Neverending Story

And – alas – no, not the gem of a movie or the gem of a book it was based on. No, this neverending bloody soap opera is the ongoing saga of Amazon vs Hachette, complete with New! Exciting! Dubious! Claims (yeah, yeah, so what else is new).

Exhibit 1, on the side of the megamultimedia giant with the teensy weensy publishing arm (of course I meant Hachette, who the heck did you think I meant?): Publishers Weekly spins a claim that Amazon is begging authors to shut up. Note that this is described as a phone conversation, so it will inevitably come down to who believes whom. Given that Hachette is playing dirty pool as dirty as it gets, and has done so in the past, I rather suspect that this is another exercise in disinformation eagerly gobbled up by those who want to believe that the massive multinational content distribution megacorp is on the side of the little guy. Sounds kind of dumb when you look at it that way.

Exhibit 2, a claim that a teensy weensy survey (come on, since when is 5k-ish representative of something like American book buying habits?) performed by an organization that depends on the publishing industry and especially the Big Howerever-the-hell-many-it-is-now for its news is more or less accurate about book buyers being turned off Amazon because of the dispute. With the fine record of disinterested comment from these guys I’m hardly surprised Amazon hasn’t returned requests for comment. “When you stop showing ridiculous levels of bias” isn’t really going to work with this lot.

Oh, and the author of the article making this claim? Well, he’s the Editorial Director of one Digital Book World, owned by…. non other than the owners of Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Market, both of which would have more than a few problems should the Big Publishing Babies not be there any more.

Exhibit 3 is actually rather balanced and doesn’t skimp on the facts. Since it’s explaining why Amazon scares the bejeezus out of the Big Publishing Babies this is a good thing. Of course, much of it is anecdata, but we all know the hard data that lies behind all of this. Yeah. That. The survey that says clearly that indie isn’t just eating trad’s lunch, indie is eating trad’s breakfast as well, and probably a good chunk of dinner on the side.

Now that you’ve all had enough of the soap opera for now, here’s a nice little example of what one little typo can do… (Alas, I don’t have the image. When the typo was pointed out the creator pulled it to fix… It’s advertising a paranormal romance).

Imagine a toned male torso, low slung jeans that look about a quarter inch shy of indecent exposure. Presumably the droplets on said torso are sweat. Male hands rest lightly on the things, most likely belonging to the owner of said torso. Female hands possessively caress the stomach (the owner of those must be standing behind the guy). Pic doesn’t go high enough to show nipples. Background is a dark stormy blue with lightning in the distance. Pretty much standard, so far.

Now the text… And I quote (emphasis is all mine): “Damn the gods. The fell of her solid form blasted through his petrified center. He hadn’t realized how much he missed this. Human contact. The simple act of ouching and being touched. Warmth and the softness of a woman. So long denied, now he feasted.”

Without that typo it would be pretty good copy for that style of book. And – inevitably – the creator is a tad pissed that it slipped through. Proof that a) one letter matters. A lot. And b) you can proof-read something a dozen times and you still won’t see the mistake until you publish the bloody thing.

Oh, and many thanks to Amanda for the links. Without those, all I would have had to offer was the typo.

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Creating Tribal Lays -short story writing workshop.

 

 

(Get mind out of gutter. Kate left a winch around here somewhere.)

 

Every time I read a book on how to write, I decide I can’t do it and will never be able to do it ever. That started before I was published and it still goes on.

Worse, when I read a book about other writers’ biographies and how they wrote this and that, I think that either they’re lying or I’m a very weird sort of writing, bordering on the bizarre.

Because every time I read a book on other writers, they say something like “I decided to write my book on death machines in space because I was reading popular mechanics on how to build a fiddle-playing automaton.” Or “I wanted to write a book to express the humor of the human condition.”

Then I realize I’ve said things like “I wrote A Few Good Men because I wanted to write The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress but without a computer who controls everything.”

But that was not how the book started. The book started with Lucius in my head, and those first two paragraphs. The rest came afterwards.

But that’s not the only way I’ve got books. (It is admittedly, the most usual way.) I’ve got books that do start from “How much fun would it be to write about a diner where both the owners are shifters.” (For those of you who know this is based on Pete’s Kitchen in Denver, btw, I’ve found that the owner Pete, who has to be in his nineties because he’s older than my dad, does the managing on the shift midnight to seven am. Um…) and books that start from… well, a publisher calling and saying “Do you want to write the wives of Henry VIII.”

