Navigating NPR’s 100 Best F&SF Books via Flow Chart

I saw this linked on John Scalzi’s blog, and thought it was too fun not to pass on.

A massive flow chart that navigates through NPR’s Top 100 Fantasy and Science Fiction Books at SF Signal.

Check it out.

My only advice/complaint: perhaps the flow chart should ask whether a reader enjoys the philosophical stylings of Ayn Rand before pointing them toward Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.  A question like that would be quite in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek tone of the flow chart.

Digital Self-Publishing Revolution Again: Knowns and Unknowns

Okay, the last post now, for a while, on the digital self-publishing revolution.  Here is an article that lists a number of known facts about the changes in the industry and things presently unknown.  Interestingly there are a few things that digital self-publishing cheerleaders tout as known facts that are, in fact, far from certain at present.

It’s an interesting piece.  Give it a read.

Amazon Addenda: More on the Seedy Underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution

Last week I talked about some of my concerns as they relate to the Digital Self-publishing Revolution.

One of my primary complaints concerned the market dominance of Amazon as the etailer of choice for ebooks.  Most ebooks are sold via Amazon, and most writers openly embracing the digital self-publishing revolution in the process embrace a de facto contractual relationship with Amazon (whether they realize it or not) – and one in which they most likely don’t even know what their own rights and responsibilities are.

Today’s addendum is a link that will serve to further illustrate just what sort of company with which these writers are entering into a relationship.

First, a bit of disclosure: I shop on Amazon. Quite regularly, in fact.  As a consumer, I appreciate Amazon’s low prices, speedy deliveries, and the ability to compare multiple products.  I use Amazon for more than just books.

But that comes at a price, and I’m only now coming to realize the full nature of that price.  This article tells the tale of what it’s like to work in an Amazon fulfillment warehouse located in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.  If you don’t click the link, here’s the short version (the full article is some 9 pages long, though you’ll get the gist before you finish the first page; the rest is just further accounts re-illustrating the same point): it’s not pretty.  It’s not nice.  Not nice at all.  The working conditions are, in a word, barbaricContinue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending September 24, 2011

This week the big writing news was hitting the end of the second draft on “Story of G”:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 28 net new words
  • Other Notes Wordcount: 0 words

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 28 words

Wordcount-wise, doesn’t seem like a big week.  But it’s a good feeling to hit the end of a draft and call it a wrap.  So, I celebrated by finishing that puzzle I was working on with dear Wife.  I didn’t think to take pictures of the puzzle until after we’d disassembled it… But for those interested, it was the underwater food landscape seen on this page.

This week, I’ll be cleaning up the second draft – which added quite a lot of new material – polishing it off and sending it off.  I’ve got about 5 days to make this thing happen by the September 30th deadline.  No pressure!

Actually, really, no pressure.  If I miss the deadline, it just resets for the following quarter.  It’s sort of arbitrary that I’ve chosen to have it ready for this quarter. Continue reading

The Seedy Underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution Part 2

Last time I started talking about what I called “the seedy underbelly of the digital self-publishing revolution”, by which I mean all the things I’ve been learning about it that leave me feeling uneasy.  Specifically, last time, I talked about Amazon’s proposed e-book subscription service, and my general unease with Amazon’s hegemony in the digitial self-publishing world.  But that’s not the only part about this whole thing that makes me worry about it.  Here are a few more posts that gave me further pause.

When one traditionally-published author decided to digitally self-pub some short stories her publisher decided she’s in breach of contract.  The Passive Guy relates the tale here and here.  The long-story-short of this tale: making this move on her own spooked the publisher – rightly or wrongly is not the point – and apparently on some level the publisher was offended.  Many of the most prominent cheer-leaders of the digitial self-publishing revolution will take stories like this as further evidence of the EVIL nature of the traditional publishers – a point that must surely be bolstered by the fact that some agents have written in support of the publishers in this case, as opposed to the author.  I don’t take it that way.  I take it that publishers are human.  And that they’re beginning to buy into the rhettoric of the digital self-publishing cheerleaders that this is an existential dilemma for them. 

The story, itself, wasn’t the least surprising to me.  I’ve heard warnings from established, traditionally published authors warning of something like this well before I read this story.  Self-publishing, they have said, is the kiss-of-death in the traditional publishing world.

The real point, then, that I wanted to make was this: if in the long-term, traditional publishing is your goal, is now the time to rock the boat and go-it-alone, in the hopes that later the traditional publishers will overlook your self-published history? Continue reading

The Seedy Underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution

So, I’ll start by saying that I see the arrival of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution as largely a good thing.  It’s more confusing than the old world – now instead of a comparatively straight-forward process of submitting to agents and editors and hoping for the best while expecting the worst, you’ve got a thousand different possible levers you can try and pull.  (Some of them you can’t actually reach.  Some of them don’t actually do anything when you pull them.  Some of them have an effect, but it’s hard to figure out what that effect is.)

