Readers Rule

...if the writer has the energy, determination and persistence to develop more stories, and is open to learning and perfecting his or her craft, then s/he can offer another story, and maybe get a second date, and a third, and perhaps become a couple. How great is that?

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Resonance: Dreams give us lift...

Sometimes, a passage in a book stops us in our tracks. It might be that its meaning intersects with a personal moment of significance, or it states a truth so powerfully that we pause to appreciate the moment of connection. Here is one that caught my eye today.

 

 

Dreams give us lift ...  The trick is to bear up after the weight of life comes back.

Ivan Doig HEART EARTH (p. 133)

What's the word at the Reliable Narrative blog?

  See what I have been writing about - M. R. Bailey

Here is a great way to see what you're writing about from a high altitude cloud perspective. Wordles are 'word clouds' that emphasize words in proportion to their frequency of use in text. Here’s a Wordle of mrbailey.net taken on April 16, 2012. Though more generic terms rise to the top, there is a diverse array of topics over recent months.

Wordle.net

 

Carter Bays & Craig Thomas on "How I Met Your Mother"

http://vimeo.com/35983305 Recently, I produced coverage of An Evening with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, co-creators and co-executive producers of the television comedy, “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University, and Jeremy Zimmer, Founding Partner and Managing Director of United Talent Agency. Here is a brief highlights video, edited by Ben Travers.

Look for the Conversation video, containing insights into the success of Carter's and Craig's television comedy series, soon to be released.

Tablet and E-Reader Sales Soar

On a recent flight across the country, at least one in every 12 passengers were either reading or watching entertainment on tablets or smartphones. About 40% of these were reading books. About 1 in every 25 passengers were reading traditional books. This personal observation is anecdotal, of course, but it made an impression. That e-readers are becoming the new norm as personal digital devices become more intuitive, adaptive to personal needs, reliable and affordable is no longer news. Then, a report from Pew Research and the American Life Project was released yesterday. The take-away from the NYTimes article: tablet and e-reader sales doubled over the last year.  Adult users increased from 10% of adults in Dec 2011 to 19% of adults in December 2012.  Increased ownership of tablets is especially pronounced among highly educated users with household incomes exceeding $75,000. In fact, nearly one third of people with college degrees own tablets.

As a writer, I'm pleased to see that many people are choosing to read when they have the opportunity. How they choose to read helps inform my thinking about how my stories should read on the page vs. screen, and how to focus my efforts to improve the reader experience.

Related Article

Table and E-Reader Sales Soar  |  NYTimes

 

2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winners

Congratulations to the two winners of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Winner: General Fiction:

East of Denver by Gregory Hill

Winner: Young Adult Fiction:

Spookygirl by Jill Baguchinsky

Read by Amazon Vine reviewers, Publisher's Weekly reviewers, Penguin editors, and ABNA expert panelists--and voted on by Amazon customers--the two winning authors have each been awarded a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. The announcement was made in Seattle.

There were three finalists in each category. The other four finalists were Lucian Morgan, Phyllis T. Smith, Cara Bertrand, and Richard Larson.

Blogging is not Writing... or is it?

Blogging helps us keep our writing skills in shape.  It helps us raise our stake in the writing process.  We focus our minds, organize our schedule, invest in research, and engage with ideas.  We do so in a post that we may or may not publish, testing ourselves against an idea that may or may not merit a short story, a poem, a novel, or a screenplay. By this description, blogging sounds like writing with a capital W.

The FAITHFUL SPY | Alex Berenson

Auditioning new thriller authors is a gamble. We develop a relationship with selected authors, their characters, plots, and settings. Investing time in a complex literary reading experience written by a new author entails a leap of faith. Yet risk can pay.  Discovering a talented author who possesses a wealth of experience and who has so much to share is satisfying. While I've enjoyed thrillers by Tom ClancyAnthony Hyde, Frederick ForsythJohn LeCarre, and Daniel Silva, I was ready for new material and a fresh narrator's voice. I decided to try Alex Berenson's writing. Berenson is a New York Times reporter who has covered stories ranging from the occupation of Iraq to the flooding of New Orleans to the financial crimes of Bernie Madoff. Reading his first novel, The FAITHFUL SPY (Jove paper 2008), looked like a good way to get acquainted.

