Donald Ray Pollock’s Gothic Hillbilly Noir

29 July 2016

From Electric Lit:

Donald Ray Pollock has had what you might call an unconventional route to literary success. Born in the deliciously named backwater, now ghost town, of Knockemstiff, Ohio, the formerly hard-drinking Pollock worked in the nearby Mead paper mill (whose owners paid for four trips to rehab, the last of which stuck) as a laborer and dump truck driver until the age of 45, when he decided to turn his attention to writing. Since then Pollock’s unique brand of “hillbilly gothic” — bursting at the seams with unhinged misfits engaged in lurid violence, with a healthy dose of black humor thrown in for good measure — has earned him a slew of awards including the PEN/Robert Bingham W. Prize for debut fiction and Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, as well as a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship. Not bad for a late bloomer.

. . . .

Dan Sheehan: You worked for many years at a paper mill not far from your hometown. Did the desire to write creep up on you gradually throughout that period or did you wake up one day hungry for a change?

Donald Ray Pollock: I’d always been a reader, and for many, many years, writers had been my “heroes,” so to speak, much like other people admire sports figures or TV reality stars or billionaires, but, like most of them, I never had the confidence to think that I could actually be one myself. Then, when I was forty-five, my father retired from the mill and I imagined myself doing that twenty years down the road — putting away the work boots and heading for the TV — and I decided I wanted to try to do something else. By the time I was fifty, I’d published maybe six or seven stories, and I quit the mill and went to grad school at The Ohio State University.

Sheehan: Was that transition a difficult one?

Pollock: Yes, mostly because I didn’t have any idea about what I was doing. Though I had an English degree by that time, thanks to a program the paper mill sponsored for employees who wanted to further their education, I hadn’t taken any creative writing courses, and I didn’t know any writers personally. But I did have discipline, or maybe stubbornness is a better word, and I just kept hacking away at it. The first story I published was written maybe two years after I started.

Sheehan: With the success of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time [Pollock’s debut short story collection and novel], were you ever tempted to leave Ohio and move to New York, as so many writers tend to do these days?

Pollock: Never. Though I don’t mind visiting a big city, just for a change of pace or whatever, I could never live in one. Too crowded, too noisy, too many people. I’m a complete dud at what is called “networking;” and because I don’t drink anymore, socializing or parties can sometimes be downright painful for me after an hour or two, so there really wouldn’t be any reason to do it. Also, I’d think that living in a place like NYC would be way too expensive for most writers.


Link to the rest at Electric Lit and thanks to Sean for the tip.

Here’s a link to Donald Ray Pollock’s books.

And Knockemstiff, Ohio, is here.

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Nothing I do

29 July 2016

Nothing I do is done by popular demand.

Steve Martin

10 Amazing Facts about The Lord of the Rings

29 July 2016

From author DJ Edwardson:

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the publishing of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic. The first installment of this trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was published on July 29th, 1954. To celebrate this occasion, as well as to culminate the end of the 2016 Silmarillion Awards, myself, along with the hosts of the various Silmarillion Awards are writing articles in honor of this one fantasy series to rule them all!

For my contribution I submit for your reading pleasure these 10 Amazing Facts about The Lord of the Rings. Though diehard Tolkien fans and scholars will no doubt be familiar with most, if not all of them, you might just learn a thing or two.

. . . .

1. Tolkien intended the book to be published as a single volume

You think The Fellowship of the Ring and the other volumes are long by themselves, do you? Well, the Oxford Don originally wanted all three to be published in a single volume, along with the appendices and perhaps the Silmarillion thrown in for good measure! Can you imagine the size of such a book? Though now that the series is so popular you can buy all three books in a single volume, his publisher at the time, perhaps wisely, chose to release the story as a trilogy. So now you know Peter Jackson wasn’t going so far out of line when he stretched The Hobbit into three movies. He was simply honoring a time-honored Middle-Earth tradition.

. . . .

