Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DBW Conference - Tracking Inside Ebooks?

This morning I've been reading a roundup of information for the Digital Book World 2012. (#dbw12) Several things caught me as a bit uncomfortable as an author, but this one caught me as uncomfortable on the reader scale.

The EPUB 3 publishing language, for instance, allows for JavaScript to be embedded in e-books, which would theoretically allow publishers to track their readers’ reading habits – if only retailers would allow that code in the books it sells and build e-reader software capable of supporting such technology.

Read the article, "Barnes & Noble to Share More Reader Data with Publishers ."

Personally speaking, I find this a bit intrusive. Isn't it enough that every time I purchase something with a debit or credit card, someone, somewhere is tracking my spending habits? Every time I buy something online, same thing. How far does this intrusion really need to go? I realize researchers and marketers need their data, but...

Do I really need to read a book and feel that someone's "big brother" is looking over my shoulder as I'm reading my book? If I want someone in bed with me, I'll invite them.

As it is, the reading suggestions I get from Amazon because I happen to look at certain books, gets a little carried away, and has absolutely nothing to do with my long-range reading habits. The range of books I read is across the spectrum, with many different variables tied into the book-of-the-moment. One of the reasons I love browsing bookstores. Hey, send me a survey so I know what information I'm sharing and who I'm sharing it with, and I'll decide if I want to share it.

When does the need for market research cross the line into an unwanted, and unexpected, intrusion of my personal space? Rest assured, there's nothing more likely to send me back into a bookstore with cash in hand to buy a nice print book with no one looking over my shoulder except for the fact that another copy of that print book was sold at that store in that particular part of the country.

It's not that I actually care who sees what I'm reading or tracking in that sense, but for me there's an intimacy in the reading experience. If I want someone else inside that book with me I'll invite a friend to a read-aloud exchange.

This is likely to have me looking a lot closer on terms of use features before buying an ebook, and what format that ebook will take. I am more likely to purchase from smaller publishers who simply want to sell me a good book in digital format, and then track what books seem more popular. But I suggest publishers take a close look at those terms of use on that software, too. Look at what Apple is doing with their iBooks Author formatting app and the limitations on using that app. Not really yours, is it?

Deregulation can be a wild card. Radio and television have, or had certain regulations on who could own what and there was someone watching how things bled out into each other, looking at monopolization that could lead to a certain level of unwanted control of media. Think FCC.

Gosh, some days of late it feels like walking through a landscape filled with hidden land mines. Watch where you step.

Seems to me there's a lot of inbreeding going on in the publishing world at the moment and I wonder who's watching? Attempting controls of pricing, everyone dipping their toes into the publishing arena, software companies attempting to control how their software is used and defining sales channels to be used, possible internal tracking of reader habits. The market is wide open, I'm seeing problems ahead. Take another look at that word, synergy. Not always quite such positive energy there.

I want to see a free market in the publishing world--much freer than it has been. There are some real jewels out there in books that now have an opportunity to come to light. I'm excited by those possibilities. On the other hand, as often happens, there are the dangers of misuse as well.

They put a good spin on it, but IMO, one needs to be more aware than ever of what you're buying in that digital package--ebook, apps, and/or software. Don't go in blind--know what you're really buying--or not. Know how much of your private habits you're sharing with the outside world. How much do they really need to know? How much do you want them to know?

Just saying, and, of course, just my opinion... And yours would be?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the flesh of language

Started reading a book the other day, "The Spell of the Sensuous" by David Abram. It's a nonfiction, rather scholarly book, coming under the subject heading of "nature/philosophy." I was looking for a book in relation to human spirit and the natural environment.

In the chapter I'm reading this morning, "The Flesh of Language," I found this passage particularly noteworthy, and wanted to share it.

"We thus learn our native language not mentally but bodily. We appropriate new words and phrases first through their expressive tonality and texture, through the way they feel in the mouth or roll off the tongue, and it is this direct, felt significance--the taste of a word or phrase, the way it influences or modulates the body--that provides the fertile, polyvalent source for all the more refined and rarefied meanings which that term may come to have for us."

I love words and how they work together and how evocative they can be. The sensations that can erupt from the use of a single word, or a phrase woven together.

