Book deals, a.k.a. how I motivate my sorry butt to get out there and TALK to people

Yessir, I'm totally gonna force the people who make these things to give me a tour of their facilities. Watch me.

You know, I did a ton of research while writing the early drafts of Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities. For example, I read The Government Manual for New Superheroes AND re-watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog! All right, all right, I did more than that – I researched fanboy culture and hero archetypes, and I read up on the history of some old-school DC and Marvel comic books, which brought me back to the wastrel days of my youth. It must be acknowledged, however, that writing books about superpowered guys in spandex, giant robots and the like generally doesn’t require an intense level of scholarly discipline, at least not in my meager experience.

I certainly haven’t done anything on the scale of what fellow EMUs Cynthia Levinson and Jeannie Mobley have done for their respective debuts. My modus operandi thus far has generally been “make a lot of stuff up and pretend like it all hangs together, because who’s gonna bother telling you Captain Stupendous can’t fly? Nobody can fly, so it’s all good!” But I’ve started writing my next book in earnest – I’ve been outlining, of all things – and I think I need to do some honest research on this one. Which is leading me into a very strange train of thought, and one that I’ve never pursued before: maybe I should start, you know, interviewing people and stuff.

I feel a weird new brand of confidence about doing that, and just to pile another degree of weirdness on top of the existing weirdness, that weird new brand of confidence feels weirdly problematic – it’s based on the fact that now I have a book deal, of course. As if strolling into Cityscape Farms or EZ Farms and Fish and demanding a tour will be more acceptable to them because I’m a relatively-soon-to-be-published author. “Oh, you have a book deal? Well then, please allow me to slobber all over your feet…” That’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? The slobbering-on-Mike’s-feet scenario, sure, but also the idea that somehow I have to wave some potentially irrelevant set of credentials around in order to ask someone to share their time and expertise with me? This is really one of those moments when I say to myself, “Mike, you are a flipping basket case. Toughen up, buttercup.”

Yep, these are legitimate research tools. And nope, I have no hipster credibility to endanger by using this photo. so don't cry for me, Argentina.

I think I’ll practice a little self-forgiveness and run with it, though – if landing a book deal is what I need to feel confident enough to go interview people about stuff, well, so be it. Aquaponics just might play a pivotal role in my current work-in-progress, and we’re supposed to push ourselves to grow as writers with each new project, right? Role-playing games also play a pivotal role, so maybe I’ll also find some D&D people to chat up. Or maybe I’ll just pester Jim Hill about it, we have some common ground in that area.

So yeah, I’m gonna set up a tour of an aquaponics facility of some kind, and maybe drop in on Dr. Comics and Mr. Games and hit them up for some gaming leads. This is not to say that I’ll stop doing the usual goofing off that passes for at-home desktop research, because that stuff still matters, and is still fun. And of course my minty new resolve to do research out there in the big bad real world, which is full of scary real people, has the same pitfall as online research, which is the impulse to do research UNTIL THE END OF TIMETIMeTImeTimetime…so, yeah, gotta try not to do that. But hey, the opportunity to engage in creative growth, professional growth and personal growth all at once is great, right? And if you can also talk about the possibilities for using an aquaponics setup to grow tilapia that are secretly building up intense deposits of interdimensional energy in their flesh that will endow their dimension-hopping owners with outlandish abilit–oh, but hey, that’s a topic for another time…

m.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Book deals, a.k.a. how I motivate my sorry butt to get out there and TALK to people

  1. Cynthia Levinson

    Do you remember the scenes in “Eyes Wide Shut” where Tom Cruise flashes his I-am-a-doctor card and gets entree into secret societies and chain-locked apartment buildings? If it works for him, then a book deal can work for you. But, you’ve left out the password: you have to whisper, out of the side of your mouth, “And,my deal’s with ARTHUR LEVINE.” Then you whip out your picture to prove it.
    Interviews are great. And, since you won’t be actually quoting people, you don’t have to fret about whether the ellipses in the right place or wish your source had said “the bullies beat me to a squishy jellyfish” instead of “some kids whispered about me.” You can still make things up.
    Can’t wait to read the next book!

