Friday, July 29, 2011

Bad Writing Abounds In Twilight Novels

I have never had the desire to read the "Twilight" series. What I knew about them sounded like a bad young adult novel and I could not be bothered. Besides, I read Anne Rice's Vampire Series years ago, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but that was enough vampire lore for me.
I have a very good friend that loves "Twilight". One day I saw her book on the table, picked it up, read one page, threw the book down and said to my husband, "This is written like absolute crap!"
And yet the books are best selling series and the author makes millions. Bless her heart.
I hate dumbed down books and I really hate books written as if the author never took an English class. Oddly enough, Ms. Meyer was an English major, go figure.
From what I have read in regards to the Twilight books and heard during conversations about the beloved series, I know that I do not like her main characters. They sound like people that would fall under Too Stupid Too Live for me. A vapid, needs to be loved so bad, loner girlfriend and the dominant, heavy handed, stalker boyfriend. But what I disliked more than anything was that glimpse of poor writing. There are millions around the world who think those books are as good as it gets. God save us.
I have been happy to find out that I am not the only one who loathes snippets of the awful. Or in the case of "Twilight" and its spawn, constant awful of immense magnitudes. The blog "Reasoning With Vampires" goes page by page to pick out the insanity. As you comb through you have to wonder if the editor took a vacation or just decided, "To hell with it, this should sell anyway."
Here are the archives which is just filled with little gems.
JeffMcGinnis of the Toledo Free Press did an interview with Dana of RWV that gives insight into what made her take on this arduous task.

I may sound catty, but I believe when one writes a book, even a book full of fluff, you should aim high not mid ground or lower.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thanks George R.R. Martin

I have never read the beloved series, "A Song of Fire and Ice" nor have I seen "Game of Thrones." As those who read my blog know, I have not had much luck with series, except Thursday Next, so I hesitate about picking up this one. I do know those that have read it love it and wait with baited breath for each new release.
This wait has caused ire among some of his fans because his most recent release took six years for him to complete. I have written on this blog before about Neil Gaiman's awesome response back in May 2009 to an irate George R.R. Martin fan who had reached out to Neil to ask if it was unrealistic to believe Mr. Martin was letting him down by not getting the book done in a timely fashion. If you never read it, please do since it is pretty much right on in regards to what most writer's go through.
The reason I have brought up Mr. Martin is that Entertainment Weekly has been doing numerous interviews with the author George R.R. Martin and the huge span between his last and current book is addressed. What I love most is Mr. Martin's answer about what happened during those six years when fan impatience became so intense that a mere blog post by the author suggesting he was doing something else besides writing caused an uproar among his fans.
His reply: "I never had the sort of writer's block where I didn't go near the typewriter. But I had days where I would sit there and couldn't write and I would spend all day answering emails, or I would rewrite and couldn't go forward."

This is exactly what I have been going through the last few weeks. How refreshing to read a well known author with a ravenous following has the same issues. I feel more fortunate though that I do not have fans berating me to other author's or lambasting me on their blogs. I am sure it did not bother him, but it is frustrating when you are a writer and have days where, in truth, the characters, the storyline, all of it just sits there and you are stuck. Or like myself, you figure out what is wrong with the story, then decide to rewrite and fix the issue, hence unleashing a whole new set of hurdles. The never ending creative process sometimes seems bleak, but there is light, it just takes longer to get to it sometimes.
I can also appreciate people wanting to get their hands on the next level of the story, but I wonder if his series is more intense and written much better then some of the series I have read? The ones were they get churned out every six months or so just seem like fill in the blank. I cannot imagine that his books are like that. Looks like I might have to check them out.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Kindle Prices Are Pissing Me Off

