Funny thing: I never stop writing. Haven’t stopped now. Been busy. Since April, Exciting Press has published like a dozen titles. Some mine, most not. And that’s on top of the fact that I moved in late July, but spent all of June and July doing so (June was packing, July was preparing the new house to be lived in). My fiancee and I purchased a house we have to reno a bit, so that’s meant new floors and new paints and new fixtures.
It’s been a lot of fun work I’m proud of. Few things are as empowering as installing a new ceiling light fixture.
And when I get busy, blogging’s always the first thing to go. Probably because I hate the word (“blog”? Blech), but also because it feels like it requires way more effort to be way more ephemeral. Even the sites that attract millions of readers every month require new posts every day (if not every hour), which means older stuff falls by the wayside and disappears from immediacy. And given the choice, I’d rather focus on what doesn’t. The Prodigal Hour won’t fall by the wayside. It may languish in obscurity and one day be forgotten, but it’s a novel, whole on its own and always ready to be discovered.
Every time I start to think I want to post something, I lose interest or over-analyze it. I posted a lot about publishing and Amazon and Kindle and marketing, but those things are really only of interest to other authors, not readers. Those things are probably utterly boring to readers.
And I loathe the idea of boring people, and that’s why I stop.
Which I suppose is why I’ve begun to concentrate more on actually getting work out there. I’ve always liked the aphorism that one could be known by one’s work, and honestly, if I could be known for writing and Exciting Press, that’s all I’d want. I could talk more about craft and fiction and writing, but then, do I want to be known as a great writer, or a great teacher of writing?
Of course: why not aim at both?
Maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll ignore it. Again. Because there’s always renovation, and another story to code. Right now we’re fixing up the house while planning our wedding. And then there will come the holidays and the honeymoon. We’ll see.
I updated the look and the feel here, wondering if that’ll help encourage direction forward. And by that I mean help me figure out what I want to do with this site, if anything at all.
The other day, amusingly obscene penmonkey Chuck Wendig posted a prompt about Terrible Minds nicknames to Google+. His note at the time was that one’s first name was the object immediately to one’s right, while one’s surname was one’s greatest fear.
Which is where the title of this post comes from, as mine was Remote Control Mediocrity.
Because it got me thinking about success and how we define it. Years ago, I thought six-figure (or any-figure) book contracts were required for validation, because I thought for sure that if one wrote a “good enough” book–meaning a book that is technically competent in all ways–one could get an agent and attract a corporate publisher like Random House.
Regis splits semesters into two eight-week sessions, and this year, this Spring 2011, my first eight-week session was devoted to what they call the capstone, and which is actually titled Strategies in Global Environments. So the reason I disappeared was that, for the past eight weeks, I’ve been part of a five-student team acting as consultants, in a simulation, running an athletic apparel company called Mercury International.
Given that it’s a simulation, the whole experience has been rather like one long, turn-based RPG videogame. Well. I think that’s what it’s like. I tend to prefer third-person, plot-drive shooters when it comes to videogames (inFamous ftw!), and this was nothing like that. It was divided into weekly rounds, and every week, we held a conference call during which we discussed and agreed on strategies going forward, based on previous results and future objectives.
I had a great team, and a great time. But I’d wanted to finish this strong, and I feel, now, like I have.
And now, just one more course to go. Product Management.
Product management is interesting from my side of things. I’m a writer, but if you think artists are selling art, well, at least in a digital context that becomes slightly problematic. Ross Pruden has an #infdist hashtag on Twitter that discusses Infinite Distribution, which is basically how creators can make a sustainable living from their creations in an age where information pretty much, at this point, demands to be free.
Of course, that’s not even to mention how many creators actually ever make a sustainable living, anyway. Stephen King and Jo Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, sure, but they’re modern-day exceptions. Shakespeare pretty much made a living as a real-estate agent when he wasn’t collecting money from some lord or other (to whom he may or may not have dedicated his sonnets).
Really, nowadays, with sites and Kindles and apps and independence, what writers are selling is more themselves. Which tends to be even more problematic from the self-promotion side of things (because no writer wants to be Tila Tequila).
Which I think is going to be helpful for me, in approaching this final course. For years, now, I’ve been trying to work out the kinks in what I’m doing, between MySpace and Facebook and Amazon Kindle and this site and Twitter and work and teaching and writing. I go back and forth in terms of how rewarding any one endeavor is, but there’s so little cohesion between everything. I look at authors who have nine different profiles across seventeen different sites, and all I want to do is take a nap.
So wish me luck. Hopefully, after I finish, I’ll have some better ideas, some better strategies, and some better writing for your better reading.
I‘ve been posting stuff online, in various forums, for more than five years. A couple of years ago, shortly after graduating from USC, I realized I needed a while to be quiet. I needed some time to figure out what “being a writer” meant for me.
I’ve realized this is part of it. That the trouble with blogging is not something that concerns me anymore. Don’t take me wrong; I still want to explore the dilemma there, but more in the sense of what marketing and writing mean nowadays.
I’ve nearly completed my marketing MBA. I enrolled in Regis University when I lived, for a time, in Denver several years ago, and it’s possible to complete the program online without any of the connotations of online degrees. It’s not University of Phoenix–with no offense intended to that online institution.
There is, however, an interesting point I stick to there, and I think it applies overall. Nowadays, it’s so easy for people, online, to not only pose as experts but to become them. You get a lot of people talking very loudly in a small community, and regardless of their backgrounds, knowledge bases, and levels of expertise, people start to look to them for advice when the advice they offer is not actually all that sound.
That was one of the search phrases that led someone here. The actual phrase was “is blogging worth it writer,” but it immediately rewrote itself as a question in my head. I’m going to figure the seeker in question found “The Trouble with Blogging,” which remains one of the most popular posts on this site.
That post discussed the dilemma sharing writing online, for free, poses to the professional writer–and by “professional,” I’m meaning both those writers who are aspiring toward bestsellerdom and those who have already achieved it. Actually, though, I’ve realized, more accurately, it’s really only a dilemma for aspiring authors, less so for ones who’ve gotten publication deals already; certainly, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, and Stephen King don’t really have to worry about any such dilemmas, given how much money they make from their books already.
Then again, none of them blog.
(Can I note, as an aside, how much I loathe the word? “Blog”? It sounds like the Internet drank too much. It sometimes reads that way, too.)
The prevailing dilemma I wrote about was a simple question often raised in other contexts: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? If I–as a guy who’s endeavored, over the past few years, to become a professional writer, and, indeed, has a master’s degree in it–continue to post good, well thought-out, well written essays on my site, why would readers want to buy my books?
Of course, the answer is right there; because my site is not my book. Because my books–while well written and well executed and occasionally full of essays–are mostly not what is on my site.
You should publish essays on your website, tweets to Twitter, status updates on Facebook. You should use your Kindle to share quotes from books everywhere. You should join online forums filled with people who have similar interests–Konrath mentions the KindleBoards and how great they are for writers but sort of neglects how amazing they are for readers.
Which we all are. And we’re active readers. We’re better readers. We’re exciting readers.
I thought, for a long time, that what was so game-changing, what was so paradigm-shifting, was that we’re all now creators. We’re all publishing all the time. We’re all contributing new information to the cloud and the world.
I don’t think I was necessarily wrong about that. All those things mostly hold true.
But then I got to thinking, that’s not really what’s changed. That’s a by-product of more activity on our parts.
The biggest companies in the world right now are Google and Facebook. The former is, I think, the more important because it signals a new service. It’s a search engine. It took away passive Internet browsing. No longer was the Internet a place of CD-ROMs and free subscriptions to AOL and “You’ve Got Mail.” What Google changed was our ability to seek new and more information (as well as our ability to sift through it). Remember before Google? Back when we had AltaVista and Hotbot and Metacrawler?
No longer do we wait for information. That’s pretty huge.
