Friday, October 31, 2008
One of several interesting quotes from the interview is "I do some of my best thinking on my blog." As you may know, The Long Tail originated as a blog, with Chris trying out ideas and gaining wisdom from those who participated in the blog ...
Chris Anderson has a new book coming out in July. Titled Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price, it offers some controversial notions.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Corollary: Those who perceive glitches will always believe "the other party" is responsible for and benefiting from them.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I refer you to the TitleZ page because Amazon has no explanation. There was a page that explained sales rank at one time, but it's empty now. TitleZ also offers a service that gives long-term average ranks, which could be of interest to authors who cannot readily get sell-through data from their publishers. (The service is at present still in beta.)
I thought about what makes people distance themselves from a friend or relative. Embarrassment for the other person can do it (you know--when your friend or relative gets two DUIs in a row). So can owing money. And guilt over something the other party doesn't know. Or taking offense at something, intentional or unintentional, the shunned party had done or said.
None of these applied to the people I was thinking about. But it came to me that the three of them did have something in common: I knew certain things about them that no one of their current acquaintance knows. These were things from decades past, and I've never said anything about them to anyone.
Still, I think holding someone's secrets can cause them to edge away from you. Do they have feelings of guilt? Are they embarrassed or angry because you know? Could be any of that, or something else. And so the aphorism sprang suddenly to mind:
Holding someone's secret is worse than owing them money; you can pay back the money.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
In addition, one can learn from certain of Ayn Rand's descriptive techniques--techniques that are best avoided by new writers and, indeed, nearly all contemporary writers.
So, what about Ayn Rand's descriptive writing? First, too many of her images rely on second-hand descriptions of how things (usually buildings) affect people, with few words as to what they actually look like. An example: the reader is left to make up the picture of a life-size sculpture of a nude woman that expresses so much, and offends many at the same time. The reader wonders exactly what it looks like, of course. But the most the author offers us is that the nude's arms are at her sides, palms turned up, and her head is thrown back in triumph. (How was her hair falling? Were her breasts pendulous, nipples erect? Was her stance defying or submissive? Her facial expression--was it blank?) Even though we meet and the character who modeled for the statue, there's no realistic picture in the reader’s mind of either.
A few details, as above, or simple similes and metaphors could have brought the reader so much more into the story, could have made the statue and its inspiration far more real. (“She stood like Sally Rand would liked to have stood, without her fans, proud and defiant and transcending the mere humans around her as she challenged the sky.”)
Houses and other buildings designed by the protagonist, Howard Roark, are similarly disposed of. A structure is occasionally noted as having bricks or dormers or pediments, strange windows, having or not having Doric or Grecian elements, and so forth. Be we never really see the architectural monstrosities, triumphs, and mundania that figure so heavily in the novel. Rand emphasizes the effects of the buildings. She writes of the design of a new department store sending customers fleeing the shopping district that it dominates. She shows us the pure disgust people feel for a universal spiritual temple Roark was commissioned to designed (it housed or displayed on its roof the aforementioned nude). But do they loom? Are they baroque in appearance, or perhaps carry a half-demolished look? Does the department store look like an abandoned prison? Does the temple resemble a Roman bathhouse, or perhaps a pagan alter?
There's a lot to be said for describing a person or object through its effects on an observer, or even on its environment or other objects. However, the author provides few (and sometimes no) clues or cues as to appearance, and as a reader I find this disruptive because I have to stop considering the story unfolding in my mind to create pictures.
Going light on description is not a bad thing. My approach in writing and teaching is exactly that. The reader begins to build an image of a person or thing as soon as your description begins. I give the reader enough to get a solid though general image of "... her blond hair cascaded to her thin shoulders, where it split in twin rivers to obscure her breasts. Below the waves of hair, a long torso and short legs gave her the appearance of
The goal is to give the reader enough to work with and create her own image of the character. Rand usually gives us little beyond orange hair, blond hair, eyes or faces or expressions that have a specified effect, and the reader is left to step outside the story to visualize the face.
Of course, saying that a certain expression or eyes have a certain effect is a time-honored way to make the moment slip by without disruption--but if you use this too frequently, it verges on boring the reader, who reacts with the thought, "Not 'her face made him feel like he was looking at an undercooked pizza' again!"
The point here is that Ayn Rand offers us examples of overdoing my recommendation that you don't use overmuch detail lest you come between the reader and her enjoyment of the story. In other words, her descriptions are often too subtle and indirect.
