Let’s round up a bit of publishing this and that with some links and brief comment. Very brief, in face, since today’s a big writing day.
1) Remember way back in the misty dawn of yesterday morning when I pointed out that Paula Deen, having been dropped by one corporate partner after another, saw her next cookbook shoot to the top of the Amazon.com bestseller list even though it doesn’t come out until October? And that her last book was sitting pretty in the number two spot?
Well, that upcoming book isn’t listed on Amazon anymore because Random House cancelled the contract.
Yeah, they had a lot of pre-orders through the online giant, but if Wal-Mart, Target, et al were no longer willing to carry her work, the P&L must have looked pretty dire.
2) Hey, did you guys know that, in the original submission draft of Child of Fire (then called Harvest of Fire) Ray Lilly wept for the child who was so horrifyingly transformed and destroyed in that first chapter? Completely true. The kid died of an acute case of Evil Magic, his own family forgot he ever existed to the point of denying him, and Ray mixed up his feelings about the kid’s unmourned loss with his own imminent unmourned death. Then he wept.
This was the first thing my editor asked me to change. She said it made the character seem weak, and one of the other readers at the publisher immediately assumed Ray was a woman (it’s a first-person narrative, for those who haven’t read it, so there were no helpful pronouns).
Me, I hated the idea of changing that bit, because if a tough guy can’t weep over a dead child, what the fuck?
Still, was this the hill I would fight and die on? My first note in the first chapter of my first published book?
So I turned to a mailing list of readers, writers and friends to ask them what they thought. The overwhelming majority of the responses were along the lines of: “The main character is a guy? And he cries? Sounds sketchy.”
I was surprised and disappointed. I also thought it was a bullshit assumption, but if it was so wide-spread, was I really the one to fight it? So I revised that part of my book (whole chapter available here) like this:
I watched them go, feeling my adrenaline ebb. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little boy, or how fiercely hot the flames had been. I looked down at my own undamaged hands. I felt woozy and sick.
Annalise called my name again. I turned away, ran to the edge of the lot, and puked into the bushes.
When that was over, I had tears in my eyes from the strain of it. They were the only tears that little boy was ever going to get. I tried to spit the acid taste out of my mouth, but it wouldn’t go away.
I wiped my eyes dry. My hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. That kid had no one to mourn for him except me, and I didn’t have that much longer in this world, either. Something had to be done for him. I didn’t know what it was, but as I wiped at my eyes again, I knew there had to be something.
I heard footsteps behind me. “Don’t get maudlin,” Annalise said.
That passed muster, apparently, because Ray’s eyes well up from tossing his cookies and totally not because he is feeling grief, horror and loss.
Why am I bringing this up? Because this is the proverbial stopped clock in Rod Rees thoroughly embarrassing blog post on whether men can write female characters.
(Update: the post seems to have been taken down.)(Now it’s back.)
That link was making the rounds yesterday while the whole Frenkel/harassment issue was going on so I didn’t give it much attention until later. Yeesh, is it a tone deaf mess.
However, on this topic I will say: just because the stereotypes male characters face limit you doesn’t justify using the stereotypes female characters face.
3) But there’s more bullshit in that Rod Rees post, but rather than try to pick it all apart, I’m going to link to someone who’s done a fantastic job already.
I’ll just add that Rees seems like a pretty terrible writer, based on the samples and on the content of his post, but I suspect he’s terrible in a way that will earn him a bit of success. Still, someone should explain to him that certain scenes will break reader disbelief not because of the characters or behaviors the scene describes, but because of the way they’re written. Word choice is character, too, and it matters.
4) In even stranger news, Weird Tales has begun releasing unpublished stories back to the authors. Not due to quality, either; several of the stories have been described as excellent in the past. They’re doing it because they have a backlog of fiction and the pressure to open to new submissions has been intense.
I’m not even sure what to say about this. A magazine is not its slush pile. Still, if the publisher and editor is missing the thrill of going to conventions and meeting people who are desperate to be published in their pages, maybe they could put out a few issues. Maybe they could publish those stories rather than return them.
Why did these guys want this magazine in the first place?
5) Can I just make mention of how humble and grateful I am that folks are so kindly pledging in my name for the Clarion West Write-a-thon? So far, we have raised almost $400 for the workshop and I really didn’t expect so much. It’s a great cause. Thank you all for pledging.
6) Have I mentioned something crazy? When you write a lot, books get done faster. I know, right? The Great Way is nearing completion at a much faster pace that I expected. In fact, I’m entering the series of climactic confrontations about three hundred words from now. Then the first draft will be done and I can start fretting over the Kickstarter.