About Writers, book promotion, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writer’s Showcase

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Type: Satire, Racial Prejudice
From WiP, Bob Vs The Aliens
Scene: The Aliens have just landed and Piper, reporter for the European news site, Socialism Revisited, is in Atlanta conducting a “man-on-the-street” interview with Bob, who was selected because he struck her as an average white man.
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+++An elderly black couple turned to them. They smiled at Piper. She smiled back. “Ignore him,” the man told her. “Bob’s too white to understand what’s really happening here.”
+++“He’s a good boy,” the woman assured her. “Give him some time.”
+++“Hi Mom.”
+++Piper stared at Bob. “Mom?”
+++“I was a surprise.”
+++“Your face is Western European.” Her eyes twinkled.
+++“They love me anyway.”
+++Undaunted, Piper thumbed at the cameraman behind her, “Well, the power’s out again. But our camera still works.”
+++Bob ignored her. “I do understand, Dad,” he answered the old gentleman. “The presence of an Alien species defines all humans as one, right?”
+++Realization came over Piper’s face as if she suddenly sensed the real story here. Signaling the cameraman, she turned to the couple. “Tell me, sir, what was your first reaction when you heard the news?”
+++“White folk are gonna stop looking at me like I’m black.”

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Critique & Comments welcome 🙂
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Writers: Showcase your writing on Writers Co-op!
We want to see your writing of First Line or Paragraph, Character Introduction, World Building, Backstory, Action Scene, Satire, Humor, Horror, display an Emotion, show a Relationship, or, any Bit Of Writing you’d care to share. (Never more than one page in length, please. Be sure to state the type & book title and introduce the scene.)
Post in our drafts section if you can, or, use our Contact Page to send us your  sample or email it directly to GD (at) Deckard (dot) com.
(Many thanks to Ducky Smith & E.M. Swift-Hook of the SciFi Roundtable for their unwitting contribution of this idea.)

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Uncategorized

Norman Spinrad: The Iron Dream & Osama The Gun

There are more books than time, yes? That is to say: given the finite spans of our lives, and the untold hours lost therein to sleep and work and divers other activities besides repetitively scanning black tick marks on a page from left-to-right, starting in the upper left corner and then working downward to the lower right—flip!—repeat; I suspect most of us have compiled long lists (mentally or written, eh?) of books we intend to get around to reading . . . someday.

I give you forthwith two works of Norman Spinrad’s I intend to peruse as soon as I scrape together the florins necessary to acquire them: The Iron Dream and Osama The Gun. Both books sound utterly amazing: compelling, provocative, psychologically and sociologically astute, courageous and unflinching in their exploration of the roots of politically motivated and culturally sanctioned violence. One gets the sense from reviews of these books that Norman Spinrad swings for the fences each time at bat. Who doesn’t admire that kind of all-in commitment from a writer?

And how did I miss these books till now?!

The Iron Dream: http://airshipdaily.com/blog/06052014-the-iron-dream

Osama The Gun: https://www.amazon.com/Osama-Gun-Novel-New-Caliphate/dp/1479408271

SFWA interview with Norman Spinrad: http://www.sfwa.org/2011/09/an-interview-with-norman-spinrad-anarchist/

What books are on your “must read next” list?

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Stories, Uncategorized, writing technique

The Elements of Great Adventure

(With apologies to Joseph Campbell)

THE ORDINARY WORLD
“The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected…”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
– Princess Leia (hologram), “Star Wars: Episode IV”

THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL
“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t see what anybody sees in them…Good morning!…we don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.”
– Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE HELPER
“I can guide you but you must do exactly as I say.”
– Morpheus, “The Matrix”

THE THRESHOLD OF ADVENTURE
“The Mos Eisley Spaceport, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
– Obi Wan Kenobi “Star Wars: A New Hope”

THE THRESHOLD GUARDIAN
“Who would cross the Bridge of Death must first answer me these questions three. There the other side ye see.”
– Bridge-keeper, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

