What are you Writing?

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by MikeKardec, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Lowell, Taggard. Lowell is a wise lady, Taggard a key to Dickinson. Moore, tri corn hat, Brooklyn, Dial editor.
    All are in my poetic harem. Chaste verse. ;):)
     
  2. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    My experience - purely anecdotal - is that people older than I (I'm 56) are active readers and some younger adults/kids (teens to thirties) are also, but it's the adults my age and, say, a decade younger that aren't reading much, but they also tend to have insanely busy lives with jobs and kids.

    I have a few friends in their 60s and 70s that I discuss books with all the time (my seventy-year-old next door neighbor is an editor at Harper Collins, so she's a great source of information about what new books are coming). I talk with a few of my friends' kids (teens to thirties) about books also, but again, not to many my age. I've also found, again anecdotally, that reading skews toward women as I often find myself talking with the wives about books while the husbands look bored.

    Last anecdote. The few books stores left in my neighborhood all put in "cafes," which clearly brought in younger people, but when I would browse the book sections (pre-Covid) of those stores, again, it was people older than I and younger who were there.
     
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  3. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    I have taught English and Math at an alternative ed high school for 28 plus years. In the past 7 or so years, I have seen an uptick in the number of our readers. It used to be such a struggle to get students to read for “fun” on reading days. I give them the freedom to choose what they will read. My classroom is filled with bookshelves full of books that, for the most part, have been chosen by the students. I now have so many kids who ask if they can take a book home or if we can have more reading days. Many seemed to be surprised that there were “good books” out there. A number of them have become readers. Other teachers will complain that kids want to read in their classroom instead of doing their assignments. They get excited when they know that I have ordered new books and moreso when the books actually arrive. It is a lot of fun to see. And not surprisingly so, their writing abilities have greatly improved. There is less fear and more production at a higher quality. There might be less reading going on in the world, but not in my classroom.
    :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
  4. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^such a wonderful heartwarming story!!!:D
    All the books the nuns assigned have stayed with me all my life. And I tell kids that when I was their
    age books like Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome; the Brontes, Jane Austen were required and would help
    in their writing. I tell them to especially read Wharton as she will teach them to write.
     
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  5. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Oh it did my heart good to read this. THANK YOU for inspiring these kids to read!!!
     
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  6. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    You are welcome. I am fortunate to work at a small close knit school (average English class size 24 students) where the kids feel valued as does the staff. We laugh and joke a lot with kids; we try to have fun while taking care of business. I am lucky to still enjoy working with the kids and work where I work. Staff has come and gone since I started here (no one is left from when I started) but the atmosphere is still positive.
    As I tell the kids, they do not realize the positive impact they have on my life and how fortunate I feel I have been.
    Enough blabbering, it’s time for coffee.
    :D
     
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  7. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    Thank you! I get so excited when a student tells me that they never used to like reading but is now a reader. :D
     
  8. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Touchofevil: Thank you for your unsung service. What important work you do. My wife is a fourth grade teacher and she often says her mission is twofold: 1) get them to be aware of how their actions affect other kids feelings, and 2) instill in them a genuine love of reading. When I think of the people who truly impacted my life, some of the excellent teachers that I have had are always on the list.
     
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  9. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    In the service I had to answer what organizations I had been a member of, like the Communist Party.
    Just Cub Scouts, made Bobcat, my Wolf badge and arrowhead. Little League, left field, some second base.
    And, most importantly, Sister Mary Therese's First Grade Huckleberry Hounds reading group. :D
     
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  10. Touchofevil

    Touchofevil

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    You are welcome. The kids reward me all of the time. Many visit regularly just to chat, for advice, to unload, to see how I am doing, and let me know what is going on in their world. A few have become my neighbor, next door and down the street. We say “hey” and reminisce. I have always felt appreciated and hope that they feel the same. It has been a pretty good gig. I could and will go on for pretty much ever talking about them, but will stop myself before I really start preaching about the greatness of my school and its kids.
    :D
     
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  11. DocRedfield

    DocRedfield One of the Regulars

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    Hey Gang,
    I've been a writer and illustrator for a long time now, and this past year of Covid-Life gave me an opportunity to finally start-up my publishing business. Among the stuff I write, draw and publish is my WebComic and prose series WARBIRDS OF MARS, a 1940s/50s-set Dieselpunk, New-Pulp series set in a time when World War II was superseded by an Attack from the Stars! Warbirdsofmars.com
    See what I'm working on at http:www.vaughn-media.com
    My Publishing venture: Paperstreet Ent., LLC

    warbirds_of_mars_bookADlayout72COPY72.jpg
     
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  12. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    That is a great hook, taking the golden era in a whole different direction!
     