5. The series was first revised in 1965

In 1965 Ace Books published an unauthorized and royalty-free version of The Lord of the Rings in the U.S. because Tolkien had lost his copyright to the work. By revising it, he was able to correct certain errors in the original editions and, more importantly, reassert his copyright. Though Tolkien made no wholesale changes and did not consider his works in any way allegorical, such as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, he wrote of the revisions in a letter to Robert Murray, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

. . . .

8. The poem “One Ring to Rule them All” was composed in the bathtub

Yes, that’s right. It’s hard to believe that this epic and dark piece of verse was created while taking a bath, but according to Tolkien, that’s precisely where he came up with it. Part of me imagines he exchanged his beloved tobacco pipe for one blowing bubbles as he droned out these famous words in his thick British accent. If you’re a writer looking for some inspiration, you might want to draw yourself a long hot bath and see what happens!

If you’re not familiar with the verse (or even if you are it’s so good it’s worth reading again) here they are:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Link to the rest at DJ Edwardson

Here’s a link to DJ Edwardson’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Photographer Files $1 Billion Suit Against Getty for Licensing Her Public Domain Images

29 July 2016

From Hyperallergic:

In December, documentary photographer Carol Highsmith received a letter from Getty Images accusing her of copyright infringement for featuring one of her own photographs on her own website. It demanded payment of $120. This was how Highsmith came to learn that stock photo agencies Getty and Alamy had been sending similar threat letters and charging fees to users of her images, which she had donated to the Library of Congress for use by the general public at no charge.

Now, Highsmith has filed a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against both Alamy and Getty for “gross misuse” of 18,755 of her photographs. “The defendants [Getty Images] have apparently misappropriated Ms. Highsmith’s generous gift to the American people,” the complaint reads. “[They] are not only unlawfully charging licensing fees … but are falsely and fraudulently holding themselves out as the exclusive copyright owner.” According to the lawsuit, Getty and Alamy, on their websites, have been selling licenses for thousands of Highsmith’s photographs, many without her name attached to them and stamped with “false watermarks.”

. . . .

Since 1988, Highsmith has been donating tens of thousands of photographs of people and places in the United States to the Library of Congress, making them free for public use. The institution calls the donation “one of the greatest acts of generosity in the history of the Library.” The Carol M. Highsmith Collection is featured in the library’s Prints & Photographs Division, alongside the likes of Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl and Depression photographs.

. . . .

“The injury to Ms. Highsmith’s reputation has been … severe,” it continues. “There is at least one example of a recipient of a threatening letter for use of a Highsmith Photo researching the issue and determining that Ms. Highsmith had made her photos freely available and free to use through the Library website. … Therefore, anyone who sees the Highsmith Photos and knows or learns of her gift to the Library could easily believe her to be a hypocrite.”

Link to the rest at Hyperallergic and thanks to P.D. for the tip.

PG says authors are not the only creators who are sometimes badly treated by large commercial organizations that deal in creations protected by copyright.

PG also attests that Ms. Highsmith is an excellent photographer. You can see her professional website here and the collection of her photos she donated to the Library of Congress here.

Protecting Your Content and Your Name

29 July 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Back when I was writing a lot of tie-in novels for Pocket Books’ Star Trek division, a brand-new editor asked me to help him rescue a short story anthology. It seems that the main writer on the project had quite unexpectedly. The writer had outlined the story, and the outline had been approved by Paramount, which was a major hurdle. What the editor needed from me was an actual draft of the story.

In other words, none of the characters were mine. The plot, setting, and theme were not mine. The editor needed my style as a writer and my name on the cover. That was it.

I had never worked with this editor before. My usual Star Trek editor advised me to stay clear. But, I figured, it was just a short story. What could it hurt?

Well…it didn’t exactly hurt. But it was perplexing. I wrote the 6,000 word story as requested from a 2,000 word outline. Turned the story in on time. Got an acceptance, and the ridiculously high acceptance payment.

