Gaughran on Amazon v. Hachette

Still confused about the continuing kerfuffle ‘tween Amazon and Hachette? Even after I put in my own two cents? REALLY?

Okay, then this briefest of excerpts from an interview by author JJ Marsh with the always interesting David Gaughran might help:

Hachette can’t come right out and say they want higher book prices (which is the result if they prevail in negotiations and take back control of pricing and/or Amazon’s ability to to discount) so instead we get a narrative of a rapacious corporation versus a plucky guardian of our literary heritage. Authors should adopt a little more skepticism towards what is a concerted PR campaign from a series of vested interest.

 

It really is worth it to click on over to read the rest of his intelligent, well-informed take on what’s really happening and what’s truly at stake for writers like you and me.

 

Hangin’ with Hugh

In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt from a Guest Post I had the pleasure of publishing over on Hugh Howey’s site recently while celebrating Proseuche’s release.

 

Amazon opened the doors. Instead of hoops, Amazon offered opportunity. Seeing an industry denying undiscovered talent their chance to be heard, Amazon stepped to the plate.

Single mothers in the Midwest found their romance novels becoming bestsellers. Goth kids dressed in black discovered they’re not alone, their zombie books collecting earnest raves from their peers. Retirees who’d put their dreams of Writing on hold so they could pay the bills and raise a family reinvented themselves as novelists with a lifetime of stories to tell.

Head on over. It’s worth the read. :)

Dumb it down?

A friend of mine, someone with the best of intentions, said something the other day that nearly stopped me in my tracks.

“Maybe you’d sell a lot more books if you dumbed your writing down.”

Now, I had to think about that for a second because he wasn’t referring to my subject matter — the immortal Martuk slaying his way through a lifetime of endless centuries — but more to the way it’s written. It’s intelligent. It has a unique voice that still follows the basic rules of sentence structure and grammar. It’s ambitious but still accessible. The sentences are more lyrical than not. There’s character development and several story lines all spinning around a central narrative held together in a clever framing device. And this narrative is designed to not only stand alone, but stretch over a three-book series as well as an ongoing collection of short fiction.

Ah, you see? There’s the problem.

Publishing these days — and I’m talking about indie, single author, and the Big Five — isn’t as focused on quality as it could be. The mediocre is applauded. The abysmal is celebrated. Anyone writing anything that would be considered “normal” ten years ago — story, appropriate dialogue tags, realistic conversations from people who could actually exist — is thought of as an anomaly. Something new. Different.

And that worries me.

That the bar would be so low that the telling of a story would be thought of as something newsworthy is not a good thing. In fact, as I said in a recent interview, we, as Writers, should be expected to tell a story. Telling one should not be seen as something cool. It’s our feckin’ job, for Christ’s sake!

But so many have found success doing so little. Or doing so little so poorly that their attitude is, Well, people seem to like it, so why change?

Why change?

Because you can do better. Because your readers, whether they know it or not, want you to do better.

Because if you keep half-assing it, that will become the New Normal, you won’t grow as a writer, and there will be generations of readers who won’t know Good Writing from a hole in the ground. Though you know damn well at least the hole will have a backstory as to how it got there whereas your book will be a long series of events that end up leading to a big fat Nothing.

So, here’s the deal:

I’ll continue writing the way I write. That’s the little I can do to change the tide. And when readers tire of piss-poor writing revolving around non-existent stories peopled by cardboard cutouts murmuring, sighing, giggling, growling, breathing, whispering, moaning, laughing inane ridiculous dialogue no one would actually say, my work — and the work of hundreds if not thousands like me — will be there waiting for them.

‘Cause I’ll be damned if I’m going to dumb it down.

 

 

Amaranthine ghosts

Excerpt from Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche (release date July 22, 2014), the sequel to my award-winning debut novel Martuk … the Holy

 

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

were the first words his assassin said.

Weeks ago he had spied the man, a stranger, lingering in the silver light of morning.

