When Simon Smithson and I published Sparks, the deal as we had discussed it always included a 6-week clause. When Sparks did so well at the outset–flying up the Amazon rankings in multiple categories and hanging in as a “Hot New Release” over Christmas–we briefly discussed keeping it live longer, but ultimately decided against it.
I think it was the right decision for Sparks. The 6-week window introduced an element of scarcity it didn’t otherwise have.
Digital publishing, however, seems to favor what many businessfolk call the long tail and I like to call the long game, mainly because even though I (mostly) have an MBA, I still like to play.
Now, just a week or so ago, Amazon announced a new Kindle Singles program, which Wired hailed as a beacon to “save long-form journalism.” Basically, it’s Kindle-original content that’s longer than a magazine piece but “much shorter than a novel,” clocking between 5,000 and 40,000 words, it seems. According to Wired. According to that press release, the lengths hew to approximately that midpoint.
I liked the idea. When I first published Entrekin, I used Lulu to implement what I called the iTunes publishing model; the collection was available, but each individual story was available as a 99-cent PDF.
It was a rousing success. It sold way more copies than I’d ever expected. When I made the digital content free, the downloads skyrocketed.
And now that Sparks‘ time has passed, and now that Amazon has announced this Kindle Singles–which is pretty much exactly the model I implemented nearly four years ago–well, it felt rather natural to published both of my Sparks stories the same way.
So I’m going to, and I’m going to start with “Struck by the Light of the Son,” and I thought, hey, what a great opportunity to talk about it a bit.
Let’s say you’re a business. You have a product that you dedicated a lot of time to. You’re not sure you can properly distribute that product on your own. Sure, you might be able to handsell your product door-to-door, but you realize that, maybe with some help, you can get your product distributed on a wider basis, and maybe even generate some great attention for the product. There are a few companies who specialize in distributing your product, companies who have a stranglehold on distribution, in fact–if you don’t partner with them, chances are you’ll never get that wide distribution.
Already it’s a problem.
Here’s the big question, though; say one of those specialty companies came to you and said they’d help you distribute your product. Would you enter into any business arrangement with them without reading a contract? Would you sign said contract without reading it?
Now, I’d mentioned I considered submitting Meets Girl to the contest. I think it would have a solid shot at winning on merit alone, and that’s not even to mention that I think it would probably be right up the alley of Lev Grossman, who wrote The Magicians and who is one of the major judges of the contest. The Magicians was the first full-length novel I read on my Kindle, and it was solid–if not great–in a genre-bending sort of way that crossed literary with fantasy, which is what I think Meets Girl does.
I mentioned, in passing, there are other, better contests writers could enter. And commenter Sid (the only Sid I know is my graduate writing advisor, Sid Stebel, but I can’t tell by the email address if the commenter and my advisor are the same person) asked after those contests.
So here are the top-five writing contests I’d submit Meets Girl to over the ABNA.
Which may or may not reveal my fortune, or my heart’s content, but certainly contains a first-act gun above a mantle
It was like walking into an alternate dimension.
If you had asked me what I expected while I’d stood in the curio-foyer with Veronica, I’m not sure what I would have guessed. Nothing much after having seen that other room; mismatched furniture, a threadbare rug, an old coffee table. Something ordinary, the kind of sitting room you grew up in, the kind of living room your great-aunt had, perhaps with plastic covers on the furniture.
Instead: a hall grander than I would have imagined and larger than seemed possible, given the dimensions of the house Veronica and I had entered. A marble floor with a deep, dark rug that could only have come from Persia, so intricate I would have believed it had taken several generations to handweave. A large, rough-hewn stone fireplace, in which crackled away bright orange flame that smelled like autumn and above the mantle of which rested a large, antique rifle—
If a gun is on a mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third.—
with a coal-black barrel and mahogany finish. Solid, dark wood rafters decorated the high ceiling in even intervals; I could have believed we’d just crossed the pond to end up in a castle in Scotland.
“Wow, it’s—,” I started to say, turning back toward the beads, but the woman pulled me farther in. Two burgundy leather chairs in front of the fireplace, between them a small table that looked as if it had been carved centuries before.
“It’s home. Come, sit,” she ushered me toward one of the armchairs as she sat opposite me. “Let’s get to know each other,” she said, as reflections of orange flame danced in her eyes, so lucid that I could have believed they weren’t actually reflections at all.
The presale for Meets Girl went so successfully for physical copies I thought I would do one for the digital ones, as well.
At first, I wasn’t sure how. The presale copies were signed (and, where desired, inscribed), and included a tarot card. But it’s not like I can sign a digital copy. And including a bonus poem, or something?
But then I started seeing all the Black Friday deals. The door-busting events. We all know people will start lining up at 4 am to buy socks at Walmart.
Is it just me, or does door-busting sound frightening? And heck, don’t forget, I’m the writer who likes to blow shit up. I will be avoiding retail locations from now until Christmas. I’ll purchase any Christmas gifts online.
And then Amazon announced it was giving people the ability to give Kindle books as gifts to anyone they’d like.
So seriously, what are you waiting for? For one dollar, you can give a copy to everyone you love, resting assured in the knowledge that it’s a high quality, professionally edited, optimally designed novel written by a guy who knows prose well enough to have taught it in colleges. For, like, a third the price of a cup of coffee, you can give someone a book they’ll never forget.
