Working Class Writers

Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom.

Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom. Here they are pictured on an exterior wall in Las Vegas.

Labor Day Rant

Today is Labor Day and maybe it is a good time to celebrate those writers (and other artists), who held day jobs to support their  dreams. Actually this list is quite long, so I will concentrate mostly on those who toiled in the “School of Hard Knocks” outside the academic system. For a close look at the various and sundry jobs, writers have held in order to maintain their craft, check out this article at Huffington Post.

Now…..Don’t get me wrong……Academia has produced some amazingly talented writers. First to mind, are those wonderful British professors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They both taught at Oxford and at the same time each in his own right produced some of the most remarkable fiction of the mid-twentieth century. In fact, the two were best of friends, who created and nourished The Inklings, an extra-curriculum literary discussion group that always met in one of Oxford’s many well-attended watering holes.

Jack Kerouac and the Beats

Jack Kerouac and company are notorious for allegedly spurning a whole cultural revolution that spurned higher education and encouraged various non-conformist activities, such as socializing at coffee houses (and bars), digging jazz music and writing offbeat and dissident poetry. Except for Kerouac and Neal Cassady, this group racked up quite a slew of impressive academic credentials. Though Alan Ginsburg dropped out of Columbia to write poetry, he did return and complete his degree program. Furthermore, William Burroughs was a Harvard graduate., while Gegory Corso attended the elite university as a a non-matriculating student— a poet in residence. Rounding out the group are Gary Snyder, who attended UCal Berkeley and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who received an advanced degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, France. All in all, that’s a pretty impressive collection of degrees and academic experiences.

The British Class System

Just by the sheer number of writers and poets that have come from the British Empire, this commonwealth of nations has to be one of the most literary places on the planet. Some of the Empire’s finest writers, actually grew up in the British hinterlands and so they never had to opportunity to attend an institute of higher learning. At the top of this list would be  Doris Lessing, a Rhodesian writer, who recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature, and the ever-popular George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair. Eric grew up in remote India and so he was never able to obtain a proper education. Still, this did not prevent the writer from producing several 20th century classics.

Back in old Londontown, fans of the mystery and crime genres will be interested in the life and times of Agatha Christie, who spent her childhood years in both London and Devonshire. Despite being home-schooled, Agatha Christie’s books have sold more copies for all authors except Shakespeare and the Bible.

My Labor Day Reading List

Following are some classic titles by a few brave writers, who went out and did things for themselves…..and then wrote about it. In reality, there are many books in this field. These few titles are just a my personal favorites and perhaps a jumping off point for your own reading adventures……for there are many more great titles out there.

1. You Can’t Win by Jack Black    This autobiographical tale from a turn-of-the-century hobo-cat burglar was William Burroughs favorite read. Need I say more.

2. The Drifting Cowboy by Will James    Though born in Quebec, Will James (an alias used to cover his cattle rustling past) escaped to the U.S. and worked many western ranches as a 20th century cowhand and roper. He also worked as a Hollywood stunt man during the early years.

3. Down and Out In Paris and London by George Orwell    Orwell’s firsthand account of washing dishes in 30s Paris and marching from one shelter to the next in England will leave you spellbound.

4. Roughing It by Mark Twain  Before Twain made it big with Tom Sawyer, the man did many things including tramping across the West during the Civil War.

5. Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry    Here the author of the Little Prince recounts his flying days and a crash in the Sahara that may have lead to the petite prince story.

6. Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour  Louis L’Amour was more than just a western writer. He was also a professional boxer and merchant marine who traveled the Seven Seas. This book takes you through his world traveling and roundabout ways of his younger days.

In Conclusion

Perhaps the biggest working class heroes of all…….the Liverpool Lads

“They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be”

John Lennon from Working Class Hero

Probably no other group of artists better represents  the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Probably no other group of artists better represents the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Quotes from Donald

 

Two street performers celebrate the sunset, photo by author

Two street performers celebrate a rainbow and sunset, photo by author

Hope you enjoy this image of a rainbow and the two street performers.

Some Words of Wisdom (maybe?)

The following words of wisdom (and not so astute words of wisdom) come from a variety of sources. Nonetheless, all these selections of words were uttered by various entities with one thing in common; they were all named Donald. Some of these Donalds are real, while others are just the mere creations of writers. As you browse through these quotes, keep in mind how we, as a society, sometimes delegate our most poignant comments to the strange realm of fictional characters.

