rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I'm sorry I've been so absent, lately. I'm doing exams, and applying for an MA, and blahblahblah etc. I just wanted to share this, an article that reminds us that no matter what Amazon says all over the site, you cannot buy ebooks on Amazon. You buy a licence which allows you to read them.

I think authors should be aware of that, too, as well as buyers. I've had conversations with published authors who claim that having the ebook priced almost the same as the print book, or more, on Amazon, is fair, because what you're buying is the story, either way. But that's not the case: with a print book, you own it. You don't own a Kindle ebook.

(I say this as a Kindle owner who will -- up to a point -- buy books on the Amazon store if they're not readily available elsewhere.)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Hello, everyone! It's been a while, I know. I'm knee-deep in writing an essay that's essentially a mythic biography of Sir Gawain, so that's taking a lot of my energy right now. But I do have three things to say.

1) I am still in love (in love all over again?) with the love story in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. It doesn't run throughout the text, no, but the ending leaves the reader in little doubt of how Gawain felt about his wife:

She lyvyd with Sir Gawen butt yerys five;
That grevid Gawen alle his lyfe,
I telle you securly.

In her lyfe she grevyd hym nevere;
Therfor was nevere woman to hym lever.


Even though it does say that 'Gawen was weddyd oft in his days', his relationship with her is set apart as special. I do love it.

2) I am planning, after this Christmas, to put together the Arthurian short stories I've written into a book. This will probably require revision of those already existing, adding some new ones, and the subtracting of those that may not be of general interest (or which I haven't personally researched with references to primary sources).

I'm trying to think up what to do about the cover art. Fortunately, my close friend and my mother are both artistically inclined, so there might be some help for it there.

3) The anthology project is going ahead, still. If you want to get people interested in it, I suggest you link to this post, which talks in depth about the kind of things I'm expecting to include. You can ask me any questions here, or by emailing me at rhian.crockett[at]gmail[dot]com. That's also, I think, where you can send any submissions.

I think I will arbitrarily choose 23rd March as the final submission date, since it's a date I can remember for other reasons! Submissions before that are welcome, but I will probably wait until that date to actually make decisions -- the most you will get is an acknowledgement of the story. If there are any problems with your story (not relevant enough, not in line with the goals of the anthology, etc), I'll email you back if possible, so you can revise it or submit something else. Multiple submissions are okay: max of 5,000 words for an individual piece, and do not submit more than 10,000 words total.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's been a while since I updated you all about NaNoWriMo. I kind of burnt out on it -- I've been writing rubbish for the past few days, just to get it done, for my own stubbornness. I haven't really been interested in updating people about it, because it's, like I said, rubbish.

That's not to say I haven't got anything out of NaNoWriMo. I have, but for some years I've been somewhat burnt out by the whole phenomenon -- the very first novel I wrote for it, Shadow, was glorious. I wrote and explored a whole story, without getting caught up in whether it was good or bad. The same in the couple of years after that. Since then, though, it's become too much of a personal competition with myself: can I finish earlier than before? Can I write two novels in the time? Can I write a good novel?

I'm not sure what I can do about that, other than take some time away from NaNoWriMo. A part of me would hate to do that -- I've participated and won every year since 2004! -- but another part of me thinks it may be the only sensible thing to do. I've stopped taking joy in it.

The experience is very valuable in some ways: getting you to sit down and write every day, getting you to write without second guessing, getting you to throw yourself into it whole-hearted. And even for me, this time, it's helped me get to know my characters, and the story, and helped me to listen to my characters and what they want/need to do.

I'm just not sure NaNoWriMo is what I need, now. I'll have to give the matter some thought, over the next year!

I do want to keep dealing with this novel, so now I have to navigate an editing process, which I think will largely be rewriting almost from scratch. I might try the 'two pages a day' sort of method. I'll probably start work on that in January -- I have some short stories to be writing, through December.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's been a while since I posted about it, but I haven't forgotten about the "diversified fairytales" plan. I've been planning to lead this project, while involving a lot of discussion, so feel free to query any points in this post (or in the comments) and discuss them. Some of this has already been discussed with a couple of people, but it's still not certain.

For those of you who might be new to the project, this is the original post about it, and this is the original idea: to create an anthology made up of 'diversified' retellings, which bring to the fore stories, characters and issues that are typically ignored or deliberately excluded by tradition.

Here are some thoughts I've had on things we need to discuss. I apologise if this seems disorganised: I've never tried to do anything like before.

