Advice for Writers by Scalzi

Author and freelance writer extraordinaire John Scalzi today offered some sage business advice to writers on his blog.

I recommend to all writers of a professional or semi-professional stripe that you have a look at it in full.

Some of my readers might well ask, “But do you follow the advice of the Great Scalzi yourself, Dave?”

Well, let’s see, shall we? I won’t reproduce his details, just his bullet points.

1. You’re a writer. Prepared to be broke.

Story of my life all through my 20s, and I am readying myself to return to that state. As a hedge, however, I have saved quite a bit of cash in an interest-bearing account….

2. Don’t quit your day job.
Up until now, I have followed this piece of advice. But I intend to defy it in the near future, for the sake of my sanity (save the jokes, not in the mood for it tonight). Keeping the day job has made good sense up until this point, but the corollary to rule #2 is….

3. Marry (or otherwise shack up with) someone sensible with money, who has a real job.
Well, I blew it on this one — at least at first. I married for love, you see. In the years since, however, I obeyed Rule #2 in order to put my lovely wife through graduate school, so that she could fulfill the “steady job” portion of Rule #3 (I’m the sensible money manager in the house).

4. Your income is half of what you think it is.

Don’t I know it. I live in NYC, so my income is actually 40 percent of what I think it is.

5. Pay off your credit cards NOW and then use them like cash later.
Did that in 1998, been doing it ever since. So I was way ahead on this one.

6. Don’t have the cash for it? You can’t have it.
This has also been one of my guiding principles for much of my adult life. Unsecured debt is the enemy. (Note that this does not apply to collateralized, equity-building debt, such as mortgages or car loans.)

7. When you do buy something, buy the best you can afford — and then run it into the ground.
Again, I’m in complete agreement with Scalzi. So why don’t I make anywhere near as much money as him? (Again, stifle yourselves, you clowns. You know who you are. Yeah, I’m talking to you.)

8. Unless you have a truly compelling reason to be there, get the hell out of New York/LA/San Francisco.
I’m trying, man, I’m trying. Unfortunately, after college, I literally could not afford to move out of the city. I had no savings, and there was no work in my field outside the city. Now I have some savings built up, but it looks as if Kara’s best job prospects for her clinical fellowship year might be here in NYC — which means another year in the big, expensive city.

Of course, Scalzi’s only measure of cost-of-living comparison between his home in Ohio and NYC are rent per square foot of property and retail prices. However, he fails to account for the fact that nearly 4 million New Yorkers are able to get by without owning cars — which means no car payment, no car insurance, no fuel costs, no maintenance costs, no parking costs, and no tolls. Renting also means no property taxes. Most renters also pay only gas and electric utilities, but not heating oil costs or water bills. We also don’t pay for trash removal or snow removal — luxuries that in “America” can cost quite a bit of money.

I’d be willing to bet that when one factors in all those costs of living in “America”, the net savings become far less than Scalzi boasts.

All the same, as soon as we can get the hell out of NYC and into mainland America, we’re going.

9. Know the entire writing market and place value on your own work.
Okay, I haven’t done this, and I should. Time to pick up Writer’s Market and start doing my homework.

10. Writing is a business. Act like it.
I do my best. I’m incorporated. I maintain separate business and personal accounts. I keep meticulous records. I keep a tax and business lawyer on retainer year-round. I pride myself on delivering exactly what I have promised, at exactly the time I have promised to do so. I try to do my work as cleanly and as completely as I can, so that the client (i.e., my editor and/or publisher) can publish my work with as little effort as possible.

Do I do any of these things well enough to one day compete at Scalzi’s level? We’ll see.

Why I Voted for Obama in the Primary

As I’ve said to a few of my friends here in New York, I won’t pretend that I voted for Barack Obama in the New York Democratic primary for logical reasons. My motivations were, I confess, chiefly emotional.

First, I have been angered by a number of the votes that Hillary Clinton has cast during her time as my state’s junior U.S. senator. Her claims to be against the war in Iraq ring hollow in light of her votes to authorize it and fund it. Second, she has repeatedly refused to condemn the practice of torture by agents and military personnel of the United States. Third, I do not like the idea of perpetuating the notions of dynasty in American politics. Already we’re saddled with the Kennedys and the Bushes. Enough.

Obama demonstrated against the war. Obama has stated that torture is “never OK”. He repudiates the control of our government by lobbyists and special interests. And most of all, I feel he represents the best chance America has for finding a new and better direction.

That’s why I support Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, and for President of the United States. I have voted for him once, I gave money to his senatorial campaign in 2004, I have given money to his presidential campaign, and if I am given the opportunity, I will vote for him come November 2008.

How cool is this?

Many of you on my friends list have probably already read this on daytonward‘s LJ, but I wanted to note it on mine, as well.

