It’s not censorship but it sure stinks

Holly Lisle recently posted about trying to get a book published for Apple’s iBooks, but was rebuffed because she mentions Amazon in one of her teaching methods.  I don’t know about you but that just ain’t right.  While it may not be censorship by definition, it’s not cool, and Apple is using its power to block any mention of a rival.  Holly pulled all of her self-pubbed books out of iBooks.  I have never been all-in with Apple, but I like most of their products.  I have an iPod, and iPhone and an iPad, and they work pretty damned well, but this behavior stinks and I wanted anyone who reads this blog to know about it.

Clear Ether!

Image attribution Beachblogger42 via creative commons license

Committing to that First Novel

Ava Jae has an interesting post on her blog Writability this morning about first novels.  The question she was answering is, how do you pick the story to write for your fist novel when 95% of first novels never see the light of day?  We refer to these as trunk novels (because they stay in the trunk).
Her answer is right on the money, you have to commit to whatever story you choose.  We can’t possibly commit the time and energy it takes to write a novel to real completion without the belief that we are going to put it out there for sale or distribution (if that was our original goal, not everyone writes to be published).  By complete I mean first draft finished and then several passes to revise and refine; this just to send it to a publisher or agent.  If you are self-publishing you need to add another step.  Send it to a real editor for that professional polish.
Novelists don’t do practice novels.  That is not to say we don’t do writing exercises.  Writers write for practice and it can be in the form of writing challenges or blogs or short stories.  But even short stories require work.  Challenges are easy and don’t take up a lot of time.  Novels are a completely different animal altogether.  They are layered with multiple plots and many characters, that done correctly, have more than two dimensions.   The novel should have theme and soul and requires foreshadowing and planning.  The planning can happen after the draft is done actually and may require you to move things around as the plot elements are often very malleable, but it requires time and energy.
If I really believed that my novel wouldn’t be published it would just be another abandoned orphan of a book.  Any writer that has made a serious effort at writing a novel can tell you that once you start, the ideas for other stories don’t stop coming.  There comes a time in the process of trying to finish the novel where you are kind of sick of it, you just want to be done with it and move on.  You have been birthing it for a long time and other ideas start to look more attractive.  This may sound strange, you certainly don’t want your readers to feel that way when they read it, but I think they must all pass through this phase for the author.  The book is like one of our children.  Sometimes you just want to get away from the screaming and the arguing and bad tempers and the constant requirement for care and feeding.  But if we are to finish we have to have confidence that the novel will grow up to be something we can be proud of.   I know there are a lot of writers that have dozens of unfinished novels in their trunk, but when they started they went in believing they were going to finish them.
This year alone I have read five great debut novels.  Now, I have no idea if they were actually their first novel or just the first one published.  One that stands out in particular for me is The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter.  He published this book in 1996 to great acclaim and has never published anything since.  I very much enjoyed the story.  It was very well crafted and imaginative and he was heralded as the next great thing in SF at the time.  I have no idea why he hasn’t published anything else.  Maybe he just had a goal to write a novel and checked that off his bucket list.  We all have our own motivations.
But for me, I’m committed to getting it right.  I’m spending the time grooming it for show.  I have aspirations of a career writing.  I am already plotting four more novels, and have ideas for several others.  Who knows which one will actually get published first, but my plan is for all of them to be published.  Speaking of which, I need to get back to it…
Clear Ether!

Why Can’t We All Just Be Cool?

Every now and then I hear stuff over the internet (okay I read it), where someone is being an asshat to someone.  It is actually a fairly common thing these days but the heat seems to move from place to place, video games, book reviews, paparazzi, news sites, it’s everywhere that people interact.  It’s ubiquitous.   And it seems to be getting slowly worse. Scalzi has a blog about it, Stacia Kane, Chuck Wendig and many others are pointing it out.
Why is that? 
It bothers me that somewhere along the way our society has stopped teaching our children what it means to have manners and even though you can remain anonymous, you still should show some regard for other human beings.   You know, do the right thing.  Sadly, I ‘m not sure a lot of people even realize that what they are doing is wrong.  They spew frothy hatefulness like it is their right and it doesn’t matter that the person that is the target has feelings and a family and a life that they might be impacting.  Do they really want to ruin someone’s life over something that in the big scheme is trivial?

