Dog Ear
One year later (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 December 2012 00:00

Hard to imagine, but its been a year.

I was sorting through the knotted Christmas lights, wondering when they'd last been untangled. What, a year? No, wait. Last Christmas, we took a break from all that, spending the Christmas week in London. It was the year before.

But as I teetered on the edge of the ladder, stringing the now-untangled lights, my thoughts went back to that last year. No, Christmas wasn't a worry, nor the trip (we've done bunches of those). No, it was getting Early Retyrement between covers, as they say.

If you'd have told be way back in, what, July (just went back and checked my elance history) that it would have taken six months, I'd have thought you mad. My first effort, the cover, was perfect. Mike Metcalf, my artist, hammered out exactly what I wanted in two weeks. Each time he posted it was better than before. He even researched Persian foot-gear to get it right. How could it go wrong?

Then I got my editor - a disaster. We spent months (September through November) fussing with it. Everything was wrong - the icons didn't line up, the page numbers didn't line up, there were scripting commands imbedded in my work, problems, problems, problems. I remember feeling sick every time I got a new update from my contractor. I'd go through 400 pages of draft and find even more things wrong. Finally we parted unhappily (I had a scrambled manuscript and was out $400 so of course I was unhappy). And suddenly Christmas was fast approaching, gift time, book time, and what better time to release a book than this merchantalistic season (you think it was about the Christ child? No, it's about the gold, frankincense and myrrh).

I was already playing with the Kindle version myself (it was actually easier than I expected - over one Friday night I got further and was happier than I was with my former contractor) Further, I hired DedicatedBookServices to finish up the paper version. They did it in four attempts, which means four days. I was very happy with that. By now, it was going into December.

There was a little worry about the rights to the icon I used for the chapter headings. I tracked down where I'd gotten it on the web, only to be unable to get in touch with the creator. Given that it came off a carving, I had Mike Metcalf draw it out on the fly. The irony was that I was worried about a tiny graphic and missed the point some song lyrics would play after release. Oh well.

I still had three weeks to Christmas, two weeks before the trip, plenty of time, right? Then I submitted it into Createspace. And found at that it could take two weeks, even longer, to get approved. So I sat, and waited.

By now, it was a little too late to really blitz for Christmas. I might make some sales among friends, but really, I had no network in place. And so finally the trip came and it had to wait until I was overseas. I actually used my brother's laptop in the hotel lobby to click the final checkbox and release the book - and that was two days before Christmas.

If I learned anything, it's that writing a book is the easy part. Getting it produced (even self-published) is hard. Very hard. Think well, warriors, before you enter into this pact.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 11:55
Three Cups (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 December 2012 00:00

I remember reading Three Cups of Tea and enjoying it - good book, and nice to know that good things occasionally happen.

Except to people involved in this story.

There came the allegations of fiction, that Mortenson, the adventurer whom the story centers on, had a "fluid sense of time" that "made pinning down the exact sequence of many events in this book almost impossible". And class-action suits against him and his Central Asia Institute, with claims that he perhaps profited from his charity and that investors were swindled.

And now the co-author (who parted with the hero in a less-than-friendly manner) just killed himself. It seems that David Oliver Relin felt that his career suffered from his association with the Tempest in Three Cups disaster.

This whole thing saddens me. Like I said about, I'd read Three Cups on a recommendation and liked it - happy ending and all that. Now there are doubts raised whether this was any different from any other Hallmark happytale, that maybe a lot of it never happened at all.

But really, look at Relin - he wanted to break out with Three Cups - his first novel and all that. Then came the recriminations and counter-recriminations and suddenly his reputation was tarnished and what could he do but check out?

Part of this goes back to that sleepless-night syndrome, I suppose - the same sort of thing I went through when I thought I was going to get hammered for a copyright violation. Your troubles can look so big when you stand at the base of them and look up.

But really, what's the point of killing yourself because your writing career is in the crapper? News flash - almost every writer's career is in the crapper. We start in the crapper, and have to write  and suffer and push and beg to maybe (if we're really lucky) get a book into print. And even after that first book goes out, there is no promise that you won't be a one-hit wonder, that some off-base review won't hit you between the eyes and strike you dead, or that  your co-author won't drag your name down in legal squabblings. Outside of mega-writers who can jot down directions to the corner store and have them show up on the NYT's best sellers list, most of us have careers that start in the crapper and remain there for our entire lives. It's where 99.44% of the world's writers are.

But to kill yourself over your lack of success is, to put it gently, silly. You would rather die than dig a ditch?

Seems like a waste of one's only shot at earth, normally a short 40-80 years, now made even shorter by his own hand.

Because of Three Cups?