Weeks ago, the sun waking behind a canopy of grey, he had wrestled the keys that turned the locks that opened the door to this, his church.

Weeks ago, he had sat in the confessional, the dark-haired Penitent hidden by the lattice-work screen separating them.

Then,

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

The words had come, halting and thick with exhaustion. The heavily accented English breathed by a soul in torment.

The priest hadn’t known what to say.

The Church believed one thing, he another.

For years he’d closed his eyes, all those shadows sitting in the pews rising from memory to haunt him. Echoes of faces, of arms and chests and torsos and slender shoulders. Their necks long as they bowed their heads in prayer. Even still, he was haunted by the gentle warmth of phantom breath against his cheek as he worked in his office, alone. Still, the feeling of all those eyes on him persisted, like a stain or the lingering scent of cherished memory. Eyes watching him, following him. Souls eager for him to see them, to know them and remember them. To love them. Their footsteps echoing his as he walked the nave jingling the keys that would turn the locks to bolt the doors of this, his church.

“Yes,” he had finally said in English as well, his voice a whisper lest this blatant insurrection be overheard. “Yes, I do.”

“It’s amaranthine,” had come the response, the voice low, the words mumbled. The vowels and consonants lost in the advent of quiet tears.

“It’s what?”

He had lost the word. Had caught the “it” in what was said, but wasn’t sure about the rest. Knew there was a second word. An odd word. An unfamiliar word. A beautiful word. But he didn’t know what it was. It was a word he thought he might know, but hadn’t really heard.

“I’m sorry?” the young priest had said. “I didn’t hear you.”

He had grown desperate to help this stranger. To give him comfort. To offer something, anything, to ease his pain and bring a glimmer of hope to his heart.

This, this man, this agony, this need. This is why he did what he did. Why he had sacrificed so much. Why he’d given his life to Our Heavenly Father and the Church.

“I didn’t hear you,” he’d repeated, his voice sounding weak.

The stranger’s hand had rested on the screen then. The dark shadow of a palm, a thumb, four fingers, all splayed flat against the thin strips of wood. Reaching for him, perhaps. Seeking comfort, maybe even a friend. The flesh of the palm smooth. A hint of an ancestry not solely European in the skin. A discreet, subtle darkness there. Middle Eastern, perhaps.

The priest had wanted to press his palm to the screen. Return the gentle gesture. Had felt the overwhelming urge to lift his hand to that of the one who struggled, whose heart wept. This soul who was so desperate for companionship that he’d offer his touch despite the lattice-work between them.

The thought had been ludicrous, of course. He knew that. Had known that his imagination had gotten the better of him. Could hear the criticisms from years ago, those venerable Fathers and Sisters and Mother Superiors who had warned him that his too tender heart would be anything but a blessing.

“It is not your pain,” Father Bautista had urged, the old man looming like a great mountain, his voice a deep rumbling from his chest. “They come for guidance. For Penance and Reconciliation. For peace, for hope. To cleanse themselves of their sins. Remember, it is not your pain.”

And yet …

“Listen well, my boy,” had come the voice of the Mother Superior whose name was lost though her doughy face and thick hips and those stubby fingers laced together so tight the knuckles turned white would never leave him.

“This is not good, what you create in your head,” she’d said, her voice cutting and sometimes cruel. “Listen to their words, and only their words. Do what is needed of you. Trust Our Heavenly Father to do the rest. Do not create a world of loneliness and need for these Penitents that may not exist.

“This world, it is not yours.”

But if those who’d teased his tear-stained cheeks, those Fathers and Sisters and Mother Superiors, if they could hear this stranger, hear the voice thick with loneliness, see the palm, patient and waiting against the ancient wood, wouldn’t these ghosts from his past feel what he felt now?

He smiled.

Yes, he believed in ghosts.

The priest’s hand had left his lap, the fingers flexing as they stretched and slowly, tentatively, rose.

