awful alliteration alienates all

Sean Penn wrote a book. By all accounts, it lingers awkwardly between over-ambitious and flat-out dreadful.

A couple of excerpts (via Huffington Post):

Whenever he felt these collisions of incubus and succubus, he punched his way out of the proletariat with the purposeful inputting of covert codes, thereby drawing distraction through Scottsdale deployments, dodging the ambush of innocents astray, evading the viscount vogue of Viagratic assaults on virtual vaginas, or worse, falling passively into prosaic pastimes.” ― page 36

“While the privileged patronize this pickle as epithet to the epigenetic inequality of equals, Bob smells a cyber-assisted assault emboldened by right-brain Hollywood narcissists.” ― page 99

Now, I applaud anyone with the creativity and tenacity to write a book. As we all know, many begin but few finish. And to do so as a celebrity, heightening the attention and, perhaps, the vitriol, takes definite courage.

So I’m not going to slam Mr. Penn. Despite the accidental horror found between the pages of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, he’s not the problem.

What I find interesting is what this predictable misstep says about the Big Five Publishing Houses. (Or is it Big Four now? Big Three? I forget.)

First of all, the bar for what they publish – when celebrities are involved but more and more just generally – is increasingly low. Almost nonexistent. If you have a bold-faced name and something of a Following – or write in certain one-click-heavy genres – they’ll apparently pay you a generous advance and then print whatever you turn in.

They shouldn’t.

Secondly, I’m now convinced the Big Houses no longer employ editors. Period. Of any kind. In fact, I suspect the Big Houses are assigning what meager editing duties there are – spelling? punctuation? – to their first-year college interns who, themselves, struggle with the basics when it comes to putting pen to page. How else to explain the consistent disasters I find in those few – and fewer and fewer nowadays – Big House books I read?

Now, those two alone are annoying. But this is why those two combined really worry me: writers will begin to believe that bad, horrible, terrible writing is the way to get published. That the shyte they read on the page is somehow “good.”

Young writers – hell, writers of any age! – will forget what makes a great book great and a breathtaking sentence breathtaking.

We’ve already seen this in the romance genre with its endless avalanche of breathless, poorly-written e.l.james-wannabes. And now, with Mr. Penn’s overwritten opus, there’s a strong chance people out there will think THIS is how to write. Heck, even Salman Rushdie gave it a blurb (he claimed Thomas Pynchon would love it) and Sarah Silverman compared it to both Mark Twain AND e.e. cummings!

See the problem here?

Because the Big Houses have placed profit above quality, writers in search of inspiration and readers seeking a great story are inundated with consistent examples of what NOT to do. We are buried under bad sentences and atrocious grammar. An almost careless misuse of words – per Penn’s “an elderly neighbor sits centurion on his porch watching Bob with surreptitious soupçon” (note: that’s not even close to being a wise use of “soupçon”) – and what feels like a wholesale abandonment of cohesive narrative.

The awful has become normal.

So, it’s not just Sean Penn’s overwrought disaster of a debut novel. Like I said before, he’s not the problem. The problem is an industry that has the bar set so low that it’s forgotten what good writing, believable characters and a great story are. The problem is an industry that has, I suspect, lost any sense of pride about what lands on the shelf stamped with their name.

And it’s readers who’ve come to not only expect the worst but who support, encourage and applaud it with sales and pithy Five Star reviews.

So, where does this leave writers who can actually write? Who work hard creating stories with an emotional arc? Who wince when they’ve stumbled onto a bad sentence and immediately self-edit it out of existence? Who people their pages with characters who feel real, sound real and, for all you know, could be real because they leap off the page with such sincerity and force?

It leaves us with small, independent publishing houses who care about what they publish. Who aren’t burdened with the massive umbrella of being a corporation and, because of this, know that a few sloppy books could mean the end of them (something the majors apparently don’t consider anymore). Who take a personal interest in their authors, knowing, if their authors feel cherished, their work will reflect that.

It leaves us realizing that the name of a Big House emblazoned on a book no longer guarantees quality.

