When Genre Writing Is In Name Only

zombie hordeActually I have never met anyone who acts in pornographic movies so I don’t know for sure, but I think I would. Where I intend to go with this concerns an article I saw, Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars, on io9. The piece is a rebuttal of sorts to Glen Duncan’s review of the book, Zone One in the New York Times. That is where you will find the comment about intellectuals dating porn stars in regards to literary writers tackling genre fiction. Now having read the review but not the book I am sorry that I am committed that much to this internet dust up. That being said I thought my two cents on genre writing might be worth, well, two cents.

I aspire to write literature, I mean who doesn’t. What I think most do not understand is that, much like history, it is up to the decision of time. Using fancy words, or complex plot structures, or even nouveau cliches only gives your work the semblance of aspiring to be literary. On the other end of the spectrum, throwing zombies into your look at modern life only makes it genre in the same way McDonald’s made pizza. Writers are a fickle lot and nothing grinds our gears than someone writing poorly in our chosen genre or even writing quite well and making more money. What separates true genre writing is not what is in it but what would be missing if it was not there at all. Gadgets and Victorian clothes do not make a Steampunk novel any more Steampunky (?) than a strong protagonist with a wit and a bit of a rebellious nature do. If you remove the airships and Tesla Cannons and the story reads like a Wild Western Romance, you haven’t written a Steampunk novel. The same goes for horror. If the monsters are a metaphor for the ills of society, or even worse, nothing more than set  dressing you haven’t written a Horror novel. What genre writers seem to get better than others is all of the pieces matter and not just the ones that assemble the main picture. I think that is what Mr. Duncan was alluding too but somehow went about it in a very literary way.

Get Writing

Once again the cries of, “trick or treat,” have died down and the shelves of candy and costumes in the stores is being replaced by Christmas paper. That can only mean one thing. It’s National Novel Writing Month. Head over to Writers Write to download their handy calendar to keep track of your progress. http://writerswrite.co.za/nanowrimo-calendar-organise-and-conquer

Myself, I am not participating as I have already started my latest novel and have three others working thier way through editing. I salute those who take up the challenge and admire those who complete it. Qa-plah’

It’s All For The Exposure

As writers, we’ve all heard the importance of establishing a platform and, “getting our names out there.” At the same time we go into work each morning thinking, “if only I could stay home and write.” Well, you could stay home, but you can’t pay your bills if you aren’t getting paid from somewhere, so off to work you go. When you do get a chance to write you find yourself piloting the ship through the waters of platform and exposure as you craft a blog post or an article so and so asked you to do for a local newsletter. These are all valid endeavors to practice your craft and get your name, “out there,” but none of them solve the problem of paying the rent.

Actor and general Geek role model Wil Wheaton recently posted on his take on the write for exposure shtick. you can’t pay your rent with, “the unique platform and reach our site provides.” This has opened up quite the discussion online. My take is it all comes down to the details. A local newsletter is not the same as a weekly blog, which is not the same as a website with advertising revenue. Most reading this blog do not have the name recognition of Mr. Wheaton, I know I don’t yet, but his caution is still valid. Never sell yourself or your writing short.

Great Info-graphic on Covers

The internet is swimming in info-graphics these days but when I come across a good one I just have to share it. This one comes courtesy of GallyCat. If you don’t follow them you should, but on to the topic at hand: Similar Looking Cover Designs Infographic (http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/similar-looking-cover-designs-infographic/108528).

I know independent authors put much thought, (some would say agony), into cover design. I think we may be seeing over stylized covers; almost to the point where they become a mental puzzle to unlock the secrets of the book. Yes a good cover can sell a bad book, but a bad cover will do nothing for a great book. After looking over the above example I have to wonder if the big publishers really put as much thought into covers as independents. Granted a book by Stephen King only needs his name on the cover to sell it to his fans. Independent authors do not have that luxury. At the same time I’m seeing  a trend of covers that scream Independent Author. There is comfortably middle somewhere in there. If I find it I’ll let you know.

Spam Books

I really had no idea this existed. http://www.newselfpublishing.com/blog/#spambooks

Though after some thought I can’t say I am surprised. If there is a way to take a little money and make a lot of money you can bet someone is working at it. Now the hard question a writer must ask himself or herself is, why don’t I just take a freelance job. I know a very talented writer who does just that. I have thought about it too. We all have our own definition of success in mind and our own milestones to reach before we can say that we arrived. For myself, I prefer the control and the satisfaction of writing for myself. Publishing is just an afterthought. I’d love to make most of my money from it some day, but at the same time I don’t want to turn what I do to relax into what I do for work.

