Monthly Archives: May 2012

Stephenie Meyer speaks about E.L. James

31 May 2012

There are two types of writers, architects and gardeners

31 May 2012

From The Claremont Institute:

During the summer of 1991, George R.R. Martin found himself with nothing to do. He had left a job producing the CBS dramatic series Beauty and the Beast and, looking for a new project, decided to return to the genre in which he had forged his reputation: science fiction. He began writing a giant novel, Avalon, that he hoped would turn out to be “War and Peace in space.” He worked diligently on the story, but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Martin has said that there are two types of writers, architects and gardeners: architects plan out their stories far in advance; gardeners meander, cultivate, prune, and till. Martin considers himself a gardener, and Avalon was a seed that failed to sprout.

Then, 30 pages into his sci-fi-meets-Tolstoy project, Martin had a vision “as vivid as a waking dream.” He imagined a young boy discovering the carcass of a wolf in the snow. The wolf’s neck was pierced with an antler. Mewling near the corpse were six wolf cubs. The boy convinces his father to take the wolflings home, and there the scene comes to an end. Martin didn’t know what to do with this piece of writing. But he did know that it was different from science fiction. He put it aside. Before long he was distracted by other television, film, and editing projects. A couple of years later, he returned to the story of the boy and the cubs, which he completed and called Game of Thrones.

The novel, the first of a projected trilogy, was published in 1996. But like a strong oak, the tale kept expanding, its roots spreading, and its branches multiplying. By the time the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, was published in 2000, Martin was saying that it would take six books to complete his narrative. Then six turned into seven. Judging by the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, published last summer, one wouldn’t be surprised if the planned heptalogy ends up growing into eight volumes or more.

. . . .

The series owes its success to the power of Martin’s storytelling and the richness of his creation. The story is set in a fictional world with continents that resemble our own. The two main landmasses, comparable to North America and Europe, are called Westeros and Essos. By our standards, the level of technology in these lands is primitive. Books are rare. Hardly anyone can read or write. The weapons, buildings, methods of transportation, manners, religious beliefs, and politics of the Westerosi would all fit comfortably in 14th-century Europe. There are knights, priests, sailors, traders, peasants, kings, and queens. There are tournaments, battles, heraldry, and castles. And there is the seat of monarchical power, the Iron Throne, a hulking black mass made of swords. Whoever sits on the Iron Throne is the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

. . . .

But there is another reason the books are so popular. A Song of Ice and Fire is intensely political. Martin asks the most serious questions about the nature of power: Who governs? By what right? To what end? He is fascinated by the subtle effects power can have on ruler and subject alike. “You can have the power to destroy,” he told New York magazine’s Vulture blog last year, “but it doesn’t give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.” Quite unexpectedly, Martin has emerged as the Machiavelli of the modern novel. The grit, blood, and passion in his books show human beings as they truly are, as opposed to the idealizations one finds in chivalric romances. A dispassionate analyst of the cruelty of princes, he reveals the unstable ground of absolutist rule. He is exploring, through his characters and situations, whether enlightened despotism is possible in a broken world. This isn’t fantasy; it’s a crash course in political realism.

. . . .

At first glance, the political teaching of Martin’s novels may be difficult to discern. The array of social, political, and religious systems at work in A Song of Ice and Fire is dizzying. Custom and caprice rule these societies; there seem to be no natural standards of right and wrong. Most Westerosi adhere to the divine right of kings and worship a seven-faced god. The denizens of the Iron Islands worship a sea god and have a method for determining leadership through assembly that resembles an Afghan loya jirga. The northern barons who live near the wall of ice pray to animist “old gods.” Across the Narrow Sea in Essos are the self-governing merchant city-states modeled on the Venetian Republic. The citizens of the Free Cities bend the knee to a variety of deities; one of the more popular religions is a Manichean system that pits light against darkness. The marauding Dothraki horselords are organized in clans. Still farther East are the slave states in which gilded oligarchies rule over human chattel.

The most important actors in Martin’s story are the kings and queens. Who rules, on what grounds, and for what purposes are the central questions of the series. Martin sees the problems inherent in the theory of divine right: without a public declaration from the gods that so-and-so should be king, human beings are left to determine the monarch through bloodlines, a slippery standard. To overturn one line through violent rebellion, as House Baratheon does to House Targaryen, is to undermine the foundations of authority and invite further challenges to the throne.

This dynastic quarrel leads inevitably to skepticism of monarchy. When the grounds for legitimacy are so thin, one ruler seems a lot like another. “Treason…is only a word,” says a character in “The Sworn Sword,” a novella set in Westeros.

