Tuesday, June 30, 2009
From The Stargazette.com
June 28, 2009
By Anne Marie Cummings
"Three-quarters of the people who self-publish are not publishing to be famous. It has to do with leaving something behind for future generations. The same reason why we take photographs," said Tim Renfrow, owner of Kentucky-based Wasteland Press."
Self-publishing doesn't exclude the chances of being picked up by a major publisher, said Carol Schneider, vice president and executive director of publicity and public relations at the Random House Publishing Group, which published 800 titles in 2008. "The average author may not know an agent, or someone at a publishing house," she said, "so self-publishing may be the best thing for them to do. Sometimes, it's the gateway for getting the attention of a major publisher."
A new respect
"Self-published authors are no longer the Rodney Dangerfields of the literary world. They do get respect from agents and publishers," said Richard Pine, a longtime literary agent with InkWell Management in New York City who has represented self-published authors from time to time. "They've overcome their fears, and taken conditions into their own hands," Pine said. "I think more and more self-published authors will establish their own credibility through reviews and demonstrable sales to get the attention of agents and publishers."
"When you self-publish, you get to write the book in a way that makes you happy," Author Poleskie said. "You don't have to deal with some of the nonsense that comes with having an agent. Also, the fast turnaround time is a major plus, and for someone my age, that can be a very, very good thing. I don't need money and fame. I just want people to enjoy reading my books."
Read the Full Article Here.
Monday, June 29, 2009
June 27, 2008
By Holly Christine
For quite some time, self-publishing has kept a bad reputation. It has often insinuated bad writing, not worthy of traditional publishing. Self-publishing was also pricey, as authors dished out thousands of dollars to see their work in print.
Today, the term is Independent, and Print-On-Demand technologies (such as CreateSpace, Lulu and BookSurge) have made it possible for unknown authors to make their presence known. For little to nothing, an author can upload their writing, create a cover and assign themselves an
Aspiring writers entering the publishing game shouldn't expect to make a killing off of sales. Still, self-publishing offers authors this: control and connection. They can control the destiny of their work and connect with readers on a personal level.
Independent authors offer readers a choice and connectivity and more readers are finding that self-published doesn't necessarily equate to sloppy, unwanted writing.
Read Full Article Here.
You will notice that some authors we know are mentioned in the article. Congrats.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I have to admit that I've not been following the brouhaha about IndieReader and The Vault. I will say that, as a self-published author, independent assessment of the quality of your work is important. After all, that's what we're doing here at POD People.
We're also, at least on the last Friday of the month, in the business of giving away free books. So, this month's giveaway is Craig Lancaster's wonderful novel Six-Hundred Hours of a Life. My full review of Craig's book is up here.
The rules of this giveaway are simple - add a comment to this post with your email address, and I will fire up the Brownian Motion Random Number Generator on Monday to select a winner. Good luck!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
From NB's about page:
Specially designed as the Leading Global Social Networking Site for writers, authors, readers and book buyers, Nothing Binding unites these groups everywhere around the world. When you join, You can promote your books; connect with fellow writers and authors, hungry readers and book buyers; and discover great new writing. No fees, costs or charges.Your New Audience Awaits You at Nothing Binding. What Are You Waiting For?
Jerry Simmons, Creator and Publisher of Nothing Binding, says, “Nothing Binding Inspires, Educates and Unites Writers, Authors and Readers Across the Globe.”Nothing Binding gives:
- Undiscovered and rising writers and authors a unique platform to showcase their great works to readers and book buyers.
- Hungry readers special gems and new writing, that have been overlooked by mainstream, hard-to-reach, traditional publishers.
- Mainstream or traditional publishers launch fewer and fewer books every year. That does not mean for a second that these giants necessarily publish the best books or the greatest books or that they have a lock on the world’s great literature.
- Nothing Binding is Your Door toPublishing Opportunity and Unparalleled Success.
That’s why Nothing Binding is independent books’ dedicated voice, your voice.
"Nothing Binding" — reflects the power of independence.
Does a major publishing or distribution deal necessarily make a written work better? We think Not! Together, we – that includes You: writers, authors, readers and the Nothing Binding Team – will break the chains of the current publishing dinosaur system that is blocking the great wave of literary progress, learning and enjoyment. The coffee is better at home, anyway...
Disclaimer: This article is not an endorsement. It is for comparison purposes only. Information is quoted directly from the NothingBinding website. The link is provided.
“Some compulsives will work through a manuscript, and even galleys, changing every “till” to “until” or vice versa, depending on the grammatical ear they brought with them to the job […]. Chief Editors are usually the least flexible, stamping out perfectly acceptable words and phrases with great ceremony or waving their favourite (and usually outdated) usage handbooks. Although it is appropriate for editors to rail against the depreciation of English into jargon and colloquial swill, they must stop short of self-styled purism and allow for some variety of expression. […] A little Strunk and White is a dangerous thing.” -- The Elements of Editing by Plotnik
I have had this guide for quite some time. It is not a primer in grammar or a “how to line edit.” It’s a handy dandy reminder guide for serious editors, and it covers such topics as Editor and Writer relationships, how to approach a manuscript from acquisition to final galley, and the snarls of Libel and Copyright among other serious concerns. My reason for discussing this book has to do with the compulsive editor and the “style guides” both of which stand sentinel in perpetuating certain standards, standards that don’t often sit well with the artistic-minded writer. Yes, we want to be grammatically correct so that our intent with a sentence is clear, but we also want the artistic voice to ring out loud and clear. As Plotnik states: “The first impulse we (editors) have with another’s copy is to make it sound right, and what sounds right to us is our own voice, our own idiom. Also the more we (editors) change another’s copy, the more we seem to justify our own editorial importance. An editor’s job is to shape expression not thoughts. The editor deletes jargon, redundancies, ambiguities, and irrelevancies – never ideas.”
