Sunday, July 31, 2011

Focus, grasshoppah!

So, my fine feathered friends, the time has come for another thought-dump from your friendly neighborhood Editrix. This topic suggestion comes directly from Jason and it is both timely and important: find your focus.

When you're writing a book and you suddenly find that you've got 78 chapters and nary a resolution to a thing, much less have yet to introduce key elements, you're in deep, deep trouble. The story that you have set out to tell is so mired in sub-plots and multiple characters that you can't really recall the resolution that you'd dreamed up, so you just keep adding until it "feels" finished, as opposed to actually being finished, but you just have this one thing to add then it'll be perfect! You have this brilliant idea and some background to go along, and you're stoked. You sit down, and start writing, and things just take on a life of their own and...OK, stop writing right now.

The first thing that you have to learn how practice as a writer is self-control. Yes, you can tell the tale however you deem fit, that is your right as the author. However, it is the right of the reader to not even give your book a chance because you just keep traversing from place to place without ever really getting to the meat of the story! The beauty of your craft is lost if your reader can't manage to follow your own plot lines or narrative arcs. Being ambitious is one thing, but if you fail to create and follow even a single storyline down to a conclusion, you're not doing anyone any favors. Remember those tedious storyboards or character studies you had to create in horrible detail during creative writing 101? Yeah, they actually serve a really useful purpose - to help hone your instincts for focus. You don't want to do those? Fine with me. At least jot down a simple outline to keep you on track, ok? No, you don't want to even do that? Ok...But that means that you must learn to turn a critical eye to your tale and learn when to cut out the truly meaningless wanderings of your mind. You may have created this beautifully masterful description of (insert that something here), but if it doesn't do anything to further your story, it may actually be lovely yet ultimately useless gunk that could be flushed out during your own re-read.

Wait, what? You don't re-read your own book before you send it...anywhere? That may actually send me into a swoon. Seriously, if you don't want to take the time to read it before it leaves your hands, then why should I be bothered to take the time to read it, ever? THIS SHOULD NEVER, EVER, EVER HAPPEN! Oh, goodness, I'm shouting. Sorry about that. But for the love of all that is good and right in the world, re-read your story before you send it. To anyone for any purpose. I don't want to be forced to shout at you, but this is important. This is something that I shouldn't even have to put into words, frankly, but I find that I must because people have such high opinions of their own craftiness that they actually do just write and send. Please don't have a writer ego that needs such a tremendous beat-down. I don't want to break out the flying monkeys, but I will, if you make me. Write. Read. Put down for a bit. Re-read. Then, if you're happy with it, send it off. This is elementary, my dear author. I will be forced to take the element of fire to your feet if you fail to re-read your own work. Along with the flying monkeys. Then it would really suck to be you.

Shouting *and* threats? Goodness, me, I'm getting cranky in my old age.

Finally, consider of the back cover of your book. Really visualize it. If you can't write up a synopsis in less than a page, you're going to need an editor with balls of steel to contend with that sort of thing. To me, a gigantic synopsis indicates a failure to recognize the key points of your own story and if you can't manage it, it's time to seriously cut down on the plots (or characters or ideas) that you're trying to write about. Seriously, if you want to touch on that many twists and turns and people, perhaps envisage a trilogy or something, where the whole of each arc can be given equal due. If your synopsis isn't choice then the chances of your book rambling and shambling on it's own merry way without regard is high. You owe it to the story to tell it in the best way possible. Words are your own chosen currency, spend them wisely.

Focus is your responsibility, as the shepherd of your story, to apply to your book liberally. Your editor will thank you. Your readers will thank you. The flying monkeys might thank you, too.

Somebody better watch their bank accounts

Because I'm not sure we can trust little Jimmy to know how many books to buy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zucchini Bread and Drinks, what's not to like?

Salon has a good article about book clubs.  Really, I had no idea that they went back so far; I don't suppose I should actually be surprised that there were millions of book club members in the 40s, but I am.  I never assumed people got together in someone's living room back then for anything like a book group.  Bridge, maybe, but a book club, no.  I'm fascinated to discover that W. H. Auden and  Jacques Barzun were masterminding the selections of such books.  Barzun (still alive at 103!) wrote a wonderful book that made me feel like I was the stupidest person on the planet the whole time I was reading it; the breadth of his erudition is stunning, and to picture him selecting book club editions is jarring to my sensibilities.  It was a different age.