THE ROAD OF TRIALS
“So what you’re saying is that we go back in time, find two humpback whales, bring them forward in time, and hope to hell they tell this thing what to go do with itself? Well that’s crazy!”
– Dr. Leonard McCoy (paraphrased), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

THE BELLY OF THE WHALE
“Now we must brave the long dark of Moria. Let us hope that our passage goes unnoticed.”
– Gandalf the Grey, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”

TESTS
“We’ll never survive.”
“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
– Wesley and Buttercup (when preparing to enter the Fire Swamp), “The Princess Bride”

THE SUPREME ORDEAL
“Only after disaster can you be resurrected. It is only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.”
– Tyler Durden, “Fight Club”

ELIXIR THEFT
This is Prometheus stealing Fire to bring to mankind. The hero will incur great wrath on the part of the enemy Powers arranged against him. And it will not go well at all if he or she is caught. Having stolen the elixir, the hero needs to take the road back to the ORDINARY WORLD as soon as he can. But the Powers will not let the Hero escape so easily, he or she will be chased all the way back.

FLIGHT
“Come on buddy, we’re not out of this yet.”
– Han Solo, “Star Wars: A New Hope”

THE ROAD BACK
“We thought you were… dead.”
“I was. Now I’m better.”
-Captain Sheridan in response to the Drazi ambassador, Babylon 5 ep. “The Summoning”

RETURN TO THE ORDINARY WORLD
Having braved numerous tests and dangers and surmounted seemingly impossible odds, our Hero can now bask in glory and start writing his or her memoirs.
This is also known as the “denouement” when any open plot points of the story resolve themselves.

Source:
http://www.apocprod.com/Pages/Hero/Take_the_Hero’s_Journey.htm

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publishing

POD?

There is a discussion on Scribophile about Print On Demand, specifically, can you make money with it? Here are some of the comments:

> One entry says:

I formatted and uploaded my book to Amazon paperback format today. I went to price the book.  Amazon informed me that the print cost as about $7 bucks.  I chose 60% royalties.  And the lowest Amazon would let me price is $13.  And at the $13 price point, I make exactly $0 dollars.

Ok, I figured that the missing $6 would go to shipping. I went to order a few copies for myself, and Amazon is charging shipping on top of the base price. Also, I have heard something about “author copies” that cost less.  (Is this a real thing?)

> Re: CreateSpace.

It’s really ridiculous how much they charge for POD. At first it seems very reasonable – they get 40% and the author gets 60% BUT added to their 40% is a “flat charge” of $.85 on books 180+ pages and a per page charge of $.012 per page for 180+ pages. After all is said and done the author only get less than 15% – after US taxes it’s less than 10% – UGH. All of this was based on a price point of US $8.99.

Also I believe the author copies are $4 and change – but I’m sure that people that are more “in the know” can answer better.

> I don’t actually . . .

self pub through Amazon. I use Lulu.com, once you approve your book then they link it to Amazon and couple of bookstores. If you order your copies and sell yourself you can make quite a lot of money.

_____________________________________________

Does anyone here do POD? It occurs to me that to set up at a sidewalk/school arts/craft fair with copies of your book would at least have your thing seen by a lot of people. Best would be to get yourself written up in your local paper and blow it up into a poster.

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> Here are some words of wisdom from Jay, formerly of Book Country:

As someone who has a work available in POD you will be in that great fraternity of the self-published. No one on planet Earth will be aware that you have a book available for sale, other than because you sent them to that Internet sales page. Does my telling you that I have one of my novels available free on Smashwords motivate you to rush over there to read it? Probably not, and that’s free.

Would it make you rush were I to tell you it’s really good (just as every self published novel’s blurb does)? Again, probably not.

