Selling Your Writing In Thirteen Weeks — Week 7
This is important whether you’re going the “new, new indie” or the traditionally published route. The level to which you want your manuscript bullet-proofed might be different, but you should still have someone look over your story before sending it in.
Yes, I know, the big houses are supposed to do their own editing, checking and proofreading, just like the big newspapers are supposed to have layers and layers of fact checkers. Don’t count on it.
The quality of the editing you get is proportional to their hopes of your selling really well, which in turn is proportional to the size of your advance.
That means if your advance is under ten thousand dollars (and most advances are) you cannot expect your book to get more than a cursory look by someone who finished college last year, and whose most notable reading – let alone editing – achievement was devouring Fifty Shades of Gray at one sitting.
But the more important thing, if your advance is ten thousand or less, is that copy-editing for punctuation and typos might be the only editing you get.
And this is a problem, because no matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how carefully you researched your subject, in the middle of the book, your brain is going to do something utterly bizarre and you’re going to reverse the name of two towns; you’re going to introduce a technology that didn’t exist at the time, or you’re going to forget the color of your character’s eyes… or remember it wrong.
Now how much you spend depends on what you expect to be paid, whether you’re going indie or traditional, what your expectations are of the book and well… who you know.
It also is important that you know what you’re paying for – and what the person reading is supposed to do for you.
So, let’s take this thing in order –
You’ve finished a novel. Good for you! I suppose if it’s your first novel, I can’t prevent you from letting your mom read it. (Unless you’re like me. I give thanks daily that mom can’t speak/read English.)
That’s fine. Just don’t take it seriously. Your mom, unless your mom is a published author in that genre and notoriously mean (ask my kids) in critique, is not an appropriate judge of marketability or how publishers/the market will react to your story.
The first thing you should do is find what we call in the field “beta readers.” This comes from software, where they have beta testers. Every writer should have beta readers. Yes, I know that this can be a problem. Way back almost thirty years ago, as a young author, I had trouble finding three people who knew enough about the genre I was trying to break in and who were willing to read my book. Which was a pity because I desperately needed a reality check.
Okay, not even in his comedies would Shakespeare write something that silly. However, according to the Daily Mail:
A tea caddy carved from a mulberry tree may have been planted by Shakespeare himself has gone under the hammer for £13,000 at auction.
The antique – which features a tiny carved bust of The Bard – was whittled out of wood recovered from the famous tree planted outside the playwright’s home.
It lay in a private collection for years but was finally passed on for a five-figure sum after it was sold off at Christie’s auction house in London yesterday afternoon.
The immaculate caddy, dated 1760, is emblazoned with Shakespeare’s coat of arms and contains three ornate sliding-lid compartments decorated with intricate mulberry fruit designs.
Reverend Francis Gastrell – who bought New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, after Shakespeare’s death – had the tree cut down in 1756 after he became fed up with visitors asking to see it.
He had planned to burn the tree but enterprising locals flocked to purchase the wood in order to create Shakespeare souvenirs – kick-starting the historic town’s centuries-old tourist industry.
Woodworker George Cooper – whose signature is carved into the 6in high by 10.25in wide wood-and-metal box – created dozens of trinkets from the timber.
Good show! And that figure for a box designed to keep your tea in is something the Bard himself — a money-minded entrepreneur – would not have laughed about!
I know sometimes the lot of us who are indie publishing sound like a deranged chorus of school children going “come on in, the water is fine.”
However, as you must have heard once or twice, you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because all your friends are doing it. Or at least you shouldn’t leap before you look.
Here are a few things I wish I’d known when I started off. Mind you, I didn’t make as many mistakes as I might have, but I still made plenty.
I will give you some resources to check on for indie publishing, in a supplemental post (and I’m sorry I’m behind with those, but I caught the stupid flu) later on, but meanwhile here are some basic things.
While indie publishing lumps together micro presses, some small presses and self-publishing, what we’re going to be talking about here is mostly self-publishing. Or rather, how to not self-publish while self-publishing.
Confused? Don’t be. I’ll explain.
This post will mostly cover forms of self-publishing because the process to submit to micro and small presses is largely the same as to submit to traditional publishers. The advantage versus disadvantage calculations in small vs. large publisher is something you’ll have to do on your own, depending on the self-publisher and what you’re doing. Some small publishers are much better at giving you personal attention, some worse; some are very exacting with their accounting, and some… aren’t. (Then again the same could be said for some larger publishers.)
However, when you self-publish, it doesn’t mean you just throw your work on Amazon under your own name with no publisher.
You can do that of course. The fact that you can do that is one of the beautiful things about the time we live in.
However, even though in publishing circles themselves, and where no one has anything invested in dissuading you from self-publishing (as most traditional publishers do) the stigma associated with self-publishing is mostly a thing of the past – the general public doesn’t necessarily do this.