Apple and i

I'm riding the Apple wave kind of hard here, which is strange, because I have no interest in Apple.  I don't have any Apple products: no iPad/Phone/Pod, no Mac, nothing.  I have iTunes on my computer, but it sits there lonely and abandoned.  I understand that their products are held to be good, I get that.  I even get the sleek design ascetic, which has always suggested to me movies about our current time period that were made in the 60s.  They captured the future as described by the past and fed it into the present.  It's a sort of genius move.  One that, however, bypassed me entirely.

I'm just not their consumer, you see.  I don't really listen to music at all, for instance.  A child of the 80s, I spent a great many hours plopped down in front of various tvs watching MTV when it was all videos, and that was how I got my music.  I never got into buying albums, or going to see concerts, and as a result, when there quit being stations that showed music all the time, I just quit listening to it.  So the iPod, by the time it came about, was too late to get me involved in Apple.  And I don't care too much about the latest tech gadgets, which means that both the iPhone (which I do find delightful) and the iPad (again, kind of amazing) are both wasted on me.  At some point I'm sure I'll end with something like them, some sort of device that fills that function, but it will probably be in five or ten years when everyone else has moved on to something new and exciting several generations more advanced.  I didn't even get a cell phone until 2006, and that with much protesting, and only because the local phone company pretty much forced me to do it by not allowing me to suspend my land line for five months while I was abroad.  Had they done so, I don't know when I would have gotten a cell.  Much later even than that, I'm sure.  My friend Damon didn't get one until a year ago, and I would have probably been there right with him.  So much for me and an iPad or iPhone.  Not happening.

But Apple fascinates me.  The branding is so very strong.  I cannot comprehend how it came to be that such fervor has been built around it, but then, I can't believe that religion and political parties manage it either.  Still, they do it somehow, and Apple does it very well.  And at long last they've broken out of their narrow share that they, for decades, enjoyed: the Mac cultists, who constantly tried to get more than 5% of the world to agree that their way was better, and always failed.  With all the i products, Apple finally went mainstream, and they are making the most of it.  They're very impressive; a way of life, and a way to run your life, more than a tech company. 

Not for me, though.  I will watch from the outside, thank you very much.  Until sometime when they crack my defenses, and then I'll be inside with everyone else.  But for now, I reserve the right to be curmudgeonly.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday evening, all is noisy.

Well, if you lived near me, they would be, apparently.

I wanted to ask the people, while I'm at it, what do you listen to when you write/edit? Are you a music-makes-the-soul-stir kind of person? Or more into the silence-is-golden idea?

Me? Silence. Oh, blessed silence...I must have it, and the summer cannot be over fast enough so that my neighbors will close their windows and silence themselves once more. Is that horrible? I suspect that on some level it is a little evil, but I find that just a smudge of evil is good for the balance of the psyche.

When I edit I want nothing to distract me from my mission, which is to engross myself in a tale so that I can find the imperfections, and noise of any kind is pollution to that process. I don't often have music on at all, but most especially when I'm editing. I find myself singing along, or getting lost in the song and that can't ever end well for the story I'm editing, because I *have* found myself typing lyrics instead of the comment or correction I had intended to make.

Transcription services are available only when I'm editing, apparently. Available now for only a small additional fee!

So tell me, dear readers, what do you listen to most when you're writing? Do you have a playlist worked up? What's on it?

When I grow up, I want to be J. K. Rowling

The being rich and famous part would be nice, but the dictating terms for your ebook releases, that's the killer aspect of the prospect. But as with all things, Apple will have its way, as well, or try to.

Not very likely, but...

I don't actually believe this rumor at all; there's no reason for Apple to get into the paper book business, and the Nook ebook library isn't compatible with the iBook system in the main (Apple requires ISBNs and most of the ebooks on Nook that aren't on iBooks don't have ISBNs).  And why would they take over a brick and mortar company that has nothing to do with their core business?  Of course, they do have more money than God. Or the Devil, being as that's what so many think the US Government is, but that's another post.  Another blog, probably.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It had better be a big sling stone

I do not think it will end this well for the Kobo...
Concerning this post, it turns out that at least one ebook reader isn't just going along with Apple's plan to get their fingers into every bit of profits from iPad ebook sales (ten years ago, that last bit would have been so ridiculous to type; come to think of it, it still is a bit so even now.  But we move on....) The Kobo, which is one of the lesser players in the market, has come up with a notion to still use something like an in-app sale to move their books. There's a lot of technobabble there, but what it seems to come down to is that they'll be cheating the system a bit, and hoping, one guesses, that Apple doesn't notice.  I don't think this will end well for the poor Kobo; but then, they partnered with these guys, so very little does.