We Google things. I have a Google search function on my phone. We go on Wikipedia, though we know the information we find there might be erroneous, but maybe we do that because we know that even if the information is erroneous, we can find more information right away. We can find better information. We can find commentary on that information.
We can contribute to that information, and we can change it, and we can create it.
And the faster all that occurs, the less likely traditional modes of media can keep up with it all.
It used to be, in ways, that media created culture. Radio and television delivered sounds and images to our living rooms, and our only control over what we received came in the form of dials and switches; we could change the channel or turn off the set, but that was about it. If we wanted books, we had to wait to see what corporate publishers had deemed worthy of our attention two years before. Movies, too: from optioning of screenplays to delivery of celluloid, at least a year would pass.
The time it takes to create something worthwhile might not have changed (and continues to vary), but the time it takes to access and manipulate it has. Do any of us merely read when we come online anymore? Or do we all go to news sites we frequent, share posts on Twitter and Facebook, contribute to commentary?
When was the last time you got news from CNN or MSNBC? How about the last time you got it from Twitter?
It seems like we’re moving into times of cultural responsibility, and we’re taking such responsibilities away from the people who traditional took control of them as we notice that many of those institutions gave up their reins. One of the biggest arguments people tend to make against so-called “self-publishing” is that it’s not vetted, there’s no quality control, etc.
And then they buy and publish A Shore Thing by Snooki.
We’re the upstart crows. We’re the Johannes Factotums. We are the creators and contributors, channels of inspiration and information. And we’re not just living in exciting times.
In the realm of the every day, the word “exciting” generally means something fun, something that gets the old ticker going, but in the realm of science, physics, and chemistry, excitation has a more specific meaning. In quantum mechanics, for example, excitation means any particle’s assumption of a higher state of energy.
When I think of excitation, I think of electrons. It’s been years since I formally studied chemistry and physics, but I remember electrons and their shells. Every electron has a nucleus: positive protons and neutral neutrons. Around this nucleus exists an electron cloud difficult to study because of the way it exists–in a quantum sense, only sporadically. Consider a city block, and imagine that some of the buildings exist only on days that begin with a T while others exist on days that begin with an S and others exist on all other days, mostly, you get a sense of quantum uncertainty and the existence of electrons–as particles and waves that are both only partially there simultaneously.
Most atoms–save those of the first few elements–have electron shells with multiple energy levels. The number of electrons is generally equal to the number of protons, but sometimes that leads to certain instability, or even propensity to react. Consider, for example, lithium, which has three protons and three electrons in its shell. Its first energy level is full, with two, but that leaves a third electron to react with just about anything it sees: imagine a horny, hyperactive dog who will hump any leg it finds and you’re thinking of lithium. On the other hand, back up one: helium has two protons, with two electrons in its shell, a full energy level. Helium also has a monocle and a top hat, and it wipes its white-gloved hands with disdain when it encounters any other elements. It will only speak to one under duress.
The thing about those energy levels is that, under the right circumstances, an electron can be induced to assume a higher state. This higher state of energy is called “excitation.” An excited electron is one that achieved a higher level than it had reached just a moment before.
During the past few months, I’ve found my excitement for all things stories and words and books rekindled. Which is a pun, mainly because Amazon’s Kindle might be the most significant source of my newfound enthusiasm. I swear, I haven’t had so much fun, nor read so much, nor bought so many books, since I don’t know when.
Perhaps the most brilliant thing about Kindle, though, is all it makes possible. It throws open the doors, kicks wide the gates.
There’s a new world of possibilities.
When I published my collection in 2007, neither Kindle nor iPhone actually yet existed. eReaders were niche gadgets, novelties at best and absurdities at worst, expensive and awkward and not really able to deliver a quality reading experience. The first Kindle was still six months away and would be expensive, even if its e-ink display would become (and remains) the best in the market.
Now Kindle is on every device out there. Jeff Bezos has been really smart to deliver the platform across devices, tying the reading experience to software, rather than hardware.
And it’s rather perfect for a couple of emerging authors to take advantage of.
Which is what Simon and I plan to do.
This week, we’re launching Sparks. He told you all the news with regard to the book.
What he didn’t really much go into was what it means for Exciting Books.
When I published my collection in 2007 and effectively founded Exciting Books, I’d already conceived of the model I aimed to ultimately follow with regard to writing and publishing. Back then, I wasn’t sure what sort of path my career would take, but I did know the sort of projects I ultimately hoped to work on: highly commercial, genre-busting blockbuster novels, which I’d intersperse with projects I saw as smaller.
Meets Girl for all intents and purposes, would fall into the latter category.
What I ultimately hoped to do was exactly what I’ve found myself doing, even if I wasn’t quite aware of it: leverage my experience and knowledge to bring publishing up to a new, and higher, energy level.
And now, with other authors.
Because this is how things change. A couple of blokes with a bold idea to excite things. Shake things up a bit while taking them up a notch. Which may mix metaphors, but hopefully doesn’t conceal my intention.
In the past year or so, I’ve reveled in quietude while trying to figure out how to do what I meant to do. I’ve moved to Manhattan, studied marketing, dedicated myself to writing better.
And now, I think it’s time to try some exciting things. In the spirit of which I figured it was time to redo the site header, retitling this here endeavor. In the spirit of which I intend to publish more often more exciting and interesting things, including but not limited to the stuff I’ve been learning over the past few years.
In other words, here goes everything.
Sparks marks the first Exciting Book that isn’t solely mine.
Exciting Books: When people talk about ebooks and epublishing, the ‘e’ they’re talking about is Exciting.
I wanted to talk a bit more about the project before the launch, though. Because, honestly, I’m basically doing it completely backwards at this point. Ask any of the so-called or self-proclaimed writing gurus or marketing Internexperts or anyone else on Facebook and Twitter . . .
Look. Am I the only one completely exhausted by all the writers nobody’s ever heard of expounding their advice on how best to reach wider audiences? I can’t be, can I?
The situation is daunting at best. In terms of social media and networking, at least, never before have so many people said so little so loudly. The signal-to-noise ratio is crazily lopsided to the latter. There’s so much advice out there and so little of it actually sound. Anyone would tell you, if you want to become a successful author, you need a platform. You need a steady readership, which you gain from getting on Twitter and Facebook and updating your website and creating a fanpage and all those sorts of things.
In an ideal situation, of course, the implication is that all those things come after producing a solid novel, but I’m not sure how many people infer that fact, nor even that it’s true. In many cases, platform is the primary gauge of saleability. Indeed, corporate publishing is less a vehicle for writers and authors than for people with platforms who wrote books. There’s a huge distinction there.
According to most advice, I should have posted endlessly about how to write. How to structure. I should have reviewed more books so I could be a book blogger, and I should have posted links to other writers’ blogs. I should have done it daily, or nearly so, or even more frequently, an endless push of writers talking about writing and bloggers talking about blogging and let’s not forget about marketing and buzz and et cetera (and let’s be frank and call it ad nauseum).
The life of a writer, despite what you may have heard, is not exactly glamorous (though some writers look way better living one than others), and it’s often full of hustling and scrambling to reach certain goals, not the least of which is getting paid. Several months ago, while seeking freelance opportunities to supplement the meager income of being an adjunct professor at a small college, I found an opportunity to write online for a growing website I will leave nameless, both for purposes of professionalism and discussion but also because it’s not actually relevant to my purposes.
The ad I saw looked interesting and sought a writer interested in a monthly column. So I dropped a note to the supplied e-mail and, when I got a positive response, checked out the site, which was actually pretty awesome. I looked over some of the articles and pitched to the editor an idea I’d been kicking around for a few months (and still am).
The editor was encouraging and liked my style but thought the topic to specific and narrow, too relevant to writers and not relevant enough to their readers.
