Thursday, July 30, 2009

not giving up the ghost yet

If I'm still at it a year from now with nothing to show but not-quite-ready manuscripts, I'm packing it in.

I'm dealing with a lot, internally and externally, and it's taking its tole on my Work in Progress (WiP). Plus I've had the weight of the above statement pressing on me. Thinking that the self-imposed deadline was in September, I decided that I could turn it all around. There are a few mandatory events for August, but otherwise, it would be a month of getting over June and July and prep for school. With a little negotiation with the family, I could get in an hour or so of daily "finish the revisions or die" time.

Then I went looking for the actual "packing it in" date and discovered it wasn't in September after all. August 13th. Frak. I could do the smart thing...recognize that my heads been churning out bits of story and proclaim that I will not go silently into the night...or...something. But a funny thing happened on the way to psyching myself up get this work done...

My husband spends a lot of time in Treks in Sci-Fi (yes, he is the uber geek to my geek). Leaving out the details that have nothing to do with this post, that means I spend a lot of time hearing about stories that I am neither writing nor reading. And while I was filled with angst over revisions, he was having the time of his life over a new character based on Han Solo (you know...if Han had been a Romulan). The fun was infectious. Before I knew it, I'd reimagined Han as a woman in an urban fantasy setting. The next thing I knew, I was world building and having a blast!

Yeah, I'd been right that I would never have a writing career if I continued to create lovely "half books" that fizzled out just past the middle (which is, technically, better than lovely first chapters so I've made progress). But I'm also not getting the desired career by transforming a once beloved story into my own literary hell. So August is going to be my fun writing month.

Totally fun. No freaking out over the hoped for career. No WiP angst. No fear of what anyone might think of my choices of characters or plot or inspiration.

Go me! And if you've had any of the same hang ups, maybe you should try it, too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How do you get a publisher to listen?

I'm in a mood. More than a mood. I'm battling depression with City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and strategic internet reading. The latter lead me to Ain't That a Shame, a fantastic blog post by Justine Larbalestier about why the U.S. arc of her book novel has a white girl on the cover though the story is about a black girl. If you don't follow any other link I give you (though, of course, I hope you do), please follow that one.

While reading the responses, I kept reminding myself that I *am* in a mood and should appreciate how many people commented in appreciation of the post, rather than keeping an eye out for those who don't get it (um, and ask questions about my psyche and what it means that I was so pleased when Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden did get it--but that's a whole other post that will never be written). What gave me pause was a response of an entirely different nature:

Thank you, Justine. Well said.

But Bloomsbury is not off the hook. One needs only look at how they “screwed” over the author of an earlier book (by “burying” the book upon release) to know there is a systemic issue at that house regarding books featuring an ethnic protagonist. And when properly embarrassed (outed for their behavior), continued to bury the book but began heavily promoting the a new book which featured a white protagonist on the cover. I thought things would improve when the marketing person left. Now it seems they hired a twin to replace her.

This is a business. We get that. And I applaud you for taking a difficult stand. But you are right – the only way for us to make a statement is to exercise economic clout.
That means I can’t buy this book – or a subsequent paperback, nor can I recommend it. I’m a writer – but also an affluent mother (read “book buyer) with college bound kids who are sick of being ignored. The damage is already done.

The local city paper recently ran an article about my family and reading. We often buy two copies of a book – one for each daughter. African American book buyers are not as “invisible” as Bloomsbury would have people believe.

If Bloomsbury releases the book without the original cover, the games over for many of us. I don’t advocate protesting you as an author (or any author) – but Bloomsbury as a publisher in general for it’s sustained and continued stupidity in the sales and marketing arena.

Will this help? My immediate thought is that if others follow this woman's example, the publisher will dump the author for low sales, not rethink it's obnoxious policies. Worse, it might not just harm this author, but every author who's main character is a person of color if they jump to the wrong conclusion for the bad sales.

Yet, I don't have a better solution. A write-in campaign? Someone spending the time and money for an exhaustive poll of all American high schoolers to discover how many of them read for pleasure and, of them, how many care what color the protagonist is and/or will only pick up a book with a white girl on the cover? Those ideas don't sound any better, but at least they aren't an accidental attack on the author.