L'Chaim, Richard Wagner

It's fair to say Richard Wagner was an avowed anti-Semite.

His 1850 pamphlet "Jewishness in Music" attacked many of his Jewish contemporaries in music, such as Felix Mendelssohn. He claimed Jews had no place in German music or culture, and even that most Germans were secretly repelled by them. Published first under a pseudonym and later openly, this pamphlet was joined in 1869 by a reprinted version - leading to protests at the opening of Der Meistersinger. Oddly, his private journals recount several strong friendships with Jews, including one he wrote of as "one of the most beautiful friendships of my life" (Samuel Lehrs of Paris).

What is undeniable is that his music and public anti-Semitism were both appropriated by Adolf Hitler. His operas in particular became the unofficial anthems of Nazi propaganda. There is even evidence that Wagner's music was used by the Nazis in an attempt to 're-educate' prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp.

And here the story takes a turn. Many survivors of the Nazi concentration camps of WWII emigrated to Israel, and since the formation of that nation, the operas of Wagner have never been performed there. The protests of Holocaust survivors were considered of greater gravity than the timelessness of Wagner's music - especially given his personal anti-Semitism.

But that changed on July 26, 2011. In a German town known as Bayreuth - home of the annual Wagner Festival - the Israel Chamber Orchestra performed the Siegfried Idyll by Wagner before an audience including Katharina Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter and co-director of the festival. Conductor Roberto Paternostro said the orchestra's decision was unanimous, and that he hopes to carefully and respectfully present the music of Wagner to a new generation, unburdened by the weight of a deeply personal and even more deeply traumatic past.

Can music heal? When music itself is the reminder of painful experiences, perhaps that is too much to ask. But art transcends the artist, and can and should be judged on its own merits. Perhaps, in this case, it is not the music that heals the listener, but the listener who will heal the music.

It's like Christmas in July. Or in September, I guess.

This is wonderful news. Gollancz is one of the great and foolish imprints, like NYRB Classics, which I adore.  They bring the greatest books of times past to us in lovely editions (sci-fi/fantasy for Gollancz, and literature/strangeness for NYRB).  And now to have all the science fiction authors that I read as a youth, most of them drifting into the mists of obscurity and generally out of print, coming back in ebook editions, is terribly exciting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I've never read it, never wanted to, but now I kind of do

"On the Road, Jack Kerouac. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This book is straight up terrible. It's a bunch of rambling about eating some sandwiches and driving around while eating sandwiches, and driving around, and then making some more sandwiches, which you will then eat while driving around. It is the universal favorite book of commitment-phobes. And please don't quote me that paragraph about how the only people for you are the mad ones who pop like roman candles. You know what’s better than a dude who pops like a roman candle? A dude who can keep it in his pants, rent his own apartment, and cook you something other than a sandwich once in a while."

From this post by Molly Shalgos on The Hairpin, a site I'd never heard of, but now, like On The Road after this horrible yet delightful blurb/takedown, want to read.

A Blog Best Served Cold

It sounds like a John Grisham novel or a box office thriller, but this really happened.

She was a self-educated financial analyst and restaurant owner. He was a police detective. Or so he told her. They began seeing each other, and he moved in with her. Then the lies began to surface. He never seemed to work. He just laid around and watched CSI and cop dramas.

Then he raped her.

When she pressed charges, he got out on bail and began an elaborate frame. Using information from her personal life – her photograph, the license plates off her car, cell phone numbers, even names and addresses of her relatives – he influenced people he knew to file police reports claiming to be the victims of armed robbery by a woman matching her description. “Witnesses” were coached with descriptions of her car and license plate, and were shown her picture so they could pick her out of police line-ups.

