Tag Archives: Books

The Fear of Writing

Writing is absolutely terrifying.

So much so that it keeps me from updating W&S as often as I should. I’ve attempted to keep pace with Fable-Fiction-Fairytale entries, albeit they roll in at a weekly pace, if even. It’s not that I fear critiques – I never get enough, sending them out to friends with the hope that they will offer more than biased praise – it’s that I fear underwhelming writing; a personal self-demon that holds my stories at bay.

Those Unreadable WhoresIt takes ego discipline not to remove the literary fodder – such as Stereoheart, which doesn’t hold up against some of the others – but it also reminds me that not every story will be well-written by amateurs and professionals alike. However, I fail to take my own advice, which comes from being egotistical. You see the conundrum.

The second predicament, and perhaps more infuriating, is that I would hate to spend months writing a story, only to have it face a waterfall of rejections – nothing of mine has ever been accepted by a publication, magazine, online, or otherwise. The major hurdle seems to be that editors don’t realize a plot within my stories, which many of them lack; although, several noted that they enjoyed the prose.

I take the good with the bad, realizing that my weakness may be my inability to structure a proper plot. And, despite my fears and the platitude, there is no way to become a better writer than to write. Some of us have more natural ability, an intangible creativity that cannot be taught, but most of us need to drain thousands of pens, break hundreds of digital keys, delete dozens of false starts before we even finish, let alone publish, a story.

So here’s to facing that fear – because good dreams certainly do not come true when you’re asleep.




Jordan Baker Is Nick Carraway’s Beard

gatsby cover8It’s been quite a stretch since I last cut out some text on these pages.

There has been a lot happening between handling more responsibility at work, apartment hunting at the speed of a rabid used car salesman, and having the sleep cycle of an acne-scoured teenager. So, writing has fallen off to the side a bit.

I’ve also been slacking on my Twitter stalking browsing, where I discover a hefty amount of articles pertaining to this crazy little thing called literature.

This morning I came across a Flavor Wire article that points out a number of conspiracy theories regarding famous literary characters.

The article touches upon The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, and several other pieces – I suggest taking a good look – but I am most concerned with the suggestion that Nick Carraway of The Great Gatsby is gay.

I’m not going to dissect the article or offer my own investigation of the matter, but I will express my dislike, disdain, disinterest when 21st Century mentalities are applied to anything that occurred decades earlier, or in this case, nearly a century ago. It is a true anachronism.

There is plenty in Gatsby that is culturally and socially unacceptable in this day and age – racism, anti-Semitism are two that quickly come to mind – but you can’t fault Fitzgerald for writing that way because that was acceptable during his time.

The conspiracy theorist who believes Carraway is gay points to several passages that, when slightly tilted and squinted at, become painfully homosexual. I don’t give it much credence due to the fact that many characters across many novels can be painted homosexual, physically disturbed, or whatever else when the information is bent in the direction in which you want it to go.

Similar bending occurs with statistics on both sides of the political aisle.

So before you nod your head in agreement with the article above, remember that viewing an 80 year-old story through a 2013 kaleidoscope will split the light in several directions.

Writing Progressions

Abstract-Art-Time-PeriodMuch like artists’ careers can be divided into different periods, I think it’s important for writers to take the same path.

That’s not to say that authors should switch gears completely – such as J.K. Rowling exchanging young adult fantasy for adult tragic comedy – but rather expand on themes, ideas, allegory, and characters that may not easily fit into their earlier fiction.

I understand that several publishing houses, literary agents, and established authors will rally against this concept, preferring to establish a genre and formulaic foundation upon which to ascend. I’m not suggesting to take a hard left from the road of familiarity, but a slight detour to unexplored territory.

I can see this in my own writing when I compare progressions throughout the years. Given, I have matured not only as a writer, but as an individual, which changes my opinions and outlooks, but I can’t believe I would want to be pigeonholed into a singular paradigm.

Let me be clear: if a publisher becomes crazy enough to pay me an absorbent amount of money for my fiction, I am certainly open to listening to the whispers of money. Anyone would be stupid not to listen. But I would be disappointed to churn out the same old pages year after year.

So what do you think? Is it possible for a writer to redefine themselves, or is it better that they remain in a constant vein of story-telling, ensuring that readers know what to expect.


