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)
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 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 Seven

Nov. 8th, 2010 02:09 am
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today was mostly a day off, since I haven't been well, but I have (eventually) got stuff written. And I've finally shut Ragnelle up: I forgot how chatty she is. Good for word count, but most of it will have to hit the cutting room floor. I'm pleased that I snuck in a reference to Bisclaveret, a Breton lay that I'm thinking of doing a proper (and possibly diversified) retelling of.

In the course of messing around on the Kindle store today, I found some ebooks relevant to my interests in retelling fairytales. Or to some people's interests, anyway. There's various different collections, and they all seem to be erotica, but if that interests you, here are the two most relevant: Like a Queen: Lesbian Fairytales and Like a Prince: Gay Fairytales.

I haven't read them, so I can't speak for the quality of them, but I'm sure someone among you would be interested...

Day Five

Nov. 5th, 2010 11:58 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today I am not so grumpy, you may or may not be glad to know. The writing came relatively smoothly today, though I'm irritated that a part I know I will have to cut most of, if not all, is turning out to have a lot of well-written parts in it. Argh.

Suddenly, though, 50,000 words is starting to seem short. I have a problem with longer pieces, generally: I'm so used to writing microfiction that I have hell trying to write anything long. I seem to have figured something out, this time, though. I hope so.

I was worried about disliking Guinevere, but a) she is a nicer person than I'd dare hope, and b) she's funny. Yay!

I have a long train journey in my future. I will have my laptop with me, so I might write, but I do prefer to read, on trains. Hmmm...

In the interests of being useful, here is an article about six (yoga) stretches you can do at your desk. Useful to know -- will help unkink your body, and give you a few minutes break from staring at the screen.

Also, I have discovered there's a pose called King Arthur's pose. Ha.

Poetry!

Oct. 7th, 2010 10:44 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I'm not, by nature, a poet. You might see one or two poems turning up on this blog -- at least two, given this post! -- but I don't promise they're any good. Just like I very earnestly wrote novels as a fifteen year old, as a thirteen year old, or thereabouts, I very earnestly wrote a lot of frankly terrible free verse. Now I tend to play with the very strict forms poetry, more to amuse myself than anything. The poems in this post are both fairly recent (the sonnet is, in fact, hot off the presses).

Both of them are Arthurian in some way, and both are about death. Oops? More commentary below the cuts, with some discussion of more general Arthurian stuff.

Click here to read 'Ragnelle's Lament for Gawain', with commentary )

Click here to read 'After Me', with commentary )

And now you guys know what my poetry is like. This feels kind of like showing my butt in public. Eek.

Creative Commons License
This work by Rhian Crockett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
No one ever warned me how hard it is to write a blog like this! Sheesh. Imposter syndrome like mad, plus the worry that everyone's already said all the intelligent things about this particular topic already. It's possibly true: I'm going to say it anyway.

Anyway, this is the fourth draft of a post that isn't quite the post I was planning to do. I realised I have some things to say about my thoughts on retellings, given that a lot of my work uses pre-existing literature, myths and legends, and given that I also translate Anglo-Saxon poetry for fun. The two processes don't seem that different -- to me, anyway -- in some ways. When it comes to Anglo-Saxon poetry, for example, there are lot of poetic features that don't really translate. Kennings are my usual bugbear. For example, in 'The Battle of Brunanburh', there's a kenning that means 'the leavings of hammers' ('hamora lafan'). You have to think about that kind of thing: do you keep the kenning, to give a flavour of the original poetry? Do you trust that your audience (or the people marking your exam papers!) know that that means 'swords'? Or do you lose the poetic stuff and go for a pragmatic, barebones translation?

Every translation becomes a reinterpretation, too. To translate something in a readable way, you have to decide what it means. Wulf and Eadwacer is my favourite example when it comes to this. Are Wulf and Eadwacer characters? Or is it a literal wolf? Or both? What exactly is happening in the poem? What is the poem -- is it a story? a riddle? a relation of an earlier myth or folktale? If you're going to translate it coherently, you have to decide. You could even decide that the ambiguity of the poem is intentional, and thus try to translate it with as much of that ambiguity as the process of translation will allow. That's still an interpretation.

When it comes to retelling fairytales, or myths, or even history, you're translating it. If you're writing a retelling of The Iliad for an eight year old, you have to leave out the things your audience won't be interested in (the catalogue of ships can hit the cutting room floor first of all). If you're aiming your work at a bunch of academics, you better not take any liberties with the text. Or say you're rewriting Anderson's The Little Mermaid -- this is a pretty good (and hilarious) modern reaction (the link goes to a youtube video called 'Advice for Young Girls from The Little Mermaid'). I can't say it better than that video does.

You also have to do something new with them. Sometimes you can do that just by fleshing out the characters more, making the world richer and wider. Or there's the ever popular change in point of view -- Wicked, anyone? Or even Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker and Godslayer: they're pretty much Lord of the Rings from Sauron's point of view. Grendel and Mordred and Morgan Le Fay deserve their say, too.