The real genius? These “crimes” were spread out over time and geographical areas, creating a damning pattern of false evidence. Not even alibis like cell phone calls she made on the dates of the “crimes” from locations distant from the alleged crimes were believed. She was arrested and held on a million dollars bail, all while her former boyfriend remained free on bail. Despite her insistence he had framed her, police were unconvinced. They had evidence in abundance, from such diverse sources they could not imagine it was anything but genuine. Most damning of all, she had motive: her restaurant was not doing well, financially. Armed robbery to save a struggling business? Probable cause, said police.

The plot was pierced almost by accident. An informant tipped police off to contact between the former boyfriend and one of the “witnesses.” An investigation showed how many phone calls had gone between the two, and when confronted, the “witness” confessed to the plot. Now the ex-boyfriend is in jail without bail. He claims he is the victim of a conspiracy.

And her? She lost her restaurant, her reputation, and seven months of her life behind bars. Worst of all, she lost her faith in the justice system. She has active suits against the police and one of the counties in which her alleged crimes occurred. Maybe, some day, she will have a bestselling novel or major motion picture, too.

Ebooks making Paperbacks more prompt?

This is something I've noticed a couple of times now, but it's not yet true for very many books at all.  And for every book that publishes before the year standard, there's another that takes more than a year.  I still think that it's an interesting trend, especially if ebooks are in fact the cause.  Also, the article quotes Seattle's own Peter Aaron of Elliott Bay Book Company, the only bookstore owner quoted, which is pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shameless Self-promotion & Me

This is the moment when, in a fit of madness, I engage in a bit of shameless self-promotion.

Self-promotion is difficult for me. I was brought up to be a humble introvert. The latter part stuck, at any rate, making it challenging at times to talk about my work and accomplishments in public with anything more than a whisper.

But whispering doesn't sell many books. So here I am, to tell you the following:

I wrote some books. Grimme and The Burning Times, I call them. And today they are being featured on Kindle Post, a blog dedicated to identifying quality ebooks and bringing them to an audience of interested ebook readers - maybe you! I think that's pretty special, and worth calling some attention to - hard as that is for me.

So there you are. Take a moment. Click the link. Check it out. And know just how deeply I appreciate all your interest, all your support, and all your well wishes.

Thanks for reading,


An Oldie but a Goodie

I read a lot of book reviews.  Not so much because I write, or because I'm curious about what people have to say about books, but because I work in a bookstore.  Whether I want to or not, I've got to find out something about some of the hundreds and thousands of books that appear every year.  Sometimes I can stand to read a book myself; occasionally I even enjoy it.  Most often I can gather information from what people say and what they're buying.  There are times, though, when the book review is all I have to run with, and let me say that this article, though it's a few years old, is still terribly correct about the process of reviewing.  Eschew, for instance, has probably been heard only once in my life, give or take, I would assume by someone trying to sound educated.  I may in fact have never heard it, though I have read it often enough in reviews and similar, but not often in actual prose.  And lyrical is often just a sloppy descriptor, one which suggests something that could be more clearly laid out by a good review.  And so on.  To read this makes one think about the process of reviewing, which is good, because we're going to start doing some of that here on the site, and it's best not to look too much the snob/windbag/fool when doing such things, right?

Jenna Huffman, Editrix, come on down!

We've asked, and she's consented, and as a result, our resident Editrix Jenna Huffman will actually be resident.  She's going to become a regular member of the KP Blog team, posting about this, that and/or the other thing as her fancy is caught, but mainly, we think and hope, on editing.  We're going to start (hopefully) a semi-regular feature where Jenna will address various editing issues and concerns, called Dear Editrix. So if you're a writer, or just interested in writing, and have an editricial question of a general nature, you should send it on in, either as a comment to this post (or Jenna's wonderful editorial post of yesterday) or to Jenna directly, Please put Dear Editrix in the subject line so Jenna knows that it's a query for this blog.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Concerning Reviews

"Few 21st-century journalists can match the cool snark-power of this passage. Croker's rhetorical muscle and shrewdness shine through the formal idiom and manners of 200 years ago. This is nastiness at its most effulgent." The critic John Wilson Croker speaking about John Keats and supposedly contributing to the poet's death as a result.

The rest of the article lays out a few simple rules for reviewing which, I agree, are not often followed to the fullest.  Sometimes gloriously, as in the above. Read the whole thing.

