Category Archives: Publishing

Leave it to Angry Robot(s) to leave the door open

So while I was shuffling through my documents and bookmarks yesterday, looking for something  to work on (my current work-in-progress isn’t exactly progressing) I learned that a publishing company I like is flinging open their mailbox and accepting submissions. From 1 December 2015 to 31 January 2016, they will be accepting full-length works of  “SF, F, and a little pinch of WTF.” This means that I might have hope for the two novellas and scattered story fragments staring a rather different uncivilized hero… it’s now time to put these together, make them something that people will want to read, and then smack them over the head until they read it. Err, I mean, publish it and give them the opportunity to honor me by reading my stories. Yeah. That’s what I meant.

If you’re a writer, check out the offer. If you’re a reader, check out their books. I’ve read a couple of them, and they have good taste.

Angry Robot Announces an Open Door Period

Slack-Off Saturday: Banned Books Month

I’m spending this morning working on two stories, an old one that needs revision and a new ending, and a new one that I think might have started out as an homage to 1950s-era creature features before making a left turn somewhere in the Inland Empire and downhill to Innsmouth, perhaps. Both stories are frustrating me, but I feel pushed to finish them as well. Rarely has my Muse been so insistent that I finish something. Usually she figures that her job is to just tell me the stories; it’s up to me and the squad of Editorial Elves that live in the basement of my head to turn it into something people might want to read. This time, however, she is bound and determined to make sure I type “THE END” on these things, and in a good location, too… I’m not allowed to get away with just slapping an ending on after the main plot thread is resolved. In fact, that’s the problem she had with the story I’m revising, and I believe she is holding all of the rest of my ideas hostage until I finish it.

However, this isn’t fiction, so I can get away with typing it. This is yet another rant about Banned Books Week here in the US, which starts tomorrow. Or, as I’d like to call it, Spoiled Readers Equating Mild Inconvenience With Censorship and Fascism.

First of all, let me be clear that I think nearly any kind of censorship by any government is bad. Yes, I’m sure the contrarians among us can find edge cases where censorship is justified; works that specifically and purposesly incite violence against a person or group are one such case, stolen nude pictures of celebrities would be another. But by and large, governments have better things to do than block private consenting individuals from reading what they want to read. Parents and private companies censoring things? I don’t like it, but I also don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility to intrude, either. And regardless of who or what is doing the censorship, it would seem that unless your control is complete and absolute (and in the USA, and thanks to Internet disemination, TOR browsers, WayBack machines, and vast caches of deleted material, it rarely is) the only thing an act of censorship will do is drive up demand for whatever is considered naughty. I think I’ve read two or three Playboy magazines since turning 18, and yes, I mean I really did read them, unlike the way I, err, perused them when I was 12 or 13. And the first time I tracked down a supposedly dirty book, I was bored with the blandness of it. (Then again, I started reading Stephen King when I was almost 12, so by the time I was in my late teens, I’d pretty much read it all, from canine-induced castration to sewer orgies.)

I do like how Banned Books Week calls attention to books that school districts have seen fit to remove either from their libraries or their reading lists, since it provides a window into what kids are reading, what adults are writing for them, and what scares their parents and teachers. And, well, those of us who remember their childhood… actually remember it and haven’t just painted a pleasant mural and plastered over the bad things… when we were in Junior High and High School, we all knew at least something about how people looked, how things worked, what drugs were, what abuse was, and how sexual and personal politics and bullying worked. We also all knew that it was hard to talk about it. Finding out that the adults allegedly in charge not only didn’t want us talking about it, they didn’t want other adults talking to us about it, lest we get ‘ideas’ or some such waffling and weak excuse, just made it that much harder to acknowledge or escape a bad situation. Indeed, at least one person I know had no idea she was being abused until she had a grade-school sex education class, and I’d be very surprised if her story is unique.

However, I still draw the line at calling what we do in this country ‘banning books.’ The books are still available. No one is getting jailed or killed because he has a copy of The Catcher in the Rye or Deenie. Police aren’t entering homes looking for copies of Ulysses. For that matter, when the people behind the publication of Ulysses wanted to force a court case in order to challenge its ban, they had to point out the book to the customs officer and insist he confiscate it. Even in the early 1980s in my tiny one-square-mile-town of Vernon, Michigan, we were able to find books if we really wanted them. And now, with more libraries than McDonalds in the US, and with many diverse sources of Internet distribution, it’s silly to say that a book is ever ‘banned’ in the US. It’s akin to a five-year old scraping his knee in the driveway and then screaming that his leg was chopped off. And one further note to school administrators:  kids and teens know about the Internet. If there’s a library in their town, or if they have a friend with Internet access (or if they have it) they are most likely going to find whatever you ban. Sorry to have to break it to you this way. It’s hard to plug a hole in a chain link fence.

