Sunday, January 25, 2009

Publishing: a Mess for Our Times

Another interesting link worth checking out:,9171,1873122-1,00.html

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Great and Sad Day

It says something about the last eight years that our new President has to qualify that the United States does not torture. Any more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

*I* Don't Think So

Every now and then I run across this strange prejudice regarding both writing and reading first-person point-of-view. Since I'm writing in mystery, which has its goddamn ROOTS in Hammett and Chandler, you only hear this sneering in the metaphorical corners, but there is most definitely a prejudice against first-person POV. To which I say, oh, put a sock in it! Some of the greatest writers ever have used first-person POV to marvelous effect. I can't think of few lines ever written in literature that pack more of a punch than Jane Eyre vis a vis Charlotte Bronte saying to me, "Dear Reader, I married him." You go, girl! In my opinion, Lolita wouldn't have half the punch if it were told in third person.

Like all aspects of writing, I see it as a device. Yes, I *do* write in first person, but not always, and it depends on what sort of relationship I want with my character. I think it works so well in crime fiction because it magnifies the sense of isolation of the protagonist. There is nothing more lonely than an "I." The "I" battling the world on its lonesome. In Hammett's no-name detective stories, the protagonist is so isolated that he doesn't even have the fleeting camaraderie of his peers to have a name!

So by writing in first-person POV you sacrifice the broader strokes that a third-person POV inherently confers on you, but you reap other rewards. Of course, it entirely depends on what sort of story you're writing. But it always shocks me when I hear sneering and this tacit tag line that when I'm a mature writer I will start writing in third person POV. Well, in my "book," you don't get more mature than Chandler. I'm in *very* good company!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Eyes Hit Wall

As the Bush Administration winds up its business (hallelujah!), the legal and political excesses of the last eight years will continue to haunt the Obama administration for years to come. I honestly believe that Bush and Cheney are guilty of war crimes, but have no hope that they will ever be tried in a world court. Pity that. The disgusting and abhorrent situation at Gitmo seems to be in the twilight of its existence. I see in the newspaper this morning that another detainee has been quietly let go to return home. For lack of evidence. He's been there for six years. Ho hum, gee, guess we really didn't have enough to try you. Yes, we did violate the Geneva Conventions. So?

And another gem in the newspaper this morning--I swear to god, some days its like you're reading a joke newspaper--but a judge has recently reinstated the lawsuit (that had been tossed out!) of a gentlemen suing the U.S. government because he has credible evidence that we were wired tapping him without proper authority. Remember that? When the Bush administration by-passed Congress AND the NSA and did its illegal fishing into your telephone and bank accounts?

There was so much skullduggery going on then that this was back burnered in light of the Justice Dept business of firing lawyers without cause. Their defense here? That the adminstration could not be brought to trial because they did not admit to the wire-tapping. I had never heard this before, so I laughed out loud until I realized that this WAS the defense. Excuse me? No, Judge, I cannot be tried for stealing that car because I do not ADMIT to stealing that car. Nope, can't hold me for snatching that woman's purse because I do not ADMIT to it. It's like clown college law.

I am so glad this administration is done.

And those Republican lawmakers who are jetting out of D.C. and holing up in Palm Springs to ditch the inauguration of their new President. Shame. On. You.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy New Year?

Life has been moderately insane the last few months, and one of the first things to go seems to be this blog. The election consumed me. I have always been fairly political, but the last administration and their practices so disgusted and alarmed me that the thought of another Republican administration was giving me hives. I spent every spare minute I had on-line, switching back and forth between and CNN.

That done, we had a very late Thanksgiving, daughter comes home from college for Christmas, and all of a sudden it's January 10. I pick up my local paper to find that yet another wonderful independent bookstore is closing its doors. After being a fixture on Market Street for several decades, Stacey's is shuttering up. This is/was a marvelous store, several floors with a selection to die for. The only major independent bookseller that I can think of that's still in business in the Bay Area is Book Passage.

For someone like me, a small niche writer, the closing of an independent is another roadblock in the ole writing career. Someone like me doesn't do well in the chains. If on the off chance I can even get them to host a signing, these signings are usually abysmal beyond belief. No sales, no one even interested in hearing you speak. The independents cater to writers like me, willing to take a chance because they tend to be about selling books and not about selling widgets. So my potential audience (read: sales) has just shrunk. Again.

And no one I know is willing to talk about this, but I'm going to throw caution to the winds and just lay this out there. I check out how Roux Morgue is doing on amazon on a fairly frequent basis. Mostly to try to get me motivated to write the next Mary Ryan book, because that Publisher's Weekly star is still really bright and shiny. I also check to see if there are any more reviews by readers. I'm hoping to get at least one more positive review to balance out that person who loathed my book. And it's impossible not to see the stats. It's also impossible not to see that currently there are 40 books for resale at $6.00/piece. Which is right next to the already discounted price of $18.25. Do the math. Is someone going to buy a slightly used book for six bucks versus a new book for eighteen? I don't think so. I understand the resale market is what is keeping a lot of bookstores still open. I would imagine Powell's in Seattle survives BECAUSE of its resale market. I know that for Black Oak Books in Berkeley the resale factor is critical.

But what it means to me is that say I have an event and wow people with my brilliance and truly charming smile. They can purchase that book on amazon for $6.00. It gets even better. I didn't sell a single book at Bouchercon, and yet I had several people come up to me after my panel wanting to say how much they loved the first Mary Ryan book and were so glad to see number two. Emboldened by all these nice comments, I went to the book signing room, had pen ready, and waited in vain. However, I did go back to my room and watched the used book resale numbers on amazon plummet. People were heading back to their rooms, getting online, and buying used copies.

Where does this leave me: with fewer options to sell, as the independents slowly get killed off by amazon, WalMart, COSTCO, and the chains. On the off chance that I can actually connect with a reader who wants to read my stuff, the resale market is in a very good position to trump my original sale.

Ebooks are looking more and more viable for people like me.