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  13. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I worry that this is a compounded case of conformation bias on the part of the book business. In the past 10 years publishing has gotten to the point where it is run more and more by women. They really aren't interested in publishing the sort of fiction men are interested in and kind of have contempt for men in general. The material published has skewed further and further from the sort of "genre fiction" Crime, Science Fiction (as in real SF not Star Wars silliness), Westerns, and Adventure stories that entertained in the past and kept their reading chops up during the times when there wasn't a piece of "good literature" for them to read. Much of that material migrated to the realm of Kindle Originals but only a certain sort of tech savvy guy migrated with it. If you're not in that crowd you are not going to be having conversations about your favorite writer because "non-Kindle" people don't know what you are talking about.

    I watched the publishing biz convince itself that there were fewer and fewer readers in the 1990s and that, while they were few, they were so dedicated that the publishers could make them buy more and more expensive books. Slowly the men dwindled away and the women bought the trendy best seller or what was supposed to be quality fiction. Men with their theoretically low to mid grade taste were forgotten or reread old favorites ... unless they stumbled into the world of Kindle. It's easily one half of all book sales, and the major publishers try to ignore it. I don't do much business on the e-pub side of things but I fight every day to keep the last bits of genre fiction alive ... at one of the largest publishing houses in the world.

    The business ALWAYS had a hard time understanding the world outside of NYC, even back in the days when they had to interact with a much larger regional sales force. Now they have a hard time understanding guys and what they like to read. There is a similar divide along class lines with those with an "academic education" on one side and those without on the other. There's less difference in income than you'd think and, oddly, those in the supposedly "lower" education class tend to read more books. That's a fact that I saw show up in demographics quite often back when I was studying that stuff but it was ignored then and it seems to be ignored now.
     
  14. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    This is interesting because I see a ton of books written by male authors for mostly male audiences. I'm thinking Daniel Silva, Vince Flynn (RIP), Dean Koontz, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Greg Illes, etc. etc.

    Maybe I'm missing something? My ex-husband was a voracious reader (one of his few redeeming qualities) and he ate up books by Flynn, Patterson, Koontz, etc.
     
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  15. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    You are probably not missing anything ... but timing and momentum. I'm not super familiar with some of those names but Koontz, Patterson, and to a certain David Baldacci, are successful holdovers from the old regime. They had enough momentum prior to the issues I mention to carry through. It's the writers who have tried to come up since 2010 or so who, in my theory, may have had the hardest time. This is IF what I think I've seen is true. But I've seen it TWICE, once with the "vanishing reader" theory of the 1990s that was built on NY-centric/college educated (specifically liberal arts educated)-centric ideas of who readers were and how price oriented they were, and now with the vanishing of male oriented fiction because supposedly "men don't read." It could be true. But I sell male oriented books to men (and women) every day ... so I'm full of dangerous thoughts.

    Rap music is the most successful and long lived genre of music in generations. I'm going to make the argument that the only reason for this is that, like Dean Koontz, it was in ascendance at the end of the big album national radio play era, basically when Napster and the iTunes hit, as the last genre standing it had a lot of momentum ... but the world of recording artists is NOTHING like it was prior to the 1990s. Like fiction it's a LOT more democratic, IE you can get published easily, but it's much harder to make much money even if you are world class.

    If were just talking about the missing men I suspect that they like plots and style to be objective. They don't like details dwelled on. They just want to get to it and experience the story and they don't mind doing it from a slight distance. Interestingly, this means that they have to use their imagination MORE than typical "literary" fiction where there is a lot more detail filled in and the reader is locked further into the writer's take on things. I've described this in the past and people have been shocked, "are you saying the literary reader has less imagination?" Maybe. More likely, however, the typical guy reading genre fiction is just more INDEPENDENT, he unconsciously resents having too much of the writer's interpretation of the story forced into his eyeballs.