How about if I tell you that you can buy a printed copy for twelve dollars, plus shipping? Not much of a plus, when you can buy an award winning author for a lot less in your local bookstore, and pay no shipping fee.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but my view is that if we can write well enough to be worth the money—professional level writing—we can sell our work to a publisher. And if not…

Well, I disagree with that. Trad publishers are looking for work that is commercial, highly salable, according to their idea of that elusive quality. That method bypasses a lot of good stuff.

> And, a rebuttal: 

That’s a pretty gloomy outlook and incorrect IMHO. I have a friend who has written a series of 6 novellas, no more than 30 minute reads each that sell for $1.99 for digital copies and $9.99 for print, she’s making a cool $60k/yr. Self Published and POD. It just takes a little work. If you’re a midgrade author with a “normal” publisher you’re not going to do any better than that and still have to do 90% of your own advertising and promotions.

Several people on Scrib say that small publishers use POD, CreateSpace, whoever. Is this true? Atthys, you should know the answer to this. I have imagined that POD must have a giveaway lesser quality of materials. But if a legitimate small publisher uses it, that can’t be true.

> Finally, another rebuttal . . .

to the first rebuttal to Jay’s gloomy words: Jay’s post is the cold, hard truth. Sad but true and what aspiring writers need to know.

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I want to know if POD is a waste of time or not. Who’s dipped a toe into this fountain? Somebody thinks it useful. I begin to see POD jobs move through our compositor process at work. All but first-run titles are followed by a description, pbk (paperback), rerun, enlargement, create final file (for fully illustrated books set up by the publisher’s designer, tricky text wraps and the like), etc. I see, not often, but more and more: POD.

I suppose these jobs must be from small publishers. Next time I get hold of one, I am going to look at the info to see who the client is. Here’s an interesting thought: can it be that even large publishers are going this route, small runs, to manage inventory and returns?

Why do we label them POD? Is there some technical difference between the set up of  a traditional print run and POD? Are costs trimmed/shortcuts taken in one way or another? Are hawking-their-wares authors the main market for POD? Is this the new generation of vanity press? It seems to me more valuable as a sales tool than anything else. I’m going to pay more attention to our POD jobs, try to figure this out.

_____________________________________________

> A final Scrib post sums it up for us:

Q: How is a writer supposed to make any money?

A: Day job.

 

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Uncategorized, writing technique

Mary Anne Evans

The love of my life, M, is reading George Eliot. She enjoys Eliot’s incredible vocabulary. On Kindle, M just taps a word to see its meaning and then sometimes throws the word at me. I didn’t know “casuist” is a word for one given to casuistry, or, excessively subtle reasoning intended to mislead. The casuists I know are all newsreaders but I didn’t know there was a polite term for describing them.

It made me wonder. In a world where news is spun and we tend to believe what we want to hear, I wonder if the words we no longer use don’t tell us as much about ourselves as do the words we use. My favorite example is the shifted meaning of the word, “alienation.” I once looked that up in a dictionary printed in the 1800s just to see if it was in there. It was but it was described as a form of insanity. Not now.

There must be a word for things we don’t want to see but who remembers that?

Hopefully, the more erudite among you can help me out here.
What words are no longer in use even though what they stand for still exists?

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book sales, Uncategorized

Does Amazon Help You Sell Books?

Other than being the largest warehouse of books in the history of literate societies, does Amazon actually help writers sell books? Or are Amazon algorithms designed to maximize their profits regardless of the effect on individual authors and publishers?

I hear both from other authors. And there’s nothing wrong with maximizing profits. That’s how Amazon gets the cash to provide its services.
But, how well do they serve authors?

One author says, “The DAY I launched both titles there was someone selling paperback new and used copies of my books below my price. I had not sold or printed a copy (other than my own proof copies … which are still in my possession). There were simply no copies in existence.”
Now, how does that happen? Seems to me that copying and selling an author’s new book without paying the author is or should be illegal.

Other authors love Amazon. What has been your experience?