Read that again:

The name of a Big House emblazoned on a book no longer guarantees quality.

And, knowing that, seeking out those writers – regardless how they’re published – who know what they’re doing. And then supporting, encouraging and applauding their work with sales and sincere, heartfelt reviews.

It means we need to take responsibility for what we read. If it sucks, put it down. Return it. Get a refund. Demand better. And leave a review that calls out what you felt was wrong with it. Will that change anything? Probably not. Or at least not anytime soon.

But if enough people start demanding better and taking their business to those who care about creating great books, at some point the Big Houses will have to change.

And perhaps then we can get back to reading fantastic writing and leave the Bob Honeys of the world in the dust bin of literary history.

 

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One Happy Hybrid

You know what a hybrid is, right? In publishing, it’s someone who both self-publishes (as I did with Martuk … the Holy and Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche as well as The Martuk Series) and is published traditionally.

Well, as of today, I am now officially a hybrid.

From Crystal Lake Publishing:

After five months of reading 144 pitches and various sample chapter submissions (with the help of various sub readers – especially Ben Eads), Crystal Lake Publishing is proud to announce six projects chosen by us (and one surprise addition). We actually accepted seven, but we’re still negotiating with the author his novel. That announcement will be made at a later date.

In alphabetical order:

Theresa Derwin – GOD’S VENGEANCE novella
Mark Allan Gunnells – short story collection presently named FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER
Alessandro Manzetti – EDEN UNDERGROUND poetry collection
Patrick Rutigliano – WIND CHILL novella
Mark Sheldon – SARAH KILLIAN: SERIAL KILLER (FOR HIRE!) novella
Jonathan Winn – EIDOLON AVENUE, a collection of shorts stories and novellas

A sincere congrats to all these authors. The competition was extremely tough, and you truly deserve to be here. I hope everyone takes the time to congratulate these folks, as well as take the time to get to know the ones you’re not familiar with.
I’m also extremely happy to announce that we’ll be publishing the print edition of Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL later this year. The eBook edition has been picked up by another excellent publisher, so more on that at a later date.

Here is a rough draft of our publishing schedule till end of this year (subject to change, of course):

May: THE OUTSIDERS
June: Kevin Lucia’s THROUGH A MIRROR, DARKLY
July: Alessandro Manzetti’s EDEN UNDERGROUND
August: TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL.2
September: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE
October: HORROR 201: THE SILVER SCREAM
November: Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
December: Patrick Rutigliano’s WIND CHILL

Thank you to everyone who took part in our very first open submission window, and all the best with your books. I’m sure we’ll have another open submission in the next year or so.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing

So, there you have it! Huge congratulations to everyone.

I couldn’t be more excited to be working with the award-winning CLP and the fantastic Joe Mynhardt, a man who’s deeply respected and has an eye for talent. To have someone like him believe in what I was doing enough to say Yes is very exciting.

And that’s how you become One Happy Hybrid, my friends.

Carpenter, Craven, Barker and me

I’ve been invited to join the TOC (Table of Contents) for the upcoming Horror 201: The Silver Scream. (2015)

I’ll be joining truly illustrious people like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Clive Barker, … well, check out the list. I don’t know how Joe Mynhardt, the editor – who’s brilliant, by the way — does it, but, dang, he always manages to get an awesome line-up.

Oh, and me.

I’ll try not to embarrass myself. 😉 

Career Implosion in 5, 4, 3, 2 …

Writers need Readers. Period. End of story. They’re our bread and butter. As long as they One Click, flip the pages, and Rate and Review, we can write. They make what we do possible. And the interest — hopefully the continued interest — they show in our work affords us the LUXURY of doing what we do.

They should be treated with gratitude, respect, and, yes, patience.

If you’re lucky, if you’re VERY lucky, your readers will forge a relationship with you. Will feel they’re welcome to reach out with questions and praise. Will feel, on some level, that you CARE about them, sincerely, and that you APPRECIATE their interest and support. And if you’re very, very lucky, readers will enjoy your work so much that they want to see you succeed. Perhaps even have some kind of vested interest in seeing you do well. Will CELEBRATE with you as you do better and better. Will tell their friends about you. Urge their friends to buy your work and read it and review it.