The problem is most writing books tell you how to start from the high concept and narrow in. That’s fine and dandy, but that’s not how some of you will work.

Some, sure, will start with high concept and zero in on the characters, sometimes by a process called “interviewing.”

And some people start as I do with the characters and then try to figure out the worldbuilding and plot that will maximize the impact of the characters.

And some people will start with a sentence or a word.

First, no matter where you start, there you are. (You can’t hit me. I’m running in zigzags.)

Second, you can get to a complete short story (or novel) no matter where you start.

It’s just the map is slightly different. If you’re the sort of people (I am) that reasoning through a story very carefully will mean you kill the story (deader than a doornail) then don’t do that.

A writing manual is not a suicide pact.

So how do you apply all this good knowledge (ah!) and wisdom (ah! Ah) to your writing if you’re not going to carefully reason through things and build your story from pieces?

Well, if you’re like me, you probably will apply it in revision. And revision is dangerous as heck when you’re young at writing. But it will come, and the more you know how to focus and the structure of a novel, the better the story will be.

If you’re like me you study the structure, and it goes in the back of your mind, and then it comes out, somehow.

If it helps, take your favorite short stories and diagram them. Identify the problem at the beginning, then the call to adventure, then the try/fail sequence, the climax, and the resolution/aftermath (which in a short can be only one sentence.)

And then, once you write a story, the plot tools will give you the ability to figure out what’s wrong, when a story goes really badly.

I’m just going to give you some avenues of exploration for the type of story you’re stuck with, when you’re trying to figure out what it is, and then we’ll go into more detail in the future. Be aware that as exhaustive as these next few lessons will get, it’s still not the whole thing, but just some avenues to wander down. If you start writing seriously, you’ll find whole paths and winding ways of your own that I never thought of.

Anyway you do it:

If you start with the character – I have a novel series, actually, where the character has been with me and driving me nuts for years, but had no background. These days, while I paint and fix storm damage on the house, I find myself figuring it out. It’s like this:

Why is the character the way he is? What would explain how he is? What happened to him/his people/his world in the past to explain THAT quirk. There is more to this. At this point, it’s a good idea to decide what is immovable about the character and what is flexible. I’ve had character that let me change their genders and characters that didn’t, for instance. And sometimes it’s the quirk. I couldn’t for instance, change the fact Lucius thinks he’s guilty of murder, though it quickly becomes clear it’s not exactly Ben’s murder, though that’s where he displaced it. His guilt is of course over the death of Jan’s older brother. He doesn’t know how, but he knows he caused it. It only clicks when he figures out what’s been going on. And when I did too. But if you’re starting at the beginning, and particularly a short story (AFGM is a novel) it’s good to figure out what is causing your character’s quirk.

 

If you start with the idea – what character, what plot, what circumstances will illustrate what you’re trying to prove? Man against machine? Forgiveness is the ultimate good? What?

 

If you start with the environment, much as starting with the character, you interrogate the environment to figure out what kind of character it would produce, and what character would be conflicted within it. (Conflict is good. Though for a short keep the conflict small.)

 

So, next week – From Out The Character

There’s nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays — and we mean to make you comfortable with all of them ;)

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Decisions decisions

A couple of things came to my attention yesterday that involve the publishing industry. No, I’m not talking about the rantings and foaming at the mouth by a couple of folks who really want to be relevant but only come across as desperate and bitter. The first item to catch my attention was a blog by an author taking about what happened with her agent when she decided to go indie. The second was a round of posts on the KDP boards and related blogs. That’s what I’ll start with first.

Saturday, Cedar wrote a post about Kindle Unlimited. There is a lot of good information in it about the program. However, as she admits, there is still a lot to be discovered about just what sort of impact the program will have on sales, number of downloads under the program and the overall impact on the bottom dollar. There is also a lot of conflicting information out there about the program and that is causing a great deal of consternation on the interwebs. Add in the usual Amazon haters with all their naysaying. Is it any wonder there are worried indies and small press publishers out there?

