Tag Archives: Author

Stop Buying E.L. James a Yacht!

E.L. James (author of the Fifty Shades of Grey blight) is publishing a guide for writers, and it’s all our fault.

Can we just take a moment to sit down and think, though?  Cause I need a breather before I get into this.  And maybe a stiff drink.  (I said drink, cool it!)

It’s been four hours; do I need to call someone about this?

Personally, I feel sick to my stomach and I’m not sure I even recognize reality right now.  I look at my face in the mirror, and all I see is this disgusted look of bemusement, and I can’t get my eyebrows to stop doing that thing.

Why, Universe?  Why MORE Fifty Shades of Grey buzz?  Y U DO DIS??

I’ve been upset for a while, as many of you may know, about everything even tangentially related to Fifty Shades (including, but not limited to, the loss of the phrase “it’s all just shades of grey”), but just I can’t live in the negative space necessary to be the kind of upset Fifty Shades deserves. I actually have to step away from the topic entirely to de-stress and forget, for a minute, that Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more copies than the entire Harry Potter series, that E.L. James is now considered one of the highest paid authors in the world, and that she’s about to publish a guide to help other writers be [sarcasm] as talented and successful as she is[/sarcasm].

My mind is reeling from that last statement.

First I experienced Disbelief.  “Oh my god,” I said to my little dog, who was fast asleep, and also didn’t care, “E.L. James thinks she has valid advice to give.  Which, of course she does, because she’s the Messiah of Writing, now.  Have you not seen her bank money?”

Following the Stages of Grief, I experienced the briefest flare of Anger.  “This is going to ruin writing (and therefore, all life,) forever,” I thought, with no trace of hyperbole.

Then I skipped on to Acceptance, because ain’t no one got time for this, and thought “I have to share this,” because suffering is more bearable when shared.

But . . . how?

How do I share this with the people I know?  Even if they don’t think Fifty Shades is Abuse, they can at least see the objectively terrible prose for what it is.  How do I share this without feeding the negativity spiral and have us all chanting Satanic spells in the hopes one of them puts an end to this, the Darkest Timeline?

 

My Darkest Timeline survival kit.

And then I remembered the only line of thought that allowed me to fall asleep the last time I was so upset by the series; change the conversation.

Instead of calling Time of Death on quality in literature as we know it, we need stop bad literature from winning.

Now, our first instinct in this situation is to be appalled at the very notion that a writer with as little appreciable talent as James could even begin to instruct other writers in the craft.  This is considered a native instinct, up there with “fight or flight” and knowing it’s only a matter of time before Justin Bieber becomes his own religion.

 

Clearly, this has already happened.

 This serves two purposes: 1) To prove you have a brain, and 2) that it’s still working.

Working brain intact, we are right to be appalled by this news, because new, impressionable writers may look at James’ success and think “Writing sounded hard when I talked to those masochists typing on finger nubs and drinking way too much coffee.  To hell with that noise!”, and the next thing you know the stuff the internet was ashamed to show you becomes the next best sellers on all the shelves, because E.L. James is to literature what “reality” is to TV.

At least, that’s the fear.

This is, of course, ridiculous, because as long as there are writers with passion, there will be quality in literature.  The bigger (and by far, scarier) question lurking within that fear, though, is “After this, will quality writing even matter?”

I say “Yes.  But only if you make it matter.”

If you want to see quality published, you have to put effort into quality writing.  No brainer, right?

But here’s a problem.  The majority of writers seeking publication face a real uphill battle far beyond applying every trick, tip, and hard-won skill they ever paid a workshop to learn; writers are looking to craft the best, most engaging story they can manage without killing themselves (please), but publishers are looking for something they can sell.  If the two happen to coincide, so much the better, but what the writer pours into their craft often isn’t what the publisher is looking for when they turn the first page.

And that’s all before E.L. James publishes the lazy self-help version of a writer’s guide. (It has blank lined pages at the end for writers to “set down their own ideas, or ‘inner goddess'”, as all good lazy self-help books do, not because fluffing out pages, but because people interested in writing never keep paper or, say, computers around to facilitate “setting down” their ideas, so it’s really considerate of James to make sure space is provided for them, and not lazy at all.)

