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Archive for March, 2013

RLSFlageolet

Some tunes for you this crappy, not-at-all spring-like Friday.

You might have known that RLS noodled around on a flageolet, but did you know he composed his own music? Quite a bit of it, too, considering how much time he spent writing.

Learn a little about it here, and then go listen to it here! And have a swell weekend!

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This...

This…

I just deleted a 1500-word rant/defense of my own assholery.

It wasn’t that I didn’t stand behind what I’d written; it just seemed so icky, because it’s just an icky topic. See, I felt that I do, perhaps, bust too much on the publishing scene and I don’t say enough nice things about it. I think it’s because the “scene” is so varied that it’s true that what you can rightfully and truthfully say about one aspect of it cannot be applied to another.

The fact is that, when I hear about agents being downright appalled that writers can’t be bothered to learn their precious, precious names before begging for their acknowledgment and approval, it’s practically impossible for me to not throw up all over myself. However, then there are presses like Nightscape, whom I’ve so recently signed up with to edit. Since gaining a little insight into their group, the comradery and genuine interest they (editors and writers) take in one another and one another’s work is refreshing. And Raw Dog Screaming Press, that came to my attention through a friend who published with them—talk about teamwork.

While it’s true that I have no use for the Big Six, nor do I have any use for small, pretentious literary presses (my professional experience with them, though educational, ate up a piece of my soul that I don’t think will ever grow back), I can’t help but still carry that nostalgic torch for the small press scene, and presses like those mentioned above make it easy.

...is the right way.

…is the right way.

I’m self-publishing because it feels right. I’m from Pittsburgh: Zombie Capital of the World (don’t argue) and home of Night of the Living Dead, the ultimate in internationally successful DIY horror. I gave up on perusing a career in special effects when CGI got big, basically because I just couldn’t get my hands dirty with that. I am genetically pre-disposed and environmentally conditioned to do the work, to be up to my elbows in it. I need to do it this way. That said, I do love the small presses. I love that scene and I respect and enjoy the company of the people in it. I’m happy to be able to work with Nightscape for the opportunity to play within that scene, even though it’s not where I’m taking my writing (at the moment).

So, when I fall all over myself to point and laugh and scourge the sorts of stupid people and events happening in the publishing industry at large, please don’t mistake that for a foaming disdain of publishing in general. Couldn’t be further from the truth. I love publishing; I’m just very picky about the areas I love. And if you’re going to pick one or the other (traditional publishing or self publishing), Chuck Wendig said it best here in 2010.

And come on, this is just superior to this (seriously, were those bits of clothing flinging off and he flew through the air?). Let’s all thank The Howling III for this, though.

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vesalius-p559Straight to the words!

In front of the alter—his feet pointing to the nave, his head to the apse—lay Father Apollinaris. Louis approached the corpse, though he was loathe to. It was not dressed, but only covered to the chin with a set of clean robes, as though it had been too difficult to dress such a ravaged body. No part of the man was bare except for his head. The friar’s face was ivory, and Louis studied it, wondering at the stillness of his dead skin, taking note that, in life, the very flesh must have some barely-perceptible movement that signifies the soul surging underneath. The dead man’s mouth set strangely, and Louis saw that it was propped closed with a wooden block beneath the chin. Looking around to be sure he was alone, he pushed the edge of the robe down just a bit. Indeed, he suspected the only part of the poor friar that went unscathed was his peaceful face, as even the block that held his jaw shut sank into the wounds he’d received in that area.

To their devoted credit, there was no blood. None to soil the habit that covered him, none to stain the wood of the block. His body had been so thoroughly cleaned, the men that performed the duty could sleep well knowing they’d helped deliver Father Apollinaris to his Heavenly Father cleaner than he’d come into this world. Louis pushed the robes down a little further, searching for the thing that would answer his troublesome question. He prayed he would not have to see more than his spirit could take.

Below the block, the holy man’s flesh lay mangled and torn. Louis marveled at the man’s resilience, for his wounds were so grave, his lingering time had defied the truth of them. His eyes searched the carnage, hoping not to have to descend to the man’s belly, which, judging by the shape of the covering, could not be seen without a lifetime of nightmares. Then, he found it. Around the edge of the butchery that extended from the friar’s chest to his right shoulder, spread four claw marks, as from an animal.