There had been a sigh then from this soul in torment waiting on the other side. A glimpse of a head bowing. Of shoulders slumping. Of the hand still smooth against the slats of woven wood.

But a sigh, yes, deep and heavy.

A sigh of someone who had not known sleep for many moons.

Of someone who waited, alone, his patience ebbing, his fear growing.

The priest’s hand had stopped, hovering near the shadow of the stranger’s palm, and then retreated. Scurried to the safety of his cassock, the fingers instead choosing to wind ’round the slender cloth of the stole falling from his neck to rest against his chest.

Their voices had been too strong, his ghosts. Their belligerence had clouded his mind. Their admonitions too great. His shame at being too kind, too loving, of weeping too easily, too onerous to bear.

He had cleared his throat, shaking away the past as he blinked once, twice, a finger swiping away a tear and then wiping his nose as he cleared his throat again.

The sudden banging of the door had startled him.

He had left, this man, this stranger. The hand gone as his footsteps echoed through the nave and rushed down the aisle to push past the heavy wooden doors and disappear into the crowds navigating Boulevard Saint-Germaine.

The priest had sat back, the stench of failure, of regret, catching in his throat and stealing his breath.

“Père, pardonne-moi …” he’d prayed, willing away the image of that bowed head and thick dark hair. Of the hand resting, lonely and alone and friendless, against the screen.

“Forgive me.”

That night the dreams started.

Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche

Proseuche, the long awaited sequel to Martuk … the Holy, is slated for a mid-July 2014 release date.

So, between now and then, you can expect news on upcoming interviews and blog stops, excerpts, peeks at the cover and back cover synopsis, and perhaps even a few blurbs from some of the best authors working today.

Real excited about this one, guys. :)

Facebook Bestsellers and the Death of Writing

Writing is dying a very slow, painful death at the hands of self-publishing.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Self-publishing alone isn’t killing Great Writing, though it has set the bar increasingly low.  Facebook Bestsellers are what’s killing Great Writing.

Let me explain:

A Facebook Bestseller is a book that ends up on the Amazon Top 20 list, or something, due entirely to the Clicks of thousands of FB “Friends”.  Usually they’re derivative, repetitive, absolutely painful, damn near unbearable, poorly written pieces of crap.  If you can make it through the Free Sample without screaming out loud or falling into fits of laughter, I applaud  your strong constitution.  I can’t.  I’ve tried.

And you can spot a Facebook Bestseller pretty easily.  Take a look at a handful of those couple hundred five star reviews.  Do they read something like “OMG, this was SOOOO good!”, “Loved this SOOOO much”, or “YES! Another winner”?  If so, then it was probably written by someone who A) hasn’t read the book, but B) wants to show their support for their FB “Friend”.

Now, go ahead and take a look at those few, very brave One Star reviews.  You know, the ones written by “Friends” who are probably “Friends” no more?  That’s where you’ll find the real story.

Yet, still, there it sits at the top of the Amazon Bestseller List.

Because of the best of intentions of “Friends”, we now find ourselves faced with the stomach-churning reality of truly Great Writing by Writers with long, celebrated careers they’ve earned through hard work and talent, writers who actually know what they’re doing, sandwiched between Wannabes whose painful, amateurish prose wouldn’t make it out of an 8th Grade Creative Writing course.

This is the danger with Facebook and all those click-happy “Friends”.  Those who write Facebook Bestsellers, wrapped in the breathless, unquestioning support of FB, believe they’re really good.  They ignore the One Star reviews because, you know, they’re not nice, and continue on, having no clue how bad they really are and how deeply damaging their celebrated mediocrity is.

Readers who may be Writers someday are growing up believing Bad is somehow Good.  These Readers, surrounded by nothing but bad, will soon have no memory of what Truly Great Writing is, having to search before the Time of these Facebook Bestsellers for Good Writing.