Back to buildings, we don't get to see double doors, or casement or sash windows, or arched entryways, brick lines and other details that allow us to created the necessary image.
Rand obviously knew something about architecture, and used some of her knowledge for verisimilitude. She need not have written in exacting detail about elements like texture and light, angles and lines. But simple details that anyone could recognize and incorporate into their version of the story would have made a more visual and effective story.
Still ... it worked for Ayn Rand. And I have the feeling she intended to write descriptions exactly as she did for the same reason I recommend going light on details (just don’t overdo that): to draw the reader into the story by involving her in creating it. I just don't believe the technique of describing effects and reactions rather than physical details works well in contemporary fiction.
Copyright 2008, Michael A. Banks
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
I, Libertine's cover depicted an 18th-Century gent hobnobbing with women, one large-busted in a low-front gown. Above the title were the adjectives, "Turbulent! Turgid! Tempestuous!" At the bottom of the cover was a line from the book: "Gadzooks!" quoth I, "but here's a saucy bawd!" The back cover featured a photo of Shepherd as the author. And all for 35 cents. The print run was said to be 25,000. It's a real collectible today.
When I was doing some freelance editing for Baen Books in the 1980s, we talked about doing something similar with a space opera title, but the idea never gelled.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
She finally added a new photo later that year. I saw the photo again in 2000 when I was researching another book. Guess what? She posts the same photo today on dating sites! No kidding, no mistake; the photo was very distinctive. I wonder what she tells guys when they meet her and see that she's a decade older? And how worried is she about aging? Or maybe it's just someone perpetuating a multi-decade prank ...
Saturday, October 04, 2008
The book is Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto, a title designed to both state the political theme and grab attention, as in "Ted, White, and Blue?" What's "Ted?" Of course, his name's almost as big as the title, and the caricature on the cover easily explains who Ted is, even to those who don't recognize the name.
Those who do know Ted will not be surprised that this is a conservative work. It talks about things such as war is the solution to America's problems, trimming big government, and how to change the world for the better "through the power of God, guns, and rock n' roll."
This line of flap copy sums it up nicely: "If you care about America, if you want to preserve, protect, and defend the land of the free and the home of the brave, if you're fed up with lazy, whining, fear-mongering, government-gorging Al Gores, Michael Moores, and Obamaniacs, then you need to read Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto."
It's currently high on the Amazon list of bestselling political books, and is probably headed for other bestseller lists. It appears that conservatives read as much as liberals, given something they're motivated to read--and that not all entertainment people are liberal.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
The source is at Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog. Joe is a Vice President and Executive Publisher in the Professional/Trade division of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (The company that published my book, Blogging Heroes.) In four posts, Joe answers a lot of questions about book distribution, marketing, sell-through (what's that?), and sales expectations (how do publishers project sales?)
Here are labeled links to each post:
Marketing and PR
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
For example, quite a few singles (more women than men) include the line "People tell me I look younger than I really am" in their descriptions. If you look younger than you really are, your (carefully chosen) photos should show it. Hitting potential suitors over the head with the obvious is hard-sell, and saying it when it's obviously not true makes you a wishful liar. Worse, it leads many to infer that you have this "thing" about aging and turns off anyone near your age. (Hint: let the other person decide how old or young you look for themselves.)
Then there are those who complain about "head games." What in the hell are "head games," as in "If you're into playing head games, just move on?" Near 's I can tell, the phrase came from the song, and while it is a great gut-wrencher to yell out during a hard rock singalong, that's about the sum total of its value. Nobody wants head games, any more than people want to have fingers amputated. That's a given, so why bother waving them off? As my friend MJ on one of the sites says, nobody ever asks for head games, like "You know, I haven't had a good mindfuck in a long time--come play some head games with me!" (Okay, politicians play head games, but that's their job!)
Next are the free spirits. I thought we got over the "free spirit" stuff in the early 1970s. As with "look younger" comment, you see this more with women than men. As I recall, 1960s free spirits were flighty girls who spent most of their time looking for someone to help them get high (i.e., score the dope). Funny that the women who label themselves thus are usually up-tight types; maybe they wish they could be whatever they define free spirits to be, or want to have that as an excuse to win arguements: "I'm a free spirit, so I can't agree with that." Oh, well.
Finally (for this outing) what are all those people who select "Other" in the employment category doing for a living? Are they waiting for their eBay businesses to take off so they won't have to look for a job?
Copyright 2008, Michael A. Banks