Those of you who’ve read my “The Trouble with Blogging post know that this is something I’ve been thinking about. Hell, it’s part of the reason I’m doing an MBA.
Right now, I’m teaching my students about structure and plot using Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone as a demonstration of a Hero’s Journey plot archetype. Reading it, I’m rediscovering just how excellently Rowling hits every plot point and necessary element note for note, from the Call to Adventure to the Crossing of the First Threshold etc. Harry Potter is really an excellent example of someone who becomes a hero; he certainly doesn’t start out that way. Yesterday, while teaching, I was asking my students what makes people heroes. What do we look for as a demonstration of heroism?
Just read a post by Jane over at dearauthor.com: “Books as a Business”. It’s a mostly good article with some interesting analysis, though I would change the title, at least; books are what we read, while publishing is a business.
Which aligns with my previous couple of posts, staying on the theme of writing as creative endeavor and publishing as business endeavor. The other day, I was chided on Twitter by dietpopstar for using the word “monetizing” with regard to writing, and who told me I’d “lost my way” as I’m supposed to be “a fucking artist,” and such considerations were “vulgar.” She’s arguably right about my using the word “monetize,” I admit; I probably should have chosen a different word or phrase, like maybe “I gotsta get myself paid, too, yo.” Which, at least, is funnier.
And that’s the trouble with blogging. Not the funnier part. The part about having to get paid.
I didn’t plan on that; if I had, I probably would have said something.
I’ve been otherwise occupied, obviously. For myriad reasons. Thinking less and getting on with things, which is generally a fine way to go about it. This past year was difficult in several ways, including two major moves, the end of a long relationship, and overall a lot of change and flux. I think it culminated a few weeks ago when I didn’t get into NYU; I’d looked forward to going back up to Manhattan to attend school there. There have been false starts and falser hopes, but in the end you live and learn and I’m still, in ways, absorbing some lessons. It is, in ways, like that moment in The Matrix when Neo mainlines kung fu, except for the fact that there’s a steeper learning curve, and more time necessary with new knowledge before the application thereof.
The reason for the actual break from blogging was simple, though: I was getting deep into a project called Meets Girl, which is going really well, lately, and which came alive to me in ways previous drafts didn’t. It’s the first thing I’ve retried since I got my Master’s; I started this new draft not long after I graduated, if I’m not mistaken. Which means it’s taken a long time, but the nature of the story and the telling of it have challenged me in ways I haven’t expected. Which you’ll understand when you read it, and which may come sooner than later.
I didn’t expect it to take so long as it has, but then I had an idea for a screenplay I had to go with. It was one of those 6 a.m. ideas so powerful it leaves you no chance of getting back to sleep, and I wrote the first act in a two-day mad rush of ideas and fun and laughing at myself.
It has since slowed down, but I’m about midway through, now, and it’s going well.
It’s all going well. I can’t complain, I’ve realized. Not in this lifetime.
But that’s not the whole explanation. The whole explanation and the whole reason I haven’t posted is because I suddenly started to feel very ambivalent about blogging. I think I was eleven when I realized I wanted to be a writer, and the only thing I ever wanted to write, growing up, was novels; they’re all I read, besides a handful of short stories. When I started blogging a few years ago, I thought it might be a good way to somehow become a better writer, but, I’ve realized I think that’s rather a bit like trying to become a better golfer by playing pool–sure, there’s a ball and a hole and a stick, but that’s now how you–no, don’t–what’re you–?
That’s not how it works, sir.
That’s not to say there’s no room for a pool table in the golf clubhouse, of course. Just, priorities; nobody’s in the clubhouse for the felt. The felt is an afterthought.
I’ve now arguably belabored the metaphor, and I don’t even like golf.
So I’m finishing a novel and a screenplay. In the meantime, I’ve been doing more on Twitter, which you can see right there in the sidebar. I plan to come back here at some point. I plan to post more. But I plan to use it differently than I was before. Best laid plans etc., but then again, sometimes it’s good to have one if only so there’s something to aim for, even if you finally miss.
Do you require those register/log in/wordpress/rss links over on the side? I figure, the RSS is available through feedburner over there on the right (I can’t figure out how to remove it from the top of the page, but then again, I’m always all about offering as many options as possible), and the comment feature is consistent across pages, so probably not. Which is why I removed those links.
But let me know if you do, in fact, and I’ll put ‘em right back.
(ETA: On second thought, it makes my navigation easier, so I’ll keep it for now.)
Speaking of awards seasons, the Bloggies are upon us, as well. I guess they’re a bit like the Oscars of blogging, except without Joan Rivers and boring montages. I’ve been reading blogs since before it was even a common term, back when Neil Gaiman started his American Gods blog (which has since morphed into his uberblog), and over the years, lots of my favorite blogs have always come up for Bloggies (and many have even won).
I always liked when my favorite blogs won.
And I just thought I’d let you know, because who knows, maybe after all these years, I might even be someone’s favorite blogger. It’s really totally rad that I can somehow say I’ve had people reading my blog for years now.
You can find the balloting stuff here. I say go nominate your favorite blogs, whomever they may be. And if you want to nominate this here blog for, I don’t know, say, Best Written Weblog, or Best Kept Secret, maybe, I won’t argue. I’d probably even blush and stammer and shuffle my feet.
Been working a lot through the holidays, but for some reason, it’s only the past couple of days I’ve begun to feel overwhelmed. A little anxious. Might be because I’ve been really productive but look around and realize I’ve barely scratched the surface, or then again might just be because I’m always hardest on myself. Got to stop that. I’m trying not to worry too much, but the state of the economy is daunting; I have some money coming in, from various sources, but the problem is it ain’t in yet, so lots of waiting. In business, as I understand it so far, that’s called accounts receivable; revenue you know you’re getting eventually for services already rendered, but ain’t come in yet.
In some ways, it’s very much part of the story of my life. In screenwriting, it’s called working on spec; you finish the screenplay with no guarantee you’ll actually either sell or option it, but you’ve still got a product you’re sending out.
There’s no fancy phrase for it in terms of writing a novel, besides, of course, The Way Things Are, because that’s just how it is. You write and write and write without any guarantee anyone will even read it, much less pay for it, or even more important, you know, enjoy it.
There are ways to get around such things nowadays, of course. But until some drastic changes occur in the publishing industry, well, they’re sorta The Way Things Aren’t.
Thing about it, though, is that business is a transaction. Payment received for services rendered. Good services bring reward, ultimately, and indeed can even be their own.
I’m thinking about all this partly because of this video, which is totally worth watching and totally made me cry:
Then again, I’m a big sap, so there’s that.
But there’s something to be said for it, in the sense that lighting other people’s flames never diminishes one’s own.
But, the first time I tried to import my old WordPress blog, it only took all the posts through March 2008. I assumed I would have to manually import all the rest, and so, this morning, after going shopping for cars and earrings with my mother, began to.
The good news was, it must have just been a fluke last time. I deleted all the old posts that had imported the first time, and then reattempted.
All the other ones came up in one fell swoop.
I’m not sure if that means that anyone who subscribes is going to suddenly find 90 go-jillion Will in the World blog posts in their e-mail inboxes, but if that happens . . . well, there are worse things, no? And it shouldn’t happen again, I don’t think.
A lot’s happened in the past few weeks, while I’ve been away, the biggest change being that I’m typing this from my old bedroom in my parents’ house, where I’m now living again for a lot of reasons I’m not yet going to go into, no so much because I don’t want to articulate them to you but rather because I’ve already tried several times and failed rather spectacularly.
I left Denver pretty much the day my commitment to the community college where I was teaching ended. I packed up my car full of all my earthly possessions, and for the third time in two and a half years, started driving to new goals and a new life (same as the old one).
I hesitated in doing so; I moved back after September 11th, and very much spent several years trying to figure things out and not doing a very good job of it.
This time, though, the difference is: I have a plan.