Apple gets all proprietary

I knew that Apple was wanting people to use the iTunes store to buy books for the iPad, but apparently they're really clamping down now. The changes don't seem all that major, I guess, but you apparently have to now leave your reading app, go to the appropriate store, buy the item, then load it into your app, because nobody wanted to pay a 30% cut to Apple for allowing in-app purchases without using the iTunes store.  I don't know how this will play out; it's not really terrible, just inconvenient.  But for iPad users, I wonder who will get the blame: Apple or the various ereader companies that are trying to avoid paying more money?

Letters From the Editrix

Dearest Authors,

First, let me thank my gracious hosts, The Kindling Press, for inviting me over for a wee guest spot on their blog! I’m delighted, to be sure. I am Jenna, an editor, avid book reader and sometime goofball. I thought I’d give a little advice to as to why you might want to consider finding an editor of your very own.

Reason 1) Because your reader doesn’t live in your head.

This is one of the most important lessons I can bring to bear – while you’re happily typing away, spinning a yarn of utmost fascination, you must be able to bring your readers along with you. This means that you must learn to describe your characters, scenes, gadgets and plotlines well enough that your reader will be able to assimilate and imagine the tale along with you. You may know what you’re talking about because it’s crystal-clear in your mind; your reader doesn’t share your insight! I find that authors sometimes unintentionally carry on without setting up a scene or plot twist well, leaving the reader with a big fat question mark and possibly turning them off completely. Authors have their world fully formed in their noggins, so they presume the telling that they’re giving is sufficient. Sometimes, in fact, it’s just not. A good editor will ask for
clarification, offer suggestions for solidifying things, and even cut out overly flowery prose to get to the meat of the matter.

Reason 2) Consistency is key.

When reading a book, it’s very important to me that the little things (like your character’s names, for instance) are absolutely consistent, each and every time. When I first began editing, it was for love of a story I found on iBooks. It was gripping, truly, but the amount of inconsistency, even down to random modifications to the spelling of the main character’s name throughout, drove me bugnuts. I wrote to the author, literally begging to clean up the manuscript to let the story shine as it was meant to – and they took me up on it. Spell check is all well and good, but another eye on your work to ensure consistency of pacing, tone, and minor typographical errors is priceless. That, and the best spelling and grammar checking software usually does not catch the “you’re/ your” “their/they’re/there” or even “its/it’s” variances. I’m certainly not perfect, but the difference is usually evident to me and can be corrected before it’s published.

Reason 3) It’s your baby, indulge it with a quick polish!

Authors, as a whole, are extremely protective of their wordsmithing abilities, and rightfully so. You’re baring somewhat of your soul to the world, a peek into your own psyche, which can be really terrifying. With that in mind, don’t you owe it to yourself to offer the world the best version of that piece of your soul? If you’re afraid to show it to one other person (an editor, perhaps?), how in the world are you going to release it into the wild? The fear of criticism runs deep, but the challenges and modifications any editor will bring to the table are not a personal attack. Ever. They are to help your work shine like it was meant to. Editors can also help to offer insights if you get “stuck” somewhere, if they’re familiar enough with your stories. I see myself as a partner in crime, as it were, not as the big bad wolf with a huge red pen, ready to slash your story to bits. It behooves me to help you make your book as strong as it can be, and if that means questioning things to death or cutting out something you may feel strongly about, I will do it. I want you to succeed; your success can only bolster my own, in the long run.

Reason 4) If you’re very nice to them, they might make you cookies!

And that, dear readers, is it from your friendly neighborhood editrix for today. I again want to thank my gracious hosts, The Kindling Press, for inviting me to guest, and hope to do so again in the future! If you have any pressing questions you’ve always wanted to ask an editor, feel free to email me at

Happy writing,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Space Program: In Memoriam

When I was a kid I was totally obsessed with space.  I knew all the planets, all the moons, I knew the order of space launches and how many people had died and all that sort of thing.  I read a lot of science fiction.  Sometime around when I was 13 or 14, that started to change, and I didn't care as much; I don't remember a lot of what I once knew.  I can't tell you if the Mercury program came before Gemini (that's a lie; I totally can still, but I'm going to pretend I can't) and I don't know which Apollo launches went badly (that's the truth, I can't remember those numbers anymore.)  I think it probably had to do with the Challenger disaster really, which would mean that I was 14 for sure.  Space just closed up then; we humans came back to Earth and huddled away from the cruel stars for a year and more, and I think I lost a lot of my love for space then.  Not because people died, but because we gave up for a while because of those deaths.  I get the motivation, but giving up makes people lose interest.  It did for me, at least.