Anthology Submissions

This weekend I completed the edits for my submissions to the Inkslingers 2015 Anthology. This yer they have accepted two of my short stories, The Perils of Being Peter, and Spiders in the Bed. They couldn’t been two more different stories, but it shows the greatness of this anthology’s scope and variety. I will post more information as the release date approaches. For now if you missed my contributions to previous anthologies you can order them through Amazon.com.

War of the Word

ebooks on deviceLibraries are in the midst of their own version of the War of the Roses as they try to adapt to their patrons needs and juggle print and digital resources. It is a costly and time consuming endeavor but one whose importance shouldn’t be understated.

On one side is the trusted book. Our minds are imprinted with the book from our earliest stages of learning, remember, “A is for apple, B is for book.” We know what it feels like, what the pages smell like, and the sound the binding makes when you crack it open. Books are ubiquitous now where once they were the privilege of the wealthy. What a sign of wealth it was to have a library of your own. Books can be heavy and it is challenging to store a lot of them.

Digital content covers everything from online magazines, video, music, photos and of course eBooks. You can pile whole libraries of this content into your smartphone, tablet, or reader. The catch is you need a device. Where a book only required your eyes, (or finger), eBooks, as all digital content, need a device to be read from. One you must purchase or lease. Speaking of which, you don’t technically own eBooks. You license them like a piece of software. Publishers have finally come up with a way to thwart libraries lending of books for free. Hence eBooks will always be a more costly solution and present unique challenges for the library patron.

Right now the smart money is on eBooks. New technology always replaces old. Just don’t tell that to the vinyl record. So books offer simplicity and zero barriers for entry. eBooks offer convenience and portability, so long as your device holds up. So you can see, declaring one over the other is not so easy. Going all digital does not solve the problems of managing a modern library’s collection, nor does clinging to print books.

Currently libraries lease most of their digital resources as a stop gap to give their patrons what they want. This works for now but really does not present much of a future for the library. As prices for this content rise and more of their budgets get syphoned off libraries will find little to nothing to show for all the money they invested in their digital collections, to say nothing of products that no longer get support or disappear from the marketplace. For libraries to have any future they must secure digital content that they own. After all you cannot build a collection of purchase orders and license agreements.

Midnight Detail Is Finished

MidnightI just completed my 10th novel, Midnight Detail. I original came on the idea for an anthology a friend of mine was putting together, Twisted History. The main part of the story concerns Secret Service Agent Dallas Cooper who is inducted into one of the most secret divisions in all of government. The Midnight Detail is a code name given to the half dozen or so people who ensure that the world never learns of the tragedy that befell President John F. Kennedy. A secret so immense that only the cover-up of a staged assassination could keep it secure. Agent Cooper slips into a world of decadence and evil as a serial killer known only as the Scarlet Leaf Killer terrorizes modern day Washington D.C. Agent Cooper learns the reality of who is behind the killings and why is far worse than anyone, save the man he is guarding, could have imagined. It all comes down to an epic fight between a Vampire Lord, a demon, and avenging angel above a dilapidated hotel in the heart of D.C. More details to come once it goes through editing. Look for it, well, it may be a while.

Big Brother Is Watching Your Reviews

The hits keep coming from the folks at Amazon. http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/amazon-starts-to-enforce-draconian-e-book-review-policy I have not had this happen to me nor heard of it from any of my friends about my books either. On the one hand I certainly can see how this might seem like a good idea to someone at Amazon. Many indie authors have some of the most glowing reviews I’ve seen. I have even been admonished by one author for leaving an unfair review. Naturally our close friends and family will have a bias that may paint our works in a brighter light than other readers would. This is not the same as paying for reviews or gaming the system with multiple accounts. They only appear very similar. Amazon may also seek to avoid the circle-jerk that Twitter has become for Indie authors where 80% of our followers are other indie authors returning the favor. Still we must consider the cost.

Reviews are important. I make my buying decisions based on what others have to say. I am honest when I provide a review and expect the same of others. Amzon’s plan to maintain that, however, flies against the fact that as developing authors many of our first fans are, or quickly become, friends. We will follow each other on social media and gather together at local cons. We shouldn’t have to hide that. I never dreamed I would need a pseudonym for Facebook.