Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wag The Blog - Jon's Life

A new feature here, wherein I plug another blog out there in the internet wonderland that's worth checking out!

This week, I'm talking up Jon's Life. Or other odd people doing odd things. Jonathan Arntson is funny and goofy. He's working on a book, is 25, works at a dollar store, used to work at a gas station (Me too!), has an adorable dog, is gay, likes M&Ms, has great taste in music and has a bit of a sad-sack personality that makes his posts both humorous and poignant.

Jon's been blogging for about a year or so and in that time, he's managed to build up quite a fan club, and with good reason. His blog may not be quite the fit for the author of horror novels that likes crime fiction and action flicks, but I still swing by there every week or so to unleash my inner Children's Book author. Go say hi, and enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stephen King

I've never really read Stephen King until recently. I knew he existed and that many, many, many people loved him, but he'd just kind of stayed out of my radar. I read mostly fantasy and sci-fi growing up and once some of my interests strayed, it was to noir, crime and thrillers, with a few gory horrors thrown in.

But when we moved to Maine last year, I thought it would be kind of funny to check out some of his books, since he's so linked to the state. I was surprisingly impressed. A few things seemed too goofy or obvious, and I admittedly have pretty low standards for a novel anyway. If it's entertaining and has the F-Word at least a dozen times, that's good enough for me. So I read a few of 'em. I read Cell and Under The Dome and half of the Stand. (Until my nook squarked out on me halfway through and I didn't feel like hitting the page turn button 6,000 times to get back to my place. Maybe I should start again now that it can select pages...)

I liked the way his characters were pretty down home. Average Joes with problems and histories. Then I got a bunch of Richard Stark novels and King was laid to the side.

But I recently listened to a crusty old version of a book on tape of his seminal novel, IT. And it was a different experience listening to a Stephen King novel. I'm a speedy reader, usually averaging around 200 books a year (Though this year has been lagging quite a lot) and I found myself breezing through long passages about the characters back history without really batting an eye. But when you're a captive audience, cruising the back roads of Maine in your Honda Element, listening to the gravelly voice in your speakers, you have a chance to realize how great King is at creating a world with these characters. It was often that I'd sit and listen to 45 minutes of back story on a person that was promptly killed off. When I was reading that, it kind of annoyed me. Like when someone goes into too much detail about clothes. They were a pair of black, strappy heels, that's great. I don't need to know that they're 4.3 inch heels with 1/4 inch straps, manufactured in Taiwan by the hands of 12-year old orphans, stamped with the logo of a flying gargoyle and a gold embossed signature blahblahblah....

But I loved it in audio form. I don't know why, and there's a chance that I was just missing out when I was reading the novels - I'll have to read one and see - but I liked knowing the odd yet common backgrounds on the weird little Mainers that inhabit King's stories.
So I guess what I'm saying is that there's always a benefit to experiencing things in a new way, whether it's an audio book or an e-book, or watching a movie in it's original language with subtitles. Get out there and try something new!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pulpy Goodness

At our local grocery store, they have a wooden box by the back door that's usually filled with books. They have a donation box above it and ask for $.50 a paperback and $1.00 for hardback. The proceeds go somewhere valiant, though I can't say I've ever noticed where, I just dig the idea of a place people can drop off or buy books that's just a randomly assigned spot. Kind of like the charity fueled version of BookCrossing. Usually, I don't find much, just a pile of ancient romance novels and some self help nonsense. But every once in a while, we score some gems. Look at all that awesome up there for three bones. I can't wait to dive in. I love new old books!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Story Of A Dude

Once upon a time, this Dude wrote a novel.

He wrote a mystery novel that he was proud of, that he felt was worthy of being printed, bound, and sold to the masses. So the Dude starts a blog and tracks his path from unpublished writer to New York Times Bestselling Author. He quits his job (where he was making over 130k a year) and waits for the requests for fulls and offers of representation start rolling in.

Then time passes, as do agents. The Dude stays philosophical, about things, though a hint of frustration starts to peek in. He hasn't started a second novel, whats the point, when his first is worthy of being published and it's not getting selected. Why start a second novel when people are too blind to want the first?

More time and agents wave as they whizz by. His posts become more bitter, angry and expletive filled. He calls out the very agents he's courting, questioning their professionalism, their choices, their jobs. He sends out query bombs to dozens of agents, all the same, assuming agents don't talk about such things in their clandestine circles.

I don't understand the Dude. Yes, this can be an incredibly, soul shatteringly hard business to break into, of that there is no doubt. And many of us never will. Most because they never deserved to in the first place, some because they didn't try hard enough and some simply because they were never in the right place at the right time. Getting upset or depressed isn't a bad thing, the problem with the Dude, where I stand, is that he isn't looking at his writing as a career. Agents are supposed to be your literary soulmates, the person that believes in your books almost as much as you do, the woman or man that wants to see you succeed and will do anything they can to make it happen. You don't find a soulmate by sending out hundreds of identically written letters to anyone that happens to be available. You look into the people and find a few select people that you want to work closely with for the next few/dozen years. Your agent should be someone who believes in you and your work and has great ideas for making it better. Who has great taste in other authors, her other clients. A person that you can be proud to say "Represented by" in front of their name.

And then there's the writing thing. One book. Really? You quit your job making damn good money to devote all of your time and energy into selling one solitary thriller? I don't care how good your novel is, you should be looking at this as a career, not a novel. Why would an agent want to start a long lasting, meaningful relationship with someone that has already written the only thing they can represent? Get out there and write. Write dozens of books, hundreds! Your writing and plotting can only improve the same novel so much, but every new book is a chance to improve.

Where is this vague rant coming from, you may ask? Maybe a little bit of jealousy. I wish I could have had a good job to support my family with, let alone the ability to quit it and try to become an author. I can't imagine how much I'd get done if I didn't spend 10 hours a day returning toothbrushes and toilet paper for customers that don't know how to read an advertisement, let alone a novel.

But mostly, it's a mighty yawp about how much I love this business I've decided to be a part of. I love writing novels, the thrill of creating new worlds and people. I cherish the conversations I've had with my wife about her books, the friendships I've made online because of my writing. I dig the way a marked up manuscript looks in front of me. I'm going about things differently for the next few novels I write, releasing them as e-books and forgoing the agent route entirely, which is it's own kind of adventure.

So I wish the Dude all the best, good luck with your one, obsessively over-edited novel and your hundreds of identical agent queries. I wish you the best with your scotch-soaked diatribes against the business that you want to be a part of. Let the bear eat you. Me, I'm off to write about zombies, hitmen, robots and boy detectives. Even if no one ever reads them, I still love this job!