Monday, June 30, 2014

Bemoaning the state of publishing

Joining James Patterson and Richard Russo, yet another senior novelist of the Baby Boomer generation laments the state of American and British letters. (These complaints usually heap blame on for making books cheaper and more widely accessible to consumers.)

According to Val McDermid, things were so much better back when everything was calm and clubby and less market-driven, and publishers cared about "nurturing" a stable of hand-picked authors, through thick and thin:

"Val McDermid, the best-selling crime writer, has claimed that she would be a failed novelist if she were starting out today because the publishing industry no longer allows for slow-burning careers.
McDermid has sold 10 million copies and her series about the psychological profiler Dr Tony Hill was turned into the BBC drama Wire In The Blood.
However, she was far from an overnight success. Report for Murder, her first novel, was published in 1987 but she did not give up her day job until 1991 when she finally secured a two-book deal.
"If I published my first three novels now, I wouldn't have a career because no-one would publish my fourth novel based on the sales of my first three," McDermid said."
Reality check: There has never been a good time to make a reliable, long-term income as a novelist. The business of fiction writing has always been what economists call a "tournament", in which a small number of players claim a disproportionate amount of the rewards. 

What is true is that the publishing industry has consolidated considerably in recent years. But this has been offset by new opportunities in independent publishing--which wasn't a realistic option for almost anyone 20 or 30 years ago.

Gen X forgotten by the media?

A CNN contributor observes that, "an entire generation exists in between the Baby Boomers and Millennials. They are called Gen X, but they are often overlooked by pollsters, the media and just about everyone else."

I think there is some truth to this, but it doesn't particularly upset me. (Note: I was born in 1968, which puts me smack dab in the middle of Generation X.)

Part of it is simply that (as the author mentions) there are fewer Gen Xers to talk about. Raising children was a less popular undertaking during the 1960s and 1970s, as compared with either the postwar era or the child-obsessed 1980s and 1990s.

The Baby Boomers receive a lot of attention because they are currently in the retirement phase, and their mass exit from productive work has a huge impact on the economy, and their aging and eventual demise will impact demographics worldwide. In this context, it is worthwhile to talk about them in aggregate terms.

Generation Y's coming of age happened to coincide with the rise of the Internet. As we know, young people since time immemorial have been self-obsessed. They tend to believe that they are smarter than their parents, and their peer group is a source of great and unique received wisdom. (This belief is almost always incorrect.) So the result is that when you look online, you see a lot of young people engaging in what can be described as self-obsessed, narcissistic behavior.

I was self-obsessed and probably narcissistic at 18 or 25, too. But there was no Internet back then, and so there was no platform for me to broadcast my narcissism to the world.

People born between 1964 and 1980 are today between 50 and 34 years old. In other words: they are middle aged. Retirement is somewhat interesting to talk about, and everyone enjoys talking about youth. But the travails, frustrations, and compromises of middle age? Not so much.

Another important point from the article:

"They [Gen Xers] are less likely than Millennials and Baby Boomers to think their generation is unique, and they don't have as firm a view on what makes them special."
I agree wholeheartedly with this one. Many of us (me included) were only children and key latch kids. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was less emphasis on group activities for children in the after school hours and during summer vacations. So on average, we tended to spend a lot of time alone. (Kids today, by contrast, are chronically over-scheduled.) 

Growing up in small families with a lot of alone time made many of us individualistic, suspicious of mass movements, and cynical. This certainly describes me, and I believe that it also describes many of my contemporaries.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

German loanwords English needs

“One of the words the authors would love to see adopted in English is "side jump" ("Seitensprung"). In German, it means an extramarital affair.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The demise of the group-authored, corporate blog

The New York Times is shutting down many of its blogs

Why? Perhaps a "New York Times blog" belies the original spirit of the blog as a unique, individual voice. As independent blogger Althouse says:
"I have long believed in blogging as a format for independent, individualized personal expression.  
You've got to be the blog, not regard it as a pesky Other, always whining for more."