Now we're all done.  We say we're going forward, and certainly other countries are.  But I don't know.  I think maybe space is over.  We didn't find what we wanted there. We didn't find anything useful or familiar.  We found cold and death and fear and expense, and ignored the fact that there was also knowledge and wonder and possibility.  I may be wrong; maybe it'll still happen, and we'll get to the stars.  But I think we're kind of done, really.

I see a nice article about space books to give a look at in the Washington Post.  I would recommend also Mary Roach's delightful Packing for Mars, which I've read only bits of, but all of her books are terribly fun.  And any of the great sci-fi epics of ages past, Dune or Ringworld or Consider Phlebas, books that suggest the commonplace wonders of a destiny we may never achieve.

Ad Astra.  Hopefully.

I couldn't say it better

No, really.  I don't know that I could.  Pamela Olson lays out why she went the self-published route, and hits every point clearly, completely and compellingly (which doesn't seem like a word, yet it is.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Written Words in a Post-Scarcity Society

For all of human history, the written word has been controlled. Whether by political institutions, religious institutions, or publishing houses, there have always been gatekeepers standing between the writer and the reader determining what written works are worth disseminating. That's because, until recently, it cost time, effort, and raw materials to take a written work, reproduce it, and distribute it. From monks laboriously copying texts in monasteries to printing presses churning out new hardcovers, there has always been the necessity for an aggregation of capitol capable of taking risks in investing in a particular book. Readers have had to rely on the judgement of publishers to determine what is worthy to publish, what will sell, what is "good."

No more. While it still takes the usual amount of blood sweat and tears out of an author to write the book in the first place, the advent of digital distribution means that author can replicate his work a near infinite number of times for a cost approaching nil and disseminate it to an audience of millions. The publishing houses are terrified of this, of course, as it effectively destroys their very reason to exist. They continue to cling to existence, however, because this new model of digital distribution has two major problems of its own.

The first significant problem is that of too much choice. When anyone can publish anything, how do readers find the writers whose books they would enjoy amidst the sea of words? In this respect, publishers continue to have the advantage. They have large marketing departments dedicated to telling us which books we should buy. They have art departments that come up with eye-catching covers. They have distribution deals with bookstores that get their physical artifacts at eye level on a shelf. I suspect, however, that as systems such as the Amazon store and other websites get better at categorizing, reviewing, and organizing the vast number of choices available, connecting readers with writers will get easier. Also, so long as price points stay low, people may be willing to take a chance on an author they've never heard of. What's better, taking a chance with a $.99 book or a $25 hardcover?

That brings me to my second significant problem: money. A digital file can be copied infinitely, distributed practically for free, and there's not a lot that can be done about it once its been released into the wilds of the internet. How will authors get paid? The publishers have the advantage here, too, as they have well-established systems for paying their authors based on books sold. That model, though, it toppling rapidly. When an author can make MUCH more money selling a book for $.99 online than he would make per copy sold by a publisher for $8, the incentive to migrate to e-books becomes significant. An author makes a pittance on a paper book, but can make 90%-100% profit on the same book sold digitally, depending on if he's using an online distributor like the Amazon store. This, of course, relies on the willingness of e-book readers to pay anything at all. There are still some controls in place that encourage payment. The Kindle, for instance, is hardware that uses a proprietary format making it harder to copy a book willy-nilly. If Apple's iTunes store has taught us anything, people are willing to pay for something they could otherwise get for free if it's: 1) convenient, 2) cheap.