Things that would not be allowed:
-Fanfiction. It's a legal gray area, for one thing, and we're looking to publish it, so characters and worlds copyright to other people are out of bounds. (There could be some discussion of allowing derivative works based on out-of-copyright canons. If you want to do something like that, let me know before you start work and we'll try to puzzle out the legality of it and whether it fits within the scope of the project.)
-Erotica. While stories should not stigmatise sex, I think we want to make something accessible. Including sex is fine, but I'd say not higher than R-rated, and it should not be the entire point of the story.

Stories that would be allowed:
-Traditional fairytales. Examples: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. Be wary of using anything Disney can claim is copyright, though.
-Myths. Examples: Cupid & Psyche, the Trojan war, the Mabinogion, etc.
-Legends. Examples: King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.
-Fables. Example: Aesop's fables, etc.
-Original fairytales/myths/legends. Example: Neil Gaiman's Stardust. By this I mean anything that uses the tropes of fairytales (or myths/legends) to create a new story. If you want to write a creation myth for a hypothetical fantasy world, for example, that would be appropriate.

Basically, one of those stories we tell and retell. I'm going to collect a list of resources for where to get source texts for free online, so feel free to send me links to add.

Ways to diversify:
-Using myths/legends/folktales from traditions not well known in the West. (It may be well known in the country of origin, but it hasn't been taken up by the West.)
-Including characters of different races, or expanding their roles, in texts where they have been excluded deliberately or used as the generic 'heathens', etc.
-Including characters who do not fit into the normal gender roles given by the original stories, or expanding their roles. I don't want to include a gazillion stories that simply recast the traditional ones with flipped gender roles, but women are often given very unsatisfactory roles in these stories. I'm also talking about including transgendered and agendered characters, who have even less place in the traditional stories we tell.
-Including characters whose sexuality does not fit into the traditional roles. This would include homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and also polyamorous relationships, and possibly also kink-positive ones (bearing in mind that we would want the focus to be on the relationship, not on sex).
-Including characters who have disabilities, whether inherited genetically or received during their lifetime. (E.g. a princess who was born unable to see, or a soldier who lost a leg, etc.)
-Including characters who are not neurotypical in positive roles. Villains can be mentally ill, in these stories, but it's rare for this to be treated with compassion or accuracy.

We're trying to make a collection where there is space for everyone to see something of themselves and their own experiences, in short. Rewrites that simply involve defence of the villainous characters, for example, are interesting, but not appropriate here. 'Dark' retellings are also not necessarily automatically relevant. Either of these could be relevant if coupled with other ways of diversification, of course. The list above is not exhaustive, and I'm happy to discuss adding other things to it -- I have my blindspots, and would appreciate anyone pointing out if I've left something important out.

Other notes:
It's important to remember that this material comes with baggage. Often its deeply misogynistic, and that could even be unintentionally intensified in a rewrite. I'm happy to discuss plans with people, and I'm sure other participants in the project would volunteer to help as well. We as writers also carry our own prejudice, with everything we write, so please be aware of and sensitive to that.

When it comes to the length of these stories, I think they should all be somewhere between 200 and 5,000 words. Microfiction is welcome, as are longer short stories, but we're not going to go as far as accepting novellas!

Re: publishing: my thoughts are pretty much Smashwords, Lulu and the Kindle store, but people with other suggestions to add are very welcome to do so. The ebooks would be non-DRM, and if there is a fee for buying the book, it would be nominal. Personally, I'm inclined towards a nominal fee, and whatever profits we get being donated to charitable causes, but I'm not wedded to any idea yet. Again, discussion is welcome. What this comes down to is that I don't have money to pay you for your stories -- this is a one woman operation, here! Whatever happens, each person would have some space to talk about who they are, what other things they've written and where they can be found, things like that.

I haven't thought much about submission yet. I do want to warn you that I'm not going to automatically accept everything. I will probably ask for a couple of volunteers to read everything and help me decide, but we'll be limited based on how many submissions we get, the diversity of submissions, the quality of submissions, etc. Just because you're my friend will not be an automatic pass.

If you've already published such a story, as long as you still have the right to have it published elsewhere, it's welcome.

We will not only need authors, but someone to make a cover for the collection. I'd welcome volunteers, or we could wait and see whose work will be included and at that point club together to commission a cover...

I will also need help with understanding if there's any legalities I need to be aware of and deal with, anywhere in the process. I am a total newbie to doing this.