It is hard for those of us on the inside, seeing how fast the publishing landscape has changed these last four years, and being aware that some people have made fortunes by self-publishing, to realize that most of the reading public isn’t aware of this sea-change.
Selling you writing in 13 weeks, supplemental post 1, part 1
How to pitch and query.
No, we don’t mean we’ll teach you how to propose marriage, though if you need help of that kind, read the first proposal – by Mr. Darcy – in Pride and Prejudice and then make sure you don’t do that.
However, I promised a supplemental post to my 13 weeks series, about how to approach traditional markets, should you decide to do so.
I don’t know if my experience is normal — since I came from so far outside the field that I came from another country, culture and language – but I spent eight years unable to submit any of my stories, because while I knew how to write the stories themselves, I was in the dark on how to write those strange things “queries” and “proposals” and “synopsis.”
Then one day at a writers’ group meeting I asked a published author next to me how one did it, and – after looking at me like I’d taken leave of my senses – she showed me. On the back of an envelope. In five minutes.
Which was handy, because a year later, when I met an editor at a workshop, she asked me to send her a proposal. And I did. It was the proposal for Ill Met By Moonlight, which sold to that editor three days after I sent it.
If you’re trying to go the traditional route you will come – perhaps you’ve already come – up on these words “query” and “synopsis” and “proposal”. If you attend conventions you might also have need of a magical thing called “pitch” or “elevator pitch.”
The only two houses – that I know of, though it’s possible there are still some in Romance and/or mystery – that take submissions in the form of a full manuscript are Baen and DAW (though I heard rumors TOR did, or was intending to.) All the others will have either a line saying “No unsolicited submissions” or “send query” Or “Send proposal”.
So, let’s start with how you magically turn your submission from “unsolicited” to “solicited.”
This usually involves attending a convention or workshop also attended by the editor you wish to work with.
So you’ve decided to go indie. What is the first thing you should do?
No, you shouldn’t – really, truly, trust me – make space in your basement for all those piles of money you intend to roll around in. Yes there are some people who made quite a lot of money right off the bat. There are also a lot of people (cumulatively) who win the lottery. However, just like your retirement plan shouldn’t be “first, win the lottery” your plan for indie success shouldn’t be “put one book out, make a pile of money.”
Most of the people who buy a lottery ticket do not win the lottery. And most of the people who have a single book out do not immediately and suddenly become bestsellers with millions of dollars flowing in.
If you are one of those people, you’re one of luck’s own children, and you don’t need my humble advice any more than you need an extra arm or a third eye. Go forth and perform magic, or something.
However, let’s suppose you’re a normal human being and you just wrote a short story or a novel, or a novella, which you’ve decided to throw out there for sale to the general public.
First of all let me caution you: the first piece of completed writing you ever do will seem to you like the most amazing and miraculous thing.
Even if you’ve been writing for years, and have been aware that there was something lacking in your efforts, there will be a story you finish that you know is “a real story.” And you’ll think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
The same thing happens with your first “real” heart piece, your first “real” song, your first “real” computer program, and just about any other endeavor that involves both art and craft. The first one that you think is “good enough” will also seem wonderful to you.
Most of the time it will not be.
Selling your writing in 13 weeks, week 4
So, you’ve decided to eschew traditional publishing. It takes too long, or there aren’t many choices, or you think that you don’t have a chance, or you’d rather start making money now, even if it will be less, or you want to cut out the middle man and reach the public. Last but not least, you might have decided that the best chance at breaking into traditional publishing is to be a success at indie.
First, note that last sentence, above. You needn’t abandon all hope (of traditional publishing) once you enter here. No, in fact there is a very good chance this will be your path to traditional publishing. My colleague Larry Correia did just that. He published Monster Hunter International, was a success, and is now happily publishing with Baen books.
Is it guaranteed? Nothing in life is guaranteed, particularly for writers and particularly right now.
But if you’re going to try this Indie thing, there are ways and ways to do it.
Before we set off, always remember “Money Flows To The Writer.” This is the same as in traditional publishing. If you remember that and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” you’ll probably keep off the biggest pitfalls.
Now, let’s start with some decisions you have to make.
So – you’re going indie. But how?
Are you going to self-publish? Go in with a group of friends? Go with an established small or micro publisher?
Which is it best to do?
I can’t make that decision for you – it’s all on how you feel about it, how much work you’re willing to do and how much self confidence you have. In fact, you probably will want to try all three forms.
First, let’s consider small or micro publishers – the same process for submitting to them applies as for submitting to the majors. They are usually faster, more responsive and willing to give a try to an unknown. But they aren’t ALWAYS that. Some of them are just as bad as the traditionals. And some are worse. For instance, some of them have worse contracts and some of them are very new and have clue zero how to parse out payments. (This is not as easy as you might think. The way electronic outlets pay can get maddening.)