The FAITHFUL SPY: Plot

John Wells is an American Central Intelligence Agency agent who, by all appearances, has gone over to the other side and is now a member of Al Qaeda. He has converted to Islam and is a devout Muslim. He has not been heard from in several years, yet the CIA takes note of occasional reports that a tall American matching Well's description has surfaced in the company of Al Qaeda fighters.The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

John has earned the respect and trust of his fighters after years of sacrifice, living, fighting, and sacrificing as they do.  As the novel opens, he maneuvers his squad into an attack on American special forces in Afghanistan that he knows will devastate his team. All of his fellow fighters are killed by the Americans, and John 'surfaces,' revealing his identity complete with the code phrase that he has not used in many years, to notify Washington that he is still loyal to the CIA. From there, the plot moves to a planned attack in America, and his need to remain undercover to learn details from his secretive Al Qaeda handlers in the hopes of averting another disastrous attack on America.

In Langley, CIA administrators and managers distrust Wells. They don't buy his story.  He is a rogue. There is little the bureaucrats fear more than individual initiative. All except for his handler, Exley, who believes in him, yet must tread carefully to avoid being kicked out of the the agency and everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Wells remains caught between America's intelligence apparatus, law enforcement officials, and lethal Al Qaeda believers. He must operate effectively in both cultures and does so at great personal cost.

Ultimately, Wells confronts the Al Qaeda villain who drives a car bomb loaded with radioactive elements that will render several square miles of midtown Manhattan uninhabitable for a century.  The authorities who are hunting for Wells will certainly shoot first, and ask questions later.  It comes down to Wells against the fury of radical Islam on a street with no place to hide.  It will either be Wells or his Al Qaeda nemesis who survives, but not both...

The FAITHFUL SPY: Recommended. Berenson's sure voice, direct writing style and pacing kept me turning pages. I look forward to reading the next.

The Faithful Spy (John Wells, No. 1)

Flannery O'Connor Technique

In his recent biography entitled, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, Brad Gooch describes how O'Connor (1925-1964) avoided using any word twice on the same page. I avoid repeating words in paragraphs, but entire pages? That sounds like a stretch. It is, and that's the point. Fresh, inventive expression of similar ideas adds to voice, creates a more forceful narrative, and improves the reading experience. Like jogging new, unexplored miles every morning.

Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor's works at Amazon

Authors Are Bound to Publish

Literary Entrepreneurs

Self-publishing is leveling what has been a uneven field of competition for authors, for readers, and for book sellers.  Writers still write books on spec, but now they can manage rights, take responsibility for when and how their work is published, participate more fully as equal partners in their work's publication, connect more directly with readers, and be better literary citizens.

Book Publishing is Becoming Self-publishing

The Internet has made every individual a potential publisher. And technology is making every idea, story, and work of art marketable. Even the business side of the transaction is returning to a one-to-one exchange.

JA Konrath has six books in print and thirteen e-books available from Amazon. He has projected that he will earn up to $100,000 this year on sales of his e-books alone. Each sale is initiated by an interested reader who decides to download one of his novels to their Kindle, iPad, PC, Mac, iPhone, iTouch, Droid, or any other of an expanding universe of personal e-reading options. Amazon's online Kindle Store (or Apple's iBook and others) completes the transaction within seconds. No shipping. No waiting. From JA Konrath directly to Ima Reader wherever she is on the planet.

After iPad

There are thirty-nine e-readers on the market. Considering the quantum leap forward in quality of the user experience, it is tempting to rephrase that device snapshot to something more like: the Apple iPad and thirty-eight others.

The iPad provides an excellent, even transformational e-reading experience. It feels good cradled in your hands, on your lap or propped up against your thighs for those middle of the night reads. It has a high resolution color screen that is easy on eyes, especially aging eyes. It responds instantly, enthusiastically to any impulse. Turning the page is almost as satisfying as leafing pages in that 600-page Dickens anthology you've had since Lit 101. And you can look up words in the dictionary without getting up to go find it. Plug in some ear buds and you can even listen to the voice of your choice read your book to you.

The iPad will dash the ambitions of many early e-readers and the field will inevitably narrow to a select few devices. Sony and other quality device manufacturers will accept iPad's challenge and up their game. All for the better. Whatever makes the author's work available in a high integrity transaction, on an enjoyable-to-use device, and to more people is good.

Opportunity is Calling

When in your lifetime did obstacles to getting your work published actually diminish in number? If you have a good book, some appealing cover art, a compelling description and the ambition to grow your audience, now would be a good time to get out there and share your work.

