C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Smashwords — PayPal vs Erotica Debate Update & a New Deadline

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction
Mark Coker responds to critics and says the issue is not only bigger than Smashwords. It’s bigger than PayPal! Read on for the update on the deadline extension and the “sliver of hope.” Click the link for Mark Coker’s latest letter on the censorship debate. ~ Chazz
Via www.smashwords.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , ,

Two Legs Bad: An Open Letter to Mark Coker | Remittance Girl : Erotic Fiction, Stories and Series

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

This post is a public response to an email sent by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, asking all erotic writers to take down any books that contravene their…
Via remittancegirl.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , , ,

PayPal cracks down on erotica e-book sales | TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

So from the last post, we know that erotica is very popular on e-readers. But slow down, there, aspiring erotica fiction writer. PayPal just made Smashwords clamp down on your id with ice tongs and put your readers’ vice in a vice.

I’m probably not going to miss books I wanted to read, but the ultimatum from PayPal is a bit ironic considering that I often write about clever serial killers and nobody will bother me about it. Also, isn’t there research that shows that transgressive fiction may provide an outlet for kinks the world says it hates so said nastiness is not acted out in reality? Also, does it bother anyone that all this stuff Paypal is censoring is, in fact, legal? A group of European scientists are going to publish a scientific paper on how to weaponize an extremely virulent bird flu and nobody’s stopping them?! Wow.
I also worry that Mark Coker states up front in his warning letter to authors that “mistakes will be made.” (Points for honesty.) But will those mistakes include my book Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit) because of the title? I’d say obviously not, except someone already assumed it was porn because of the title. (It’s creepy suspense and brilliant literature in which you discover more about yourself, I assure you.) If my book gets swept up in the censors’ purge, how long will it be off the electric shelves?

Ultimately, if they’re going to censor, I wish they’d done this on a complaint-based, case by case basis so fewer mistakes will be made and authors won’t lose income.  It’s a sticky situation and I’m sympathetic to Mark’s position. To save the whole, he had to amputate a limb. If that imagery titillates you at all, I’ll have to delete this post. Click the Scoopit! link to learn more and to figure out your feelings on this. ~ Chazz
Via www.teleread.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, Genre, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How serious is the hate for indie authors?

I’m feeling a tad depressed. I just read a bunch of posts in a forum from The People Who Fun Forgot. They were looking for ways to avoid even looking at indie authors’ work. Any indie exposure, it seems, might burn like a spicy plutonium chalupa with battery acid sauce. Some people held on to some perspective. For others, art was something to grumble at and be protected from while searching for “real” books from “real” publishers. How dare self-published authors offer something someone else might enjoy? Perhaps it’s promotion fatigue, but some people seem to think that just because they don’t like something, it’s automatically spam and valueless to anyone! Someone even suggested the establishment of a censor board to decide which indie offerings are worthy. I had to reread that several times. I’m still not sure if the intent was satirical. Gee, I hope that was a joke, but I don’t think so.

These angry posts and censorious efforts sound far more narcissistic than anything a self-publisher has ever done.

It’s a book, not  a crime. And if it be a crime, it is not a crime against literature but against personal taste. As in “individual”, one person’s taste.

As in, “Get over yourself, Butch!”

Another complainer said she was especially picky about offerings that were inexpensive. Wait! Wait! Why not be more picky about the much more expensive ebooks from traditional publishers? As John Locke says of his 99 cent ebooks, he doesn’t have to prove he’s as good as the traditionally published. Trad authors have to prove their books are ten times better than his for the prices they charge. Many of his readers certainly don’t want him censored. They’re grateful—happy, even— to receive such cheap entertainment. I eat 99 cent books like Tic Tacs. A 99 cent book isn’t a risk. It’s a Tic tac. If you like one, have more. If you can’t afford a 99 cent ebook, what the hell are you doing with an e-reader, anyway? If that’s the case, read at the library. In the job search section.