Heck, for that price, you can buy a copy for everyone you know and not even feel bad about treating yourself to one, as well. Because it’s been a long year, after all, and you deserve it.
I started college in August 2001, at Montclair State University, barely three weeks before those men flew those two planes into the World Trade Center. College, then, began in an initial, froshy blush of flusterment and excitement that turned too suddenly into something far too somber and solemn. When once we had been undecided, we declared majors in philosophy and theology and biology and physics, as if we believed we might study our stumbling ways to understanding. Montclair was close enough to Manhattan that, during the subsequent autumn, our campus smelled like a construction site when the wind blew just right, and we students made it a point to always be aware of the national threat level before we left for classes. I remember the Anthrax scares and the admonitions to stock up on duct tape and plastic covering.
I pitched myself into my studies like they could be my salvation, burying myself so deeply in extra credits that I had very little energy left over to devote to much else; one of the benefits of doing this was that I stopped pining after Veronica. I put my head down and got the grades and studied literature and science, and by the time I graduated, I was engaged to a girl I thought I loved, which prompted me to find a crummy little apartment in Hoboken. My fiancée was Polish and came from a very strict, very conservative, very traditional family, which strained our relationship until finally it cracked under her pressure. Just a few weeks after I had graduated, and not even a full week after I’d moved into an apartment I’d chosen mainly because it was within walking distance of her house, my fiancée told me our relationship wasn’t fair to me.
It came at first as a shock until, a few dark, empty-feeling days later, I discovered a newfound sense of something I can’t describe as anything besides immense possibility. I suddenly had no ties, no commitments, and I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.
I think I reacted like most people in any such situation might: by remaining resolutely me. Waking up in the same bed, studiously checking the same hairline, buttoning the same shirts and shaving the same cheeks, walking the same streets and entering the same building to climb the same stairs to sit in the same desk . . .
There is some degree of comfort in the familiar. It may not be much to subsist on, but for a while it can be enough. Just after I’d graduated, I’d applied at a temp agency that had placed me at the New Yorker as an assistant to the advertising sales director, and there I stayed, performing menial tasks like updating databases and collating business cards into a rolodex. I’d leave my desk in the afternoon, usually at 5:30 or so, just late enough to be noticed as I squeaked out an hour or so of overtime every week but never so much to actually accomplish anything. PATH train back to Hoboken, take-out, and then writing. I was working on my second novel by then, after having completed my first, the afore-mentioned Dean Koontz rip-off, while an undergrad. My second, back then, wasn’t much better; I’d had the idea while still in high school, and its origins showed through in places.
First, a big thanks to anyone who filled out a survey. It helped me out a great deal, both in terms of my class and in terms of my plans.
Second, if you haven’t by now watched the teaser video for Meets Girl in the previous post, go ahead and do so now.
I tweeted a picture of the cover, and then posted this video. A lot of questions came up, most of which boiled down to “All right, it’s pretty, and I’m excited, now how do I get the damned thing, Will? You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”
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.
Which is not unusual; I’ve heard very little criticism concerning the Kindle. People may not rave over it like they raved about the iPod when it first came out, but the Kindle seems, for many intents and purposes, rad. Awesome. Exciting.
Which makes one wonder: if it’s so awesome and exciting, shouldn’t Entrekin be available for it?
Why yes, yes it should be:
Ain’t it purdy? You can click that link to find its shiny new Amazon page.
The timing couldn’t be better, nor, I think, any less coincidental. I’ve been working on the Kindle version since back in August. Not that it took that long, but I mentioned I was going to be changing things up toward the end of October.
I still go back and forth on Lulu. The reason I put Entrekin on the Kindle was that the digital downloads have been so extraordinarily successful, with more than a thousand across the various stories. I like that Lulu allows me to offer the DRM-free .pdfs, not to mention that it also allows for the tangible book for anyone who wants a souvenir. I had a bad experience in Lulu’s community, but then again I’ve realized that if I simply decide to use Lulu solely as the printing press I’d always meant it to be, it does still serve my purposes pretty well, its forums, policies, and customer service notwithstanding (more on those three later, and elsewhere).
So no, I’m not done yet. I’m still curious about a lot of aspects of publishing and the ways it’s changing, so it looks like Entrekin will still be around for a bit. As always, you can get it here.
Thanks to everyone who’s made it such a success so far, and remember to keep telling your friends about it.
Especially if, you know, your friends own Kindles.
(because, really, here, so far, I’m at a loss; where and how does one market to Kindle owners?)
Galleycat is the publishing industry news blog over at Mediabistro.com, which is one of the single most valuable resources for writers and people in the creative industry I have ever encountered. A membership in the AvantGuild costs, like, $80 for two years, but it gets you exclusive interviews with agents, editors, and various other industry gurus, as well as access to content regarding both jobs and freelance opportunities. I’ve been a member for a while.
It’s also worth pointing out that when I note “sales ain’t much,” I generally define “much” as go-jillions of copies. I’d be so bold as to call the actual sales robust, with an additional exciting to further downloads. To wit: so far, Entrekin has raised nearly $700 earmarked for the United Way NYC, which works out to a little bit more than a dollar for every book sold. In about a year and a half, I’m up to nearly fifteen hundred downloads overall, with a little more than a third of those accounted for by the collection itself and new downloads trickling in every day.
