Monthly Archives: September 2012

Emmylou Harris Appears Courtesy of Nonesuch Records

Saw Lawless the other day. It was fabulous. But the movie is incidental. What struck me during the credits was the line written beneath all the songs on which Emmylou collaborated: “Emmylou Harris appears courtesy of Nonesuch Records.”
What struck me about that line was its similarity to publishing non-compete clauses, especially the type that prevent a writer from publishing anything – even a blog post- without the publisher’s permission. I can almost understand agreeing to the request of a narrow non-compete wherein a writer agrees not to publish a work that could be confused for the one with the publisher for a certain period after publication…almost. But to essentially give someone else control of your working life? To have to answer to someone else if you want to collaborate on a soundtrack or write and shop a new series? No. Oh my god, no.
That kind of contract essentially locks you into writing what someone else wants you to write. Say you have a novel you meant as a standalone. You want to move on but your publisher wants sequels. You signed that clause. They tell you they won’t publish anything but a sequel. Do you write the sequel or start over with a new pen name and lose all the momentum you had as author A?
I would never put myself in that position. Not now. If I had gotten my shit together as a writer 10 years ago, or even 5, maybe I would have put myself in that position because it was the only viable option to publish.
Instead I can write what I want, at the pace I want, and publish it when I want. The counter-argument that a disintermediated writer answers to the market and is therefore not free to write what s/he wants is inaccurate. Incomplete, at least. A writer answers to the market only if they are concerned solely with money, and have empirical evidence that the book they REALLY want to write will not sell. Which there is no way to determine other than to run parallel universe experiments, since as far as I know Schrodinger’s ebook cannot simultaneously exist once it has been observed (i.e., published). And good luck finding a spare alternate universe. If you do, your problems no longer revolve around how to make money off your books.
Even if you wrote both the book you wanted and the one you thought the market wanted and published them on the same day, the very act of publishing two books on the same day invalidates the hypothetical results of publishing one or the other.
This reality (that we can only know results at the point of observation) is what has always made traditional publishing a speculative investment…a form of artistic venture capitalism. Self-publishing still works on speculation…the difference is that it’s the writer taking on the risks and reaping the rewards (or absorbing the costs), versus the publisher taking the financial risk and taking the lion’s share of the profits in return.
The level of faith you as a writer publishing yourself have in your work correlates to the amount of your investment in your book. If you don’t have the money you might pay in opportunity costs – the time it takes to learn how to design a cover or code an ebook is time you could have spent writing (or spending time with family or friends or working at a job that pays you directly). But if your investment pays off, it pays off for you, and you have complete control over your creative and financial decisions.
I understand why some people might prefer the other way, but only in the most abstract of ways…for, surely if I really understood, I would make that choice for myself? But I would not. Not now. From where I stand now, not ever. I’ll write what I want to read, and I will let readers find me. And if it’s a waste of my time, well, it’s my time to waste. Mine, not a publisher’s.


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A Turtle…a Turtle with Three Legs…a Turtle with Three Legs and ADD

That is what I write like.


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When Did Sex Stop Being Part of YA Books?

I read a fair amount of YA books in relation to the total number of books I read in a year…it’s probably tied for second-most-read genre with fantasy, both of them behind romance by a magnitude of 10. One thing that watching Turn Me On, Dammit! reminded me about was how big a part sex used to¬†play in YA fiction.¬† I am talking about the books I was reading back in the late 1980s and early 90s, authors like Christopher Pike and R.L. Stein and L.J. Smith (the FIRST time). Not all¬†of them had sex¬†in all of¬†their books, and not all of the books featured teenage protagonists who were sexually active, but…my memory is that it was a regular feature to have characters who had sex within the story, even if it was in a fade to black way. The books looked with a realistic eye at the fact that a lot of teenagers were having sex and all teenagers were fascinated by sex.

I look at the YA books I’ve read in the past five years, and…the sex is not there anymore. Maybe it’s just the books I’ve read, and overall the genre is as realistic as ever. But my impression is that the sex has been taken out to save the delicate sensibilities of “the children”–by which, of course, I mean the delicate sensibilities of editors and agents and Twilight moms who don’t want to think about their children as sexual beings yet.

So when did this happen?¬† Why?¬† How?¬† The disintermediated author in me wants to blame it on major publishing handing¬†acquisitions to women who believe in political correctness and the fragility of the sub-adult mind. I am not sure that’s actual the case, though, or at least not exclusively. The truth is that while our culture becomes ever more sexualized it has also become more intent on the idea of a spotless, perfect childhood than ever. Childhood has suddenly become some sacrosanct time, where every danger and uncomfortable idea must be kept away from them. It’s why people move to gated communities when they have children and spend 10 hours a week running their kids around to five different activities and pre-reading all books and pre-watching all movies they might give to their kids in order to make sure there is nothing offensive in the material. If a politician says some law restricting freedom of speech is to protect the children, suddenly we’re expected to agree with that, as if the single most important aim in all of human life is protecting the children.

No. This is a world made by and for adults. If your kid is that fragile, keep it at home. It’s a bad idea to protect your kids from every kind of adversity and problem, because that bubble existence robs them of the learning experiences they need to become functional adults who can face problems, deal with them, and move on.