Selling your Writing in Thirteen Weeks: Week 3
Check out Sarah Hoyt’s previous entries in her new ongoing series chronicling the collision of new media publishing’s possibilities and the opportunities that still remain in traditional publishing:
Introduction, October 5: Payment Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Week 1, October 12: To Market, To Market With Words to Peddle…
Week 2, October 19: Reasons to Brave the Indie Publishing Jungle
Okay, so you want to try traditional publishing. This is not a bad idea, if you’re writing short stories. It’s also not a bad idea if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy novels and want to submit to Baen books. For all else… well, I wouldn’t do it. However, it’s your decision. Just don’t say I told you to.
At any rate, whether you’re submitting short stories or novels, first make sure you’re sending them to the right place.
No, I don’t mean anything as silly as mailing – or emailing – your submission to the wrong address, though heaven knows if you’re sending out a lot of submissions sooner or later you’re going to do just that. Sooner or later you’re also going to put the story in the wrong envelope. That’s just one of those fun facts: if you’re human periodically you’re going to do something abysmally stupid, because you’re rushed, sick, or just not feeling yourself. That’s acceptable. Even if this is a magazine and you have reason to think the editor is tracking you/keeping an hopeful eye on your submission – I’ll go into the reasons to believe that later – don’t imagine that a completely stupid mistake like that will be held against you. Everyone knows periodically you will make a mistake. That’s fine.
What is not fine, though, is sending a children’s picture book, with hand-drawn pictures to a True Crime publisher. (Not even if it’s a True Crime children’s picture book called If You Steal A Mouse’s Cookie.) In the same way, it’s not acceptable to send nonfiction books on making money by flipping real estate to a science fiction publisher. It’s not acceptable to send short stories to a book publisher and (except in certain circumstances, when the guidelines say they might serialize a novel) it’s not a good idea to send novels to a magazine.
So, first thing you do is you go to Ralan.com or to any other listing for the type of market you’re looking for (in the last resort the Writer’s Market book) and you look for markets that might be interested in your work. And, because this is now the internet, use your favorite search engine to look up the potential markets. Visit their sites, if they have them.
Make absolutely sure that you’re sending something this magazine/book publisher will buy. Look, sometimes we all take desperate gambles. If your short story is a little bit science fiction and a lot fantasy, and you’re out of fantasy markets, you might try a science fiction market.
Well, take me for instance. I’ve told you that I made every possible mistake coming up, right? Well, my idea was that if my story/book was good enough, people would buy it even if it was completely inappropriate. Look, I was 22 and had been raised on the myth of the genius.
So I sent a horror short story to a fantasy magazine. They sent me back a personal rejection and a free copy of their magazine, told me how much they loved my story, but that it was totally inappropriate. Could I please read the magazine and try again?
You won’t believe it when you read this – scientists have found gold growing on gum trees near Wudinnaon the Eyre Peninsula in Australia.
A team of CSIRO scientists discovered eucalyptus trees near the country town draw up tiny gold “nuggets” from the earth via their root system and then deposit the valuable metal on their leaves, bark and branches.
While scientists have found gold on trees before, it was never actually known how it got there.
CSIRO geochemist Dr. Mel Lintern, lead author of the multi-million dollar project, said the discovery could save mining and gold exploration companies “a lot of money”.
“If they’re able to sample the trees (for gold) in place of drilling, then they’re going to save some money,” he said.
“The other aspect about that of course is sampling the vegetation is more environmentally benign that digging big holes or drilling.”
While the latter comment is undoubtedly true, one can’t help but hope that the powers that be don’t become so fixated on this “environmentally sound” way of mining, that they stop doing the old, hard way altogether. Gold is needed for many applications, and we have the example of the energy industry seeking after the mirage of “green energy” at the cost of industry and human comfort (and lives of the elderly.)
But the idea of gold on trees is, of course, fascinating. When I was a kid in Portugal, the rumor was one could go to Brazil, sit under the “gold tree” and wait for the gold to fall in one’s lap. (I think this was metaphorical, but as a kid I saw it literally.)
Apparently they were wrong. For the real gold, you’d have to go to Australia.
Photo courtesy Shutterstock, © diez artwork
They told us. All the greats of science fiction warned us that overpopulation would become a terrible problem. They were only slightly wrong. Turns out the problem is not for real humans but only for Lego people.
Since 1978, millions of tiny plastic people have been populating the Earth.
And now it is predicted that there could be a miniature Lego figure for every person on Earth in 2019.
According to a mathematical online comic, Lego has been making its little people at such a rate that they will outnumber the human population by the end of the decade.
Click through for XKCD’s graphic er… graph of the danger we stand in. Your daily dose of doom and gloom!
