Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Worthy Reads on Publishing

I've been out of touch for a while, but I'm back.  We'll see how long this lasts.

If you're a writer, at some point in your life you'll try and get someone to publish your work.  I'll tell you in advance that you'll do best if you have the integument of a rhinoceros.  Consider Elderberry Press vs. Random House by that lovable old misanthropic curmudgeon, Fred Reed.

From the article:

Suppose your opus somehow gets to Random House. It will fall into the hands of a first reader, usually a Barnard co-ed with the brains of a trout fly, who likely has never been more that fifty yards from a flush toilet. She will know nothing about America, truck stops, life, or Oklahoma. She will bounce your book.
A somewhat different outlook can be found on Dan Klefstad's blog.  Scroll down to the post “Embrace Rejection” Speech to Writing Students.  It's a somewhat lengthy article, but it's worth reading.

From the article:

I think we should all prepare ourselves for an industry that is structured to say No to your work. That’s the default. Your job is to be so brilliant you force publishers and agents to flip the switch when they encounter your words.

I’ve published many times, but I’ve also been rejected hundreds of times.

You write something, you submit it to a publisher. Pick a publication you aspire to be in or an agent you want to represent you. Then pick several more. Write, submit – don’t even wait for the replies because those take weeks. Write, submit, and embrace the “No thanks” emails when they start coming in.

And remember: The publishing industry has No as its default. Even after you get a good edit, the gatekeepers who are flooded with manuscripts will try to find a reason to keep you out. Dare them to. Because content is subjective and if they don’t like your work now, they might like it later. Or another publisher might take a chance with you.

It’s worth pausing for a moment and reflecting on all the times publishers got it wrong. They said No to authors who’d go on to be blockbusters. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter pitch was rejected a dozen times. John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, got 24 rejections. Stephen King rejected himself initially — He threw out the first chapters to, Carrie. Fortunately, his wife fished the crumpled pages out of the garbage and made him finish it, which he did. Then it got thirty rejections. The list goes on and on, so I’m guessing several people here could – eventually – land a major contract or get into a prestigious journal. You just have to keep trying [emphasis mine - WLE].

In support of this philosophy, here's a link to ten bestsellers that were rejected multiple times before finally being published.  I wonder how many first readers got fired over their decision to reject the work.

10 Best-Selling Books That Were Originally Rejected

My only other observation comes from Stephen King, who stated that if an author isn't reading, he should be writing.  I agree, and so it's back to work for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book 8 of 7

Because seven isn't quite enough.  Juxtaposed to Enid Blyton and her violence free world is the hard boiled detective genre, and the hotly disputed leader of the pack is Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer.

Spillane wrote The Big Kill because he needed money to buy a house.  The general public loved it, the critics panned it, and Mick laughed all the way to the bank, and then bragged about it.  Spillane publicly commented that the one thing all those big shot writers didn't understand is that the world eats more salted peanuts than they do caviar.  And he was right.  Spillane sold over 200 million books, a half-dozen films, and two TV series (one of which he played Mike Hammer).


The Big Kill by Mickey Spillane
So if you're ever getting a little fed up with overly sensitive heroes that are the quintessential 1940s Boy Scout in disguise, go read about Mike Hammer.  Especially the early work.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Book 7 of 7

The last in the series, I selected The Rockingdown Mystery by Enid Blyton, the first in a series featuring the same characters; Roger, Diana, Snubby (Peter), and Loony the black spaniel.  The dog was based off Enid's own dog Laddy.


The Rockingdown Mystery by Enid Blyton
Blyton was frequently on the best seller list, generally near the top,  Critics attacked her frequently, especially in the 1960s, as being a racist and somewhat xenophobic.  Other criticisms derided her world as being viewed through rose colored (coloured, for our British English readers) glasses, and her plots as being pedantic.  I never found any of this to be the case, and like another famous author (Mickey Spillane) I'm sure she laughed all the way to the bank.

I think it's worth mentioning that Blyton encouraged children to help other children and animals, and to show them kindness.  She reasoned that adults are perfectly capable of helping other adults, which I find refreshing.

Another thing Blyton was criticized for was the use of corporal punishment.  Children might get a scolding, but if they did something truly wrong they'd get 'a first class whacking'.  Her words, not mine.