Which is, largely, why I called the sales “ain’t much.” Then again, I’ve made about as much so far as I probably would have had I tried to sell the stories to various magazines, journals, and ezines; readers seem to like it; and as I note in that interview, I’m proud of the experiment that is the final product.
One fun thing about it all?
Technically, I think Entrekin may be the bestselling e-book on the iPhone.
is all you can see.
the sun glares down on you so hard
your whole body squints.
You don’t remember how long you’ve been out here.
Your skin has leathered.
Your bones form odd angles and crevices beneath it.
It hurts to breathe.
The acrid air burns your lungs.
You mutter to yourself
under your breath.
You may be the only person
who has ever heard your voice.
Your lips are chapped,
broken and bled and scabbed over.
You would cry if you could remember
what moisture was.
You shuffle-shamble along.
Sometimes a burst of energy makes you sprint;
most times you are deliberate and going is slow.
Eventually you stop,
thinking you cannot go on.
But there is still much to say,
unable to find a stick with which to trace in the sand,
you gnaw into your wrist,
letting your blood.
You stain the world.
Whorls and swirls and symbols,
And you write:
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.
In the spirit of lightening things up here a bit, I figured I’d post something more cheerful. To quote Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do! (which is certainly one of the most underrated movies of all time), I thought I’d give you something happy, something poppy.
Because it’s a perfect day for a ride, ain’t it?
I should really just sell the damned thing. Manhattan just isn’t a place for such a beast, much less the Village. New York’s a walking town. A subway town. Sometimes a bus town, and some other times still a taxi town. It’s a bustling town and a jogging town, a drinking and dancing and staying-out-till-4-am town, and in fact it’s a different kind of town just about every minute for just about every person in it, but it’s not so much a driving town. There are too many cabs, too many long limousines with precious celebrity cargo, too many delivery trucks and big buses, too many Lincoln Town Cars shuttling CEOs to the office and back. The air is too bright and the sounds are too vibrant and the color is too loud to be shuttered away from the world by four windows and a growling engine, but still I keep the dilapidated duster.
I tell myself I keep it because I wouldn’t get much for it. The old lady who used to own it never did know much about anything she put a key into, and the engine’s hoarse in her memory. The duck tape on the torn cloth top; the old, nearly bald tires; the muffler that might as well not exist—selling it might cover a month’s rent or a fancy night on the City, but not much more.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
But I know the truth. I don’t keep it because selling it wouldn’t make enough; I keep it for days like this.
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.
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)
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.
His basic premise is the fear that if you start giving stuff away, no one will pay for it. Not just in the case of a specific author but rather in the case of publishing overall; if magazines start allowing readers to read online and for free the stories they print, no one will want to buy stories anymore. Which strikes me as quite a slippery slope of an argument, and I worry he’ll lose control of his toboggan.
I tend to understand his fears, though, I think, because really, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll note that since I started offering Entrekin as a free download, the downloads have shot way up though the sales have remained pretty steady. But it also makes sense in other ways.
I’ve been neglecting my other two blogs lately (writing and prepping for teaching tend to make me laser-focus), but had I been keeping up, I would have pointed to Tor.com, the new website of science fiction/fantasy publisher TOR books. So far, I’m quite stunned by its execution; in range and scope, I think it’s rather amazing, and exactly the sort of things publishers need to be doing more often. Free stories. Free novels, even. Forums for readers. Reading is not just about words on a page; it’s about community and culture, and in one fell swoop, Tor has realized the combination of the two. It’s damned near perfect, and I can only imagine it will get better.
When Tor.com posted Scalzi’s short story, “After the Coup”, the story managed nearly 50,000 hits in two weeks, a number that is, approximately, equal to the number of subscribers to three of the biggest science fiction/fantasy magazines combined. When Van Gelder pointed out that all those subscribers pay, whereas TOR.com readers are getting a freebie, Scalzi apparently responded he was “comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.”
Which puts it pretty well, I think. Because in neither case is either number a certain count of readers. One might hope, I guess, that a subscriber would read an entire magazine, but I don’t think I ever have; every magazine I’ve ever subscribed to, there’s usually one article each issue that’s a stinker.
In fact, Tor.com’s implementation seems like the perfect execution in an online world: a publisher gets behind an author, and gets first-look rights at what that author creates, which it can post on its website for an industry-standard fee. Readers can view it free, authors get paid, and publishers get free marketing (New! Exclusive Junot Diaz story! Only at Riverhead.com!).
Used to be that publication made sense, if solely for purposes of distribution; there was no way to get a lot of books to a lot of people without having the kind of operation only a major publisher could implement. Nowadays, though, sites like this seem to indicate that nearly 1.5 billion people in the world have Internet access, whereas something like 90% of books sell fewer than 1000 copies. Which seems to me to indicate that there’s a giant disconnect between content creation and content distribution, if only because so many Internet users read. Blogs, e-mail, news . . . it’s really just a giant database full of information and content.
I’ve read Seth Godin claim that books are really just souvenirs, and I’m not entirely sure about that one way or the other, but I do think that magazines and newspapers well could be. They are holders of information, but certainly no longer the best method of delivery of that information. I’d say I’m reasonably informed about global news, but I literally cannot remember the last time I actually even saw a newspaper, much less picked one up or read one.
Van Gelder notes:
So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?
But when was the value of any fiction ever determined by the price people are willing to pay? All of Shakespeare’s work is public domain and available free, online, and what’s more, no one has to pay to produce or perform any of it.
