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7.31.2014

Publishing is Loosening Up!

The tectonic shifts taking place in the world of publishing are yielding some interesting outcomes. Years ago, when I began submitting short stories with the hopes of cracking into venerable magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Fantasy & Science Fiction, attention to editorial uniformity was such a big deal. Everyone seemed to use William Shunn's "proper" manuscript format (I use it still, for the most part, by the way), and many magazine would conclude their guidelines with the dour sentiment that they would reject the work directly if it didn't adhere to the guidelines. 

If you published your work online (outside of the remarkable exceptions of folks like John Scalzi, who did just that with his first novel prior to being offered a contract), then most agents and publishers wouldn't touch it. The stain of amateurism was, alas, too great for a work to even enter the slush stream.

But now, with markets like Simon451, Hydra, and Alloy Entertainment sensing an opportunity to work with (primarily) digital authors to market and publish (yes, that ordering is intentional) their writing, it seems those ideals are loosening up a little. Many of these hybrid publishers will re-brand an already proven independent success. They'll accept a work in a number of different formats, and the guidelines are less stringent. 

I think this phenomenon is remarkable. It happened relatively quickly, and it illustrates just how fast a segment of the market has shifted to remove some of the traditional barriers to publication that were once pervasive. It also illustrates that content is once again king. That's not to say that professionalism and appearance don't matter, because they surely do. Your submission should still follow a rhetoric of organization and clarity that allows the reader to focus on the story, and not be distracted by typography or novelty.

But I think writers can relax a little, and focus more closely on the story. Write the work you want to read and, hopefully, your readers will agree, support you, and the piece will garner additional attention. Then, when a third party comes knocking, just send them the file and let them make sense of it. If they want it, they'll grab it, regardless of its attention to the almighty guidelines...

 

7.22.2014

Music Soothes the Soul...

Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season...

A few things I think I think:

The NFC South is going to surpass the NFC West as the most competitive division in the NFL...

Sammy Watkins is going to win the Rookie of the Year award on offense...



Peyton Manning will throw for 40+ touchdowns and the Broncos will win the AFC West before losing in the first round of the playoffs...



Gio Bernard will lead the NFL in yards gained from scrimmage...

Tony Romo will lead the Cowboys to an NFC East title...and a prompt departure from the NFL playoffs...

Jaguars go 7-9...Henne holds onto the job the entire year while Blake gets some seasoning...Justin Blackmon doesn't return for the team...Toby Gerhart gains 1500 yards from scrimmage and catches 50+ passes...

Super Bowl teams: Green Bay Packers against the New England Patriots...

7.15.2014

A Few Quick Thoughts on the Publishing Landscape...

Amazon and Hachette have been locked in a titanic rock'em, sock'em joust since January that is negatively affecting a number of authors' sales. It's the kind of big-business contractual nightmare (they're fighting over the marginal pricing share on e-books, among other things) that makes a writer with an eye toward business want to go out and work in the garden. 

Not all writers care about business, of course, and that's all fine and dandy. I dig the dedication of the 4thaluv crowd, but I also like to get paid for my work. Thankfully, there are loads of good options out there in a landscape in which the emphasis is increasingly placed on building a bigger megaphone

The variety of self-publishing services (there are bunches out there beyond those three) are getting pretty sophisticated. Their software is intuitive, and many authors are experiencing strong sales with their independent works. 

Services like Goodreads, Jellybooks, and Library Thing help authors with exposure. They also facilitate contact between writers and authors, which was pretty...stilted years ago. Stuff an envelope. Mail it to a publisher. Wait a few months for a form letter.

Rinse and repeat.

But now folks are chatting in real time, and it's all the better for the world of writing, in my view.

What about short stories? The surge in e-books has spawned a host of fine digital magazines that pay good rates and publish fine stories. If anything, we're seeing a stronger market for speculative short fiction in this digital era. Have a tale you'd like to shop? Check out the Submission Grinder for a home for that story.

All told, there seems to be a lot of fear about the future of publishing, but I think things are following the trends that accompany most disruptive technologies

Digital opens more doors for novellas. It allows for experimental stuff that has traditionally been harder to place. It allows for poetry and multimedia and unique new themes that publishers might not have touched in the past.

Things are healthy out there. Some traditions are crumbling. New ways of doing things will take their place. The trick is to find your own path, be pro-active with your writing, and work hard to create something of quality. 

If you have a story that you want to tell, put it on scibd.com or wattpad. If you have a novel, shop it to an agent or send it to Tor or put it up on your own free Web site. There are a number of paths, and it's up to the writer to find the one that doesn't scar his or her feet...

7.07.2014

Starting Down a New Path...

I began a new story today. For the last two years, the thrill of starting a new creative project has proven elusive. I've written a few short stories that I'm  proud of, but I've mostly been working on non-fiction.

I was hiking the Timucuan Preserve last year, and the seed for a novel that I'd like to read began to germinate in my imagination. I've thought about that tale for twelve months now. In that time, that seed sprouted into something real--at least as far as my imagination was concerned.

I envisioned the settings, the characters, the narrative arc, and the broader ideas I'd like to play around with. In short, the story was begging to be written, and today I started it.

Four pages. 1100 words.

Chapter one...

Meager beginnings, but exciting times, let me tell you.

It feels good to have finished a novel in the last few weeks (this one dating back many, many months), but it feels even better to have begun another. 

If you have a story rattling around up there, just begging for some clothes, then I hope you'll follow your instincts and take it to the tailor's shop. Dress it up and take it out on the town. 

And (not coincidentally), I'm teaching a creative writing course this fall at FSCJ for those of you that would like some college credit to go along with your creative production. CRW 2000, offered Thursday afternoons at the Deerwood Center. Sign up, and we'll make some magic happen... 

7.01.2014

The Leftovers



In the aftermath of Breaking Bad's conclusion and the season finales of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, I've been hopeful that a new original series would surface that might become destination viewing. The Leftovers certainly illustrates potential.

The pilot was interesting and artful, with solid performances by Justin Theroux and Margaret Qualley anchoring a story about the sudden disappearance of 140 million souls. The disappearance (and the nature of who went missing) is a mystery, and the story picks up three years afterward. The pilot was riddled with phony news reports and debates on whether the disappearance is a spiritual or scientific event (and yes, that Gary Busey gag delivers), adding some keen snark and welcome authenticity to the piece.

There's a cult comprised of silent smokers (I'd like to see them stalking the white walkers, actually, in an alliterative face-off) that seem to be a fly in the ointment for everyone else hoping to move beyond the loss of their loved ones. The conflict inside the city felt contrived in some places (compounded by Amy Brenneman's laconic, zombie-eyed turn as Laurie; sheesh, lady!), but I liked the scenes with the young people attempting to pick up and move on. 

Then there's the mystery of the dogs. "These aren't our dogs," Dean drawls, and they certainly don't appear to be. Those are some real danged killing machines, if the pilot is any indication.

All in all, I'm intrigued...