But, largely, it’s a good thing because it gives writers and readers both new options that they didn’t have before. 

Still, I’m put off by the revolution’s cheerleaders who shout hurrahs: “The Revolution has come! Publishing is disintermediating! The Traditional Publishers are dying, and good riddance for they were made of EVIL and soon it will be complete freedom for writers and readers and puppies and kitties will rain from the skies forever! Amen!  P.S. And we’re all going to get so rich by writing!”

That’s hyperbole.  But the basic message is the same.  If you move in writing circles, you can’t help but read one or two such blog posts on various blogs per week. And that’s if you don’t actively follow Joe Konrath or Dean Wesley Smith or others like them.  But their message puts me off, not only because I think it’s an unrealistic vision of the future, but because something about this vision seems a little off to me.

In the past few weeks, I’ve come to understand a little better why I’m vaguely uncomfortable and unsettled about the digital self-publishing revolution.  There is something dark, something unspoken, something critically unexamined staining the underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution.  I don’t think these are things talked about enough, yet. Continue reading

The Lights Went Out

Forgive me, dear readers, while I express my sorrow and frustration for a moment.

It’s good to know that lynching is alive and well in Georgia, the state in which I currently reside.

I’m being facetious.  It’s not good at all.  There’s something deeply and cynically wrong when we can, as a state, kill someone when there is so much uncertainty as to their actual guilt – and call that justice

I wasn’t opposed to the death penalty until today.  But the state has proven that it cannot be trusted with the power of death over its own citizens.

It feels trite to link it, but I’ve had this song going through my head for the past few days.  And I don’t even like country music.  Somehow, I really believed that at the last minute someone in a position of power would do the right thing.

Apologies again.  I’ll lay off the politics once more, at least until something else deeply outrageous happens.

“Story of G” Draft 2: Complete

As of last night… the current draft of “Story of G” is now complete, at about 11,600 words.

That’s far longer than what I originally intended for this story.  I have a terrible habit, in that regard, and it’s been hard to break.  Even as I was deleting things I was adding a lot more new material.

I’ve planned another read-through to clean up this draft and get it presentable, but I’m hoping some of you Dear Readers will help me out with that task as well.  I don’t need much help, just a couple people who wouldn’t mind looking at this draft.  Last time I was mostly interested in story-craft: characterization, story-structure, plot, and so on.  I’m still a little interested in that – mostly because I still have some anxiety over many of the new scenes – but this time around I’m more interested in sentence structure, grammar, spelling, style, passive voice, showing and telling, and that sort of thing.

I’m sort of hoping for at least one person who’s seen the story before and one who hasn’t.  I’ve got one volunteer already, so I’m still taking applications.  😉

And thanks in advance, everyone!

Writing Progress: Week Ending September 17, 2011

“Story of G” is in the home stretch:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 833 net new words
  • Other Notes Wordcount: 0 words

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 833 words

This was, hopefully, the penultimate week spent working exclusively on “Story of G”.  I’m about 80% done with this revised draft.  Even though I’m well into the section where I expected to delete a lot, I still ended up adding wordcount.  The portions I deleted needed new segues and new parts to their scenes.  One of the difficult things about this part is that I’ve had to delete some lines of dialog that I really liked because I cant fit them into the new structure of the story.

The ending of “Story of G” is where a lot of the most radical change is taking place.  There was an extra scene added, and the final two scenes are undergoing some significant changes.  Making some of those changes, however, I hit a wall that stopped me for most of one writing day.  I couldn’t figure out how to move from one heavily-revised scene to the next.  I’m still working through that new transition.

I also started a passive voice sweep of what I’ve written so far.  That’s not something that’s very fun. Continue reading

Books I Put Down Without Finishing

In the past few weeks I’ve talked a lot about the books on my “to read” list, and about the genres of YA and Epic Fantasy (here, here, here, here and here) and frequently the conversation in the comments has turned to books that weren’t worth finishing reading.

I, like many readers and other writers, am constantly strapped for time.  There’s a lot going on, between being a day-job warrior, a superhero father, a debonaire husband, and a fantastically inspired writer.  Amidst all that, I also like to read.  But I just don’t have time for books that aren’t delivering something of value to me.

What that value is might be negotiable and variable.  Usually it’s some form of enjoyment or entertainment.  But I also appreciate the use of beautiful language, engaging plot, interesting characters, and other such accoutrements of fine writing – all of which can be subcomponents of “enjoyment” for my purposes.  Then there’s the value of informative qualities, education, experiencing something new, and so on which good writing can also be.  Long story short, if a book isn’t doing several of these things for me, I probably don’t have time for it.

So, I thought it might be instructive, as a writer and as a reader, to go over all the books I’ve put down – the books I stopped reading, for whatever reason, and haven’t yet finished reading. Continue reading