Cover for Princess of Shadows

Woke up this morning feeling a little better, and realized there’s one piece of good news I can share– I now have the new cover for Princess of Shadows, created for me by Dark Dawn Creations–

http://www.darkdawncreations.com/

I am quite pleased with the design–

Princess of Shadows e-cover

I’ve created a entry for the novel on my Kindle Bookshelf and imported the cover, but I’m keeping it in draft until I am absolutely ready to publish. In the meantime, I thought I would share this. It cheered me up.

Later.

Quicky update, ’cause it’s past my bedtime…

I am down to fifteen pages left to edit on the hard-copy of Princess of Shadows. Suddenly daylight is flooding the tunnel and I can smell the roses at the far end (okay, not the most original metaphor, but it’s late…). I’ve made more and more progress each day as I’ve gotten closer to the end– last night I even cut a whopping 800 words in one go. 800 words! Okay, maybe not so epic, but still….

Once these red-pen edits are in, I will have fine-tuning to do (I notice, for instance, that Kathy cries, or is tempted to cry, a lot. Maybe that’s because I would cry a lot if I went through the hell she’d going through. Still, I need to think about it). But sometime early next month I should have the book in the hands of my beta readers, now definitely three and perhaps four in number.

I just hope they don’t take three months to read the novel. I don’t want to rush them, not at all, but I do want to get this puppy out before Christmas. I hear people buy stuff around that time of year.

Later.

The power of the red pen, plus a word or two on doodles

I am a little more than halfway through the hard-copy edit of Princess of Shadows. I hope to pick up the pace a little, since I would dearly love to complete this edit this month.

Despite the slower-than-anticipated pace, I am, so far, pretty pleased with how the edit is going. I’m cutting and tightening in good ways. Reading through the story, I’ve already discovered a couple of places that may need to be expanded upon, where it feels as if Kathy and those around her get to the place I want them to be too quickly. This is the sort of thing I typically pick up in the hard-copy edit.

I do have something sort of looming over me, though. For all the good editing I think I’m doing, I am worried that the third draft will still be too long– in the end I may not cut more than ten to twenty thousand words, if that. One criticism I’ve picked up from Goodreads and Amazon reviews of the previous novels is that they may be slow or drawn out in places– in short, that they may have pacing issues. I will probably need to think pretty hard about major cuts to speed things along. Kathy spends a lot of time in different places in the Empire in her struggle to get back to Crown. At the moment every incident feels necessary, but I wonder if that’s simply because I’m too close to the problem. This may be something I will have to ask my beta readers to assess for me.

Aside from that, I find that, when I am not editing Princess of Shadows, I am spending time doodling on a couple of other novels– not, oddly, Princess of Fire, but a standalone novel on another character from the Divine Lotus books, as well as a couple thousand words on the idea I had for a story about what happens to a group of ordinary people who are suddenly endowed with tremendous powers. The portion I’ve written on that one is at the end of the story–for some reason I often have a clear idea of how the story will end, but a very vague concept of how I’m going to get there. That probably says something profound about my approach to writing, and maybe life in general, but I could not tell you what it might be. Perhaps some questions are best left unanswered.

Later.

A word to traditional publishers and the self-published

Slow progress on the hard-copy edit of Princess of Shadows— it really seems as if everyday life is conspiring to drag me away from the book, hitting me with this, that, and the other thing at odd intervals. I am about a third of the way through. However, on the plus-side, I am cutting out some good-sized chunks of text.

Meanwhile, it seems that another firefight has flared up over self-publishing. A blogger identifying him/herself as “anonnymouse13” launched a tirade (again, with bad words) a couple of days ago against independently published writers–

http://anonnymouse13.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/why-indie-authors-still-suck/

Another blogger responded directly to anonnymouse13, taking the counter-position for indies–

http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/an-open-letter-to-a-frightened-man/

I have no interest in chiming in on anonnymouse13’s blog; mishaburnett has already done so quite adequately. I do find the anger and disdain in anonnymouse13’s blog disturbing; are people associated with traditional publishing truly this alarmed? He’s not the first to use this kind of language– it seems many of them are painting indies with very broad brush-strokes as incompetent amateurs who shouldn’t be allowed out in public for fear we’ll make a mess on the floor.