[Disclaimer. My own book, still available at retailers linked from ThePhoenixDiary.com, was on Amazon until they quarreled with my publisher.]

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About Writers, reading, writing technique

Firsts: Fists, Flirtations and Befuddlement

This could, I hope, become an ongoing series, but not all written by me. Anyone can take a turn, and it will be more interesting for the variety. It springs from Mimi’s recent suggestion that someone should post  some first paragraphs from novels or short stories.  Discussion, consideration, ratings and arguments could follow after in the comments section. It sounded like fun to me.  As an extra-added attraction, I’m not going to name the author or the book. Of course, some you (or some of you) will know instantly. Others may puzzle. They all come from books I enjoy or admire. Some are rather plain, others audaciously unconventional.

The title of the post is just me goofing around.  After all, a good first paragraphs can knock us on our ass.  It can seduce into opening an unknown door.  It can dazzle and baffle in a way that makes going forward our only choice.

Those are, of course, only three possibilities.

 

1:

to wound the autumnal city.

So howled out the world to give him a name.

The in-dark answered with wind.

All you know I know: careening astronauts and bank clerks glancing at the clock before lunch; actresses cowling at light-ringed mirrors and freight elevator operators grinding a thumbful of grease on a steel handle; student riots; know that dark women in bodegas shook their heads last week because in six months prices have risen outlandishly; how coffee tastes after you’ve held it in your mouth, cold, a whole minute.

(break)

I begin with an unbeginning. Or maybe with an unfinished ending. The confusion of the first three lines could seem to some as mere artsiness for its own sake, just fancy word-flinging, but that’s too easy a dismissal. This massive books creeps in from the mist and the smoke, entering our consciousness like some misshapen beast. During its 800 pages, it will find and lose solid footing in reality a dozen times.  The “All I know, you know” paragraph lays out themes and images that echo throughout the rest of the text. The semantic twists of this obscure list knock us off stride before we even begin, but that is only too appropriate for a novel that will never stop lurching and turning (careening and grinding) all the way through to the

2:

First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.

HERE IS A SMALL FACT.  You are going to die.

I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.

(break)

Another appealingly unconventional beginning. This was actually a very popular novel a few years ago, which only goes to show that you can begin a novel any way at all and still succeed in engaging the reader’s attention, as long as you know and trust your craft.

3:

Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

First, picture a forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.

(break)

Such juicy writing!  They say don’t begin with description. This book rarely stops describing things. There’s very little dialogue. The story is told from multiple points of view, but the main character is the one seen here at the beginning—the forest itself. The last sentence could be a motto for the whole novel.

 

4:

See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are know for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him. 

(break)

So quiet. So simple. So ominous.  In very few lines, two characters have already been given weight, contour, and personality.  I particularly like the language, which is at once idiosyncratic, arcane and lovely.

 

5:

I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three of four months you’ll be back in the swing of things. I didn’t believe him, but I followed his advice anyway. They had given me up for dead, and now that I had confounded their predictions and mysteriously failed to die, what choice did I have but to live as though a future life were waiting for me?

(break)

I particularly like the notion of failing to die, almost as if something monstrous had happened.  This was a quirky and troubling little novel. I think the opening does a nice job of setting the reader ill at ease.  (Question: Why “were waiting for me” instead of “was waiting for me”? Some foreshadowing that his future life is somehow plural?)

6:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane
I was the smudge of ashen fluff–and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky,
And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!

(break)

Yes, this a novel—a novel that happens to begin with 99 lines worth of heroic couplets.  The rest of the novel is several hundred pages of commentary by one of the least reliable narrators you will ever meet. The poem itself is marvelous, playful, and heart rending. The commentary is a whacky tale of political intrigue by a madman who uses an academic exercise as an excuse to tell his own (perhaps) delusional tale.

All right. Enough from me.  Can anyone identify the openings? More to the point, how do these work for you? What thoughts do they inspire?

 

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