Today’s Quotes

1. “There are known knowns. There are known unknowns. But there are also unknown unknowns.”  by Donald Rumsfeld.

2. “I’m not a schmuck. Even if the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I won’t lose a penny.” by Donald Trump

3. “At my age you sort of fart your way into a role.” by Donald Sutherland

4. “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” by Donald Trump

5. “Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.” by Donald Rumsfeld

6. “You know the funny thing, I don’t get along with rich people. I get along with the middle class and the poor people better than I get along with the rich people.” by Donald Trump

7. “I don’t care if you think I’m abnormal, strange, weird, crazy, insane, odd & bizarre. Life is too short to be normal….” by Donald Duck

8. “I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.” by Donald Rumsfeld

9. “I advise you don’t mess with me, I know karate, kung fu, judo, tae kwon du, jujitsu and 28 other dangerous words,” by Donald Duck

10. “But no, I love acting, it’s a wonderful job.” by Donald Sutherford

11. “I watch people and wonder how some of them found their way out of the birth canal.” by Donald Duck

12. “I had a kind of meandering little career, and then I was given a chance to play one of the bottom six in The Dirty Dozen.” by Donald Sutherland

13. “Don’t get confused between my personality and my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.” by Donald Duck

14. “Oh come off it, MAJOR! You put me right off my fresh fried lobster, do you realize that? I’m now going to go back to my bed, I’m going to put away the best part of a bottle of scotch… And under normal circumstances, you being normally what I would call a very attractive woman, I would have invited you back to share my little bed with me you might possibly have come. But you really put me off. I mean you… You’re what we call a regular army clown.” by Hawkeye Pierce as played by Donald Sutherland from M.A.S.H. the movie

15.  “It is unknowable how long that conflict [the war in Iraq] will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” Donald Rumsfeld in Feb. 2003

Donald Duck first appeared in the 1934 Disney cartoon, The Wise Little Hen. image from Wikipedia

Donald Duck first appeared in the 1934 Disney cartoon, The Wise Little Hen. image from Wikipedia

 

Resistance Is Futile (and other casual musings from the world of Sci-Fi)

Star Trek Encounters the Cube of Borg

Star Trek Encounters the Cube of Borg

This much used sci-fi quotation actually was first used by Dr. Who, not the Borg. The Borg is only the latest in a long line of alien entities to issue such an ultimatum to an inferior force. On a more humorous note check out President Obama as a Borg like creature in the caricature spoof at the bottom of the page. In a similar mode, I have included a collection of 13 quotes from both sci-fi writers and sci-fi movie characters. Check these out and see how they differ.         Henri B

Locutus from the Borg in the Star Trek movie

Locutus from the Borg in the Star Trek: First Contact movie

 

1. “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I cant do that.” – HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2. “Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a Delorean?” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future (1985)

3. “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”   SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Errand of Mercy”

4. “In my experience there is no such thing as luck.” by Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

5. “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.” -Roy Batty, Blade Runner

6. “(I’m) from another planet. Let’s just say that we’re neighbors.”  Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still

7. “If you’re going to make a science fiction movie, then have a hover craft chase, for God’s sake.”  by Joss Whedon

8. “Hey doll, is this guy boring you? Come and talk to me. I’m from a different planet.” — Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

9. “Destiny always seems decades away, but suddenly it’s not decades away; it’s right now. But maybe destiny is always right now, right here, right this very instant, maybe.” — Brother Joshua in A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller.

10.  “Do…..or do not. There is no try.” Yoda,  in The Empire Strikes Back

11. Imagination is the key to my lyrics. The rest is painted with a little science fiction.” by Jimi Hendrix

12.  “I realize that command does have its fascination, even under circumstances such as these, but I neither enjoy the idea of command nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists, and I will do whatever logically needs to be done.”   SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Galileo Seven”

13. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” -Philip K. Dick

Obama as a  Borg and Resistance Is Futile

Obama as a Borg and Resistance Is Futile

 

 

 

Good Writing Will Find a Way To the Surface…….No Matter What the Current State of Affairs

