Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where Else . . .

I'm back at the airport, ergo I have some time to update the blog, but have little time to provide much more that just that . . . an update.

That being said, this is an update on spectacular creative writing. My brother sent me this link (here) before, but I didn't post it. Not only is it funny, but I think it is an example of outstanding creative writing. The style, the subject matter, the media, all terrific. Well worth the jump and the read.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm Not At Much Risk

I received a terrific email from a distant cousin, who I seem to remember from meetings at my grandparents old apartment, and I am quite pleased to re-post her link.

She is a new reader of this blog who started reading when I posted regarding Les Miserables. She might be our first (and only) international reader which should garner her a prize other than just a mention, but at this point does not.

All that being said, the link she sent was to The Guardian's book blogs and is titled Why is self-publishing still scorned by literary awards? The title provides enough description for me to discuss, but one of the key passages is this one:

Most literary awards are closed to self-published books. Entry criteria for the Booker prize state that "self-published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book", while the Bailey's women's prize for fiction stipulates that books must come from a "bone fide imprint".

I've noticed this too. Although I don't enter many contests anymore, having been a judge in a novel writing contest I discovered quite quickly how objective, arbitrary and distinctly unfair they are. That being said, I don't see, other than for suppressing sheer numbers of entries, why they wouldn't accept self-published books.

But, and this is the pigeon hole within which I fall, there are also award programs for ONLY self-published books.

Despite it all, thanks to our international reader for sending along a link and an interesting article that is well worth the jump and the thirty seconds it takes to read.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Got Me Thinking

This article from the weekend Review section of the WSJ got me thinking. (As a quick aside, for my 40th birthday I'm thinking of subscribing to the New York Times as well. So those of you thinking that this blog is a tad too WSJ heavy, just give it some time)

In the article, Mind & Matter: Our Unique Obsession With Rover and Fluffy, Robert Sapolsky discusses the way that we interact with pets in our lives. Its a fun little article that has very little to do with writing, but it got me thinking about my first writing, critique group. In that group there was an older gentleman, probably early to mid sixties, who was writing a book about a cadaver sniffing dog. This guy was a part of a volunteer organization that would go out and try and find lost children. It would make for interesting novels I bet. The problem was that he was writing from the point of view of the dog. It was a fiasco.

The worst part was that he refused to take any type of criticism. Not only was he wedded to the idea, but he was against making any changes in the entire book. The whole first chapter of the book describes the dog watching his owner make a cell phone call. We tried to talk him out of opening the book this way. Who wants to read about a dog's thoughts on his owner's cell phone calls. It was one of the more boring ways to start a book. Would he change it?  Nope. Not a bit.

I hope I never get so standoffish that I won't make changes. I doubt I ever will be. I think any and all writing vanity was drilled out of me when I started as a technical writer and had to turn my procedures in for editing. Those editors were ruthless. Martha, my first editor, was particularly liberal with her red pen. I remember those first few procedures came back, procedures that I thought were perfect, and they were completely reworked and red-marked. Years of that will train a fellow not to think to highly of his writing.

Then again, I sometimes wonder if the opposite reaction isn't worse. I rarely go out and promote my writing as anything other than mediocre. Even mediocre writing can be sold as spectacular. I can think of many books that I feel Toe the Line and On the Edge are better than, yet those books are nationally known while mine are still struggling out of the starting gate. Perhaps a bit of pride is a good thing to have as an author.

Still, one lesson I do know, be careful of the POV you choose. Choosing a dog? That's iffy. And as I wrote when I was a novel contest judge . . . choosing the POV of a pill? That's right out.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Could Be the Most Helpful Post Ever

This is why I like The Kill Zone so much. This is one little post asking for input on what resources indie authors most use and like. The comments are where the gold is. If you are a sometime reader, even if you're an all the time reader, of this blog, and if you are an author, it's worth a look see at the link and a review of the comments. Well worth it in fact.

On another note, there are some commentors who have written scads of recommendations for just about every single aspect of indie publishing . . . I had no idea I was doing so much. Perhaps I should stop the formatting, cover design, etc and concentrate on just writing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Found Some Time . . . Guess Where . . .

At the airport again, so naturally I'm inspired to write a post and have the time to do so.

Today I read an article in the WSJ by Alexandra Alter about a mixed media novel. The article titled Marisha Pessl bends genres and mixes media in her new novel 'Night Film' is about a novel that mixes the conventional written word with photos, audio, illustrations and even short films.

Marisha Pessl's sprawling, 602-page literary thriller, "Night Film," opens like a typical mystery, with a body. Ashley Cordova, a 24-year-old piano prodigy and the daughter of the enigmatic, reclusive horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, turns up dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in New York's Chinatown, apparently from suicide. A washed-up investigative journalist sets out to unravel the mystery of Ashley's death, and gets sucked into the cultish, underground world of fans who reenact Cordova's terrifying films.