I agree. Sometimes as an editor, I suggest authors restructure sentences to improve clarity such as in the case of misplaced descriptive clauses and modifiers. Example: Poor: She bought a blouse in a store downtown of pure silk. Better: She bought a blouse of pure silk in a store downtown. This also removes accidental impossibilities: Disappearing into my bedroom, I changed into my evening dress. See what I am saying. Restructuring the sentence would get rid of the silliness and the ambiguity. That is what editors do best. They create clarity so as Plotnick says “The reader can see the fire through the smoke.” Nothing wrong with the smoke. Every story needs a bit of smoke but not at the expense of choking the reader. Editors should also be wary of crossing the line by making each book sound exactly like every other. Novice editors lean too heavily on the “style guides.” Consistency is nice and all that, but consistency, artistic expression, and individuality can coexist on the page. I know art from style-guide schlock when I see it, so I know it can.
Knowing how to be a good editor is more than just being a grammar Nazi. Yes, grammar is a necessary evil. Chaotic words carry very little meaning, but that doesn’t mean we want to give our work a Strunk and White enema either. We want the work to be fluid, comprehensible, and artistic. We need to learn the rules so that we know exactly what we are doing when we choose to break them. There is an art to editing just as there is with writing. No Editor is perfect. For me, the editorial process is a process of discovery, one very different from the writing process. With every editorial pass, I recreate the story from a different perspective. In the end, hopefully, I, the writer and the editor, understand the story’s true meaning. If I, as the editor, understand the true meaning, so will the intended reader. That’s who editors really work for: The Readers. As an Indie artist, if you cannot step back and become an objective editor, then leave the editing to someone who can: An editor who truly understands grammar, style, and voice. An editor who understand clarity is key and that their voice isn't the voice that counts, it's the authors.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Edited to add: Nothing Binding's information has been moved to its own post.
All commentary related to this thread will be restricted to informational dialog only. Further inflammatory, tainted, or baited comments will be deleted and the thread will be closed.
We here at The Podpeople appreciate open communication, and we thank you in advance for respecting our site.
Publishing Acquisitions Pros
If there were some way to identify the best-selling, best-reviewed self-published books in any category at any given time, and learn how effective a platform each of those books’ authors have assembled to date, would you want access to that information?
In an effort to attract publisher attention, you’ve got a fine-looking, well-reviewed, respectably-selling book in print, and you’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into your author platform as well. Unfortunately, publishers haven’t noticed.If there were a service designed to facilitate publisher searches of indie books, making it easy for them to find books that meet their specific needs, are well-reviewed and selling in respectable numbers, would you want your book to be listed with that service?
Well, the Vault is open for business. I was not aware that this would a Fee based listing service, but it is -- fees being paid by the author. Enter the Publiteriat Vault: an Authonomy of sorts, without the American Idol voting system or the Publishing House backing. All in all, I think it's a terrific idea in theory. Only time and results will validate the effort, and so I caution all indie authors to assess their business model before investing in any type of listing or marketing service. Thankfully, The Publeteriat understands the indie business model and the oftentimes crimson and pragmatic patina it has to it, so they are offering a free 90-day trial for the first 300 published listings. See here for details.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Luxurious settings, detailed from a rather different and unexpected point of view; rich and intricate characters; and an ending you will never anticipate ... this is truly an original story. So erotic and engaging that it is criminal.
I read this book about 6 months or so before the movie came out. It is a translation, and from what I hear, a good one. The cover is the original, and I like it much better than the cover they are using currently. Now, this is not a hack and slash horror novel, while there are a few graphic bits, the thrust of the story is the subtle psychological drama that unfolds delicately under one's very nose. If I had to compare it, I would say the philosophical leanings would be along the lines of Camus' The Stranger. Definitely worth the read. The movie was good as well, but sadly, it didn't have the same impact.
Monday, June 22, 2009
By Meghan Goodrich
June 19, 10:20 AM
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Amazon recently released the source code of some of the components that are used in the Kindle. Contrary to the erroneous reports that are circulating the Web, Amazon is not opening its e-book reader. The code release is purely for GPL compliance while the Kindle's ebook features remain proprietary.
By Ryan Paul Last updated June 19, 2009 8:20 AM CT
Amazon attracted considerable media attention this week for publishing the source code of some of the components that are used in its popular Kindle reading device. The hype generated by the source release is mystifying and largely undeserved. It seems to be a result of widespread misconceptions about the scope and nature of the code disclosure.
Contrary to the ambiguous headlines declaring that Amazon is opening the Kindle, the reality is that Amazon has not released a significant quantity of new code and is not empowering competitors to replicate their successful product. Amazon has been publishing the source code of various Kindle components since 2007 in order to fulfill its licensing obligations.