Rings Around the Ring Nebula  Image Credit: Hubble, Large Binocular Telescope, Subaru Telescope; Composition & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Rings Around the Ring Nebula
Image Credit: Hubble, Large Binocular Telescope, Subaru Telescope; Composition & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Amazon-Hachette Takes It Toll

As the Amazon-Hachette stand-off continues, it appears the party most being hurt are the authors. Amazon and Hachette aren’t doing too well either, yet still there is no clear signal as to how long this dispute will last or how things will turn out, when the issues finally get resolved. From my viewpoint, which definitely, leans towards Amazon, it looks like ebook sales will continue to grow and that more authors will pursue the ebook as the primary venue for their creative literary efforts. This will include newbie authors as well as writers previously published with both small and large print presses. High profile best-selling authors will continue to see most of their sales come through the retailing of paperback books, which probably predisposes these guys and gals away from the growing ebook market.

How It Used To Be

The conclusion of World War II and the return of the American G.I. to the U.S., lead to many books being published by authors, who in the past may have found a harder road to publication. War seen through the first person had always been prevalent in literature (i.e. The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet On the Western Front ), but there seemed to an outpouring of  books about the “Big One.” The war experience  launched such notable writers as Norman Mailer, James Michener, Elie Wiesel, Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway (Spanish Civil War). Unfortunately, the publicationof war stories has not been discontinued as we roll into the 21st century, for armed conflict around the world has not abated by any means. In fact, it is quite possible that they have increased. However, the point here is that in the 40s and 50s, editors and publishers were not overwhelmed by large numbers of ambitious and talented writers, like they are today.

First edition book cover for Manchild In the Promised Land, from wiki commons

First edition book cover for Manchild In the Promised Land, from wiki commons

Manchild In the Promised Land

In 1965 Macmillan & Co. published Claude Brown’s street-tough classic, Manchild In the Promised Land. Though Claude Brown grew up among Harlem hoodlums, he was able to turn his life around and complete a memoir about his troubled NYC youth in upper Manhattan. The book was discovered in the slush pile by an astute NYC editor and eventually went on to sell four million copies and was also translated into 14 languages. At time of publication Mr. Brown was working as a mail carrier, but would begin a lecturing career that lasted a lifetime once the book became successful. Claude Brown also introduced Toni Morrison to his editor, who also became a major catalyst with her literary success.

Trying To Get A Handle On Today’s Literary Scene

Things are definitely changing today. Books are still being printed and read, but the onset of ebooks has definitely leveled the playing field somewhat. Many of the old authors despise the new format. One of the most notables was the late Ray Bradbury, who recently said this about ebooks:

Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell.”

Despite these words, Mr. Bradbury succumbed to the evils of ebooks before he passed away. However, writers facing the challenge of first-time publication are presented with a whole set of different problems than Ray Bradbury, when he first came of age as a author at the end of WWII. Since mainline publishers are more and more interested in mass market genre titles and less so in literary fiction, contemporary authors cannot necessarily rely on the proverbial slush pile for their success, even though it is still a viable option for some. Instead networking, visibility on social networks, blogging, self-publishing and plain old perseverance all play an important part in getting the story out.
P.S. Thanks goes out to Alan Rinzler at The Book Deal for the inspiration for this blog. Alan is the editor who discovered Claude Brown and was consequently introduced to Toni Morrison, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Remarks from the Funniest Man in the World

Sunset in Santa Fe, photo by author

Sunset in Santa Fe, photo by author

The Event

Robin Williams, who was on occasion referred to, as the funniest man in the world, died this week, apparently by his own hand. During his acting career, Williams starred in many movies, along with his debut TV role as that lovable alien Mork, in Mork and Mindy. Though Williams has never received an Oscar for Best Actor, at the time of his death he was considered one of the top comedians and actors of his time (please note: as there is still one more Robin Williams film to be released) it is still possible Mr. Williams may receive his much desired Best Actor Oscar.

Sir Robin In His Own Words

1. “People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House.”

2. “Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?”

3. “Do you think God gets stoned? I think so … look at the platypus.”

4. “When in doubt, go for the dick joke.”

5. “I love kids, but they are a tough audience.”

6. “The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?”

7.  “If it’s the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?”

8. “I’m looking for Miss Right….or at least Miss Right Now.”

