Cheeseburger Gothic

Interview With Jo Penn

Posted August 22 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been doing a few podcast interviews recently. This one, with Joanna Penn, was a good un.

4 Responses to ‘Interview With Jo Penn’

jl would have you know...

Posted August 23
I got a lot out of this. Thanks, JB!

Respond to this comment

jason mutters...

Posted August 23
I can hear my peers laughing already but... Where do I download this podcast?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 23
I reckon you could search up 'The Creative Penn' on iTunes. Or just go here: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/08/21/how-to-be-a-writer-john-birmingham/

Respond to this thread

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 28
I loved that interview, I'll have to go trawl through Jo's back catalogue now, she was great

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Interview With Jo Penn'

The quiet catastrophe

Posted July 17 into Writing by John Birmingham

Wrote a piece for my brother's site about disruption and the publishing industry:

My first year as a working writer I made a hundred and thirty-five dollars and ate a lot of generic poverty noodles. My second, a bumper year, I broke two hundred. It was encouraging, but not enough to upgrade to those fancy Maggi noodles the big, prize-winning authors get. After a decade of freelancing, though, I’d made it. I could mostly pay my rent and buy any damn noodles I wanted, as long as I was happy to sleep under a pile of old hessian bags on a brown couch in a share house. I didn’t go into writing expecting to make money and it turned that my expectations were entirely realistic. Starving artist KPIs? Nailed ‘em.

And then I wrote a book about living on brown couches in share houses—He Died With A Felafel In His Hand—and all of that changed, at least for a while.

The nineties and noughties were a golden age in publishing. Books, newspapers, magazines, they all made the sort of money that paid for long lunches which turned into late dinners with open tables and murderous bar bills, settled with somebody-else’s corporate Amex in the first light of dawn the next day.

And then… it was over. Not for me, not straight away, but both industries in which I worked—publishing and media—were disrupted with extreme prejudice. The Great Recession starting in 2008 accelerated a structural collapse which had been underway since Mosaic rendered its first webpage nearly fifteen years earlier. The sorrows of media have all been well traversed; the closing of venerable mastheads, the hundreds of thousands of laid-off journalists, the indignities of clickbait, the desperate raising of paywalls, the erosion of standards, the triumph of advertising over editorial, the shit-eating grins of the surviving management cadre as they tried to pretend everything was still totally golden.

But publishing was ok, right? Bookshelves are still full. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling could still fund their own small war in the Middle East if they wanted. And after a decade of chaos and collapse, independent bookstores are even coming back. What’s up with that?

Did the book industry pivot?

Did big publishers get smart?

Can we for God’s sake please get back to the business of long, bacchanalian lunches again?

No, no and not just no, but hell no.

The rest is here.

9 Responses to ‘The quiet catastrophe’

jl puts forth...

Posted July 17
I read this with great interest. My fingers itch with the thought of sending another book into the howling internet wasteland, to be judged by readers in random, isolated locations worldwide.

It's a bit like what many of our ancestors did when they stepped onto ships headed somewhere else. They didn't know what would happen when they got to their destination, but they did know it would be something new. And they would have to adapt or starve.

The frontier of our time is digital, and it looks like the big publishers have received a tomahawk to the face.

Quokka puts forth...

Posted July 21
yes it must have been shocking when they got here & 40% of the indigenous population promptly sickened & died with smallpox.
A friend told me that her child just learned in high school that the English insist it wasn't them that brought the smallpox - it was the French.
I thought better of Catholic ed up until that point but rinse lather repeat seems to be the order of the day.

Respond to this thread

NBlob mutters...

Posted July 17
Show noodles. Mmmm.

Respond to this comment

Jeats mutters...

Posted July 18
More posts in CBG please John. This site has gone fairly dark recently.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted July 20
Jeats Birmo has many demands on his time. If you need a fix subscribe to the Alien Side Boob. It elevates spittle flecked ranting to an art form that reminds me of Henry Moore the flowing forms, the mass with grace and the Fkn great big rocks.

Respond to this thread

damian puts forth...

Posted July 18
Very interesting. Indeed the last paragraphs suggests there isn't just hope, but real concrete hope for new writers too. You mentioned the other week that a certain organisation had burned you pretty badly, but didn't really go into the details. What you're saying here suggests that the right place to start for someone still silly enough to try non-genre fiction is still writers groups and local agents taking on such things. I guess I'm not clear where the leap into the self-publishing unknown would begin... Doesn't one need some external validation that the product is reasonable? Not in question for a successful juggerauthor, or course. But the starting question remains.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 18
Yeah, I dunno that I'd want to try self publishing literary fiction. It doesn't sell when trade published, unless they pour buckets of money into promotion. It probably wouldn't sell with indie either.

damian has opinions thus...

