Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dead in the Water

Stalled out on the rewrite of "High Tide and Low Expectations" until I had a sudden inspiration! Came up with the perfect way to kick a case of writer's block. I'm calling it the S. O. S method (which stands for Sallie's One Star method). See, what you do is search amazon.com for your favorite author's most highly rated book - then read every one star review of that book - ONLY the one star reviews. Knowing that even the finest writer out there gets buckets of crappy reviews removes all the pressure to reach for an imagined state of excellence. The poet William Stafford once told me that when you get stuck on a poem the best way to move things ahead is to lower your standards. That was perhaps the wisest advice I've ever received. By letting yourself off the hook you open up a world of endless possibilities you otherwise would have rejected out of hand. Give it a try.

And yes, "High Tide and Low Expectations" is chugging along again at a healthy clip. Should have it finished by the end of this month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This was the summer that never was. I borrowed a sunflower from years ago to bring color to this post. My present garden is a slumping disappointment draped with dew-spangled spider webs. It's given up. I'll be lucky to harvest a few green tomatoes. The cukes were stunted nubbins, the green beans made one meal, a single zucchini struggled into existence. (I gave it to our neighbor thinking surely there would be more appearing soon - nope.) Slim pickin's indeed.

This week I put away the deck furniture and cleaned up the front courtyard. There is little chance anyone will be sitting in the sun before next year. Of course we in the upper left hand corner should count our blessings - compared to the rest of the country the season was blissfully benign. No hurricanes, no triple-digit temperatures, no floods or fires. Basically, no nuthin'! And here we are, ready for winter. I'm hauling out the trappings of Samhain already and before I know it I'll be clipping strings of lights on the gutters to celebrate Yule. Happy New Year!

It's almost a year since our big family reunion. Already it has slipped into memory as a watershed year - the year Mom took her fall - the year I became a full-time caregiver. I have to look at it as a learning experience. The best we can do in life is roll with the punches - do the best we can with what we have. Though I know I'm pretty inept I just keep plugging away. Even the worst garden imaginable will sometimes produce a lone zucchini you can gift to a hungry neighbor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When I announced I was publishing Red House Blues in e-book format people were asking me "how come?" - why an e-book? So I thought I'd take a minute to talk about my thoughts on the subject.

The other day I read an interview with one of my favorite mystery/thriller writers, Earl Emerson. (If you don't know his work, it's worth your time to check him out. He's utterly brilliant. He's also a Seattle author, and I'm all for supporting the locals!) In the interview he points to the radical change in the publishing industry in the last few years, what with the growth of print-on-demand and e-books - quite an understatement, I'd say. He wonders why writers continue to play the silly antiquated games foisted on us by the New York publishing industry. He's ready to bail and start publishing his books as e-books. He's not alone. (He also says nobody is reading anymore - a statement I don't agree with, but more on that later.)

It's a disillusionment I've been hearing quite a lot lately from traditionally published writers. Why on earth would anyone these days put up with the idiocy of submitting a manuscript to a couple of dozen publishers without getting so much as a howdy-do? Then - should a miracle occur and you get your novel accepted - you're looking at a lag time of a few years before your work actually sees print! That's outrageous. A friend of mine who has been publishing romance novels with some of the top houses in the industry for over 20 years can't get a reading anymore. Why? Because the purse strings are in permanent spasm back east. Publishers are terrified of committing the bucks unless they're guaranteed they have a bestseller on their hands. And even then there are no guarantees they'll sell enough to pay for printing, distribution and marketing - even if your novel is up to its jugular in vampires and teenage witches. That means if you aren't writing what has already sold, you aren't going to be selling a darn thing.

Now, Earl Emerson says he doesn't see people reading anymore. I do think that's true of print media. We can blame our lousy economy in part. When you have to choose between supper and an $8 paperback . . . well, it's a no-brainer you'll opt for a pizza (gluten-free of course). Which you will eat while reading a dollar version of the novel on your Kindle! (You don't even have to buy a Kindle device - just put Kindle on your laptop and you're good to go. Who knew?)

The sea change came to the music industry years ago. We can all remember the days when bands used to cut demos and pray they get signed by a record label. Now all they have to do is throw their work out there on the Internet and sell per download. Maybe we writers are a tad behind the curve but we're catching up. Check out smashwords.com and you'll see a boggling number of free or cheap-cheap-cheap books available for download. Clearly, people are still writing and they're reading - and saving trees while they are at it.

Technology is freeing our creativity, opening channels of expression unheard of a decade ago. No longer is writing and publishing reserved for the elite and favored few. We all have our stories and now that it's so easy to share them we have an obligation to do so. Fly, be free!