Read Full Article Here.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Author: Glenn Borchardt
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory
I have been living with this book for a while, certainly a year and possibly two. For a while it was my airport book. That, sadly, is not good news. It means I put this book in my carry-on bag in the hope that I will get bored enough in the airport or during the flight to actually read it. In fact I would confess to not having read every single word of this book, even after all this time and innumerable determined efforts. But along the way the book's corners are very scuffed and an unfortunate incident with a caramel latte has left splotches along the edges of the pages. So I couldn't return the book and had to make the best effort at a review that I could.
I was sent this book after the author made some rather grandiose claims on the Amazon science forum. (I long stopped going to that forum which now contains nothing but endless attempts by American zealots to explain the fallacy of evolution to us poor scientific heathens, and various heathens endlessly rising to the bait). Anyway, the author said I couldn't say it wasn't a revolutionary book unless I read it and offered a review copy. What is a girl to do?
In brief, the book is a defense of determinism and an argument for some related corollaries such as the universality of evolution (not a new idea), the importance of environmental causes (ditto) and the proposition that the universe is infinite. There may have been a little more to it than that as I skipped about a quarter of the content in the middle, a fact I cannot deny or excuse--but there you are. As it happens I am a determinist, I think the environment is the ultimate cause of everything--and I really don't care whether the universe is infinite or not (I am something of a pragmatist and the finite-ality or otherwise of the universe doesn't change the cost of a cup of coffee). You could say I was underwhelmed. You could, in fact, say that I was bored. Very bored.
The style of the book is dry, convoluted and polysyllabic (I have nothing against syllables, but sometimes less really is more--the same can be said for neologisms. Getting a PhD tends to either make one very pretentious, or aggressively opposed to any such airs and pseudo-graces). The points, as I untangled and identified, them fell neatly into the categories if 1) I agree, 2) I see what you are saying but I comfortably disagree and know exactly where our paths diverged (e.g. different starting assumptions), and 3) so what? As such, this book lacked the key ingredients I look for in non-fiction: it did not challenge me, other than a few minor points here and there it did not teach me anything, and regardless of its factual content it was neither inspirational nor entertaining.
Putting that aside, I tried to think about who (other than me obviously) might enjoy this book. I guess a modern determinist who has not already read Wittgenstein, Skinner, etc etc might find it novel and excitingly outside the mainstream--but on the whole I would suggest reading the classics rather than this book. A true novice would have a hell of a time dealing with the jargon and haphazard organisation. And I seriously doubt that a person who was not determinist would get much out of the book at all. It declares, it does not attempt to convince.
Revolutionary? Life changing? I just do not see it. And I really did try.
I don’t often read in this genre, which is Paranormal Romance, but I like Zoe’s style. She has her publishing head on game. We share similar views on what it means to be an Indie, and I follow the Publishing Renaissance blog. Then I stumbled across a mrsgiggles post stating that Kept was a light fun read. I was in need of a light read. I needed something not-too-terribly serious in between the review books I have in my queue, a palate cleanser if you will, and I don't always mind hammy villians, so I downloaded it.
This is billed as a novella, but it doesn’t conform to the precepts of a true Literary Novella by definition, so I can’t review it as such, and since it was unsolicited and I don't normally read in this genre, I won’t be review rating it either as I don't think it would be fair based on my limited experience with "romance" as it is defined these days.
Now, this book is apparently part of a larger body of work, and so I think it falls more into the category of serialized novel like King’s The Green Mile for example versus a true novella. Because of this, there is a myriad of characters and events mentioned throughout the story that might seem incidental or underdeveloped in order to get to the all-important “relationship/romance” bit. We get a lot of hints, and so I am thinking more light will be shed in future instalments. I certainly hope so, as there were a lot of unanswered questions and dangling threads for me. The world-building and motivational arcs seem a bit thin and disjointed to end at one very short book, so potential readers should go into this knowing there is more to come. The writing style is pretty on par with what you will find out there in the genre, same with the storyline, but the glib over-exposed characters, the sarcastic internal dialog, and the deliberate camp style make it a fun easy read , and it should satisfy what the genre lovers want and need.
Greta is our pretty pussy -- cat that is -- a shape shifter about to come of age and in heat continuously. But alas, her clan has other plans for her, plans of the unpleasant predestined sort. So, she says with bated breath, who will save me? Maybe the handsome and notorious sorcerer Dayne Wickham, who may or may not be in on the conspiracy.
“[...]he was hot, debonair even. Except for the evil.”
Well of course, except for the evil, that goes without saying. But doesn’t the evil make the bad boy even hotter??? Yes it does, especially when he is conflicted. Oh, and apparently the magic users hook up on internet message boards and use expletives such as: for God’s sake. Now that is over the top camp: I have power unlimited at my disposal, and yet I must invoke God and reduce my majestic interactions to online chat. Hilarious!!!! And logical, since he was: “only human with a few fancy language upgrades.”
The sardonic tone doesn’t stop there ...
Greta hid a smile. She wished she could take her up on her offer, and for a moment a fantasy of Thelma and Louise-ing it through Cary Town caught her imagination. But Charlee wasn’t prepared to deal with what was out there, and Greta couldn’t protect her. She watched as her friend tossed some makeup and a couple of trashy romance novels into the bag. Only Charlee would think running for your life was the time to read romance and wear lipstick.
Or when Dayne meets Greta for the first time:
He held up a hand before little Dayne could cause him to do something colossally stupid. “The wardrobe change doesn’t alter my position, princess.”