. . . .

It is a sad commentary on contemporary American “literary fiction” that the most complex, gripping, and thought provoking exploration of power and legitimacy in prose is a more than a decade old fantasy series that languished in obscurity for years. What Martin’s epic teaches is that pride, honor, virtue, and envy are coeval with human life, open to interpretation by authors high and low, and this includes screenwriters. By stripping genre fiction of its clichés, by describing a political culture in shades of gray rather than in black and white, Martin is composing a far more relevant and nuanced work than, say, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (2010). As Martin understood when he began his tale in 1991:

“Stories of the human heart in conflict with itself transcend time, place, and setting. So long as love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice are present, it matters not a whit whether that tall, lean, stranger has a proton pistol or a six-shooter in his hand. Or a sword.”

Link to the rest at The Claremont Institute

Love takes hostages

31 May 2012

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

Neal Neil Gaiman

Self-published author Bella Andre to give Book Expo America keynote on selling 700,000 ebooks

31 May 2012

From Digital Book World and a press release by the author:

Nearly three-quarters of a million books (and a lot of elbow grease) later, indie author Bella Andre is keynoting at Book Expo America next week. In January, she was on a panel about self-publishing at Digital Book World in New York where she spoke of five-figure monthly paychecks and making more than $1 million a year.

At the same time, she said, she was working harder than ever — almost around the clock — and had to hire an assistant and others to keep up with work and life.

PRESS RELEASE:

Self-published author Bella Andre to give Book Expo America keynote on selling 700,000 ebooks

SAN FRANCISCO, May 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — San Francisco Bay Area Author Bella Andre will be giving a keynote titled “Making It As An Indie Author: Lessons learned a year and 700,000 ebooks later” at Book Expo America on June 4th at 1:40 p.m. as part of the Digital Book 2012 conference.

. . . .

Andre’s bachelor’s degree in Economics from Stanford may have made her an unlikely candidate to write sexy romance novels, but the perfect person to run her own business. She has sold more than 700,000 ebooks, the majority priced between $2.99 and $5.99 at retailers including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. Unlike a traditional publishing contract where she would receive 25% of the net price of the ebook, by putting together the cover and descriptions herself, hiring editors and proofreaders, and distributing directly to retailers, she receives 70% of each book she self-publishes at $2.99 or higher.

Her May 24, 2012 release If You Were Mine (the fifth book in her romance series about the fictitious Sullivan family) has become an immediate global bestseller, debuting in the Top 50 at all major ebook retailers. “As a reader I love connected series,” says Andre. “As a self-publisher, I can take a chance on launching my own 8 book series and then put my all behind it.”

Expanding on her U.S. success, she has recently licensed self-published titles to publishers in Brazil (in a “very nice” deal by her foreign rights agent), Italy, Japan and Turkey. She has also contracted  translators to create German editions and has begun to produce audio books via Audible’s ACX program by hiring a professional narrator. Five audio books will be out Fall 2012.

Says Andre about self-publishing, “I outline my ebook production cycle from writing the book to distributing it to marketing it to selling it. I’ve learned how to use graphic design software for my covers and tackled epub coding to create clean digital files. With every ebook, I’m constantly experimenting with new ideas, studying the results, and making adjustments. All of this has enabled me to jump from the mid-list to bestseller lists around the world with my indie releases.”

. . . .

Top 10 bestseller at Barnes & Noble, Apple UK, Apple Canada and Apple Australia
Top 15 bestseller at Kobo Canada and Apple US
Top 50 bestseller at Amazon and Kobo US

The author of 23 novels, Andre won the Award of Excellence for Romance Fiction and has previously been published by Pocket, Bantam Dell and Grand Central Forever. http://www.BellaAndre.com

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

[North] American Literature[s]: Strong Women

31 May 2012

From BookRiot:

Welcome to another installment of [North] American Literature[s], in which Dr. B and I invite American readers to step across their borders, if only to fill their bookshelves.

. . . .

This month we’re taking a look at strong women writers and their equally strong female protagonists from beyond the borders of this fine country. Brenna’s contribution to this post was delivered to my inbox while she was in a plane en route to somewhere way more interesting than where I am. I am writing my contribution as I sit at my computer in my pajamas wishing that I were on a plane to an even more interesting place (based mostly on the availability of quality tequila) – Mexico, the setting for the novel that I’m about to discuss –Arrancame la vida, or Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta.