Right. Deep breath! I think this is ready to post. As I've said, remember that I intend everything to be up for discussion, and while I do see myself as the final decision maker, I will ask for advice and listen to other people's views.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
There's nothing new about writers complaining about "book pirates", this being only one of the many posts I've seen on it. The usual arguments are familiar, too, and I see no particular need to cover them myself -- a bit of googling should find you more of the debate, if you're interested.

Personally, I try to be mindful in my reading (see: [personal profile] holyschist's post on it, here). If I read a book in such a way that the author doesn't make any profit from it, and there are legal ways to do this (secondhand bookshops, borrowing from a friend, libraries, free copies given out online), I usually try to make sure that the author does profit as a result, provided I think the author is worth supporting (e.g. I would not buy a copy of a book full of racist ableist crap).

The way I do this is twofold: first of all, I talk about the book. I tell people that I loved it, or didn't, and discuss it with people. That happens, in fact, regardless of whether I liked the book or not.

For example, I read Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, on the train this morning. I didn't really enjoy it: the debt to Jane Austen is more than she seems to acknowledge. All the characters, the whole situation, all of it is taken from bits and pieces of Austen's work, and then magic -- "glamour" -- is pasted on over the top. Her writing is competent enough, but without Austen's subtleties. I'd recommend as "beach reading", not as something serious that has depth. Regardless, Mary Robinette Kowal has that benefit from me, if nothing else: she's being talked about, and reaching more people.

Think of Tim O'Reilly's essay, available here, in which he states that, "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

I have friends who would buy anything that has the vaguest link to Jane Austen. And they in turn will tell their friends, who feel the same way, so that from just my not terribly positive reaction to Kowal's work, there's a whole chain of potential sales.

Second of all, I buy a copy for someone else. For their birthday, for Christmas, or just because, whatever. In my case, the answer is usually "just because". That's pretty much the first point all over again, with the addition of my single purchase of the book for someone (which makes, what, 50p difference to the author's potential net profits?).

I have a lot of problems with the argument as it is so often framed. The accusation that "you don't work for free, so why should I?", for example. I didn't know they could read my mind -- wait, clearly they couldn't, since I do (so far at least) write for free. I might be a volunteer for a charity organisation. I might be the partner who stays at home to look after the children, in which case my hard work would almost certainly not be paid for.

(People involved in fandom almost invariably write for free, and often produce wonderful work which cannot legally be paid for. I haven't quite worked out how I want to work that into my argument, but it is on my mind. The idea that there is a moral imperative to pay an artist for their work is likely foreign to many people who are artists, whether they are popularly considered to be so or not.)

My final point is very anecdotal, and not directly related to books and publishing. The music service, Spotify, has been around for a couple of years now. It's a legal way to listen to whatever you want, apparently at no cost to you except viewing a few ads (unless, like me, you pay for a premium account). By this time, most of my friends and family have Spotify, and none of us do any kind of downloading of music, except perhaps where Spotify's catalogue of available music doesn't have what we want.

Spotify may have problems related to how much they pay the record labels and artists whose music they make accessible, but if we imagine it were a perfect system, I think it would cut down on a lot of the problems. One of the reasons people download music is because they want something specific, and they want it right now. Services like Spotify allow instant gratification, for little to no cost. It also allows people to try out new music, some of it old or obscure. Or, for another example, I'm not interested in Neil Young's music, generally, but I've had "War of Man" on repeat, entirely legally, since I was earwormed with it last week. The temptation of downloading it illegally would have been great, if this was ten years ago, when I would neither have wanted to buy the CD nor had a way to pay for a single song online (since I didn't have a credit or debit card).

I suspect that instant gratification is part of the attraction of ereading devices like the Kindle. When I have mine (Christmas!), I'll be able to download books instantly, wherever I am, thanks to 3G access to the Kindle store. They have many books available, many of them at very affordable/competitive prices.

As musicians have in the past, authors need to come to terms with the digital world. My first suggestion for that would be to make sure that your book is available worldwide as an ebook -- I've seen one artist decrying the illegal downloads of a scanned copy of her book as "unnecessary" when no official ebook was available -- and at a reasonable price.

There's a whole 'nother debate about what "a reasonable price" constitutes, which I don't have time to share my thoughts on, just now.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Thankfully, my hand is better today. Not a clue what I did to it, but it doesn't seem to have been permanent.