I wasn’t aware that sorcerers made penis jokes, and if you find that sort of thing and talk of dry humping offensive to your literary sensibilities then read no further. This is not the book for you.
If you are looking for titillation, this is not the book for you, either. The sex is restrained, very restrained, so we are not talking erotica here, even if there is a lot of throbbing, longing, flushing cheeks, sexy stares, and angst. I would say, if you like movies along the lines of Underworld or Blood and Chocolate and sexy serial programs like True Blood then you will find this satisfying, even with the editorial issues and the bit of chop that I noticed. I was not particularly fond of the last line in the story: “This was how Greta became kept.” Ugh! The author could have had me at the purrr and left it alone.
In the end, despite the above-mentioned last sentence, this is a story for all you closet cliché-camp lovers out there -- you know who you are. You’re the ones standing in the back of the theatre with rice in your pockets, hoping the Halloween freaks won’t make you do The Time Warp. For me, I am not a huge fan of B/cult-movie vamp-camp, but I have my moments -- Rocky Horror being one of them -- and so it was a quick and pleasant distraction. For those inclined towards the Literary Paranormal, this is not as richly textured or lyrically styled as say Anne Rice’s earlier work, so don’t expect that sort of tortured depth. However, if you like your sexy shape shifting romance kafuffles on the light side, then this might be right up your dark alley.
Format: Kindle Edition and PDF
File Size: 124 KB
Publisher: IncuBooks (November 25, 2008)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Kept is also available on Scribd, Smashwords, and as a Free download from Zoe’s Website.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Uh ... so, by that statement readers are stupid, don’t want their intellect engaged, and we should take a more visceral approach. Am I reading too much into that? Oh wait, maybe I should turn my brain off.
This is why I love reading "how to" style guides. This one had all the usual suspects represented, so I won’t bother quoting any more. Why? Style guides can’t help you be a better writer because it’s market trend diatribe for the most part. The only thing that helps a writer is reading -- reading widely and discussing literature, its techniques, and its theories. This book has some of that, but the diatribe overshadows the true value of those pieces. So let’s get to the meat of it: The reason narratives don’t engage the reader anymore is because writers can’t write engaging narratives anymore. The well-written stylish narrative, one that engages both intellect and emotion, is dying a slow and painful death. Why? Because the style guides have instructed all writers to make their books read like screen plays for the attention challenged reading club.
When did literature abandon intellect???? Isn’t reading fundamentally an intellectual pursuit? We read because we want the words. We want to interpret them for ourselves. That’s what reading is all about, isn’t it? I want my intellect challenged. I want everything challenged, from my own opinions to my imagination. I want intelligent characters, subconscious motivations, and a cliché free world. That’s why I read. I want the story to invoke emotion, of course, but I also want it to be thought-provoking in some way, no matter how small. Even beach reads are intellectually stimulating to some degree. Reading is an active mental process. We all know the benefits of having an active mind: readers are generally more articulate; readers have a broader world view; readers have improved concentration and focus; they are cognizant at higher levels with improved memory recall; they tend to have higher reasoning skills and are generally more disciplined and creative ... the list goes on, and on, and on ... so I can't understand why a reader's intellect doesn't deserve the same level of respect as their emotions do.
We all need visceral engagement, but at what cost? Don’t we get enough twitter twaddle myfaceyspacey reality TV time? Don’t we? Books are the last vestige of intellectual sanity. I refuse to have my favourite intellectual pursuit reduced to a mindless diversion. Yea, I know what you might say maybe about erotica. Isn’t that mindless? Well no, not really. Scientific studies have shown that sexual gratification has mostly to do with the mind, not the body. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t read erotica, they would just go watch porn. And yes, there is a wide variety of reader levels we need to cater to, but the fact of the matter is, anyone who consciously decides to pick up a book wants their brain tickled just a little bit. So, when I want a mindless diversion, I’ll put my book down. Until then, I want a stimulating read, both intellectually and emotionally. I want beautifully crafted narrative, I want poetry, and I want engaging and revealing scenes. I want it all -- including some well placed adverbs, damn it.
On a final note: By now, everyone knows how I feel about "how to" writing books and style guides ... or Creative Writing for Dummies and The Idiot's Guides. I peek at them from time to time for shits and giggles, and they are a fount of inspirational quotes, like the one I started this post with, but in all fairness, if viewed objectively they aren't entirely worthless. However, they can be taken too seriously and stifle the creative anarchy that comes with the act and the art of writing. Writing is something that cannot be nailed down with a "how to" book, no matter what the ads say. So what do I recommend for writers who want to expand their knowledge and hone their craft? Well, aside from college level courses dealing with applied theory, I recommend reading. It's a no-brainer. I also recommend reading books that focus on advanced literary theory, ones which dispel the myths that the style guides perpetuate to no end. We aren't looking for practical here, we are looking for philosophy. That's the journey, and we all know it's about the journey not the destination. Here is one of my personal favorites: Deepening Fiction. You can find this on Amazon, of course, or, you can rummage your favourite used textbook outlet; either way, you won't be sorry.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Catherynne Valente is the author of the conventionally-published fantasy novel Palimpsest. It's definitely oriented for adults, since the main theme is a sexually-transmitted dream. I've heard a lot of good things about Palimpsest, and that's the good news.