What begins as a conventional hard-boiled crime story—a mysterious death, an investigation, a suspect at large—morphs into a twisty, genre-bending tale that alternates between crime, suspense and horror, with a supernatural element (witchcraft).

Although I find the 602-page aspect of the novel a tad daunting, the idea has merit. It's something I wanted since I first started reading on my Kindle. Bully for Miss Pessl for giving it a go.

Ms. Pessl says she was aiming to capture the way contemporary storytelling has become "a 360-degree experience" by releasing the story as layers of narrative through multiple channels, as a novel, an app, and as videos and images on websites like YouTube and Tumblr. "If someone Googles 'Cordova,' they can find tastes of his works," she says. "It adds layers of narrative."

Now I just need to get my brother to provide a reasonable story line where I can add a multimedia aspect. That being said, is it odd that I doubt I'll read it?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No Need to Worry

Anyone who thinks that e-books are a fad that will pass and that paper books will come roaring back, I'm afraid you are going to be disappointed.

From personal experience I can tell you that I, a conventional book junkie, fell off the paper book cliff into the arms of the e-book community with little more than a feather's push. As I've written before  I didn't even want a Kindle, and yet since my wife gave me one I've not been able to go back and read a single paper book since. I might grumble and gripe about the price, and I get wistful when I drive by the Half Price Bookstore, but for the most part I love the e-book experience.

Secondly, in terms of emperical evidence, one need only go read Nathan Bransford's post yesterday called Here comes another round of articles about e-book sales slowing down. He does a terrific job of breaking down the arguments and showing that if anything e-book sales are steady and/or climbing. Well worth a look see.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spotty Posting

I know that my posting has been spotty lately, a cardinal sin for bloggers is a lack of consistency. If nothing else readers should be able to expect a certain consistency and continuity. That being said, it's about to get worse. The good news is that that down turn in blog posting capability will be countered by an increase in my ability to write my novel.

I've written before about my love of airports particularly as an AO for writing. I get more work done waiting for planes and on the plane than just about anywhere else. While other travelers are watching movies or eating and drinking at the terminal bars, I'm in one of those cushy chair writing away. Want to know what else is great about airports? The people.

I love watching the people in the airports. First, there are some great dressers there. Not quite on par with People of Walmart, but close. I saw a (had to be) 70 year old woman in white "shorter-alls" with a leopard print blouse and boots the other day and had to do a double take at that fashion forward look. Secondly, and I know this is rude, but I love listening into other folks' conversations. Try it some time. It's great fodder for character back stories. I met a banker once who was flying from Las Vegas to Virginia Beach one flight for an online date. That guy was a novel all by himself. Thirdly, it's great for marketing. I market my books at the airport more than anywhere else. If I strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler with a Kindle I can just about guarantee that Toe the Line or On the Edge will come up. I think that I'm a conscious airport marketer of my books because either I know that I'll probably never see this person again, so why not embarrass myself, or cause there are so many e-reader platforms found by airline travelers.

So, next three weeks. . . . expect spotty . . . but also expect lots of writing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Looking Forward to It

I read with excitement that there will be another Stieg Larsson novel out soon. This article, Stieg Larsson’s Early Sci-Fi to Be Published Next Year by Jens Hansegard that I found via the WSJ as me salivating like Pavlov's dog. Not only am I a huge Stieg Larsson fan, I'm also an occasional yet huge sci-fi fan.

I've made no attempt to hide how much I liked Mr. Larsson's previous works (see here, here and here) so I'm quite happy to hear there will be more. Want to know what has me worried? The state of my previous works. What's going to happen when I become world famous for my writing and (hopefully not) die an early death. Will they go back and resurrect some of the nonsense I wrote years ago?

Guess it's time to go back and polish up those old dusty piles of paper.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Bloobers

Yesterday I wrote about two series that I promote on my blog, the first line series and the last line series. To see all of the different series that I write about, take a look at the right side of the blog, just underneath the Blog Archive, the one titled "Labels." If you click on any of those you'll see every blog post I have within certain series.

Based on what I read today, I want there to be a new series.

This link shows 10 Outrageous Textbooks Blunders by Yvonne MacArthur in Top Degrees Online from May 1 of this year. I actually laughed (more of chortle) outloud as I read this.

I am a technical writer at work so I can see how many of these have happened, but some are so off the mark they have to have been done willfully. I can see how "Click Here" could have accidentally occurred, but the image of the hand in the garbage dumpster? Or the picture of the kid on the trampoline being a target for an archer? These have to have been deliberately planted.

