News and Notices from the Writing Trenches # 151…

Indie Author Day, October 14. If you attended one of these events near you, or any other local book fair, for that matter (‘tis the season), thank you. Whether reader or writer, these events carry on an important tradition—books are part of being human.

At the event in Montclair, I enjoyed chatting with readers, many of them Montclair Public Library supporters, who wandered through talking to the participating authors. I enjoyed chatting with other authors too. Such experiences file off some of my rough edges of introverted author, probably not unusual when everyone is interested in the same things—books, in this case.

“Indie” is a very ambiguous term when applied to authors. Very few indies in the room were 100% DIY (not recommended—if you’re a writer, you probably aren’t a cover artist, for example). Traditional publishing was represented by authors who write for small presses, sometimes called “indie publishers,” i.e. those traditional publishers that aren’t part of a huge Big Five publishing conglomerate. Readers are the ones who benefit—so many good books and good authors now.

Internet readers. Not all readers read books. Maybe you read shorter and pithier articles on internet websites more than books, if you read the latter at all? I do both (not tweets, though), but I get it. You have a busy life and don’t have time for books? That’s OK. That’s why I provide lots of content JUST FOR YOU at this website. I haven’t perused the websites of authors I met at Indie Author Day yet, but just from talking to people it seemed my website is unusual (it is what it is, whether good or bad).

Here are the usually weekly offerings: a quote of note, one relating to current event or reading and writing (Mon); an op-ed article commenting on recent news items or general societal and cultural concerns (Tues); short fiction pieces and/or this newsletter (Weds); an article about reading, writing, and/or the writing business (Thurs); and a book or movie review (Fri).

In total, this amounts to a weekly online newspaper, written just for you. You can peruse the daily offering on the bus or train (please don’t do it while driving). Some days there’s nothing, though, because I either had nothing to say that day or my caffeine just hadn’t kicked in enough to write it down. Good reading!

Oxford comma. In jest on my Facebook author page, I defined this as “a sleepy docent in England who hits one too many m’s on his laptop.” What it really means is adding that last comma in a series: X, Y, and Z, and NOT X, Y and Z. There’s an ongoing battle (because Oxford somehow got involved, shall we call it a “storm in a teacup”?) with fanatical writers choosing sides on whether that comma is needed.

My take: once one of my old English teachers, from back in the days when they actually taught students how to write, told me, “Put a comma in when you’d pause while reading the phrase aloud.” (Yeah, I mentally corrected her—sometimes a semicolon has to be used.) If you can say “Jack went to the levee in his shiny new Chevy, Jill stayed home to play solitaire while drying her hair, and Thomas drove to Toledo to play basketball in his speedo” and not pause before “and Thomas,” you should be free-diving for pearls in the South Seas, not writing. ‘Nough said.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This is the great title from a 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick. I agonize over my titles as much as I do for “the hook” (found sometimes in a first chapter, other times in a prologue) that begins a story and the climax that ends it (usually followed by a denouement or rehash that ties things together and answers questions the reader might still have—sometimes in an epilogue). I usually don’t settle on a title until I’m ready to copy-edit a final manuscript before sending it to beta-readers. The Last Humans, my new project, had the working title Oasis Redux, for example.

Old Philip came up with a great title for his novel. It ties into the plot well, much better than Blade Runner, which was the classic movie’s title. Of course, hard sci-fi readers will recognize the original title, but many others probably recognize the movie title more easily, arguably the best sci-fi movie ever made. (It spawned a lot of copycat books and has a sequel now in Blade Runner 2049 that’s also good. See my review last Friday.)

Many great Hollywood sci-fi movies have been based on Philip’s stories. You can read about the author here. Of course, the best movies come from books, whether fiction or non-fiction!

Why no audiobooks? I’ve been asked that. I pay up-front costs for my indie books (formatting, editing, and cover art). Ebooks cost less to produce, print books more, and audiobooks the most. That’s why I don’t have any indie audiobooks. Most small presses (for example, Penmore Press, who published my most recent book Rembrandt’s Angel—see below) don’t publish audiobooks either. Professional readers for audiobooks are expensive.

Writers shouldn’t make the mistake of reading their own books to produce audiobooks—you need a pro with a great, expressive voice. Such a pro justifiably charges a lot! And “readers” are charged a lot for the final audiobook product as a consequence. I like to keep my books reasonably priced. I can’t do that for audiobooks.

Do you think Amazon is a friend to readers and writers? Don’t! See my article tomorrow, “Amazon: One Size Fits All,” where I analyze and explain a NY Times op-ed post written by Douglas Preston.

Strange comment? I don’t write romance novels. But is The Midas Bomb a romance? (It’s now in second edition with a new review on Amazon—all my reviews tend to be more than just one- or two-liners, so I thank all the reviewers for that.)

This strange question made me ask the person making the query about the reason for asking. “Unrequited love between the villain and the Russian terrorist who worked for him”? Hmm. Maybe because of the spiffy new cover which isn’t as bawdy as the usual romance novel, but a wee bit lecherous? I guess the person missed the covers of Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder and Muddlin’ Through? Or, are the female silhouettes used on those covers less risqué? You tell me.

Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). How far would you go to recover a missing masterpiece? Have great fun this fall reading about the adventures of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone and her paramour/sidekick, Interpol agent Bastiann van Coevorden. Esther becomes obsessed with recovering Rembrandt’s “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a painting stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s museum. The crime-fighting duo goes after the painting and those currently possessing the painting, but the whole caper becomes much more dangerous as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens the security of Europe. With all the danger, their budding romance becomes full-blown. This book is available as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and also as a print book from Amazon and your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask for them to order it). Check out the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

In libris libertas!




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