The bad news is that she's broke. Freelance writers don't make a lot of cash, and her husband's been out of work for months. So, in an attempt to make ends meet, Cat has decided to turn to self-publishing. In Palimpsest, one of the characters referred to a children's book she had loved. The book was called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Design. This was, of course, a completely non-existent book, invented for Cat's novel.
Well, now she's decided to write Fairyland, and is doing so online at the link. She's posting a chapter a week, every Monday. You can, if you so choose, read it for free, but Cat hopes you'll throw some coin into the Paypal tip jar. I encourage you to drop by for a spell.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Title: Six-Hundred Hours of a Life
Author: Craig Lancaster
Publisher: A Mind Adrift Creative Works
Point of Sale: Author’s site Amazon.com
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Craig Lancaster sent me an email, asking that I review his novel Six-Hundred Hours of a Life. I have to admit, it’s not the kind of book I would buy for myself. Which is why it was a good thing I said “yes” to Mr. Lancaster, as I found Six-Hundred Hours a very enjoyable and touching read.
The title refers to 25 days in the life of Edward Stanton Jr, from October 13 to November 6, 2008. Edward (never Ed, Eddie or Ted) suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Asperger syndrome. The two diseases combine to make him a virtual hermit in his house, bought by his father, in Billings Montana. But Edward more-or-less realizes that he’s lonely, and is making efforts to reach out, including online dating. He’s also, more or less by accident, met Donna and her son Kyle, new arrivals in the neighborhood.
Now, normally this would be more than enough to turn me off of a story, but somehow I not only stuck with the book, but enjoyed it. First, Edward, the book’s narrator as well as protagonist, is not a whiner. He knows he has problems, and is trying to fix them as best as he can. Second, Edward’s tense relationship with his father, a county politician, adds needed drama while also being very touching. Lastly, Donna’s complicated personal life adds a realistic measure of excitement, while Edward’s adventures in online dating add a touch of humor. All in all, the effect is like a well-made soup – the ingredients mix together subtly to create a satisfying and tasty dish.
Part of what I enjoyed in this book is the sense of opening. I live in Chicago, and thus experience Chicago traffic on a daily basis. There is a sense of joy when, after crawling along a road, the traffic suddenly opens. Lancaster’s main character experiences that sense of opening during the 25 days of the book. What I also enjoyed were the characters. There are no one-dimensional characters in this book. Even the bit players, including one of Donna’s ex-boyfriends, have more than one dimension.
OCD and Asperger as diseases do create a bit of creepiness in the reader – we all see our little foibles and social faux pas reflected in the disease – but I was able to get past that. Frankly, I think Lancaster uses that level of empathy to help draw the reader in. It works – I found this book surprisingly hard to put down. I also found the book’s ending to be hopeful and uplifting, even with the death of a major character.
I really, really like Six-Hundred Hours, and strongly recommend that you add this book to your library.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
"Of all the genres, literary fiction is supposed to be above the concepts of commercialism, the idea of writing for filthy lucre. Literary fiction writers are compelled to write, not for the money, but because the story inside their being simply cannot be contained in their corporeal self.
Literary fiction has the power of perception on its side. It is the hallowed field of publishing. If literary fiction would embrace digital publishing as a model and work to find new voices and release them to the reading public, digital publishing would take on the imprimatur of respectability. What’s stopping you, literary fiction?" Read full article here.
So what is stopping us? I agree that I tend to be a bit stodgy and old fashioned when it comes to my writing style not to mention theory and the academics of writing. However, I read digital books for review, and I actually prefer them for the simple reason in that it's efficient: I can read and make notes and write the review at the same time while ideas and thoughts are fresh in my head versus trying to decode my hand written chicken scratch after the fact. My own work is available in Kindle format, but why haven't I embraced Smashwords or Scribd? Yes, there is the piracy issue: I do want readers but at what cost? Haven't I bled enough writing the damn book? So yes, that concerns me. As a business person with only myself on staff, it's one more site to police and manage; frankly, that takes time away from the writing, which is the part I live for. Maybe I am a control freak, but when Emily recently found her work on a hacker share site -- almost all of it mind you -- my stomach fell straight out of my ass. It's not a warm and fuzzy feeling, and I am sure it's closely related to how the authors felt about Google scanning their books without authorization. Obscurity doesn't feel good either just less tainted, so I am not sure which is the lesser of the two evils at this point. I might try a run at Scribd, that is, once I get my teeth unclenched. Maybe the old-school literary snobs are more attached to the art, but I don't think so. Is it that Literary works more so than others tend to plumb the depths of the psychological dark side, and authors of such works are generally more personally interrelated to the work in that way? I don't know. I know why I am uncomfortable about it, and I don't think it has anything to do with the genre I choose to write in. Authors, help me out here -- I am on the fence and the nails are diggin' into my ass. What's your personal take on it?
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Thursday, June 11, 2009
In the review game, I often get personalised requests to review books. Most of the time, they are novellas. Seems logical, since I write them exclusively, have read and studied the form extensively, and I am the resident expert peep here on the site. I am an advocate for the form, and while I love reviewing them, I am always surprised to find authors and reviewers alike inaccurate in their definitions and expectations of the genre. I have turned away many review requests simply because the book might have been novella length -- 17500 to 40000 words -- but it was not an actual novella. Oftentimes, the book was merely an underdeveloped novel, lacking the genre characteristics a novella is required to possess. So today, I wanted to talk a little about those particular genre characteristics in order to help authors, reviewers, and readers understand what a novella is, what they should be looking for, and what there is to appreciate in this beautiful yet underused art form.