On the KDP boards, the main issues brought up was anger that books were enrolled in the program without first getting the okay from the authors/publishers. Since many of those objecting were already enrolled in the KDP Select program, this is a knee jerk reaction brought on by Amazon itself. For once, Amazon dropped the ball and didn’t give those in the Select program an early heads up with the details needed to understand what this new program might be. Worse, the only way — so far at least — to opt out of the program is to opt out of Select.

So, what’s the big difference between Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Only Lending Library? Numbers, basically. Well, numbers and audio books. Where the numbers differ is that KOLL allowed Prime members to borrow one book a month. There was no limit on how long you could hold onto the book but you couldn’t borrow another until that book was returned. With Unlimited, it is my understanding that you can borrow up to 10 books at a time. Again, there is no limit on how long you can hold these books. But, as with the KOLL, you have to return books once you reach that magic number of 10 before downloading anything else under the Unlimited program.

Since audiobook downloads won’t impact most authors in the program, at least not right now, I’m not going to address that.

The major questions as an author that I have about the program all come down to the bottom line. How will the ability to download my books under the Unlimited program impact my sales? Right now, I’ll be honest, I see my sales taking a hit and the “borrows” have taken a big jump. That is, in my opinion, because the Unlimited program is free for 30 days. What the result will be when folks have to pay $9.99/month for the service very well could be something else.

One thing that has become clear from what I’m seeing with my numbers/ranking and what I’m hearing from others is that overall author and title ranking isn’t being negatively impacted on the whole. It appears that those titles downloaded under the Unlimited program count as “sales” when it comes to rankings. I could be wrong, but that is how it seems to be right now. That’s important because it isn’t skewing, at least right now, the Top 100 rankings in any genre/sub-genre.

The other area of confusion is what we will be paid for each download under the Unlimited program. It is my understanding that we will be paid just like we were for downloads under the KOLL program — payment will be out of the fund Amazon puts up each month and will depend on how many books are in the program, etc. Yet I have seen other sites claim that you will be paid what you would if the book had been sold under regular circumstances. Common sense tells me it will be like the KOLL payments if for no other reason than the Unlimited downloads aren’t impacting my monies earned to date. To mean, that means they can’t tell me how much I’ve earned under the program because they won’t know until the end of the month when all the factors are considered.

There is one other thing I can say right now. Yes, my “sales” have dropped since the program began. But when I factor in the downloads under Unlimited, there has been little impact. I’ll be watching for the next few months and gathering data. Then, and only then, will I decide whether the program is worth continuing or not.

The second item that caught my eye was this blog post by Claire Cook.  I’m not going to rehash the entire article in detail. Instead, I’m going to suggest you read it carefully and then reread it. Ms. Cook describes the sequence of events that led to her decision to leave traditional publishing and go indie. There is the much too common tale of rotating editors, an editor leaving on maternity leave just months before book launch leaving her with a young and rather inexperienced assistant. Then there came the email from the assistant telling her that she, the assistant, was leaving to start a takeout food business. So, there she was with a basically orphaned book. And things kept going downhill.

Add in emails and messages from bookstores telling her that her backlist from another publisher was next to impossible to get. Then that publisher sold, adding more bumps in the road. Finally, after more bumps and bruises, Cook decides to go indie. She’d done a little indie work before but this was the big jump. She was going to take back control of her career. She talked to her attorney, letters were sent to get rights back where they’d reverted, etc., And all was happy in the world.

Until it came to her agent.

Cook never names her agent. Instead, she describes the agent this way: “powerful literary agent from a mighty agency that I both liked and respected.” The agent had been kept in the loop about what she planned and had read and given input into the book Cook was about to publish on her own. From what I can tell, the agent never raised any red flags in their discussions about there being any potential problems. Cook evidently didn’t think so, at least not until the agent called her with what basically turned into a list of demands. In order for Cook to continue being represented by the agency, she ” would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.”

Note, that the agency wasn’t giving her any assistance in self-publishing the books. Nor would there be any extra push from Amazon regarding placement or other marketing perks. Oh, and it was made clear the sub-agents of the might literary agency wouldn’t be spending any time trying to sell rights to her work. In other words, she would get to pay 15% of her royalties for the right to say she was represented by the agency and get no other benefit from it.

This is when she drew the line and said no. More letters from attorneys and legal fees incurred but she divested herself of the agency as well.