Want a good laugh, I highly recommend reading the article. And I also highly suspect this will become a recurring post here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

First Lines Again

I have a series that compiles first lines (see here) as well as last lines (see here) so it was with rapt attention that I read The Kill Zone this morning and saw a post on first lines over there.

It's a fun post to read, among the best passages is this quote from Stephen King:

“[A good opening] is not just the reader's way in, it's the writer's way in also, and you've got to find a doorway that fits us both. I think that's why my books tend to begin as first sentences -- I'll write that opening sentence first, and when I get it right I'll start to think I really have something."

Then P.J. Parrish says of many crime novelist openings:

I mean, don't you get a little tired sometimes reading the tortured openings some writers give us? Crime novelists might be the worst offenders because we are led to believe that we have to shock and awe in the opening graph or the story is DOA. As a reader, I hunger for books lately that open in a lower gear. As a writer, I am trying hard to follow the lead of King (and the King of Hearts) and just begin at the beginning.

I have been thinking the same thing. I remember when I was a judge for the local novel writing contest (see here) I was constantly being assaulted by the action oriented opening.

Then Miss Parrish provides the four openings from her favorite books, and boy is there a doozy or two in there. What I think is the best is this one:

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." 

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Monday, August 5, 2013

Speaking of Great Analogies

I try to select and post passages from books that I find to be examples of good, great or stunning analogies (see sampling here). One came at me from an unlikely place concerning a topic which has been discussed here quite often.

My indispensable brother wrote me with another update on the ongoing Apple anti-trust lawsuit and follow-on decisions. This press release from the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs shows just how ridiculous this decision against Apple has become. Readers will remember that I was original agin Apple (see here), then following a terrific article by L. Gordon Crovitz (here) I changed my views. This analogy by my brother, which sums up this ruling perfectly, puts me even more squarely in Apple's corner.

I'll trust the savvy readers of this blog to go read the press release themselves, but my brother's summation and analogy is better than anything the Federal Government can produce.

The justice department is telling Apple that to remedy what they have been found guilty for, they will have to change the way the iOS universe works to allow other publishers to build their own e-bookstores, and allow people with iOS devices to go to that.  As I see it, that would be like telling Barnes and Noble that they have to allow Penguin to open a store inside their shop right?  The iOS app and iTunes stores were created with the express purpose of providing a curated experience to the user.  Apple wanted to control the experience to limit confusion, to protect themselves and also, probably not altruistically, protect the user.  Now the government is telling them they can't do that. 

I guess now they will look at amazon and allow anyone to sell Kindle books to it right?  No need to go through amazon anymore to buy kindle books.  That's the only logical outcome.

On point if you ask me.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Technology is Cyclical

I was all set to post on one of my favorite scenes. It offers very little to the advancement of the story, but I think it's such a great scene with a terrific line that whenever I see the movie, Roxanne, I have to keep watching it till I see this scene.

CD: Ten more seconds and I'm leaving.

Roxanne: What did you say?

CD: I said "ten more seconds and I'm leaving."

Roxanne: Oh.

CD: Wait, what did you think I said?

Roxanne: I thought you said "earn more sessions by sleeving."

CD: Well what the hell does that mean?

Roxanne: I don't know, that's why I came out.

Then I saw this article on the resurgence of Audible books in the WSJ. Can You Hear Me Now by Alexandra Alter is worth a read. Among the more prescient passages are these:

The digital revolution may have dealt a heavy blow to print, but it is boosting literacy in other unexpected ways by fueling the explosive growth of audio books.

And this:

Once a static niche for aficionados renting clunky cassettes or CDs for their commutes, audio books have gone mass-market. Sales have jumped by double digits in recent years. Shifts in digital technology have broadened the pool of potential listeners to include anyone with a smartphone.

At the same time, publishers are investing six-figure sums in splashy productions with dozens of narrators. Using the Netflix model, some audio book producers have even started experimenting with original works written exclusively as audio productions, ranging from full-cast dramatizations in the style of old school radio plays, complete with music and sound effects, to young adult novels, thrillers and multipart science fiction epics.

I know that this is true for me. I have read (listened to) more audible books in the past few years than before. This is a combination of having read Stephen King's On Writing, where in he wonders why writers don't spend every waking moment writing or reading, and because of my ever lengthening commute.

There might also be a genetic reason for my listening to books on tape. My paternal grandfather was a huge fan of books on tape. Whenever I got into his car he had a small little box full of cassettes that he would slip in and listen to as we drove. It was always there. I used to rent books on tape from the library and still recall sitting in the parking lot before high school listening to Dick Francis on tape. I think I heard Bolt for the first time that way.

At the moment I'm listening to the complete works of Sherlock Holmes on tape. Usually I listened to military histories or biographies, I branched out with Sherlock Holmes thanks to a recommendation from my brother. Personally I think it's genetic and I'm glad that it is.