What I think Van Gelder really means, though, is that we may be coming to a point where writers no longer need a short fiction marketplace (and I realize this is another slope of the slippery type, but still). In Japan last year, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels were distributed neither online nor by book but rather to readers’ cell phones. No mistake, the industry as a whole is changing markedly, and I think most professionals within it will learn to adapt to new ways of doing the business of getting good content to interested consumers, which is really basically all publishing actually is, anyway.
Personally, I’m still mainly surprised that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still only accepts queries by traditional mail. No electronic submissions.
I mean, seriously, what’s up with that?
(though they do accept payment for sample issues through PayPal. Interesting that)
I’ve mentioned before I’m currently in the submission process with my novel, The Prodigal Hour. So far it’s okay; not spectacular, but not terrible, either. Of course, “spectacular” would probably be defined as “offered representation,” and I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. I considered talking more about the submission process itself, but I think I’m going to do so more after I’ve been offered representation, and not before.
I’m going through the process as you’d expect; search the Internet and Writers’ Market and etc. for agents who are either actively seeking new clients or sound like they may be vaguely interested. And then I send a query, which looks pretty much as you’d expect a query to look: intro, synopsis, bio, and out. The intro gives me some trouble, though, because that’s where I mention the title, word count, and genre of my novel, and boyhow is that last characteristic ever a trouble spot. Many might think it’s easy: time travel automatically = science fiction.
But not so fast, I say.
Because I don’t feel like I wrote a science fiction novel. I don’t generally read science fiction novels. Science fiction is all wars among and treks across the stars, and it has a long and illustrious history I don’t feel a part of. Growing up, my choices for reading material were all Dean Koontz and Stephen King pretty much straight across the board, with digressions into Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff. Given that among my first experiences with Stephen King was a short story called “Strawberry Spring,” after which I read Different Seasons, I always had trouble thinking of him as a ‘horror’ writer. I never read It and never got to his straight-up horror until after I’d already read “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.”
Try showing someone with no previous knowledge of their origins the movie adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me and then explaining to them they were both based on books by a horror writer.
Because they certainly aren’t horror stories.
Admittedly, King is a bit of an exception; he himself is pretty much as much a genre as “horror”. People buy his books for his name, not for the genre.
Few people are going to buy The Prodigal Hour for my name, and you’re probably already reading this, anyway.
So far, I’ve been calling it a techno-thriller, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. It is thrilling (well. That’s the hope, at least), but character and plot work in pretty much equal measure, and it’s certainly not just about the thrills.
I sort of understand the requirement; it determines, basically, where your book is placed on bookstores’ shelves, which is key. I rarely venture to the scifi/fantasy shelves except to grab Neil Gaiman’s newest book, and again, I’m buying the name, not the genre.
One of the things that’s gotten me thinking about this, too, are the writers who write stories that seem pretty categorically genre but whose books are not placed there. Lethem started out writing mostly weird science fiction tales. Crichton’s got Jurassic Park and Timeline, at least, not to mention Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was narrated by a dead girl, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife seems like science fantasy.
And then there’s Michael Chabon. He just won a Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. The Hugo is a major award so known for science fiction that, when a handful of fantasy novels won (including JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Gaiman’s American Gods), some controversy got stirred up.
It’s like people expect good entertainment from all media until they hit books, and then some weirdo mechanism steps in and says that it must be “literature” to be any good while preventing the memory that the whole reason Shakespeare is awesome is because he wrote swordfights and fairies and witches so damned well into really exciting stories.
Yesterday, I posted a link to a review of Entrekin posted by Cheryl Anne Gardner at POD People. I’ve gotten a couple of notes from people regarding the fact that the comments on the post in question were shut off, and I thought I’d explain.
When Cheryl wrote to me, she mentioned the kerfuffle that had occurred when a couple of people (or perhaps one with sockpuppets) posted a bunch of anonymous comments attacking me, personally, and saying very little about my writing save that it was great. Cheryl mentioned a certain accommodation she normally wouldn’t, but I told her it was unnecessary, then suggested she or her colleagues might want to moderate their comments. Not censor, exactly, but, you know, keep track of them and ensure they were constructive and contributing to the conversation.
Not, in other words, anonymous and attacking. Flaming and trolling. The difference is usually fairly obvious.
I didn’t ask them to shut the comments off; that was their decision, and I don’t argue with things site administrators choose to do. Perhaps they thought that close moderation would require more work/attention than they wanted to expend.
Regardless, I respect their decision as I respect Cheryl’s opinion.
The depth of emotion is certainly there, and there are moments of truly elegant and poetic writing.
Overall, it seems rather mixed as reviews go, somewhere between encouraging and constructively critical, with far more positive than negative. I’m still new to writing and publishing and books, and I know the general position is that one shouldn’t discuss, much less respond, to reviews, so I think I’ll refrain. Overall, while she seemed to have major aesthetic issues with my style, she still seemed to enjoy the read and ultimately rated the collection as a whole a 7 out of 10 (which puts it above average so far as POD People reviews go, if narrowly), and she specifically cites six pieces that she enjoyed.
One thing she’s brought up, both in the reviews and in some correspondence with me, is:
there is always reason to re-evaluate the work. And as we mature as writers, re-evaluation is a necessary evil.