I did take ages to get today's wordcount, but oh well. Did you know that prophecies are an excellent way to pad it out?
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
A very late update, tonight. I was a bit busy, and also, my netbook doesn't display some sites very well, so I just waited to do this until I could borrow my parents' big shiny computer and play with their installation of Windows Whatever-It-Is.

It took me a loooong time to get wordcount, and my hand hurts. I'm hoping it's not typing related, and that it will be better in the morning...

My mother and I have been discussing the idea of her doing some photography to grace the cover of this particular novel, assuming I ever finish it, which feels less and less likely every day -- oh, I'll get 50,000 words, I'm the stubbornest thing you ever did see on that account, but whether I'll have the heart to keep going back, over and over, trying to fix it... Ugh.

Still, we also talked about me filling a couple of the gaps in my series of Arthurian short stories -- mostly via the addition of some kind of grail quest, although I would probably make it a quest to Caer Sidi to get the cauldron. We'll see how that goes: it might be that I offer the ten pieces as-is, given that they were written to go together and to suggest, in the gaps, the shape of what I don't tell...

In any case, my hand hurts, and I'd best be off to bed.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Trains, trains, trains. Yawwwn. Got writing done before the train journey, thankfully. Not looking forward to writing tomorrow on my netbook.

SleeeeeeezzzzzzzzZZzzzzzzzzz...
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today, the words would not come. I got to the natural ending point for my scene, turned in my notebook to the next scene, and realised that I need a scene in between the two, otherwise it doesn't really make sense. I am trying to make as much sense as possible out of it, so this is entirely necessary.

Sigh.

The weekend will be spent achieving my wordcount on my tiny little netbook, which may or may not go well.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Happily, Wednesdays are my day off, so I got my writing done in good time. I don't have much to say about it, though, so I shall go off and read now.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Got my wordcount in the library, typing away awkwardly on my tiny little netbook, appropriately named Gawain. I'm slowly coming to terms with the realisation that I can't use much of this. But I'm getting to know my characters, and feeling out the plot, and starting to understand my world better, and that's all I really ask.

Now excuse me while I toddle off to do yoga and read more Garth Nix get an early night.

(My mood is due to a case of particularly pernicious hiccups. Ugh!)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today's writing went quite well, thankfully, and was easy enough to get done. Partly because Ragnelle and Guinevere both had points they wanted to make about the society they live in. My Camelot was looking a bit idyllic: they just cut it down to size, between them.

In case anyone was wondering, I elected to read Garth Nix's Mister Monday. Which I have already finished. And I'm partway through Grim Tuesday. So I really was in the right mood for those.

In fact, I think I'll go read some more, now.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It is that part of NaNoWriMo where I feel tired. I want my life back. I want to read, or go out for dinner, or... anything other than write and do work for class. I'm getting an ache in my back that yoga can't quite unkink, whenever I sit down to write.

Still, I'm keeping on with it. I always do.

If you were going to read relaxing children's/YA lit, would you go for Garth Nix or Eoin Colfer, right now? I've been meaning to get round to both, and it could be a nice break for my poor brain...
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Day thirteen was... day thirteen. I backed up my novel, and eked out my wordcount during another interminable train journey. I'm currently developing the character of the victim's mother, and she is surprising me a little -- she embodies a kind of commentary about the kind of king Arthur is.

Too bad this chapter is badly overwritten and probably needs chucking, when I edit.

In lieu of more interesting content, here, an article I liked on inclusionary writing.

Day Twelve

Nov. 12th, 2010 11:43 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today, I mostly had to catch up on stuff I've been neglecting during my week off. But I finally did, and I've even written and gamed a bit, too. Got my wordcount for the day this evening: unlike previous years, I'm very much sticking to '1667 words and then stop', every day. I have too much else to do.

Anyway, my characters continue to be gloriously disobedient, and I think Vivienne and Ragnelle might be sisters -- and that might be a spoiler, but I don't know yet if it's going to be important. I don't think so.

Now I'm going to curl up with a book! I've been rediscovering the delights of reading on my iPod Touch, but tonight is actually a dead-tree book, as it happens. (They smell so nice!)

Day Eleven

Nov. 11th, 2010 04:03 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I've procrastinated far too much today, but I have at last got today's count. Have seriously been neglecting my studies, though, so now I shall get on with those -- once I get dressed. Oops.

(And perhaps I should tidy my room. *eyes the chaos of papers and books*)

Day Ten

Nov. 10th, 2010 09:25 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today's been quite interesting, as I got to start writing about Merlin and Vivienne. They're not quite behaving as I expected, but I've come to anticipate that, with this story. And they're probably right that the way things are working now are more sensible.