Being super picky over indie books doesn’t make you a connoisseur of literature. It makes you the sort of person whose company you wouldn’t tolerate in a stuck elevator for more than five minutes without considering how you could make strangulation look accidental. (If this is you, please consult your therapist. Next session’s topic: “Why do I feel such a need to be a petty bully over small things? And why do I feel such joy kicking the crutches out from under people?”)

I’m not for low standards, per se. It just seems absurd to insist a 99 cent book reach a higher standard. Every ebook gives readers a sample. If you don’t like the sample, you don’t have to buy it. And no, your time is not that precious. The President of the United States has time to read fiction for pleasure and you’re not working on a cancer cure, so get over yourself and read a few reviews on Goodreads if you need some help with your book shopping, for Christ’s sake!

You know what I love about the break from traditional publishing? The range of price and the freedom of choice. The “flood” of new books is not something I’ll drown in. I revel in the onslaught. The hunt for a good book is part of the joy of reading. (You even get to read while you hunt, which was frowned upon when the prey was deer.) The search is part of the fun, like wandering through a bookstore and dipping into samples to see if I can find a treasure. And, it bears repeating, just because a book is traditionally published is no guarantee it’s going to be any good. Yes, they’ve got typos, too. (And remember all those books “by” Sarah Palin?)

What of all those indie authors who were traditionally published last week but decided to abandon that enterprise for greater creative freedom and the other allures of independence?

Are they to wear the scarlet letter, too?

I was shocked that people who you’d think were book lovers could be so down on free thought, cheap books, free speech and more choice. All those good and happy things were just too damned inconvenient for them, obstacles in their search for stuffy books only semiotics enthusiasts might approve. (And by semiotics enthusiasts, I mean people from 1980s English departments who worshipped structuralism and used literary criticism as a weapon to stab writers in the parts of the brain that connect expression to entertainment. They pretended to love literature and creativity that was a mask. They may have started out as readers, but by their third year, the joy of reading and literary escape was shamed and beaten out of them. Now they only read to tear writers down to feel good about themselves through petty power plays, bad reviews and the destruction of the world, one idea at a time. You know. Like Bond villains. With herpetic lesions on their anuses.

I don’t think these curmudgeons and snobs are the norm. Are they…?

If they are…I have to go make toast in the bathtub now.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, censors, e-reader, ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is your fiction “just made up”?

Recently I heard an author complain about a poet because she hadn’t done any research. The poetry was about prostitutes, their struggles and how they reacted to being raped. No interviews! No research! Worse, the poet had made the (hyper)critical error of not actually being a raped prostitute herself. The poet simply made up a story for her poem based on her own imagination. No, I haven’t read the poems, but I don’t think I need to know the details of particular human tragedy to extrapolate the feelings of violation that must entail. I’ve read a lot of fiction that was clearly “just made up”, but the writers I love still strike a common chord of humanity that spur me to cry, get angry and get engaged.

The writer was disgusted with the poet because she “just made up” her fictive poetry.

“Beyond the pale!” she said.

I’m skeptical of proponents of research, especially if it falls into the category of “exhaustive.” It’s not that knowing your stuff is a bad thing. It’s that knowing your stuff can often lead to recording instead of creation. (Sometimes military thrillers beat you over the head with the research so hard, you’d think the serial numbers on the missile casing is more important than the nuclear warhead exploding over Miami.) For me, the authenticity of the enjoyment of the writing — the feelings stirred — trump the details of the particular brand of cigarette available in certain cities at certain times. Which is a fancy way of saying I don’t give a shit as long as the story is plausible within its own world. For instance, do all prostitutes read Proust? It’s probably not required reading, but you could easily convince me one prostitute reads Proust if you can write a convincing context.

Is it necessarily better fiction because it springs directly from the real world? Kevin Bacon went back to high school for a day before filming Footloose, for instance. Do you think that was crucial to performing what was already in the script? And if the writer of the script hadn’t grown up in a repressed town that outlawed dancing, would Footloose be any less awesome? (I refer here, of course, to the original Footloose. There’s a remake, but I decree it shall not be discussed and anyone associated with that abomination can go shoot themselves in the face…I digress.)