The story takes place in the city of Puebla, famous for twin volcanoes and a proclivity for putting chocolate on chicken (they call it mole, and it is supposed to be wonderful). It tells the story of Catalina Guzman, a young woman who gets swept away by the power and prestige that comes along with being the wife of an influential general at the height of the Revolution. Over the years, she feels increasingly trapped in her role as a politician’s wife. She bears his children, behaves as expected, and he, in turn, cheats on her. Cataline fights back, though. She falls in love with an old friend of her husband, the musician Carlos Vives, and they begin a long affair. She never lets her husband, with his questionable character, crush her spirits.

So much of Mexican literature focuses on the men of the Revolution.  There has not been a great deal written about the female perspective on the war. There’s also not much (in the realm of fiction) about the upper class. Most authors tend to focus on the struggles of the peasant class. Mastretta gives readers a glimpse at what it was like on the other side, both in terms of class and gender.  The romantic elements might take center stage, but they cannot be separated from the changes that were going on in the post-revolutionary society of which Cati is a part. The book was an immediate success in Mexico, winning the Mazatlán Prize for Literature in 1985.

. . . .

Talking about the strong women in Canadian Literature is such a treat because there are so many of them! CanLit has never had a problem with women writers and female protagonists being a major part of our literary canon. The first novel ever written by a Canadian was actually by a teenage girl named Julia Beckwith Hart. Her effort, St. Ursula’s Convent, is not the greatest novel ever written — it’s honestly not even very good — but it does signal that the tradition of women in Canadian Literature is as old as the concept of literature in Canada itself. And luckily, the efforts got better and better over time, from the early texts by Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill to the grand dames of Canadian Letters like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, to recent superstars like Marina Endicott and Lisa Moore.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG will confirm that mole is wonderful.

Publishers Weekly Moves Into Self-Publishing

31 May 2012

From Writer Beware:

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the launch of PW Select, an online supplement to the regular PW magazine. PW Select, which is published quarterly, allows self-published writers to buy brief listings (author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description, and ordering information) for $149. With every issue of the supplement, a limited number of books–around 25%–are chosen for review.

This would certainly seem to be a moneymaking proposition for PW, but what it does for self-pubbed authors is less apparent. $149 is a lot to pay for a listing, on the off chance of receiving a review (especially since the reviews appear to pull no punches). As for promoting to PW’s readership–agents, booksellers, publishers, librarians–here’s one librarian’s reaction. And here’s one author’s experience, which points up a known risk of using any sort of listing service: unwanted solicitations.

Now PW is venturing even deeper into self-pub territory, partnering with Vook to offer its very own self-publishing option, PW Select Plus. (The service actually rolled out in April, but this solicitation only came across my desk last week.) Here’s how PW describes the service:

Under PW Select+, authors will receive all the benefits of PW Select as well as a host of options for using Vook’s e-book creation and publishing platform. Those benefits include conversion of authors’ manuscripts to an e-book format acceptable to B&N.com, Apple iBooks, and Amazon.com; automatic distribution within those three sales channels including full reporting; a distribution-ready EPub file for the author’s use in his or her own channels; an ISBN number (if needed); and seamless registration and integration into both PW Select and Vook.

The cost? $199.

The predictable reaction will be that PW is–again–trying to make money by exploiting authors. But I wonder about that–the moneymaking part, at any rate.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to Jeanne for the tip.

Are You Depressed, Bipolar, Anxious? This App Can Tell You For Sure

31 May 2012

From AppNewser:

If you are feeling down and think you may be suffering from a mental illness, WhatsMyM3, by M-3 Information, is an app that helps you test your mental well being.

Available for iOS and Android, the $2.99 app is cheaper than visiting a professional (through they do recommend that if you test positive for a mental disorder, that you seek real world help). The app asks questions like, “Over the last two weeks or more, have you noticed the following: Nothing seems to give me much pleasure.”

Link to the rest at AppNewser

To be clear, PG is not making light of any mental illness or suggesting an app can replace a mental health professional.

If it Flies Out the Window, We Don’t Go Back

31 May 2012

From author Susan Daley:

As children, my brothers, sisters and I amused ourselves during the warm hours of afternoon church with a pencil and the program. Besides connect-the-dots and tic-tac-toe, we sometimes illustrated our family piled into our station wagon “going to grandma’s.” There would be luggage strapped precariously to the top with dangling ropes and trailing an errant suitcase or doll. Windows were filled with faces, friendly hands and bare toes. Items flew from windows and trailed behind like a mine field of shoes, socks, toys, and books. Our early attempts at cartooning, despite the chaos they illustrated, were based on the giddy anticipation and enjoyment we got from going places.