Although Enid Blyton's books were written for children, I still have a copy of the Rockingdown Mystery, and am tempted to buy the next one in the series.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Book 6 of 7

Devil in a Blue Dress is the first book in the Easy Rawlins series.  The protagonist is Ezekiel “Easy” Porterhouse Rawlins, an unlicensed private investigator who does the best he can for his clients.  When the game gets too rough, Easy calls up his sometime friend and associate, Raymond “Mouse” Alexander - a gangster who is so tough every other bad man in town calls him Sir.


Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Mouse is Easy's alter ego; he's the dark side of Easy.  The whole thing plays well throughout the entire series.

In between times, the reader gets to find out what life was like for a colored man in the post-WWII era, and gets a decent tour through black culture.  Meanwhile the author builds a complex plot with a plethora of distinct characters.

If you're interested in a good detective novel, you can't go wrong with this one.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Book 5 of 7

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn.  This is the first Chet (the dog) and Bernie (his owner and a not terribly hard boiled P.I.), as told by Chet.  Although I've seen animal point of view stories before, Spencer Quinn gets it right.  The series is entertaining and well written, although Bernie's motivation can be questionable at times.  Still and all, this is a great series and one I'd recommend to anyone.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Monday, August 5, 2019

Book 4 of 7

Hell House by Richard Matheson was published in 1971, and quickly became the epitome of horror novels about haunted houses.  Some critics have compared it to The Haunting of Hill House, a Gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson.  I didn't find it so, and bluntly, Hell House makes Jackson's novel look like Casper the Friendly Ghost meets Ted and Sally.

Without giving too much away, the life and times of the previous owner, Emeric Belasco, was based on the real life events of Aleister Crowley, a Libertine, mountaineer, and self-proclaimed wizard.  At one time during his life Crowley was proclaimed the most hated man in the world by main stream commercial media.


Hell House by Richard Matheson
So here you have it.  If you want the best haunted house book available, buy this one.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Book 3 of 7

Book 3 is my favorite horror and supernatural anthology of all time, The Supernatural Reader, as edited by Groff Conklin.  I never appreciated an editor until I read this anthology.  Conklin really knows how to select and assemble short stories, and thankfully his taste leans towards the eclectic reader.

Originally, I got this book from my father, who read it and passed it along to me.  I lost that copy somehow, and found a replacement a few years back on Amazon.  The individual stories are difficult to find at best, quite possibly many are unavailable these days - which is a real shame.

So here it is: Choice Three, with a commentary on a few of the stories below.

The Supernatural Reader by Groff Conklin


The Angel With Purple Hair by Herb Paul
A test pilot encounters a very unusual friend who enjoys flying.

For the Blood Is the Life by F. Marion Crawford
Not vampires, no.  But what?

The Stranger by Richard Hughes

Mrs. Manifold by Stephen Grendon
Just what happens to Mrs. Manifold is chilling.

Piffingcap by A. E. Coppard

Shottle Bop by Theodore Sturgeon
An excellent story!  One of the best in the book.

Gabriel-Ernest by H. H. Munro
They might be orphans for a reason.

The Lost Room by Fitz-James O'Brien

The Traitor by James S. Hart

Angus MacAuliffe and the Gowden Tooch by Charles R. Tanner

Are You Run-Down, Tired— by Babette Rosmond and Leonard M. Lake
Too much of a good thing...

The Nature of the Evidence by May Sinclair

The Tree's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Counselman
Another chilling tale.

The Pavilion by E. Nesbit

Pick-Up for Olympus by Edgar Pangborn

The Swap by H. F. Heard

The Tombling Day by Ray Bradbury

Minuke by Nigel Kneale
An absolutely terrifying story.

Bird of Prey by John Collier
Read it, and... well, I don't know what.

The Thing in the Cellar by David H. Keller
You ever wonder why children are afraid of the dark?

Devil's Henchman by Will Jenkins

Lost Hearts by M. R. James

Thirteen at Table by Lord Dunsany
Classic Dunsany, and a great read.

Lights by Philip Fisher

The Silver Highway by Harold Lawlor

The Moonlit Road by Ambrose Bierce

The Curate's Friend by E. M. Forster

All the others are great stories, but these few stood out to me.  Find a copy and read it for yourself.  You'll enjoy it.