Sometimes I get less upset that I am not part of trad pubbing yet

Whew. What a mess goin’ on with Amazon vs Macmillan, if the press/blog-o-sphere is to be believed (and I have no reason not to believe it). Tough part is I can kind of see the reasoning behind both sides’ actions.

Making Light’s Teresa Nielsen Hayden (also on BoingBoing regarding the (latest) Amazon debacle. She seems to say, in part, that the industry uses that best-seller money to continue publishing the midlist and the oddball books that I (in particular) love. I understand that. Editors are not doing this crazy stuff that’s happening. But the bean counters who are probably DOING all this machination don’t care about books. To them, a book is a widget to move in return for profit. I knew this would eventually happen once the publishing companies started being run mostly for profits, after all the consolidation. (sigh)

Many people have closed their Amazon accounts and say they will never get a Kindle because of this price dispute and the attempted power grab(s). Just my luck . . . I jinxed the Kindle by putting books on it! Hey, I am powerful? Wanna see me pull a rabbit out of my hat? Nothin’ up my sleeve except this fancy arm with the flyin’ fingers! And maybe a couple of extra aces left over from last night’s game! Whoopsie!

And here’s an update on the big old mess that’s the Google Books Settlement.

Whoever/whatever it was has stopped tweeting/squeaking now, BTW. That means I don’t have to know right away if something’s amiss. Yay for blissful denial!

you know you’re semi-good-lookin’ . . . or are you

Another literary light lost. J. D. Salinger this time. I am one of the admirers of CATCHER IN THE RYE and his Glass Family stories, seeing something profound in Holden’s struggle against phonies and towards an innocence he knows is already forever lost. I also wonder whether his daughter Margaret will publish some of his writings that he did only for himself–he wrote every day for hours, and people say that notebooks are lined up on shelves containing new stories or journals or something. It will be interesting if she does publish some of the work. He didn’t want it out there during his lifetime, and here’s hoping he didn’t leave instructions for it to be destroyed. (Or that she ignores his wishes and prints some of it for the rest of us to see.)

On the other hand, as hubby observed, “Maybe there’s a reason he didn’t want to publish any of the rest of it.” I always figured it was because he knew it would be compared and held up for scrutiny against the canonized works, and didn’t want that pressure. But who can say, until we see it? Maybe not even then.

Closer to home, yesterday the world lost a WWII fighter pilot, family man, and wonderful physics teacher.

Mr. Loisel was one of the best teachers I ever had, and was a wonderful person as well. I was in his Physics class my senior year in 1977, and I still remember what he taught us in Project Physics about waves, the electromagnetic field and Right Hand Rule(s), particles, and randomness. I can still recall the “aha!” moment I had when he showed us how a wave traveling through water propagates without “moving” (I don’t explain it as well–wish we’d had video cams back then.) My posse Linda, Susan, Denise2, and I used to go over and eat lunch with him in the cafeteria anytime we saw him at a table alone. He rescued my notebook when a fellow student (a boy I had a crush on) stole it through a subterfuge right before finals and returned it to me with the admonition, “Don’t be fooled by good looks and charm.” *grin* He came to my house to see my final project, a large-scale telescope, and have me identify Mars and show him the Pleiades and so forth. Mama served him strong coffee and I remember he just stirred and stirred it–it never DID get weak enough to drink (I think she dissolved silver spoons in that stuff). I was just thinking a couple of months ago (when I ran across my old textbook) how I should go by to see him and take him a copy of my latest novel and tell him how I have had a career in science/math as well! He lived a few streets over from us! But I kept thinking I didn’t want anyone from my past to see me until I lose more weight. Dumb. **sobs** He was definitely one of our best and favorite teachers. I remember the time we planned to scare him by having everyone in the lab yell “Hit the deck!” and jump to the floor. It worked, too! When the warning bell to exit class rang, my crush yelled in his basso profundo voice, “Hit the deck!” and we all hit the floor, INCLUDING MR. LOISEL! It is a wonder we idiots did not make someone get hurt! *We were mean* I know that up in Heaven, Mr. Loisel is enjoying seeing all his cohorts and fellow pilots and family and friends again, and that someday when we all get to Heaven, we’ll all meet again. My condolences to his family, and congratulations to him for a life well lived!

I tried to post that as a comment on the online obit, but the system rejected me. Prolly too long. The reason I wanted to put it online is that I’d like his family to know how much his students appreciated him. It’s supposed to ice over tonight, so I don’t know if I will make it out to the service. (There aren’t many people I would go to a service for–I don’t like them, and I generally don’t go to many.) I do hope the flyover of the F-16s takes place, no matter what the weather.

My friend’s grandmother passed this morning. She’s in Colorado and I really don’t know what to say anyhow. I’m not even sure we’re Close Personal Friends any more, as we seem to have run out of things in common when she left our shared neighborhood, book group, and so forth. But . . . anyway, I feel bad for her.

