Vampire love

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It costs you in blood. The self image story is done.

More on the new paradigm

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55327_girl-writing_mdSo now it’s really easy to publish. A lot of the overhead that used to plague the small press is gone with the advent of e-books, and now there are opportunities everywhere. The small press is thriving, where a few years ago it was in danger of dying out. If that’s not immediate enough, you can upload your own content to sellers like Amazon in just a few minutes.

So, the opportunities are wonderful, but are there problems with it? Of course there are. The main one is a glut of content, way more supply than there is demand for reading material. Interest in reading seems to have declined in recent years. While the number of publications is growing, there’s more competition from other directions, like social media, films, games, etc. The next problem is in quality of the material. In 1999 about 90% of sales were from the top 20 publishers, but by 2015, they’re starting to feel the pressures. At this point, maybe 80% of books offered are from self or small press publishing. The result is that big publishers are cutting costs, and what’s likely to go first is editorial and marketing services. It’s becoming more common to see grammatical and coding errors in books, even from top publishers. With fewer literary agents and editors to screen out sub-standard material, it falls to the reader to sort through what’s available to find something that’s well-imagined and well-written.

This is an ongoing train of thought. More on it later.

Coming up with a theme

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Fat BronzeNormally I want my stories to say something. Sometimes it’s just a little something about how people are loyal to each other or hate each other. Other times, I end up with some pretty strong social commentary—reference the Middle Eastern mythology moment I was complaining about a few blogs back. I’m not as subtle at this as some writer are, but it does bring up the question of themes in fiction. Do people really get these? Do they like them? Is it important that people stop and think after they’ve read your piece, or is it better just to entertain?

Am working on one about norms and body image today.

Bad haircuts

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Edward LearEver wonder what people will think of your stories sixty-five years in the future? One of my personal burdens is wavy hair. Not that cute stuff that makes little ringlets on baby’s heads, or even grown-up curls that you can depend on every day. The curls on my head are totally dependent on the weather. That means what the stylist sees on hair cutting day isn’t necessarily what you’re going to get later in the week. When the weather changes, then you can see what’s really there.

This brings me to the idea of how changing conditions can alter how art and literature work. For example, if I wrote a story about domestic terrorism in US society sixty years ago, it would have been considered the worst sort of nihilist drivel. After all, the 1950s was a decade when the forces of good had just won the war and all was right with the world. But looking back on the same story now, people might think it was a brilliant extrapolation of events and a stern warning of how the best political intentions can go astray.

One of the best things about writing is that you’re free, like the hair stylist, to design something, to put together elements of politics and science and social trends and trim them into the shape of a story. Each narrative will end up giving a snapshot of a possible future—of a scary multiverse where possible futures branch from every decision on the world stage. The question is how the design can accommodate change.

Illustration by Edward Lear (1818-1888), from his 1894 edition of Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets.

Happy spring!

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Entwined Old Cover

So, the earth has rocked past the equinox, regardless that it’s still snowing in the Northeast. Daffodils are blooming at my mom’s house this week, and the birds are out collecting for nest material. What more can you want?

If you’re feeling romantic and need some poetry to celebrate the season, check out my collection on Amazon. See cover at the right.

Incidentally, I’ve been working on a cool science fiction story this week. It’s gone very slowly, but it’s finally done today. I have the door open. A little breeze is blowing, and the wind chimes are playing an accompaniment to the beautiful weather. Enjoy your Saturday!

Open for Business

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three-chickens-lela-buisThis website is doing double duty as of today. I’ve had paintings for sale for some time here locally, and I’m in a gallery show at the Knoxville Fine Arts and Crafts Center right now. However, I’ve not had an online outlet. Now I do. I’ve opened an account at Fine Arts America, where I’m going to be selling prints, cards, sofa cushions, phone covers, and whatever else you might like to order with my artwork on it.

So, what is this wonderful artwork, you ask? The answer is that I’ve been drawing and painting for a long time, and it may take a while to get things uploaded. Right now I have some acrylics available, one watercolor and one drawing. I’ll have more up as soon as I figure out how deal with oversize files and other impediments. Check it out here. By the time you see the offer at Fine Arts America, most of the works will be already sold, but you can use the contact page here on my website to ask about buying an original.

Painting: Three Chickens by Lela E. Buis.

The Pleasures of Young Adult Books

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reading-clipart-6These days the pleasure is mainly in the larger print and wider spacing between lines. Really, that’s one of the annoyances of being a little past your prime—not being able to see squat. But recently Ruth Graham said in Slate that I shouldn’t be reading books meant for children. That means I have to justify it now. Seriously, I’ve always liked young adult books, and now new adult has come along with a little bit of added spice.