Which is true in some ways, I think, but I wonder about in others. Now that it’s a year and a half later, I’ve considered making more explicit certain reasons for certain choices I’ve made: the cover for one (Gardner hated it, but it’s often one of the first thing reviewers or readers tell me they liked about it), as well as some of the content. And there is a point that, a year and a half later, and now with a Master’s degree under my belt, I think I’ve gained a little more objectivity about my writing–I’m certainly better at it, I know that, which is nice considering all the time, effort, energy, and money I invested in the past few years alone. I’d have to reread the afterword to see if there’s anything new I might say about the work, but I’ve certainly learned a lot through the book that I obviously couldn’t before I put it out there.
One specific choice I’ll note now is that, while I might re-evaluate the work, I won’t, as Cheryl suggests I might, revisit it; Entrekin is not perfect, certainly (there are a few typos, for one), but then again, what is? In the past year, however, I’ve come to look at it as a sort of chronicle of a place I was and experiences I had, nearly a record of sorts, and as such, I’ve come to see it for what it is; a book that closes a period of my life. If I revisit any of the themes that appear in it (I think I probably do, in The Prodigal Hour), I will do so in other stories (and there’s a huge change right there: when I first published my collection, my novel was tentatively titled A Different Tomorrow).
As for talking about a lot of it and discussing the review, I’m not certain. Hemingway I think said: “Fuck ‘em all; let ‘em think you were born knowing how to write.” Then again, one of the reasons I’ve always said I blog is to show the nuts and bolts of things in ways that haven’t been seen before.
Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Cheryl Anne Gardner of POD People. I queried their site a while ago in the hope that they might review Entrekin. I figured they were just so backed up with books and reviews that they hadn’t had the chance to respond, which I understood; authors, self-published or otherwise, always hope for reviews of their books and so always query reviewers to do so, and I’d wager a book reviewers pile of books to read is similar in size, scope, range, and even quality, to editors’ and agents’ slushpiles. But the good news is that Gardner wrote me to let me know that she was going to review it probably shortly.
The most prevalent was the one I mentioned yesterday: “I won’t argue that Entrekin is a great writer,” which then went on to comment that I was “full of” myself.
I mentioned it yesterday and that I was happy it no longer came up as the first Google hit because can you just imagine an agent being intrigued by my query enough to hit Google only to find that as the first hit? I’d wager their first thought would be that I’m some prima donna author who thinks I’m the heir apparent to Stephen King and Jo Rowling and will become resentful when others don’t bow before my literary genius.
To which I say, in my best Wayne impression, shyaah!, not to mention: not!
Because seriously. I mean, what do you say to that? “Quite frankly, I resent the implication that I am full of myself. In fact, I am half-empty of myself, because I am a pessimist, and to fill the rest I seek meaningless sex, excessive alcohol, and the adoration of a whole bunch of people whom I will probably never meet except via the Internet (unless they come to an author signing).”
It’s kind of like being called defensive; if you defend yourself . . .
It’s probably silly to worry about, but I’ll admit it: I’m now past thirty and still worry about what other people think of me. I keep hoping that I’ll outgrow it someday, but someday continues to elude me so far.
But here’s the thing about one being full of one’s self:
I once heard that the difference between Eastern philosophy and Western religion is that the Western mode seeks external validation: from God, from the church, salvation through Christ, etc., whereas Eastern philosophy looks, instead, inward–toward the self. Toward the soul.
And that appeals to me. Which leads me to wonder if, according to Eastern philosophies, being full of one’s self isn’t a good thing? Or, at least, a goal to pursue?
I don’t know either way, but I’ll be personal for a moment, in a way I’m not usually, to tell you a story.
I went to a Jesuit college where I studied, among other subjects, theology (that my professor was a Jesuit priest trained as a Zen roshi might be why Eastern philosophy appeals so much to me). During that time, I became comfortable in my role on campus, in my role as a student, and then again in my role in commercial production. I won’t say I thought I had things pretty well figured out, and I read now the words I wrote then and I inwardly cringe, but, in a way, I felt somewhat full, I think. I was, largely, satisfied with my life.
And then September 11th. Which, I think, both emptied me out and made the vessel with which I was working larger (which, in turn, made it more difficult to fill). Suddenly, what had made sense before no longer did, and four years passed before I could really claim happiness again. Four years passed before I can really claim I felt full again. Satisfied.
And I remember the moment it changed again, when I realized I wanted to go to graduate school. It didn’t empty again, just made my vessel grow again, and so I drove across the country to Los Angeles, and I studied writing, and I began, again, to fill it. My vessel hadn’t grown so much as to require much fill, and then I published my book, and that helped it grow yet again.
And so I feel like the past few years have been a constant challenge of a growing vessel which I seek again and again to fill with my self. Each time my vessel grows, I seek new experiences, or new ways of seeing old ones, so that I can grow and fill it again.
It’s a challenge I have to admit I enjoy.
Full of myself? Sometimes, maybe. Perhaps. But when I’m really lucky there’s a little more room in the vessel yet to be filled, and the challenge of looking inward to do so is simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding.
