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All Your Edits Are Belong To Us

It’s stupid o’clock at night and I’m up and staring, bleary-eyed, at a monitor filled with prose.

I am inserting commas and full stops, changing tenses, and occasionally leaving what I later realize to be horrifically acidic commentary in the margins – calling out a character’s actions, bringing up the effect the writer’s having on me, as a reader, and advising as to whether I feel that’s the appropriate effect for the moment.

I’m in the middle of editing another writer’s first novel. I am fucking tired, and I’m terrified I’m going to miss a typo’d pronoun.

There’s not a lot I can say about editing that isn’t going to make me sound like a jerk. I’ve done it for over a decade. I’ve done it professionally. I’ve done it and gotten paid for doing it (and yes, I can send you a rate sheet).

I’ve edited as part of teaching undergraduate journalism. I’ve edited my own work, I’ve edited the work of my peers, and a few months ago on this blog I re-edited part of The Hunger Games to highlight  the entirely lackluster job done by its editor.

I tweet Twitterers from my home stream and correct their grammar, and call out people I’ve never met before (and whose points I agree with) because they’re lazy with their language in conversation. My excuse? “It’s the editor in me.”

This marks the first time I’ve ever edited someone else’s novel. It wasn’t easy, but it was a hell of a lot easier than writing a blog post about editing. Because what can you say about editing?

You’re essentially telling a parent with a pretty decent kid – all the limbs, everything where it should be, no vestigial body parts and no major diseases – that their happy, healthy kid isn’t good enough yet. You’re pointing out every pimple, every crooked tooth, too-short eyelashes, the pouches of fat around the kid’s middle. “You don’t say that like that,” you say. “Wait. Wait. Take an extra beat there before you keep talking.” It’s like pageantry coaching, only on the page instead of the stage.

Now imagine you’re doing this to the firstborn child of one of your close friends. And as much as you respect your friend’s dedication to their child’s career, there are a few things that could really up her chances of winning. Or in this case, honing a successful and clear representation of the author’s original intention, in the author’s voice, plus finding all his typos. And you don’t just have a responsibility to the parent who hired you, you also have a responsibility to the book itself (or the toddler and her beloved tiara). If you slack or try to spare feelings, it will ultimately hurt more than it helps.

I’ve been reading pieces and versions of this book for a few years now. I’ve seen a couple different incarnations of the book, and I’ve peeked in intermittently, over the years, on the journey the author’s had in writing and now self-publishing it. This time, I fixed typos, changed pronouns, and did my best to help make the experience of reading the book frctionless. It was the first time I sat down and read the book all the way through. Beginning to end.

Saying anything more would be spoilers.

A Grand Design – Cover Art Input Needed

Last week, I announced my intention of publishing my produced plays, to date, on Amazon. Given that the plays are in performance-script stage, and putting them together is largely a matter of technicalities, I started planning my cover design – because that’s really what I need at this point.

I spent a few minutes discussing my ideas with a co-worker (happy to name him/link to his tumblr if he sees this and would like, but also want to respect his privacy) and his perspective as a graphic designer was (as the opinions of graphic designers always are) quite useful.

Basically, he confirmed my feelings: my produced plays should have a unified look, which meant a unified design that can stretch across multiple plays (while also separating them from my other fiction).

So I started looking at the published plays I own. Here. Have a look:

 

(And yes, that is my foot in the corner.)

 

So, these plays. I could talk about these plays a LOT. Like seeing David Tennant for the first time in PUSH UP, and thinking, “Man, he just LEAPS out from every single other person on the stage.” Or how much it meant when Jo Clifford, who was my MFA supervisor in Edinburgh, personally addressed a copy of EVERY ONE to me. Each of the other plays has its own story; if people want to read, I’m happy to blog them in the lean times. Or maybe they deserve their own book.

Anyway. So, having studied the plays, here were my thoughts:

1. Samuel French and the Marlowe both demand that the reader know the playwright before purchasing. The newest of the plays, Ali Smith’s The Seer, was probably a well-performed piece, the play’s blank title and lack of imagery doesn’t really speak to me; I saw it (probably reviewed it) but the blank cover doesn’t give me any kind of aide memoire. I don’t remember much about The Seer, or ever feel inclined to pick it up. No good for a newish playwright, then.