And yes, I realize plans are the surest way to inspire God to laugh at you, but I’ve got high hopes for this one.
I just applied to NYU, you see. I’ve realized that I love teaching and wish to continue to do so, but I’d like to teach more than just composition and writing. So I’m going for another Master’s degree, this time in literature with a concentration in writing, and then I’m hoping to go on to earn my PhD, which I also hope to do at NYU. So far, I’m cautiously optimistic; I want this in a different way than I’ve wanted some other things recently, and I executed it quite deliberately.
Plus: I really want to go. In the same way that I wanted to go to USC.
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing. And I figured with all the new changes, it was the ideal time to move to my new digs. Which are pretty much the same as the old ones to you. But really, the old blog was actually hosted at WordPress, even though it looked like it was on my website, mainly because I didn’t know enough about hosting and the web stuff to initially set it all up the way I had wanted it.
Now it is. This is actually willentrekin.com.
I dropped the “blog” in front, because: well, yeah. Also because it’s me in the world, and part of me in the world is my writing, and I figure it’s logical the online extension of my writing would include my blog. And my photography, which I’ll be posting here intermittently and sporadically, like I never kept up with over there.
Regardless, here I am. Glad to see you. I’m suitably refreshed and looking forward to more, and I hope you’re having a terrific holiday season so far.
It’s the same as the old one, but actually hosted on my site. Which this one never was.
I’m going to pick all this up over there. Hope you’ll join me. It’s actually really cool, because it lets me do a lot of things I’d wanted to do before but never could (like Twitter, for one).
Hope you’ll swing by. And just wanted to let you know. If you have links to this one somewhere, please change them over to reflect the new digs. I’ll be changing the feed and all that stuff probably tomorrow.
Yeah, so that hiatus I mentioned is obviously going longer. Lots of stuff I’m trying to keep up with.
Doing well, though, and I’ll have plenty of news for you soon.
But I figured I’d say hello and wish you a happy holidays, and also warn you that, over the holidays, I might break this site. I’d like to migrate everything to willentrekin.com (which may be down right now). I think WordPress will let me export the whole blog there, though, which would be nice.
Anyway, things are good, hope they are for you, and hope you’re having a happy season gearing up for the holidays.
I’ve been blogging pretty consistently since February, which I think marks this as just about the longest I’ve gone without taking a break. I think I’m starting to feel it; I know I’ve been getting cranky, lately, and it’s manifested in enough ways that I’m thinking, hey, somebody needs a time-out.
Since I can’t enforce it for anyone else, I figure I ought to take one myself. Be the change you want to see in the world, and such.
It’s the right time, I think. Holidays coming up, student papers coming in, all the good stuff. So I’m going to take a break from the Internet and redirect my energy; I’ve got a few projects I’ve been working on, both for myself and for others, and it’d be good to get those done. For at least the next two weeks, I’ll be checking e-mail but absolutely nothing else. That might become longer, but you won’t see me again until at least December.
Have a great Thanksgiving. See you soon. Don’t miss me, because I’ll miss you.
During one of the classes when I mentioned Eddie Izzard, one of my students mentioned a documentary called Heckler. I went to look it up, because I love when comedians pwn hecklers.
Here’s Jamie Kennedy (who, coincidentally, produced the documentary):
Jimmy Carr does it extraordinarily well. Here’s one:
And here’s another:
But it’s not just comedians. Here’s Kevin Smith:
And even Bill Clinton pwning some idiot “9/11 truth conspiracy theorist”:
I mean, seriously. Some people are just douchebags.
Thing is, Heckler turns out to only ostensibly be about heckling; over the course of interviewing Jamie Kennedy, Carrot Top, and Bill Maher (among many others), it slowly became a rumination about criticism. In doing so, it raised some terrific points about critics and their relation to, for lack of a better word, “art,” and especially about the way the Internet has changed things. It featured appearances by writers from CHUD.com and Giant magazine and questioned the idea of random dudes commenting about cinema. Kathy Griffin made an analogy between Internet commenters and hecklers, which I thought was apt, except for one crucial difference:
At a comedy show, the comedian gets to be face to face, even if across a room, with the person.
On the other hand, the Internet allows a degree of cowardice when someone like Shecky Gangrene or, as is most often the case, Anonymous wants to crap on somebody. I swear, I’d often heard quotes attributed to Anonymous before, but the Internet exponentially increased Anonymous’ body of work, which is mostly restricted to little more than saliva-spattered vitriol. I’ve rarely seen Anonymous actually be supportive; usually Anonymous uses the old “I’m sorry, but I’ve just got to be honest with you” to make personal attacks and mostly horrifying comments they’d never make in real life to someone’s face.
And while I’ve never gotten altogether much attention from Anonymous because I’m just a mostly unknown writer still making his way in his work, any attention from Anonymous can feel like too much. Most of the negativity I’ve encountered has come from Anonymous (who most often really, really doesn’t like me). Anonymous most often believes that the ends justify whatever means it is necessary to use, and frequently makes the case that anyone who has earned any degree of spotlight whatsoever must grin and bear it because it comes with the territory and one must develop thick skin.
To which I say: bullshit.
Bill Maher and Dr. Drew (ftw) address it best in the documentary by making two points: first, honesty does not excuse douchebaggery (that’s Dr. Drew), and second, as Maher notes, entertainers can’t develop thick skin. We need some degree of sensitivity because that’s our role in the culture we need to be part of.
Which I think is an awesome point.
The documentary is well worth checking out. Here’s the trailer:
I think my favorite part was the segment dedicated to director Uwe Boll, who challenged his critics to boxing matches and summarily beat the shit out of them. It’s absolutely hysterical to watch as the movie switches back and forth from idiot bloggers making asinine comments like “No, I’ve never watched one of his movies, but I’ve heard their awful” to selfsame bloggers falling to the canvas, culminating in a shot of a twenty-ish blogger lying on the curb, post-fight, wearing a tank top with Sharpie-written “Hi, Mom!” on its back while puking into the gutter.
From it, Mediabistro’s Galley Cat pulls that only 2% of bloggers cite blogging and their blogs as their primary source of income.
Which sounds about right.
Mainly because: isn’t that about the same as the number of writers who make their living at writing?
I’m not. Once upon a time, I hoped to be, but then again in recent years I’ve realized that I don’t think writing is all I’d want to do. I love to write, but when it starts to become all I do, I think I feel like there’s imbalance in my life. The whole “all work and no play” thing, to some extent. I mean, I go back and forth on it, because I think that writing is playing, to some extent, but I guess what it comes down to is that writing is a largely solitary activity, and I can’t very well be in the world if I’m being all solitary and such.
Some new changes to coincide with all the other ones going around. Trying out a new theme, most obviously.
Also: Entrekin in the World replaces the old Reviews page. I like it so far but will probably tweak it as I go. It’s something I had included as an album on MySpace and was trying to figure out how to integrate it here. From the get-go, I’d asked people to photograph themselves with the book; Los Angeles Times best selling author Brad Listi was the very first.
Since leaving MySpace and switching computers, I’ve misplaced a couple that I’d really like to include. So if you don’t see yourself there and you’ve got one you wouldn’t mind my putting up, send it to me via willentrekin at yahoo dot com.
Please. That’d be rad.
I left comments open over there, too. So if you’d like to put your own review there, be my guest. Especially if you, you know, liked it.
Finally, I mentioned I’d considered removing the collection from Lulu. I looked into hosting the file here, because I still like having it as a free .pdf, along with the “singles.” Problem is, the process of doing so is not nearly so straightforward as Lulu’s system, nor does it seem to track downloads/sales so well. Part of the reason I’d considered removing the book was its ‘community,’ but then again I wonder if those problems aren’t actually a function of the self-publishing community and not necessarily Lulu’s. Regardless, I’ve decided to continue using their printing services as the tool I had meant it to be, and I feel okay leaving it up.