Or, of course, you could be grateful we live in a society that can afford to make that many little toys for the kids to play with. These “lego people” as they were called in our house, didn’t exist when I was little — of course — but older son had a half dozen of them, whom he treated as designated victims in his car crashes and the collapse of his lego towers. Younger son had a dozen, and gave them names, and scripted lives for them, including going to work in their lego office and coming home to their lego house.
And I hope society will be wealthy enough to allow my potential, eventual grand-kids to play with them too. A society in which kids have time and toys to enjoy childhood is devoutly to be hoped for.
Like human overpopulation, the dangers of lego-people overpopulation are grossly exaggerated!
Photo Courtesy Shutterstock, © Ritu Manoj Jethani
Selling your writing in 13 weeks — week two.
So, you’ve looked at your options, studied your product, and are considering just taking it indie, which for the purpose of this article means either self-published or with a small publisher.
Very well. Last week we examined the potential pros and cons of going traditional, and this week we’ll do the same for indie.
Sometimes, it’s just clear cut that you should go indie.
Some of these cases are, say, when you’re writing a book about something that doesn’t have a ready market in traditional publishing. Very often these are cross-genre things, and your reception at the two or three places you sent it to was “I love this, but I don’t see a market.” Or if there’s only one or two houses you’d consider in the field you’re writing in, and they’re known to take forever to answer or, for whatever reason, you’ve come to the conclusion you have no chance with them.
In most cases, things are not that clear cut. You’re sitting there, with your finished manuscript and considering “Indie or traditional.”
Well, traditional will give you money upfront, but after that you only get at best 8% of cover price. And your book is not fully in your control. Someone could slap an awful cover on, and nine times out of ten you have absolutely no say in it.
On the other hand, in Indie Publishing most of the time you have full control. (At least if you’re self-publishing. If you are publishing with a small press, you might still relinquish some of the control, such as you might have cover consultation, but it’s doubtful you’ll have cover decision.)
That’s good and bad.
Let’s take indie publishing pros and cons.
The most important advantage of indie publishing, at least in my opinion, is that in a market that’s as volatile and unpredictable as the publishing market is just now, you don’t stand at risk of losing the copyrights to your books to someone else’s lawsuit. (This might not be true with small presses, so investigate them carefully and, as always, have an IP attorney read any contract.)
The con in this case is that no one is going to pay you big money for the licensing of that copyright. You’ll put the book up and you might make a few thousand dollars in a year or you might only make a few hundred. There is no telling.
When I was very young, reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, I came across the passage where he’s left alone with a medical encyclopedia for a few moments, and becomes convinced he suffers from every possible disease excluding only Housemaid’s knee.
Since then, and particularly in my household since I got married and formed my own family, the name for any unspecified and most likely imaginary malady of the type that prevents kids from doing homework and adults from going to work when there’s a snow storm out is “Housemaid’s Knee.”
Apparently, due to google, a lot of people are suffering the same syndrome as the main character of Three Men In a Boat.
Imagine my delight when this Telegraph article refers to precisely that passage in Three Men in a Boat:
The finest medical advice in literary history comes in the opening pages of Three Men in a Boat. The narrator recounts how, on going to the British Museum to read up on some passing ailment, he starts flicking through the pages of a medical dictionary. To his consternation, he discovers that, in every instance, the symptoms correspond exactly to his own. From ague to zymosis, via cholera, gout and St Vitus’s Dance, it turns out that the only disease he has escaped is housemaid’s knee – an omission he cannot help but find rather vexing.
In something of a panic, he visits his doctor, and informs him of this melange of maladies. He is given this prescription: “1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer, every 6 hours. 1 ten-mile walk every morning. 1 bed at 11 sharp every night. And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”
The hypochondriac impulse is universal. We don’t all take it to the extremes of a Florence Nightingale, who spent a good two thirds of her 90 years confined to her bed, convinced she was at death’s door. But who hasn’t felt the temptation to translate a fevered forehead into a full-on case of swine flu, or – if you’re Norman Baker – a conviction that the men in dark suits have finally resorted to the old polonium cocktail in an effort to silence you for good?
While there’s no doubt they’re right, and that there is a bit of hypochondriac in all of us — a reason they warn medical students of this tendency — if you’re levelheaded and scientifically literate, you can usually narrow down your possible ailments for your doctor’s consideration. On the other hand, you’d best make sure your family doctor knows you very well, or he’ll roll his eyes and think you’re suffering from housemaid’s knee.
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock © William Perugini
Now this just turns this small-l libertarian into a raging uppercase Libertarian.
The shutdown theater has blocked our veterans from their monuments, allowed thuggish park rangers to terrorize visitors to Yellowstone, and even caused park rangers to block lanes of a highway to stop people from pulling over to look at Mount Rushmore.
But enough is enough and this is going too far!
The government agency in charge of approving new breweries, recipes and labels is on furlough, leaving in limbo the ability of suds-makers to get their brews on store shelves.
