Alternative History Blog
by William C Dietz
Forgive me father, for I have sinned. Rather than publish a novel every four years, as a "literary" author would, or once a year the way a "serious" author would - I, heretic that I am, often pen two books a year. That's right, two. I know, I know, tis the devil's work. Or even worse - the sign of a hack.
"And what," you ask, is a literary hack? I'm glad you asked. Wikipedia puts it this way: "A hack writer is a pejorative term for a writer who is paid to write low-quality, rushed articles or books 'to order,' often with a short deadline. In a fiction-writing a hack-writer is paid to quickly write sensational, 'pulp' fiction such as 'true crime' novels or 'bodice ripping' paperbacks."
But, that doesn't describe my career. Yes father, I have written work-for hire novels tied to games, like STAR WARS, MASS EFFECT, and HITMAN. And yes, some were written on short deadlines. (Six weeks for HALO, The Flood. Nearly a million sold.) But "pulp" they weren't. Nor have I authored true crime novels or bodice rippers.
So, if I don't meet the Wikipedia definition of a "hack," what sort of creature am I? The answer has to do with the business I'm in. Some people, college professors mostly, think that writers are, or should be, engaged in the literature business. And it's their assumption that years of effort combined with suffering will produce something good.
Wikipedia defines "Literature" as, "written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance: books, articles, etc., about a particular subject," or "printed materials (such as booklets, leaflets, and brochures) that provide information about something."
But here's the problem with the concept of a "literature business." It reminds me of the railroad barons after the Civil War. They believed they were in the "train business."
But when trucks came along the railroad companies discovered that they were in the transportation business. And that, my friends, is why I consider myself to be in the entertainment business. As was the most famous wordsmith of them all.
According to the Internet site Quora, Shakespeare "...Wrote the long poems and the sonnets because they were hugely popular and sold very well. Poetry was also seen at the time as the great form of 'literature.' Plays were considered only popular entertainment..." It was only later that critics, and readers in general, came to realize how special Shakespeare's "popular entertainment" was.
So, while I don't have anything like Shakespeare's talent, we have one thing in common. And that's a desire to entertain, and yes, to make some money while doing so. And that brings me back to my confession. Forgive me father, I write two books a year.
There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that I'm capable of doing so. And the rest have to do with the realities of the 21st century entertainment business.
Books are a tiny slice of the overall entertainment pie. They have to compete with TV, the Internet, sports and so on.
A lot of people, perhaps most people, have very particular genre-based reading habits. Mysteries. Romance. Science Fiction. And slices of slices, like the niche I presently write in, which is near-future, alternate-history, military thrillers.
There may not be a lot of people buying such books, but they are voracious readers, so a market exists. But to successfully serve that submarket, and maintain name recognition in it, a writer has to deliver fresh material on a regular basis.
The sales curve works like this: Sales are good at first, then they peak during the first three months after release, and gradually tail off after that--as the small slice of the small slice absorbs the author's latest offering and turns to other suppliers.
So what to do? Marketing is important, yes. But beyond that a solution, if an author can do so, is to produce more books. And here's a look at my latest effort. My latest series called the Winds of War, and the first novel is titled, RED ICE.
"World War III is a month old. After attacking, and sinking the Destroyer USS Stacy Heath, the Chinese invade Tibet, and India counterattacks.
Rather than allow the Chinese to seize control of the subcontinent the U.S. sends 20,000 U.S. soldiers and marines in to join the fight.
The Russians use the opportunity to invade Ukraine, which leaves NATO with no choice but to respond. A full fledged ground war begins.
American forces are spread thin, and the decision is made to evacuate all personnel from Afghanistan. Troops have already begun to pull out, when Air Force JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) Dan Falco, receives orders to kill a ruthless Taliban leader named Noor Mohammad Hashemi. But it won't be easy.
Falco must enter enemy territory with a guide who may, or may not be a member of the Taliban, take up a position above an enemy held town, and call in a targeted air strike on a man standing in the middle of a populated area.
Meanwhile 7,000 miles to north, the Russians are holding a training exercise called RED ICE. Except that it isn't a training exercise and, if American forces fail to stop the enemy, the Russians will land on American soil. An accomplishment that would be a tremendous blow to American morale, and would suck much needed resources away from the conflicts in Europe and Asia. Army Air Force and even Coast Guard personnel will do their best to push the Russians back. But will their best be good enough?"
So what's next? You guessed it! Another book will hit the market in six months. The second novel in the Winds of War series will be called RED FLOOD. And I'm writing it now.
For more about me and my fiction please visit williamcdietz.com. You can find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/williamcdietz you can follow me on Twitter: William C. Dietz @wcdietz or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.