You see, a Writer is more than someone who puts words on a page.  A Writer  listens to the words, hearing and honoring their rhythm.  A Writer knows that if there’s one word too many, or one word not enough, the structure will fall.  And that structure is everything.  That’s what cushions the Reader in this fictional world.  A Writer can recognize the balance in a sentence and know when it’s off, feeling, in his or her bones, that it’s not right and what to do to fix it.

A Writer would never be satisfied with what ends up in these Facebook Bestsellers.  He’d immediately see how amateurish and clumsy it is.  He’d FEEL it was wrong as he’s writing it.  He would not rest until it was edited and put right.  It would haunt him.  In fact, it wouldn’t even make it past his fingers TO the keyboard.

I believe a Writer, a True Writer, could never bring themselves to leave their worst masquerading as their best on the page and click Publish.

Yet these Wannabes do it all the time, without apology, without regret, and often to great applause.

I’ve often railed against Traditional Publishing and how, because of their penchant for guarding the Gates a bit too vigorously, a revolution like self-publishing was needed.  But at least, for the most part, we were spared moronic drivel ending up on the bookshelf, let alone the Bestseller List.

But now even that’s changing with Traditional Publishing abandoning all pretense of being an arbiter of taste and strong writing, and following the money to sign Facebook Bestsellers to contracts.  And, once again, the delusion that they’re “good writers” is perpetuated, their oafish efforts being celebrated and rewarded.

But a Publisher following the money is not supporting the writer.  A Publisher biting their tongue, smiling, and eagerly hoping to cash in on the last breath of the author’s FB Bestseller status — these “Friends” tend to tire within a year or two and move on to newer, equally abysmal voices, so it’s best to move quick if you’re a Publisher –doesn’t give a shit about the writer.  They’re read the words, they’ve winced and groaned and shook their heads.  They know this writer doesn’t have the chops to reach beyond their Facebook circle.  And they know, once the writer’s new books hit a wider audience, that’s when the chickens come to roost.  That’s when the One Stars outweigh the Five Stars and those “Friends” start second guessing that all important Click.

A Publisher signing a FB Bestseller is hoping to eke out a book or two before the jig is up, the lie is unmasked, the numbers drop, and people move on.

So, what can we do about this?  STOP FOLLOWING THE HERD!  If you’re one of those “Friends” who buys a book as a show of support to the Author, even when you know it’s not good work, STOP!  If you’re not sure about the quality, read the Sample.  If it feels off, read the lowest rated reviews to see if the issues you’re finding are issues they mention.  And, if they are, DON’T BUY THE BOOK!

It’s as simple as that.

Buying abysmal writing as a way of being “nice” doesn’t help anyone.  It doesn’t help the writer.  It doesn’t help the reader.  And it doesn’t help the industry produce and celebrate better, stronger work.

My hope is once we rid the publishing world of these Facebook Bestsellers, it’ll be easier to go back to once again celebrating the truly great writing of real Writers, not Wannabes who would be nothing without their Facebook Friends.

 

It begins with a whisper …

From the blood drenched depravity of The Wounded King and the ancient curses of The Elder, we now follow a young man in his journey to the coveted red and gold robes of a Priest in Red and Gold, the third installment in The Martuk Series, Jonathan Winn’s ongoing collection of short fiction inspired by his award-winning novel Martuk … the Holy.

It begins with a whisper.

The words a warning, silently spoken to the heart of this innocent kneeling in the mighty Temple of Uruk one thousand years before the birth of Christ. A young one who dreams of being wrapped in the red and gold robes of a priest.

But this warning whispered by a mysterious Magi leads to doubt. And then to fear. This stranger who wields magic from the anonymity of shadow forcing this initiate to look beyond the power of the Temple into the frightening black hearts of those who rule.

Haunted by the cries of those Bones in the Stones, his kindness stumbling under the weight of a young boy he leads to slaughter, all while trapped in this life he’s chosen and now can never escape, this is the story of how horrible truths and bloody betrayals destroy the dreams of innocent hearts.

This is … Red and Gold.

– available now –