“I awake from a long, deep sleep
In a leaky little boat on a wide blue sea
I spy no islane, rock or shore
And the sea, she’s a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor
And the tide come in and the tide go out
And the waves they came toss my little boat about
And the sky turn black and the sky turn blue
I got no pail, no sail, no anchor, too
Just a leaky little boat
And as I wake I look around
I have no notion where I’m bound
So many different colored boats I see
Are all leaky, lonely, and driftin’
Just like me
And the tide come in and the tide go out…
I spy no island rock or shore
And the sea keeps a-comin’ to me through a hole in the floor
Of my leaky little boat
Alone, adrift together are we
Slowly sinkin’ in a deep blue sea
But we smile and we wave
And we say, “I’m afraid…and I love you…and here we go…”
-Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, “Leaky Little Boat”
(update: edited to paraphrase the anonymous quote in question, for Google-rific reasons)
The first is that I got a request for a partial of The Prodigal Hour. I sent along the first fifty pages, which, nicely, end on what I think is a rather awesome chapter-break-cliffhanger.
Interestingly, the request came yesterday. Which the observant among you will notice was a Sunday, because, apparently, the Internet and e-mail and the digital age have rendered the five day workweek quaint, at best. In fact, the agent in question came to my attention via Twitter.
Brave new world indeed.
The other is totally geeky but something I was relieved about: Google. After I deleted my MySpace page, the first Google hit on my name linked to the PODler’s review, which was an excellent review, except for some reason Google excerpted a portion of the comments to the search results, so that what came up, rather than that my book was “poetic” and “cinematic” and “the writing of bestsellers” and “a stellar collection by a writer of promise,” was that I was a great writer who was full of myself.
I guess the traffic link, or whatever determines Google ranking, expired recently, because now my website is the first thing that comes up. No mention of my being full of myself.
Which is nice.
Anyway, I’m obviously far more excited about the partial request. Also: hopeful. You should be, too; The Prodigal Hour is just a little bit closer to you.
So wish it luck, because the more luck it has, the sooner you’re going to get it.
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.
I’m not quite sure why you actually have to be aware of this story to be able to find it, but it seems to be the case. I was told of it the other day by someone browsing the BBC news site, but on perusing it myself, I can’t find it. I checked all my major news sites, too: the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post and MSNBC.com. Heck, you’d hope one would find it through the New York Times, but no luck there, either. Just to confirm, I ran a search on it yesterday, and this is all I found:
Sad, that. The first project scheduled to be completed–in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks–was the memorial. Freedom Tower itself, along with the other buildings, weren’t expected to open themselves until 2013.
Larry Silverstein is in charge of building three of the five towers (seems he’s the owner). He’s also the person to whom will be made payments of $300,000 per day for every day the construction of the towers goes beyond deadline. In fairness to him, though the article is not clearly worded, I think he’s also the one proposing scrapping the deadlines in the first place.
It puts me in mind of a paragraph from “What I Saw That Day (September 11th, 2001),” my essay (in my collection) concerning that day those years ago, and how I feel about it now:
I can’t seem to shake this feeling that it’s a bad dream. I can’t help looking at the plans and design for the new Freedom Tower and wonder why we can’t just build the World Trade Center back. Why we can’t recreate those buildings so that, one day, when we talk to our children and tell them about that day, they can look up at us and say, “What’re you talking about, Daddy? You mean those buildings? Right there? They falled down?”
There are days I miss New York, especially lately, but sometimes I wonder if I don’t miss Manhattan during the summer of 2000. It’s different when I go back, and then again, so am I.
Man, have I ever been blocked. Totally for seriously.
And one thing about me is that I’m a Taurus. Remember I hit 30 last month?
Okay, so here’s my story about writer’s block.
Usually, when asked about writer’s block, I say I don’t believe in it. Because I don’t, really. I tend to look at writing not as a talent or matter of inspiration but rather of craft, and that if you sit down and do it, it works. I try to work on multiple projects simultaneously, though, because I also know that you just can’t force anything, or maybe shouldn’t.
And I have been. I’m finishing The Prodigal Hour, and at the same time working on two projects that I’ve mentioned before even if never in much depth; one is tentatively titled A Little Heaven, the other Meets Girl. Both are marked changes of pace for me, as a writer; both first-person narratives (despite that nearly every piece in Entrekin is told first-person, it’s not my usual mode for writing. I tend to prefer third-limited, probably because I grew up reading Koontz and King and Crichton before I moved onto Gaiman. You can trace some lineage, not to mention influences, there). I’ve tried to switch back and forth between projects when the going got tough.
This time, I failed. Because I wanted to finish my novel so much. Because I like it so much. And so normally, when I would have worked on something else as I felt the story klurge to a halt because it just wasn’t yet ready, the stubborn, belligerent, dammit-do-you-know-who-I-am-and-what-I-can-do Taurus in me kicked in, and seriously, yo, fuck that bull, man.
Anyway, I spent a few days anxious. Restless. The sort of days that inspired the old exchange between James Joyce and his wife–
James’ wife: What’s the matter, honey?
Joyce: I wrote seven words today!
James’ wife: But that’s great! That’s almost your usual tally.
Joyce: But I don’t know what order they go in!
I’d write a paragraph, and then realize, no. Then do it again. Then open previous drafts and try to flip through–
Anyway. Long story short, I’m making my way out of it. More slowly than I would like, but with some certainty. And no, I didn’t finish by July, as I had hoped, but man, I can taste it.
(sometimes that’s the most fucking frustrating feeling in the entire damned world)
So that’s where I was.
And that’s where I’ll be. Wrestling the fog. Because that’s what it’s like, really; it’s a slippery, elusive little fucker you just can’t find a decent grip on to save your fuckin’ life. In its way like happiness, or love, but in its own way again more frustrating than either and, in a way yet again, more rewarding.