There is a dangerous trend in fiction that many writers think is required. It goes like this: If you’re going to have anything to write about, you have to go have a lot of experiences, many of them bad. That’s the dry, sterilized version. In practice, it’s more like this: You can’t write about rehab unless you’re an alcoholic or a junkie first. Terrible life choices make for great writing, assuming you don’t kill yourself in stage one of the writing process in which you’re actively pursuing bar brawls each night. Unless you’ve experienced what you’re writing about, it’s not authentic enough.

And I call bullshit. It’s fiction. Make it up but make it seem real enough that I can suspend my disbelief. We all have human experiences and we can imagine pain and transfer it to the page. You’re experience doesn’t have to be exactly what you’re writing about. Otherwise, you’re not even writing fiction. That’s memoir.

About fictive memoir (since this case inevitably springs to mind): Some people bought into the overhyped nonsense around A Million Little Pieces because James Frey fictionalized some of his “memoir” of addiction (after first shopping it around as a novel.) Nobody gives David Sedaris a hard time for doing the same thing to very humorous effect. Also, a lot of people also said that A Million Little Pieces helped them kick their addictions, even though some of it wasn’t real. Placebos often work on people, even when they know it’s a placebo, so what’s the harm in a book that’s 80% correct to the facts of one junkie’s life and 100% true to the feelings of thousands?

I have censored myself when my fiction didn’t pass my personal standard for believability. I admit I have recently dumped two short stories involving military personnel because, though I grew up around the military, I’ve never been in the military. I just wasn’t confident enough that I had the details quite right. I was writing about people, but I didn’t think the environment they swam in was there to deftly suspend disbelief. However, I have written stories from the perspective of old Asian men, a little girl, an autistic boy, adult women and a gay dinosaur.

For the record, I have never been a gay dinosaur

(not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

A few years ago a group within PEN Canada insisted no one could write about the minority female experience except minority female authors. I think that idea kind of fizzled because of the unrealistic limits (and ghettoization) such a policy could lead to. First, it was censorship, which most writers are against and (Thank Zeus!) there wasn’t a way to enforce the decree, anyway. Second, its logical conclusion was that black women could never write about white men. We would all have to conform to our stereotypes and human beings are way more variable than our stereotypes. After a short hullabaloo, the idea lost traction. Shakespeare, after all, was not Italian and never saw Verona.

We’re often told “write what you know.” That would leave a lot of sci-fi and fantasy out of our lives. Instead, I suggest you write what you care about. Write what you can make me believe. If someone doesn’t think you did a good job of recreating their real experience, they can go ahead and write their memoir so the heroine smokes the authentic brand of cigarette (good for Writer 1, but I’m fairly certain I still won’t give a shit.)

Fiction is a work of the imagination.

It’s our job as writers to make it believable.

It’s our job as readers to get into the spirit of the art instead of looking for things to bitch about.

Filed under: authors, censors, censorship, movies, Poetry, publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Writers & Readers: I say something new & cranky

Joe Rogan

Image via Wikipedia

Alfred Hitchcock once said a painter needs a brush, a writer a pen and a director an army. The numbers needed to make a film are coming down, but it’s still a collaborative, team sport (or a war, depending how indie you are as a filmmaker.) Painting  is still a solo pursuit and for a long time writing was solitary. Then writing got decidedly less solitary. And now, with self-publishing, the game has changed again.

Authors used to have publishers. Later, agents entered the industry and took pressure off editors by curating. They helped many authors get better deals. Now a lot of agents want to intermediate and perform more of an editorial function, possibly because other traditional roles they have fulfilled are shrinking. See this post for more on that and much more.

Now there can be fewer people between you and publication. Publishing isn’t necessarily a team sport anymore. Publishing with a group of lovers of all things literary  has produced many great books (and has probably interfered with the production of great books, too.) You may think many minds produce better material because all of us have more brain power than one of us. I used to believe that was true in all cases.