Although invented in Italy in the middle-ages as a form of social satire, in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth centuries writers took it upon themselves to take the novella and forge it into a bona fide literary genre of its own. One with its own very distinct structure, precepts, and rules. Since the Germans were the most active writers of the Novella at that time, it made perfect sense for them to define it, as well: “A novella is a fictional narrative of indeterminate length— generally 17500 to 40000 words by today’s modern standards—restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point, provoking a logical, but surprising end. Novella tend to contain a concrete symbol, which is the narration's steady point.”
What we look for in a novella is a concentrated focus on theme and character and an intense exploration of its thesis. The thesis, in itself, should be symbolically represented throughout the story. One can have multiple symbols, but there must be a symbolic aspect that illustrates the “dilemma” we are going to be presented with in the work. Think Aesop’s Fable and you are on the right track. So let’s break it down and take a look at the structure, precepts, and rules for a minute with respect to writing a novella accurately.
Thesis and Theme
Theme is the subject, and the thesis is the particular philosophy being argued with regard to the subject. Novellas tend to focus on a single suspenseful event, situation, or conflict. Most of the time, this is of the existential, philosophical, or theological variety. I strongly suggest to novella writers that their thesis be addressed early on, in the first chapter preferably. Don’t bludgeon your reader with the intent; it should be there, but just under the surface. Novellas are all about suggestion and the subtle joy of inference. How things are said and what is not said are critical in a novella. We have limited word count to work with here, so choosing the right words is paramount. Your intent should be clear and though-provoking but not overpowering -- quick and pointed.
Plotting and the Argument
I am not a big fan of deliberate plotting. A good story flows the way it should and ends when it should, but the concentrated focus of a novella dictates how it’s plotted to some degree, and writing the critical plot elements into scenes is the best way to accomplish the task. We don’t have a lot of room for meandering, and so I suggest the author refrain from veering off into a maze of subplots and back-stories. The scenes need to be intensely focused and the “theme” of each scene needs to directly argue for or against the main thesis. There must be a mix of conflict and resolution, internal and or external, which moves the characters along the appropriate arc, and which will eventually lead to the unexpected turning point. If you are going to use foreshadowing techniques, like I do, keep them subtle. The same holds true for expository moments, make sure they aren’t abrupt so as not to interrupt the flow of the story -- balance is key here, we want to show and tell ... Shoot for a heady mix of scene and narrative. You might find that novellas lean more towards narrative than scene, so your narrative areas should be just as engaging. The ebb and flow should engage the reader's intellect and their emotions.
Novellas, in general, tend to be more character-centric, a character study if you will, and so the characters in a novella should be finely-drawn: crafted with care and meticulous attention to detail. They must be extraordinary examples of humanity’s volatility. They must love, hate, and everything in between with ardour. Due to the length and thematic constraints, I generally advise novella writers to focus on one main character with the minor interactive characters limited to no more than 5. Why? Well, focus and intensity is extremely important, and we don’t want the story to read like a parade of caricatures. Limiting the arc to just one character allows for deeper development. Your main character needs to be the perfect embodiment of your thesis. Focus should be on their dominant traits and how those traits argue for or against the story’s philosophy. You must push the boundaries a bit and take those traits to their quintessential dimensions. Release them from all their mundane qualities and your main character will not only be more intriguing but more powerful. That power and intrigue equates to relatability and emotional relevance -- the all important psychological connection between the story and your reader. Thin characters cannot reflect. Keep that in mind. As far as transient characters go, have as many as you like, use them in any way you like, just be wary of the parade scenario and you will be fine, for they too must also argue for or against the thesis.
Should be muted. Again, we don’t have room for expansive pages of objective detail in a novella, so objective details need to be kept to a minimum. What we want in a novella is subjective detail. We want to do some scene setting, of course, and we want those settings to have tone and texture, but we want that tone and texture to come from within not from without. A novella should express not what the characters actually see, but how they see it, how they feel it, taste it, hear it, and more importantly how they see it emotionally. How a character relates to their world in a novella is a direct reflection of your thesis. It ties the characters to the thesis and unifies the elements of the story. Unnecessary elements diminish the intensity of a novella, so as the old saying goes: If it isn’t the story, get rid of it. The storyline should be taut even if the prose is romantic, dreamy, poetic, satirical, or otherwise. Whatever your style, just keep it uncluttered.
When I review a novella, the concrete symbol is the second thing I look for after the thesis. I expect to find it, and it had better be there. If there is more than one, all the better, but don’t go nuts about it. Here are a few from my favourite novellas:
Shawshank Redemption -- The rock hammer
Story of the Eye -- Eggs.
Brokeback Mountain -- The Mountain itself.
In my own story The Thin Wall -- The Blade from the Painting.
Hellraiser “The Hellbound Heart” -- The Puzzle Box.
I am Legend -- The Blood or rather virally infected blood.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll -- The Potion.
Normally in the course of writing the novella, the symbolic aspects will just appear subconsciously, and so we don’t have to worry about it too much. However, for further reading I always suggest Carl Jung’s Man and his Symbols. In a novella, the symbol is the embodiment of the theme and the thesis, which ultimately are the driving forces of the story.
