Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dreams and Business

On DorothyL these last few days people have been up in arms because Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak series hasn’t been renewed by Minotaur.  Some have suggested a write-in campaign and others are calling for everyone to go out and buy his latest hardcover or at least a paperback of one of his four previous books in the series.

For the sake of full disclosure I have to say that I’ve never read one of Mr. Grabenstein’s books and I don’t know him, although his picture makes me feel I’d like him.

He’s won awards, gotten good reviews and he’s the president of the New York Chapter of The Mystery Writer’s of America.

That’s all terrific but it doesn’t translate into having a series renewed.  It’s all about the numbers.  The numbers of your advance and the numbers of your sales.  If you don’t make back your advance, or if the publisher doesn’t make money from you, then nothing else matters.

It’s sad, but publishing is a business.  As we just found out from the automobile industry, if you don’t sell cars then you go out of business.  Or you get a bail out.  That’s where the comparison ends.  Nobody is going to bail out Mr. Grabenstein.

Some on DorothyL have said that they can’t believe another publisher won’t snap up the series.  I believe it.  Those other publishers will look at the numbers over at Minotaur and if the books aren’t selling why would any other publisher want the author on their list?  At least with that series.

I might be totally wrong about all this, but obviously I don’t think so.  I’m glad Mr. Grabenstein writes other books because no one wants him to fade away.  I’m certain he won’t.

This leads me to Shirley Ann Grau.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately.  What?  You never heard of her?  I’m not surprised.  In 1965 her third novel, The Keepers of the House, won the Pulitzer Prize.  She wrote a book of short stories and two more novels and then she was quiet for about eighteen years or so.  I was surprised just now to find that she’d published a novel in 1996 that I’d never heard about.  Imagine, this wonderful writer who’d won the Pulitzer was not even reviewed in The New York Times.  I’m pretty sure of that because had it been I can’t believe I would’ve missed it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no one is safe.  Well, maybe some…you know who I mean, but most writers can’t count on anything.  So don’t hang your hat on your laurels and don’t expect that your career will keep getting better even if your writing does.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another Form

Suddenly I have this idea for a YA novel.  I have to admit that my dentist gave it to me.  It was something he said and I thought, what a great title.  That’s all I have so far.  A title.  I can’t work on it now anymore than I can work on anything else.  But it’s in my mind.  And I’m about to read a YA that sounds like it’s much more sophisticated than the YAs I wrote back in the seventies.  Of course it would be, wouldn’t it? 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Too Much Else To Do

Okay.  I admit it.  I haven’t gone back to the novel.  I haven’t even reread it to get myself up to speed.  I don’t feel like it.  I’m going away in July so I tell myself it’s pointless to get started again when I’m going to have to stop.  Ridiculous.  I’m going away for about ten days.

But then there’s this other thing.  I’m getting a puppy the third week in July.  How can I write while I’m trying to train a pup?  Am I wrong?  Can I do both?  And how long will I be in that state?

I’ve always hated writing in the summer.  In the past I’ve done a lot of reading during summer months. More than I normally do.  That’s what I want to do again.  Will I be able to read while training a puppy?

The last time I put aside a non-contract book I never went back to it.  I have a sneaking suspicion this might happen again.  I suppose if it does it does.

In my mind I loathe the book I started.  Maybe loathe is too strong a word.  Despise comes to mind. 

I think I might be making a lot of excuses when I really don’t need to because I can do what I want at this point in my life and shuttered career. 

Not writing today or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Flash Fiction Challenge

The challenge was to get the words "a wedding cake in the middle of the road" somewhere in the piece.

Tit For Tat

Me and Timmy wanted to take a road trip but we couldn't drive cause I'm ten and he's eight and my mom said it would be six more years fore I could get my license but I don't have six years which is somethin my mom doesn't know cause I ain't told her.

I gotta get out of here now.

And I gotta get Timmy out, too.

The thing is our dad beats us up bad and Mom doesn't stop him. Maybe cause she's too busy doin her work.

I thought about tellin Mrs. Fisher at school, but then she'd have to tell my dad and after that he'd beat me worse. Mrs. Fisher didn't know what Dad did cause he never hit me on my face. That's why nobody knew.

Timmy said we should tell Mom. But what does an eight year old know? And what could she do about it anyways?

See, Dad knocked her for a loop. I didn't know what that meant but I heard her on the phone tell my Aunt Becky, "George knocked me for a loop last night." And then she started cryin.

At school I asked Charlie Dunbar what a loop was. He said his older brother, who was in the Air force, sometimes flew his plane in a loop. I didn't think that was what my mom meant. So I asked Mrs. Fisher.

"Well it can be many things." She showed me in the dictionary but none of the meanings answered my question.

I decided then and there that it didn't matter and I wasn't gonna waste any more time on it. The important thing was he knocked her around. Knocked her for a loop.

So why hadn't she run away herself? For awhile I thought it was because of us, leaving us alone with him and all, but she could've taken us with her. Couldn't she? I think she liked Dad too much to leave. She liked him better than me and Timmy. I figured if we ran away she probably wouldn't miss us. Not notice, maybe.

Whatever her reasons we needed to get out today. Before Dad came home from hanging out with his friends at Smitty's bar which he always did on Saturdays. The thing was he was always drunk like a skunk when he came home. And if we were still there when he banged into the house he'd beat the hell out of us. See. Now what did that mean? Hell was inside us? Hell was supposed to be below and heaven above. How could you beat the hell out of someone? But that was what he always said.

"Get over here Bill. I'm gonna beat the hell out of you."

He always made us come to him for the beatings, never came over to us. Sometimes Timmy would run outside, but when he came back, Dad made him come over and he'd beat the hell out of him.

Dad didn't usually get home on a Saturday until about five so our plan was when Mrs. Crawford came to the door for her pickup we'd yell to Mom through the window that we were goin over to our neighbors to play. But we wouldn't leave right away. Me and Timmy would stick around to hear what Mrs. C. said and then we'd leave and run through the yards and over the fences until we got to the highway where we'd hitch a ride with somebody. How hard could that be?

Earlier, setting things up had been tougher than I thought it was gonna be. We almost fell twice. What a mess that woulda been and not fun neither. We had to take it from the back porch where Mom put them until people made their pickups, carry it around the side of the house and go through some trees so Mom wouldn't see us and then get it out there.

The bell rang and Timmy and me looked at each other. My heart started beatin hard. "Mom, we're goin over to the Fergusson's."

"Okay. Be back for dinner."

"We will."

"We better go," Timmy said.

"Not yet, I told you. We have to hear what Mrs. Crawford says."

I heard Mom leave the kitchen and walk to the front door.

"Hello, Jane. C'mon in."

"What the heck is going on, Alice?"
I already felt like laughin.

"What do you mean?" Mom said.

"Well, there's a wedding cake in the middle of the road out there. I hope that's not the one for my daughter."

It was.

"What are you talking about, Jane?"

Timmy was pullin at my sleeve. I shook him off.

"I'm telling you, there's a beautiful three tiered wedding cake sitting right in the middle of the road."

"Ohmigod," Mom said.

"Now," I said to Timmy.

We ran fast as deer and made it through the yards and over the fences in no time. When we got to the highway we were out of breath but Timmy said,

"Isn't Dad gonna knock Mom for a loop when he finds out she lost that wedding cake sale?"

"Yeah," I said. "I expect he will."