Language at its core can be a primal thing. When an infant utters that first cry when he or she emerges into the world, this is not a learned response. It is a response to a bodily event. It comes from within, not without, yet it is a response to exit from that safe, warm environment of a mother's womb, into a larger, unknown environment. For that small individual, the utterance of that first cry represents many things, none of them actually learned. It is instinct at its most basic level. A reaction to altered bodily state and the spark of recognition to that state.

A cry--pain, happiness, despair, joy, anger, surprise, ecstasy. That sound--the word "cry" is so much more--that bit of language is represented differently for each emotion, each sensation, each experience.

"He cried out," informs us little of the experience. "He shouted for joy." "She sobbed," "He groaned," "The drawn out unearthly howl echoed through the moonless black night." "His bitter words scorched her with the fury of his anger."

Words are not simply words. Nor is a phrase or sentence just a bunch of words to trip the story along. Nor should they be a mimic of some other story that one thinks fits the scene. Language has to be real to these characters in this story, in this moment. Time, space, moment, era, world, instinct, sensation. Shy, bold, brash, demure, aggressive, dominant, submissive, sophisticated, extrovert, introvert, slave, master, powerful, sly, coarse, smooth, Caucasian, Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Black, White, Asian, man, woman, child, infant, ghost, shapeshifter, wolf, bird, fish, merman...Quentopian, Orictan... or any combination. How will the cry differ? I want to feel the words in my bones. I want to taste its color. Let me experience the words deep into my soul. I want them to grip to squeeze, my heart and mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Sweet Pain of Story Creation

Creation can be a painful process. Sucking out the nectar of an idea, refining it, fueling and bringing it to life. It hurts, it stings, it burns, but like honey, so sweet and golden and satisfying when it comes to fruition. That kind of pain feels so damn good, and it's extremely addicting.

I've always fallen somewhere in-between plotting and pantsing. There's also the problem in that each story evolution can be a very different process. There really isn't a set methodology to my creation process. Can't help it - that's just the way it is.

I was reading a book the other day, and I think I've mentioned it before, "Uncertainty" by Jonathan Fields. The author speaks of the roadblocks we can hit in the creation process that can grate. He speaks of "leaning into uncertainty" but tempering that with ritual and "tangible manifestation of your commitment." He calls the manifestation, "process simulation." In other words, writing down and making the process more concrete, in order to move toward the ultimate completion of the goal. Follow-through.

When I read this chapter and saw that phrase, "process simulation," something clicked. I am a great maker of lists--store lists, errand lists, task lists. I kept morphing that word, "simulation," into "stimulation." Because that's what those lists really are--they stimulate the action.

When I contemplate the creation of an outline, it falls under that same heading. I don't think of the outlining process we learned in high school. That's not the outlining I do when I'm going through the creative process of brainstorming my story ideas.

I've often found that what will block me in pantsing, is the "idea" that I don't know where this story "could" end up. I'm not seeing a clear way to get to the end. For some stories that works, for others, beyond a short story, it can freeze me in place.

I've never thought of a story outline as being concrete. For me it represents sort of a parachute, where I can maybe direct sort of towards where I want to land, though I may decide not to land on an exact target spot, maybe near enough, in an even better place. But I have an idea about where I want to land, and hopefully it won't be in the middle of the ocean, with no life jacket to help me get to shore. I like that life jacket, I don't want to drown; I don't want my story to suffocate before it even gets a chance at life.

If I get tangled up in the story, if the characters aren't quite talking to me the way I would like, I can look back at that outline to ground me, before I end up on an unknown shore that could end up being stagnant and poisonous. I like that grounding--I like that sort of lifeline that keeps me from floating too far away from the original intent. That outline is one-dimensional, it is not a fully-fleshed out, complete animal. It's the bones--the skeleton which I will need to animate. And that's the writing process. It also helps with dealing with some of the early "red flag" warnings on story evolution.

Fields refers to this as "process simulation." I would change that just a bit and call it "process stimulation," because that's really what an outline should do. If I have an outline, a few words for each chapter, perhaps for each scene, I can sit down, I turn the editor off, and I just expand on those lines, until I have at least a certain number of words written. Editing comes later, it's getting the words down on paper that counts. I love the refashioning, the real fleshing out that comes later.

