Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Social Media as White Noise

I am about to write heresy.

It's occurred to me social media and networking has become little else than white noise.

It's hard for me to write that, because as a publisher at a indie press social networking and media are alleged to be the lifeblood of marketing. Certainly it's what all the marketing gurus keep yelling. Tweet it. FB it. Boost your SEO ratings. Create Google Ads and FB ads, and Goodreads ads. Create a profile on LinkedIn, and Google+, a professional page on FB.

Engage people in groups on library lists and book club sites. Join Empire Avenue and create hype. Get yourself a YouTube channel and go viral. Podcast and go Apple. Go. Go. Go.

But while you and thousands of other indie publishers and authors are out there beating your own bibles, who is really listening? You have 1000 friends on Facebook, and 2000 followers on Twitter; your Goodreads account has maxed out your friend allotment, and you stare at all these invitations and notices flooding your email and scrolling by like ticker tape on your TweetDeck feed, and you wonder, what does it all mean? And who reads all this stuff?

You're not. That's for sure, because you're trying desperately to edit that next manuscript in the editorial line-up, or (faint hope!) trying to bash out a few hundred words on your own work in progress.

So who's reading all this stuff? Is anyone? Is anyone even reading this blog?

We call this the Information Age. I'm thinking maybe it's not so much about information as it is about people just blathering. Blah, blah, blah, and it's all like listening to spring peepers in May. It creates a music of sort, a song of fecundity and hope. But no one voice rises above, stands out. It's all just one, homogeneous voice. And if you wanted to be part of the symphony, well, you would have joined the symphony. But you had dreamed of soaring, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, beyond the flock, beyond the music, into something unique and remarkable.

So, is anyone listening?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje

The English PatientThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I come late to reading award-winning author, Michael Ondaatje, and decided to discover his story-telling ability through a familiar tale, that of the award-winning film made from his novel, The English Patient.

I have been captivated by the film for years. I can now say I have been captivated by Ondaatje's novel. Unlike the film, the novel examines the lives and relationships of Hana, Caravaggio and Kip, rather than the love story between Almasy and Katherine.

Ondaatje's research and presentation of the final days of the Italian Campaign of WWII is impeccable and beautifully presented. There is very much a sense of suspension in the story, of lives on hold, of the last breath before the long exhale of release. There is also a remarkable sense of ambiguity in the story, of the search for meaning when in fact there is none. There is only survival and moments of beauty in between.

This is a deceptively powerful novel, deceptively powerfully written.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Switching Stories

My desk, where it all happens.
There is a bit of a lull between books at Five Rivers at the moment, allowing me some time to devote to my own writing. It's always a challenge to find time to write.

I've been thrashing around with a new novel for about two years now (blogged about that previously here), and tried returning to it now. To put it bluntly, I foundered. There's a huge emotional investment in that novel, and I find myself avoiding it. So rather than let this opportunity evaporate, I decided to unearth a novella I'd written 20 years ago.

Originally titled Dreamweaver, I decided to call it Caliban instead, given the nature of my main character and the theme of the story which questions what is reality? To my surprise the architecture of the story isn't half bad, certainly worth time and revision. So it looks like that's what I'm doing with the bulk of my time for the next few weeks, while I wait for other manuscripts to come back in from revision. There are a few submissions for me to read, but that's afternoon work.

If I'm at all successful with this revision, I should have the novella off to one of our editors for comment and criticism before the close of the year. We'll see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Reviews: Books 2 and 3 of Pratchett's Discworld

The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this the second book of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, we continue with the adventures of Rincewind, Twoflowers and best of all, the Luggage. (I love the Luggage!) We meet with Cohen the Barbarian (love it!), trolls with diamond teeth, feisty maidens being sacrificed to prevent the red star from crashing into Discworld, and even at the end have an opportunity to share in Great A'Tuin's blessed event.

Pratchett's wit, humour and intelligence are sharp and rapid. Reading this at bedtime proved problematic, in that in a somnolent state I'd completely miss the lampooning of some real world star, and have to go back and reread just so I wouldn't miss out on yet another delightful giggle. Honestly, I haven't laughed so much reading books in my lifetime. I'm hooked. Completely, hopelessly hooked on Pratchett's Discworld.

Some of the best entertainment of the 20th and 21st centuries, and I daresay destined to become classics in generations to come.

View all my reviews Equal Rites (Discworld, #3)Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In book three of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, both tone and characters change. More of a high fantasy than a farce, Equal Rites explores the rights of women in the patriarchal society of wizards.