Then comedian Joe Rogan challenged that idea for me and articulated something that was slowly percolating through my cranium. In his experience as a comedian on The Man Show, he found that more suits on the set diluted the funny. His stand-up is a pure art form, moderated only by his own sense of humor and direct feedback from his audience. (I saw him at Massey Hall in Toronto recently. He rocks hard.)

It’s an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Now science, as presented in the fascinating book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, has disproved the notion that more brains help a creative project. The most creative solutions are not arrived at by the most creative person in the room. They are directed by the loudest person in the room.

So, if your agent says “I’m not submitting your work because I don’t think it’s ready,” and you cede that power, your work isn’t going to market whether your agent is right or not.

This is the sort of thing that drives the traditional world of publishing nuts. Without those mediators, obstacles, curators, gatekeepers, shepherds and rabbis, the worry is that we shall be inundated with a slew of awful, awful books. The deluge shall be as a fire hose pointed at the tiny tea cup of our fevered minds. Without those helpful interlocutors, who will keep the bad books away?

Rather than address the curation question directly (and I’ve already addressed it many times on this blog), I’d like to say something new on the subject:

Even if that objection is valid, so the f**k what? I reject the premise. I say this is not about your convenience in going to a legacy publisher you trust for all your curation wants. This is about my freedom to express my art, which you can enjoy or not. As they say at the convenience store, “Buy or leave!”

The marketplace of ideas is opening up to a lot more shelf stock. Buckle up and put on your big boy Underoos and your big girl panties. Soon you might find more variety and much more current reading material to explore and fill your mind.

I value my sovereignty of expression more than your convenience.

I said this was a revolution. I asked you to join me.

Did you really think no one would get hurt along the way to the shinier, freer new world we’re creating? 

The results will surely be messy, but the cost of your tender sensibilities is really negligible. There will be a lot of bad books delicate grammar doilies will decry. You’ll see a lot of typos (though I see a lot of typos in traditional books, too, by the way, and yet the earth keeps on spinning.)

We value freedom and freedom of expression. A lot. The US Supreme Court allows the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at funerals with ghoulish signs without regard to the feelings of the families of the dead. Evidence obtained illegally is routinely thrown out and murderers are sometimes set free as a result. We accept some consequences far worse than inconvenience so that greater individual sovereignty is assured.

If it sounds like I’m saying your worries

about all the coming bad books don’t matter,

you’ve read this blog post correctly. 

Filed under: agents, authors, Books, censors, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Censorship: American Psycho, Canadian Psychos

Support censorship: Botticelli's "Birth o...

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God so loved the world he sent his only Son…instead of a committee.

For a couple of years I sat on a committee for Freedom of Expression representing editors and publishers.

Here’s what I learned:

Many people are staunch defenders of free expression as long as they agree with the views expressed.

I say I “sat” on the committee because my impression was that nothing would ever get done. The one time I chaired the committee, I was criticized for being too controversial.

Flash forward: I was no longer on the committee and was now working for Cannon Book Distributors. Brett Easton Ellis‘s American Psycho had been out for a short time and I was selling it across Canada. I met a former employer with whom I’d locked horns before in a Toronto street. He looked smug; he had no other facial expression, actually. He thought he had me.

“Now how do you feel about having to sell American Psycho?” (He didn’t say “ha-HA!” but the unspoken hung in the air between us.)

“Great,” I said. “I let grown-ups decide what they read. Otherwise, I’d be treating them like children.”

“You’re a civil libertarian, then?” he asked. He asked the question the same way you might ask an acquaintance how often he buggered syphilitic goats.

“Yes.”

He shook his head. No hope for me.

Here’s what censors don’t seem to get: Either you read a book you found offensive and decided for yourself it wasn’t for you (in which case everyone else should have that same privilege) or you didn’t read it,  in which case you shouldn’t condemn it. I’ve already got two parents. I really don’t need more authority figures telling me what not to read.

I love a list of censored books.

Almost invariably, that’s where to find great, or at least interesting, books.

Filed under: banning books, censors, , , ,

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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