That's right. I have had it.
As a writer, of course I want to support my fellow artists, but not when the price of the book is sometimes DOUBLE what the paperback or hardcover costs.
I get that publishers fear the e-book and still have no idea what to do about it. They remind me of those that hate Netflix, Pandora, Spotify and various other similar business models. And yes, this is a collective tongue lashing aimed at the Music, Movie/TV and Publishing industries.
Instead of embracing the waves of the future and working with the consumer, they have decided to punish us instead for using new technology and charge A LOT for items that do not warrant the high price tag.
I was on the blog NY Spender to read a review of a book called "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster" by Dana Thomas. The author of the blog stated the book cost a mere $5.69 and I headed on over to Amazon to download it. My mistake. The paperback is $5.69. The Kindle version? $12.99. (See here.) WHAT THE HELL???
So here is where the publisher and even the author loses. I will order it from the library and now I will get it for free. This burns my ass because every single time I want to get a book, it costs more then me running to a book store which I find absurd. No wonder people are self publishing more and more. Charge $5 and the author gets most of the revenue. Charge $15 and I imagine the publisher and agent get more then the author. Advances exist, but they are not all in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even the millions. Some are just a mere ten grand. Nothing to sneeze at, but is sure not in the realm of what John Grisham or Jodi Picoult can rake in with their work.
How can a new author gain traction when the publisher is pricing the book like it is 2005 when people had much more disposable income then they do now? Okay, I admit this a personal preference. I do not have a ton of extra cash to spend on every book I want to read, but $5 is a lot easier to spend then $13 or $15.
I am not sure if publishers will ever come down in price, but I am certain there are folks out there that will upload, ie: pirate, just like many have for movies and music. Publishers could price books in a range where it could help prevent a lot of that. I know there will always be a place for illegal uploads of all kinds, but if publishers would work with what the current consumer can and will pay, they may win a little more loyalty instead of anger and resentment.


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Classics

Everybody has an opinion on classic literature. Some love to read it, indulging themselves often, others loathe it, only reading the stories when it is required coursework. I fall into the middle. Some classics I love and others I could care less if I ever read them again.
For most of us, our introduction to the classics comes via high school English class. If you have a teacher that is passionate about the subject you are bound to learn something. If you have one that just reads from the book and is waiting on retirement, well, we have seen a lot of results of that.
I was fortunate to have one English teacher that brought stories like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" to life in a unique way. We had to read the books, discuss them, then watch the movies. By watching the movies we could see where liberties were taken, what was lost in the interpretation, etc. I had a similar experience with a teacher in college. Great guy but he had us read "Heart of Darkness" then watch "Apocalypse Now". I am probably one of the only people in the free world that disliked the book and the film. I even tried to watch the film again not too long ago and to be quite frank, I wanted to rip my eyes out.
Now, Shakespeare, a man who I would dare say is dreaded by many, wrote one of my favorite plays, "Macbeth". I had to read it in high school and oddly enough, I took to it. Its dark nature is probably what attracted me, but I always enjoyed the story as well as "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
Recently I happened to watch a fantastic current interpretation of "Macbeth". Patrick Stewart plays Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood is Lady Macbeth. The setting is during a modern day war and the Three Witches are represented by nurses which was amazing. Here is their "Double Double Toil and Trouble" scene which is creepy as all hell. This would be the best version to show to high school students, if I was their teacher, because it captures the misery, the darkness and sheer all out creepiness of the play.
I have always complained about Hollywood's lousy way of interpreting novels to the screen. White Oleander anyone??? But it is the one broad medium, besides TV or even Broadway, where Classics can be revived. Show people a somewhat updated version, but do not lose the tone, the language or the true meaning. I would bet that a lot of people will pick up the book afterwards. I watched Bleak House with Gillian Anderson, then proceeded to download the book onto my Kindle and have been reading it with glee. Dickens was a great writer and yet, I had never read a thing of his. For shame on me.
I believe that Classics exist because after some light hearted/heavy romance or sci-fi or mystery novels, we want to go back to "The Great Gatsby" or "Little Women". There are memories of self discovery or a reminder of who we once were when we read them. Not all classics are great or loved, Aldous Huxley and I never got on well, but the books have stood the test of time for a reason. They embody a place and time that no longer exists. For that I am most grateful.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Publishers and Book Stores: Will they get it together?