9. “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

10. “I just want to know one thing. Are your kids well-behaved? Or do they need like, a few light slams every now and then?” – Daniel Hillard/ Mrs. Doubtfire, Mrs. Doubtfire “

11. “In Hollywood people are nice to you just in the first week after the [Academy Award] ceremony. Then they are like, ‘Oh, you just won an Oscar, right?’ Three weeks after the big party people are already thinking about the next year’s Oscars. Life goes on. Winning an Oscar is an honor, but, between you and me, it does not makes things easier.”

Ten Best Reasons for Being an Episcopalian by Robin Williams

10. No snake handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Robin Williams in 1979 as he was sterrring in Mork & Mindy, from Wikipedia photo by Michael Dressler

Robin Williams in 1979 as he was sterrring in Mork & Mindy, from Wikipedia photo by Michael Dressler

Across the Great Divide – Update On the Amazon-Hachette Feud

“Fine! So stop selling them (Hachette books), already. Just shut up about it and pull the trigger. Be mercenary.” Chuck Wendig, commenting on the Amazon-Hachette feud

220px-AcrosstheGreatDivide1976

Across the Great Divide is a 1976 film that stars Robert Logan, Heather Rattray, and George Buck Flower. Perhaps, the title is also symbolic as to what a small group of well-financed writers headquartered in the Northeast has done to the American writing community.

Authors Purchase Big Time Add In NY Times

“Authors aren’t united on anything. Why would they be? We work from home. Alone. We can maaaaaybe agree that pants are a tool of the oppressors and that we subsist on various liquids (tea, coffee, whiskey, the tears of our readers). Why do we have to be united?” Chuck Wendig

On Sunday August 10 a group of authors, calling themselves Authors United ran a full page add in the Sunday NY Times defending the Hachette Corporation of France in its economic loggerhead with Amazon. Around 900 names appeared on the ad, which cost in thelow  six figure range and was financed by 72 of the 900. Basically, the letter accused the Amazon Corp. of organizing a boycott of Hachette products, refusing to discount Hachette products, slowing the delivery of Hachette books and suggesting to readers that they purchase different (non-Hachette) titles.

This debate has dragged on for several months and at this point in time, a settlement seems far off. In the meantime, growing discontent among pro-Hachette and pro-Amazon writers has turned the feud into a bit of a soap opera, especially on the Social Media, where everybody who’s anybody is sounding off on the issue. Though this may make for great entertainment, the situation does not encourage ebook sales, which is essentially the heart of the debate.

My Turn To Rant

Ok, it’s my turn to rant. And by the way, I’m not exactly neutral in this debate since I sell low-priced ebooks through both Amazon and Smashwords. Also, I do sell a story or two to online journals, but this is a rather rare event. Moreover, I have not found a way to break into the print market, except P.O.D., a pathway, which I have not even remotely considered.

My basic complaint with Amazon is that they have too nice to Hachette. They were a primary player in the development of the ebook market and their opinion that ebooks sell best in the three digit range seems valid. And I don’t consider them a monopoly (just a Giant corporation) either for they have lots of competition with businesses like Google, Apple, Kobo and B & N.

On the other hand Hachette’s main line are books in print, so why are they wasting so much time in energy in this fight. It might hurt their print sales and if things go really bad, their French holder, Legardere, might dump them completely. I guess I don’t the understand French business karma very well at all, but it does seem like they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Writers Gone Goofy 

To me the strangest thing of all is the way that millionaire genre writers, such as Stephen King, JK Rowling, Douglas Preston, James Patterson, John Grisham and Heather Graham, have taken on Amazon like it was the devil incarnate. They seem to have all jumped in bed with Big Five publishing (at the same time) without any concerns for their own well-being. Have these people forgotten that once they were unpublished writers?

Things have changed over the last ten years and breaking into print has become much more difficult than it used to be. True this is a slowly developing situation that goes back to the  post WWII years, when there weren’t so many authors pining for a book contract. But today’s Indie ebook market helps newbie authors find a platform. (So do small presses and university publishers). Overall, the old maxim that good writing will find its audience still holds true, but the rules have definitely changed quite a bit……And maybe not so much for the better.