And that means beer connoisseurs who like to constantly try out new samples may have to make do with the presently approved stocks.
“My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery,” said Mike Brenner, a beer maker who was hoping to open his brewery business in Milwaukee by December, The Washington Post reported. But that’s all on hold because of the government shutdown — and the delay may cost him big, to the tune of about $8,000 each month.
“I can’t get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington,” he said. “This is something people don’t mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer.”
The agency in charge of processing his application is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
In my more radical moments, I’ve been known to agitate for the abolition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (You only think that no good arguments can be made for that. And you can only think that if you believe that only the government saves us from individual larceny and dishonesty. And, as my colleague, fellow Baen author Michael Z. Williamson, is fond of saying, that name should belong to a convenience store, not a federal bureau.)
It’s not something we normally make a big point of, though, because it takes too long to explain.
But now they’ve gone too far. They’re delaying the beer!
I have two observations: government involvement in beer regulation is a bridge too far, and if you believe that government regulation of beer is essential, you certainly cannot consider it a non-essential service.
Either way, it’s time to get the government out of our beer!
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was outspoken about female education intends to continue learning, despite having paid for her daring by having a Taliban member shoot her in the head.
According to the Telegraph:
She talks with the fierce clarity of a prophet, and observing her calm, resolute gaze is the nearest we will come to knowing what Joan of Arc looked like when she declared: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
Exactly 12 months ago, Malala Yousafzai was in the back of an open truck on the way home from school when a Taliban gunman asked for her by name and shot her in the head. The bullet exited her brain, but they had to remove part of her skull to relieve the swelling. When I heard what had happened, I hoped that she would die. The thought of that eloquent spirit unable to speak or think or hear was unbearable. But she didn’t die.
When she awoke, she was in a Birmingham hospital. Her doctor says she never cried, not once. The eloquence came back, reborn fearlessly in one who had cheated death. A campaigner for female education, she spent less and less time in the classroom herself. She said she missed geography, but there was no time; her job now was making history.
Tomorrow, 16-year-old Malala may become the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Which would restore just a little of my faith in the deeply abused prize. However, my confidence in the committee leads me to say they will give it to Putin, the “tzar” of Russia.
Last week we agreed – well, at least I agreed, since I am after all writing this – that the purpose of writing is to be read by as many people as possible and that the best way of knowing there are people reading and enjoying your work is to sell it. No one is going to give you money for your writing just to make you feel better. Okay, maybe your mom. But she isn’t going to keep doing it. So, if you’re making a living from your writing you have to know people are enjoying it.
Besides being a useful indicator of popularity, money is good for all sorts of things. For instance, the local grocery store takes it in exchange for food (and takes more of it each week it seems) and no matter how much we explain to our bank that we’re running what amounts to a non-profit cat shelter for delinquent cats, it still insists on having us pay our mortgage in cash instead of warm fuzzies. (I know, I know. Very narrow minded of them.)
So, you’ve finished your manuscript, be it a novel or a short story, or even a collection of articles on delinquency in cats, and you’re looking for a way to market it. But how exactly do you go about it?
Well, first of all, you don’t know how lucky you are. When I finished my first novel, back in pre-history (it was 1985 and we chiseled our work on slabs of rock) I honestly had no idea what to do with it. As it turned out, I should have burned it, but since I didn’t know it at the time, I went to the library, got a copy of Writers’ Market and proceeded to send it out to all sorts of inappropriate places, from whence it was returned at speed (The Writers’ Market is more reliable for non-fiction, and event here the listings are often outdated by the time it goes to print.) It was years before I found the appropriate places (which as it turned out also returned it at speed.)
Nowadays, you can do a lot of the research for where to market your book on line. Sites like Ralan list markets for Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy and Horror ranging from the professional-paying to literary and little. I was actually chuffed to find out they still existed. They used to be my go-to market listing back ten years ago when I was regularly submitting to magazines. (I haven’t done that in about ten years, because I’ve been submitting to by-invitation anthologies, and fulfilling book contracts. It’s one of those problems you trade up for in the writing field.) A friend of mine also uses something called The Grinder Diabolical Plots which is a combined submission tracker and market resource.
Not that this appreciation has ever been lacking among straight males. However, among the Militant Feminist Wing of the Current Cultural Insanity (TM) , it’s become normal to decry any representation, no matter how artistic, of the unclad or partially clad female. They blur the lines — or pretend not to understand the distinction — between art and porn, and charge blithely ahead into Victorian-like prudery.
For instance, I caught more than a little trouble for the cover of (Prometheus Award-winning) Darkship Thieves, which the Militant Feminist Wing deemed to be “demeaning to women” for featuring a partly clad female. They thus revealed both their ignorance — since even much better known authors than I have little to no say on their covers — but also their hypocrisy since none of them objects to the covers of Urban Fantasy books which often feature far more suggestive covers.