Warning Salvo Off the Amazon Bow

There have been countless underhanded salutes, passive aggressive back-turns, and middle finger smiles between Amazon, publishing houses such as Random House and Penguin (Merger News), and book stores such as Barnes & Noble, each selfishly buttressing themselves against the storm that is swirling in the literary world.

In that vein, Barnes & Noble has unloaded a warning salvo off Amazon’s bow by refusing to stock any authors’ books who are directly published through Amazon; specifically, Timothy Ferriss, writer of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and his newest The 4-Hour Chef.

Interestingly enough, Timothy Ferriss came to New Jersey and trained with a friend of mine while researching for The 4-Hour Body – look for the Asshole at DeFranco’s if you happen to read the book.

But I digress.

You can’t fault Barnes & Noble for not wanting to stock a competitor’s books – although they would receive a percentage of the sale, the majority heads back to the publisher, who, in this case, is Amazon.

But Barnes & Noble is playing a very dangerous game by taking on Amazon, who is far and away the titan of book-selling. It is undoubtedly going to become a habit of one-upmanship - if this were 1885, there would be showdowns at high noon – and each company will hack away at the legs of one another.

Random House and Penguin merged in an effort to defend against Amazon – and many believe more publishing houses will merge in the foreseeable future – so this is Barnes & Noble’s attempt to ward off the Evil Empire that is Amazon, who have become the Yankees and Patriots of the book world.

It will be interesting to see who takes the next shot and what sort of power they put behind it.

Penguin & Random House Merger: Part Two

It has been confirmed on this “Frankenstorm” morning that Penguin and Random House will merge in the later stages of 2013.

The reshaped juggernaut of the publishing world will be known as Penguin Random House with Bertelsmann, the parent company of Random House, owning a majority stake.

A statement released:

The combination brings together two of the world’s leading English language publishers, with highly complementary skills and strengths. Random House is the leading English language publisher in the US and the UK, while Penguin is the world’s most famous publishing brand and has a strong presence in fast-growing developing markets. Both companies have a long history of publishing excellence, and both have been pioneers in the dramatic industry transformation towards digital publishing and bookselling . . .

This comes hot on the heels of news that Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, was attempting to purchase Penguin – a possibility that frightened agents and authors alike.

At least now they can rest easy that the modern day Nero won’t be steering the ship after downing a few apple martinis.

It is yet to be seen what this merger will mean for writers, but I certainly hope that it does not mean doom for the employees of either company. All too often, mergers end with layoffs because you don’t need two fully staffed departments for one genre. Again, hopefully this will not be the case, but there is usually some type of collateral damage with these mergers.

Turning Off Literary Agents From Reading Your Manuscript

Pulling an article from Writer’s Digest, we are privy to another window into the minds of literary agents – that behind-closed-doors transparency that seems, at times, so difficult to obtain.

I don’t want to take away from the article, written by Livia Blackburne – which sounds like the real name of a X-Men – but I want to point out a few major pitfalls that turned off literary agents.

2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.

5. Clichés: “The buildings were ramrod straight.” “The morning air was raw.” “Character X blossomed into Y.” “A young woman looks into the mirror and tells us what she sees.” Clichés are hard to avoid, but when you revise, go through and try to remove them.

These two examples seem like no-brainers, but they must obviously be overused enough that literary agents feel the need to point them out.

It’s not that you have to begin a story with an action scene – although it may certainly help to draw in the reader – but something needs to be happening; a long unloading of exposition will only cause the reader to flip through pages to find dialogue or action.

Concerning cliches – just don’t use them. You will be better served as a writer to create your own sayings and tailoring combinations of adjectives and nouns that are native to your story.

To read more about what literary agents are avoiding, click the link up top and take notes.

Penguin & Random House Merger: Part One

Word has come down from up on high that two of the largest publishing houses in the world are discussing a possible merger, whispering sweet nothings about publishing domination.

The merger makes sense – the publishing industry is in a constant state of flux, unable to find solid ground or safe bet financial forecasts – this would provide a much more solid foundation for both companies, or whatever the name would become. Their competition – Google, Apple, Amazon – have been gaining tremendous ground in the last few years, and with the advent of new reader technology, publishing houses will need to bind together in order to survive.

It is also interesting to note that Pearson Education, the owner of Penguin, has hired a new CEO who does not fit the publishing division into his business plan – he is more concerned with the educational sector of Pearson.