I’ve previously posted at length on self-publishing, but reading this latest exchange, I have kind of come to a summarization my own thinking on the subject. Half of what I now have to say is for trad publishing, half for my fellow self-publishers.

Traditional publishers— take a deep breath, step back, and figure out where you can fit into the new normal. The new normal is that trad publishers no longer have control over what literature is available to the public. Because of the Internet and e-books and online self-publishing platforms you are no longer the sole gatekeepers of literary production in our culture– and over the next few years that erosion of your former power is only going to get worse. In a decade or less, book publishing in our society is going to look very different from what it does now, and radically different from what it looked like a generation ago.

Rage as you will, you cannot reverse this trend, for two simple reasons– 1. the Internet is not going away, short of human civilization blowing itself to kingdom come (an outcome that would adversely affect dead tree books, as well), and 2. people have a free speech right to publish their writings and thoughts, and as long as there are online platforms willing to accept their work, they will. You are powerless to stop them, and stamping your feet and frothing at the mouth about it only wastes your time and raises your blood-pressure.

It would be much better for you to follow the example of the music industry– embrace the independents and figure out how you can work with them. Work at helping to create and mold the new normal. If you try to cling to the vestiges of your former power and status, you will be left behind.

Self-publishers— The greatest and most glorious achievement of the new publishing world is that the decision to publish a work has been taken out of the hands of cultural elites (editors and publishers) and delivered into the hands of the authors themselves. This is occurring just as traditional publishing is petrifying into some sort of living fossil, incapable of changing its ways and frequently unable to recognize good writing, as it ardently pursues publishing the same sort of material that has sold before.

But every revolution has its downside. The downside of online self-publishing is that, with no gatekeepers at all, we are seeing a flood of badly written material being presented to the public. This is evident from any casual examination of the inventory of e-book vendors.

In their eagerness to see their name and the name of their book on an Amazon or Smashwords webpage, many thousands of people have launched their work into the ether without understanding a basic truth– learning to write well is, for most people, a long, long process involving a great deal of hard work and, frequently, a good deal of humiliation and frustration. There are no five easy steps to writing success. Most of us take years to learn this craft. Occasionally we will encounter some native genius who picks up a pen and writes something great right out of the gate. They are far more rare than big-time lottery winners. The new publishing paradigm has not changed the nature of the writing process, nor how this skill is learned and honed.

The irony is that the same free speech right that now allows an author to publish very nearly at will also makes no value judgments about what is published. There is no quality test for free speech– it protects both cogently written works and incoherent drivel. Neither I, nor any traditional publisher, nor Santa Claus, have any right to tell an author they can’t publish if they haven’t spent twenty years learning to write and can’t figure out how to format a manuscript so that it is readable. So there is no way to stop the flow of inadequately written material in the new self-published world.

There is, however, a countervailing force, at least on self-publishing platforms that offer some form of payment– the freedom of the consumer/reader/audience to judge your work and utterly ignore it if they find it wanting. It is the marketplace, red in tooth and claw, and it is unforgiving. This is actually a good and hopeful thing– it means that those who work hard and honestly strive to make their work better still have a chance rise above the sea of the bad and the hasty. With all the material that is out there now, and all that is to come, it will not be easy– but what that is worthwhile in this life is easy?

So, here is my final word to my brothers and sisters in self-publishing– if you do not want to be ignored, or worse, ridiculed (and, believe me, one-star reviews sting like the dickens), learn your craft. Take the time to do it right. You won’t regret it.

That’s all I have to say.

Later.

Sort of a review of The Wolverine, plus some immature whining….

I’ve made some progress on the hard-copy edit of Shadows, even though real life has intervened over the last couple of days to pull me away. Dang you, real life. Meanwhile, I need to get something off my chest.

I went to see “The Wolverine” a few days ago–

All-in-all, one of the best Marvel pictures lately, and the best solo Wolverine effort out there. Hugh Jackman has always stood out as Wolverine/Logan; he seems to get the character in a way the other actors portraying X-Men in previous films have not.