Plus, the downloads just keep coming in, and, well, the whole point was to share it. I’d feel bad keeping the book from someone who wanted to read it.
I’d say to bear in mind that I’m still working out kinks all over the place, but I’ve realized that part of the interesting thing about blogs and the Internet (and, it seems, life in general lately) is that: well, yeah. It’s all evolution all the time, really.
When I was younger and first breaking from Catholicism, I became very interested in Wicca and paganism. Something about the more natural ways of thought and worship appealed a great deal to me: I am by ethnicity, like, Scotch-Welsh-Dutch (or something); I grew up as a Boy Scout and so was often camping or hiking, which was why I liked the idea of nature as the truest and most accurate expression of the divine (I don’t know about God or Jesus either way, but show me a new day and I know where I stand); and I liked the idea of not having to go to Church or receive Eucharist or pray to know the way of God.
By the time I got to college, that had begun again to change. Studying theology with Robert Kennedy, roshi, S.J. remains one of the most formative experiences of my life, with consequences and repercussions I am even still parsing. Back then, in the way of the arrogance and pretension that became my characteristic for several years, I declared myself a “Zen Christian Wiccan,” because I thought I had discovered over the years that there is, inherently, either no difference whatsoever between prayer, spells, and meditation, or that the differences we perceive between them, like the differences we perceive between Coca Cola and Pepsi, more a result of brilliant advertising campaigns and the placebo effect than anything else.
He’s probably correct. I think I hope he’s correct, in fact. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with blogging, I’ll admit, for personal reasons; while I do love to do it, and I love the instantaneous and often-collaborative nature of it, I feel like . . . well, I feel a lot like it takes away from my real writing. And I hate to say this isn’t my ‘real writing,’ but I’ve never thought of it that way, probably because I use different writing ‘muscles’ to blog than to write . . . well, pretty much everything else. I’ve been discussing with my students the idea of frameworks in writing, and I’ve always thought blogs have a different framework than anything else, probably because everything has its own framework.
I get another batch of student papers tomorrow, so I’ll have that to do over the weekend, but I’m also trying to finish a couple of other projects I’ve been working on. They’ve all been slow going, probably because I’ve got a lot going on.
So far, it’s two novellas and three short stories, though either of those novellas might end up longer than I think. The one I’m concentrating on most right now is called Meets Girl, and I’m hitting the end of the first act of the story but am already past the fifty page mark.
I’m hoping to finish all five by the end of November.
But I’m also winding down the publishing experiment I conducted over the past year and a half, and I do want to blog about it. It’s set me to thinking about a lot of different things, all related to writing and publishing and reading. I’ve been rethinking removing my content from Lulu, because so far it’s worked pretty well and maybe I shouldn’t try to fix it if it ain’t broke. I will be talking about my experience with Lulu, though probably not here (more on that to come).
My “About Me” page notes that I am, currently, an educator based in the Denver area, and I think I’ve mentioned I currently teach composition at a local community college. Previous to this year, I taught composition for a year at the University of Southern California, a name I don’t so much drop as note with gratitude; it was my great pleasure to serve my students there, as it continues to be to serve my students at my current institution. When I started blogging on MySpace, the idea of teaching hadn’t so much crossed my mind, and neither had the ideas of either Denver or Hollywood.
And I look around today, and I think: yowza. This, this is special. I’m extraordinarily lucky (and discover every day that the amount of luck I experience is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into the work I do).
I mention this because I have now been teaching, at the college/university level, for more than a year, but today was the first day I was ever observed. I found out about the observation a few days ago, and just the idea made me nervous: ZOMG authority! What if they realize I’m a sham? What if they realize I’m, well, me, because no matter how many novels I write and how many people love my work and how many classes I teach, it’s still difficult to think of myself any differently. I’m just me, and I still feel like I’m goofy and silly and really lucky to be anywhere at all. Maybe that’s a self-esteem issue, or maybe it’s the truth. I don’t know. I just know that even though USC recognized me as an expert in writing, and even though I taught my students well enough that I went so far as to inspire them, in a few notable cases, it’s still difficult to realize that.
But today, the totally rad woman who is the composition coordinator of our department sat in my class to observe me.
Houghton-Mifflin, purveyors of the textbook of said statistics. Who decided that even though I spent nearly $150 purchasing their textbook, I could only download it once, and then only to one computer, and only then using Adobe Digital Editions. Who the hell uses Adobe Digital Editions? And seriously, I get the new Coldplay, I rip it to my computer, I can listen on any device I want, but I spend nearly ten times as much and you lock me in? It’s a statistics textbook for a business course, and that business model makes me question just how damned authoritative you actually are. Business is about relationships and transactions with your customers. I am your customer, and you totally and completely failed me.
PUMA supporters. Which, apparently, stands for “Party Unity My Ass.” Have you heard of this? All the sad supporters of Hillary who are upset she lost and decided that Obama is the antichrist, and that McCain/Palin is a good choice because Palin is, like, a chick? God, I’m so tired of everyone backhanding Obama and treating McCain/Palin like they wouldn’t be 8 more years of the same. Dear female PUMA supporters; take your heads out of your collective twats long enough to acknowledge that feminism is about more than simply voting for anyone in a skirt.
So, like I blogged about earlier, the American economy is basically in the toilet, and to quote Roger Clyne, “Everything’s going down, flowin’ counterclockwise.” Regardless of direction, the fact remains that, besides the bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, I’ve heard today that both Washington Mutual and Morgan Stanley are initiating sales of themselves (I know a couple of people who work for Morgan Stanley, and wish them the best).
New York/Manhattan is, obviously the epicenter of the financial industry. When the Dow sinks, it sank first in Manhattan.
Manhattan is also pretty much the epicenter of the publishing industry. And given that the financial climate is what it is, one would think that the publishing industry is every bit as concerned about its own welfare as financial sectors are concerned about their own.
And one might not be wrong.
For example, one of the regular publishing/agenting blogs I read is maintained by Lori Perkins, of the Lori Perkins Agency. Lori is extraordinarily well known in the publishing industry and has quite the agenting reputation. She is renowned and respected. This is her blog. I like reading her blog.
Trish, whose birthday is Dec. 7th, another day of infamy (I see you opening Wikipedia in another tab. It’s the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack) wrote about it at “Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?” and she’ll be happy I got the punctuation right.
I chose the United Way because I, personally, go way back with them. My father used to work at a local Mobil refinery and volunteered with the United Way when I was a kid; I remember, some summers, he used to get to use a van for a few weeks, though I realize now, thinking about it, I haven’t a clue why. Also because it was one of the reasons the Boy Scouts of America began to change its policies regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. For a long time, the BSA denied membership to anyone gay, but some units actively began to defy national tenets in favor of keeping United Way funding.
That means a lot to me. The Boy Scouts was one of the most influential organizations in my life, and I value that every bit as much as I hate their discrimination policies.
Anyway, that was my mindset going in. And this is the mission statement of the United Way NYC:
United Way of New York City creates and supports strategic initiatives that address the root causes of critical human care problems in order to achieve measurable improvement in the lives of the city’s most vulnerable residents and communities. Throughout our work, we partner with neighborhood agencies, government, business, foundations, volunteers and others so that collectively we can achieve more than any one organization working alone. By leading programs that get at the root causes of problems in these five key areas, United Way of New York City creates lasting, systemic change: homelessness prevention, access to healthcare, education, building economic independence, and strengthening New York City nonprofits.
But now that I think of it, really, I realized I should put the question to you. Because it is, after all, your money. Is there somewhere else you’d like to know it went? I’m wondering if donating it to the American Red Cross might not be a better idea, as that would actively help other people affected by very similar tragedies, and Lord knows it seems to come up every year anymore.
And to everyone who mentioned it (I went by WordPress’ incoming links widget, so if I missed yours, let me know, or put it in the comments, please): thanks again.