I applaud Cook for writing this post. What she went through is not unheard of. But it serves as a good warning tale for the rest of us. If you have an agent right now, find out what their policy is about indie work. If they want 15% of your profits and they aren’t doing anything to earn that monies, either renegotiate your contract or get out of it. If there is a clause in your contract that you can only self-publish through them, make sure it is worth your while to do so. They have to be offering something of value. Just putting the book up on Amazon or elsewhere isn’t enough.

In other words, protect yourself. There are alternatives out there and those who have long filled traditional roles in publishing are worried because the industry is changing. Sometimes that worry turns into innovative thinking. Too often, however, it turns into attempts to hang onto what they had, no matter what the cost to the other party. Since you are that other party, keep your eyes open and protect yourself. In the meantime, why aren’t you writing?

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A Portrait of the author as an old Hack

I have this delusion of grandeur that one day I’ll rise to having a delusion of grandeur. Hey, everyone has to have ambition. I have a dream…

Only like most of my dreams, the reality is like one of those half-awake nightmares that you can brief change the direction of, before slipping back towards the same relentless carnage. Somehow it always seems to involve a life-or-death crisis with me needing desperately to be somewhere, and not knowing quite where (or what) that somewhere is. As Sigmund Freud was reputed to have said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’ but I do wonder if my subconscious talking to me.

I’ve been writing, seriously, trying my best to make a success out of this for… more than 20 years (which, um, labels me as a battler – which is high praise in Australia, and not a winner – which is derogatory in the US. But just being still here after 20 years (and about as 15 million words) says I’m an obstinate bastard.)

I finally sold my first book after 7 years of doing just about everything a man could do wrong, wrong. I started out at a level of broke that few people can imagine – where even the money for postage was sometimes ‘that’ll have to wait until next month’. The internet was a new thing and out of our financial reach. So was any other writer contact, advice or support.

So I tried hard to work out just how this ‘wheel’ thing was supposed to work. I found if you balanced it on the round edge and then employed small teams of highly trained centipedes to march in time on it, it added a wonderful dimension to percussion, until it fell over. The whole rolling thing was plainly a silly idea, because it squashed the centipedes. In other words, I made the simple hard, but learned a lot of possibly useless skills along the way. And most of the time I wasn’t in the right place at the right moment with the right book, right patter, right… well everything (except politics where in NY right was wrong, and in the UK doubly so. Not that I knew any of that, as my grasp of the point of view of the people in the US (let alone in publishing) or anywhere but South Africa, was sort of Cora Buhlert level of well-informed (you know, the woman who doesn’t seem to know what a fascist is but has decided we here MGC are that). Alas for my delusions, I at least actually knew I was so ignorant I ought to have been happy, about writing or the world. And I didn’t have anyone to parrot, less an inclination to do so.)

The one thing that this did do was to teach me how to write just about anything. I won’t say just about anything well, but I could probably make a convincing stab at literary sf (‘If you were a stegosaurus my love we could get together back to back like sticklebricks’ would win awards I am sure) or bodice ripper romance (‘The Passionate Physiotherapist’ probably wouldn’t get far in the Romantic Times bestseller list. Just sexism, really).

I honestly don’t know if this is a good skill for an author to have, but I like to believe so. A competent hack like moi can turn his hand to most kinds of story. I’ve written humor, humor in mil sf, space opera, humor in space opera, Alternate history/fantasy, High fantasy, Steam Punk, Paranormal romance (yes, really. Twice. ) Urban fantasy, Hard sf/satire, YA contenpory with an element of fantasy. I’ve just had my first MG story accepted (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR PRINCESS – if you want something for your your eight year old for Christmas). There is often a murder mystery in my fantasy – and sf (CRAWLSPACE). I’m busy writing a cosy murder-mystery (no sf/fantasy at all) and my slate for the next year reads that, high fantasy, Space Opera-humor, Space opera, Fantasy, sf-satire. Alt history/fantasy…

Some of it (the current cosy, which involves almost no action, or blood-exposed-to-the reader, and a rather squeamish female lead character who is not familiar with the country, or country life) take me far out of my comfort zone. And they force me to think very differently each time. BOLG PI is as different from Karres as Karres is from the Heirs of Alexandria, which in turn could hardly be more different to the Rats bats and Vats universe, which could scarcely be more different to IF I WAKE BEFORE I DIE. I struggled to write some of these because… It meant a lot of learning – learning as a t first I tried to explore for what would sell, and later as I tried to make myself a slightly better writer.