This weekend, the “remastered” original-series Star Trek episode “The Ultimate Computer” will feature a new effects shot that includes a space station whose design is based on that of Starbase 47, aka Vanguard.

For those folks who find this post via Google and and don’t know this, I developed the Star Trek Vanguard literary series with editor Marco Palmieri, and I’ve had the pleasure of being a writer for the series, with Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, and James Swallow. So this is a special thrill for me, to see something I helped bring to fruition become a retroactive part of the TV series I’ve loved since I was old enough to remember camping out in front of the TV.

The real kudos, of course, belong to designer Masao Okazaki, who created the exterior and interior schematics of the station, thereby inspiring several sequences in the Vanguard books. And we’re all immensely grateful to special-effects wizard Doug Drexler, who has worked on such series as the new Battlestar Galactica, and who also did the CGI renderings for all three Vanguard book covers to date, for making the effort to include our shared creation in his remastering efforts.

So, set your DVRs, TiVos, and VCRs, mein freunds!

My lack of originality knows no bounds

snurched from kradical:

Instructions: Open up your iTunes and fill out this survey, no matter how embarrassing the responses might be.

How many songs total: 3145
How many hours or days of music: 8.7 days

Most recently played: “I am Beowulf”, Beowulf soundtrack, Alan Silvestri
Most played: “Hunger”, Black Hawk Down soundtrack, Hans Zimmer
Most recently added: “Drink Up Me Hearties”, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds’s End, Hans Zimmer

Sort by song title
First Song: “Abacab”, Genesis
Last Song: “5150”, Van Halen

Sort by time
Shortest Song: “Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare With CinemaScope Extension”, Star Wars Trilogy soundtrack
Longest Song: “Dazed and Confused”, The Song Remains the Same, Led Zeppelin

Sort by album
First album: Abacab, Genesis
Last album: 5150, Van Halen

First song that comes up on Shuffle: “Different Strings”, Permanent Waves, Rush

Search the following and state how many songs come up:
Death – 16
Life – 50
Love – 111
Hate – 7
You – 203
Sex – 13

The Tree and Perspective

My wife and I have just returned from a long weekend away in western Massachusetts, celebrating a belated Christmas with my family. And I was on hand as an unexpected development occurred and threw me for an emotional loop…

Allow me to clarify my lead: My parents are selling my childhood home.

My wife and I have just returned from a long weekend away in western Massachusetts, celebrating a belated Christmas with my family. On the day of our arrival — almost to the hour, in fact, my parents had decided and committed to buy a new condo, a few towns over from their current residence. The last time I had spoken to them, while they were considering buying a second house someplace like the Carolinas, they had talked about keeping the old house.

Now, without any preamble, they’ve committed to selling it and moving into their new condo this spring.

Just like that, I realized that after living there for 34 years, my parents were selling my childhood home, which they had purchased as their wedding gift to one another. The place I have thought of as “home”, that storehouse of memories, is being sold, and I am unlikely to have time to return to it again before the transaction is done.

All of this was perfectly obvious the moment I heard the news, but it didn’t realy register until late that night, when I was in my parents’ basement, finishing my writing for the night. After this weekend, I would never see my childhood home again.

And the part of it that upsets me most? Not the fact I won’t get to walk around inside again. It’s that I worry about the oak tree in the front yard. My father and I planted that tree on May 24, 1980. There’s a picture of the event in the family album. Me, a scrawny kid with no shirt on, dad with a shovel, the two of us depositing a Charlie Brown-pathetic sapling into the ground.

Twenty-eight years later, that oak tree is majestic. Dozens of arms, forty feet tall. In summer, when it’s in full leaf, it shades the entire house. It’s a magnificent tree, and my father and I put it there. In the emotional core of my messed-up brain, that tree is a powerful symbol of my bond with my father.

And soon it won’t belong to us anymore.

I feel like some intangible link to my childhood has been severed, and I’m adrift.

Then I came home tonight and received an e-mail that informed me that a friend of mine, the only son of my pal Bob Greenberger, has been diagnosed with leukemia and is facing a hard fight. In my twenties, another close friend of mine, Keith Kowal, died of leukemia. I know it’s going to be a battle for my friend who is ill now.

For all the sadness I’ve felt about never again seeing that tree in my parents’ yard, if you told me I could cure my friend by chopping it down, we’d all be divvying up kindling right now.

And that’s called perspective, I think.

ETA: My friend Bob has gone public on his blog with the news about his son Robbie’s illness. I’ve added a link to Bob’s blog.

Yet another snurched quiz

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in with? (pics)
created with
You scored as Serenity (Firefly)You like to live your own way and don’t enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you that you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)
Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)
SG-1 (Stargate)
Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)
Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)
FBI’s X-Files Division (The X-Files)
Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)
Moya (Farscape)
Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)
Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)
Enterprise D (Star Trek)