You also mention how your employer’s front desk attendants just waved you by that morning without checking your ID, but never again after that. What else has changed for you on a personal or professional level that sticks out in your mind now?
God, where to start there? I mean, what hasn’t changed, really? On a personal level, I moved back home, stayed for five years while overcoming depression, then drove cross-country to study, and now live in Denver. On a professional level, I taught and trained, then edited, and then went back to school, and then again became a professional writer.
But I think what’s more important is what I see has changed on greater levels. For example, I think we, as a country, are more naïve now than before. That might seem counterintuitive, but before that day, I think we would have laughed at a color-coded emergency-response system. I think we would have been outraged at the idea of illegal wiretapping, and I think we would have, rightly, run our collective leaders right out of office (I mean, heck, we impeached one guy for a blowjob, but not another for misleading our country into war?). I think that day was the first time we, as a nation, realized we could be hurt, that we are, in fact, mortal, and I think it scared the hell out of us, and I think we’re still recovering from it. Now, the people who attacked us are still at large, and we’ve demonstrated our utter inefficacy to fight them on a massive scale.
Many thanks to Shannon for his support and involvement in all this.
Late at night, I wonder if she ever really had feelings for me. That’s what’s been most difficult: not her leaving, but rather wondering if she was honest.
What’s most difficult is . . . did she really look at me, try to get to know me? Was she open to it? Does she really not have time, or did she look at me and realize, nah, not this one (and then there’s the nagging, well, if I’d handled my feelings better, would it have changed anything, but no, that way lay madness)?
That’s what counts, mostly.
I’d say that she was the first girl in a while I felt anything for, that she was the first girl since my ex- that I really wanted, but that’d be a lie. There were three years between my ex- and her, and those years weren’t filled with girls, no, but they were filled with misplaced emotions.
Misplaced emotions. Not like I lost anything. Just kinda stopped thinkin’ about where I was puttin’ shit.
I fell for her. Girls will only play the games you let them, will only hurt you as hard as you let them, and she crushed me and hollowed me out because I let her. I let her get inside me, and why?
Because one day I saw her smile, and one day she kissed me back, and one day I let her in.
The town spreads out below us, looks up to us, admires,
Wishing that it could be where we are for a moment.
We’re on top of the world, blessed in our youth;
We’d better enjoy our positions while we can.
The stars look down on us without our condescension;
They all wonder what happened to God.
They see what we have done and are doing
But never realize that we can change.
The moon shines down on us its scornful eye;
We are uncomfortable though others are less moral.
It is only half there, but where the rest is I cannot say.
Perhaps it is with God, waning philosophic.
The wind moans against wood and our flesh,
The same sweet nothings we whispered earlier.
And when it howls like fury through the darkness,
It almost seems like it knows how we feel.
Moisture like morning dew beads blades of grass;
Tiny, clear jewels of dripping condensation.
The whole world smells primal and visceral,
And it glistens in what little light there is here.
There are sounds all around us, some loud and some not,
From furtive, unknown sources in the darkness.
They seem to be everywhere at once and yet nowhere at all,
And isn’t that exactly how we are sometimes?
There is night all around us, overhead, up above,
Silk and satin and dark to the touch.
It is almost oppressive but somehow refrains;
It shows more restraint than we did, earlier.
And so we stare down at the town with a smirk on our lips,
And look up at the stars and feel less than we are.
We throw an ‘up yours’ in a scream at the moon,
And whisper nothing in reply to the wind.
We let the moisture bead and then drip off our skin,
And the sounds gradually become unnerving.
But we live this night, my lady, on Inspiration Point,
Despite darkness’ trying to steal the only one we’ve got.
Yesterday, Lisa said:
That poem reminds me of countless nights I looked up at the stars with Chad. Times when we wanted so badly some recognition for our efforts, times when we both felt like it was an endless cycle of repetative days. Times I wanted to shout and scream at the moon, because I felt so damn tired. We both were looking for inspiration.
Which, I think, is pretty awesome.
It’s kind of amazing how you can try for one thing but achieve something else entirely.
To wit: I wrote “Inspiration Point” when I was a sophomore in college (which probably shows through in ways, I think), and its inspiration was “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen. My then roommate was a huge fan of the Boss, and he played “Thunder Road” one night, and, while I liked the song, my more visceral reaction was closer to, “Man, I want to do that.”
And so I tried (ain’t sayin’ I succeeded, mind you, just I tried. Then again: man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?).
Here’s some Bruce, because come on, nobody does it better:
It’s a bit crappy, video-wise, but I love the story (“This is the land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy.”). Also, hey, another Jersey boy doin’ it right (also, we see where I get my predilection for tank tops, though, admittedly, the Boss pulls it off better than I do). Unfortunately, I got no guitar, but sometimes I get my pen goin’.
And again: the poem is from my collection, the proceeds from which benefit the United Way NYC in honor of those we lost on September 11th, 2001, and in the days following. If you took advantage of the free download, now’s a good chance to help make a difference, and let’s not forget, it would make a great Christmas gift for the booklover you love.
My classes at Regis began this week, at the same time that I set in motion my departure from Lulu and wound up the assignment I’ve been guiding my students through.
The class, so far: meh. I don’t have a business background and, indeed, never took any such courses in college, even despite two degrees and graduate school. Which means that, though I’m currently attending Regis, I’m really doing a conditional acceptance sort of thing. I have to pass a couple of Foundations of Business or somesuchlike courses.
Which would be fine. I get that I need to know stuff like statistics. And I can’t wait to get to marketing.
(you knew there was going to be a but, right? Which gives me an opportunity to try out this “more” function thingy I’ve been wanting to use)
Over at John Scalzi’s blog Whatever, Lauren McLaughlin guest-posts conerning gender politics in her new novel, <i>Cycler</i>, which sounds way more interesting than just being a novel about gender:
The problem with this approach is that it presents the opposite sex as, at worst, the enemy and, at best, a dim-witted booby prize. How can you love someone you have basically manipulated into a relationship? Anyone who’s actually been in love knows that love is a wild and lawless thing. Attempts to decode the endeavor with comforting gender stereotypes might sell a lot of self-help books, but they won’t guarantee smooth sailing. Just ask The Rules co-author, Ellen Fein. After “capturing the heart of Mr. Right” by putting her own rules into action, she wound up divorced.
Steve Jobs made plenty of headlines when he said reading is dead and Apple wasn’t going to pursue an e-book reader. Which is fine, because Apple already has an e-book reader. It’s called the iPhone, and the iPod Touch. Here’s the Teleread.org article with the scoop (from July 13, 2007).
That was only one of the photos. Here are the others:
Jobs can make any claims he wants, but stories find their ways.
And this post wouldn’t be complete without the LOLphone joke:
Lately, and mainly because of the new WordPress “Press This” function, which I personally think is completely rad, I’ve been noticing a bit of a blur between what I was posting here and what I had intended to do with et cetera. I’d meant for that particular section as a sort of publishing ticker, but I discovered quite a few things rather quickly.
The first was that daily or even weekly publishing news is a bit of a misnomer, at best. I’m not interested in publishing gossip and new memoirs, which cuts significantly down on the nature of the items I usually find interesting.
Moreso, I think publishing is changing, and that changing nature inspires discussion, I think. Makes me want to comment on it, anyway. Like the post last week about Gordon Van Gelder and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, not to mention the posts concerning POD People and their review of my collection.
Point is, I find myself wanting to comment more and post over there less, so I’m hereby ending et cetera and using this blog instead. I’m going to pull over a few of the more interesting posts, and the ones I used to catalog the reviews of my book, but otherwise, I’m just going to keep things here.
I haven’t yet decided what I plan to do with Imagery. I have a lot of pictures I took on the road, and I do like having that aspect separate from here, but I may decide just to fold that in later, too.