Any suggestions? (And I'm nosy--anyone know what book Bloomsbury buried in the past?)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I am almost....

...but not a professional writer's group.

I was deleting something on my Facebook invites page because it's an event that'll take place six hours from here (assuming one doesn't hit traffic) and I don't have a car. But it was sent by Anton Strout, so I took a peek anyway. There's going to be a multiple-author signing at the Borders Express in Paramus, New Jersey on August 1st. Strout, Jackie Kessler, S.C. Butler, Barbara Campbell, Laura Anne Gilman, and Joshua Palmatier. If you live nearby, or can get there, check 'em out!

Meanwhile, thinking that was a brilliant idea, I clicked on their link for the League of Reluctant Adults. The first thing I noticed as I tried to discover the identities of the 18 paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who make up the group was that I'm already a member. Not one of the authors, of course! But some time in the past, I apparently agreed to be one of the fans they're gathering about the group. What a wasted resource! Sure, it's totally my fault I had accepted an invite to join and then, among the several dozen invites I accept or reject each week, forgot about it, but still! With a full 18 members, that's minimal work from each a month to remind old fans of their books and sling them over (by osmosis, almost) to the other writers.

Judging books by their covers (yes, I'm shameless), I'll be checking out Seanan McGuire, Diana Rowland, Kelly Medig, and J.F. Lewis. The site also reminds me that Jaye Wells is on my TBR list. Check out the blog, and if you're already familiar with these authors, gimme the skinny on their books.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Advice for Published Authors on Reviews

Somewhere along the line as would-be-authors, writers learn that not everyone is going to like our work. Mostly, it has nothing to do with the work itself: though they're grouped together, some people who like sci-fi don't care much for fantasy and vice versa; sci-fi/fantasy readers often don't care for romance, none of the above are known to like literary fiction. Sometimes it feels more personal than that.

Alice Hoffman made the New York Times Books section when she responded to such a review by tweeting that "Reberta Silman in The Boston Globe is a moron." Reading the article, first in my mind was, Good thing Anne Rice didn't have Twitter back in the day. Five years later and that is what makes me think of Anne Rice.

Dear authors, don't make this short list (granted, there are a few others) longer.

There's an old show biz adage that states 'All publicity is good publicity.' A children's book publisher (blast it, I didn't bookmark the link to share) recently explained how even bad reviews end up being good reviews. Shoppers in real world stores tend to remember the book being mentioned, but not exactly what was said; they'll buy the book and decide for themselves whether they like it or not.

So is the author supposed to keep quiet no matter what a reviewer says? Well, no. Showing appreciation for a positive review might make sure that future books get featured by the reviewer, though granted that's more likely to work with blogs than newspapers. And with fangirls like me giving our opinions on books along with professional reviewers, no one could fault you if someone went a little overboard and you made a correction (just note: "The pacing was slow" is not overboard, "She clearly knows nothing about the subject" is).

Take a deep breath before you respond to a negative review. Then take a few more. Maybe call up a friend to vent instead of doing on the internet where it can last forever. F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Screen shots, my friends. You can't necessarily delete even the things that allow you to delete. Let it go. Or offer it up--appropriately--to fans who won't let it go. Whereas Alice Hoffman tweeted name calling and the number of her reviewer (inappropriate, though Silman's e-mail is at the end of her reviews so giving that isn't bad), spec. fic. romance author Anne Aquirre tweeted a negative Amazon review without blasting the critic or telling her fans to do so. A few gave their own comments, creating a short discussion. We'll never know if anyone buys the book as a result, but at least it's not a situation that leaves readers talking about the high strung author rather than her books.

And that's the thing. We may or may not take what reviewers write to heart, but any personal opinion the reader forms about the writer isn't going away quickly or easily. Don't show your crazy or over-the-top side in public unless you want to own it.

ETA: In 2006 a Swedish reviewer slammed a book that was never written. That, dear authors, you could respond to freely!