Some retellings change it to become their own stories. If there's no story where the princess kisses another princess, or the prince kisses the frog, write one. Malinda Lo's Ash is an LGBT retelling of Cinderella, for example. Modern retellings of fairytales often flip it so that the princess becomes the questing character, as in Robin McKinley's Spindle's End. Or you can go all metafictional, or use a new style, or add in a new twist at the end...

I think I've done pretty much all of these things, in my retellings. A serving girl kisses Sleeping Beauty. The narrative voice mocks the fairytale even as it uses all the formulae. Mark tells the story of Tristan and Isolde with bitter understanding.

The main project I'm working on is going to be based on Arthurian myth, to some extent. I've been hitting the books: I've read my Geoffrey of Monmouth, my Chrétien de Troyes, my Malory. I've also dipped into modern versions (and here I'll pause, to plug Anna Elliott, who offers some of her work for free, and is also involved with Arthurian myth). Hopefully, I'm going to make something new and fresh out of the same old stories. Robin McKinley's written two versions of Beauty and the Beast, at least -- which goes to show there's plenty to mine for in these old stories, right?

I'm also working on another retellings project, somewhat smaller in scale. That might be the next thing I post. If not, I'll try to tell you more about my NaNoWriMo project for this year.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's really weird, starting a new blog, with a new identity. And it's very weird to be embarking on this sort of project. I'm not good with the legal small print. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of publishing. I don't have my finger on the pulse of the literary world. All I know is what I want to write, and how I want to present it to people. The idea of running around trying to sell my work frustrates me -- I've grown up writing for an audience of friends and acquaintances who gave me instantaneous feedback. I've always been in touch with my audience, such as it was.

Well, I don't know how well that's going to translate to this project. Maybe I'll have to jack it in and go into traditional publishing. Maybe I'll never be able to earn a living like this. But I have to try this first.

The idea to self-publish more or less came from Cory Doctorow and Amanda Palmer. Cory Doctorow, for example, offers all his work online. For free. In a multitude of formats. Here's something he says in his commentary on the download page for his book, Makers:

So you own this ebook. The license agreement (see below), is from Creative Commons and it gives you even more rights than you get to a regular book. Every word of it is a gift, not a confiscation. Enjoy.
What do I want from you in return? Read the book. Tell your friends. Review it on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Bring it to your bookclub. Assign it to your students (older students, please -- that sex scene is a scorcher) (now I've got your attention, don't I?).


And yes. This is what I want. I don't know if I'll have print copies available, so my situation is different to his, but his ideas? Oh, yes. The day I read that, I said to my partner: "When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Cory Doctorow."

He's just that cool.

Amanda Palmer suggests a new model for the relationship between artist and audience. For example, from her blog entry Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.
artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.
artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.


That blog might've been the first glimmer of the idea for this project of mine. Seeing the community [community profile] crowdfunding also sparked something.

Like Amanda Palmer, I don't promise I'm going to get this stuff right. But I want to try it. This is a new model for artists of all kinds, and I want to be part of making it work. Or finding out that it doesn't work, and we need to go back to the drawing board. I want to have a frank and open relationship with potential readers, without getting het up about digital copies of my work flying around. I want to write as I've always written, only for a larger audience, who know that everything is happening just as I want it to happen. Nothing is going to happen to my work that I haven't okayed and done to it myself.

I want to know that people are enjoying my work. The most wonderful thing to happen to me would be getting some readers who will download my work for free (or a very low fee), and read it, and then come by and drop £2 in my metaphorical tip jar, and leave me a message saying I made them laugh, or cry, or squeal like a little kid.

Of course, I just read this blog, which I'm pretty sure is saying don't do it. For example:

I’m talking about the blogs and twitter-feeds that may be partly social, but which pollute the social ether with self-promotion and book marketing.


Yes, right up front: I am trying to market my work through social media. I don't have a twitter yet, but I might. I might also get a GoodReads account. I'm going to try not to be obnoxious about it, but yep: here I am, polluting the social ether. I might get the balance wrong -- scratch that. I will get it wrong. (Catherynne M. Valente's post, a rebuttal of that one, is worth reading for the point on the ratio for this. You can find it here.)

Here's the plan, such as it is. So far, I know that I want to use paypal as a kind of tip jar, as I've already kind of mentioned, and that I want to release ebooks for little or no cost. I think Smashwords is probably going to be my vendor of choice. I'm also considering Lulu to offer print-on-demand dead tree copies of my work. I need to read through the various terms and conditions, of course.

I am not going to remind you of this in every single post I make. But, this is my first post, so, if you like what I'm saying, if you like what I'm writing, there's a donate button in my profile, here. You could also help by promoting my project. Or, if you're good with graphics, and you'd be willing to work for little/no pay, then you could help by working with me on a book cover. To get into the Premium Catalog on Smashwords, a cover image is required, if I remember rightly.

Next entry, I think I'm going to talk about what I'm actually working on. But, if there's something else you want to hear about -- at any time -- drop a comment, or email me (rhian.crockett[at]gmail[dot]com), and just let me know.

I'm also thinking about something I can offer, for free, that will kickstart this little project. Stay tuned?

(I need an icon. And a better layout. I'll get right on that, too.)

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

August 2013

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