    I'm still working out what I think is going on with all of this. These are only theories and I don't get out to discuss them much or to talk to many other people in the business. That said, however, I probably have as much of a through-line of experience from pulp magazines to paperback originals to mainstream bestsellers as anyone else in the world. Certainly anyone my age.

    Most concerning: There was a revolution within the publishing houses I deal with in the early 2000s. Several generations of men, seriously macho guys, war veterans, guys who worked with the mob in the magazine business, kids who as newsboys had knifed one another to get the best street corner ... and the men (and women!) that these hard core men would tolerate vanished from the publishing business. They had mostly come up through the paperback houses and there was a short period when the last of them retired. Now it's a monoculture of women, virtually all university trained since the 1980s. There are still some guys, there are still some of the youngest of the old guard but, of those I know I could count them on both hands and I could be missing a finger or two. The people I miss the most are actually the women from that earlier period they were strong and savvy, easily able to hold their own with all those men. I could give you a list of names but, sadly, with an exception or two, it would end with R.I.P.
     
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  16. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Mike knows so much more about the publishing biz than I as I'm nothing more than a reader (and the neighbor of a NYC editor at a large publishing house) that my thoughts are just my anecdotal experience and observations as layperson.

    What I've noticed in forty-plus years of being an active reader is, over the past ten to twenty years, a huge increase in the number of female authors relative to male in new release fiction from the big houses, at least the books that get a "push" when they come out. If this is just a random occurrence, that's great, but if it is some sort of women-empowerment thing, then it seems wrong to me as male writers today should no more be marginalized than female writers were before.

    Also, I've noticed a big increase in the political agendas in modern period writers/historical fiction, which skew very much toward women authors today. I've all but given up on these books as they seem like nothing more than opportunities for the writers to create unrealistic "heroines" who fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., in whatever period they are dropped into with a "perfectly aligned to modern political pieties" perspective.

    It's ridiculous as anyone who reads books from those time periods would know that, yes (thankfully), people were fighting the good fight against those "isms" back then, but not with a 2021 perspective on what is politically correct. "Son of the Gods" by Rex Beach published in 1929, as just one of many examples, stands firmly against American prejudice toward Chinese Americans and also for women's rights, but not in a way that aligns tightly to our modern anti-prejudice view.

    It's exhausting to pick up a modern period novel with a great blurb or two only to discovered that the female lead is going to stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia in a way that simply wouldn't have happened in those prior time periods. These books seem like vanity projects of virtue signaling for the authors. That said, they also seem popular as the publishing houses keep churning them out. I used to be a regular buyer of modern period novel/historical fiction, but as noted, I've all but given up on the genre for the above reason.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2021
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  17. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Speaking from the perspective of a serious writer who is, nonetheless, a failed writer*... A recent project (basically a war novel set in the 1680s w/ a modern tie-in) was rejected by 120 agents. Roughly eighty percent of whom are female. I think that breakdown reflects the agent profession as a whole. Correct me if I’m wrong. That is an obstacle in and of itself, if you are trying to pitch a fictional work centered around a war and written from a male perspective. I never got past the gatekeepers.

    Yay! Do I get to compete in the “victimhood olympics” now? Shot down by the biased and agenda-driven sisterhood that runs the buy-and-spin side of the publishing industry?

    But in my case it just might be a “many are called, few are chosen” thing. Or, perhaps —more likely—- I’m just a talentless hack. (“Tiki, don’t virtue signal with false humility. Play the sexism card! Play the sexism card!”) Ugh. Nope.

    * no sympathy sought. As you already know, I self-published a different title, with pleasurable results (good reviews) but —-as Mike said—- minuscule sales. I sold six copies in March, which is one of my bigger months. For better or worse, self-publishing is probably the way of the future for most of us.
     
