Monthly Archives: January 2012

Going On The Account: Reading Another’s Rutter

I had a brief what-am-I-doing-here contemplative moment between washing down the bathroom, doing the dishes, having my son show me his latest YouTube find,  and getting more work done on the novel and a few other projects.  Yes, the glamorous life of a writer…

 

So while I’m goofing off getting some reading done, I come across an update on Ben Kweller’s music career.  For those asking, “Who?”, Ben had been the front man for Radish, a group that helped draw attention to the “Sugar Metal” scene, and was the subject of a major profile piece in THE NEW YORKER.

 

What strikes me as I read the TIMES piece is how much where he ended up is close to where I am now, doing much of the actual work from the living room (still a mess; have to deal with that soon…) and being hands-on over a large portion of the operation.  Which is something that really needs to be stressed to anyone wanting to be a writer these days.

 

There may still be a few folks out there who imagine that when you write and get yourself published, that there’s still this organization you can turn to that will handle the mundane “busy work” for you and allow you to write.  Once upon a time maybe, but the slots for those posting are going away, getting more exclusive when they do open up.  The reality is now, you want to be  a writer, you have to be able to know something beyond good story-telling, like how a distribution chain works, what constitutes a good deal with partners you may find for pieces of the business like royalty disbursements should you luckily find an ancillary revenue stream for your work, and a deep understanding of what I just said in this sentence.

 
And please, if you do understand these elements of the business but feel the “good story-telling” element is secondary (and you know who you are), there’s a few pieces of real estate in various imagined after-lifes  I’d recommend to you…

The takeaway is, not to bitch too fine a point on it,  that we need to do a better job of informing the writers who want to participate that there’s more to what we do than just sitting down to write.  Now that we have the means to get out there and get our voices heard, we also need to manage that aspect of it a lot better.

 
Because if we’re seeing elements of this so clearly in the music business, which has had a very convoluted history of complex relations between artist and label, then maybe we need to consider whether the whole writer-publisher experience needs to be rethought before we make too many more of those mistakes ourselves…

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Going On The Account: Time To Talk Of Many Things…

Well, I’m feeling better.

 

Yeah, big whoop…

 

So anyway, on to more important things:

 

I was not aware that there are seventy one pirates in custody aboard vessels of the Fifth Fleet on station.  Of course, we can’t do what the British used to do to pirates, or what the Russian Navy does now, but unless an effective alternative to a “catch and release” program is set up, then Combined Task Force 151 is going to be a long term deployment for everyone out there…

 

Speaking of pirates, Randy Mulholland, the creator of SOMETHING POSITIVE (which can be a bit NSFW, fair warning), is alerting people about fake Facebook apps being applied to his strip and others where the creator solicits a dollar to “keep the strip going” and then pockets the donation without the creator seeing a single penny.  I’ve seen a lot of false flag action and flim-flams aplenty, but this one really takes it.  If you see a work you like and one of these is attached to it, report the SOB and take him or her down.  Just because we write about pirates don’t mean we support stuff like this…

And BTW, if there’s ever a solicitation for money connected to my work, you’ll know it’s from me because I’ll offer something beyond vague promises in return for your generosity.  Yes, I’m still thinking a keepsake version of RAGING GAIL, sometime down the pike…

 
And while we’re discussing writers and their work, there was a disturbing piece about John Rozum discussing his turn as writer on DC’s STATIS SHOCK.  Executive summary version:  He was hired as the writer for the comic book, but ended up being ignored as the artist took over all the writing chores, leaving Rozum’s name on the masthead to get the blame when the book went down in flames.

Assuming everything here is on the level (and I’m enough of an SOB to consider the possibility that if I were him and wanted to deflect the blame, I’d cover my flanks hard too), the idea that a writer would be retained but left out in the open in favor of the artist doesn’t say much about the process or thinking behind the people putting together this work.  I’d hate to think the folks at DC Comics are creating a bad work environment, especially as they are so far behind the curve compared with the goings on at Archie Comics

 

Yeah, that was kinda low…

 
Thing of it is, with comics being such a visual medium, it’s easy to assume that the writer is not the main driver in the creation of the piece, or the one who keeps things going over the long haul.   Even to this day, over years of attending comic happenings, how hard it is to get noticed in the comics business if the only thing you can draw is your checking account down to zero, which we writers do with alarming frequency.  And it doesn’t help that it seems a lot of opening for writers in comics the last few years when they fill with outside people are folks with WGA cards in their wallets.  Some of the most watched plot lines in comics the last few years, involving Spider-Man, Superman, and Wonder Woman, were penned by the man who gave TV BABYLON 5.  Would filling the position for these three titles with someone else have ended up with a better result?  Who’s to say, but maybe expanding the pool out a bit wouldn’t have hurt, y’know…?

Staying in rant mode, I remember an event at New York Comic Con two years ago hosted by Buddy Scalera where he tried to get creators together and form partnerships, using the speed dating model.  And the number of writers who overwhelmed the room made us all feel like we’re putting spots in the “Men Seeking Women” section of the VILLAGE VOICE Classifieds.  I made a few connections despite the disparity, but it’s indicative of how the expectations work in that field, and why not everything reads like Alan Moore wrote it, because he can’t do 52 titles a month and they need someone to fill the position, which they may not be doing their best to find.

Oh, don’t look at me like that; I made it clear years ago that I would like to write comics; you just didn’t pay attention back then…

 

Well, to get off that tact, what may be of interest out there is that the South Street Seaport Museum is reopening soon.  When it does, I have to see if they added a few exhibits about New York’s pirate history; if so, I’ll write that up and share here.

