“A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.” – Sam Goldwyn (1879-1974), film mogul
Writing friends . . .
This is the last edition of Writers Mail that you will get directly from me. Starting next week, all editions will come to you through our TWS Yahoo group. You’ve gotta join the group to keep getting Writers Mail. And joining is by invitation. If you have not received one, email
Carol Hornung, and she will respond with an invite for you.
New editors starting next week. Alicia Connolly-Lohr takes on Writers Mail for the four November issues; Clayton Gill, for December; and Cathy Riddle, for January. Send them your news and writing-related stories, etcetera, you’d like them to share with the group.
Fifteen dollars can get you $500 . . .
Enter your best in the Council of Wisconsin Writers’ annual writing contest.
Eight categories: books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; short fiction and nonfiction; children’s literature; outdoor writing; and a set of five individual poems. Submissions open November 1 and cut off January 31.
Entry fee is $15. Top prize in each category is $500 plus a week at Edenfred, a creative artists’ residency in Madison. Want to know more or get entry forms? Go to http://www.wisconsinwriters.org/
You have been challenged . . .
Come join several of your TWS colleagues and write a novel in 30 days. National Novel Writing Month starts on Sunday. Here to fire you up, to hustle you to your keyboard so you write 1,600 words a day for the next month, is fantasy writer Piers Anthony.
You’re a fool. You know that, don’t you? Because only a fool would try a stunt as crazy as this. You want to write a 50,000-word novel in one month?! Do you have sawdust in your skull?
Consider the first card of the Tarot deck, titled The Fool. There’s this young man traipsing along with a small dog at his heel, toting a bag of his worldly goods on the end of his wooden staff, carrying a flower in his other hand, gazing raptly at the sky – and about to step off a cliff, because he isn’t watching his feet. A fool indeed. Does this feel familiar? It should. You’re doing much the same thing. What made you ever think you could bat out a bad book like that, let alone write anything readable?
Sigh. You’re a lost soul. There’s no help for it but to join the lowly company of the other aspect of The Fool. Because the fact is that Fool is a Dreamer, and it is Dreamers who ultimately make life worthwhile for the unimaginative rest of us. Dreamers consider the wider universe. Dreamers build cathedrals, shape fine sculptures, and yes, generate literature. Dreamers are the artists who provide our rapacious species with some faint evidence of nobility.
So maybe you won’t be a successful novelist, or even a good one. At least you are trying. Actually, 50,000 words isn’t hard. You can write “Damn!” 50,000 times. Oh, you want a readable story! That will be more of a challenge. But you know, it can be done. In my heyday, before my wife’s health declined and I took over meals and chores, I routinely wrote 3,000 words a day, taking two days a week off to answer fan mail, and 60,000 words a month was par. Now I try for 1,500 and hope for 2,000. That will do it. If you write that much each day, minimum, and go over some days, you will have your quota in the month.
On the 10th of the month of August 2008, I started writing my Xanth novel Knot Gneiss, about the challenge of a boulder that turns out to be not stone but a huge petrified knot of reverse wood that terrifies anyone who approaches it. Petrified = terrified, get it? And by the 30th I had 35,000 words. That’s the same pace. If I can do it in my doddering old age – I’m 75 – you can do it in your relative youth.
Of course you need ideas. You can garner them from anywhere. I noticed that our daily newspaper comes in a plastic bag that is knotted. The knot’s too tight to undo without a lot of effort, so I just rip it open to get at the goodies inside. It’s a nuisance; I wish they’d leave it loose. But I thought, maybe there’s this cute delivery girl who has a crush on me, and she ties a love -knot to let me know. Not that at my age I’d know what to do with a real live girl, but it’s still a fun fantasy. Okay, there’s an idea. I could use it in my fiction. The mundane world has provided me with an opening. It will do the same for you, if you’re alert.
Here’s a secret: fictive text doesn’t necessary flow easily. Most of the time it’s more like cutting a highway through a mountain. You just have to keep working with your pick, chipping away at the rock, making slow progress. It may not be pretty at first. Prettiness doesn’t come until later, at the polishing stage, which is outside your month. You just have to get it done by brute force if necessary. So maybe your ongoing story isn’t very original. That’s okay, for this. Just get it done. Originality can be more in the eye of the reader than in any objective assessment.
You can make it from a standing start, even from a foolish daydream. You will want to try for a bit more quality, of course, and maybe a spot of realism. Garner an Idea, assemble some Characters, find a suitable place to start, and turn them loose in your imagination. Now start your engine!
* If you have not already signed up for NaNoWriMo, you can do it today. Click on this link to go to the website: http://www.nanowrimo.org/
The book biz, it is a-changing . . .
