Monday, May 19, 2014

Indie publishing: wasteland, or brave new world?

This is going to be a quickie post, as I have sworn to devote today to working on a chapter of my own novel! And it's all too easy to let myself get distracted by things that are easier for me to write—such as blog posts, for example.

So even though this is a fascinating topic about which I should write a longer post some day, I'm not going to do it today. Seriously. I'm not. If I can just drag myself away from this "new post" composition window.....

Photo by "Rodw" at Wikimedia Commons
Instead, I'm going to let this piece on the Huffington Books page speak for itself. It's a spirited defense of the quality of self-published books by indie author Lorraine Devon Wilke. The article sparked a conversation on a private listserv of children's writing instructors to which I belong, with some folks lamenting the abysmal quality of a lot of self-published books they've gotten off Amazon. And though I can't disagree with that, since I've stumbled across the dreck, too, I have also discovered many fine books by clearly skilled, professional writers as well.

If you like historical mysteries with a strong female protagonist, look at books by former college history professor M. Louisa Locke, who has a great blog here. If you like thrillers, paranormal or otherwise, look at books by former Hollywood screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff. Then there are books, both adult and middle grade, by my former colleague at the Institute of Children's Literature, Chris Eboch [writing for adults as Kris Bock]. Take a look at the middle grade Island of Fog fantasy series by Keith Robinson. And of course I have to get in a plug for two of my editing clients, indie author Alberto Hazan, who writes urban fantasy for teens and medical thrillers for adults; and YA writer Kristina Ludwig, who has published contemporary teen novels, short stories, and a series of novellas in the burgeoning Amish romance genre.

Of course this is only a small sample, but I believe that many talented, hard-working authors are out there in the indie publishing world, and they are every bit as professional and skilled as any traditionally-published writer.

I'd be interested in hearing what you think about indie publishing. Is it a brave new world, or a wasteland?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Libromania: or how I killed my Kindle

I've been reading so much lately that I burned out my Kindle Paperwhite! Seriously.

© Photo by Nancy Butts

For the past couple of months I've been reading incessantly, almost obsessively. I tend to do this after a long, concentrated spell of hard work, which is what the past year has been. For twelve months, I had so much work coming in—student lessons, client manuscripts, educational gigs—that I felt as if I were juggling live snakes, trying to keep all of them safely in the air so they and their venomous fangs wouldn't collapse on top of me and start a feeding frenzy on my throat.

Now there is a slight lull in the work load, which is a bit scary from a financial point of view, but wonderfully freeing and refreshing creatively. And after so much writing and editing, I need to inhale a lot of words—a lot of Story—to replenish myself.

After I finished my senior honors thesis back at Duke [and don't ask how many years ago that was], I sat down and read all eighty-eight Agatha Christie murder mysteries in one summer. Now I seem to be on a more eclectic literary frenzy—a libromania, if you will—that includes fiction and non-fiction, adult and children's books, fantasy and historical fiction and mystery and thrillers and contemporary drama.

In the process, I've fallen in love with a new writer, Gary D. Schmidt. Well, he's not new—he's been around for a while. But I just discovered him, and I am in awe. Okay for Now is a middle grade novel set written in a very close and tight first-person viewpoint, and you know how I love that. It was a National Book Award finalist, and I can see why. In the deceptively simple voice of an illiterate but artistic eighth grade boy, Doug Swietek, Schmidt spools out a masterful, moving story about love and redemption. In this book, it takes a village not just to raise a child, but to heal an entire family.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is kind of a middle grade, kind of a YA—it was an honor book for both the Newbery and the Printz awards, if you can believe that. Has that ever happened before? It is written in omniscient narration that often dips into the head of the main protagonist, Turner Buckminster, and is based on a true story that happened in 1912 in the state of Maine. Having spent so much time on the coast of Maine myself—my first novel, Cheshire Moon, is set there—I was drawn to this book. Schmidt once again shows his mastery here. Be warned: there is an undercurrent of sorrow in all his books, even a riptide in this one. But somehow Schmidt manages the trick of being both luminous and heart-breaking at the same time. If you haven't read any of his many books yet, please do!

Or maybe not. If you're like me, when you finish one of them you'll think that it was so good that no other novel needs to be written ever again. Which isn't such a good thought for writers to entertain, not even for a split second. :-(

And besides, I think my new best friend Gary just broke my Kindle. This glorious time of year I sit outside to read, so I need my glare-free Paperwhite for that. I finished a rip-roarin' Printz-winning YA novel, Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel late yesterday as the sun started to slip behind the mulberry trees towards the west.

I went inside to recharge the battery—and nothing. I tried every trick in the book, but when I plugged into my Mac and started getting ominous messages that the Paperwhite about to fry my USB port, that was it. I yanked out the charge cable, contacted Amazon—and even though I was three weeks out of warranty, they are sending me a new Paperwhite tomorrow! Amazon deserves a lot of credit for that. I didn't even have to ask; they immediately offered.

Let's see how long it takes me to burn this one out.