Ah the end. Our unexpected turning point should provoke a logical but surprising end. It’s difficult to surprise these days. I know that, but we should try to do our very best to stay away from cliché endings, and surprises are easier if we keep some things concealed. However, even if the ending is not particularly surprising, it needs to be logical within the context of the story. The concluding chapter should be convincing. It’s the last chance you will have to show the courage of your convictions; it’s the last chance you will have to argue for your thesis, so do it well.
Here is a short list of some of my favourite novellas:
Animal Farm (1945) George Orwell
Anthem (1938) Ayn Rand
The Bear (1941) William Faulkner
The Bicentennial Man (1976) Isaac Asimov
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) Truman Capote
A Christmas Carol (1843) Charles Dickens
Death in Venice (1913) Thomas Mann
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) Leo Tolstoy
The Hellbound Heart (1984) Clive Barker
Heart of Darkness (1902) Joseph Conrad
I Am Legend (1954) Richard Matheson
Legends of the Fall (1977) Jim Harrison
The Metamorphosis (1915) Franz Kafka
The Mist (1980) Stephen King -- I love all King’s Novellas: Shawshank Redemption is my absolute Favourite though.
Of Mice and Men (1937) John Steinbeck
The Old Man and the Sea (1952) Ernest Hemingway
A River Runs Through It (1976) Norman Maclean
Seize the Day (1956) Saul Bellow
The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931) H. P. Lovecraft -- Love all his work.
The Story of The Eye (1928) Georges Bataille -- Love all his novellas.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) Robert Louis Stevenson
The Stranger (1942) Albert Camus
The War of the Worlds (1898) H.G. Wells
Young Zaphod Plays it Safe (1986) Douglas Adams
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In any event, check out their FAQ pages. As a reader, I always flip through a book before I buy it, and so preview pages equal flipping in the e-commerce arena.
Monday, June 08, 2009
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Sunday, June 07, 2009
Preparing to Sell E-Books, Google Takes on Amazon
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: May 31, 2009 New York Times
Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market.
"In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device."
Thursday, June 04, 2009
We have spoken before about the Vitruvian Narrator, and so this week, I would like to talk about The Interpretive Reader. Most in the review game know what that means, so I won’t explain it.
Most reviewers also know that to be an interpretive reader it takes a certain amount of theoretical knowledge, a bit of skill, a certain mindset, a lot of practice and patience, and it must be learned if your reviews are going to be worth their salt. I follow quite a few review blogs, and I chose them specifically for their thoughtful and interpretive analytical style. For more information about interpretive reviewing, see here.
Now, I am not condemning the literal read as a lesser read. You know, the books wherein everything is nicely plotted, the characters motivations are all out there in the open (often jammed down your throat), and the descriptive detail is so elaborate and lengthy that very little is left to the imagination. This sort of book is a pleasant diversion. We are given all the facts, and so we can just relax and enjoy the read. And, while I like a good beach read every now and then, my preference leans towards the challenging interpretive piece. I am also of the opinion that literary critics and reviewers owe it to their readers to be interpretive in their approach, beach read or not. When it comes to art as fiction, we can’t afford to miss anything: Less is often more, and what isn’t said is often more important that what is. I will share a few examples from past, present, and some self-published.
First, we can look at Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. This piece, written in the “dramatic” or objective point of view, reveals very few facts about the characters, and it never explicitly states what the couple is arguing about. The reader must interpret their dialogue and body language, as nothing is told of their backgrounds and their attitudes towards the situation or one another. However, in one sentence, early on in the story, Hemingway writes that the man we have been observing thus far: “drank and Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train.” Ooops. Did Hemingway actually violate the cardinal rule of dramatic point of view? Yes, he did. With the word reasonably, he went against everything maintained about POV consistency. A mistake? I think not. In that one little would be err, he gave us a world of information about the man we were observing. He gave us the man’s opinion. In that opinion, that one little word, the reader can now make a world of assumptions about the man's character. Nothing beats character insight, especially in a story where all the insight has to come from the reader.
In Madame Bovary, Flaubert’s first-person narrator enters into the minds of all the other characters. Did Flaubert absentmindedly forget he was writing in First-Person? I don’t think so, since the spots of forgetfullness span the entire three parts of the novel. An Omniscient First-person narrator??? Not possible, not correct, an abomination -- It's heresy, I tell you, Heresy! No, I am kidding, this is Flaubert we are talking about here, and this is a prime example of multiple narrative techniques used within the same body of work. A first person narrator can be omniscient, especially if the narrator is one of the characters and the story is told in the past tense. The narrator in these cases has had ample opportunity to reflect back on the events and the opinions of those involved—up close and at a distance, accurately or not. With care, using the techniques of limited and omniscient POV in conjunction with each other is not only possible in a FP narrative, but downright brilliant. Anyone who says otherwise has obviously never opened a book on Literary Theory, so I am not sure how much I would trust their opinion. Now for something even more risque; how bout this one from Bowen’s The Demon Lover, which is much more overt in its shift: “Resuming work at the chest, she set about making up a number of parcel in a rapid, fumbling-decisive way. These, with her shopping parcels, would be too much to carry; these meant a taxi—at the thought of a taxi her heart went up and her normal breathing resumed. I will ring up the taxi now; the taxi cannot come too soon: I shall hear the taxi out there running its engine, till I walk calmly down to it through the hall. I’ll ring up—But no: the telephone is cut off … She tugged at a knot she had tied wrong.” Hmmmm. Did you notice the switch? Instantly intriguing, isn't it, how it just catches you off guard? But now we know that the narrator and character are the same person. Gives a more authentic feel to the manic mindset of the narrative.