Anyway, all just so you know why there are suddenly a few posts today, all of which will look familiar if you read et cetera.
Trish at “Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?” tackles yet another pompous post from some pontificating “publishing guru” re: the future of books, which blogs like The Elegant Variation and BookSlut may yet “save.” Because, apparently, since newspapers’ review sections are no longer covering books and including reviews thereof, books must be dying and people must no longer be reading and the publishing industry must come to an end.
“Book reviewing bloggers need to move away from opinion in favor of judgement.” What is the point of blogging if not to be effing self-indulgent. Blogging is the place that I can say, I can do what I want when I want to and I can make it look however I want. If I want to say like or alls or dude or WHATEVER, I can. More importantly, the reason I read bloggers’ book reviews is because I don’t want some pompous ass talking about things like What’s the book’s place in the canon. WTF? Canon? Really? If you’re recommending a book to a friend, do you really talk about the canon? HELL NO. You talk about whether the book was good or not. That’s what I want from my book bloggers, just like I want from my friends. Was the book good. I don’t care if the writer succeeded in doing what he or she set out to do. The only place I care about that is in the classroom and sometimes in my book group. Otherwise, I don’t give a shit.
Yeah. What she said.
Because, first, books don’t need saving; they’re doing fine and will continue to. And second, even if they did, you know what would save books?
Sam uses the article as an opportunity to offer some thoughts on his own amateur status as a book reviewer:
I do sincerely try to be fair in every review that I write and I don’t make a habit of taking cheap shots, although I imagine it’s happened more times than I realize or intended. In fact, I’ve had some nice comments from some of the authors I’ve most criticized saying that they appreciate honest reviews and can see the point I was making – and then they usually tell me why they think I am wrong. Fair enough, that, and I very much appreciate their willingness to discuss their work with someone as anonymous as me.
I bet if you too a brief census of the artists who heard any commentary about their work while at SDCC, approximately 100% would say that on at least more than one occasion, someone took a proverbial “shit in their cornflakes” while expressing their opinions about something. Unfortunately, some people use “criticism” or “just being honest” as an excuse to be an asswipe. In that respect, if you’re going to be an artist and your going to put your stuff out there for scrutiny, best for all parties involved that you develop a healthy tolerance for all such people.
My response there was:
The Internet seems to have created more critics than academia, and most are worse if only because they generally have trouble both having a cogent thought and spelling it correctly. That said, I don’t see why wanting to share one’s work with other people includes the necessity for developing a healthy tolerance for asswipes. Fuck asswipes.
A sentiment Bookchase’s post refreshed.
I mentioned before I’m still learning how (if at all) to respond to reactions to Entrekin; there have been a couple of reactions, anonymous and otherwise, that I’ve seen and which made me want to say: “Wait, who are you? What, exactly, have you ever done?” I mean, there’s subjective stuff like someone didn’t like it, and I get that. But people who bash my grammar/style just make me want to say, “Look, I was a professional editor and have a Master’s degree in Professional Writing. I tend to not simply know grammar better than most textbooks but also understand its fluid nature.”
This isn’t to say I believe in grammatical anarchy, mind you. I generally reference Shakespeare as someone who played with language and grammar, but of course he knew what he was doing beforehand, which is the big requirement. You can bend or break the rules all you’d like, but to do so, you must know the rules you’re breaking, why they’re rules, and why you’re breaking them.
The reason I bring this up now is that I’m starting to wonder about “amateur” reviewers, if mainly because all the professional venues are pretty much going the way of the dodo. Newspapers left and right are decreasing their coverage of books, and well they should, but really I’m surprised they exist in the first place, anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I actually touched a newspaper, and most of the magazines I read anymore are available in full online. Why buy Rolling Stone when I can read all the stories via the Internet?
And if so much reading is occurring online anyway, why go to those publications? One of the biggest revolutions the Internet has brought on is the removal of middlemen between creators and consumers of content. I don’t yet think this works for novels, which is why I’m not yet considering Lulu to self-publish my own, but most publications have Internet presences, anyway. I’ve been working on some short stories lately, and my thought is, when I finish them, I can either submit them for publication and rely on someone else who may or may not be as qualified as I am to edit, or I can just post them here (or in et cetera). Some people think that publishing in big ole’ publications confers some sort of authority, but I’m more of the mind that quality of content, and not method of distribution, should confer authority.
Which means I’m of the mind that yes, everyone has a voice, but very few actually deserve to be listened to.
When I first started the new blog, I meant Imagery to be not just pictures but videos as well, and not just videos like my cousin playing his guitar. I’ve gotten sidetracked lately, admittedly; I have lots of pictures to post, but my first and greatest priority for the past two months was revising The Prodigal Hour.
Now that I’m done, though, and now that I’m even in the process of submitting for representation, I can do more of what I originally intended.
Hopefully, this will reduce the ambiguity Emily Veinglory complained of in her review of the freeview. I generally tried to be as explicit as I could without becoming actually graphic, but I was trying to capture something simple: if the world were to end right now, if the news were interrupted to report Iran had launched a nuclear attack on the US and there really was no hope for survival, well, I’d want to spend my remaining time makin’ love.
Anyway, that’s the story and its Imagery; as this is the first one, I’m cross-posting it to both blogs. Mostly to announce it.
I have plans for more, I think. But this, as well as the usual pictures, is what to expect.
Hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.
(edit: unfortunately, I was informed that one of the images I had used was actually the work of an artist who hadn’t licensed his work under Creative Commons, which was the impression I had been working with. While I sort the issue out, I’m pulling the link and the video itself. I’ll repost if I can.
Do you care that I’m still “almost done” my novel? Something I’ve been saying for a bit, I realize (if, by “a bit,” I mean, like, two years), but well, closer every day. That stumbling block the other day knocked me a bit sideways, and the ending is, and always has been, a trouble spot. Namely because I know the precise effect I’m trying to go for but haven’t a clue how to frickin’ do it.
So I’m experimenting. I’ve written and rewritten it several times already, not counting previous drafts.
I’ve been hesitating to continue posting about it, though. One of my favorite Hemingway quotes, and perhaps the smartest (not to mention: most sober) things I’ve ever heard he said was: “Fuck ‘em. Let ‘em think you were born knowing how to write.”
Or something to that effect.
Which is why I’ll admit I sometimes struggle with blogging (and probably why I take so many breaks from it), not just as an activity but as a culture. With blogging and MySpace/Facebook and now with Twitter . . . just how connected do people need to be? How much do I really need to know about people? Do I care what you’re listening to? More important: do you care what I’m listening to?
The thing is, many regard it as the answer or solution for writers and publishing, which they see as “in decline.” Oh, whatever will we do, peepul dont reed no morez11!! You’ve heard the lamentations. You’ve seen the YouTube videos, and if you haven’t, there’s this one, which caught on in the blogosphere a while ago:
The thing about it is that I think it’s pretty uniformly utter bullshit (and I like that that video highlights that). Book trailers? Book videos? Lulu has some marketing package thing that includes bookmarks and, like, postcards or some shit.
I can’t believe readership is down, or if it is, not for the reasons many suspect, like the “ADHD Internet culture”; the utter and nearly spontaneous proliferation of blogs seems to me to demonstrate otherwise. It took, what, nearly 20,000 years or something for the human race to reach the 1 billion mark, while blogs reached double that number in, like, two hours or something (I’m using hyperbole here, obviously, but only just).
I think it’s more about a signal-to-noise ratio, because I think readers thirst for content. I think our culture is starved for it, in fact. I think one of the reason for this proliferation is that people are starving for something they are looking to such 2.0 stylistic hoodoo to provide.
If readership is down, I think it’s because there are too few writers, and I mean real writers out there actually doing their job. One of my other favorite quotes, which traces back to a pseudonym used on the Well many moons ago (but possibly still in use), was “You’re an author! Fuck off and auth!” How many writers with popular blogs have actually managed to write good books?