Last Updated on Thursday, 06 December 2012 07:58
Dung sellers (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:00

This always happens. It's my birthday and I'm driving to Home Depot to pick up some caulk and tar to patch our roof (what a birthday!). NPR's media show is talking about publishing and I'm getting more and more depressed. It's all about how writers really need to market themselves, to find a niche and strategy, to come up with clever ways to gain notice, fans, and bandwidth.

Shit, that's marketing. It's not writing.

So trust me, I'm not going to make a comment that publishing should go back to the way it was, that as a writer, I should study the great works and develop my craft, that I should meet and shake hands with my agent, that I should chat with the publisher, that I should know my editor and work with him. It will never go back to that. In this, I am like the plains Indian on his worn pony, looking off the bluff at the town that has sprung into being, the railroad, the telegraph wires. Just like the Indians, there is no way I'm ever going to gather a war party big enough to sweep the palefaces off my land.

Ain't going to happen.

But it's depressing to listen to critics talking about self-publishers playing their shrewd games, making millions by producing a number of attention-deficit-coddling short books a year, none of them well written, working the angles on a stunted reading populace. Or Pottermore, part of the Potter Empire, doing all sorts of clever things to thwart the Amazon dragon. Or fifty-shades, which is nothing but fucking vampire fan service.

Yeah, I'm bitter.

Me no likum palefaces.

This new publishing world comes down to dung selling, those people who collect urine from the horse stables, who collect shit and entrails and everything else, who make a fortune at selling crap to a Inumb population. And then there are the ones who ship it in gigantic five-star ox-carts, where beasts are whipped to drag their overloaded wagons of sludge. And over it all hangs a stench of foulness. It can't be fought. Used bookstores fold. Potters become parks. Online sales (with their manufactured and bogus reviews) flourish. And away from all this shit, this foulness, this degeneration of art is the lowly writer, still hammering out his ideas, searching for a shared human truth that will carry those few honest hearts to a higher human order.

Yes, so I'm pissed that I'm not recognized. That's fine. I'll accepted the doomed Indian motif and play it that way.

But there is a thought that there will come a future arrangement of publishing, one that will sweep away the crummy exchange of bad books to Eslobs. The victors will in turn be defeated. Imagine that the doomed Indian could see what was to come, where the railroads fall to airlines, the livery stables to gas stations, the brave little towns to sprawling suburbs. And here will live millions of palefaces, all turning their sad faces to the charcoal, starless sky, all suffering the anguish of living with a dead soul.

"Told ya' ", the Indian will think with a wrinkly smile.



Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:08
Thanksgiving (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 November 2012 00:00

It's Thanksgiving, that day we all give thanks for what we have. As families, we can give thanks for those who can share our meals. As citizens of the Great Republic, we can be thankful that we still have peace and law and order and a working society. That the lights are still on and bullets aren't plinking off the gutters is something to be so very thankful for.

But as a writer, what can I be thankful for?

Well, for one, I'm thankful for my lunch setup, that our workplace cafe has a patio that looks over a lake, that most of the yuppies prefer to stay inside, and anything short of perfect weather drives in the rest. Usually I have the tables to myself, providing me with a quiet hour to work magic.

In that vein, I'm thankful for technology. I'd hate to have to do all this writing longhand, then transfer it to type. Worse, I'd hate to lug a typewriter around. I love my tinytop, that little PC with the 90% keyboard. It makes life so easy.

I'm thankful, in a way, for Mookie the writer's cat, even through she finds the worst times to jump up on my lap and lay across my arms (like just before this paragraph). I'm thankful that she's warm and soft and doesn't hold a grudge when I tip her out.

I'm not sure I'm thankful for self-publishing. Suddenly, the moribund publishing industry has become a chaotic, noisy place filled with stuff that, perhaps, should never have been published. But it got Early Retyrement into the sunlight as it deserved, and for that, I am thankful.

And in that, I'm thankful that I've had the honor of being traditionally published with Fire and Bronze. Sure, it ended in ruin, without a dime coming to me, my rights striped away, all that. But I was able to walk into a bookstore and see my book, there, on the new arrivals rack. When people refer to me as a writer, I know I've earned it. And I know what a close shave it was at every step of the process, so being thankful is the least I can be.

I'm thankful for all the writers who turn out novels so pure and perfect that I can only bask in their greatness. Their words I carry with me, to guide me in what storytelling should be.

Second from the top, I am thankful for my muse. She speaks to me. She twists my plots. She's with me when I don't know why I'm bothering. She shows up when I'm staring at a blank screen without an idea in my head and sets my fingers to dancing. Without her, I'm only a reader. With her, I'm a writer.

But mainly, I'm thankful for anyone who reads my blogs, my books, my short stories. I'm thankful for those who take the time and keep with my words, even over the slow spots, the tedious places, and the occasional typos. To anyone who comes up to me with a smile and a back-pat, I am thankful.

Writers should be thankful they are writers, every day.


Last Updated on Sunday, 18 November 2012 21:54

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