Related:

The Rise of Self Publishing (NYT  26 April 2010)

Which e-readers will the iPad crush? (CNET, 1 April 2010)

Publish or Perish

Ken Auletta offers a short course on the agency business model and the ever-evolving history of publishing.  This article also includes a situational analysis about the stakes for authors, publishers, bookstores, and device makers in the current competition between the printed page and the panel of pixels known as the e-Reader (Kindle, iPad, Nook and others coming online). The writer, journalist and media critic at The New Yorker has been a keen observer of media trends.  His Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way put the failing big three television network model in stark context for us in 1991. Now, he has once again captured a dynamic period in media history on the page. His recent article, Publish or Perish Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business? (The New Yorker, 30 April 2010), is similarly timely and incisive. A 'must read' for authors, agents, publishers and readers.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_auletta

On Writing "The PACIFIC"

Bruce C. McKenna Goes to War

Recently, Bruce C. McKenna, co-executive producer and lead writer on the HBO television mini-series, "The Pacific," stopped by the Wesleyan University campus for an interview about his latest project. He provided valuable insights into the challenges of adapting history to television, the importance of persistence in getting any project to the screen, and the role of the writer in the process from research and design of story architecture to defending the vision during production and presenting the final product to audiences. Look here for a link soon.

On the same day, Bruce presented the fourth episode of "The Pacific" in the Powell Family Cinema in the Center for Film Studies at Wesleyan University. His answers to questions display the historian's deep knowledge of his material, the screenwriter's respect for storycraft, and openness to sharing his seven year experience. Here are his remarks.

Avoid Mind Reading

Except your own. Writing to the market always falls short of the mark. Besides being a soul-numbing experience (because you end up essentially writing someone else’s inspiration), it cannot be researched sufficiently, drafted, rewritten, edited, rewritten again, shopped, edited, and published in time to capitalize on the market trend.  So, you have invested valuable time, energy, and effort in a project to which you are less than 100% committed, and about which you are less than passionate.

Start with what you want to read. Do what you think is right. Draft your concept.  Outline it, write a few chapters and share it with someone whose skill, perspective, judgment, interests, and discernment you respect.  Odds are that those pages will jump to life in the reader’s mind because you care, because you’re invested in something you want to say, in a tale you want to tell.

Trying to forecast the market, or read editors’ or agents' minds wastes your time.  It also paralyzes your writer’s instrument.  The skills that you develop as a writer are important, high performance, precision tools.  Don’t use your scalpel as a screwdriver.  Don’t use your best sagacious voice to make someone else’s hero sound interesting. Respect yourself, your ideas, and your time.  Follow your muse, your heart, and craft the stories you think matter, the ideas, subjects, and characters that wake you at 3:00 am.

2010 Year of the Tiger - Tx2

There is no clear connection between the world's endangered wild tiger population and creative writing. Not yet, anyway. While developing my next novel project, the thought occurred: what if a story could succeed in bringing some small measure of the majesty of the wild tiger and the immediate peril it faces to the page? Not sure such a project, even if it were accomplished literary writing, would be viable in the current publishing market. The economic imperative reflects the larger problem for tigers and we writers quite neatly.  Still, wouldn't it be an accomplishment if someone could create a story that helped us five-sense the issues? Recognize the moment? Understand the life-and-death choices that we must make?

ABNA: One Way to Break Through

First prize in the 3rd Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Contest for previously unpublished works is a publishing contract with Penguin and a $15,000 cash advance.  Almost any opportunity to get your work before interested readers, share a good story, gather some feedback, and connect with other writing professionals is good. ABNA is such an opportunity, yet its modest profile ensures that many writers will miss this chance to break through.  The contest's low profile is surprising – ABNA's sponsors are three of publishing's leaders: Amazon, Penguin Group (USA), and Publishers Weekly

Here's how the contest works: 

During the submission time window, ABNA accepts up 5,000 submissions in each of two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult. They specify 'up to 5,000' because ABNA closes submissions upon receiving 5,000 or after two weeks, whichever comes first. 

Initial Round: Amazon editors read 300-word pitches and select 1,000 from each category. 

Quarter-Finals: Expert Amazon reviewers read 3,000-5,000 word excerpts from entries and select 250 from each category. 

Semi-Finals: Publishers Weekly reviewers read and rate complete manuscripts, and select 50 from each category. 

Finals: Penguin editors evaluate the final 50 manuscripts in General Fiction, the final 50 in Young Adult, and select three finalists in each category. 

Amazon customer voting: Amazon customers have seven days to vote for their favorites in each category. 

Grand Prize Winners will be announced in Seattle on June 14, 2010.  Each will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. 

For every writer but the winner, the benefit is feedback.  Novel writing can be a solitary enterprise and feedback about work-in-progress can become the difference between good and great writing. 

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UPDATES

25 Feb 2010:  Initial Round - Pitches  

23 Mar 2010:   Quarter-Finals 

27 Apr 2010: Semi-Finals 

25 May 2010: Finalists 

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2009 ABNA Winner:  Bill Warrington's Last Chance by Jack King 

2008 ABNA Winner:  Fresh Kills by Bill Loehfelm