(and yes, I realize that begins to get into the subjective nature of “good” and such, but I’m not tackling that here)
One of the major points I think all this examination of web 2.0 and its relationship to writers and books has summarily and utterly missed is that you can market the hell out of a mediocre book and it doesn’t actually make the book any better. And readers know that.
The thing is that it’s focus on two disparately different things: the writing of a book versus the selling of it. Two completely different functions and activities with, I’d argue, very little in common. And yes, I would be among the first to note that it’s no longer enough for writers to simply write their books, that proactive energy is necessary, but while it may not be enough, that’s where it starts.
The other thing is that the Internet and its numbers don’t translate. I learned this personally, on MySpace; I established a rather substantial readership of nearly 4,000 friends and 1,200 subscribers to my blog. My blog had nearly 3,000 views per day when I realized I wanted to publish my collection. And I won’t say it was summarily ignored (far from it), but those numbers certainly didn’t transfer from one situation to the other.
I think Entrekin has gotten about as much attention as it ever deserved to; some, certainly, because I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t thought it was good, but not a lot, because it’s certainly not a great book–it’s a book collecting a bunch of stories by a writer discovering his voice in the process of telling them. The order of the pieces is very nearly chronological (which, I think, demonstrates said evolution), to culminate in the first two chapters of my novel. It’s not perfect (and even the novel chapters have since changed rather markedly), but it’s a record, and concerning the people in whom it does manage to strike a chord, it seems to do so deeply. What negative response it seems to provoke has less to do with the book than it does with people’s perception of me, as a person.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to digress and really have no idea how I ended up where I now find myself, but that’s my story. An ironic call to arms, probably, from a guy who maintains (roughly) three separate blogs, but I hope a call to arms nonetheless, if to no one else but myself. Because, really, it’s time for me to finish a good book.
And here I thought yesterday’s search was the funny one. I hadn’t seen anything yet, apparently:
My only comment is I hope whoever it was found whatever he or she was looking for.
Also, I’ve decided a further use for et cetera: I’m going to keep a running booklog there, with reviews. Put the first one up today: Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, which I thought was pretty damned brilliant (I ended up rating it a “Crazy Train.” You’ll have to read the review to find out what that means. But it makes sense if you do).
Anyway, probably quiet this weekend; lots of horrible writing to do.
One of the things I like about WordPress is that it records statistics pretty closely over several categories; clicks, who referred whom, where people went after they came here, what posts they read . . . stuff like that. Also, what people entered into search engines to find this page. Anyway, I just caught this in the stats after that last post:
I’m left wondering why, precisely. Was someone wondering if I had one, or hoping for a date, or what?
For the record, there are certain things I’m just not comfortable blogging about. I’ve mentioned previous relationships at certain points in the past, but never current ones, because doing so feels, in a way, ungentlemanly.
As you may or may not have noticed (if you read this on any regular basis), I became a little too busy in the past few weeks to keep up with Imagery and et cetera. But that’s okay; I got lots of pictures and even some videos from the road that I’ll be posting to the former on a more regular basis, and let’s face it, the publishing industry moves at a glacial enough pace that missing out on a couple of weeks of news doesn’t make much difference (NEWS: books were published! People read them! Some even liked some of them!).
But finally, one of the reasons I think I’m going to be able to keep up better again; everything at USC is done, handed in, graded, and finalized. I got my final semester grades; I pulled a 3.8. Back when I was an undergraduate, that would have meant I graduated summa cum laude; I’m not sure if that’s the case in graduate school, but still, I’m happy with my performance. Two B+s on my transcript, but one came from Irvin Kerschner and the other came from Janet Fitch, and hell, that’s cool by me.
Now, on the other end of things, I have somewhat mixed feelings about most MFA writing programs, but I can honestly say that going to Los Angeles was one of the single greatest decisions I ever made in my life, and, I think, helped determine the future course of it. I’m in a ludicrous amount of debt and now have to figure out what I’m going to do with a degree in writing, of all things, but still, baby, while it lasted, it was one for the books.
In both that first link and the final, Nick Mamatas shows up to offer some thoughts of his own.
Finally, John Fox, one of the editors in question (and again: a terrific writer, and my former classmate), discusses it here, with Howard Junker, editor of Zyzzyva showing up in the comments.
I’d like to note a few things, the first of which is that I respect and admire both Mamatas and Fox. I mentioned both Mamatas’ Stoker nominations (and win!) and Fox’s status as my classmate to demonstrate such. Their offenses, as such (reprinting query letters), are more dubious than egregious. Mamatas, in Nicoll’s LJ, notes the long history of “Tales from a Slushpile,” including from editors as renowned as Ellen Datlow.
While I’m surprised Wolff still has a job at Fence, I continue to expect great things from both Fox and Mamatas (I’m betting their respective theses are awesome, judging from what work of theirs I’ve seen).
My main point yesterday was one of courtesy and confidentiality. Perhaps my reaction comes from my own time as an editor, which occurred in a somewhat different industry than Fox and Mamatas function in; I edited a clinical psychiatric nursing journal, which was a trade publication, as opposed to a commercial publication. Commercial publishing, which includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and pretty much everything consumers buy, is actually a small percentage of the publishing industry, which includes textbooks, manuals, and the sorts of publications that are published by specialty presses for particular audiences. I worked for SLACK Incorporated, which is one of the largest publishers of medical literature in the world; unless you’re involved, somehow, in the medical industry, however, you’ve probably never seen the journal.
Perhaps that context is important; it’s obviously not an endeavour that lends itself to a side-blog, nor one in which publishing the letters of people with bipolar disorder would really amuse its audience in any way.
Fox makes the interesting note that writers who are good at their jobs won’t show up in such correspondence; the vast majority of slush is merely mediocre, and not horrific enough to “amuse.”
And perhaps again, I’m just not really the audience for this. I’ve said before I think the literary marketplace for short-form writing is basically broken, at this point, especially with blogs and Lulu. I’ve always wondered how many people who aren’t trying to break into print actually read these magazines; Mamatas has disparaged MFA programs as the barely published teaching the barely literate, and the short-form literary marketplace has always struck me as catered specifically to a readership that hopes to get published in it.
One final note: Mamatas has quickly picked up (and on) the fact that I am, in his words, a “lulu.com author.” I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that; while technically accurate, I’d much rather clarify that to just being a guy who made some stories available to anyone who’d like to read them. In Shetterly’s blog, Mamatas seems to indicate he feels that distribution is the clear reason writers need editors; without the latter, the former can’t get onto bookstore shelves, etc, and asks how many lulu.com I’ve seen in a bookstore. As I mentioned yesterday, I haven’t a clue, because that’s just not something I, as a reader, pay attention to–I pay attention to the writing and the stories, not who published them. No, you can’t find my collection in libraries (and I’m not sure you ever will), but you can download it free, and I think that’s kinda cool.
Also, I’d like to point out that my debut is a collection of short writing–poetry, essays, and fiction (most of you regular readers know this. Those who don’t: it’s free! What’re you waiting for?! Give it a try! Nothing to lose besides ten minutes [you'll know by then whether you'll like it, and why continue if you don't?]!). I used Lulu to publish it because I had several stories and essays I’d workshopped in my writing program (and indeed, a couple that got me into it in the first place), but nowhere to go with them, nowhere they seemed to fit. So rather than wait months for possible acceptances and probably meager paychecks, I just put them together.
I’d not do the same thing with my novel. The marketplace for long fiction seems, to me, more diverse, decidedly better, and less marketed to those who just want to get published in it in the first place (well. When it’s marketed at all, but that’s another post entirely). In addition, it seems more a business than the short-form market, which seems a bit more akin, to these eyes, to a network.
Then again, as Shetterly noted in his blog, I’m still very much learning my craft and the marketplace, so obviously all this must be taken with a handful of salt.