Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Always Look on the B Side of Life

As everyone who writes or loves reading knows by now, Borders and A&R are on the way out. One of the biggest book retailing chains around has gone south and I can’t help but wonder what that will mean for book selling in the future.

Years ago, when I was very young and disposable income burned a hole in my pocket, I used to spend many a Saturday morning trawling the records stores, carefully planning my music purchases. Decisions were based on the album’s artwork, the longevity of the band (I’d been burned by one hit wonders enough to place importance on that), the intensity of my love for the hit or hits that drew me toward the record in the first place and, of course, how much money I had to spend at the time. It was a painstaking process that I loved, that I never considered a waste of time no matter how often I left the store empty handed.

Then vs Now: The other day I bought an i tunes voucher and downloaded $30 worth of assorted songs from the comfort of my living room in the space of an hour—well, an hour and a half because I tunes' check out system blows harder than a north Qld hurricane. I rarely buy whole CDs anymore. This seems like a great thing--all the songs I want without any of the trash that sometimes clogs up a band's LP, the songs that just aren't as good as the hits. But I can't help but miss the thrill of discovering that song you'd never hear on the radio, the one that becomes a favourite. The experience that was lying on the floor of my bedroom, listening to an artist’s record from first song to last (always in order, this was pre shuffle function). That experience is gone. The purchase process has changed and it’s had a direct influence not only on how we buy music, but on what we buy and how we listen to it.

I have to wonder if there will be such a thing as a ‘B’ side in the future. That classic break up song ‘I Will Survive’ was originally a B side, as was the Rolling Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’, The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’, and one of my all time fave cheesy but still great songs, ‘Maggie May’ by Rod Stewart. These were all tunes not considered hits, not good enough to be on the label. Would they even be recorded today? Doubtful. Imagine a world without Rod's husky voice growling Wake up Maggie I think I've got something to say to you? No thanks!

What does all this have to do with books? Well, isn't it also probable that we'll one day be purchasing all our books chapter by chapter, much like we now pick and choose the songs we want to purchase from an album? What will that mean for authors? Contracts based only on how many times the first three chapters are downloaded, sort of like sending queries to the masses?

Not sure if this would be a good or bad thing. After all, if the first three chapters don't grab anyone's attention, perhaps you haven't done your job as an author and don't deserve to sell the rest of your book. But then again, I sometimes enjoy books that start slow and build toward something big--in fact I prefer them. Will the readers of the future have the patience to stick with a book that doesn't have a car explosion or sex scene in the first fifty pages? Are human beings growing so horribly impatient? What will this do to us as a people--will we develop species-wide ADHD? Are the rumours true that Amazon are making plans to insert advertising in their kindle books?

Advertising, in a book. Annoying pop ups that interrupt my sacred, quiet reading experience in order to try and sell me viagra. I think someone just walked over my grave.

Now I'm in the mood to drag out my collection of obscure B sides and have a listen.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tuesday Night's Meeting

It’s hard to believe we are into the second month of this 2010. It seems so long since our last meeting but there we were out on my deck with mood lighting even (permanent rope and fairy lights in blue and white). I love my new deck with the new lights on. But I digress – there was a lot of that this meeting… so much had happened since we last met. I sometimes think that as writers we make a good social group. I’m sure it’s something to do with the fact that our meetings are four weeks apart and only two hours long and it takes us that long to catch up socially if we haven’t spoken much since last meeting. BTW: Celebrations – this is the first meeting since our latest members joined where we all made it to the meeting. Good to see everyone in the same place at the same time. We miss you when you can’t come for whatever reason.

To get back to the meeting… life seems to have gotten in the way to a fairly large degree for most of us. I guess that’s typical for the time of year but, despite all the distractions, I was pleased to hear that we almost all got a good chunk of writing done. Kiss Carson’s writing again (sigh of relief) I thought I was going to have to administer writerly CPR there. As one of only two published writers in our group we can’t afford to lose her to the black hole.

Congratulations to Sarah who, by now should be almost finished the screenplay which has to be handed in Monday… Sly horse – here were we thinking she was writing her Regency series and she’s neck deep in World War II writing a fascinating English/German story about music composers, performers, spies and Nazi’s. Good luck Sarah. Hope it knocks their socks off.

Promises, promises of critiques for my Little Gem 2011 Garnet entry. Yes, life got in the way again, I know (thanks to Kiss Carson for her helpful comments) and I had to go without any further comments. Never mind. I know they all wish me well anyway.

Much excitement in the camp when a rumour about who might present at the RWA conference this year was spread as news… Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that many of us will be able to get there this year. Hopefully things will improve though – or we’ll win Lotto and go in style! If not, then we might just have to do the Clayton’s Conference at home. If we made a weekend of it we could have fun anyway. Now that’s a thought…

Getting back to the meeting, it seems that it was too long ago for some to remember my blog on Character Sketches. What is a Character Sketch they asked? Well, I probably didn’t describe it well because there was still confusion when we finished. I’ll try again… Like a sketch in art, it is not a portrait in such detail as say an oil painting, but a line drawing in which the subject is recognisable. It describes the things which make that person unique. It can include some physical description, stories, brief accounts of events, that person’s reactions to events, quotations, any of those things which reveal the character of the person. I was struck by some (I think) fantastic examples in “Australian Life, Black and White” Rosa Praed (free pdf download at see those scattered through pages approx page 50 to 60. I was reading it as research for my Irish Australian historical.

Writing character sketches is a real art and one which I would love to develop better. Aside from one who couldn’t drag her mind away from a mental image of “battered eyelids” which came up in conversation earlier (please don’t ask) we came up with four credible character sketches despite my lack of a good description of what we were doing. We even guessed who three of them were describing. Well done Melita and Sarah who won copies of “Shakespeare and the Art of Seduction”.

We spent a little time organising our social life and the social event of our annual calendar – postponed more than once from last year and now reorganised for later this month which might be even more suitable for a romance writers group, close to Valentine’s Day.

The talk flowed on and the books emerged long after Kiss Carson and Sami Lee had to leave, but unfortunately time doesn’t permit me to report it all so just I’ll say that a good time was had by all. Looking forward to the next meeting in four weeks time at Kiss Carson’s pad.