A favorite thing to do was my brothers and sister just younger than I, and I would huddle in the back of the station wagon (pre-seatbelt era) with a blanket over our heads and tell ghost stories. We rehashed “bloody fingers” until we could almost tell it in unison. About then I began making up ghost stories—including the now infamous (among siblings) “Aunt Mae.”

Once, there was a drawback to being part of a large family on the road. We stopped at a rest stop over-looking a river gorge and while everyone lined up for a drink of water. I dashed inside for a more urgent need. When I came out, the station wagon and my family were gone. Unsure what to do, I sat down near the highway and prayed, trying not to cry or become frightened.

Inside the car, several miles up the road, my older sister thought of something she wanted to tell me and called, “Susan, Susan.” Even then, it was a while before they determined I was not in the car. Then they quickly turned around and came back to find me patiently waiting. The good part was, that despite my size, my mother held me on her lap the rest of the way over the mountain passes to grandpa’s.

Link to the rest at Looking Out My Backdoor

Do editors not say no because they can no longer say yes?

31 May 2012

From FutureBook:

When I was starting out in the book business the commonly accepted period for an editor to consider a submission was one month. Longer than that was not only considered rude, but unprofessional. If you couldn’t make your mind up after a month then that probably meant you didn’t care for it sufficiently to be the person to take it on, were too indecisive or too disorganised.

Above all though I was told it was a matter of respect to the writer: the people on whose shoulders we all of us stand. Every manuscript we ever look at represents years of distilled effort and hope and deserves to be treated with fundamental respect.

. . . .

None of us are perfect: any agent or editor is processing more submissions than they comfortably know what to do with and things do fall through the cracks, but the death of communication skills has reached epidemic proportions. It has of course coincided with the period when the power and authority of editors has been eroded as never before. Do editors not say no because they can no longer say yes?

The slowness and tortuousness of the acquisition process generates some absurd scenarios. It is far from uncommon for books to be acquired a full year after submission.

. . . .

It is certainly not an efficient system. Agents are (by and large) sympathetic to the tough times publishers are having and we all know that books are acquired by committee and that that can take time and be something of an arbitrary and political process. Editors do not need to pretend (as they generally do) that the decision to acquire is theirs alone.

Not only is that pompous, but their failure to communicate, even to say no, really does anger authors. They hate it with a passion. Rightly so. They feel messed around and treated with contempt: at best some sort of cats paw to the editor’s career, to be kept in play just in case they might be making a mistake in turning it down and at worst like a talentless waste of space polluting the world with their trash: not even worth rejecting.

. . . .

One of Amazon’s more brilliant strokes has been the way in which it has made common cause with the internet’s huge authorial community against the ‘legacy’ publishers. Every self publishing success that Amazon helps create seems like one in the eye for publishers to all of those authors out there who feel angry NOT because they were rejected, but because of the WAY they were rejected, or because no one actually bothered to respond at all.

Link to the rest at FutureBook and thanks to Tony for the tip.

Strange Bedfellows

30 May 2012

From The Economist:

JAMES DAUNT, the managing director of Waterstones, once described Amazon as a “ruthless moneymaking devil”. On May 21st he announced a Faustian pact with the online retailer. Mr Daunt will not only sell Amazon’s Kindle e-reader in his stores, but will also streamline the process by which customers can buy Amazon’s e-books while they browse the shelves. The aim, he says, is to improve the Waterstones shopping experience.

Critics think he is mad, comparing the move to Sainsbury’s inviting Tesco to set up shop within its branches. Earlier noises about a partnership between Waterstones and Barnes & Noble, an American bookstore chain with a rival e-reader, could have created competition for Amazon. This deal, by contrast, seems to strengthen the internet giant. Amazon has already cornered some 90% of British e-book sales, according to Enders Analysis, which tracks the industry. Waterstones’ plan threatens to send yet more customers towards e-books and Amazon, reinforcing its stranglehold on the market.

. . . .

But Mr Daunt, who took charge of Waterstones last July, defends the deal by explaining that while readers like e-books, they also like bookshops, particularly those with well-curated choices, helpful staff, Wi-Fi and a café. He laments that Waterstones moved too slowly to launch its own e-reader, but insists it is now wise to accommodate the device most people prefer. Customers still buy print books, he adds.

. . . .

Though e-book sales are rising, Mr Daunt is gambling that they will level off at around a third or even half of the market. He can take heart from the music industry, says Benedict Evans at Enders Analysis. Though music is “the perfect digital medium”, there is still a decent, albeit declining, market for CDs—more than 86m albums were sold in Britain in 2011. “Books will be even more resilient,” he says. Publishers and sellers hope so.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Hunter for the tip.

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