Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Clueless Writer

The latest buzz on the blogosphere is the author meltdown over a review at Big Al's Books and Pals.

What I find interesting is that the comments fall into two broad categories: those laughing at her meltdown and those who are trying to help her by reasoning with her.

It's clear to me from her first comments that she does not have the emotional maturity to get it: to understand that comments about her book are not comments about her as a person. So even those who try to reason with her will be told to "fuck off."

I find it rather sad. The reviewer of the book thought that the story was good. Who knows, with a bit of editing and the willingness to listen to feedback from a critique group, she might have been able to polish it into something an agent could sell. Instead she firmly believes that "my writing is just fine", "my first book is great".

We bump into writers like this all the time. The ones who think that everything that they write is absolutely perfect and if you point out a missing comma that means you hate their story and therefore must hate them. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do or say to them that will make them see the light. Well, I've never found a way. You want to help, but the best thing to do is to keep your mouth shut and walk away.

Usually they end up self-publishing their work because traditional publishers and agents are idiots incapable of seeing the brilliance of their prose. Which is why so many traditional publishers and agents do not want to purchase or represent someone who has self-published. The probability that the writer is going to turn out to be a nightmare to work with is very high.

This is also the reason so many people do not read self-published work. For those who are serious about their writing, who have studied the craft of writing, who have gotten feedback from a crit group, and have not been able to find a publisher for their work because it doesn't quite fit with what a traditional publisher is looking for, and so have gone with self-publishing to get their work published, it makes it even more difficult to sell their work.

And what makes this really sad is that the clueless writer will. never. get. it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Elephant Polo

While looking up elephants on the internet, I came across this.

Yes, folks, it's elephant polo.

Polo played on elephants.

I can't make this stuff up.

Friday, March 18, 2011


There are several ways of conveying a character's dialect in his speech: word choice, sentence structure, slang, phonetic spelling, and so on. I know that many writers feel the need to accurately portray their character's speech and so use phonetic spelling. The problem with doing that is that it can be very difficult for the reader to figure out what is being said.

If you make the reader work too hard to understand your character's speech, it is possible that they will get frustrated and stop reading the book.

Recently I checked out The Lady of the Loch by Elizabeth Ann Sarborough. I've read several collaborations that she has done with Anne McCaffrey so I felt fairly confident that I would enjoy one of her solo efforts.

The first chapter was very intriquing. The story is set in Scotland. It opens with a dead woman laid out for burial, then a ritual of asking her to identify her killer is performed. Which she does and so the story is off and running.

Until I got to page ten and the dialogue with the tinklers. I've taken out the non-speaking parts of this section:

Hangin's mak me unaisy jist noo.

Unless there's hawkin' amang the crowd or idle coin tae be freed frae careless pockets. I've nae use for a hangin'

I saw me fither hanget. I've nae wish tae see anither.

Mon, ye stood by me tae ca' the King's man when them ithers would hae hangit me. Will ye and yer young friend nae come wi' us?

And that's where I stopped reading. I won't finish reading the book. Fortunately, I borrowed this from the library instead of buying it from the bookstore, otherwise I would be supremely pissed at wasting US$8.

Some phonetic spelling to give the flavor of the speech is okay. Blowed if I know what "hawkin' amang the crowd" or "tae ca' the King's man" means. I'm not going to struggle for 250 more pages trying to figure out what the characters are saying. I've taken English Literature 101 and struggled through reading Beowulf and Chaucer. I'm done with that kind of reading, so back to the library it goes.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nocturnal Prophetic Emissions

On search for his quest, William Nonsyrname has disturbing dreams. That is disturbing to his traveling companions; he keeps waking them up. Are these prophetic dreams or not? Read NOCTURNAL PROPHETIC EMISSIONS, this month's installment in The Annals of Hypnosia to find out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Amanda Hocking: My $0.99 on the subject

Amanda Hocking's phenomenal self-publishing through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing has been all over the news and blogosphere. Some writers are dancing with joy at the soon to be demise of the gatekeepers and traditional publishers who are preventing the masses from reading their awesomely awesome decalogy. *cough* *eyeroll*

Before I give you my thoughts on the subject, I direct you to Amanda Hocking's blog where she talks about her success. Before you run off to self publish your work on Kindle, read it. This is the most important part (emphasis mine):

I don't think people really grasp how much work I do. I think there is this very big misconception that I was like, "Hey, paranormal is pretty hot right now," and then I spent a weekend smashing out some words, threw it up online, and woke up the next day with a million dollars in my bank account.