You see: I’m of the opinion that, like short stories, writing that is way out of your comfort zone is a very good skill. It teaches you about yourself and about how to make your writing… feel broad. (I know, feeling broad is considered bad form these days, but really it can be enlightening and will feed back, if you do it right. (Yes, Kate, I wrote that just for the winch wench). I realized just what effect it could have when we started a little writers’ group here on the island. At first it was great just to develop basic skills – POV, dialogue, speech tags, action sequences… but pretty soon I realized that these writers were learning… but not growing. Meeting after meeting you could pick out who wrote each piece by the constancy.

So we tried something different. We tried writing pieces we were actively uncomfortable doing (no not necessarily dinosaur porn) Humor for one writer. An intellectual protagonist for another. A stupid one, portrayed in a kindly fashion for another. I wrote a piece from sympathetic new-age pagan POV, and a gay romance scene. I found both incredibly hard to do – because both are about as not me as possible. Of course their (and my) pieces were colored by the pre-existing voice and style, but it made their writing skills take a vast step upward (and maybe mine crawled out of the gutter.)

It’s worth trying. What have you written that is uncomfortable lately?

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This is NOT an Advertisement for Filter Forge

*Yes, I know I owe you a chapter.  I have slated for today going over the backlog.  yesterday’s editing of the stories going free this week took longer than I expected.  Sorry.*

I don’t get a commission form Filter Forge.  Which sucks.  Because I could use the extra income.

Okay — what is Filter Forge?

It’s the best program I’ve found to make a photograph look drawn or painted.  (And yes, I have used the ones in GIMP.  Trust me, nothing like.)  But there might be others I’ve never got to.

I bought Filter forge because I was bored.  No, forget that, I was not bored, I was harrassed.  I’d been working all day and this spam advertisement came over email.  The way they presented themselves I thought they were a filter for photoshop (they’re that too) which I don’t even own.  But I needed to rotate the cat, so I went to look.

Turned out it could work as an independent program, so I downloaded the free trial.  And it worked.  And I bought it.  And I’ve used it for covers.

For instance, for Witchfinder, the background is a painting by a nineteenth century painter (yes, I’m too lazy to look it up. Deal.  the dragon is purchased, but the only man in regency attire who didn’t have the “just rendered” plastic doll look was a photograph from an Eastern photographer.  I had to hand draw the difference in the pants, (his had a single fly, of course) and eliminate his seventies belt buckle.)  And then I needed something to make him fit in the cover.  I used filter forge oil painting filter and then layered that at 50% transparency over the photograph.

witchfindercoverfinalIn the process I ended up buying the pro version, because I needed to do a print edition, which required me to manipulate bigger files.  Don’t worry about that unless you’re doing print.

Now, for this one oil painting worked, but clearly it’s not the best for all of them.  For instance, last night I used two layers, aquarelle and oil painting to do this (which I’m setting to go free tomorrow.)

the big shipcoverYes, it’s very cluttered, but that’s mostly the title.  Someone please remind me why I felt the need to give the poor story a long honking title.  Not cool in digital.

But the image is fine…

Then there’s the cover with just aquarelle — will also go free tomorrow –

coverAnd for much more transformation, there’s the cover of my husband’s book, coming out next month, which I used something on I’d never used on a cover

9theuclidprincecoverIt’s a filter called “Artistic Rendering.”  No, I’m not joking.

So, what are the steps to take if you’ve bought Filter Forge?  Well, first you go to the Filter Forge Site, and look under filters, effects, creative.  Then look through all the filters that look like they might be useful.  Then TRY THEM on every picture you want to transform.  What works with a picture looks awful with others.

What you want to convey with it varies too.  With Dan’s cover it was very important to convey that the story is based on an attempt to recreate the Roman empire in space and also that it wasn’t mil sf.  (Not that we’d MIND mil sf numbers, but if you go in expecting mil sf, you’re going to be disappointed.  We also wanted a certain nostalgia look to it, so… this worked.  (Also I drew the helmet and we needed to hide my clumsiness.)