2. The black-and-imagery with the colored spine of the NHB releases speaks most strongly to me as a reader. The images are evocative. They feature live performance stills – and this is where my plan to use these as the template falls down. I don’t have live performance shots of all these productions. I could do video capture stills, but…

3. A number of plays (Clifford’s is just an example) featured imagery rather than literal representation of events portrayed in the script; Yazmin Reza’s DESOLATION is another example of this. (Reza, for those who don’t make the immediate connection, also wrote ART). THE NIGHT SHIFT by Mark Murphy is somewhere between items (2) and (3), with a stylized image that evokes the mood and staging of the play, if not the literal photos one might expect to see.

Where did all this bring me?

The following four versions of an image. Your thoughts would be much appreciated. I’ve settled on the basic elements: the lefthand colorbar and wash over the rest of the image (color will probably change from one play to the next) and the representational photography, but the way those are used, the photograph itself, the fonts that the play names (which, for those who want to know are POST, Playing it Cool, Stuck Up A Tree and Mousewings)…those are all open for discussion.

But I’m trying to make a basic template. And I’d appreciate your input. Here’s what my ideas amounted to on Thursday night:

Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit…anywhere you think might be useful. Opinions on this one are crowd-sourced. Let me know what you think, and know your thoughts are appreciated.

Zombies for Sale!

Art by Nick & Miranda Doerfler

Like Zombies? Want to help raise money for a good cause?

Miranda Doerfler and I have co-edited a short collection of Zombie Haiku, by internet users from around the world. The collection was published yesterday, Friday the 13th, and is now available on Amazon, Smashwords and in hard copy on Createspace.

  • If digital isn’t your thing, you can buy a paperback copy of the collection from CreateSpace for $6.99.
  • Own a non-Kindle e-reader, or like reading things on your computer? Then Smashwords is where you can pick up a free-range e-copy in multiple formats for just $.99.
  • Tied to your Kindle? We’ve also made a copy available for Amazon Kindle users, again for $.99.

Miranda did a brilliant job putting the final product together and (with her brother, Nick) on the artwork. The range of poems each writer submitted were so much fun to read and work on, and the collection is really, really fun to read.

Part of the proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. So it’s not just about having a good time…it’s always about helping to save the world!

Want to buy a copy, but need some guidance on formats? Comment below and I’ll help you get it sorted. Authors who have not yet received a code for their free copy (available from Smashwords) should get in touch with Miranda or myself and we’ll sort you out. 

HE GOT MY EYEBALLS! Effective Targeted Marketing Online

This morning, I re-downloaded RedditIsFun for my latest replacement phone.

After installing and activating it, a message popped up: the developer, “just one guy,” had built in a pop-up that offered the user a choice of whether to allow a single ad per post at the top of each screen. In the pop-up, the user is also informed that the ad option can be toggled on and off at any point in time.

This came hot on the heels of a conversation about how Twitter has started pushing ads from streams its users don’t follow into their twitter streams. On Twitter, my response is to block the twitter account of the corporation that’s paid Twitter to impinge on my eyespace.

With RedditIsFun, I clicked “okay.”

I don’t normally subject myself to ads, because the average American already sees thousands per day – and living in Manhattan, I’d guess my daily average is compensating for the other tail on the bell curve – but here, I agreed. If the ads are obnoxious, I’ll turn them off. If not – if the developer of RedditIsFun is selling his adspace smartly – then I’ve now agreed to see what he’s schilling as a way to help subsidize my use of his program.

So rather than being met with annoyance, his advertisers might actually find themselves making sales to an interested member of their target market.

Smart sale of adspace means I don’t want:

– Ads that demean women.

– Ads that condescend to their viewers.

– The same ad over and over again. (Yes, Hulu, I’m talking to you.)

I do want:

– Ads for products and services that actually interest me

When an advertiser hits the sweet spot and finds their targeted marketing, their ad dollars can be incredibly productive. Last week, I attended the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue at Rockaway Beach off the back of my Klout score; I connected with like-minded individuals, did some good for the environment, drank free (and tasty) Barefoot Cuvee, and both tweeted and blogged about the event. Win-win-win-win-win. So I’ll buy into a targeted ad scheme that results in advertisers subsidizing an app that gives access to one of the most useful websites currently out there.

So there you go, indie developer. You got my eyeballs. What are you going to do with them?

 

A “Hot Mess” in NYC

"Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change" at the Cornelia Street Cafe

Come listen to authors from HOT MESS read their works, then participate in a discussion about climate change and its potential effects on human society.