Not too much to say about this excerpt. It’s obviously not in Stevenson’s original Travels with a Donkey, though it would have been a doozy if it was.

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Hautala

I did not know Rick Hautala. Never met him, but the outpouring of grief and sympathy at his very recent and unexpected passing urges me to pass this information along.

For the month of April, if you purchase Evil Jester Press‘s Inheritance by Joe McKinney and Nightscape Press‘s Sunfall Manor by Peter Giglio, all of the proceeds will go to Rick’s widow, Holly. All of them, 100%. Please consider it.

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This is King Louis VVI during the French Revolution. I don't think that, at this moment, he was worried whether or not "his subjects" were calling him "you majesty."

This is King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. I don’t think that, at this moment, he was too concerned whether or not “his subjects” were calling him “your majesty.”

The Daily Progress hit us with this pointless whopper on Saturday: Literary Agents Discuss Publishing Industry.

I should have known two paragraphs in that it would be a useless, somewhat sad exercise in denial. I expected, at the very least, there would be some sort of real acknowledgement that, hey, it’s getting a little scary out there for agents and publishers, particularly when the article started out with “In an age of overwhelming digital saturation…” But, no.

In an age of overwhelming digital saturation, personal insight is essential to commanding the attention and interest of book agents and publishers. A lack of tact is an oversight — or slight — that can doom a novel.

“You wouldn’t believe how many submissions we get from people who don’t address us by name,” said Howard Yoon, of Ross Yoon Literary Agency in Washington, D.C. “People aren’t doing their research.”

This is like the upper class twits sitting in a London bomb shelter complaining that their German valet can’t seem to locate their favorite tea.

Okay, so, first, in “an age of overwhelming digital saturation” (read: the tools to publish your own work are right there, right at your fingertips), why would a writer give two shits about “commanding the attention and interest of book agents and publishers?” And second, seriously, if agents think writers not addressing them by name (oh noes!) gives them their biggest sad face, then I suppose we should all just stop worrying about book agents and let them just blindly, blissfully get blown to smithereens. So long as they have their tea. Their favorite tea. That they love. It’s their favorite tea, for Pete’s sake.

So, not addressing the agent (or editor) by name is the problem (despite that we all sort of know that, mostly, these people aren’t the first at the pile, their assistants are). An oversight in tact. Because that’s important. Like this post is clearly an oversight in tact (oops). Because I’m about to point out the obvious…

If I was a literary agent working in today’s publishing climate, I would at least make some effort to pull my ass down from my self-constructed pedestal long enough to hopefully realize that part of the reason why writers can’t be bothered to learn my name is because I am quickly becoming irrelevant. Perhaps writers are spending less of “their research” time on agent/editor ass-kissing and more of that precious time educating themselves on how to get their book in front of readers without having to jump through these meaningless hoops.

If they’re not, they certainly should be.

So, anyway, I’m reading, expecting that any word now the obvious is going to swing up and take a bite, but, again, no.

Overall, the panel said the book publishing industry in good health, but with some caveats.

Oh yeah?

“Things are actually very healthy in terms of readers and in terms of authors,” Patrick said. “What’s sick is the business model of publishing and that’s what I’m finding is so depressing.”

Yes, and yes. And yes. Go on…

Well, the next few paragraphs basically say the following without so much saying the following, because the following just sounds bad:

The resulting problem from the actual problem with the current publishing model, which we won’t actually directly address, is that, hey, I’s gots to make some $$. What Yoon basically says is that publishers don’t want to bother with anything that won’t turn out to be a bestseller, because the money they spend on pushing a “mediocre book” (make note of that: Not a Bestseller = mediocre book) is considered a waste. Not writing the next Harry Potter book? Your book sucks. Not crapping out Fifty Shades of Shit? Your book sucks. And agents see it that way, too, because they work on commission.