So, when I handed it in as my thesis, my novel, The Prodigal Hour, clocked in at roughly 104,000 words.
Besides some job hunting and basic settling in during the past two weeks, I’ve been doing pretty much nothing besides revising. I bound a few copies using Lulu, then cracked it open with some notes from some trusted friends . . .
I’m proud of this, for the first time. I read the whole book pretty fresh, trying to see it as a new reader might despite that I wrote the damned thing (arguably the single greatest stumbling block to revision), but the thing I keep noticing is that I like it.
I try to avoid “good.” Or “great.” Or “fucking rad.” But I’m so psyched that I can just about say, “Wow, I wrote a book I like.”
I’ve been cutting like mad. So far, I’ve hacked nearly 10,000 words off, and I’m hoping for another several thousand. But the cool thing is that I’ve noticed, after cutting the extraneous words, that the words that remain are shiny.
And I’m having fun. Oh, boyhow.
I thought I’d share a bit with you:
Chance laughed. “I’m not sure you could’ve, Cass.” He thought of all those traveling men with their quills and parchments, with their boats and their spears, and if he had possessed a compass, he would have taken it up to rechart the world before him, tygers be damned. This place was his. He claimed it. The present we share, but the past and the future belong to Chance.
Made me smile, anyway.
So, off to finish. My goal is this weekend. And then: submissions, as well as maybe a few sleeve-tricks. I’ve got nothing up them, but you should know by now I might just produce a rabbit, anyway.
I mentioned previously that, thesis being done, polishing having been performed, novel being ready (of all things), I was going to start the submission process. And I’d always meant to write about it, when I got there. Back when I first started blogging, I’d just started the grad school application process, which is rigorous enough on its own, but more important, I’d just received feedback from a terrific author named Will Shetterly and had begun a new draft (Shetterly offered freelance services as a sort of freelance-editor/one-person-writing-workshop; his advice to me was spot on, and far more valuable than I can convey. I’m not sure he still offers it, but if he does, it’s well worth it for any writer of any experience). I undertook a new first draft, but that’s a misnomer; I completed the first draft of this novel, The Prodigal Hour, in December 2000. I began it as a junior in high school.
Point is, I’d never gotten that far. I finished a draft that felt pretty good in August ’06, not long after I started in my writing program, but it still wasn’t yet right. I sent it out to a small handful of people and got three sets of truly excellent feedback, and started all over again.
I finished just a few weeks ago, and now I think it’s time.
It’s surprising to be here, to some degree; writing is a process, and so very much of it takes place right here. It’s not so much that I’m frightened to let it out into the world; rather, it’s that I keep tinkering. A screw to tighten here, a nut to sand there. Like I might make it perfect someday, or something.
But I’m here. And being here, I’ve begun to think about agents. I know, to some degree, how agents work and what they do (suc knowledge is part of the job of being a professional writer); I don’t know everything, but then again, if I did, I wouldn’t be a writer–I’d be an agent (or at least somebody who knew what agents did inside and out). I know they broker contracts, and use their contacts to work with editors.
My agent will be smart and savvy. My agent will both have knowledge of the current industry/marketplace but also sense opportunities for its growth. My agent will be enthusiastic about both my book and my career prospects. My agent won’t expect the next Stephen King or Dan Brown or Jo Rowling, but, most important, my agent will look at me and say, “Okay, this is Will Entrekin,” and treat me accordingly. My agent will consider what I’ve done so far and sense how I might apply it to what will become a long and happy career. When I mention the possibility of other novels, my agent won’t cringe but will instead begin to consider the idea of multiple-book publishing contracts.
You’ll notice that none of these qualifications include “understands legalese” or “will work to get me the best deal” or etc.
Of course not. Because any agent can do that. That’s their job.
When I finished my thesis, when I wrote the last word and typed that last period, I was told I should go out and celebrate. And I paused, thinking about it, considering it, because my first thought was that it wasn’t anything to celebrate. It’s my job. Finishing novels is what I do. I don’t expect special treatment for having done my job; what I feel earns special treatment is the way I do it, and that’s what my agent will understand. It ain’t what they do; it’s how they do it. If I go above and beyond to do my job (and I do, every time. I give 200%, and put everything I have into every word I write), I expect my agent to do the same.
I would never expect special treatment–only the treatment I earn. I would never expect any more from an agent than I am willing to give to them.
Was it a year ago today I clicked the buttons to launch my own publishing venture? If it wasn’t, it was pretty close, I think. I know it was at the start of March, because I remember thinking about its being close to my parents’ wedding anniversary.
Now, like a birthday present, a website called Lulu Book Reviews has put up an extraordinarily positive review of it. LBR is a nascent venture, just initiated last week or so, and its review of Entrekin is only its second, but I see good things ahead for the site, and I don’t just say that because the review was so overwhelmingly good.
As reviews and kind words go, Entrekin had a rather good year. Back in June, the PODler had great things to say about it, and I already mentioned that, in July, one wonderful reader (thanks again to Deborah) downloaded it to her iPhone to read it and shared the experience with me. Not long thereafter, I took a long-ish hiatus from blogging, and during that time, some other nice things happened. The first was my entering Entrekin into the Writer’s Digest self-published book of the year contest. During the summer, I got a note, via MySpace, from one of the judges, who told me how much he’d liked my book and that it had made it to the second round of judging.