So as we enter this brave new world of limitless words, I encourage everyone to swim to their heart's content. You may find some terrible books. You may find many hidden gems by authors who may never have seen the light of day under the previous regime. Hopefully associations of authors such as Kindling Press will crop up to make choices easier in our post-scarcity reading lives.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Borders' Unfortunate Demise

I was going to use the word "sad" instead of "unfortunate," but I'm not actually very sad.  Borders was never a go-to store for me; briefly in the mid-90s I shopped in one branch for a while, but it did not impress me greatly, and I didn't ever go to it after it became more than a one block walk from my transfer spot in Downtown Seattle.  Still, it is unfortunate that a chain of 600 stores a year ago, employing 14000 or so people then, and still almost 11000 now, is going out of business.  Slate has a nice article that explains some of the major reasons why, although I think it's not comprehensive or anything.  Minor reasons are the need to pay sales tax (avoided by Amazon, and if you think it's not much, add 5-10% to all Amazon prices and then reassess); and becoming too similar to Barnes and Noble, their major competition, and thus losing much brand loyalty.  But maybe that last was just my observation.

This is embarrassing for (several) someone(s)

The Seattle Weekly had a big, prominent, well-written article about Ann Rule and one of her numerous true crime books.  It's the sort of thing that makes you think.  Perhaps, you ponder, Ann Rule has in fact performed some sloppy journalism, hasn't done her research.  She's been at it forever, after all, and maybe she's just going through the motions nowadays.

Then this happens. Turns out the diligent investigative journalist has become enamored of his "innocent" subject.  One can only his story now. I think there's a movie to be made from this little bit of prison drama.

Interesting. As far as it goes.

I wish this article was a little longer, a little less fluffy.  I wish it was a NY Magazine article from the weekend edition and really went into the meat of why things were changing, and what was changing.  Instead, it's a tiny little puff piece that doesn't really justify its title.  But I still find that it's a good read, and probably, if this isn't a topic you know anything much about, it's informative enough of the basic conditions.  The one thing it does tell me is that the publishing industry is capable of responding, if a bit slowly still faster than many have thought it would.  Will conventional publishing change quickly enough to keep fully in the game as the next couple years change the landscape completely?  I don't know.  But they're starting to change, it appears, and that's noteworthy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I'm Up To (Peter A. Smalley Edition)

If anyone had ever sat me down and told me the terrible truth about how much stuff authors do that does not involve actual writing, I might have reconsidered becoming one.

Here's what I have cooking on the front burner:
  • Soliciting submissions for a Pulp Fantasy anthologie
  • Editing submissions for a Pulp Fantasy anthologie
  • Mental drafting of contributions for a Pulp Fantasy anthologie
  • Adapting a new cover for the hardcopy edition of Grimme
  • Engaging new contacts and audiences via Social Media (FaceBook, Twitter, G+)
  • Looking for likely reviewers, and likely things to review, for this blog
Oh yes. I'm also writing a Paranormal Romance called Disbelief. It's mostly done, but I keep having to pause for, uh, station identification. Professional hazard.

That's the short version. There's a longer version but it involves things that make it look less like I know what I'm doing - which is so far from the truth you couldn't find it on a clear night with a guidebook and a telescope - so I'll end it here.

Thanks for reading,


Special for Kindling Press blog readers

I've a book called Never which is available for the Kindle and the Nook.  When I was done with it, I thought about what might happen after, mostly because people asked me about what might happen after.  And so I wrote a quick coda for it, an afterword, an epilogue.  Whatever you call it.  Now that there's this site for Kindling Press, our authors, and our works, and now that there's a blog that's easy to update, I've decided to post that coda here.  You shouldn't necessarily read it if you haven't read Never (although you can, of course, but I don't recommend it on many levels.)  But if you have read Never, it's a little bonus we're making available for you here at the site.  You can find it here or on the main page in the sidebar.

What I'm Up To (Jason Vanhee Edition)

I've got things I'm working on.  Book things.  Design Things.  Cover Things.  That sort of things.

Some of them are:

A cover for the print edition of my book Never, which is turning out quite lovely.
Edits for a novella called Last Days of Atlantis, which is a queer futuristic travelogue.  Of sorts.
Edits for a collection of pulp fantasy stories.
Inking a map for the Europas world of my cohort Peter Smalley's Grimme.

So that's what is going on right now.  It's not too much, but it's just the most basic of the things I'm working on, discounting long term things and vague nebulous projects.

Welcome to the Blog

Now that we've got a website, and now that we've got books, isn't it time that we had a blog?  So here it is, the inaugural entry of the Kindling Press blog.

Really, I was expecting a little more.  I mean, we're writers, right?  And this is it?  Just a little welcome?

Oh, well.  What are you going to do?