And I had a fairly bad stomach problem last night stretching into this morning, so I had to cancel my second piano lesson. What a drag! I have practiced the first page of the Mozart sonata and the first two pages of the Chopin waltz SO MUCH, and I have the Schubert memorized. I also made up a medley of show tunes that we’re going to work on. But anyhow, I’ll either go for a make-up on Sunday (if it doesn’t snow/ice and if I finally feel human again, gronk) or I’ll see her next Thursday.

I tell my family I’m going to a writers’ meet-up so they won’t suspect I’m taking piano. This way, Mama doesn’t demand to go along with me (she thinks writers are boring). And they don’t know I’m spending money, tra la. What they don’t know about the cheaper grocery items they’re getting in order to pay for this won’t hurt them!

I guess I’ve been occupied, huh? No wonder I totally missed Thomas Crapper Day, which was yesterday or thereabouts. Happy Flushes to you all, belatedly!

Did you buy books when you were a kid–or use the library?

I was just cogitating (very agitating) about the entire buying books/used books/ Google books deal.

Hubby sent me this link to an article that satirizes it all–of course he WOULD–by panicking about library sales and how they’re hurting authors. But authors have traditionally not felt hurt by libraries that buy their books. Authors have seen their sales rise and their longevity helped by having their novels in libraries.

When I was younger, in the 1970s and early 1980s, I pretty much didn’t know anyone who bought all the books he or she read. In fact, most of my schoolmates didn’t buy books at all, but occasionally got one as a birthday gift from a misguided aunt. My parents and their friends generally didn’t buy a book unless it was one they felt they’d re-read or re-use. On occasion a book was so BIIIG and IMPORTANT that my mother would get the paperback as soon as it came out, but it wasn’t her “thing” to amass a library, and she still dislikes “dust-gathering paperback trash.” In general, I did not try to buy a book unless I loved it and knew I would re-read it often.

There weren’t that many bookstores, either. There was Brentano’s at NorthPark, and there were a few bookstores in the malls, but I don’t remember B. Dalton and Waldenbooks being in every mall until well into the 1980s. Maybe that was just Plano/Richardson. Anyhow, it was tougher to buy books back then. I got most of my fun reading from the racks at the supermarket or the drugstore. When I was really little, the supermarkets carried the Whitman editions of the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew series, and Mama would get me a book every week. Little did she know that I planned to collect AND KEEP them ALL.

But most people used the library. There were long waiting lists for many novels when they first came out. People were conscientious about turning in the books within the 7 days they were supposed to keep those waiting-list books. Only on occasion would someone say, “I’m going to buy a copy of that book.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, bookstores became much more accessible, it seems to me. I drove past Barnes and Noble, Bookstop, and other freestanding chain bookstores on my way to and from work. The Half Price Books stores were expanding. Finally, amazon.com came along and made it one-click easy to order just about anything that’s in print or out of print. Now it’s more common for people to buy the books they read and then pass them along (or hold on to them).

We all started buying more books and visiting libraries less often–or so it seemed to me. Maybe it was just because the people I rubbed elbows with were now employed rather than students. But we also started buying books that we knew nothing about just to have something to read. This is totally the opposite of the old way, in which I would have to know that I really loved the book in order to go out and buy it.

Now that money is tight, people are buying fewer books. The library doesn’t HAVE as many books as it used to have. Ours has lots of copies of whatever’s the Big New Thing, and racks of DVDs and books-on-tape, but not as many different books as it used to have. People are turning to e-readers, or so it is claimed. If they read a book on Google Books, does that mean they would have bought a copy if they hadn’t found a copy online for free? Or would they just never have discovered the book? Are they passing around those digital copies, depriving writers of royalties?

Are e-readers making authors poorer? It could well be. I know that three of the people who bought one of my novels on the Kindle have told me they’ve passed the Kindle around or have lent the book to someone else–which is fine with me, because I want to be read and am not depending on the forty cents I would get from the $1.99 sale–and I can see where that might impact the incomes of those authors who need to make sales in order to keep their contracts. But I don’t know the solution to the problem. DRM is something that people are very touchy about, and that may not be the ultimate answer, either.

We’ll have to see how it all shakes out.

At least he didn’t mention that I need to lozwate

My mother’s acquaintance’s husband flopped down on the sofa. “So,” he said by way of introduction/greeting, “what the hell are these novel things you’re always busy working on but that no one has ever heard of? Every time Pinky talks to your mother, she complains you waste all your time on books and such.” He glanced around as if to underscore these helpful comments with the implication that I should be spending said time vacuuming, dusting, polishing, and giving away all my little trinkets.

I had misplaced my laser pistol. (Evidently it’s under a pillow somewhere with the sonic screwdriver and the portable hole.) But because Pinky (Mama’s friend) and my mother were baking something in my kitchen and would be at it for a while longer (he had come back to pick up his wife and the baked goods), I decided to give him a straight answer.

“Each of my projects is different. My chick-lit-that-isn’t novel, LITTLE RITUALS, explores the power of ritual, ceremony, and convention in our lives. Many of my heroine Daphne’s compulsive little rituals (the ones that aren’t related to “the spell she’s under,” I mean) are rituals that my friends/cousins and I actually do practice, consciously or subconsciously. Rituals have power. Whether you believe that means they wield actual power over the physical universe by means of action in the supernatural, or that simply means your own mind gloms on to the effects of the ritual (with no occult or supernatural effects), you have to know that ritual carries meaning and has power.”