Publicity agent Kathleen Schmidt tweeted a great explanation how the closing of Borders effects the publishing industry and all of us writers. I think the real question that needs to be asked is what have been book stores been doing wrong that these massive chains are taking hits and closing? I myself have always loved The Strand in NYC, but I do not go there all the time. Yes I have a Kindle, but ever since publishers decided to charge $12.99 for e-books that I can get in paperback for $9.99 or at the library for free, they lose my business. Publishing has a lot of issues and they need to get their act together, just as much as the book stores do. Electronic devices will not wipe out physical books, but that does not mean publishers or stores should be complacent or over pricing either.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Subtlety is Key

The past two weeks I have been suckered into watching some very heavy shows. One of them is season 2 of "Sleeper Cell" and the other is "MI 5". Both shows deal with the government, spooks and terrorists. Some days I need a break from all the Islamic terrorism and Russia trying to gain world power with their oil. The shows are well written, not overly dramatic and makes one think. I am not going to be addressing "Sleeper Cell", but if you can catch it, it is on Netflix watch instantly. The content order is incorrect, but members have posted the correct order for people to view it. Hopefully Netflix fixes the issue soon.
Okay. A few friends had recommended the show "24" which I began watching yesterday. The concept is an interesting one, but I am having a hard time suspending disbelief with the story lines. There is one scene where two parents are tyring to find their missing kids, get pulled over by an LAPD cop who seems so intent on giving them a ticket instead of helping them. Sure this has probably happened, but any normal human would recognize frantic parents desperate to find their children.
The oddest thing about me not being enamored by "24" so far is it is similar to "MI 5". Intense story lines, lots of action. The difference is that I prefer subtlety when it comes to acting. I do not need everyone screaming and yelling and over dramatizing every line and scene. The Brits do that very well. When something intense is happening on "MI 5", I do not have characters screaming at one another, acting like petulant children. That seems to go on a lot on "24".
The best thing about being a writer and watching these shows is you learn how to dial things down or be over the top. It is a personal choice what one chooses because, depending on the story, you have to decide what direction the story needs to go and how the characters need to behave.
All the shows I have mentioned, regardless of my opinion, do have interesting angles on espionage and touches of brilliance. Which is very helpful for any kind of writer.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Defining One's Genre: When is Romance not a Romance?

Silly question you think, but not so. While I was laboring through my story yesterday it hit me. I like to throw love into my story lines. Sure there is drama, action, death even, but there is always an underlying romance occurring. This gave me pause. Does this mean I am a romance writer? Or am I a fiction writer who has the occasional love story intertwined in the plot?

Defining your genre is crucial when querying agents, but it also pigeonholes you. What if my first two novels have a romance as a backdrop to the every day life of the characters, but my third is just a story about three guys who go on a journey of self discovery? The agent would not publish it because there is no romance. This is making my head spin.

When Jane Austen wrote her novels, did she scribble along thinking"Ahh yes, another romance." Or did she approach it has, "This will be a good story to tell and the BBC will make movies of it over and over again." Yes I am being silly.
All writers tells stories, but they must define what genre they belong to first. This has been the thorn in my side as I do not want to market my bounty hunter story as full blown romance, but in a way, it is about Molloy allowing her heart to be touched again. And by someone she least expected.

According to Romance Writers Of America's website: Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

There is also this: Novels with Strong Romantic Elements
A work of fiction in which a romance plays a significant part in the story, but other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries.

Now I am even more confused. While I did not write a central love story, it is in there. I just told her story and love was a part of it. I cannot be the only writer who hits this wall. Some folks say you should write the synopsis before the novel so you can see where it goes and what it would be marketed as. I totally get why now. As for this book, I have sent it off to agents as a futuristic-romantic-thriller since they are former military who now hunt the bad guys and it is 2030 and in the midst of this, a serious relationship forms. Am I wrong though? Am I selling this incorrectly and need to rethink strategy here? I bet Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Chabon don't sweat about this. Lucky kids.

I struggle with pulling any serious romance overtones out of my latest work with the Angels off Death because I want it to be able to be marketed to a larger audience. Then again, Romance novels are some of the best selling in the world so no slouch there. I fear being tasked to write the same thing over and over in a formulaic style just to meet the Happily Ever After requirement. I know that is what people want, especially in such uncertain times, but it is not what I always want. And so the mumbling and rumbling in my head continues as I try to figure out just what kind of stories do I write. What kind of storyteller am I at this very moment? This is the million dollar question.