The Writerly Habit

This blog is about my struggles to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Amazon and Macmillan Duke it Out

Shortly after agreeing to offer e-books to Apple for the iPad, Macmillan's books have been pulled from Amazon. Ok ok, that's not why they pulled the books but you have to wonder if there weren't some hurt feelings there. According to the Times, they were pulled because Macmillan wants Amazon to charge more than the $9.99 set price for e-books. Until the dispute is resolved, all Macmillan titles will be unavailable (except through third party sellers).

I can see both sides of the argument here, I really can. Amazon wants to set low e-book prices to encourage buyers to drop $259 on a Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation). So the publishers are getting shafted and Amazon gets to sell an expensive piece of equipment. I'm already a little anti-Kindle because of their proprietary DRM formatting and the big brother aspect (wherein they can go in and take away your books without your consent ala the 1984 incident). So why shouldn't Macmillan get a bigger slice of the profits if they are helping sell this device?

On the other hand, as a reader, I wouldn't pay more than $9.99 for an e-book anyhow. I know there are costs involved but there is no printing, warehousing, distributing etc. I'm not going to pay $15 when I can wait for a trade paperback at about the same price. What worries me is that Apple is going to have a different pricing model wherein the publisher sets the price. So, if you get an iPad, you may very well pay more for your e-books. What a bunch of crap. I thought e-books were supposed to revolutionize the market and make books more affordable. Seems to me that corporations are still just as greedy as ever and will charge whatever they like despite lower costs. Ridiculous.

1984 (Signet Classics)

Author J.D. Salinger dies at 91

Yesterday J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, died of natural causes. I won't go into too much detail as I feel the article in the Times covered it nicely. I'd rather take this time to comment on his work. Although I haven't read Nine Stories, I have read The Catcher in the Rye. I'll admit, the book is a bit dated but it has entered a sort of folk-lorish infamy as the book serial killers, bombers and murderers all seem to carry. I know John Hinckley Jr. and Mark David Chapman had it. I've heard the Boston Strangler and Timothy McVeigh did also. I don't know if that's true or not.

I did find the book a rather difficult read. Possibly because of the language used by the main character, Holden Caulfield. He mostly went on tirades about "phonies" and how you couldn't trust adults. The writing style was kind of lax, much like Stephen King (who is an excellent storyteller). Maybe it is just my generation, or the fact that I am a woman and this was a boy's coming of age story, but I just didn't get. The story didn't seem to have a point. If any of you out there have read it, please let me know what you think.

I do have to say that I read it because of its connection to criminals. It didn't make me want to shoot anyone or blow anything up, so much for that theory.

Although the book was never made into a movie, it did make its way into 1997's Conspiracy Theory. Supposedly, Salinger didn't want it made into a film. I wonder, in the event of his death, if his estate will turn it into a screenplay. I hope not. Plus I don't think it would really work, too much time has passed.

The Catcher in the RyeNine StoriesConspiracy Theory

In Love with the iPad (100th Post!!)


The iPad tablet was unveiled by Apple this week. At first, I was imagining how cool it would be to finally have an e-book reader that could also access apps like the iPhone. I've never used an e-book reader and usually prefer hardcover, but as a student the idea of not lugging around a bag full of books that I had to overpay for is tantalizing. In my joy over not breaking my back, I totally overlooked the implications for authors. Tom Evans, writing for Publishing Talk, makes a great case for buying the iPad over the Kindle. After all, you get to access pages (that's Word for Macs for you PCs). The tablet also features a large size touch keyboard, meaning that you could use it to write. You can't beat the 10 hour battery life or the fact that you can plug it into a keyboard and continue writing while it charges (plus I like to keep all of my files in the same place). It's sleek, stylish, lightweight and ultra-portable. Unlike the Neo by Alphasmart which looks like a toilet seat. Mind you, the $499 price tag is a little limiting for me but I truly expected it to debut in the $900 range.

Watch the keynote here.

In other news, happy 100th post! It's been an interesting couple of years and I've made a lot of progress as a writer. I'll be blogging about that in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Why does Taylor Antrim hate Memoir?

In an article for The Daily Beast, Taylor Antrim trashes memoir. He states "Too often, memoir seems to me an excuse to be fragmentary, incomplete, narratively non-rigorous." This seems like an unfair attack to me. He argues that some memoirs, particularly Happy and The Ticking is the Bomb, would be better off written as novels.

Pardon me, but I think the reason a memoir should be written as a memoir is that it is a true account. Mind you, creative non-fiction provides some wiggle room. Yes, you may not remember the exact conversation you had with your psychotherapist in 1963 but if you get the gist of it, who gives a crap? We read memoir because we are interested in other people's lives. We want to identify instead of merely escaping (although good authors can excel in both whether it be CNF or fiction). If memoir was a failed medium that cowers in front of fiction, why is it so damn popular? I think if memoir was just an excuse for lazy writing, it would've been done away with long ago.

Here's a short reply from The Rumpus that is also worth a read. What do you think though, is Antrim right or is this a publicity stunt? Maybe this is a jab back at an industry that criticised him harshly. The reviews of his book The Headmaster Ritual on Amazon.com are positive but also point out some flaws. The New Yorker states that "he does not entirely succeed in illuminating the resonance of all this for his characters’ interior lives." Wait, I'm confused, in his diatribe on memoir he accused memoirists of not developing characters enough. Reed Business Information states "the climax is marred by a chain of events that defies reason." Hmm...