2001 Sourdough Raft Race, passing beneath the High Level Bridge's Great Divide waterfall. (Edmonton, Alberta)

2001 Sourdough Raft Race, passing beneath the High Level Bridge’s Great Divide waterfall. (Edmonton, Alberta) from Wikipedia

Advice from the Good Doctor

Are You a Fan of the Cat in the Hat????

The Cat in the Hat visits Las Vegas, Nevada

The Cat in the Hat visits Las Vegas, Nevada

Remembering Those Children’s Book

You might say I grew up in the “golden age” of children’s books, the fifties. This was a time when you go to your elementary school library and choose from a wide array of current or time-tested titles. Our particular book lending venue in small town Maryland was well-stocked with popular titles, such as The Cat In the Hat, The Little Engine That Could, Little Black Sambo, Babar the Elephant and the Tales of Peter Rabbit. I have to admit my favorite was “Curious George”, but high on the list was the Cat In the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by the notorious Dr. Seuss. Following is some general info and ever-so-timely advice from the man who went by the nom de plume of Doctor Seuss.

Will the Real Dr. Seuss Please Stand Up?

Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who was born in 1904 and died in 1991 at age 87. Before settling on Dr. Seuss, Geisel wrote under the pen names of Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone. Theodor, a product of German immigrants, was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts and attended nearby Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Strangely enough, Theodor first used his Seuss pen name after he and nine companions were busted for drinking gin in a dorm room at Dartmouth College. This event occurred during the Prohibition era. So in order to avoid being banned from the campus newspaper, of which he was an integral part, Theodor Geisel began using a variation of his middle name to get around the college authorities. After Dartmouth, Seuss attended Lincoln College in England with hopes of obtaining a P.H.D. in English Literature. In 1927, Theodor Geisel dropped out of Lincoln College to begin a job in the U.S. creating political cartoons.  In 1937 Dr. Seuss published his book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. The rest is history.

Advice for Writers (and others)

1. ” Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

2. “It’s a troublesome world. All the people who’re in it are troubled with troubles every minute. You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.”

3. ” I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

4. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

5. “I’m sorry to say
so but, sadly it’s true
that bang-ups and hang-ups
can happen to you.”

6. “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

7. “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.”

8. “Fun is good.”

9. “I am a zizzer zazzer zuzz as you can plainly see.”

10. “Preachers in pulpits talked about what a great message is in the book. No matter what you do, somebody always imputes meaning into your books.”

The cat in the hat shares some thoughts on aging

This “Cat In The Hat” spoof shares some thoughts on aging

At Last

And finally don’t forget that March 2 – Dr. Seuss’s birthday – is Read Across America Day.

More Advice from Writers

Street Sign in Las Vegas, NV

Street Sign in Las Vegas, NV

Here are some more quotations from writers. As usual they are slightly on the humorous side. Hope you enjoy.

1. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” by Theodor Seuss Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss.

2. “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” by Ray Bradbury

3. “A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.” by Abraham Lincoln

4. “All stories if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true storyteller who would keep that from you.” by Ernest Hemingway

5. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

6. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” by Samuel Beckett

7. “On any street corner, the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.” by Albert Camus

8. “Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.” by Oscar Wilde

9. “The difference between fiction and reality. Fiction has to make sense.” by Tom Clancy

10. “Perversity is the muse of modern literature.” Susan Sontag
11. “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” Peter Pan

Advice from Writers

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble  Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

1. “There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people….mystery writers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays better.” Richard Castle

2. “The best time for planning a book is while yo’re doing the dishes,” by Agatha Christie

3. “I think film had a terrible effect on horror fiction particularly in the 80s, with certain writers turning out stuff as slick and cliched as Hollywood movies.” Poppy Z. Brite

4. “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx

5. “I prefer dead writers because you don’t run into them at parties.” Fran Lebowitz

6. “It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.” by Andrew Jackson

7. “A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.” by Ring Lardner

8. “A good novel tells us the truth about it’s hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” by Gilbert K. Chesterton

9. “Television has raised writing to a new low.” by Samuel Goldwyn

10. “Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer–and if so, why?” by Bennett Cerf

11. “If it has horses and swords in it, it’s a fantasy, unless it also has a rocketship in it, in which case it becomes science fiction. The only thing that’ll turn a story with a rocketship in it back into fantasy is the Holy Grail.” by Debra Doyle

Who’s Who In the Amazon-Hachette Debate

painting by Rembrandt

painting by Rembrandt

Overview In the very near future a group of writers, calling themselves Authors United, will place an ad in the NY Times addressing the dispute between Amazon and Hachette, Beware folks, for this little episode is about to get a whole bunch bigger. I’m not quite sure when the ad will appear, but you can bet your bottom dollar, that when it does, stakes will be raised dramatically on both sides. In the mean time here’s a short list of literary personalities and author organizations that are sounding off on the issue in question.