In the less is more and what goes unsaid is more important than what hits the page department: In Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood, we are privy to the exposition of George Smith's life through an essay, an essay written in third person dramatic POV by George himself. In said essay, the main character’s girlfriend becomes pregnant. George states that: “She missed her period two times already, well, he knew that really before she did, she never used to keep track.” So how did he know? It's a backwoods story, so it wasn’t like George had a calendar. We do find out during the course of the novel, but we never find out directly how he knew, and we never find out directly what sexual proclivity he had that allowed him to know. It remains utterly unsaid and must, again, be inferred by the reader. One must interpret every subtle nuance of this story, every word, just as George’s psychologist had to with the essay. The devil is in the details, especially the subtle ones.
In Roger Sakowski’s From an Otherwise Comfortable Room, which I am reading for review now, we are introduced in the first chapter to a character by the name of Tailspin. “And so it was, his profound weight of secret expression settled on him in folds of morbid obesity and age[…]. What a figure he made. […] his head completely shaven except for his burly, white eyebrows billowing over his wobbling eyes. His poor, poor eyes, looking in diametrically opposed directions.” Now, one might think this is arbitrary character description, but to the interpretive reader, it makes a profound statement about human nature. To have a diametrically opposed point of view, well, that my friend, is human, in all its wonderful conflictedness. It’s amazing we can see straight at all for all our inner turmoil.
Then we have Shannon Yarbrough’s Stealing Wishes. The book is littered with cliché similes. Life, and everything in it, is like something else, something we have heard a million times before. Some might scoff and declare it bad writing, novice writing, but an interpretive reader will instantly see the pattern, a pattern flawlessly true to the main character, Blaine—an OCD main character who readily admits that he is: “A man with no opinion of his own.” This "would be" novice error gives us more insight into Blaine’s psychology than anything he directly admits within the confines of the narrative. Regardless of whether or not the author did this deliberately or subconsciously, it was brilliant.
Lastly, we have one from my own novella The Thin Wall. In the first chapter, we are eavesdropping on five friends at a London pub. Julian is the first to offer up any dialog: “So,” he said as if already demanding an answer, “We all still headin’ out to the ole family plot for holiday. I have confirmed … we’ve got the run of the place. We can paint the walls chartreuse should we feel so inclined. Hell, we can douse the place with petrol and light a match for all I care. Ha! I don’t care … let’s do it … burn it to the ground.” With that statement, one might assume that I am setting up a scene to come later in the story. One might also assume it’s nothing more than idle chitchat, or one might assume that I am exposing the character’s bravado. As far as the first assumption, I try very hard not to be that obvious. Secondly, the cardinal rule of dialog is to refrain from idle chitchat, and lastly, sure, on the surface it does expose a character flaw, that being Julian’s tendency towards bravado. However, if one were to look a bit closer, a bit interpretive, one might see the true intent. We might be told in the next paragraph that Julian feels no love loss for his parents, but the depth of that loss has already been revealed by him in his own chosen words: “family plot.” The fact that Julian referred to his childhood home as an interment site tells us all we need to know about his particular affectedness: In essence, he said: The place where I was buried. I might have revealed more about the whole crap affair, but I felt that would have diminished the poignancy of Julian's own words. That was as much as his pride would ever allow him to say, and a character must be true to themselves.
Even though these are just a few scattered examples, this is why I advise against strip-search reviews. We all know what those look like. Reviewing is a craft in itself. We aren’t just regurgitating the blurbs here, and people who read, appreciate, and base their buying decisions on reviews are looking for insight and opinion. They are looking for something beyond a plot synopsis. For interpretive reviewers, having a subliminal mindset is our speciality. It’s what we do best: We see beyond the style-guide rules—we see beyond the words. We can see the meaning behind the medium with clarity and depth. Personally, I read interpretively simply because I just don’t want to miss anything interesting. More importantly, I am recommending books to other readers, and I don't want them to miss anything interesting, either.
Thanks to the LLBR for the library link.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
May 22, 2009
"The aforementioned figures, along with bold projects like The Obama Time Capsule appear to have elevated self-publishing and POD from their dismissed positions as so-called “vanity presses.” However, in the big picture, what does this new development mean for the publishing industry itself? According to Bowker’s Gallagher, “It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench.”
Perhaps the 2009 Books In Print® database will tell a whole other tale entirely."
Full article can be read here.
Monday, June 01, 2009
We here at the peeps hope you enjoy the book and would love to hear your thoughts.
Next Free Book Friday will be June 26, 2009 ... but, real-estate is a hot commodity in my home library, so I may have mystery books to give away. Stay tuned.
Posted by Nick de la Mare On May 18, 2009
"Amazon is in a better position to win with its new self-publishing service than old-school book publishing houses. Perhaps the counter-intuitive way to save the publishing industry is to love books a little less, to cooperate instead of compete and to explore new vehicles for content."
"It's often said that the most profound industry transformations come from completely unexpected quarters. Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan, explored this theory. To paraphrase the work, many industries are inward-looking and, as a result, are best prepared to deal with issues that come from worlds similar to their own, and unprepared to deal with unexpected difficulties. The Black Swan theory is based on the assumption that the "impossible" or unimaginable will happen, especially to industries that have traditionally been more insular."
Read Full Article Here.