It’s an even worse idea to remove those ideas from the literature your kids are allowed to read. If they can’t get that exposure in real life, at least books give them a chance to face those problems and ideas, to think through how they might react to such a situation or handle such a decision, in the abstract. Considering an idea in the privacy and safety of your own mind is much safer than having to think it through on the fly when you’re suddenly thrust into that situation.

So…where did the sex go? Why do all the YA books I’ve read in the last five years focus on romance to the exclusion of sex (with, of all exceptions to make, Twilight as an example of a book that at least talks about why they’re not having sex)?¬†What happened to the teenagers who have had actual teenage sex, you know, got drunk at a party and regretted it later, or had a serious steady relationship since 8th grade and finally went all the way in 9th or 10th?¬† In all the dystopian futures have teenagers’ hormones magically been excised to only get schoolroom crushes on each other and not want to bone?

Personally, I hope the digital self-publishing will give rise to the kind of YA books that should be available–those that address the entire spectrum of teenage issues and not just a narrow few that censor-minded editors think helicopter parents would be¬†okay with their kids thinking about.

…but maybe this is just me? Maybe I have a selection bias with the books I have chosen to read, and they were not indicative of the issues and experiences covered in current YA lit at large? Discuss.


Filed under Digital Revolution, Rants and Storms

Turn Me On, Dammit!

Or, Få meg på, for faen

The hubs and I just saw this charming little movie. It’s the story of a teenage girl’s sexual exploration, but not at all in the lurid or “shocking” way an¬†American movie would go with that kind of topic. Instead it’s an uncomfortably honest but charmingly wholesome look at what it means to be a 16-year-old girl. It’s probably the most honest depiction of what kind of fantasies¬†run through a young woman’s mind–certainly¬†they played out like mine used to–and it’s a great refresher course on what it felt like to be a teenager, obsessed with sex and uncertain of an outlet for it.

Lily stamps this one “Approved.”

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2300 Words Can Change Everything

One game-changing (for the hero) scene down, one to go. 

I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out.¬† Quite pleased. It’s a nice feeling, since an awful lot of the words I’ve written lately have come out with the ease of pulled teeth and have been about as comfortable to look at afterward. I can always fix them later, so I’ve focused on just plowing forward, but it’s nice to feel good about a section I’ve put to bed.

I’m also pretty excited to move onward and see exactly how the other all-important scene plays out. I have about three versions of it outlined, and I don’t yet know which one (or a different one yet) will be the exact string of events when it comes down to writing them in long-form.

But for now, the¬†day’s writing is done. I don’t think I can top that number, certainly I can’t top that quality, and, well, football’s about to come on.¬† Time to crack a beer and cheer for my team. And all the other SEC teams. And drool over Herbie.

Lily out.

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Harbingers of Fall

Kirk Herbstreit is popping up in the search terms used to find me again. Must be football season! I am always happy to learn that I am not the only person who appreciates a modern dandy.

Starbucks’pumpkin spice latte is back. The daiquiri and smoothie shops will no doubt have a version in the next week or two, as well, and – if they bring it back – one of the flavored coffee creamers has a good pumpkin ¬†sometimes.

The movies either out or due out in the next few weeks have suddenly gone from summer popcorn lowest common denominator fare to interesting- to amazing-looking films. Topping my see list are lawless (because of John Hillcoat), Looper (looks awesome and I dig Rian Johnson and Bruce and JGL), The Master because Paul Thomas Anderson is the best director working right now), and The Cloud Atlas (which just looks awesome, visually, and seems like a good sweeping epic sf film and we haven’t had one of those in ages).

The weather hasn’t started to change yet in terms of heat, but there are now moments when the summer suddenly feels finite. A nip to the air, a dryness, a change…..

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Fun With Statistics – September Style

Labor Day was a good and productive time for me: 4380 words of forward progress today. 1065 words yesterday, and 1461 on Saturday.

My word count is up over 117,000, but that is including the dead words of a subplot that is going to be cut and an opening that is going to be compressed. In real terms it’s probably about 100,000.

Long, either way, and longer by a third than I expected this story to be when I started writing it. Oops.

Here’s the fun bit: I am about to start the climax. Like the next time I sit down to write–which will damn sure not be yet tonight, as my brain is mush and words no longer make sense to me–I will be writing one of the two most powerful (in my opinion) scenes of the book. It’s one I haven’t even let myself sketch out in conversation, because I want to be able to write it in the moment, with the visceral fear and adrenaline all angled properly into the right set-up, because I just have this feeling that writing a scene of mortal terror is going to be intense enough that I only get one time through it with those emotions on tap. I am happy to tweak it later, when I’m out of the zone, but the writing of it? One-shot deal.

After that I get back to scenes that are half-written in advance. Things will wrap up faster without the unnecessary villain.¬† I don’t have an ETA. End of the week if I can remember when my alarm is going off at 4 just what it is I want to get up and write.

Looking like I won’t have anything but my roughest rough draft done by my one year deadline, though. C’est la vie.

Already thinking about which novella to tackle during the rewrite/beta read/editing process. Have not come to any fast decision yet.

All in all I feel like this right now:

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