Posted July 22
Yes, it's one of those branch points where several subsequent steps are different depending on the path taken. It seems like local agents are still most interested in non-fiction and Australian literary fiction, while genre is supported better overseas (the location depending slightly on the genre). There doesn't seem to be a specialist entry point for Australian crime fiction, or sf or urban fantasy. I could just be looking in the wrong places of course. And obviously the making-up-my-mind-and-trying-something bit is probably the more important bit at this stage.

Respond to this thread

Abe Frellman ducks in to say...

Posted August 7
Having followed this slow moving train wreck over the last decade or so through picking up on what you have (or sometimes haven't) written here on CBG imagine my horror when my first born announced she wanted to do a writing degree with a view to going in to editing or publishing. Anyway after much debate and discussion I came around to the view that (i) it's her life (and HECS bill), but that aside (ii) while publishing might be cactus, all of those self-publishers are going to need editing skills. So I figure the delivery mechanism will change. Is there a market emerging for freelancing editors JB or are there any co-ops springing up? Any thoughts appreciated.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'The quiet catastrophe'

Book schedule changes

Posted March 28 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been looking at my sales figures and my schedule for the year and have decided to tweak the order in which I work on this year's titles. I'm deep into The Cruel Stars at the moment and will kick on with that for another five or six weeks.

I had intended to then start WW 3.1, but I'm going to push that back to second half of the year to concentrate on The Golden Minute (or Girl in Time 2, if you prefer) and then a mass market thriller called Sleeper Agent.

Why?

The numbers. I'll make a lot more money off Golden Minute, and have been accepted into a box set deal for Sleeper Agent, so they get priority.

I'm still doing WW 3.1 and Stronghold (Dave 4) but they'll be released for Father's Day and Christmas respectively

And I'm still looking for fan fic across the the various storyworlds if people are interested.

22 Responses to ‘Book schedule changes’

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted March 28
I'm a little surprised the spooky blue AI allows such fripperies to influence scheduling.

Respond to this comment

jason mumbles...

Posted March 29
JB,

Is there a word length limit for the fan fic stuff. I just figured if it goes to far we cant list you as a primary author so lose some visibility.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted March 29
Hmm. Interesting question. I guess about 8000 words if you got that in you.

Respond to this thread

Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted March 30
Sounds like you have a plan there John. And after all, you're the one writing for food.

Me, I'll puchase and read anything you want to publish when it's available.

Btw, I found/ recovered the AoT story I wrote for the original fan fic festival on Journalspace all those years ago. Is it ok to polish and resubmit that one?

I do have a follow-up story in early development too. Must get cracking on that.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 30
Yep. Happy to take pre-loved fanfic

Respond to this thread

Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted March 30
Like Surtac I'm happy with anything! Although the next installment of The Dave would be nice....but The Golden Minute would be cool too.

As I'm rereading the AoT books at the moment I am moved to ask: has any cash rich folks talked about movie/TV treatments of...well...anything? Mind you, any of your stories would be bloody expensive and special effects laden. Hence the 'cash rich' thing.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 30
All sorts of movie and tv people have expressed an interest at various times. But movie and tv people are infamous bullshitters.

Rob reckons...

Posted March 31
TV people are the worst (I'm shooting some TV on Monday, this sentence is bought to you by ironic detachment)

Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 31
Yes there is that BS factor in the televisual game...I seem to recall Harry Harrison had sold the movie/TV rights to his Stainless Steel Rat books several times. People bought the rights with a time limit to make something, they would then NOT do it, rights went back to Harry who flogged them off again. I understand he was quite happy with this arrangement!

Respond to this thread

Rob puts forth...

Posted March 31
should be the Dave for fathers day.

Respond to this comment

Dave The Siberian Hamster mutters...

Posted April 3
Have you thought of doing them as a Manga Series?

Respond to this comment

Dave The Siberian Hamster is gonna tell you...

Posted April 3
Have you thought of doing them as a Manga Series?

Respond to this comment

Dave C would have you know...

Posted April 3
Plan looks good. Am intrigued what a JB mass market title will look like? Pretty sure there'll be less swinging demon junk and waking up with gladiators. Mental note to self, gotta bludgeon my keyboard to squish out my next twisted fan mash...

Respond to this comment

Elie Abitbol has opinions thus...

Posted April 13
Hi John,

I'm a big fan of The Axis of Time and Stalin's Hammer. I just finished reading Paris and i can't wait to read WW 3.1 ! You ended Paris in quite a dramatic cliffhanger and i really want to know what happens next.
Please keep me updated on the release date.

