Friday, December 26, 2014

A Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This review is also published at Amazon, with a version at Goodreads.
Diclaimer: I have not read any other of Mitchell's work. I included no details of the story, hoping not to spoil any readers' enjoyment.
Three stars, if you like stars.
The title, The Bone Clocks, never made sense to me, though the phrase, the bone clocks, appears twice that I recall, referring to faces, elderly ones in particular. While Mr. Mitchell has written a master class in 1980's British dialect, slang and music tastes (for teens, anyway), about half of the references went over my head, and a few had even been missed by my dictionary. I read in hardcover, so didn't have Kindle's look-up-the-word feature.

I found his descriptions full to overflowing. I liked them very well, except they went on too long for me.

The book is written in first person, using six (if memory serves) different viewpoint characters. No problem there, and all their stories were wrapped up at the end, as they should be. However, Mitchell didn't solve the classic first person problem for the reader: who is this person? until too many words or pages had gone by. Again, this made me uncomfortable, but once settled, he stayed firmly with the character, and the sections were of suitable length.

The plot, or story problem, connecting the disparate sections does appear in the opening chapters. However, it is well disguised, and makes infrequent, seemingly random appearances until approximately the last quarter of the book. Until then, I had the frequent feeling of not knowing why these people were inhabiting my mind, even temporarily. Mitchell does clear it all up in relatively short order, once he gets to it. The denouement is long, but no less heart-rending for it.

You might be excused for wondering why I finished the book if I had the above complaints. The characters drew me in from the first, and brought me back, worrying about what would happen next.

So four plus stars for the characters and their situations, and two stars for not understanding many of the references, the excess (to me) descriptions, the dearth of story line, and my inability to quickly discern the viewpoint character. I hasten to add that these are, like as not, my own difficulty.

I can recommend The Bone Clocks for Mitchell's characterizations, and the story, once it fully begins. The book was a gift.
Find The Bone Clocks here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014, Part III

Part three of my little compendium is again from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In this post, she asks what indie writers have learned in 2014, to complement her earlier post asking the same of traditional publishers. (See Part I.)

After a litany of things she believes she’s learned, she goes on to define 2014 and the way writers, inde writers in particular, have responded to it.

The absolute unarguable end of the gold rush made 2014…

The Year of the Quitter

Writers have disappeared from the dawn of publishing. I wrote an entire three-blog series about that in 2012, listing 12 reasons why writers stop writing.
It’s sad if the writer has to let go of a dream. But sometimes, letting go of one dream enables people to find their actual dream. And that’s a good thing.

The "year of the quitter" segues neatly into

The Rise of the Survivors

I’m pretty sure more writers quit than survived publishing in 2014, but that’s because more writers always quit than survive. As I said above, the entire profession is hard, and for those people who want to get by without working hard, this profession is not for them.
Anyone who’s gotten this far is likely a survivor. While I’m not a quitter, neither am I survivor, at this point. I’m a hobbyist, I think, doing something I like and making it available for others to enjoy, if they wish, after making it the best I can within my budgetary constraints.

A runaway best seller was never in the cards for me; what I like to write doesn’t seem to resonate with many others. And since I’m an OAP, as our British friends might say, I don’t need more than a hobby.

Believe me, Ms Rusch has tons of good points I didn’t excerpt; go and read them. Perhaps light will dawn, or even better, understanding will, and you’ll be able to use her comments to help direct your business efforts.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014, Part II

Another article I found through The Passive Voice warns us, not only as writers, but as anyone who holds a pen in hand and inscribes her or his signature at the bottom of a long page(s) of minuscule type:

I've been struck by the number of comments from writers who seem to think that a bad contract clause is not so very awful if (pick one) the publication is great; the people who run it are great; the bad contract clause is not always enforced. […]

That's all very well. But […] this is exactly how writers get screwed: by making assumptions about a publisher's intentions, by letting their emotions overrule their business sense, and by forgetting that, in the author-publisher relationship, the publishing contract is the bottom line.

I add that not only writers can be screwed by this attitude, though perhaps writers are more susceptible? I don’t know, and I’m not following any other industry with quite the enthusiasm I am publishing, so maybe, maybe not.

In any event, we all should do well to remember that “the […] contract is the bottom line.”

Read the entire warning at Writer Beware.

I’ve recommended The Passive Voice before, and I do so again.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014

A very interesting, articulate article on the business of publishing, whether traditional or indie, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I quote:

Over the past year or two, publishing companies have changed their thinking about the industry. (From now on, I will primarily refer to traditional publishing companies as publishers.)

Some of this change has been happening for years, as mergers and acquisitions grew. Some of it has come from the fact that the large companies have finally understood the impact ebooks and online shopping have had on the industry.

Much of the change is in response to 2013’s dismal fall sales, which happened courtesy of the Justice Department’s investigation of six major publishers and Apple for price-fixing. It didn’t matter how that case turned out; the case itself changed business as usual inside publishing.

Business as usual was this: Before that all important Christmas shopping season, publishers consulted with each other about the timing of their blockbusters.

Think of it the way that the movie industry does: When a film that will suck up all the ticket sales of a particular genre (like an Avengers movie) declares it will release in May, other filmmakers in that genre will avoid that weekend. Generally, studios will release a film that they think will appeal to a different type of audience.

This sort of thing is easier to do in film than in books. A movie takes years to produce and finish. The movie studio will reserve its theater space often two years before that film releases. Sometimes a studio will move a film to a different weekend because of another blockbuster, but often because of production troubles. (This happened with one of the Harry Potter films.) You’ll note that the move will be at least six months after the initial release date.

That’s because of all the moving parts it takes to get a film to market.

Booksellers don’t require book publishers to reserve space in the store ahead of time. There aren’t four or six or twelve slots for books in the average bookstore. There are hundreds.

However, it was smarter marketing to make certain that John Grisham’s latest novel would not compete with Scott Turow’s latest novel, on the theory that legal thriller readers wouldn’t pony up $60 the week of the hardcover releases—they would choose which author they liked best, and only pay $30.

She ends with these ‘comforting’ thoughts:

Traditional writers who go blindly into this world will get screwed worse than they ever have before. Traditional writers who go in with their eyes open might gain some benefits at the expense of a book or two or three.

Generally speaking, the writers who go into traditional publishing are risk-averse. But it would seem to me that the only writers who should go into traditional publishing are writers who appreciate and understand risk.

Because in 2014, the big conglomerates did what big conglomerates do: they reassessed their business and improved it.

Most writers never think to do that with their businesses.

There’s a lot of good stuff, well-researched, between these two snippets. Read the rest of Kris' article. While it's long, it's worth the time.

For what it's worth, being risk-averse shouldn't imply a lack of understanding of risk, merely the desire to reduce its effect.

The comments over at The Passive Voice are generally good, also.

Enjoy, and use your research to make good decisions, ones which benefit you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Quick Update

Since was available, I snatched it up and now the blog is hosted there. If by some miracle you have bookmarked the blogger address, it will redirect, so no problem.

As time goes by, I'll work on a web site to include more than the blog.


I got a report that a reader is unable to comment, so I've changed a setting or two hoping to either point in the direction to fix or at least, figure out what is happening. I'd really appreciate anyone attempting to comment and letting me know via email, down on the right, if the attempt is unsuccessful.

Real content will follow in a day or two.