So, just for fun, let me run filters to show you what filter forge does.  Some of you will remember my image from the cover of After the Sabines.  It’s a photograph, from Morgue File, by Nino Andonis.

And I didn’t do anything to it, because it’s an old cover.  I’ve been meaning to redo it anyway, so I’m going to run it by a few filters and give you the name of the filter, so you can see the different looks.

1This is a  filter called “A watercolor painting”

2This is acrylic painting.  As you see it’s much more photo realistic.

3This is a filter improbably named “Skawn.

 

5This one is more obviously “painted” and it’s from a filter called Artomatic.

I could be here all morning, and I don’t want to.  Remember for some of the more “artistic” effects you might have to use it as a layer atop the original and pump it to say 50% transparency — because it’s important for covers to be clear even in thumb nail.

Remember Dorothy Grant’s posts on covers, helpfully compiled by our Cedar.  Clarity of image matters.

Plus this one.

Now go and have fun.

 

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Bag of Holding

Arabian Nights Reader

Reading Arabian Nights…

I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons, but one of the pieces in play, as I am told, is something called the bag of holding, which you can get anything you want out of. It reminds me a bit of the mother’s bag in Swiss Family Robinson, which that wise woman had packed full of sundry items before abandoning ship to be marooned on an island with her family for twenty years. More recently, I discovered the tale of Aoife’s skin while I was researching Manannan Mac’Lir for The God’s Wolfling. In this tale, he kills his wife while she is in swan-form, makes a bag out of her skin, and whoever reaches into the bag can draw forth what they really need.

I’m reminded of the old admonishment, be careful what you wish for. You might get it. The Genie in Scheherazade’s tales of Arabian Nights was a most literal being. So are computers, come to think of it. Unless you define your parameters, you might not like the results of your wishes.

So I am cautious, when presented with the latest in bright shiny prospects. It might be an opportunity, a chance to reach into the bag and pull out the tool I need for the job at hand, and there might be a beartrap in there ready to close on my fingers.

It’s not that I don’t trust Amazon, it’s that I don’t need to trust Amazon. When presented with the latest and greatest reason to sign onto KDP select with my books, I’m mulling it over from a business standpoint before I plunge right in.

So here’s the skinny, for those of you who have been hearing rumors. Amazon rolled out a Netflix-like subscription service for books, Kindle Unlimited. You can read or listen to as many books as you want for only $9.99 a month. What a deal, especially if you are a reader like me who can consume more books at a sitting than I care to admit.

What’s the catch? Well, every time a subscriber reads more than 10% of an author’s book, they get paid. In full, at 70% royalty. {edited} The author is paid out of the general fund Amazon maintains for their lending service, and they have added $800,000 to it in anticipation of this new fund.  Hurrah! It’s similar to the Prime lending library, which also pays authors really well when they are borrowed and read. So this is a big plus for authors, to participate in this program.

However, in order to enroll, you must have your books in the KDP select program. Which means that your books are exclusive to Amazon. And here is where I stop and start contemplating the concept from all angles. I do have some of my shorter works in the Select program. Short stories and novellas just don’t sell outside the Amazon store. By enrolling them in Select, I can offer them free or ‘on sale’ from time to time, giving my readers a perk, and boosting my fan base every time I offer a free book.

But I had not done this with my novels, not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket. Amazon is a great distributor. They pay me well, put my books in front of a lot of customers, pay me in a more timely and transparent manner than any other outlet… can I rely on them to continue like this? I hear a lot of booing and hissing targeted at Amazon right now. Publishers, and the authors who have huddled under the traditional publishing umbrella for protection, are feeling threatened by Amazon’s business plan. One of the frequent things you will hear in any discussion about Amazon is “They are going to lower their royalty rates!”

They might, in time. It’s entirely possible. But they haven’t yet. I loved what our own Sarah Hoyt had to say about the fearful reactions: “Agents and publishers hate Amazon, Natch. What I can’t understand is why writers should. Let me see, the wolf should hate the wolf-hunter. But why should the rabbit also hate the wolf-hunter?”  And although I’m not thrilled with the way they operate when it comes to the Select program, I also must face that: one, I can leave any time I want to, and second, I make well over 90% of my sales through Amazon. What about my nook readers? Well, I publish on Amazon DRM free, and not too long ago on this blog published instructions on how to download, convert to epub, and side-load an ebook onto a nook. It’s not convenient, but I need to maintain a perspective between the idea that I am a businesswoman, and I am a woman who want to make everyone happy.