I agree. Aggregated, group-authored blog sites like Huffington Post and BoingBoing undermine the original spirit of what blogging was supposed to be about. 

Some enterprises--like agriculture and automobile manufacturing--do benefit from economies of scale. A blog, however, generally becomes staler as it becomes more group-authored and"corporate".

The 4.3 million of 1991

Apparently, a lot of Americans were born in 1991:

“At 4.3 million, 23-year-olds are now the single largest age group in the U.S...The last time the U.S. had this many young people primed to enter the labor force was in the early 1980s. In 1983, 4.3 million 23-year-olds were about to start their careers."

On reading and author biographies

Knowing a bit about the person who wrote the book can make the book more interesting:

"Applying the writer’s biography to one’s reading of a novel strikes me as less a matter of cheating or impurity than an additional, incidental pleasure: Ah, I know where that came from. David Copperfield’s time in Mr. Murdstone’s wine warehouse acquires only more poignancy from one’s being aware of the young Dickens’s own scarifying time inside the blacking factory."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blood Flats free on Kindle: Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Get my novel Blood Flats free on Amazon Kindle for three days only: June 28, 29, and 30:

“Meth, murder, and the mafia---a vast tapestry of a southern gothic crime novel with a Dickensian cast of characters.”

Available for the first time on Amazon Kindle.

***Lee McCabe is home from Iraq, but home has changed.***

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and recently discharged U.S. marine Lee McCabe never imagined the dangers awaiting him in Hawkins County, Kentucky. While Lee has been in the Middle East, a network of violent methamphetamine traffickers have established a foothold in the county, corrupting, intimidating, or murdering anyone who stands in their way.

***Charged with murder and marked for death***

Lee quickly discovers that his neighbor, Tim Fitzsimmons is a meth dealer. When Fitzsimmons and his girlfriend are killed in a drug-related hit, Lee attempts to intervene. The law and the community blame Lee for the murder. The meth traffickers target Lee for death, knowing him to be a witness to the crime.

***Enemies motivated by passion, greed, and desperation ***

Sheriff Steven Phelps has his own personal reasons for hating Lee: Twenty-five years ago, Lee’s now deceased mother had a youthful affair with the sheriff. The sheriff planned to marry her--until she jilted him to be with the man who became Lee’s father. Phelps is torn by his duty to justice, and his obsession with the doomed love of his adolescence.

Lester Finn is a classics-quoting, self-aggrandizing local hoodlum and meth dealer. He is caught between the law and the Chicago-based mafia, which wants a greater share of the southern methamphetamine trade. From his bar, the Boar’s Head, Lester controls a sordid regional enterprise that consists of gambling, drug trafficking, and prostitution. Lester is torn by his grudging respect for Lee---and his need to see the ex-marine dead.

Paulie Sarzo is a Chicago mobster, a rising star in the Coscollino crime family. He despises Kentucky, Lee McCabe, and most of all, Lester Finn. But Paulie has an important mission to accomplish in Hawkins County: If he fails to eliminate Lee, he risks the ultimate punishment for failure in la cosa nostra.

***A journey toward death or redemption***

Dawn Hardin is a former golden girl, honor student, and premed whose life has fallen into a downward spiral of meth addiction and prostitution. Dawn had a tumultuous relationship with Lee before he went to Iraq. Now she tries to help him wage war against the mafia, even as she struggles with her own inner demons, and a family that wants to deny her existence.

The Hunter is a mysterious figure who compels Lee to go on the offensive against the forces pursuing him. But will the Hunter offer any concrete assistance, or only advice?

Brett St. Croix is a journalist who offers to tell Lee’s version of events. But Lee suspects that St. Croix has a contrary, private agenda of his own.

Ben Chamberlain lost his wife to a meth-related murder. Will he assist Lee; or will Ben’s desire for revenge destroy them both?

***A battle in Blood Flats***

Pursued from all directions, Lee embarks on a cross-country journey toward the town of Blood Flats. There he faces a showdown---in which he must pit his wits and determination against the ruthlessness and superior resources of his enemies on both sides of the law.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Self-publishing "reactionary"?