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  18. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Not necessarily; although, of course, you must know your market. I personally have made money writing,
    thoroughly enjoy knowing that I can make a buck while sitting on my ass in front of a computer keyboard,
    but any of a number of outlets serve that greed need. An author should above all be eminently qualified
    to write a war novel, which to me means a combat veteran. Combat is such a singular experience that the
    uninitiated, no matter how well meant, fail grade and peddle little more than fantasy speculation.
    I frankly do not have any interest in 17thC war novels with a modern tie-in, whatever the coitus that is-
    not a pun or put down, just being frank.

    A Harvard grad and WWII Marine, Anton Myrer returned from the South Pacific deeply impressed
    by the caliber of professional military officers he encountered and penned a stirring novel, Once An Eagle,
    a tale of a mustang's rise from buck ass private in the punitive Villa campaign to lieutenant general.
    That's a novelist and a novel.
     
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  19. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Myrer also wrote a very Fedora Lounge book, "The Last Convertible."
     
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  20. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I'm not convinced that it is intended to "keep male writers down," I've never heard that sort of thing. But these are offices full of women who are getting the "women are the readers" message, day in and day out. I THINK some of that is conformation bias and I think some of it is just the sort of bad thinking typical of any corporate environment. I worked with an ad agency in the 1980s and one of our clients was Volvo. This was when Volvo was making a lot out of their safety ratings. One day the Volvo guys came in very excited by data showing that some large percentage of traffic accidents occurred very close to home ... they thought it might be used to scare people into buying Volvos. But, of course, you have to drive through the area close to your home every time you go anywhere. The data was idiotic, yet they were following it because they thought it told them something. It was funny the well educated execs were thrilled but the grunts on their production crew laughed while their backs were turned.

    I'm guessing that women fill out surveys and are more forthcoming on social media than men are ... that could lead to skewed data but it won't be questioned because the offices are full of people from a single culture, some of that culture comes from the fact that they are mostly women, but not all of it by a long shot. This wasn't always the case. As I've said once upon a time the men were different and it was very common up until the 1990s for the women in publishing to have come from the mid west. They were well schooled but their fathers and brothers were the sort of people who make things run and put food on the tables of millions. They had a connection to the world of men who did things other than administration, and to "fly over country." For the record, I'm a uni trained, guy who mostly does admin. I live in a big city. But I try constantly to stay in touch with my customers in the rest of the country and to appreciate their concerns. I try to think of them as my extended family. That's how the typical publishing employee treats the ladies in the big city book clubs and the critics and such, but I suspect that they see the sort of guy who might read an adventure novel or a western as sort of an alien. Intellectual and cultural diversity is very important in publishing. My Dad had a some interesting conversations with a group of people he knew who produced the Black Dispatch in OK in the 1930s. We've come a long way but it's still hard to get the ENTIRE reading audience represented all at the same time.

    I completely understand the current trend toward making the protagonist of adventure stories female. It's much easier to explain what a woman is doing in these generally male oriented narratives if she is the main character. However, taking away her femininity is a real loss. That's what gives a story about a women its tension, distinction, and difference. I want to see her bring HER particular set of tools to the problems of the story. I've always wanted to write an adventure story with a heroine who solved all sorts of problems with the typical tool set of the era. Of course, my aunt drove solo from Hot Springs to Hollywood, when she was a young teenager (like 16) in the early 1920s. No paved highways, constant flat tires, little indication as to where there was fuel. She also learned to fly, developed real estate and had something like 6 husbands! She didn't always make good choices but she was a bad ass!

    Yeah. I think it's bleeding in from Hollywood and YA novels where it got started early. The intention was to educate youth to be better citizens. I have no problem with it if it's realistic and not preachy. Robert Heinlein used to have fun with his young adult audiences by setting up a particularly appealing protagonist and then half way through the story, after you've committed to the adventure of being "in" them, you find out that they are Asian or Maori or something of the sort. I really think THAT, without any preaching, did more work for tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of other peoples than any of the modern stuff.

    There isn't a lot of difference between the people who become agents and those who go on to work in publishing. They both have roughly the same background, the same culture. It will change but not quickly.

    Almost all of the successful Kindle Original authors are tireless self promoters and non-stop writing machines. I don't know much about how they do it, my business originated on the print side, but there is a lot of info out there ... I suspect some of it is BS as mentioned above. If the publishing professionals can delude themselves then the people who try to promote themselves as self publishing gurus can too!
     
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