“Our business is commission based … we don’t take on projects that we don’t think we’re going to sell. We can’t afford to,” Yoon said.

No, you can’t afford to. You know what else you can’t afford? You can’t afford to do what you’ve been doing for decades, Mr./Mrs. Literary Agent, and that’s feeling so comfortable and superior in your little safe room that you think even addressing that writers don’t know your name in public is a good, not at all vapid and narcissistic idea. Maybe you ought to stretch some long-atrophied muscles and do a little research yourself. Perhaps you ought to figure out a way to survive the massive changes overtaking a stagnant publishing industry. Books aren’t going to disappear, but you just might, because the relationship between authors and readers is changing.

Yoon is identified as saying, “the publishing model is widening the gap between the winners and losers.” The old publishing model is indeed widening that gap, if you read “winners” as “authors and readers” and “losers” as “agents and editors.” The new publishing model is actually narrowing the gap between authors and readers, which is leaving little wiggle room for agents and editors to feel it’s important to whinge on about how little tact we heathen writers have nowadays. I feel that’s worth thinking about.

Bethanne Kelly Patrick finally states the obvious: “I think you’ll find people doing a lot more guerilla [sic] everything.” But it stops there. It either stopped there in the discussion, or the article’s author just really decided to avoid moving into any sort of boat-rocking, complicated areas of thought. Don’t screw up the narrative that says the publishing model is fine just as it is. No worries. We’re not sinking!

It ends with this blinding ray of brilliance:

For fiction writers unsure if their work will be a page-turner, Yoon suggested a simple test.

“You have to think, there are other people in the world who are doing this … [so] take your plot, take your characters and ask ‘How many people would realistically read what I’m writing?’”

Really. Maybe this little nugget of advice seemed non-insultingly applicable…when? the 60s, the 70s? Maybe. I suppose. At this point, though, it does feel a little face-slappish. First, don’t most writer’s ask themselves that, you know, after they’ve written what came from their gut? After they’ve been true to their soul as a writer, they might leaf through their manuscript and say, “Hmmm, who’s going to read this?” Oh, or are we supposed to ask that first, what needs to be released from our guts be damned? Second, considering that you’ve basically just told us that it’s not worth writing if millions of people aren’t going to pay to read it, isn’t the answer to this question regarding most writers’ books a floppingly deflated, “zero; no one?” Because in the publishing model that is still trying desperately to disparage self-pubbing, your book—the one that came from your gut—is worthless. If it’s not going to make everyone but you rich, agents and editors can’t be bothered, so neither should you.

Writers, I suggest that after you’ve asked yourself the question they insist will tell you whether or not “your work is a page-turner,” you then ask yourself “What exactly would I be getting out of the relationship if I signed up with an agent and/or publisher, compared to just doing the work and publishing/marketing it myself?”

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poster 3 pstd draft

I’m happy to say that I’ve got a story in this volume of PstD (Vo. 3), but am unfortunately unable to attend any of the launch parties. If you can, dear reader, please go in my stead and report back here with all the fun and gory details.

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Scary Words

FEARThis article over at The Christian Science Monitor is pretty interesting. There was a study published recently in PLOS ONE that analyzed 5 million digitized books on Google for “emotional language.”

The surprising conclusion they reached: There has been a marked decrease in the use of emotional words that fall in six categories (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise), with the exception of an uptick in fear since the 1970’s.

I guess, take from that what you will. It mentions that those 5 million books are only about 4% of all books that had gone to press since 1900, which means it’s really a very small sampling.

My first observation are the categories into which this search fell: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. Really? What a bunch of Negative Nellies. I assume, given human nature, that if they had included straight-up “love,” it would have drowned out all the other categories (or, at least, I hope).

That said, my second observation, is obvious: …an uptick in fear since the 1970s.

That seems to make sense—at least, it does in the world I live in, but then, I pay way too much attention to the news, current events, etc. I suppose it’s all relative. But it’s a little chicken-and-eggy: which came first? Did the fear in the world result in a more literary reflection of it, or did the writing about fear result in more fear in the world. Or do they just feed each other? Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum, but it’s interesting to think about.

Hmmm…

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