Kind regards,

Elie

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 14
Hey Elie. If you're on my newsletter you'll hear all about it.
You can sign on at jbismymasternow.com

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted April 14
Elie, be forewarned- JB's scheduling can be described a "fluid," "dynamic," or perhaps even "mercurial" in so much as He promises explodey Space Opera and delivers, well with all due respect, a pair of old coots rabbiting on about sport, music, booze & artisnal cheeses.

Respond to this thread

Eric Willhelm mumbles...

Posted April 20
Fair enough and understandable. I eagerly await WW 3.1 but in the mean time, I'll just keep using the Without Warning setting for my table top Role Playing Game.

Respond to this comment

Jack S asserts...

Posted April 20
I just want to know what happened to poor old Buster Cherry. Re-read the books recently but couldn't find his specific demise. Probably killed in Hawaii?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 26
Hmm. I was pretty sure he died in Hawaii. I'll have to check.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted April 26
I seem to remember Buster taking up with Rosanna & a 12 gauge shotgun, then coming undone in a techno colour manner.

Respond to this thread

Unpossible puts forth...

Posted May 9
Hi John;

Maybe I already mentioned before, but I'm working on a Super Dave fan fiction. Its set in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, and draws a bit on old Dayak legends about monsters, magic swords, heros, super powers, and other stuff from the old days. Hope its welcome. M

Respond to this comment

Don Bagert is gonna tell you...

Posted May 10
Y'know, it never occurred to me until I re-read this message that Father's Day might be on a different date in Australia than in the U.S. And it is - September 3 in Australia rather than June 18 in the United States. (September 3 is Labor Day in the U.S.) Ten-and-a-half additional weeks of waiting for WW3.1!!!! :(

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Book schedule changes'

Lets eat grandma

Posted March 20 into Writing by John Birmingham

Commas FTW! And Oxford commas for the bonus point:

“Who gives a fuck about the Oxford Comma?” Vampire Weekend asked on their eponymous first album. The hard-working truck drivers of the Oakhurst Dairy company in the great state of Maine, that’s who. A dispute with their bosses over whether they should be paid overtime came down to the lack of an Oxford comma in the state’s law regulating who gets paid a little bit more for working extra hours.

What is the Oxford comma?

It’s the one that parks itself before ‘and’ in a series of three or more things. If, for instance, you are planning a private party in the Moscow Hilton and you sent a note to the concierge asking him to “invite the hookers, Trump and Putin,” he can rightly blame you when the only guests who show up are a couple of transsexual despot-cosplayers.

You should have invited “the hookers, Trump, and Putin”.

That one little comma makes all the diff...

From today's kinder, gentler ASB.

8 Responses to ‘Lets eat grandma’

Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 20
Nice work on making the Oxford comma funny - at least a little bit.

Respond to this comment

Dick mutters...

Posted March 20
Would you believe, I actually read that story. Slow day at work.

Eats, roots, and leaves v eats roots and leaves

Which one's a herbivore

Timmo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 23
Like JB's title example, this example illustrates the need for commas but not the Oxford comma specifically, as the three items are not technically in a list. The issue is a comma changing context of "roots" from the subject of a verb to a verb in itself
e.g. A wombat eats roots and leaves.
vs.
A wombat eats, roots and leaves.

Respond to this thread

jason mutters...

Posted March 20
This article is so close to my heart. I wrote a series of short stories about Grammar Man, a super-hero who saves the world with correct use of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The irony being that it came back from editing with more red ink than black.

Respond to this comment

insomniac would have you know...

Posted March 20
I don't know how many Oxford commas I've had to ask patent attorneys to insert into claims over the (long ago) years, but if I had a dollar for every one ...

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted March 20
Yeah! as you would all be well to well fkn aware, I'm all fkn over Poxford fkn Comma's and FKN GRAMMA! let alone punctuation, spelling and all the other fkn gear. You know. Diction, Period, Colin, coalin, semi coalin and colon-oscopathy too!, whats that other fkn thing. SALUTAION! FKN YEAH BABY! Ill set that shit straight rather fast I might add. Oh you do compound sentences, Yes, yes I do, right after I do compound fractures you mthr fkr!

Respond to this comment

Vovchara is gonna tell you...

Posted March 21
The best explanation I've ever read.

Respond to this comment

DarrenBloomfield is gonna tell you...