This problem isn’t limited to the young people of today, it seems to be peppered through several generations now, and has been a systemic problem in the United States since maybe the mid 60’s but it is getting worse I think. 
I would really like for my kids to be able to play MMOs without having to listen to the other players dropping eff bombs on the voice server, some games you can’t filter it.  I play MMOs and people eviscerate other players for no reason other than they are playing wrong in some way, innocently in most cases.  Readers write reviews of books that are often brutal and unkind in a very personal way that really has nothing to do with the content of the book.  Authors sometimes are dumb enough to reply to horrible reviews, it never ends well.  I’ve seen people say horrible things on Twitter about someone semi-famous that they don’t know at all, and for no reason other than … hell, I don’t know why.   To get attention I guess.
Some people you think might deserve to be mocked because they put themselves in a position to be ridiculed, like the people on the Jerry Springer show or actors because it’s part of the job to be in the public eye.  But really?  Do you have to stoop and say something shitty, even offhand?  You know, I’m fine with you having an opinion and maybe even sharing it someone, but does it have to be at the expense of someone else publically?  Once you post something publically that denigrates someone else you are taking part in the fracas.  You are helping to bring us all down incrementally.   You may not think it is a big deal but combined with everyone else doing the same thing it all adds up and drags us all collectively down. 
My old roommate used to say, “Why can’t we all just be cool?”  That really says it.  Just be nice to each other, stuff we learned in Kindergarten.   They still teach the Golden Rule in Kindergarten don’t they?  The Golden Rule still applies to the internet!
I get the fact that the internet gives us the ability to be anonymous and maybe be a little braver than we might be in “Real Life”, but does that mean we should lower our guard and our standards of decency and just be horrible to each other?   It’s a little like road rage.  Somehow, just having windows between us and the ability to escape without a real face-to-face confrontation emboldens us.  Multiply that by 100 (a 1000?) and you have the internet.  But doing the right thing is still valid since by definition it is making the right choice even when nobody is watching you.
I think I figured out what true freedom is in today’s world, and there are very few people that have true freedom.  It is the ability to publically do whatever you want, say whatever you want, expose whatever you want and not have to worry about the ramifications.  Most of us have a job where they work for someone else or sell things that require other people to buy them in some form or fashion.  Very few of us are in a position to give absolutely no care at all to what anyone else might think.  Even the people that can financially afford this kind of freedom have friends, families or spouses.  They still have to guard what they say, at least a little bit for fear of ostracizing themselves or bringing shame to their family or friends.  With this in mind doesn’t it make sense to try to keep things civil?  To watch what we say or do in the public eye, and if you don’t think posting something on facebook or Twitter IS in the public eye I can show you some examples to refute this premise.  Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
I swear I don’t understand where people have the idea that you have a right to vent publicly and have no blowback.  Everything you say and do in the public square is being watched by someone.  I am going about this wrong…you can say whatever you want but just because you can does not mean you should, but if you do it anyway, you should expect people to react to it, because they are acting the same way you are, by exploiting THEIR right to vent at you. 
I guess it bothers some people that you have to filter yourself when you are interfacing with the public.  It’s just not fair that they can’t do or say whatever they want, it’s their god given right.  Isn’t it? (Okay for some of you that is me being facetious if you can’t see the sarcasm)  Really though, putting stuff in print online is worse than getting a tattoo that you don’t end up liking.  At least with the tattoo you can get it removed someday.  It hurts like hell and it’s not free but it can be done.  Once you put something in print online it can haunt you for the rest of your life if it gets the wrong kind of attention.  That includes emails, facebook, Twitter, blogs … whatever.
If you have to vent do it privately.  Scream until you are blue in the face.  But don’t do it where we can see you.  Is that too much to ask?  If you still feel like that’s not enough and you want to go online I’m the opposite of Nike: Just don’t do it.  Bill and Ted had it right, “Be excellent to each other!”  You do your part, and I’ll do mine.
Clear Ether!