And fast, literary agent Nathan Bransford said in a blog post last week:
“This was, quite simply, a massively huge week in the publishing industry. All of the various pressures on the industry seemingly came to a head: the steady rise of e-books, downward pressure on book prices (due to bad economy/presence of e-books/competition with free content/used books/inevitability), the rising clout of e-tailers, an increasingly difficult landscape for independent bookstores, and the industry’s creeping dependence on a small handful of mega-bestselling authors.
First, several new e-readers are giving the Kindle a run for its money in both its functionality… and its bizarre name. Meet the Alex (yes, THE ALEX), the Que (yes, THE QUE) and the Nook (yes, THE okay that one doesn’t bother me so much). Also: I call dibs on Qué? jokes for the next five years.
The Nook is perhaps the most notable of all as it is backed by Barnes & Noble, features wireless that you can use in a physical B&N to read/preview basically anything, and also allows you to “share” a book with a friend for 14 days, during which you can’t actually read it. Kind of like a real book.
It remains to be seen how popular all of these devices will be, but certainly e-book adoption is moving ever closer to the mainstream.
Meanwhile, WalMart dropped a megaton bomb more faster than you blink and sparked a ruthless price war with Amazon by announcing that they would sell 10 hotly anticipated titles for $9.99 through WalMart.com. Amazon quickly matched and announced same-day delivery in 7 cities, then WalMart countered by lowering the price to $8.99, which Amazon also matched. Then Target jumped in the fray, and so did Sears, who announced that if you buy a $9 book from Amazon, Target or WalMart they will reimburse the entire amount if you buy something on Sears.com and spend $45. So, basically, you can get a free book when you buy your dog a pirate costume (come on, you know you want to click through to see that one).
Where does this end?
Right now, even as WalMart, Amazon, Target and Sears fight it out for e-tailing primacy, publishers are still receiving the standard amount for every copy sold, or roughly 50 percent of the hardcover list price, meaning WalAmaTargEars are the ones taking a loss. So, assuming the deep discounts spur sales, in the short term this has turned into a huge cash cow for the few publishers/mega-bestsellers WalAmaTargEars have chosen.
But who loses? Well… potentially just about everyone else. In the words of literary agent David Gernert, “If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.”
And as Eric at Pimp My Novel notes, this could have huge impacts on independent bookstores, who simply can’t compete with the discounting. He also notes that if a few e-tailers cement their dominance over the bookselling market, they could have increasing clout to dictate terms and discounts.
There are some who are cautiously optimistic about the price war. An anonymous publishing executive told The Times: “If this is a short-term statement to let hundreds of millions of people know that they will be able to buy books from Walmart.com, it’s a good thing.”
But surely this isn’t temporary. These trends have been in the makings for years, from deep discounts (now something everyone takes for granted) to competition with other cheap media to the rise of e-books to the industry’s shedding of mid-list authors, their simultaneous aversion to small risks and dependence on big risks, and their increasing reliance on bestsellers, who they often overpay.
This doesn’t have to mean the end of publishing as we know it. As former editor Marion Maneker writes, this could spur publishers to reevaluate their deals with their top sellers, and he also notes that people are already accustomed to paying more for different products. Just because James Patterson’s latest is selling for $10 doesn’t mean someone won’t pay more for a book by someone who sells less.
But it looks as if book prices are coming down, one way or another. And that shift is going to send major shockwaves through the industry. Already Stephen King, an early e-book champion, announced that Simon & Schuster will be delaying the release of the e-book edition of his new book, citing a desire to help bookstores, while simultaneously expressing concern that the deep print discounting “threatens the industry’s pricing structure.”
So is it the best of times or the worst of times? It’s too soon to know. Lower prices don’t have to be a bad thing provided people buy more books. Smaller authors don’t have to lose out provided consumers don’t flock en masse to the deeply discounted bestsellers.
But things are changing very, very quickly. The longtime trends that have been shaping the industry are only accelerating, and everyone in the business is holding on for the ride.”
It happened Tuesday evening . . .
A small subsidiary of 2nd and 4th gathered at Barnes & Noble for what turned into a pretty informal meeting and critique session.
We talked about Jack Freiburger’s Path To Bray’s Head. Found a few punctuation errors, and there was some confusion about just who lit the match. Details were nice – it felt wet, cold, and dark. Some repeated words that could easily be changed.
With Carol Hornung’s scenes from Asperger Sunset, a lot of information was presented. Would Russ really understand how Misty described her deepening relationship with Kevin? Liked the scene with Penny and Russ. Keep the humor toward the end.