I confess that while I’ve always been aware of what a “beautiful woman” is and I’ve appreciated paintings like Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, I didn’t fully appreciate how the human form — male, female, old, young, conventionally beautiful or not — can be rendered beautiful in art.
Now, according to the Telegraph, efforts are afoot to make sure the female form is enjoyed as art, once more.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘camgirl?’ Do you instantly think of Botticelli’s Venus, Manet’s Olympia and Picou’s Andromeda – beautiful, proud, sometimes tragic, nudes, lounging around in famous art galleries for the entire world to see?……………..
Well thanks to 21-year-old former London College of Fashion student Vanessa Omoregie, this perception of camgirls could be about to change.
Omoregie’s tumblr blog, Camgirlsproject, invites any woman to copy the pose of a nude from a famous painting on a webcam and send it to her. She then merges the original painting and the webcam image, to create some quite visually startling, and some stunning, works.
I wish them luck, of course. Will they succeed? Probably not. I mean, most people looking at Webcams aren’t doing it for the art. On the other hand, their efforts are bound to make the crazy wing of feminism even crazier, and that counts as a win in my book!
The Telegraph shares words of wisdom on how to survive a scandal from Mandy Rice-Davis, the former model who, as part of the Profumo affair helped bring down Harold McMillan’s government:
At the launch of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical about the scandal, Stephen Ward, Rice-Davies declared that Profumo’s error was lying about his affair with Christine Keeler: “Had he actually stood up and told the truth, he would probably have gone to the back benches, maybe.”
Rowan Pelling from The Telegraph adds that:
However, I feel Rice-Davies would have even more pearls of wisdom about the role of humour in extremis. One key difference between the blonde bombshell and the more self-contained Keeler is that Rice-Davies always had a joke on her lips and a wink to the gallery. It was she who perkily declared to a packed court, on being told Lord Astor denied having an affair with her: “He would, wouldn’t he?” The Welsh-born glamour puss looked like she was playing a leading role in “Carry On Profumo”, and enjoying every second of it.
I don’t know. I tend to think it is best not to be involved — much less caught in flagrante — in scandals of this nature, and that when caught one should have to pay no matter how charming or humorous.
However, I must say Rice-Davies’ approach seems preferable to our current public personages who seem to cover a scandal with a new and worse one.
Photo via Keystone.
As Powerline blog notes, commenting on this same article, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish supposedly serious news sites from the Onion.
According to the ever-entertaining and self-aggrandizing Huffington Post, Nadine Schweigert married herself and “opened up about self marriage.”
A 36-year-old North Dakota woman who married herself in a commitment ceremony last March has now spoken about her self-marriage choice in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
The marriage took place among friends and family who were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom”, My Fox Phoenix reports.
“I feel very empowered, very happy, very joyous … I want to share that with people, and also the people that were in attendance, it’s a form of accountability,” Nadien Schweigert told Anderson Cooper.
Schweigert said the ceremony was a celebration of how far she’d come since her painful divorce six years ago that led to her two children to decide to live with her ex-husband.
“Six years ago I would’ve handled a problem by going out and drinking,” she said. “I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight … this is just celebrating how far I’ve come in my life.”
Note the delicate construction in that whole passage — six years ago she left her husband, and that’s how she handled “a problem” then — so what problem does she still have? Presumably the fact that she remains alone, since women who have remarried rarely have to “marry themselves.”
And what form of “accountability” is she emphasizing? What exactly is she promising herself? To do the best she can for herself? I thought that was just what we owed ourselves and society?
Or is her “commitment” and accountability to make the best of being alone? And make it sound like a grand adventure?
Marriage by definition is the union of two individuals, who commit to each other. Committing to… yourself?
Oh, honey, in my day we just called that being a spinster.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock,© Frantisek Czanner
According to National Geographic:
A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.
The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.
The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.
The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.
Okay, so it’s not the stuff of Jurassic Park, unless they can coax the rather pretty white flowers to roam the countryside overturning jeeps and terrorizing tourists, but pretty exciting, nonetheless. And maybe next time they’ll find seeds for some massive ancestor of Venus Fly Trap and recreate Little Shop of Horrors.
What? Oh, it would be terrible of course. But think of all the people you could send one of those to. I bet Washington DC would be full of flower pots and carnivorous plants before you could say “inadvisable horticulture.”
Picture courtesy of the author’s frighteningly bad photoshop skills! Stop me before I spoof again!
So, you want to sell your writing? No? You don’t? Wait… why not?
Oh, art, you say, and you don’t wish to sell out. I see. But see, where I come from compliments are easy – and cheap – but when people dig into their pocket and take the approximate price of a chicken or a six-pack of decent beer and lay it out for my novel, THEN I know I’m appreciated.