At the start of the picture, it appears to be kinda in the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand— Wolverine is hiding out in the northern woods, grieving for Jean Grey, and not doing particularly well in general (hallucinations, poor grooming, and apparently a lot of alcohol are involved). A quirky Japanese assassin named Yukio contacts Logan and takes him to Japan, where he is confronted by faces from his past and new dangers.

The whole story is mostly character driven, with the introduction of a love interest for Logan. As such, it is very well done, and the action is tight and compelling. As with the X-Men movies in general, the storyline is not quite canon, in my opinion, as it changes some details of the comic-book storyline, not always for the best. My chief question mark about the movie, though, is a surprise twist at the end that I did not anticipate and which I am not sure I wholly liked. It may grow on me in time. On the whole I give the movie a solid thumbs-up.

As to things to come, I am very pleased and hopeful that the next X-Men production revolves around the “Days of Future Past” storyline, one of the best X-Men storylines ever. Bryan Singer picked a good one to adapt. Plus, the announced cast promises to be great, with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Ellen Page returning as Kitty Pryde (down, boy…remember, they’re young enough to be your daughters…down, I say…). I’m looking forward to this one.

But I have to say, for my money, on the whole, all things considered, the X-Men movies have been a let-down.

I’m not a canon purist; I understand things like books and comics have to be adapted to the screen. But it seems to me that there’s been some serious disrespect of at least the spirit of the canon by the film-makers of this series; “X-Men: First Class” is a particular example (Moira MacTaggert as a CIA agent? Really?). It’s gotten to the point that I don’t recognize the storylines anymore; that’s why “Days of Future Past” is welcome.

But my biggest disappointment, frankly, is that no one ever figured out how to adapt “Where No X-Man Has Gone Before”.

For me, my X-Men ur-moment was October, 1977. I was in Germany, in the Army, and one night while on guard duty, but off-watch in the guard-shack, I picked up a comic someone had left behind on a cot, because I had nothing better to do. It was X-Men #107. I read it, and my mind underwent a profound re-orientation– aka, I was completely blown away. Here was a superhero team that argued and squabbled, who attacked first and didn’t apologize, one of whose members (guess who?) looked borderline homicidal, and who were actually getting their asses kicked and had to be rescued– all while the universe itself hung in the balance. It was worlds away (no pun intended) from the DC comics I’d read since I was a kid. The subsequent issues, the collaboration of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, confirmed to me that this was something special. I was hooked.

So, somewhere deep down, I want this storyline on-screen. I want the Shi’ar. I want Lilandra. I want the mad Emperor D’Ken and the M’krann Crystal. I want the Soul-Drinker (not to keep, mind you. Worse than a pit-bull). I want to see the X-Men come through the star gate, not knowing where they’re being sent, and come face-to-face with the Imperial Guard. Dammit, I want to see the Starjammers come down in the nick of time, in a blaze of blasters and aplomb, and pull the X-Men’s butts out of the fire. And I want to see Jean Grey save the freaking universe.

Want, want, want…. I’ve come to understand a few things since I was that rather silly kid who picked up that comic thirty-six years ago. One thing is that, most usually, I don’t get what I want. The movies are what they are– the storylines have diverged from canon, the Jean Grey character appears to be out of the picture for good, and no amount of whining is going to change those facts. I don’t own the characters or the universe. The situations and characters are in the hands of other people– many of them very talented and creative folk, mind you, with a right to their own vision. So I just have to put my disappointment in a box and go on….

…to the best therapy for literary disappointment I know– writing. It’s the same reaction I had in the wake of Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (an abortion) and the premature cancellation of Firefly (a crime for which anyone has yet to be prosecuted)– I go and start writing something I feel rescues the spirit of the failed work (while– ahem– staying well on this side of plagiarism). I find that feeling let down by other writers/creators is definitely inspirational. It’s partly because of earlier disappointments that I actually have a backlog of projects beside the Divine Lotus series. It’s definitely better than drowning my sorrows in bourbon. Way better than crack. If you’re going to medicate by means of an addictive substance, writing is truly superior.

Okay, so that’s off my chest. Back to work. Later.