So for those that drag their feet on the word "outline," no problem. A more fluid, perhaps organic term might be "process stimulation." A "story stimulation guide--summary--or whatever." It equates to a manifestation of the muse. Something tangible. A story stimulation guide seems a bit less intimating than the word... o-u-t-l-i-n-e, which seems so...concrete, sort of set in stone and stagnating.

I like an organic process, but that can also be painful when you're looking at a blank screen.

There's another reason I like using a "story stimulation guide." It tends to preserve the forward momentum and keeps me from running down the road to the shiny object of a new story forming, it keeps me anchored to the current project. I tend to have a very fertile imagination and so many characters and storylines running through my head that sometimes that can be actually destructive to the working process. Having that "story stimulation guide," is a lifeline to narrowing my focus, bringing me back to the story I want to finish. It's very frustrating when you have all these characters inside your head trying to get you to focus on them instead of the current process. Some of them can be pretty aggressive. It ends up turning into debilitating procrastination.

A "story stimulation guide," means productivity. This relates to the business side of writing.

My foundational tools, stacks of 4x6 index cards (colored and white), pencils, Ywriter software (which is free). Once I have my "story stimulation guide" completed, I transfer each chapter to a white index card. If I have scenes within the chapter, those go on colored index cards, marked by scene POV. Add a few blank index cards for additional notes. I transfer the information to my Ywriter software. As I said, this is an organic process. This is only the beginning.

This makes the "story stimulation guide" portable, and because it's in pencil, easily altered, lightweight, shoved into a storage baggie, and easily fits into my purse.

It's not awfully techie, that comes later. This is the organic creative process which will help to make the writing come a bit easier when I actually sit to write the story.

This is why I can usually work on more than one story at a time. I can be writing one story (because I have my "story stimulation guide") and be preparing a guide for the next one. And somehow it seems to appease the hoardes of characters running around in my head not related to the current project who have to wait their turn.

It's all organic, the story is always in motion, ideas building one onto the other. That's exciting.

So, remember that term -"story stimulation guide." And thank you to Jonathan Fields for stimulating that thought process and helping me "lean into uncertainty."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Haevyn - A first Glimpse, and something about names

I was going to share a bit about the E.L.L.C. - the elite logical life core, this week, but this morning I received the final cover for Haevyn.

Here it is, the cover for my upcoming novel, Haevyn, the second book in the Humanotica series, coming from Samhain Publishing. I've just been given permission to share it. Due to be released in March 2012.

My thanks to Kanaxa, who has done an absolutely fabulous job in capturing the essence of Haevyn with her imagery for this cover.

What's this story about?

Duty and honor demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Everyone has their poison. For Haevyn Breina, it’s her inability to resist a dare. This time it’s a challenge from her friend and lover, Grisha, to sneak into the popular, illegal cage fights that always end in all-male orgies. Eagerly she snaps up the gauntlet, unaware that she will end the night forever changed.

When expatriate humanotic warrior Entreus locks eyes with Haevyn at the sex-fueled event, he is instantly captivated. Despite a duty that binds him to an exiled malevolent sorcerer, he seeks her out in a shattering, illuminating encounter.

Grisha’s plan is in motion—to bring both his warrior lovers together and heal their scarred souls with a combined passion that he alone cannot provide. But Haevyn’s tormented past refuses to die. And Entreus will not rest until the Core that ruined his life is destroyed.

Amid ever-tangling emotions and a brutal plot to take over the city, the three lovers walk a tightrope that could be cut at any moment. Fighting for justice, bound by duty…and a love that could alter the foundations of their world.

Warning: Watch out for oiled-up, naked trinespined warriors battling for top position, feisty tracer females that fit oh-so-snugly in between, and sexy nights that segue into complex relationships. Beware of tebitcheckers wielding those nasty little contulators at illegal, testosterone-drenched cage confrontations.

Something to think about. In naming my characters I often look to name meanings or what I want the name to say about a person. With Entreus, I wanted sort of a gladiatorial sort of name and came up with his name. For Haevyn, it's sort of a play on what she's unconsciously seeking. And with Grisha - well, Grisha is a Russian from of Gregory. And if one looks up the meaning of Gregory, it means "vigilant watchman." I think in many ways this name is appropriate for him.

And those illegal cage confrontations are officially, or unofficially called...Cockrage Events. Man games.