Writing – or any form of storytelling, really – is a two-way communication. At least it is if it’s working right. It might seem to you that you’re just standing on the corner, rattling off the story to an unresponsive audience, but if you’re doing it right, it’s just not that way. (And realizing this was the difference between being an amateur and starting to sell my stories at pro level.) That beautiful metaphor you just crafted with your amazing word skills goes for nothing if it doesn’t evoke a mood or a feeling in your reader.
It might seem to you that the ultimate product of the storyteller’s craft is the words that appear on the page of that are spoken out into the crowd. This is not true. The words are just the tools you use to bring your art about. Calling them the product of your art would be like calling pastel sticks the product of the artist’s craft. The result of the artist’s efforts with the pastel is a completed portrait or scene. And the result of your craft with words is the emotions the reader/listener feels. If you’re doing it right, you’ll evoke just the right emotions and take your reader on a ride through comedy or tragedy to catharsis and either an escape from the everyday or – ideally, though few of us attain it – a return to the everyday equipped with tools to face real life emotions in a new way.
When a traditional storyteller is doing this, it is not unusual to have a begging bowl at his or her feet. The storyteller can tell how well the emotions are being invoked in the public by how fast that rain of coins hits the begging bowl.
And in other news, the Nobel Peace Prize still lacks all credibility. According to the Washington Times:
Russian President Vladimir Putin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by an advocacy group that credits him with bringing about a peaceful resolution to the Syrian-U.S. dispute over chemical weapons.
The Russian advocacy group International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World nominated Mr. Putin, characterizing his forged agreement with Syrian President Bashar Assad — to turn over admitted chemical weapons cache to international authorities — a world-class and prize-worthy piece of diplomacy, United Press International reported.
The group also took a dig at the United States.
While announcing the nomination during a press conference in Moscow, group officials said Mr. Putin deserved the Peace Prize much more than President Obama, who won the recognition in 2009.
Um… that group name sounds a lot like a survival from USSR Communist times. They were big on unity and the cooperation of peoples — on paper — while they positioned the boot just right to crush the unwary’s windpipe. But to give the devil his due, you cannot deny that Putin deserves the Nobel Peace Prize more than Obama did.
Putin might be a tyrant, a dictator, and responsible for the oppression of innocents in his own land and abroad, but he does do more than look good and say he’s not Bush. Which is all Obama did to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
We live in very funny times, for anyone with an appreciation of black humor.
According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Times, Iran has passed a law which, if ratified by the “Guardian council,” would allow men to marry their adopted daughters once the child reaches the age of 13.
This might seem like a non-event, since the law currently already allows for the marriage of girls at the age of 13 with their father’s consent. But if you realize that Iran allows for polygamy and that a stepdaughter most certainly counts as an “adopted daughter,” the evils of the law will become evident.
Children’s rights activists are alarmed, The Guardian in the United Kingdom reported.
“This bill is legalizing pedophilia,” said Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer for Justice for Iran, a legal group headquartered in London. “It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child. Obviously incest exists in Iran more or less as it happens in other countries across the world. But this bill is legalizing pedophilia and is endangering our children and normalizing this crime in our culture.”
Lest we forget or wish to pretend all cultures are alike and that Iran is a civilized and reasonable country.
Image courtesy Shutterstock ©Pete Sherrard
Organizing your Creative Life in 13 Weeks, Week Thirteen
So, we’re coming to the end of this series. How did it work out? Did it organize my creative life?
It was a good start. I’m not by any means perfect yet at applying Getting Things Done (particularly the part about putting things on paper and out of my head, so they don’t cause stress.) And sometimes I forget my penguin timer, or deliberately leave him behind, particularly if I’m going to be writing in a room with another person.
Still, these 13 weeks helped me at least start retraining my brain into working for longer stretches of time, after the years of “induced ADHD” brought about by working while watching small children.
I am producing more copy and working better and were it not for having contracted a massive sinus infection which then doubled back and hit both ears and my throat, I’d probably have finished Through Fire, now overdue to Baen Books, who publish my Space Opera series.
Instead, I’ll have to keep applying the methods to finishing the novel as soon as possible, once I’m over this upper respiratory infection thing.
Yes, I know I thought I was getting better last week, but then it doubled down. In the meantime I had to fly to Texas, where I’m teaching a workshop this weekend at the Bedford Library, and that in turn seems to have caused a serious worsening of my condition. I spent yesterday sleeping, and today I’m only working at about half power. Those who know me will know how serious this is, since I need to be very ill indeed to not even try to work.
Organizing your Creative Life in Thirteen Weeks — week 12
One of the things that’s hardest to remember is that you don’t get over illness like switching a light off.
At least it’s one of the hardest things to remember for me. And it’s really hard to remember – or to believe – for any writer how… physically demanding writing can be.