With Barnes & Noble using all the tables for displays in December, we will tentatively meet at Hickory Knoll on December 8th. No meeting on December 22nd.
Also, a lot of people have not yet signed up on YahooGroups. Invitations to all were sent out at the end of last week. If you have not gotten an email invite, or accidentally deleted it (I’ve been there!) please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please note that, starting in November, YahooGroups will be the sole means of communication and submission exchange for Tuesdays with Story.
– Carol Hornung
Who’s up next . . .
November 3 . . . First-and-third . . . Meet in the soft chairs area because there is an author event in the tables area . . . John Schneller (chapter 6 rewrite, Broken), Marsha Fordyce (short story), Judith McNeil (???), Susan Gloss (poems), Danny Dhokarh (poems), and Alicia Connolly-Lohr (chapter, Lawyer Lincoln).
November 10 . . . Second-and-fourth . . . Holly Bonnicksen-Jones (chapter 9, Coming Up for Air), Jack Freiburger (chapter, Path to Bray’s Head), and Carol Hornung (scene, Asperger Sunset).
November 17 . . . First-and-third . . . John Schneller (chapter 7 rewrite, Broken), Amber Boudreau (chapter 2, YA novel), Pat Edwards (poems), Clayton Gill (chapter 6, Fishing Derby), Julie Satkamp (short story), and Alicia Connolly-Lohr (chapter, Lawyer Lincoln).
Let me know if you’d like to be on the agenda for our November 10, 17, and 24 dates, then send your story, poem or essay out to your group.
Your help needed . . .
Both groups . . . B&N may take all its tables for book displays in November, so we will be meeting in chairs. We will be in the usual area on those Tuesday evenings the store doesn’t have author events there. On the Tuesday evenings the store does have an author event, we will meet at the other end of the bargain balcony. Is that the north end?
First-and-third group . . . In December, we will meet at the Alicia Ashman Branch Library . . . December 3 – that’s a Wednesday – and December15.
Great phrase . . .
pop-up store, noun
A store that opens in an empty retail location and then deliberately closes after a few weeks or months. Also: pop-up retailer.
“Rising up from the graves of recently departed big-box stores, a wave of ghoulish retailers has descended upon the Chicago area….‘We like the big boxes like the Circuit City stores or the Linens ’n Things that may have gone out of business,’ said Don Rose, director of marketing for Halloween USA, a Michigan-based company with more than 250 temporary Halloween stores in the U.S….The fly-by-night costumers have proliferated over the past several years, driven in part by a glut of vacancies and a handful of aggressive national retailers. Popping up for about two months – usually from Labor Day through Nov. 1 – the low-rent, high-profile tenants have become an integral part of the holiday, which is taking a hit from the recession but is still expected to generate nearly $5 billion in nationwide sales for the season….‘Pop-up’ stores represent a big trend in retailing because they’re an efficient way to attract shoppers and attention, particularly when so many malls have vacancies. This Christmas season, Toys R Us plans to roll out about 340 temporary Holiday Express stores.”
Robert Channick, Halloween stores, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2009
Phrase, definition, and example courtesy of Word Spy Paul McFedies
Phishing . . .
Real practical stuff from AT&T that applies to all of us who get an email message asking that we verify our personal information:
Member Alert: Recent Increase in Phishing Emails
We have recently noticed an increase in the number of “phishing” emails being reported among both our members and other Internet services. These emails attempt to obtain your personal or account information by falsely posing as a reputable company, such as AT&T, and ask you to reply by verifying your account information.
As general policy, we do not ask members to supply or verify Member ID and/or password information in email communications.
While it is necessary to send our members occasional email messages requesting updates to their personal or payment information, those requests will always direct you to a secure AT&T site, like the Member Center, that requires you to authenticate by logging in to access your account information and make changes. (Secure sites are designated by an ‘s’ after the “http” in the address bar and a lock icon at the bottom of the screen.) We will not ask you to reply to an email message with this information.
Should you receive a request to provide this information by replying to an email, do NOT reply to it and do NOT provide your account information or password.
If you have any doubt of a message’s authenticity, you can forward the email to email@example.com.
More tips on how to identify and avoid phishing scams can be found at nonewww.att.com/safety. Simply type the URL in your navigation bar.
The last word . . .
Shel Ellestad, first-and-third . . . A Halloween wish for you:
May all your ghouls be happy and harmless.
May your pumpkins come already creatively carved.
May all your trick or treaters be cute and blessedly unaware of what the word “tricks” means.
May all your broomsticks be flyable…and come with safety belts and airbags…and automatic transmission and easy power steering.
May you have a spooky and fun evening – and may it end with a slightly evil and satisfyingly warming drink.