But, it’s not like writers have been unaware just how screwed over they are when they plight their troth with an established publisher — those authors who are successful were at least somewhat aware of the flaming hoops they’d be forced to hump in order to see their manuscript polished and shipped to bookshelves across the . . . well, county, probably — country if the publisher thought they could push it.

  
SPOILER ALERT: Publishers haven’t softened over the years.

If anything, they’ve figured out how to squeeze even more money out of every venture with the least amount of effort or risk on their part.  The writer does all the writing, and most of their own marketing, and almost all of their own promotion and public event managing until the publisher feels they’re enough of a safe bet to offer more.  If the author is really, really good at this, and makes enough money for the publisher, the author might catch some breaks for the future, and even see a cozy profit themselves.  I’m not saying they could live comfortably off that profit, but they could celebrate with a reasonably priced meal out on the town, and an off-brand bottle of champagne, if they used a coupon.

And I’m not pulling this out of my ass, either.  Search for articles around the internet designed to help writers, and once you get past the craft itself, it’s all about how to promote yourself.  Building a solid audience before you approach a publisher, for instance, illustrates to the publisher that you have the ability to market yourself (one less thing they have to worry about, then), and increases the odds your book will sell if they publish it. [relevant links attached – find them*]  That makes you a safer bet than an unknown author with no following and no internet presence.

Being an author isn’t glamorous.  Authors like J.K. Rowling are the exceptions to this publishing house sideshow, not the rule, and it’s still not without monumental effort that they succeeded.  But, her success is the fairytale we tell ourselves when we’re wallowing in writer’s block and too much mescal.  Rowling is the bedtime story we whisper before falling asleep, because picturing ourselves doing a talkshow circuit to give the breathless public insight into the mysteries of our process makes it easier to keep plugging away at the keyboard to just finish the damn manuscript.

I know, I know.  All of this sounds really depressing, which is probably because it is really depressing.

That was the conversation.  This is why we’re changing it.

Until recent years, it was both difficult and not terribly profitable to self publish — even if you did it, it could actually cost you a lot, and you were unlikely to reach much of an audience — but, thanks to glory of the internet, now it’s as easy as hitting the upload button and spamming every community you’ve ever joined until someone reads it. (It’s like success . . . .)  You could also go through outfits like Smashwords and Amazon, and get yourself free ISBN numbers, or take a more hands-on approach to make physical copies through CreateSpace, and similar, to distribute yourself.  (Pros and cons are a completely separate topic.  Stop it.)  The point is, it’s not a choice between printing in your basement, or bending over for the Rod of Publishment, anymore.
 

Pictured: Please don’t search for “rod” and “punishment” in the same keyword string.

 

We have options; we shouldn’t be afraid to use them.

If the publishers don’t want to take the risk on good prose, and you’re expected to do your own promotion, anyway, why not check out the indie scene?

But there is a second component to all of this; the reading public.  If everyone today loved War and Peace, E.L. James would have been sacrificed before Justin Bieber on the day of his birth, and writers would be rewarded for investing the time, effort, patience, and bouts of screaming insanity it takes to do what we do.  But we are not fortunate enough to live in that reality.

There is something we can do about it, though: Starve the publishers of the kind of public grateful for a series of books as thematically complex as a holiday dinner at Honey Boo-Boo’s. (Logan, shut up.)
 

Pictured: Character Development

 

The only reason publishers can get away with printing books barely edited to prevent copyright infringement is because people keep buying them.  I know you probably don’t personally know three-hundred-million people whom you can convince to not buy something, but that shouldn’t stop you from talking to those you do know.  I mean, it’s probably too late for all those grown-ups you know, all approaching thirty for the last twenty years, and watching their bodies slow down to die, but the young people can still be reached.  Teach kids to appreciate complexity, critical thinking and facing new challenges, and you’re going to have a generation of readers who aren’t looking for a book so simplistic in its execution it’s actually easier to read by repeatedly slamming it against your head.

I know this isn’t a perfect world — not everyone is going to automatically leap for Nietzsche and Dostoyevski (holy butts, I spelled both of those correctly on the first try!)–, but it’s only this far gone because we let it happen.