I remember a time, when the kids were still very small, and I was writing a military fantasy novel. It involved a series of battles. I’d spend the morning writing and afterwards I’d be exhausted and so hungry that the only thing I could do was call for pizza. And I don’t like pizza. But there simply was no way I could cook after – as it felt – spending the morning slogging through hip-deep mud, and crossing ravines on suspended ropes.
Of course, in real life I hadn’t been doing any of that, but my body seemed to think I had. And the funny thing is I never gained weight from all those pizzas.
Perhaps there is something to research which seems to indicate that imagining something in extreme detail has the same effect on the muscles. (And yes, I’ve tried to convince myself I can just imagine walking three miles a day, particularly in the middle of winter when imagining it is less likely to give me hypothermia. Unfortunately imagining something with that kind of detail means almost living through it… which pretty much means writing it. And writing a walk of three miles a day might get a little tedious for the reader.)
Time after time, when I’m mentoring writers, I come across this effect. The first time they have a breakthrough in writing action, and write a big fight scene or dangerous slog through the wilderness, they are surprised at how tired it makes them. I tell them it’s perfectly normal.
But I forget it is perfectly normal when it comes to my being able to write for long periods of time, or in a very focused way when I’m just recovering from illness.
Or The Fine Art of Making your Customers into Criminals
It must have been in 2000 or around there, when I had just three short stories out and electronic books seemed a thing of the distant future or perhaps of the shady present, that I for the first and last time endorsed some form of digital rights management and donated money to Harlan Ellison’s quixotic attempts to hunt down pirates.
Within the year I’d realized not just the futility of these efforts and that I’d not lose any money – not real money I might have earned – to these acts of piracy, and might in fact acquire some new readers (though given the demographics of pirating and reading, this is not highly likely either.)
It didn’t take me much longer to understand the dangers of applying digital rights management to your property and thereby not only making it difficult for the customer to purchase it and enjoy it, but also implicitly accusing your customer of intended dishonesty.
Lest anyone accuse me of endorsing piracy or even having pirated books: I will confess somewhat shamefacedly that I have never in my life attempted to pirate or copy a book that wasn’t legitimately mine.
I am in fact so ridiculously aware of how little most writers make, and how much pleasure they give me that I often try to compensate them for books they were already paid for. Back in the days when I was dead flat broke and could not afford even a paperback without feeding my family pancakes for dinner for a week, I cruised the “rejects” of the used bookstores nearby every week. This was the bookshelf where books that were either too battered or too strange to be saleable were abandoned by former owners who couldn’t trade them in for credit. I spent the early nineties happily reading tattered gothic romances and nineteenth century biology manuals, because it was better than not reading. Yes, most of those books were awful – but every once in a while I found one that seemed exceptionally well written. If the author was still alive, I would send a fan letter to the publisher, and inside it a dollar bill, for the pleasure the author had given me. (I never got an answer, and I wonder how many authors I confused.)
My first run in with Digital Rights Management was not in books, but in music. I can no longer remember the details, so bear with me.
Like most writers, I often need a specific piece of music to write to.
As I was trying to write the opening of a novel, I realized the “soundtrack” at the back of my mind was of a British album that I’d last heard in the middle eighties. I also realized having the album would make the chapter easier to write. So, I start hunting for it, to find it, both used on Amazon in CD, and for download in this small music service that had just been acquired by one of the giants of the field.
I hated spending the (extra) money to have it in electronic right then, but I wanted to send the proposal to my agent the next day. So I bit the bullet and bought the album electronic.
It downloaded, DRMed and with a password that would supposedly unlock the album. I tried it. It wouldn’t unlock. I tried again. Still wouldn’t unlock. I called customer service and was told “so sorry, with our being bought those codes are messed up, so here is the new code.” I tried that and, ta-da, the album opened, revealing the song titles. I thanked the customer service representative, hung up, and cued the music to play on the computer.
The first song starts and a pop up appears – the code isn’t right, so they think I pirated the album, and are locking up the rest of the album.
I call customer representatives again. “It shouldn’t be doing that.”
Two hours later, I realize I will not be able to listen to that music or finish my chapter that day, tell them I want to return the album for a refund, and I order the (much cheaper) used CD from Amazon.
In my mind that experience will always stand for “the joys of Digital Rights Management” and I will always remember my fury at being accused of stealing something I’d in fact gone through a great deal of trouble to purchase.
I’ve heard of people who have gone through the same experiences with books. In fact, I’ve found myself frustrated trying to buy a digital book that was only available for a device I didn’t own. If the book has no digital rights management software it is possible to buy it and to convert it to the device you do have. Otherwise, the book is inaccessible to you and might in fact disappear forever if your device breaks down.
Audible, which I adore, has pulled this sort of thing on me, by their “three devices” rule. Since they insist on downloading into my computer’s player (where I do not want them) this restricts me to two of my mp3 players, and when one of those broke on me, I had to go through a great deal of trouble to activate another one.