 

Provided the above didn’t push you away that far…

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Going On The Account: RED JENNY Forty Seven

Part Forty Seven of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: Items Of Interest

I’m still reading the news, despite this stuffy head which makes me feel like my brain’s afloat in the midst of the Sargasso Sea…

First off, SEAL Team 6 went into Somalia to rescue an American and Danish aid worker from pirate kidnappers.  It’s the first (publicly known/acknowledged) action taken by Spec Forces on land there, and right now doing a lot better than Kenya’s Operation Linda Nchi.  It wasn’t exactly the Battle of Derne, though if you ever wanted to compare Barrack Obama to Thomas Jefferson, now it’s a lot easier to do…

 

Also catching my eye was an AP article about the Department of Agriculture changing the planting zone codes to reflect climate change’s effects.  What’s interesting per the piece is how during the last administration, there was considerable effort to not change the zone map, with the proposed changes from 2006 only now being adopted; just saying…

But not saying much more; my eyes feel like six pound shot being forced through a four pounder’s barrel every time I blow my nose.  And if you’re not so into the pieces above, then the last thing you want to hear is me go on about my health…

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Going On The Account: Double Time On Those Galley Oars!

So I finally have a few moments to get to work on the big project, grabbing what few moments I can between the other obligations out there; hell, it took me two phone calls to finish up to get this sentence finished…

Before I can get started, I run across a few articles about smugglers plying the trade between hostile countries and piracy in that same theater.  And the more I read it, the more I realize I have to finish up the work before someone assumes I’m just cribbing from the news wires instead of working out a plot; it reads like there’s too many damn potential spoilers in these bits about stuff I plotted over a year ago.

*sigh*  I feel like a technothriller writer rushing to get something on paper before the Berlin Wall fell…

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Going on the Account: RED JENNY Forty Six

Part Forty Six of RED JENNY AND THE PIRATES OF BUFFALO in now up, and may be read here.

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Going On The Account: Did You Hear What’s In Dry Dock…?

So when is a book still a book?  And will what we call it now still apply even a decade off?

 

Where this comes from is, I’m having lunch today with my wife at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods, a treat and a diversion after we dealt with some business in the neighborhood.  (It’s not that common an occurrence for us; there’s a reason this place has the nickname of  “Whole Paycheck,”after all…)  Because of the way the seating is under there for people trying the salad bar, it’s cafeteria style with people at low benches seated next to each other, sitting face to face with total strangers , whom I assume the people designing this had intended would allow diners to meet and greet new folks.  All of which ignored the tendency New Yorkers and many people in dense areras have of putting up their own barriers to keep their reserve.  Which is understandable; if humans didn’t do that, time spent on long voyages at sea under decks and for more than a week in a typical New York apartment would be unbearable…

 

So my wife and I are having parallel discussions alongside two young ladies, one of whom is discussing her book for her creative writing program.  It sounded like she was doing everything people on the right path trying to get a book done would do, talking to her advisor, visiting Oxford, MS, and making contact with people where John Grisham cut some teeth, all the stuff people on the other side are doing.  This being as opposed to what I ended up doing, getting out there and having my ass handed to me and turning that into something to talk about…

 

So here I am, budinski*-esque in my own way hearing these two go on about their lives right in front of me in a public place (and not bothering to put their trash away when they finished their meal, giving this discussion some small justification), and the novelist-to-be discusses how her book has some video components tied to it that she was working on with a collaborator that would set up each chapter.  Her big issue at the moment was wondering if the Kindle was going to be able to stream these properly when she made these available.

 

 

The big takeaway from this, and the justification for behaving here like Jeb Stuart Magruder, is the fact that we’re looking at people in creative writing programs in ivory towers actually discussing format issues.  Format issues!  And she and her friend did not give off a vibe that indicated that they were part of the usual output group that sets format standards

 

It stresses what has been seen here in the trenches, that what people before now had presumed would be the distributor’s headache is now being taken up by the writers themselves at the level of creation.  It’s testament to the Information Revolution having it’s impact, giving the creators more say early on than they had before.  And maybe it’s not the newest of news, but the fact that some groups that don’t have the greatest of reputations for being on the edge are now starting to consider this means that this has gone from observation through trend right through to established truism.

 

Truth to tell, I’ve had some folks ask if I wanted to do some of my work as a graphic novel.  Lord yes!  And if I could bring the proper artistic talent to it, I might do something to it; as it stands right now, my skills are such that I think ORDER OF THE STICK has the field all to itself…

 

But there’s the other side to it, that if even in closeted academic circles the idea of a book no longer being just words on a page is becoming the norm, what that means when the crowd at large has to tackle the issue.  Will the audience follow along when that occurs? Will they be able to go the path these authors set?  And what happens when Vox Populi gives a raspberry to the effort?

Speaking of the voice of the people, what would you like to see?  Is the old format still good, or would you want something a bit more involved if it  were available?  I do want to know, because it’s questions like that that come up that are worth asking.

As Flaubert might have said had he the tools, the phone lines are now open…

 

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* Yes, I am aware that budinski  may not be the best word here, as I did not butt directly into their lives and try to tell them how to live, which all said was probably a good idea.  Unfortunately, the closest I could come up with was yenta, which while it’s closer to describing  my anti-social activities has the problem of not having a readily summonable masculine component.  I invite anyone reading this who could add a better word to the lexicon to offer it; if you want to call me a shit for listening in on these two, then hey, I probably deserve it anyway…

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