Wired for Story


Chuck Wendig interviewed Lisa Cron this week for his blog Terribleminds and she gave us her take on developing story.  Another great find for interviews by Mr. Wendig, he rarely disappoints.  Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain.  She has a new book out called Wired for Story, and I can’t wait to read it.  She is a big time producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer and also teaches a writing course at UCLA.  She has spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories.  It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make your story click with the reader.  They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.
            On Lisa’s blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates.  It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books.  I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down.  Stephanie Myers Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.
            The concept has already had an impact on my writing.  I think it helped me frame the true story for my WIP.  CJ Cherryh had a recent rant on her facebook page (5 July) about the difference between plot and story and now that I have this new frame of reference I can see that she was saying basically the same thing.  The plot is not what drives the story.  The plot is just a tool to get the characters to create the story you are trying to tell.  The plot elements are moveable and malleable. 
When I deal with libraries and such, people who appreciate books, I often get asked questions about the creation of ‘plot’ — in the sense of the sort of book reports we used to have to give in school. These usually amounted to a recitation of what happened in the book. And these always confused heck out of me—I started writing at 10. I had been wrestling with ‘plot’ and ‘theme’ and this sort of thing on an intimate level for (at my young age) years, and the definitions of those terms that I had to memorize for tests just didn’t ring true with the way I did things. There was a wrongness in the basic assumptions that was bugging the life out of me.// Took me twenty years to figure what WAS bothering me—and to this day I really can’t define those terms, because they may shift with every type of book—but I came to a very basic conclusion: there IS no such thing as ‘plot’ in the sense most of these analyses deal with it. Plot is NOT the sequence of things that happen in the book. Those are the ‘things that happen in the book,’ and they actually are the most replaceable, ephemeral, rearrangeable things about the book. If you could lean over my shoulder while I work, you’d see me move things about, put events in different order, yank something I don’t want, put in something similar but ‘else’, and in sort, work with the causality and the chain of events, but these are not the plot. They are gears that need to mesh correctly, these are pieces that need to operate smoothly together—to PLAY OFF the ‘real Plot’ of the book, which is much more of a three-dimensional diagram of the lines of tension between the characters. You arrange events to tweak these lines of tension and cause a chain reaction, and figuring out how to do that may require you to change the events, change the people involved, change how the news travels, change the order of things—you see what I mean? The Real Plot is that 3-d constellation of characters and alliances and relationships, and these Actions are nothing but a set of triggers that could be ANY trigger. Finding the most logical order of triggers is head-work. Theme? I’m not sure what the hell that is. I think it’s the answer to that basic question a writer may want to write down on paper and pin to the wall above his desk: What’s this book about, anyway? And very often there’s no one word answer, or there is—say—like Loyalty; but that doesn’t say much. It takes the whole book to say what there is to say about that item, the way you see it, the way it affects the Real Plot, the feeling it generates. That’s why my teachers sometimes ticked me ‘wrong’ about certain answers, when I’d really thought long and hard about the answer and didn’t agree with the expected answer. That’s because when you start pushing those buttons on my personal console, you just may come up with a different book. Different answers. You may now realize that I’ve just answered that persistent groaner of a question “Where do you get your ideas?” —with the observation that ideas are no problem, so long as a writer has a pulse rate—but that Execution, ie, getting those ideas to assume a good constellation of tensions and then tweaking those lines of force to create a natural cascade of reactions leading to a satisfactory ending—that, THAT is the hard part.
                                                                                     –CJ Cherryh
Keeping STORY in the forefront of my mind as I revise the WIP is really helping me focus on the things that can stay and the things that need to go.   It also helped me refocus my Query letter.  I know what the essence of the book is about and was able to better articulate it. Here is the core of my new Query Letter:
What does an immortal bajillionaire have to complain about?  That’s what Remie La Jeunesse keeps reminding himself.  It’s how he’s managed to get by the least few decades, but he’s reached the end of the line.  He’s young by Nemesi standards, at 786, but he can’t find happiness anymore.  Weary of the death and despair he’s suffered for the last several centuries, Remie is ready to end his life, but he has one last obligation to fulfill.  He’s just received the call that the plan he’s spent 240 years meticulously planning is finally ready to trigger.  Will carrying out the plan be his demise or will it reignite his passions?
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle Corporation.  Her career path seemed to be on the fast track after leaving the comfort and security of her family trade ship, but the intervention of a past lover derails her plans and puts her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and any chance at a captaincy.  Will she be the one to end his life or save his soul?
At any rate, I ordered Wired for Story and should have it by the end of the week.  I’m maybe a 5th of the way through my 3rd rewrite and hopefully it will be ready for submission soon.
Clear Ether!