This is literally years of work you're seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn't writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.

Here's my $0.99 on the subject.

Self-publishing is not a new phenomena. When I went to look up self-publishing on wikipedia, I thought I would find out that it started sometime in the 1970's or 80's. Imagine my surprise to discover that the first documented self-published work was John Milton's "Areopagitica" in 1644 and quite a few classical authors started their careers self-publishing their work. The link to the wiki article is here. While some of the information in the article might not be entirely accurate, my point is that self-publishing has been around for a very long time. It hasn't toppled traditional publishing, yet. I don't think it will this time either.

We've seen this movie before.

If you've hung around writing groups for any length of time, then you'll know what I am talking about. Lord of the Rings came out, was a phenomenal hit, and writing groups saw a surge of aspiring authors writing the next Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter, ditto. Twilight, ditto. Christopher Paolini, ditto.

So what's going to happen is that there will be a surge in writers uploading their awesomely awesome decalogy thinking they're going to become millionaires like Amanda Hocking. The Kindle market will be flooded. The gems of self-published stories will be buried in a mountain of stories that should only be shown to one's mother. After being disappointed with several of those awesomely awesome stories, Kindle readers will get savvy and stop searching through the Direct Publishing offerings. Those authors who have worked just as hard as Amanda and chose to self-publish will be that much harder for a reader to find. This is not a good thing for aspiring writers.

On the other hand, after a few rejections by agents of those writers of awesomely awesome you-must-be-a-twit-for-not-seeing-how-brilliant-I-am manuscripts will flounce off the query trail and over to Kindle Direct Publishing. Which will leave a less crowded field in the query game for aspiring authors who work hard, hone their craft, and choose to pursue traditional publishing. And that is a good thing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ducks! In the Swimming Pool!

I was standing out on my balcony looking around and what to my wandering eyes did appear? A pair of ducks swimming in the pool.

I ran for my camera, but by the time I got back one of them had gotten out. (they're on the steps.)

I raced out of my apartment and down the stairs hoping to catch them before they got out or flew away. They were out of the water, but hadn't flown away.

While I walked softly around the pool to get a closer picture, they decided to check out the jacuzzi.

As I walked back to my apartment, I realized that I had raced out of it wearing my sleep shirt and shorts. No bra. Which is okay when you're twenty, but not when you're a little bit older than that. And the shorts are ratty and really shouldn't be seen by anyone other than close family members.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I am Maru

I ran across this funny cat video on youtube:

I am Maru

It turns out that Maru also has a blog.

And if you look on the sidebars of the blog you will notice Maru also two books and a DVD out.

Why didn't I think of that?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Currently I'm reading GWENHWYFAR by Mercedes Lackey. It's a fictional account of Guinevere, King Arthur's wife. Actually his third wife, apparently he had three wives all named Guinevere or Gwenhwyfar the Celtic spelling of her name.

The prose is compelling to read, but I keep getting tossed out of the story by little mistakes she's made in the background information. While I am quite sure that she thoroughly researched the literature about Guinevere, I am not so sure that she thoroughly researched the history of the time period. There are mistakes that I am aware of because I have studied that time period in history, circa 500 CE, the transition from Roman Rule to Anglo-Saxon rule.

But they're mistakes that most people wouldn't recognize as mistakes as they haven't studied that time period in history as much as I have. Which leaves the author in a conundrum, do you accurately portray the setting or do you use the commonly held beliefs?

For example, as a child Gwenhwyfar lives in a stone castle. There are two private rooms off the Great Hall. She and her sisters sleep in one. Her parents sleep in the other. Nothing wrong with that, right? Except that castles weren't made of stone until the eleventh century and the private room off the Great Hall didn't come into being until the twelfth or thirteenth century. This is five to seven hundred years after the time of Arthur. But most people reading a story about King Arthur or one of the ancillary stories would expect them to live in a stone castle with private rooms for the King and his family. And I believe the literature from the eleventh and twelfth centuries have them living in such a castle.

When I started writing this post, I was firmly on the side of get it right. But now that I have had more time to think about it, I am not so sure that is the best approach. How many readers would get thrown out of the story because Gwenhwyfar lived in a Roman style villa with a bath and a courtyard?

I'm only a few chapters into the story, but I have realized that if the names of the characters were changed or if I wasn't aware that I was reading a retelling of Guinevere's story that I would enjoy the story more. All of my expectations as a reader would be gone.

What are your thoughts about this?