Still, as I said on twitter, Chekhov must be a pretty careless guy. He's leaving his guns all over my story.

(Well, I thought it was funny.)

Day Nine

Nov. 9th, 2010 12:57 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Got my writing done early, today! This because I am going to go out and do outrageous things, like talk to people in the real world.

At the moment, I'm still intrigued, though, by what my characters have been setting up behind my back. First Gaheris was all worried over some issues with Gawain, and then Cai stepped out and mirrored him, with his issues with Arthur. I didn't expect that.

Gawain remains clueless, though; it's only Gaheris and Bedwyr that realise there's parallels. Oh, characters.

(Still no sign of a title. I wish it was something you could go out and hunt: I wish that somewhere there was a big cave, called, say, "The Cave of Prospective Titles", and you could go there with a butterfly net and catch one, and it would know best about what your work should be titled, and you could accept its professional judgement.)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
A rant, or some thoughts -- I'm not sure which, yet, but you'll know by the end, I'm sure -- on the relationship between poetry and prose. Some reactions I've seen in the past few days: "whippersnappers these days don't know what real poetry is, they don't teach them anything these days"; "pretentious prose writers keep evilly sneaking poetry into their novels"; "there isn't an essential difference between poetry and prose". Etc.

I'm in the latter camp ("no difference", I mean, not "etc"). I don't honestly see the meaningful difference, as a poet who is also a prose-poet who is also a novelist who is also a literary critic. Microfiction is also called prose-poetry, and sometimes the same piece is considered to be poetry in one anthology and a piece of short prose in another. Sometimes I have no idea where the meaningful difference lies... and I don't see anything wrong with that.

I chose microfiction as the framework for this discussion, because it's a point already under some discussion. However, my feeling is that the same things are applicable regardless of length. A piece of work that consistently pays attention to its use of language -- the rhythm and sound, the imagery, and other such useful poetic devices -- is poetry, to me, in a sense. If it's presented to me as a novel, I'm likely to call it that, because that's what it is first and foremost, but I think the line between poetry and prose is an artificial one.

What exactly is the difference? Is it one of form? Is the difference between poetry and prose the way it is arranged on the page? So if I took Dylan Thomas' famous villanelle and arranged it as prose, it would become prose? Granted, it would still have the very specific rhyme scheme and echoes of its form, so instead say that I took one of Carol Ann Duffy's free verse poems, and arranged that as prose. What now?

Is it one of length? Past a certain length, something is no longer poetry but a novel and therefore prose? What happens then to famous works like Homer's Iliad, or Beowulf, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

Is it about the language? In which case, how do you draw the line? There are plenty of poems that don't use the 'fancy' words of poetry: Seamus Heaney's, for example, are down to earth and plain. What, then, makes them poetry and not prose?

If I write a short story, and it has its own internal rhymes, and a very specific rhythm that I spent hours creating, and condensed and crowded images that most people accept only in poetry, but it also tells a story and has dialogue and is arranged like prose, what then? And what if I wrote an entire novel like that?

I just don't think there's always a meaningful boundary. And personally, I won't be insulted if you read my work and spot poetic language in my prose. That's pretty much crucially the point. If it's there, I did it on purpose. It's not some kind of scam, and blurring those clear-cut boundaries is fun. I promise, it doesn't actually impinge on anyone's ability to appreciate "real" poetry.

(I am not sure I became as coherent as I wished to, in the course of this. View it more along the lines of a rant than some kind of anti-prose/poetry boundary manifesto.)

Day Eight

Nov. 9th, 2010 02:18 am
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today, I have been a lazy, lazy Rhian, and have only just got my wordcount for the day. Part of it is that I'm trying to get Bedwyr to talk, and he's not the talkative type -- and he's supposed to be talking to Gaheris, who is also the quiet type. This all leaves me wishing I could box their ears or something.

I planned out the chapter that will probably be written on Wednesday, and discovered that Vivienne was planning to make an appearance -- two books early! Ugh.

I'm still short a title. In fact, all potential books of the series are completely sans title. How does anyone else pick titles? I've been known to reference songs and poetry, but none occur to me for this, and it's not like a microfiction where I can pick a single concept to highlight... Ugh.

Tomorrow I'm due to see a friend during the day, and to see a concert in the evening, so I'll have to get my wordcount done in the morning. That, and work on university stuff. Erk.

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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

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