Posted March 21
I reckon "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" by Lynne Truss, is a cracking contribution to the field. I liked the wry dedication: "to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution"

Then there's this - which I already spammed JB with on The Twitter https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-comma-in-the-second-amendment-2013-8

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Lets eat grandma'

Project management and the arts

Posted February 15 into Writing by John Birmingham

Just did a really fascinating interview with a project manager. (Surprisingly enough, on commission for a feature in Project Manager magazine). It was fascinating because although this guy came out of the Navy and into mining and marine engineering, almost everything he said was directly applicable to managing a writing career, especially juggling a couple of different projects such as books, columns etc. For once, I'm actually looking forward to transcribing the interview.

15 Responses to ‘Project management and the arts’

Rhino reckons...

Posted February 16
Project Managers, for the most part, are Gods Among Men.

Before we were wed, I provided my then fiancee with a process flow chart of relationships so that she would have a clearly defined process of inputs and outputs.

She laughed and ripped in half.

A typical management response.

Leftarc mutters...

Posted February 16
I recently built a wood fired oven, and as I say, I had to PM the shit out of it. There was a schedule, bill of materials (broken down into capex and opex costs) and a risk budget. Mrs/Fin Controller was impressed.

damian reckons...

Posted February 17
You still need a stakeholder map and a business change plan. Did you buy beer with the risk budget?

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted February 23

Rhino reckons ...

"She laughed and ripped it in half"


I imagined the project flow chart of relationships to be as large and thick as a Telephone Book.

I still visualised Better Half of Rhino tearing it shreds.

Respond to this thread

jason swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 16
Part of my full time role is project management. Unfortunately I have been unable to use the skills and experience from this role in the writing process. It's a lot easier to work with paid employees than loved ones when it comes to getting things done.

Respond to this comment

Leftarc is gonna tell you...

Posted February 16
JB,
Your book "How to be a Writer' is a good book to add to one's PM toolkit. Deadlines, timeboxing, customer engagement/management, and conflicting priorities are all part of a Project Manager's remit (trying to replicate the routine of Hunter S Thompson as you described is more of an aspirational goal though). At the end of the day, if you organise stuff, you are using project management skills. And that is not to demean this dark art, as I am one. Looking forward to reading your interview.

Respond to this comment

Surtac reckons...

Posted February 16
What the Rhino said.

Forty years of working in IT has taught me that good PMs are hard to find but are definitely worth keeping and feeding.

Respond to this comment

Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted February 17
I tend to channel Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction in my professional life. He is the ultimate PM.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted February 17
I'd have pegged Mr Wolf more as a Delivery Manger.

Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 18
Wolf in the Manger.

Respond to this thread

Vovchara would have you know...

Posted February 17
there is no reason why it shouldn't be. Project management is basically management of resources to achieve set goals. No matter if you build bridge, house, road, computer or write a book, piece of software etc. you 've got to have clearly defined end result. And a path to it. And every step on it is an abstract mile stone, pretty much every part of said management is an abstract concept.

Respond to this comment

Dirk reckons...

Posted February 18
*nods*

Being one myself (even got a mastersdegree in it) I only can underline that ...

Respond to this comment

Ceramic is gonna tell you...

Posted February 20
I've made a project plan for my writing (dare I say it?) career.
Its got basic things like a budget, phases and timeline, but also things for business planning. Future projects, compatable services, marketing plan, and am working on a competative analysis.
I'd love a link for your interview if its online.

Respond to this comment

Aaron mutters...

Posted February 20
As a creative person and now dad I can definitely vouch for the benefits of embracing organisation. When I first started in radio my fear was how will I keep generating the content but I quickly learned I had mire to gain from the organisation skills picked up in previous jobs. It's ordering the chaos to allow for some actual work to get done. I am actually doing a degree in project management. I couldn't do it without project management skills!

Respond to this comment

Justin has opinions thus...

Posted February 20
well JB, seems you are onto something here, something about your writing style appears to attract us PM types.
never knew so many of us lurked around this forum.

Here's a bit of PM humor for you;
What is the collective noun for a group of project managers?

A 'Concern'

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Project management and the arts'

I think we should all win a Hugo

Posted January 18 into Writing by John Birmingham

Is anyone eligible to nominate works, or to vote in the Hugo's? It occurs to me that not only should Cady and Smith try their luck (granted, they have zero chance), but the Hugos have categories for fan writing and everyone in Buttecracke is eligible! I don't see why that crazy Vos or Vox or whatever the fuck his name is should be the only one gaming this system.

I'm not a member of WorldCon or any of the baby cons that would afford nominating rights, but maybe somebody here is.

The relevent link is here.

24 Responses to ‘I think we should all win a Hugo’

Ceramic ducks in to say...