Do your part to fight the removal of books from school and public libraries. If you have children, talk to them about what they read. That’s what my parents did. They only once told me that I wasn’t ready to read something yet but they also took their time to explain why, and I took their word for it. (Yes, this was before the hormonal shitstorm that was my combined experience of incipient bipolar disorder and puberty hit; I was able to talk rationally once in a while.) With other books and shows, they would explain what they didn’t like about it, or what they did like. That’s the absolute least you can do for your children, really. The same directive goes for librarians and teachers and administrators. Don’t ban the books. If you think it’s a piece of sensationalist sexist racist trash, explain why you think that and let people decide for themselves. And please, please, PLEASE stop calling the mild inconvenience of people living in the age of greatest literacy, intelligence, and information distribution ‘banning,’ or ‘fascism.’ You do nothing but show your unawareness of what the rest of the world is up to when you do that.

For my part, I’ve decided how I’m going to spend the rest of Banned Books Week. Every day I’m going to highlight (and in at least two of the cases, review) a book that was really and truly banned… meaning, people went to jail or died for publishing, diseminating, or reading this book. This is my effort to show that we really and truly are spoiled here in the US when so many cheap or free books are to be had virtually anywhere. Also, I hope to point out, as citizens of the world, that there is still work for us to do when it comes to setting information free. Comments are of course more than welcome.

Have a great week!

 

Writers Stealing Writers

Good morning folks. Thanks for gathering here with me today. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve taken this time to talk to you about a problem I’ve seen in the independent writing community, one that I really hope eventually goes away but might need a nudge or two from those who know better. And really, anyone reading this page knows better, or should. I’m talking about the problem of writers stealing books.

Obviously, I’m not talking about shoplifting* or even armed robbery of a Barnes and Noble delivery truck. (That exact thought may or may not have crossed my mind in the past. We’ll discuss that later, after my lawyer says it’s okay.) I’m not talking about plagiarism either, or the shadowy concept of ripping off someone’s ideas. The former is easy to prove and document, especially in the Internet age, and is universally hated already, and the latter… well, there are really only so many ideas out there. Any experienced writer already knows that the ideas aren’t nearly as important as the way you tell the story and the talent and skill you’ve invested in developing a voice, a voice that other readers will want to experience.

No, I’m talking about online book piracy. It’s tempting to do this, especially if you want to refer back to a book you’ve read before. Or maybe you just want to see if you want to read something, and the book winds up staying on your hard drive long after you’ve ‘previewed it’ to the last page. And even though there are literally millions of free books online (I literally mean literally there… it’s a shame that we have to literally specify that, now, though this author is happy enough that he doesn’t have to write this in Old English, that he can tolerate a changing language) it’s sometimes a matter of finding something a fellow writer recommended, or having to deal with a random wild hair that tells you you need to read that exact something and you need to read it now.

I’m not going to say I’ve never done this myself. And while I can’t speak for all writers, and I sincerely hope I’m not speaking for all writers, I suspect that more of us than not have made copies of books that we weren’t precisely entitled to. This is dangerous.

In my particular case, I made the leap to delete anything I had from a working writer that wasn’t legally acquired, freely or otherwise, because I realised that I was debasing my own work. By deciding that my need to read a new book right now trumped the right of the person who had done the work the right to make a couple of dollars from it, I was conterfeiting my own artistic effort. Why should I get any kind of money for my writing if I myself didn’t want to pay other writers? It was a hard choice… a few of the ten or so that I deleted were in a series of which I own other books, and I have always been quite the completist… but the right thing is very rarely ever easy to do. (It’s also almost accompanied by violent rationalisation by my inner voice… not the nice one, the other guy… who screams louder and louder the more the rest of me realises that something has to be done.) I suppose I’ll always want to preview things, or find the complete source of a quote or passage, but I will also have to force myself to be honest and remove anything with a shady provenance

As I launch a new phase of my writing and programming career, I thought it was necessary to start on as blank a page as possible. I can find books at the library, or through interlibrary loan, or on Project Gutenberg, or on Amazon Daily Deals, or through countless other legally free sources. I myself don’t have the greatest income right now, between trying to build a freelance career, a programming career, and studying, but I have enough to survive and to not be small and petty in my public behavior. I also really can’t stress going to the library enough; if we as writers don’t support them, they may just close on us. I strongly advise anyone reading this to do the same. If we support each other, we can support ourselves.

 

* I mentioned shoplifting. I truly believe that an author would never shoplift a book, especially if he or she knows what it takes to produce one. Conversely, anyone who does steal a book ceases to be an author, or at least ceases to have any right to be paid for a piece of work. However, I feel (I hope) that this is something that even the worst authors would never stoop to, so I chose not to focus on it.

Books and Piracy

Awesome article from Chuck Wendig. The only thing I’ll add is:

1) I cannot afford all the books I wish to read, either. Too bad no one’s invented this neat system where there are books for the taking, for a few weeks at a time. I’m sure if someone did come up with such a thing, they’d be so popular we’d have more of them in this country than McDonald’s restaurants.