That note made me smile, and not just for the kind words; there’s a bit in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye when Holden Caufield says something along the lines that the best authors make you feel like their friends, make you want to phone them up and tell them how much you liked their book and maybe chat a bit. That note made me feel somewhat like that.
Ultimately, Entrekin made it no further in the judging. I’d had doubts it would, truthfully, but mainly because of the category selection; there was none for a collection, so I had to enter it into the “mainstream/literary fiction,” which only really makes up probably less than half the book. There’s still poetry, and there are still five essays, one of which, concerning September 11th, is, I think, one of the more powerful pieces in the book. It was certainly the most powerful to write.
But Entrekin did get 4s (out of 5) straight across the board (plot, grammar, character development, cover design), and whoever offered commentary liked that it’s all over the place, but that one gets the sense that I write because I love to do so (and I do), calling the notes at the end “genuine and heartfelt,” then, “This was a remarkably refreshing read, and its earnestness is catching.”
Which is just lovely, yes.
The judge also commented on a possible improvement, calling it “only … one small thing,” and then mentioned my self-titling the collection. He (or she) noted that doing so “might lead many cynics to think that Will Entrekin is egocentric. Just a thought. Again, I don’t think so particularly, but there are some who might.”
This comment made me chuckle, though I don’t yet know how to react beyond that yet. It’s not a criticism with which I’m unfamiliar, but still I don’t know how to respond; the more I note I’m, in fact, not, the more defensive I appear. Totally no-win situation. Lately I’ve just taken to not responding, except in extraordinarily rare cases; the last time I engaged anyone, in fact, I did so to stick up, so to speak, for someone else. That that someone else hadn’t responded, though, might well have been the clearest indication that they didn’t feel response was necessary. When I was younger, my parents taught me to always stick up for myself; part of it, I think, is that I’m still often learning how.
This bears up to the last review of any of my writing before LBR’s. I very deliberately took a step back to more fully realize what I wanted to do and how I might, during which time a blog called POD People reviewed “How the World Will End.” The reviewer, Emily Veinglory, opened by noting she’d heard quite a lot about me, though she doesn’t mention whether what she’s heard was good or bad, then that “It seems he can write, but it really isn’t clear what he writes about.” So she decided to give a shot to one of the free stories available over at my Lulu page, and I’m positively thrilled she decided to find out for herself. She chose “How the World Will End,” which, coincidentally, was the very first download offered, just a few days before the book became available, noting that she thought it was clear I knew how to put words together, but that the story, which started concrete, became “abstract,” noting that she “didn’t really get it.”
Which is, of course, fair enough. “How the World Will End” is a flash piece based on a song, written as a sort of translation/adaptation; I listened to the song and tried to extrapolate what it would be had it been a short story. It’s certainly experimental, but as for “abstract,” I’m not certain. Veinglory says one might call her “overly literal,” but then, I think the story is overly literal; I’m not a symbolic sort of writer, mostly, and when “HtWWE” mentions a missile, I meant a missile; when it mentions penguins, I meant penguins; and when it meant mountains and rivers, I meant mountains and rivers.
What I think is more important than the question of concrete v. abstract is that, ultimately, Veinglory notes she’s “left certain that Will Entrekin knows how to write but I am not sure that I would be interested in anything he chose to write about,” which is a shame and indicates that “HtWWE” fails, for her, on a number of levels: as a story, but also as a taste of the collection itself and as an enticement to give others a try. Veinglory ultimately gives the story a 5.5 star rating out of 10, which I actually consider extraordinarily charitable considering she didn’t seem to much like it; I obviously do like the story (I wouldn’t have included it if I hadn’t), and though I’m not certain how to rate such things (on a scale of swimming to banana, I’d give it a purple), I’m also not certain I’d have given it much higher. I think it did what I wanted it to, ultimately, and works for what it is; whether that’s good or not I leave to the reader to decide–in Veinglory’s case, then, not so much.
But ultimately that’s the question of the book, and what I’ve learned from this year. Is Entrekin a good, or great, book? To that I answer that I like it and am proud of it, and more than that, I cannot say. Does it do what I wanted it to? That I can’t answer, either, because I didn’t necessarily hope for it to do anything; all I wanted was to learn from this experience, and I have. I’ve learned that what counts is to put out something you stand behind, and believe in, no matter the circumstances, and that you acknowledge it for what it is. I’ve learned that marketing and promotion are difficult. I’ve learned that I don’t believe in self-promotion, because I’m not promoting my self; I’m promoting my book and doing so on my own. And I’ve learned that the best thing in the world one can achieve is belief in yourself and your work, but mostly I’ve learned that I certainly couldn’t have done any of this without you. I couldn’t have done it without the kind words and gracious notes. I couldn’t have done it without the people who took pictures of themselves reading Entrekin. I couldn’t have done it without your support, and for that I am both deeply humbled and extraordinarily grateful; no amount of thanks feels like it could be enough.
I’ve learned that some people like it, and others don’t. Mostly, I just hope people decide for themselves.
To that end, given that it’s the year anniversary, and given that my favorite author’s novel is available for free download for the month, I decided to follow suit. For the entire month of March, Entrekin, in its entirety, will be available as a free download at Lulu.com.
I hope you give it a shot if you haven’t already, and I hope you like it if you do.