Posted January 18
Ha, certainly not mine though.
I'd like for the stories to be updated with new edits first! I'm changed the ending a bit for example. Very glad the book is doing so well!

Respond to this comment

Surtac mumbles...

Posted January 18
Yeah. I have an attending membership for Worldcon in Helsinki this year.

But I won't be going. The original plan had me and Eldest Daughter going, but she has decided she wants to go back to Hong Kong instead at a similar time of year. So no Finland with a side trip to St Petersburg for me this year.

And no more US based Worldcons for me either while the Trumpenfuhrer is in charge. I'll have to wait and see whether Dublin or New Zealand get up in 2019 or 2020.

But happy to use my nomination powers for good as suggested. Hmmn. Haven't seen nominations actually open yet - it must be soon though.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 18
ALL HAIL SURTAC.

Stephen reckons...

Posted January 18
Surtac,

nominating has opened - I got my email about it on the ninth of January. Check your mail and spam folders - it should be from hugos@worldcon.fi

There is no pin this year though, you get a unique URL to go to instead. If you can't find the email, send a message to hugohelp@worldcon.fi

Nocturnalist reckons...

Posted January 18
Surtac, if you're not going to use a full membership I might know some people who'd be interesting in buying it off you, or in doing a part buy/part trade for an associate membership. Let me know if you'd like me to ask around.

Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 18
I want to keep at least a supporting membership so I can nominate and vote. My daughter's youth attending membership may be available - I don't think she wants to follow through with actual voting. I'll check with her and advise in here later.

Respond to this thread

MickH is gonna tell you...

Posted January 18
A Hugo for fan fiction?...wow
something to shoot for (Q7S) :D

Respond to this comment

Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 18
Pretty sure the Fan Writer category is not actually for fan fiction, but for the sort of thing that goes into the fanzine and newsletter community that that particular convention circuit grew out of - reviews, critical writing, news from the genre scene. Writing about the stories rather than the stories.

The parade, I rains on it.

Surtac mutters...

Posted January 18
Yes. The Night Manager is correct. It's not for fan fiction, but for other fannish activities. It's also not a category I usually pay much attention to.

But there's nothing to stop me nominating Girl for best novel, right? I mean it was was one of my fave books of the year after all.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 19
I would not stop you.

Respond to this thread

Abe Frellman is gonna tell you...

Posted January 18
Slightly off topic, but who's doing your PR these days, Nick Earls??

http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2017/01/16/vote-finals-favourite-australian-author-2017/?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=_20170118_VoteNowInPoll_amgroupa

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted January 18
Meh, I just couldn't be fucked organising The 10000

Respond to this thread

Kristophr has opinions thus...

Posted January 18
I wish you luck.

The "truefans" have made it clear that anyone who is politically incorrect in their eyes will be no-awarded.

They even no-awarded Butcher, the Dresden Files author, because people not in their little club like got him nominated.

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 18
Lost cause trying to push that narrative. Just wait five seconds for someone to tie it all to Gamergate.

Kristophr has opinions thus...

Posted January 19
The no-awards happened. Simple as that.

I wish you all luck. I would like to see this anthology hugo-ed. I rather liked it.

Respond to this thread

jason would have you know...

Posted January 19
At the risk of sounding like I am sucking up something savage...

I think the best thing about Butte Crack was the ability to fully engage people in a fantasy world and let them be a real part of it with the participation of the author. Is there a category which would recognise the new model for fan interaction, so the model rather than (or as well as) the book?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted January 23
I doubt it. Eric Flint is very encouraging of fan writers and baby authors in his 1630s world, but that's still a very controlled trade publishing project.

Respond to this thread

Legless has opinions thus...

Posted January 19
I can't fucking believe it! You only went and included my monster trucks story.

I'm a cocking published author!

I'm so chuffed I could lay an egg!


Thank you. Thank you a million times

Respond to this comment

Kristophr is gonna tell you...

Posted January 20
Go for it, John.

Real fans should be able to nominate good work without having a clique of holier-than-thou "trufen" no awarding them.

Respond to this comment

ShaneAlpha is gonna tell you...

Posted January 20
Is it wrong to dream of beating Adam Baldwin to death with my Hugo?
Yes.
But it's oh so enjoyable.

Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted January 21
Have you actually seen what Adam Baldwin looks like? I suspect that contest would not go the way you might imagine.

Sudragon mutters...

Posted January 22
He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to the man and he gave him what for.

Respond to this thread

Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 23
I'm with Legless. Astonished and egg laying. But more than ever amazed by what authors create. Go on, someone nominate it for the award. A nomination would be amazing in itself.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'I think we should all win a Hugo'