The next thought that needs to be considered is how will this affect literary agents and authors?

Will there be less pieces of pie to go around by removing one of the publishing houses? Or will the treasure trove grow due to the fact that Penguin and Random House would pool their capital? It may actually increase payouts while also increasing quality of writing – by way of forcing out the shitty-shitty storytelling due to lack of roster space, so to speak.

Whatever the outcome, hopefully they’ll all take turns throwing copies of Fifty Shades of Grey onto a burning pyre as a sign of negotiation good faith.

15 Days of Halloween: The Graveyard Book

Penned by perennial dark fantasy writing, man-in-black-wearing, English-accented Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book is in the same vein as The Jungle Book, but, as you can imagine, takes place in a graveyard inhabited by ghosts of varying degrees and personalities.

The main character is Nobody Owens – orphaned while he was a baby and guardianed by the graveyard ghosts – who experiences a series of trials and tribulations that shape him as he grows older. Yet there is an evil that hunts Bod, as they call him, and will not rest until he is made as dead as those with whom he lives.

Gaiman does a fantastic job of balancing the story with bits of action, emotion, dark overtones, and the thoughts of a young boy growing up in a graveyard of ghosts. The Graveyard Book does not believe it is anymore than what it is – a turn-paging romp with fun and diverse characters.

There is one scene in particular that makes you yearn for it to be an annual October festivity: the Danse Macabre.

This happening occurs one night a year and allows the dead to leave the graveyard and convene in the town square where music, laughter, and dancing ensues. It is the kind of event that I wish would occur on the scale of Thanksgiving and Christmas parades and festivals that seem to inundate every small town. It would add a layer of fantasy and mystique to Halloween – not to mention another excuse to commit inebriated revelry.

And it also adds another layer to the 15 Days of Halloween.




15 Days of Halloween: All Hallow’s Read

On the eve of November and NaNoWriMo, there is one even that must first be brought to light – All Hallows Read.

The tradition began with a blog thought by Neil Gaiman – why not give out scary books on Halloween in an effort to share the stories that you love – and it has gained evermore steam as it enters its third year.

It is a perfect opportunity for those tales, stories, ghosts, and spooks that live between the pages to escape into the imagination of someone who may be unaware of the thrills a book can possess.

What better time than Halloween – when the suspension of disbelief tends to be at its highest point as we watch the night for zipping broomsticks, ethereal spirits, and unexplained flickers of ghoulish light and whispered haunts.

And what better announcement to kickoff the 15 Days of Halloween; budget cuts, ya know?

Rowling Not Long For Adult Fiction

J.K. Rowling released her first attempt at Adult Fiction in September with The Casual Vacancy – reviews were less than stellar:

Via Yahoo:

“Unfortunately,” The New York Times said, “the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is not only disappointing—it’s dull.”

The Guardian called it a “determinedly unadventurous English novel.”

“The magic simply isn’t there,” the Daily News said. “Indeed, the spell has been broken.”

To be fair, the expectations were probably much too high – why wouldn’t they be after Rowling birthed the wizarding world of Harry Potter? However, lightning never strikes twice – praying to God that’s true for the likes of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey – and there was little chance that Rowling could set the world aflame once more.

The fact that The Casual Vacancy was 180 degrees away from magic wands and dark lords probably didn’t help either. I have to believe that many fans were hoping that – before its premise was announced – the book would contain some sort of fantastical happenings; alas, it was not meant to be.

The book is described as follows:

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.

Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations

Not quite the Rowling we are used to and neither was it for Rowling herself.

“The next thing I write will be for children – or [rather] the next thing I publish, will be for children,” said Rowling…

This may very well be what the English author had in mind all along, or it is a smart tactic to return to the well.

Very few writers can achieve success by crossing over into new genres – Stephen King comes to mind as someone who can – and that’s why several authors have mentioned that to be successful you need to hone your craft and build your audience in a single genre, as John Scalzi attributes to his success:

“I’ve published regularly, stayed (and built an audience in) a single genre… “

You have to commend Rowling on attempting an entirely new piece of literature – most publishers and agents probably wouldn’t take kindly to you switching back and forth between genres.

It wasn’t a strike out and it wasn’t a homerun, but it was definitely a bit of a foul ball scorcher into the stands. But if you don’t take a swing, you can’t hit the ball in the first place.

Words to live by.