Then I got the copyedit.

Which wasn’t a copyedit. The editor himself had rewritten every single sentence of the story. Every single one. Sometimes adding passive voice. Sometimes making the meaning unclear. Always dumbing down the content and the voice and the point of each sentence, let alone each paragraph.

I looked at that, glanced at my contract, and realized that even though this short story was written as work made for hire, I could make a huge stink about this. I could pull my name or pull the story or cause all kinds of grief.

In the end, I decided to leave it alone. If you look up this short story now, you’ll see the most poorly written thing ever published under my name.

. . . .

That is the only time in my recollection that I can recall allowing an editor’s or copyeditor’s full rewrite of my work to get into print. I’ve had worse rewrites in my career, including a copyeditor who changed every single piece of punctuation in one of my romance novels, but I never let those go through under my name.

I cited contract terms, refusing to allow the changes. I pulled books from publishers because of shenanigans like this. I got copyeditors fired. Repeatedly.

I defend what I write. My writing in some story or novel or nonfiction article might be awful, but it’s mine. If I put my name on it, guaranteed—except for that one short story—every word in the piece is a word I wrote or approved. Every single one.

. . . .

I told you that most writers check their traditional book contracts for the advance, the payout, and the due dates. They don’t look at anything else. Writer after writer, and editor after editor, have told me this.

I always look toward the editing clauses first. Because if they’re ugly, the rest of the contract usually is as well.

This applies to all kinds of writing for traditional markets, especially for nonfiction and short fiction. I’ve seen terrible editing clauses in those contracts, and what’s ironic is that those clauses often seem to be the most innocuous.

What you want is complete control of the content of your work. In every single short fiction contract I sign, I change the publisher’s right to “edit the Work” to “copyedit the Work.” I always add a line that ensures I must approve any changes, including those copyedits, to the Work.

If I don’t like the copyedit, my version stands. If my version isn’t going to stand, then the story doesn’t get published. Period, end of story.

. . . .

The British publishing company has the right—if the publisher deems that right necessary—to completely rewrite my article. They could change everything. They could add stuff I find objectionable—political points of view, for example. They could libel someone through careless writing or even deliberately. They could take a piece in which I say I love something, and change it to say I hate it.

They can do all of that, because I would have signed that right away. Then I would have waived my right to remove my name as the author of the piece. So they could write all this stuff, and claim I meant it, because my name is on it.

. . . .

Oh, and one that drives me as batty as the editing clauses: they have the right to my name. Not just to use my name in publicity. I “empowered” them to use my name in any situation they “considered necessary.”

My name.

I see this clause a lot. Writers give up the right to their own names to a corporation for a few thousand dollars and the publication of a novel.

. . . .

She wrote back, refusing to change the editing clause, and then said this:

I’m afraid the moral rights clause is not one that I am able to make any alterations to. It is a standard clause across all of our contracts and our lawyers will not accept changes to it. As you say, this is a clause that relies somewhat on trust; I can only assure you that we will not act unreasonably, as it would not be in our interest to do so….

I kid you not. She wrote “Trust us. We won’t hurt you.”

. . . .

Make sure the editing clauses in your contracts—from short story contracts to article contracts to novel contracts—limit what the publisher can do to your work. You essentially should allow them to change some things to house style (like whether or not you put a capital after a colon). You should have the right to review a copyedit—and to have the final say on that copyedit.

You also need a clause that limits revisions. When there’s a clause in the contract that says that the finished book must be “accepted” by the Publisher, then you have to define what that means. If it means revisions, then those revisions should be limited to no more than two or three before the contract terminates.

I’ve known writers who rewrote their books for years before the books finally were tossed back as unacceptable by the publisher. One author I know rewrote her book every year for ten years for a textbook publishing house I worked for. When my boss left, and the next editor took his place, that editor saw this continual revision, and canceled the contract. the writer had to repay her entire advance.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Regarding responses such as our lawyers will not accept changes [to a standard contract provision], PG says that the lawyers work for the publisher, not the other way around.