So, here’s the conversation: If you don’t like the idea of new writers giving in to the inner idiot we all have screaming obscenities at us, keep being better.  Stop buying idiot books written by idiots.  Discourage others from buying idiot books written by idiots.  You know how idiots get published?  The idiot public makes it profitable for idiot publishers (same thing?) to support bad prose, because it will sell better than a complex story written well by an author who cares.

—-
Adalind Monroe is a writer from a depressingly sunny part of Southern Oregon,  and hasn’t eaten since breakfast, so she’s really, really hungry now.
*I didn’t find them. 😦 I was too hungry.  I have failed you.

[seppuku][/seppuku]

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Vellum

Old Book

“The unutterable name of which was synonymous with the dead . . . “

Glass shattered against the cavern wall, enhancing dull stone with a dark shine. The thick fluid made sluggish progress down the unhewn angles, which jutted and thrust themselves into the cavern with perverted geometry, and lured the eye to plumb unwholesome cracks and crevices for knowledge which man should not own, as shadows danced in lurid relief where thrown by the hissing flames arrayed around the arcane lab.

Vyssith!” The haggard sorcerer’s embittered face contorted in a mask of disgust as epithets flew from his lips in the black language of the Forgotten. “Ek reth e’l vrei k’th ctholin vagh!” The hearth flames behind him howled beyond the confines of their stony prison, black and malevolent with the echoes of his fury.

All around lay scattered the evidence of his labors, the hand-scrawled essays and meandering notes, whose logic vacillated somewhere between cosmic insight and furious incoherence, piled each upon another with the haphazard organization of a mind that sees only order within chaos. They crawled over tables and benches, congregated in alcoves, and shuffled incessantly around the glowing beakers, tubes, and alchemical objet d’arcanum that occupied the sorcerer’s cramped work space.

Hand-crafted vellum whispered beneath the wizened hand groping so unceremoniously through their number for a sheet he knew must be among them.

Theassyf kek vrei ath!”

Hidden beneath the dark leather of a blasphemous tome, the unutterable name of which was synonymous with the dead, peeked the note which he so desperately sought. Watery, bloodshot eyes perused the indecipherable scratches and bizarrely elegant swirls before finding what he needed. In a manic haze, he drifted to the table which served as his desk, and removed the antiquated quill pen from its inkwell, habit alone driving his hand to tap the tip against the well’s stained rim.

The quill’s nib scraped against the pale vellum as he scribbled in the weird language of his masters. Straightening from the desk, he listened as unheard voices slithered through his thoughts, licking at what remained of his soul with a wanton hunger. Nodding to their unspoken commands, he bent to the table, and, wetting the quill, added to the note in his own tongue.

“The formula is incomplete. Without the essence intact, the skin cannot be used to bind the Word. I must attempt again when the village is quiet and has had time to forget its loss. It will not be quality enough for The Book, but the vellum from his hide will be exceedingly fine; I will harvest it for myself.”

Setting aside the quill, the old man took up the crescent-shaped lunarium and began to sharpen it against a smooth strip of stained leather. As he approached the child’s body, stretched tight across a frame not unlike the herses used by other membrane makers, but which was larger and more sturdy than its counterparts, he began to hum an odd lullaby he remembered was sung to him when he had been about the same age.

*****

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

(Read when the mood suits.  Humor exists below.)

—–

Arbitrary decision – You occasionally get flash fiction instead of bloggery.  But that’s cool, right?  Right?  You should probably let me know.  For reals, or I’ll keep doing it and have no idea that you hate me for it, which is sad for everyone involved.  Especially the bunnies.  Think of the bunnies?

Do you have a Flash Fiction piece you’d like to see shared with the internet folks at large?  Send me your stories for Flash Fiction Friday and one (or more, if the story is UNGODLY short) lucky writer(s) will see their story featured here.

[OFFICIAL STUFF:  Please include any links to previous works, official pages, personal blogs, biographical material, or pictures of bunnies you may want linked at the end of your story to direct traffic back your way, or to make me smile extra hard.  E-mail all submissions to flashfictionfriday dot ci at gmail dot com, subject line “FLASH FICTION: <Story Title>”.  All submissions must be written as flash, and may not be snipped from larger pieces.  Strict limit of five hundred (500) words.  Please include word count in the body of your e-mail, preferably right after the title.  Stories must be received by Wednesday to be considered for Friday inclusion.]