Amazon

Amazon is the giant online retailer that sells anything from computers and cell phones to baby dolls. Currently, they are locked in a debate with Hachette over the prices of ebooks that are published by Hachette and sold by Amazon. Basically, Amazon wants lower retail prices, while Hachette doesn’t.

Hatchette headquarters in Paris, France  from wiki commons, photo by Tangopaso

Hachette headquarters in Paris, France from wiki commons, photo by Tangopaso

Hachette

Hachette is a French book publisher, headquartered in Paris, France. Recently, they entered the American market (2006) with the purchase of Time-Warner books. Their dispute with Amazon revolves around the pricing and profit-sharing of ebooks.

Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston is a popular horror and techno-thriller author, who has organized writers in support of Hachette in their feud with Amazon.

Stephen Colbert Stephen Colbert is the host of the Colbert Report, a popular program of political satire on Comedy Central (and successful Hachette author). Stephen has also been selected by CBS to replace Dave Letterman as host of the Late Show, when David retires next year. Colbert jumped into this debate big time,  (aided by Native American author Sherman Alexie) by symbolically giving Amazon the finger, not once, but twice on the Colbert Report.

Authors United

Authors United is an offshoot from an effort by Douglas Preston to get Amazon.com to help out authors during Amazon’s dispute with Hachette. In June (2014) Preston circulated a letter that was signed by several hundred writers that demanded that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) stop hurting authors during the company’s economic feud with the Big Five Publisher. Literary luminaries who have signed on with this group include James Patterson, Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros, J.K. Rowling and Lee Child. About 80 of these writers have come together and purchased a NY Times full page ad, supporting their position. The ad will probably appear in late July or early August of 2014. Just a run-through of the signees will show who is making big bucks in today’s literary world.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, may be the one author, who has been most damaged by the literary stand-off. That is because her new Hachette release, Silkworm, has fallen right in the middle of this debate, causing a serious decline in online sales and orders.

Authors Guild

The Authors Guild is a literary organization with 18,000 members that tends to support Big Five or Legacy published authors. This group along with SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), The Tony Hillerman’s Writers Conference and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust have supported the Hatchette position.

JA Konrath

Not everyone in the writing community supports the Big Five publisher, Hachette. In fact, most writers, who have had any kind of online success with ebooks tend to favor Amazon. That’s because Amazon sell ebooks (lots of them in fact) and pays its authors a high royalty. Highly visible among this group is JA Konrath a mystery and crime writer, who has seen his sales soar, as an ebook writer. Interested parties can follow the debate through Joe’s eyes at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

Hugh Howey If you haven’t heard of Hugh Howey, then the best way to describe this writer might be as the James Patterson of electronic authorship. And not surprisingly he has been a staunch defender of self-publishing ebooks with Amazon or other online venues. Recently, Hugh wrote and self-published a short story called Wool. This sci-fi tale has morphed into a successful screenplay, online book and series, making the writer a very wealthy man in the process.

Chuck Wendig

For a slightly satiric digression from the self-published view, you might want to check out the irascible efforts of Chuck Wendig, a highly visible novelist, screenwriter and game designer on the internet. His blog, Terrible Minds, is always worth a visit. Be sure to check out his opinion of the Amazon-Hatchette controversy and the coming Kindle Unlimited experiment.

Another Storm On the Horizon

If you think the financially affluent writing community is really sticking it to the struggling, under-published author (like I do), you might want to hang onto your horses for a minute or two. For Amazon has just released another publishing bombshell on the literary world. This juggernaut is called Kindle Unlimited and though it’s a bit too soon to know for sure, this Amazon project could turn into the “Netflix” for ebooks…….not a great scenario for mid-list and low-list authors.