That said, he does a good job of refuting a lot of points an anonymous book pirate gives him without coming off like a dickhead about it. (Unlike the pirate… “Now, take a deep breath and re-read 1 & 2.” Come on.)

On Piracy…

Writing for Anthologies

Here is an article from Bare Knuckle Writer about how to write for anthologies. Check it out. I know from my (limited) experience editing that more often than not, amateur writers will only read the guidelines so they can explain in their cover letter why they don’t apply to the piece that they’ve written.

Staying Inside the Lines

Who Likes Short Shorts?

For better or for worse, I’ve decided to start up the 50 Story Project again. If you feel this is a bad idea, blame Charlotte Cuevas… not only did she encourage me to start up again, she is considering doing something similar when she’s finished with her project to write 365 poems in a year. I can’t quite let a fellow writer and friend do two things that I’ve always wanted to do, before I do them, so that became the final push I needed. It also helps that I’m in a awkward spot with my two long form writing projects… a novella series and a new longer novel… and according to WebMD, the best prescription for what they amazingly didn’t diagnose as a tumor is: More writing.

In preparation for this, I’ve been reading a lot of short-short stories. After the novella, I feel this may be my favourite form of fiction. An early, formative book for me was the Scholastic anthology Best Short Shorts, which taught me that even though I loved the complex worlds to be found in Terry Brooks’s and Tolkien’s books, it was entirely possible to create an entire world in a page or three. Add in later experiences with O. Henry and Isaac Asimov, and the well- crafted, near poetic short-short story was something that constantly bubbled up from the drain in the little room that my Muse writes in. 

Over the next few days, until I publish my first of 52 stories for this project, I will link to my favourite short- shorts that I can find online. If you have any favourites, send me a link. 

Up on deck today: the inimitable Donald Barthelme with his story “The School.” I can’t recommend enough his anthology Sixty Stories. He was definitely a master of this difficult yet entertaining form. 

Here Be Dragons: The 140,000 Word Outline

Reblogged from Bare Knuckle Writer:

Click to visit the original postSo, those of you who’ve been here a while—or read through some of the archives—know that my Big Project, the one that’s taking up nearly all of my writing time at the moment, is the re-write of The Patchwork King. PWK* was last year’s NaNoWriMo project. You can read about the gradual descent of my sanity level here…

Read more… 391 more words

Amazing words of encouragement and wisdom from what is becoming one of my new favourite writing blogs.

Blogs/ Writers to look for

Eventually I’m going to have a blogroll at the side, but for now, I want to take time every Friday to list a few literary and writing sites that I enjoy. These are in no particular order; I don’t necessarily endorse everything they say, and in many cases, the writers probably have no clue who I am. They’re just blogs that I like to look at when I’m breaking from writing… whether in the sense of ‘taking a break’ or ‘becoming broken.’

Terrible Minds:  Chuck Wendig

I confess… I like his fiction, and I’m not trying to disparage it at all. But his blogging and non-fiction will forever occupy a place in my heart. A tiny, blackened, charred, obscene place, but a place nonetheless. His books of writing tips are shocking, funny, and just all-around great pieces of work.

Karavansara:  Davide Mana

Signore Mana and I connected a little while back, I think, because of some Sword-and-Sorcery articles I wrote for Way Too Fantasy. His blog is a wonderful repository of all things pulp fiction related, and has already pointed me to a few writers I may not have discovered. He also has a fun short on Amazon and hopefully more to come.

Reddit:  Writing

Not a personal blog, of course, and also one of the generally best sources of writing information, support, and entertainment. There are other subreddits based on what type of writing you’d like to do, but usually, a few minutes (okay… it’s reddit… a few hours) here give me the strength to keep going on one of my projects.

According to Hoyt:  Sarah Hoyt

I tried to link to one of her articles yesterday, only to realize that it wasn’t her day to post on the Mad Genius Club blog. (Also, I realized the importance of having someone double-check your posts, and triple-check if you’re at home recovering from the first time you took a sick day in four-and-a-half years.) According to Hoyt is the blog that really pushed me over the edge into self-publishing (along with a lot of encouragement from June Stormcrow, also at Way Too Fantasy). She blogs about libertarian and conservative issues a lot as well and always puts things into pointed, sometimes biting language.

I’ll have more later, and if anyone has any recommendations, please drop a line. I’m still trying to feel my way around the new blog and would love to get input from other writers out there.

Kate Paulk: First, Remove Head from Fundamental Orifice

This is an amazing counter-rant by Kate Paulk, an author who, with Sarah Hoyt, has indirectly pushed me along the self-publishing path. Also, you can’t go wrong by following and reading this blog.

First, Remove Head from Funamental Orifice

EDIT:  Speaking of removing one’s head, I initially attributed this to Sarah Hoyt, who blogs on Wednesdays at the Mad Genius Club, not Thursdays. Apparently, that’s what I get for posting while sick. Sorry!