With apologies to Ms. Graham, there’s a long list of why I really like this segment of the market. First, young adult characters tend to be fresh and hopeful, while adult fiction characters can be harsh and cynical. This means I get that touch of wonder that used to make science fiction and fantasy such wonderful genres. (Shhh. I still love those dragons and elves.) Second, young adult books generally have an upbeat or thoughtful ending. No offense, but if I want, gritty, realistic drama, I can always visit people in the hospital. If I’m feeling depressed, I certainly don’t need more darkness. Last, young adult books are a quick read—I’m a busy person, and I need to get done with the book before I lose it. So, Ms. Graham, am I a case of arrested development? Maybe I’m just too scattered to sit down and work through all those weighty adult tomes.

Young Love, Old Hearts

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oldloveyoungheartsfinal Here’s an early look at the cover for this anthology. Watch for it to come out in May, featuring my story “That December.” I have to say I’m glad to see that LGBT diversity is alive and thriving. I’ve been seeing more fiction featuring people with disabilities, too. As a side note, I’ve submitted a story to Queers Destroy SF, but we’ll have to see how that falls out.

The New Paradigm

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55327_girl-writing_mdI’m going to make a confession here. I’m just not the most sociable person in the world. I have a tendency to get absorbed into the stories that run in my head and forget to come up for air. People try to talk to me sometimes, and I’m so entranced by imaginary people and what they’re saying that I can barely hear and interpret actual sound waves coming into my ears.

But, this winter I’ve had a really bad experience with a virus that temporarily killed off the imaginary characters, so I’ve surfaced into the real world and had a look around. I’ve checked out my Twitter account and my Goodreads account, had a look at my Facebook page, and (as you can see) have posted a couple of blogs here. So, what I notice is the number of writers who are out there trying to sell their intellectual property. This is a big change from the old days when the only names you heard in relation to writing was the New York Times Best Seller List.

Of course, I’m sure that in the old days there were plenty of poets who hid their work in a shoe box in the bottom of the closet where their grandchildren discovered it after they died. The difference now is that these aspiring writers have an opportunity to publish it themselves. Or they can find a small press publisher who is newly energized by the lower overhead of electronic media. This is the new paradigm. It has made a huge difference in the writing and publishing industry, and it’s something we’ll all have to get used to.

What used to be private imaginings are now public. Personal storytelling has reemerged as an art form.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this.

The One Minute Rejection of Outcasts

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Queen_of_the_Night So, a few of you out there might have noticed my shower of Twitter posts about the one minute rejection. I’m thinking it’s worth a blog post, too–it’s just seems such a perfect way to keep a magazine’s slush pile down that I’m surprised it’s not caught on elsewhere. After all, making snap decisions about stories based on the first paragraph or even the cover letter should work just fine to weed out the chaff, right? Here’s how it went.

Back in the winter, I had an attack of philosophy. Actually this was provoked by the submission call for a particular anthology, but I can’t always control what comes out. The result turned out to be inappropriate for that particular market, but I ended up with an interesting triptych study of what it means to be an outcast in the Book of Genesis. Looking at this result, my first thought about it was that it’s an unsalable piece. It’s got several counts against it: First, it involves Biblical characters. Second, it challenges closely held beliefs about these characters. And third, it mixes other Middle Eastern mythology into the analysis. This is bound to offend somebody.

Still, I thought, there are publications out there who advertise for stories that subvert or push the limits. Surely if they advertise that way, then they’ll be ready to take the heat for unpopular viewpoints on characters like Lilith, Cain, Samael or the Nephilim, for example. So, I bravely set out to market the piece. The first result was gratifying. I got a rejection, but the magazine editor wrote that even though they had made the decision not to publish the story, he was honored to have read it. That suggests it’s a really good piece of work. So, I tried again with another well-known magazine that advertises for stories that subvert and push the limits. This is where I got the one minute rejection. So, well-known magazine, why are you advertising for subversive stories if you’re going to reject them based on the titles or first paragraphs? That’s about all you could read in one minute.

So, my conclusion is that Lilith, Cain, Samael and the Nephilim retain their ancient power to haunt humankind. This is a dark and subversive power, the impulse to question what we’ve always been told. The need to look at the dark underpinnings of power and what makes a person outcast in our current society. Race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, different thinking? Why not look at it?

Illustration is the “British Museum Queen of the Night” by BabelStone. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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