If a publisher tells its lawyer to modify a contract provision to reflect a request from an author, the lawyer will do so. The lawyer may advise the publisher not to make the change for this or that reason, but if the publisher instructs the lawyer to make the change anyway, the change will be made.

A Golden Age of Books? There Were Only 500 Real Bookstores in 1931

29 July 2016

From The Atlantic:

I’m reading a fascinating book called Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, published in 1984 by the popular historian Kenneth C. Davis. I picked it up because many of the changes that social media and the Internet are supposed to have wrought on culture are ascribed to the rise of the paperback in this book.There’s all this talk in the book about “the Paperback Revolution” that “enabled American writers to find American readers by the millions” among the “Paperback Generation.” Mass-market paperbacks, we’re told, “made an enormous contribution to our social, cultural, educational, and literary life.”

I haven’t gotten far enough along in the book to tell you how Davis argues the story, but early in the book, I was absolutely dumbfounded by his description of the publishing business in 1931. He draws on a “landmark survey of publishing practices” carried out by one Orin H. Cheney, a banker, as a service to the National Association of Book Publishers.

Among the normal complaints about book publishers selection processes, we find this staggering stat about the retail business of selling books (emphasis added).

“In the entire country, there were only some four thousand places where a book could be purchased, and most of these were gift shops and stationary stores that carried only a few popular novels,” Davis writes. “In reality, there were but five hundred or so legitimate bookstores that warranted regular visits from publishers’ salesmen (and in 1931 they were all men). Of these five hundred, most were refined, old-fashioned ‘carriage trade’ stores catering to an elite clientele in the nation’s twelve largest cities.”

Furthermore, two-thirds of American counties — 66 percent! — had exactly 0 bookstores.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Gordon for the tip.

Amazon Posts Another Blockbuster Profit

28 July 2016

From The Wall Street Journal: Inc. reported another record profit and its fifth-straight quarter in the black as it continued to reap new sales from Prime memberships and its relentless push to deliver goods ever faster.

Revenue increased 31%, helping push Amazon to its third-straight record quarterly profit, assisted by rising sales at its cloud-computing unit.

Shares of the company rose 2.3% to $769 in after-hours trading.

Amazon appears finally to be delivering on a long-held hope from investors of consistent profitability. The Seattle company hadn’t had five consecutive profitable quarters since 2012 as it pumped much of its sales back into product and infrastructure development, including massive suburban warehouses to feed customers’ appetites.

For the second quarter, Amazon recorded an $857 million profit, or $1.78 a share, compared with $92 million, or 19 cents a share, a year earlier, as sales rose to $30.4 billion from $23.19 billion. Analysts were expecting a profit of $1.11 a share, according to the average estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters.

. . . .

Helping prop up results was the Amazon Web Services cloud computing division, which rents computing power to other companies. AWS revenue increased to $2.89 billion from $1.82 billion a year earlier. The unit appears on track to exceed Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’s goal of reaching $10 billion in sales this year.

. . . .

Amazon is no longer just the dominating force in online retail. It overtook Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by market capitalization a year ago and is pushing into brick-and-mortar with a bookstore in its hometown of Seattle and several others planned across the U.S. And the retailer is a major focal point for brands and manufacturers betting that consumers are willing to buy more goods online, such as clothing and food.

And to keep customers using its $99-a-year Prime unlimited shipping membership, Amazon has fattened up the program with exclusive streaming television shows and music as well as a one-hour delivery service for some goods in a number of cities. It said this month it will offer Prime for the first time to customers in India, where it has pledged $5 billion in investment since 2014.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Syria’s secret library

28 July 2016

From The BBC:

When a place has been besieged for years and hunger stalks the streets, you might have thought people would have little interest in books. But enthusiasts have stocked an underground library in Syria with volumes rescued from bombed buildings – and users dodge shells and bullets to reach it.