So says an ardent supporter of the erstwhile corporate publishing monopoly:

"Trumpeted as a democratic broadening of the publishing field, 'authorpreneurialism' actually narrows the world of reading and writing"

This article has numerous holes in it. (I'm surprised that The Guardian even ran it, as incoherent as it is.) In the interest of brevity, I'll focus on one paragraph:

“By definition, self-publishing is an individualistic pursuit in which each writer is both publisher and market adventurer, with every other writer a potential competitor and the reader reduced to the status of consumer. Publishing then becomes timid, fearing to be adventurous and revolutionary lest it betray the expectations of its market. This is a natural tendency in traditional publishing but it is one restrained by the voices of its authors who are free to put their work first and entrepreneurship a distant second. With authorship and entrepreneurship now equal partners, the new authorpreneurs have thrown off the dictatorship of the editor to replace it with the tyranny of the market.”
The "tyranny of the market" exists whether one is writing for gatekeepers in the publishing industry or directly for readers. There is always a market. 

The only difference is, "who make the market?" Or--more precisely--who decides what books are presented to the marketplace? 

I should note, by the way, that I find the self-publishing vs. corporate publishing debate to be mostly unproductive, and characterized by misguided fervor on both sides. I don't want to see corporate publishers go under---any more than I would like to see, hypothetically, a law against self-publishing.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both---for readers as well as authors. But this piece in The Guardian presents neither side of the debate particularly well.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Termination Man free on Kindle June 8, 9, & 10

Get Termination Man free on Amazon Kindle today, Monday, and Tuesday… book description:

A long forgotten double murder of two young women in Ohio. A struggling corporation in turmoil. Two powerful men, two bitter rivals, each one hiding his own secrets. One driven by lust and rage, the other driven by a conflicted sense of right and wrong.


“The novel that takes an unflinching look at the dark underside of the 21st century workplace.”

CRAIG WALKER is a hotshot young MBA with his own consulting firm. He’s handsome, rich, and in demand. His Fortune 500 clients—the most powerful men and women in industry—call him “The Termination Man.”

Craig Walker is no ordinary management consultant. He’s a spook, a workplace spy. Assuming false identities, Craig works undercover, building the evidence that will allow his corporate clients to terminate unwanted employees without legal repercussions. His targets are the troublemakers, the agitators, the employees whom management believes are no longer “good fits” for their hyper-competitive organizations.

Craig Walker believes that he serves the cause of economic efficiency, and in a way, the greater good. Most of his targets don’t like their jobs anyway. In a free market, “a firing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Sometimes an employee needs to leave a bad a situation.”

SHAWN MYERS is a manager at TP Automotive, a global giant in the automotive industry. Shawn struggles to control his lust and rage, and to escape a hideous past that might catch up with him at any moment. His forbidden desire for a girl young enough to be his daughter threatens to drive him over the edge.

When TP Automotive hires the Termination Man to remove two innocent employees from its payroll, Craig Walker is forced to reexamine his notions of justice and morality. But these questions are soon overwhelmed by the dangers that he faces from the TP Automotive management team. After Shawn Myers commits a heinous act in Craig’s presence, the Termination Man discovers that his new clients will resort to any means in order to protect one of their own.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eleven Miles of Night free on Kindle June 6

Eleven Miles of Night is free on Amazon Kindle on Friday, June 6!

Book description:

Jason Kelley is a young, struggling filmmaker looking for his first big break. When the semi-famous cable television ghost hunter Simon Rose approaches him about a freelance project, Jason is understandably thrilled.
He isn’t fazed by the fact that his assignment is a walk down the Shaman’s Highway, an eleven-mile stretch of rural Ohio roadway that is reputed to be haunted by malevolent spirits, hellhounds, and demonic forces. Jason is an agnostic in regard to the supernatural.
He isn’t prepared for the reality that awaits him on his walk through eleven miles of night—nor the more human violence and heartbreak that he will face along the way.

Eleven Miles of Night book trailer

Talking about Eleven Miles of Night