Friday, January 29, 2016

The Monster You Call a Novel

So many things can go wrong when crafting a novel. Shall we?
  • Your characters are cardboard. Flat Stanley, if you will (although for a flat kid, he has immense personality).
  • The plot splits off into threads of lunacy. Lunacy! No logic, I tell you, such that you can't dig out of the rabbit hole (see, it happened to Alice!) and you just have to stay there playing croquet with a mad woman.
  • Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing but the workings of your characters' meandering minds. Though Holden Caulfield is the shining exception. (You literary types, button it. I know you think nothing has to happen in your novels, but it does anyway.)
  • Secondary (or, God forbid, tertiary) characters upstage the protagonist/antagonist. How can this happen? They start out so cute and sweet and then - DEAFENING SUCKING SOUND - you feel compelled to write novels to explain them (anyone heard of Bree Tanner?). (Other writers would call this a spinoff, collateral, branding extraordinaire and run with it until the train is too far gone.) (Again, Bree Tanner and her brood will NEVER die).
    Scary, isn't it?
  • You think writing in ALL CAPS or using parenthetical phrases will make the story more interesting. (ahem)
  • The hero dies too soon. It seems to work in psychological thrillers, but Hitchcock, you are not. 
  • A hundred-thousand words into the story and you haven't the vaguest idea when it will end or how. Or the opposite, 10K words in, and you're finished. Separate but equal problems.
  • The gangly mess you loved is no longer lovable because, in fact, you lose interest in the storyline. If you can't love it, no one else will.
  • You finish, writing 50K-80K words, tidily wrapping up loose ends, and set it aside for a few weeks. Then you reread it. Realize you may have wasted a good eight months to two years of your life. Doughnuts and a good cry are in order. But they won't help the revisions.
All these, and so much more, make writing novels a scary proposition. Novels eat up your time, your hemoglobin, your sanity, your ability to think of anything else. I say to friends, they are monsters. I have to write poems inbetween novels because a poem is a few lines, finished, neat. Yes, they can be improved but in minuscule proportion. Novelist must be obsessive and a little off-kilter. Does this help? It can't hurt.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

And for 2016, A Micro-Press

Last year, I had a dream. Not a night-time, fuzzy version populated by strange characters from my past slinking in and out of the scenery. I had a dream to start a tiny publishing house. House. What a big word for such a small venture. Mine is more like two playing cards (Jokers) leaned up against each other.

Everything in my logical mind (and here is where I spend far too much time, hence many of my dreams are never pursued because practicalities outweigh possibilities) said GET REAL. Who are you to publish other people's work? A literary genius? An editor with aplomb? A deep-pocketed heiress? No, I am none of those. And I started a press anyway.

Enter the world, Black Bomb Books.

The name suggests my thought process. I wanted to blow up my own conventional ideas about what I was supposed to do. Smithereens, we're talking. Who has a corner on the publishing world? I'm here to tell you, no one does any more. The landscape is a shambles, and so why not agitate the chaos and send another voice into the smoke heaps. The old ways of publishing are burning down. Black Bomb is another detonation. More like a firecracker.

Thing is, I knew plenty of good, dedicated writers who couldn't find the right place to publish their work. It often takes years of trying. Years of writing something new. Writing something commercial, something marketable, before an agent or a publisher takes interest. This causes good writers to give up. Should they? I think there is room in the world (the galaxy) for many, many stories. If one writer's story or poem fails to attract the interest of the NY brain trust, should the writer up and quit? What a tragedy. And this happens far more than is researchable. Drawers and drawers full of dusty manuscripts.

I'm not the answer to rejection; I just didn't want to contribute to it when I had the skills to give a few good pieces of work a little push out into the world. That's how I envision it, as a way to put a shoulder into a writer's efforts, give the artist some encouragement, tell her the work is fine work, should be birthed, and wouldn't it be grand if he could hold it in his hands, for kicks, for others to read, for mom-n-dad, for people to see the connections.

Writing is truly about connecting with humanity. A writer's ideas are letters of hope (even the zombie books and the erotica). We fling our stories out into the universe and say to the swirling stardust: You might be bigger, but take a look at this. I hope my little press launches a few good ideas and the writers who wrote them. Potentially lighting a few more fuses.