Down a flight of steep steps, as far as it’s possible to go from the flying shrapnel, shelling and snipers’ bullets above, is a large dimly lit room. Buried beneath a bomb-damaged building, it’s home to a secret library that provides learning, hope and inspiration to many in the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya.

“We saw that it was vital to create a new library so that we could continue our education. We put it in the basement to help stop it being destroyed by shells and bombs like so many other buildings here,” says Anas Ahmad, a former civil engineering student who was one of the founders.

. . . .

The siege of Darayya by government and pro-Assad forces began nearly four years ago. Since then Anas and other volunteers, many of them also former students whose studies were brought to a halt by the war, have collected more than 14,000 books on just about every subject imaginable.

Over the same period more than 2,000 people – many of them civilians – have been killed. But that has not stopped Anas and his friends scouring the devastated streets for more material to fill the library’s shelves.

“In many cases we get books from bomb or shell-damaged homes. The majority of these places are near the front line, so collecting them is very dangerous,” he says.

“We have to go through bombed-out buildings to hide ourselves from snipers. We have to be extremely careful because snipers sometimes follow us in their sights, anticipating the next step we’ll take.”

. . . .

The location of the library is secret because Anas and other users fear it would be targeted by Darayya’s attackers if they knew where it was.

. . . .

There is one child who visits the library every day, however, because he lives next door. For 14-year-old Amjad it is safer there than being above ground, and over time his enthusiasm for the place has earned him the role of “deputy librarian”.

. . . .

I ask him, in a besieged town that has only had access to two aid convoys in nearly four years, wouldn’t it make more sense for the library enthusiasts to spend their time looking for food rather than books?

“I believe the brain is like a muscle. And reading has definitely made mine stronger. My enlightened brain has now fed my soul too,” he replies.

“In a sense the library gave me back my life. It’s helped me to meet others more mature than me, people who I can discuss issues with and learn things from. I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books.”

Link to the rest at The BBC and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Every gun that is made

28 July 2016

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Self Published Title is Kobo’s Most Read Crime Novel of All Time

28 July 2016

From Kobo Writing Life:

Rakuten Kobo, a leading innovator in the digital reading space, joins WHSmith as a sponsor of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival taking place this week. In celebration of all things crime, Kobo is releasing insights from an independent survey of the British public and its own user database, which reveals the insights about crime readers and predicts where crime writing may head in the future.

Move over Miss Marple and watch out Watson, because when it comes to the general public’s favourite character from crime novels, it seems one quirky man has definitely won over the hearts of the British public. He may be more than 100 years old, but when asked to choose their favourite character from classic crime novels from seven well-known and well-loved characters, Sherlock Holmes was voted the favourite by every age, gender and location, garnering almost a third of the entire vote!

. . . .

When it comes to crime readers’ favourite reads, Katia Lief’s One Cold Night comes out on top as the number one best-selling crime novel of all time on the entire of Kobo’s platform in the UK. One Cold Night also topped the bestsellers list for self-published titles. Mark Sennen’s Tell Tale: A DI Charlotte Savage Novel tops the best read, with 100% of those who opened the book getting right to the end! The top British crime author of all time, with the most sales across all their books is Lee Child, followed by James Patterson in second place.

Whilst older women may make up the largest demographic of crime readers on the Kobo platform, when asked what genre they would primarily choose to write in when penning their own novel, it seems that the younger generation are the ones who will drive the genre forward with 43% of 25-34 year olds wanting to become authors of their own crime novels. Interestingly, although those over 55 make up a large percentage of crime readers, they were the age group least inclined to add to the genre they love, with 72% saying they would not like to write their own novel.

. . . .

When asked what themes they’d like to see addressed in crime novels, artificial intelligence was the single most popular with (34%) closely followed by virtual reality (25%).

Link to the rest at Kobo Writing Life

For those TPV visitors who don’t use Kobo, here’s the Amazon author page for Ms. Lief.

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