For more weird tales and chilling prose, check me out on Smashwords.  Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook!  I promise it’s all kinds of fun.  Pretty much every kind of fun.  I mean, pretty much.

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I Write A Blog Now, Blogs Are Cool.

Hello, Audience!

Let’s imagine for the next few moments that we have assembled in a lovely little library in the English countryside.  The color pallet is warm with dark woods and natural light, accented with cool blues, rich reds, and soothing teals.  The center of the room is dominated by exquisitely comfortable chairs and couches ringed by concentric circles of shelf upon shelf packed full with books, and the air is redolent with the smell of fresh coffee and old paper.  An old Persian rug delights bare toes while protecting the polished oak floor beneath this cabal of comfort.   This is where we will meet to chat about this and that, discuss writing and life, and maybe even learn a few things about ourselves and the world around us.  Mostly, though, it’s where we’ll laugh, because other than sleeping, laughing is my favorite thing ever.

Truth time and full disclosure:  I don’t live in the English countryside, nor do I have this library, but they sure do sound nice, don’t they?  Fear not, though, for soon enough (SOON ENOUGH, DEAR READER!) I will have both these things, and then I’ll invite you all over for coffee and writer chats.  Also there should be a hearth.  Terribly romantic, the hearth.  Perhaps not entirely safe with so much paper and wood around, but it’ll be fine if you don’t insist on roasting marshmallows all the time.  Hm . . . I think that’s the first thing I need to ban in my fictitious library.  No roasting marshmallows.  Sausage should be okay, though.

So, hello and welcome!  As you may have guessed, or read somewhere, or psychically intuited (and if that’s the case, kindly refrain from hanging out in my head as that’s where I keep all my important stuff), I am a writer.  Up and coming, they would say, and they’d be well within their rights to do so.  My genres, as you’re no doubt curious to discover, are predominantly Fantasy and Horror, though I do occasionally make forays into Sci-Fi and Steampunk, or toss them all in an atom smashing Hadron Collider to see what comes out of the resultant explosion of inspiration.  At least, I hope it’s inspiration.  It smells like burnt paper and, for some reason, whiskey, so either it’s inspiration or the ghost of Ernest Hemingway is one unhappy camper.

What’s that?  Why yes, I AM a nerd, in fact.  I think that to some extent all genre writers are, whether they admit it or not, but I most certainly am.  I love the Trek and the Who (well, I mean, I also like The Who, but they’re  not who . . . the Who?  I– never mind), the Potter and the Hobbits, Lemon Demon, Wil Wheaton, Comic Con, [Day9], Felicia Day and The Guild, a little WoW, a little Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Devil’s Carnival, and Terrance Zdunich, and, guys, you guys, seriously, I love H.P. Lovecraft.  HUGE into Lovecraft.  Love . . . Lovecraft.  Yes.  Lovecraft.

This isn’t my first blog, or my first blog about writing, but the other one is . . . dumb.  Well, no, it’s not dumb.  I’ll probably actually re-post some entries here, but I got very excited about documenting the processes that go into Fantasy world-building, which is still just so awesome, but a little too specific, and I wasn’t always doing anything interesting with the world-building when I should have been writing entries about it, so it never went anywhere.  But now there’s this!  And it’s whatever I want it to be!  It will probably be about writer things, but it will probably also have nothing to do with writing, maybe simultaneously, though I suppose seeing that would depend on how many realities you’re reading the blog in, and whether two opposing topics are posted on the same day.

Yes.  I think that all looks to be in order then.  Congratulations on a successful first post, Me!  Now if you can just find it in you to post with enough regularity to keep you some followers, ah, that’s the dream!

*****

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adalind Monroe is one cool cucumber three clicks away from sending ninjas after the people who created this site for making it impossible to do what she really needs to do.  Sure, posting words to a blog is the biggest part of writing a blog, but being kicked out of an unsaved post every time she wants to insert a helpful link to her biographical page, because the ability to add a widget to do that for her is apparently too much to ask for, is so many shades of uncool, you guys.  For reals.  Fix that.

If you can find her author page, check out the links to find her published stories, or search for her directly on Smashwords.com.

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