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    • Mike Jung

      Yep, the thing about any interviewing or tours that I ask people for is that the info I gather will be warped severely in order to fit into the skewed worldview of my book. Absolute factual accuracy isn’t my goal, just a vague baseline of versimilitude. I’ll DEFINITELY still be making things up. 🙂

      Like

  2. J. Anderson Coats

    Dr. Horrible has something to teach us all about life, writing and everything. It’s a good thing one of us invoked him sooner or later, especially in conjunction with research.

    Like

  3. I actually feel a bit like a poser, because when it comes to doing the historical research for my novels, I do a lot of it after I write the novel. I write it and leave blanks for filling in the details later, or I write it and put (CHECK THIS) all over where I say something I’m not sure about. Of course I am working from a broad general background in history, not completely blind, but I often have people say “you write with so much authority about the past” when I am actually faking it and haven’t fact-checked yet. I guess the moral of that story is “be a good liar.” Sometimes it gets me in trouble though. Like on my current work in progress where I had to rewrite about 1/3 of the manuscript because of a women’s suffragist character campaigning in Colorado in 1917. Women had the vote in Colorado in 1893. Oops.

    Bad Jeannie. Probably not bad enough for Bad Horse to let me into the Evil League of Evil, though.

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      I [bracket things in] that I just guess at and go with some historical detail. Anything to keep the story going.

      When I was a teenager, I once left a major invasion out of a draft. My characters were just going along tickety-boo when the country was convulsing. Whoops.

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      • Mike Jung

        Bad Horse’s standards are apparently very high…
        I suspect I’ll do quite a bit of this too, Jeannie – my biggest worry in regard to research is getting so caught up in it that I let the writing slip. Thing #1 I Learned From Jeannie Mobley Today: IT’S OKAY TO FEEL LIKE A BIT OF A POSER
        😉
        And J., that bracketing thing is AWESOME! So simple, yet so effective! BRACKETS!!!

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    • Mike Jung

      Bad Horse’s standards are apparently very high…
      I suspect I’ll do quite a bit of this too, Jeannie – my biggest worry in regard to research is getting so caught up in it that I let the writing slip. Thing #1 I Learned From Jeannie Mobley Today: IT’S OKAY TO FEEL LIKE A BIT OF A POSER
      😉

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  4. Name checked by Mike Jung? About Dungeons and Dragons? And it took me a day and a half to find out? Trust me, people, when your name is “Jim Hill” google alerts are no help whatsoever. Should’ve changed my name to Beorn years ago, like I wanted to after reading the Hobbit.

    I’m a “light” researcher too Mike, looking for enough facts to make it feel real and yet give myself room to springboard off in some other direction. And I definitely drop in [check this] notes to myself.

    I added a fictitious apprentice to Ben Franklin in my WIP. My main character attends Avery Moonbeam Middle School, and it suddenly became necessary for Mr. Moonbeam to have a little backstory. More than tempted to add him to Wikipedia. Don’t tell the fact police.

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  5. Mike Jung

    Oh, I know that feeling with Google Alerts, Jim. The vast majority of my alerts are for Mike Jung the muscle car enthusiast. He reeeeeally loves his Camaro.
    Hey, last night at the Neil Gaiman event in Berkeley he talked about how a goddess he invented for AMERICAN GODS eventually found its way into Wikipedia, completely unknown to him! So there’s precedent, yo.

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  6. Although I’m a total introvert, I found that my writing obsession trumped my hide in a cave instincts, and managed to interview quite a few folks over the years for my manuscripts, including a commercial fisherman, shipping crane operator, fire marshal, police detective, physician specializing in liver transplants, artist, and more. In general, I’ve found that people feel flattered to be interviewed about their expertise.

    But I agree that it’ll feel easier to reach out now that I’ve got that book deal credential. Too bad my current WIP characters are psychopaths.

    Like

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