Limited print copies will be on sale at the event, which should run from 6pm-7:30pm.

We hope to see you there.

 

 

Huge Writing Announcement: “Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change” – Kindle, Smashwords & Nook

Welcome to my 100th post for rlbrody.com.

I didn’t realize I’d have something significant to say when I hit this blogging milestone. Imagine how excited I was when I realized. (Actually, if you follow me on twitter, you probably don’t have to do much imagining.)

So here it is. Huge Writing Announcement.

A few months ago, I posted about an anthology I was putting together: short stories about global warming and climate change, and their effects on humankind.

Today that anthology – Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change – went live on Amazon.com.

Over the next 36 hours or so, it will populate to Amazon’s international sites. Over the next couple of weeks, Nook, Smashwords and CreateSpace (a print service – that’s right, actual books) will join the Kindle version of Hot Mess for sale.

But today, it’s just there for Kindle. If you’re a Kindle owner, or if you’ve downloaded one of their ten billion Kindle apps for your smartphone, iPhone, iPad, or desktop, you can click on this link right here and you will be able to download your very own copy of Hot Mess. And you should. Because not only is it a piece of work I’m over-the-moon proud of, but it’s work with a grassroots-level charity angle: each author has agreed to donate a portion of whatever earnings they have from Hot Mess to a charity or awareness-raising organization close to their heart,  involved in dealing with climate change.

So go buy Hot Mess. What will you be getting?

The anthology starts with She Says Goodbye Tomorrow by Eric Sipple, a story about wine and family and loss and memory.  From there, my super-short Haute Mess takes a whimsical, fashion-based look at how visual and physical climates interact. Miranda Doerfler gives us In Between the Dark and the Light, an action-filled tale about a father and his daughter, followed by Sare Liz Gordy‘s Traditionibus ne Copulate, which (I think, and I know she’ll correct me if I’m wrong) translates to “Don’t fuck with tradition.” Next, my piece Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. is a domestic coming-of-age tale about a boy, his mother, an industrial accident and the house computer. Finally, RJ Astruc brings the anthology’s central questions back to the forefront with her fictional travelogue, The World Gets Smaller, and Things Get Left Behind.

Hot Mess features hand-drawn illustrations by musician/ecologist Hannah Werdmuller as well as a fashionably modern – and eye-catching – cover design from Sarah Hartley. Mere Smith’s assistance with proofreading and Jason Derrick’s with formatting were (and continue to be) very much appreciated. This book wouldn’t be out today without your work. Thank you, so much, to each of you.

A little over seven months ago, I approached four writers and asked them if they were interested in writing a short story anthology about climate change. They were. The project started. Now it’s over.

Except it’s not. There’s still loads to do: more uploading, more formats, more reviews, more readers, more awareness. I will talk about all of that more later – in another blog entry. Earth Day is next month; I’ll definitely talk about it before then. I hope you will, too.

For now, please read Hot Mess.

Then start talking, posting, retweeting, and facebooking about it.

 

UPDATE (3/21): You may have noticed that some of the above links are now directing you to Smashwords! You can now buy the book directly there; in a few weeks it will have populated out to sites like Kobo, the iTunes store and more.

If you’re reading on Kindle, I would still recommend you purchase the Amazon version, as that has been optimized for your platform. Nook users, Smashwords does a lovely job of converting to a Nook-friendly format.

Click Here to Buy Hot Mess

 

UPDATE 2:  This morning, I got to send my dad a text: “Your daughter is currently outselling Isaac Asimov in her category.” (We’d just pulled ahead of “I, Robot”).  The book rose to just over 9K in the Amazon store rankings. Within our own category (sci-fi anthologies), “Hot Mess” shot to #20 on the top #100 list, climbed up another few spots before topping out at #15, and lingered there overnight. (EDIT: Hannah has just let me know she saw it at #14 at 2am! Not sure if that’s EST or PST, but either way!) Not bad for Upload Day, right?

Selecting Not To Select Kindle Select

I re-joined the gym yesterday. I’ve gone twice so far. I feel unbelievably good for having done so. It’s not going to be cheap, so if you feel like supporting my good health habits, start saving your pennies for a copy of Hot Mess, releasing later in March.Speaking of which.
I’ve been involved with a couple of e-publishing projects in the last month or so, and have been trying to get a good idea of exactly what the costs and benefits to the independent author are when using e-distribution; read on for my thoughts on the matter and details of HOT MESS’ release.