He looked blank. Not surprised, not intrigued, but simply blank.

I can never obey that RTUTEX rule (“Resist the Urge to Explain”).

“Everything from a birthday party to the mindless greeting exchange of “How are you?/Fine, thanks” qualifies as a ritual. As my heroine Daphne says, “There’s nothing wrong with taking comfort from ritual. It’s part of knowing what’s expected, arranging life to make sense. Having rituals in your life leads to a feeling of security, a sense that we know what’s happening and why. Ritual can even substitute good habits for bad ones, which can save you when trouble comes. Maybe the rituals we favor show who we are. All I know is, wherever I look, I see rituals structuring our days, mapping our lives, and leaving behind trails to mark our paths through the calendar.”

He grunted. “Pinky said it was some kind of Harry Potter stuff or such.”

“She’s probably thinking of DULCINEA: or WIZARDRY A-FLUTE. That’s the one with the so-called female Harry Potter lead character.”

He raised one eyebrow. I took this to mean he’d like to hear what the book is about.

“Dulcinea Brown is sixteen and has just discovered a whole new kind of magic. It’s a good thing, too, because although she is just coming into her magical powers, she will soon be called upon to save the world. Under the guidance of her father’s new apprentice, Raz Songsterson–who is not what he seems–Dulcinea must use the flute magic she has stumbled upon to save Ladenia City from destruction by a magically conjured Blue-Scaled Dragon. The dragon was illegally brought from an alternate plane of existence and is under the control of the wicked Society of Mages. The Society plans to loose the dragon on an unsuspecting Ladenia City at the height of Festival Week. It turns out there’s a lot more that she has to correct to prevent the very fabric of reality from being torn. But that’s not what the book is really ABOUT. It’s about righting wrongs, acquiring talents and powers that you have to grow into talents, gaining wisdom and purpose as you do, traveling and adventuring, having your hard work pay off, and finding friends and an unlikely romantic partner who appreciates you, flaws and all.”

He flicked an irritating speck from between his teeth. “Reading’s a waste of time. You could get so much more done if you did active things instead.”

Pinky and Mama emerged from the kitchen, carrying the foodstuffs they’d been working on for some kind of gathering over where Pinky is living now (it’s assisted living, sort of.) “Let’s go,” she said to him, always succinct and to the point. “Thanks for the electricity,” she added over her shoulder to me.

They’re definitely not in my target audience (if anyone, indeed, is.)

But I think they’ll all enjoy the pink champagne cupcakes.

Do you think any author is appreciated in his or her home or hometown? Is it different for published authors, or people who get book tours, or whatever? My piano teacher graduated from Eastman and has given concerts at Carnegie Hall and has soloed with the Chicago Symphony . . . but she’s always struggling to make ends meet by giving piano lessons to children who really don’t want to learn and by doing anything else she can to hang on. So maybe every artist is supposed to be a starving artist. Maybe it builds character.

(Why isn’t that working on me?)

Oh, about the piano teacher thing. I’m going over to audition for a spot in her studio tomorrow around three. I decided that I *have* to have a creative outlet that gets some kind of constructive direction, so this will be it (if I get the place.) This is a teacher I took one lesson from before, way back when I was fifteen and had a fistful of baby-siting money. She’s back in Dallas and still in business, so I figured, what the hell. I don’t know whether she’ll consent to coach me on the Schubert Moments Musical, which is what I have in mind, or will want to put me back in Book 1 of Mikrokosmos (although that is NOT happening.) But it WILL give me a reason for practicing every day (during a time that I could be washing dishes or clothes!) that the family can’t shoot down. Sneaky. . . .

Stories for Haitian Relief Project

Over at http://crossedgenres.com/haiti/, writers are posting links to stories that they’ve put up on their blogs or webpages in hopes that readers will donate to help relieve the suffering and chaos that the earthquake brought to Haiti. They’re not posting the stories at that site–and they’re not relinquishing any rights, as far as I can tell. Do you have a story to donate? Do you want to read some of the stories? Go to the site for details.

I’m trying to write a story that would be decent enough to post over on the site, but I don’t hold out much hope. I’ve been scolded recently by several other bloggers who say that those of us who get rejected regularly are deluding ourselves insofar as thinking that our work simply didn’t appeal to that particular agent/editor, and that we’re just writing crap, and that if we’d only FIX the crap, birds would sing and the sun would rise in a glorious orange burst. I think what they’re talking about is more like an atomic blast behind the mountains, but oh well. At any rate, I wanted to pass along the link in case any of you had stories to donate.

If you’d like to make a try at writing one, here’s a couple of prompts for you. First line:

“My teacher can kill with her voice.”

Or this one:
“Until I find the red Frito Bandito eraser, I might as well consider myself done for.”

# # #
“There’s always a non-Voodoo explanation for everything.”– the TV character Monk

“Ha!!! This is what we want you to believe, of course.”–Marie Laveau, Queen of Voodoo