that order, too, believing that a good book will find its audience. And it’s well known that good, controversial books sell really well.

Now that it’s my turn, I realized I was listening a little closer to my opinions, and starting to wonder if any of them could cause me problems. Problems? As in folks would hear what I believe, and by the simple process of all of us being different, I was bound to offend or disagree with a sizable segment. It really surprised me. I have no desire to be that guy…that politician looking for the safe, middle ground where you offend the least. Those that already know me are probably smiling at this because the chances of me not offending someone, or at least riling them up, is a bit like the sun not rising tomorrow – possible, but unlikely. Like most human beings, I have opinions, strong opinions – most of them informed, some not – so I suppose if I change it all, it will be to become more informed so that I can have even more opinions 🙂

Something writers probably shouldn’t do

I probably see anywhere from 30 to 75 submissions a month depending on the state of the moon. Like most editors I end up rejecting about 99% of the submissions. 99% of those authors/agents accept that and move on. Then there is that 1%. These folks are the ones that know deep in their hearts that they have a hit on their hands and won’t take no for an answer. Surely, if I would just look at it again I would realize how brilliant the book is.

Hasn’t happened yet.

If an editor doesn’t get how great your book is, then this editor isn’t for you. And if you, as the writer, believe in your work (and you bloody well should,) don’t waste time with an editor who doesn’t. Go submit it to a more receptive editor. Editors are people…more or less…and we are as fickle and subjective as the rest of the population. We also get paid by going with our gut instinct. So if an editor passes, the best you can probably hope for is his or her reasoning, but even then it may not tell you anything beyond why that one individual on a planet of over 6 billion didn’t want to publish your book.