Am I going to convert all my books to KDP Select and take part in the new program? I’m not sure yet. I may wait and see a little. But not too long… I’d love to give new readers a chance to pick up Vulcan’s Kittens on sale in 2 weeks when I release The God’s Wolfling. Then early next year, when I release Dragon Noir, do another special. Plus, it would be a lot of fun to see what happens with the subscription service. I may buy into it myself, with as many books as I read for reviews and pleasure. More than I should, less than I wanted to, to answer your question on how many!

 

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The Spark

Pam Uphoff

It’s Only Human

I was all set to write a cute “Look! I’m on vacation, beautiful scenery, all the family . . . and here I am writing” post with pictures to make you all jealous.

Word Press defeated me. No pictures. Sorry.

But while I was musing on the obsession to write that has me working even on vacation, I started wondering why.

Oh, in lieu of pictures, think brisk breeze, the constant roar of the surf in the background. Cliffs, wlaking trails, tall coastal redwoods and picturesque twisted cedars.

The air is almost too cool for t-shirts in the morning. You all have permission to hate me. Especially the people back in Texas. The northern Califoria coast has highs that might hit 70, nighttime lows in the high fifties. Envy me.

Or something. It’s not a cheap vacation, but we do this family get together once a year, usually on the northern California coast. Beautiful scenery, good company . . .

And by the third day, the computer is coming out and I’m typing away. It’s not that I like my job. It’s convenient, the dress casual and so forth, but the pay and the hours suck. Five thirty in the morning, can’t get back to sleep, might as well write. _And_ inspiration is most likely to hit about the time you start thinking of heading for the bed.

But this is vacation. So I’ll go for a walk, work on the jigsaw puzzle–it’s a beaut, need to stop letting my sister choose the puzzles. They take all of us, working sporadically, all week to finish. Yes, another family tradition. Played nine holes of golf Monday. Yes, badly. No, I’m not mentioning any numbers, I play once a year when the golf-mad sister and brother-in-law drag the rest of us out to the links.

And then, I’ll get an idea, and just have to write it down, right then. Dinner preps going on around me, as I rush to finish this one idea . . .

I think all creative work must be a little bit like this. The idea hits, and the picture must be at least sketched out, the scene jotted down, the tune hummed a few times, or a quick diagram of that machine . . . Maybe later the craft will be applied, and the combined product of vision, hard work and skill can be enjoyed by many.

But that first flash of inspiration, the idea that won’t shut up, that tiny touch of genius . . . That’s what makes us writers. That spark drives us to get it all down on paper. I don’t know if that can be taught. But I suspect we all have it. I think it is one of the things that lifts us above the rest of the animals. We see it in our minds first, then we make it.

We just aren’t trained to recognize it, aren’t in the habit of thinking in terms of grasping that spark and fanning it into flame. I’ve seen it over and over on fan sites. “I had this neat idea, someone should write it . . . ” answered with “No, _you_ should write it.” And they do. Oh, the first one is rough, but most active readers have a subconscious grasp of the form of a story. The grammar may need work. ::ahem:: punctuation and spelling may be a bit . . . unique. But all that can be fixed. It just takes time and putting in the effort.

Do some people get trained to supress that spark? The public schools certainly seem to try. And the followers of the Progressive Ideals don’t seem to do a lot of thinking . . . but do they still have that spark, deep behind the conditioning? What about the “entitlement mentality” we hear so much about? Is the spark turned toward working the system rather than getting out of it? I certainly hope so. Because without the spark, mankind would still be slowly trying to work out this “fire” thing.

So nurture your spark. You may have to search for it, but it’s there.

Follow it, to write, to make music or pictures. To build new things, invent new gadgets and get us to the stars. See it in your mind, and then bring it out into the Real World.

And then . . . having once let inspiration in, harnessed it to your will . . . you too can obsesively work through your vacation, and enjoy every minute of it.

OK, one last try . . .

Never mind. The Spark is not with me tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

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