We can’t constantly tell stories of heroes. We have to hear the other stories, too, about people in dire straits who make bad choices.”
~ REBECCA HALL
I can remember a time long ago when every time I went to a movie, it was a new experience. The same with books. When you bought a book, you expected to be transported to a fantastical world like you’d never seen before. That time, sadly, is gone, and it has been for a long time. We have entered a world where innovative entertainment is shunned and disparaged, treated like a perversion that makes you weird if you like it. Publishers and studios are on epic quests to find and publish the latest example of the Last Big Thing. So, how many retellings of vampire romance are you up for? Dominant billionaires? Star Rebellions?
Movies I can understand. You can’t make a movie cheap anymore. The sad fact is that to make a solid action flick or a period piece can cost $100,000,000, and if it doesn’t return something close to twice that in sales, it could bankrupt a studio. Look at John Carter; it’s unlikely that any studio other than Disney could have absorbed that loss and survived, so I get it. That doesn’t mean I like it any better, but I get it.
Books are another matter. The traditional publishing industry bears no resemblance to what your grandfather would have recognized. Gone are copy editors, or even acquisition editors. Independent agents who earn their living from their percentage of a book’s royalties are expected to bring them print-ready manuscripts, proofed and edited, and ready to sell. I’ve heard that they expect their authors to do most of their own marketing these days as well. If all that is true, that all the work is done for them before they ever see the manuscript (and I don’t deal with them, so it’s all hearsay), what’s the source of their fear? Perhaps fear isn’t the word; perhaps it’s greed.
Whatever the case, the effect is the same. The Big Publishers are like self-proclaimed explorers turning over flagstones in the middle of town, hoping to unearth some great discovery in a place where millions of feet have already trodden. If you, as a reader, want to see something original, something that hasn’t already been done to death, you need to venture out of town, off the familiar streets, out onto the plains and into the mountains beyond. You need to get out past the edge of the map to where those authors who are beholden to no profit-based publisher, who dance to their own tune, who can’t be coerced by the threat of non-publication to change their vision to align with someone else’s ply their trade.
These explorers are independent authors. Self-published visionaries whose impresses are CreateSpace, Kindle, or Kobo. These people write stories that aren’t copies of someone else’s success, they build plots that take turns no traditional publisher would allow, and their characters are, well, characters! Of course, if you’re patient, you can stay in the middle of town; ten years from now, the Big Publishers will move into these strange lands that the indies have already moved beyond, and thump their chests while loudly claiming to have created a whole new genre. But if you’re a reader of indies, you’ll know better.
There are those who will warn you off of indies. Maybe they’ve gotten hold of a lousy self-published novel and now they’ve sworn off indies for life. So what? Who among us can say we’ve never gotten hold of a lousy book from a Big Publisher? Modern websites offer previews of almost every book they sell, and you don’t need more than a couple of paragraphs to know whether the author has the skill level you’re looking for. So there are no excuses for that assumption anymore. If you’re prejudiced against indies, fine, that’s your right, but don’t try to make it sound like it’s all the indies’ fault, because there are some damned good writers out here writing stories like you’ve never seen, with engaging characters, well-developed plots, and storylines that will leave you breathless. That’s what I’m trying to bring you in my Thursday “Edge of the Map” feature.
But don’t take my word for it. Look, the world of self-publishing is moving fast. Maybe it’s a world you haven’t been introduced to yet. If that’s the case, allow me to introduce you to William Jackson, David Lee Summers, Karen Carlisle, and C.W. Hawes . . . and even Jack Tyler. These folks have a story to tell you, more than one, in fact, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they could win you over to a point where you’d support indies for life.
I should point out that during the course of this past week, I got the first six chapters of Broken English posted in the tabs above. The pace will slow down until I’m finished, as from this point forward, the remaining seven chapters need to be transcribed by hand, but if you’re interested in seeing what I did in my first and only foray into the crime drama, dive in and see what you think.
BREAKING NEWS! The astute among you will have noticed that you can no longer access Possession of Blood. That is because I am in talks with a small, specialty publisher who has expressed an interest in publishing that story, and any follow-ons I may be able to produce. We are in very preliminary discussions, and I’m not offering any details for obvious reasons, but should they pick it up, it would be my first book that I haven’t self-published, and would fulfill a life-long dream. Wish me luck!
Other Voices . . .
Tara Sparling, my favorite Irish satirist, looks at how Brexit can be expected to affect the books being written and read in the British Isles. Well worth a look, as is all of her material.
Jefferson Smith of Creativity Hacker announces the launch of a new YouTube series consisting of fun and unusual readings from his books. He admits that even he doesn’t know what that means right now, but knowing Jefferson, it should be entertaining.
My old friend Alice E. Keyes, who’s been away from blogging for a year, returns with an update, including news of her new posting (her husband is in the Diplomatic Corps). If you haven’t known Alice before, stop in and get acquainted.
Astronomer David Lee Summers talks about his work at Kitt Peak, and how it informs his writing, in his latest post at The Dead Planet. Fascinating stuff.
Writers Helping Writers, always a good source to reference for quality writing advice, looks at chapter hooks, and what you can learn from television shows.
Andrew Bloom of Classic Film Jerks joins the Nerd Lunch crew for another installment of Down the Rabbit Hole. They have no theme this time, but just go where Wikipedia’s links take them. This podcast is hard to describe, so just click in and join the fun; you may find yourself with a new guilty pleasure!
Author Phoebe Darqueling is on installment 4 of her series on things to see when you visit Paris. This issue is about the Botanical Gardens, and even if you never intend to visit the City of Lights, the photos accompanying this post are well worth lengthy perusal.
Michael May of Michael May’s Adventure Blog is joined by his son David on a regular feature of the blog, Dragonfly Ripple, in which they take an in-depth look at 2011’s Thor.
Karen J. Carlisle, author of steampunk, Victorian, and fantasy stories, has a Patreon account for those wishing to follow her activities. It is quite inexpensive if you’d like to take a look, and she makes videos for her followers; one was just released, and announced here with details.
Sarah Zama, an author enamored with the Roaring Twenties, offers a book review of Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. Enjoyable reading, and an excellent chance to meet a talented writer.
There is little peripheral activity of greater value to a writer than good editing, and it is my privilege to be friends with one of the best. Join Lynda Dietz for an only partly comedic look at the admonition against using contractions in “serious” literature.
Photographer Richard Schulte also loves to write little slice-of-life short stories, and he has added another gem to his portfolio with One Lone Candle. Be sure to take five minutes to broaden your horizons with this one.
Sandy, or Doris the Great (see blog for more information), a Newfoundlander enjoying the tail-end of summer, has posted about a wonderful nature hike she took recently. There are pictures and some interesting text describing them; a nice relaxing side trip in the midst of all this heavy reading.
Novelist C.P. Leslie showcases an interview with fellow author Karen Brooks concerning Karen’s latest period piece, The Locksmith’s Daughter, an Edwardian novel of a lady spy. Looks like some good reading here.
Kyanite Publishing, LLC is seeking horror authors to join its ranks. They seek works of 15,000 words and up, and offer traditional contracts with royalties, editing, design, marketing, the works. Could be a great opportunity for the budding horrorsmiths on my reading list, and there are some other categories they support as well, so if you’re looking to get your foot in the door of traditional publishing, the link is just a few lines up. Don’t miss this opportunity!
And that’s 30 for this issue. Be with me Thursday for the latest list of promos; I’ve already found some beauties, and with four days left, who knows what might turn up? I’ll see you then. Read well, and write better!
Buy these fine books at Amazon.com.