Now, let it not be thought this a sobre examination of societal standards through the use of fantasy. Far from it. Pratchett employs his usual sharp wit and play on words to create a fast-paced, endearing and humorous view of wizarding society on Discworld. A quick read that will have you giggling throughout.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 3, 2011

Finding time to write

I began this self-publishing journey with the view that if my work wasn't commercial enough for the large publishers, I'd publish it myself and use that native imagination to market my work. So far I've been pleased with my humble success. Sure, I'm not going to retire on my earnings, but then there are a lot of my colleagues who are published conventionaly who are in the same boat.

My difficulty, however, is that I also sort of slid into being a full blown publisher. While I fully acknowledge and accept the fact I'm the one who chose to sail this ship, there are times I scratch my head and look around, wondering what on earth I've done. I put in about 55 hours a week as a publisher, reading submissions, editing, laying out books, sometimes creating covers, dealing with a ridiculous amount of correspondence and solicitions, and marketing. Sure, it's easy to say I need  help, but given this is a very tiny publishing house, with an equally tiny budget, the financial resources to pay for help simply aren't there.

And while putting in those 55 hours a week, somewhere in there I try to find small chunks for myself, to bash out a few lines, a page or two, on my current work in progress, The Rose Guardian. So far I've been working on this novel for two years. I naively thought I'd have it finished by now. Silly me. I only have about a quarter of it written.

To make that task just a little more difficult, I've upped the requirements of this novel. There are essentially three stories being told; the first is the story of a woman dealing with the death of her mother, a relationship that was never a happy one, and so there is a lot of angst, grief and discovery in that story. The second story is that of the mother, told from the grave through the medium of her diaries. I've chosen to do that because there are always two sides to a story, always different perspectives of reality and truth, so I felt that before the reader, and in fact my main character, assassinate the mother, it was only fair to allow her to defend herself, to present her case. The third story is somewhat of a red herring, told from the perspective of a little girl who has created for herself a fantasy world, filled with fears and uncertainties, dark creatures and some creatures whose benevolence is questionable, like the Rose Guardian she meets.

The story is part CanLit, part dark fantasy, my usual uncategorizable melange.

Because of the depth of this story, and the care and attention it requires, finding 10 minutes to hammer out a few phrases just isn't getting the task done. Were I writing a simple narrative designed for pure escapism it might be a little easier to bash out this story. But it's not a simple narrative. It's one of complexity and subtlety, and so when I'm gifted with a few free minutes I'm usually trying to bring myself back up to speed on the novel, trying to recapture the emotion and ambiance.

I will finish The Rose Guardian. Of that I'm certain. It's just this novel is going to take much longer than I'd anticipated. But, then, since when did my life ever follow a prescribed path?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Review: Maelstrom, by Peter Watts.

Maelstrom (Rifters, #2)Maelstrom by Peter Watts
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maelstrom by Peter Watts is the second book in the Rifters series, continuing the story of Lennie Clark, a deeply psychotic woman, part machine, who is the unwitting victim of psychological manipulation and a plague-carrier.

While the first book, Starfish, proved innovative and incisively written, that innovation and incisive writing failed in Maelstrom. There are pages and pages of technical exposition which slows the narrative, angst and violence which for the most part seems gratuitous and without justification. In fact, the narrative becomes so obscure that for two thirds of the novel I was unsure of exactly what was going on.

The world building which began in Starfish greatly diminishes in Maelstrom, offering nothing new to the already overdone SF dominion of dystopia. There was no sense of environment, of place. There was a great deal of burning and mayhem.

Was I sufficiently invested to continue Watt’s journey into the third book, Behemoth? Not really. Overall a great disappointment from a writer I previously touted as being a star in the firmament of Canada’s SF writers.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Halloween Special at Smashwords

In celebration of Halloween this month, I've put up a 50% discount coupon at Smashwords for my dark fantasy novel, From Mountains of Ice. Just click on this link, choose which of 10 digital formats you wish, and enter coupon code DL86K in the checkout menu.

If you prefer print, Amazon offers a 22% discount.

Always interested in what my fans and readers have to say, so post your comments here, and share with friends through Facebook and Twitter (you can do that right from here if you want to share the coupon with others.) You can also look up my fan page on Facebook and post comments there. Just click on the Facebook badge on the right side of this blog.

Happy October! Happy Halloween! And enjoy!