Happy: A MemoirThe Ticking Is the Bomb: A MemoirThe Headmaster Ritual

Increase Your Literary Vocabulary

Have you ever run across a poem or other work that addresses an inanimate object? We see this a lot with more flowery poets. Oh moon! Oh stars! Oh freedom! This is addressing a personified thing rhetorically which is also known as an apostrophe. An apostrophe also refers to addressing a person who isn't there. So now when you come across someone reading a poem such as the below sonnet by Alfred Lord Tennyson, you can sound exceedingly brilliant by pointing out the apostrophe. Huzzah!

Oh, Beauty, passing beauty!

I

Oh, Beauty, passing beauty! sweetest Sweet! How canst thou let me waste my youth in sighs? I only ask to sit beside thy feet. Thou knowest I dare not look into thine eyes, Might I but kiss thy hand! I dare not fold My arms about thee--scarcely dare to speak. And nothing seems to me so wild and bold, As with one kiss to touch thy blessed cheek. Methinks if I should kiss thee, no control Within the thrilling brain could keep afloat The subtle spirit. Even while I spoke, The bare word KISS hath made my inner soul To tremble like a lutestring, ere the note Hath melted in the silence that it broke.

The Suppressed Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson (Dodo Press)

Ah Ubik, How You Taunt Me

I just finished reading an article about Philip K. Dick and his years in Orange County. If you don't know who Philip K. Dick is, well you've been living under a rock. He was a prolific sci-fi writer, responsible for A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner (Four-Disc Collector's Edition) and Minority Report (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition). Plus many other works. I personally like The Man in the High Castle. My ultimate favorite is Ubik.

I would explain the plot, but it is available on Wikipedia and frankly I'm tired. What I am more interested in is Ubik the film. In 2008, it was announced that Celluloid Dreams would produce Ubik. We're still waiting. There is a mention of it in the article by the L.A. Times but no website listed. A search of IMDB turned up nothing nor did YouTube or Google. What the hell is going on here? The Times lists the film as debuting this year but I can't find any information. Has anyone heard anything?

In an amusing side note, some Philip K. Dick fans actually call themselves Dickheads. That is too funny. If you haven't read any of his work, you definitely should. I'm not even a sci-fi reader and I like his work.

Ubik

Publishers Torn on Free E-Book Giveways

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation)

In an article in the New York Times, a publishing battle has been brought to the forefront. Several publishers are offering free e-books as promotional tools to entice Kindle users to buy other titles by the same author. Generally these are older titles used to promote newer ones.

Some publishers are concerned with the $9.99 fixed price Amazon is setting for Kindle books. They feel that this alone will cause users not to want to pay $24.95 for a hardcover. Giving it away for free is even worse. I tend to lean to the other side. If I read a free book by an author I don't know, I am more likely to buy other titles if I like it. $24.95 is a huge gamble on a new author (especially given our current economic climate). A free e-book is low risk. Besides, if you can afford a Kindle, you can probably afford to buy additional titles if you like what you see.

To me, this is reminiscent of the pre-internet video game era. You'd buy a game for $50 with no idea if it was good or not. Turns out, the game is terrible and you can't get a refund so it just sits on your shelf gathering dust. Or you use it as a coaster, same diff. Books are even more difficult to gauge. You can't just get on YouTube and watch a plot walkthrough. Ok, ok, that's enough with the video game analogy but you get my point.

I want to know what you think. Is this a good marketing tool or a shameful act that will cause the print market to collapse?

A Clever Fix to an Umm.... Uncomfortable Title

Have you ever been embarrassed to read a book in public because of the title and/or cover art? As someone who has dabbled in erotica, I find this a common problem. Kevin Sampsell, author of A Common Pornography: A Memoir (P.S.), has provided a simple solution to reading his book in public.



Hilarious! Although I might have gone with "A Common Portcullis." It has a nice old world flair. I have a feeling this will help increase his sales just through sure humor value alone. Hmm...I wonder if this will work with some of my other books.

A Common Pornography: A Memoir (P.S.)

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Hits the Stage

I wish I was in New York City because Haruki Murakami's book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel has been turned into a stage production. The stills in the gallery look amazing, they have that sort of ethereal/metaphysical quality that is seen in Murakami's work. There's also a trailer. It is running until January 30th at the Ohio Theater. Hopefully it does well and travels. I'm skeptical that it will land in Colorado though.

It would be interesting to see some of his other works, like Norwegian Wood or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International) (my personal favorite) hit the stage. If you aren't familiar with Murakami's work, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel is a great place to start.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A NovelNorwegian WoodHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International)

Author Edwidge Danticat to be Interviewed by CNN

Author Edwidge Danticat will be interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN this Sunday January 24th. It is scheduled at 2pm EST. They will discuss the situation in Haiti. Danticat is a Haitian native. She is best known for her novel Breath, Eyes, Memory (Oprah's Book Club), which was an Oprah's Book Club book. Here is an print interview with CNN that she did on January 13th.

Breath, Eyes, Memory (Oprah's Book Club)