And, my god, guys, that right there is the Holy Grail for writers. Really. Readers being so engaged that they, via the oh so powerful Word of Mouth, get out there, sing your praises, and, essentially, do your marketing for you.

But that’s a double-edged sword. 

When Readers become that engaged, they’re working with a narrative of Who You Are. Or, more accurately, Who They Believe You Are. A narrative you help create, by the way, with social media, quick emails, blog tours and interviews.

Now, if the narrative is good — Oh my god, Jonathan is so freakin’ cool. I love his work! — you’re golden. But if the narrative is bad — Wow, Jonathan is such a douchebag. I can’t stand that guy and wouldn’t read Proseuche if it was the last book on earth — it’s really, really, really bad.

Of course the narrative can change. If you’re going from Douchebag to Golden, congrats. Takes a lot of work, a lot of humility and apology, the repairing of an image and the forging of a lot of trust, but it can be done.

But what happens if you pull a Chelsea Cain (I refuse to link her because, as she herself said, you can Google it yourself), go on a social media rant about all the “inane” questions you get from readers and how you are, in essence, not the readers’ bitch, dig the hole deeper by being utterly unapologetic about how ungrateful you sound, and, in the space of an afternoon, completely change the narrative of Who You Are?

Well, you’re fucked.

Because, and this is something her Publisher gets that she still doesn’t, there are now a whole bunch of readers who have as an introduction to her this Angry Facebook Rant reeking of a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude. And who knows how many people who were familiar with her, who’d read her books, and were perhaps looking forward to the new one, have now decided NOT to One Click because, really, if she’s not going to appreciate their support, why should they?

Besides, there are so many OTHER authors to support. Authors who are nice. Who appreciate them. Who WANT their support. Who still NEED them.

Of course some will say Hey, people are talking about her and that’s a good thing.

But is it? Having people know you as someone who didn’t appreciate their readers — now, I’m not sure that’s how Miss Cain actually feels, but that’s the NARRATIVE that’s being discussed and lodging itself in the minds of readers — and who was generally unpleasant about the whole thing is somehow going to help her in the long run?

Let’s ask Faye Dunaway how well that works. (hint: not very well)

Point is, a history as a bestseller doesn’t exempt you from being gracious and polite. From APPRECIATING those who choose to One Click and show their support. And if their questions are REALLY that inane and troublesome, then get off your ass, set up an automated email response that addresses those most frequently asked — Hugh Howey has one that’s humorously apologetic for being “from a robot”, witty, engaging, sincere and, best of all, informative — and maybe update your website, showing the number of the book in the series instead of assuming readers will figure it out by reading the synopsis.

But, for god’s sake, if you’re feeling THAT stressed and THAT angry, turn Facebook off, close the computer, and WALK AWAY!!! 

Because bitching about your readers is one surefire way to completely screw up Who They Think You Are and implode a career in 5, 4, 3, 2 … 

 

Ramsey Ketchum Morton Lee

… otherwise known as How to Become a Hybrid in One Fell Swoop. ‘Cause that’s what I am now, kids. Self-published and, with this, traditionally pubbed. Or at least Indie Pubbed.

Learned today that Forever Dark, a short story I wrote, will be in the upcoming edition of Tales from the Lake, Vol. 2, the sequel to the successful Tales from the Lake, Vol. 1 from Crystal Lake Publishing.  

Why does this matter? One, because how cool is it to actually be chosen out of all those amazing entries from, no doubt, equally amazing writers.

And, two, I’ll be sharing the pages with the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, Lisa Morton and Edward Lee as well as Tim Lebbon, Raven Dane, Rocky Alexander, Jim Goforth, Hal Bodner, Glen Johnson, Steven Savile, Richard Chizmar, Rena Mason, Ben Eads, Aaron Dries and Jan Edwards.

If you don’t know these names, you should. 

More details to follow.  🙂 

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. 🙂