Friday Book Musings (Week 2)

I had a really great post planned for this week, but then–shockingly–I ran out of time. So we stick with books once again. Not such a bad compromise though, right?

This week I began a new YA paranormal romance/fantasy series, Rachel Higginson’s Star-Crossed series. I only read the first book, Reckless Magic. By all accounts, this book and series was right up my alley. It’s about a 16-year-old named Eden Matthews who discovers she’s an Immortal, a Witch, and one ostensibly cast to save all of magic. She meets a boy, but he’s the Crowned Prince and she’s the would-be leader of the Resistance against the monarchy, etc., etc. The plot’s not important–or at least not in this space. My review isn’t even important (though you can find that here). What’s important is the revelations that reading this book brought to light.

The Indie Publishing Double-Edged Sword

As I continue to plod away at my own work as well as advise clients on what to do with theirs, the question of indie publishing and the changing paradigm of publishing as a whole continues to roll through my mind. While my work and my future relies on indie publishing’s success, more often than not, the Master’s degree on my wall calls out something different. I spent the better part of a decade of my life studying literature and then another decade teaching it to others, I cannot ignore all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve taught, all that centuries of literary criticism has taught us about what really¬†works.

But here’s the thing I love books. I love what they do to me, where they take me, the thoughts I have because of them, and the deep, gut-wrenching place they make me go inside. And I want more of that, more of them, and indie publishing gives that to me.

I also love people and believe in the inherent abilities of each of us to create and participate in the conversation. I want indie authors to succeed because, like my students, I believe they have talent that should be shared and not squashed by a bourgeoisie sense of what is and is not “literary.”

More importantly, though, I want to read their stories. I want them to join in the collective voice of our art as it expands and allows more and more would-bes to actually be.

Here’s where the problem arises: these would-bes cannot do it on their own.

Completing a manuscript may make you a writer, but refining that manuscript, taking criticism on that manuscript from those who understand it in a literary sense, and, finally, using that criticism to reimagine that manuscript, that makes you an author. The editorial process is about more than just fixing typos–though that should be done too. It is about asking the macro questions about your novel, its characters, plot, and development that make it better and allow it to exist on an entirely new level from that original manuscript you came up with on your own.

Literature, indeed all art, is a collective process.

But Is It Better Than the Alternative?

The beautiful new reality of the publishing industry, the re-designed normal, if you will–is that the greed of the “big five” and the theft of art from the artist is largely disappearing from our field. And I love that.

However, in our quest to appease rabid fans without the constraints of PR firms dictating release dates and make a “real living from ‘writing'” we need to also remember the importance of refined work, indie or otherwise. Because it is only the truly refined which survive.

Wile indie publishing will continue to give voice to those otherwise silences, I feel like this whole experiment is going to go down in flames if the art of writing good books with great plots and memorable characters is reduced to the science of churning out as many books as you can for $3.99 on Amazon.

I could go on, and I could (clearly) give you more specific examples from the aforementioned book, but I don’t want to call anyone out because the problem is bigger than one heroine or one undeveloped plot line with potential. There are also many, many exceptions to this rule.

I also want to reiterate that really liked the idea of Reckless Magic. I think that Rachel Higginson has an amazing world created and some really promising characters–characters who I wanted, so desperately wanted, to like. She has talent, but it is largely untapped since she’s experienced some success. And that, I fear, is the real detriment…

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What are your thoughts? I know I’m being general here, but what do you feel the role of editing and more “literary” elements should be in the indie publishing world? What is happening to the art of writing as a result of these changes?

Friday Book Musings (Week 1)

I figured the best way to start off my blog–and start off actually sticking to my blog–was to let randomness seep in. It’s been an incredibly stressful time for me and my family over the past few months, so there are a lot of thoughts swirling through my head. It’s hard to balance, you know?

However, through the waves of instability crashing on the shore of my life lately (like that one?) I have remembered where I need to find salvation, in books. This time, it has been Rebecca Ethington’s Imdalind series of YA novels. I’ve always been a sucker for a good YA romance and though the first book of the series, Kiss of Fire (free for a limited time) was a bit slow to start, once I got swept up into 16-year-old Joclyn Despain’s world, I have been reluctant to come out. I read books 2-4 over the course of 5 days. Sick, I know.

This isn’t a review so I won’t go into any more detail than that–check out my Goodreads page for those deets–what I really want to talk about is why this escape was so important for me and how, I hope, it helps me to Redesign Normal as this blog is so aptly called.

Finding Salvation in the Pages of Books

Since I was young, books have been my constant companion. Though I have by no means lived a “rough” life, like most children I was lonely a lot and finding friends, adventure, and, yes, escape, in books cured me of that loneliness, if only for a few precious hours. Now, as a mother, a wife, and so much more, my life is anything but lonely. It is filled–to the brim. My cup runneth over with people and obligations pulling at me, demanding my attention.

With the recent purchase of our new home and renovations in full swing, these forces pulling me have only increased. Compound that with my illness (Celiac disease and nutrient malabsorption) and the incredibly restricted diet and exercise plan (or lack thereof) I am on for the foreseeable future, it’s no wonder I feel like I’ve detached. Then, I remembered my oldest friend. Almost unconsciously, I picked up my Kindle and got to work.

Letting Go in Order to Stay Present

My husband likes to tell our friends that he married a creative and, by doing so, signed up for all the quirks and eccentricities that go along with it. He and the wives/husbands of our other creative friends affectionately call this “artist’s brain.” Basically, he loses me sometimes as I am pulled inward, designing new worlds and characters, living in those designed by others like me. When we were younger, this was a bit of a chaotic, random event in our lives. I would get lost, not knowing how to control my intense need to escape and he would tread water by himself, frantically searching for me below the surface. My three day Hunger Games binge of 2012 is the best example I have of this in recent history. It was far worse early on in our marriage, though, while I was still in school.

This time was different. Maybe it’s the looming birthday I have just two short months away. Maybe it’s the calm and confidence that having children has brought me. Maybe it’s something different altogether. What I know is that this time, my descent into myself was “controlled chaos.” I may have been reading for five days straight, but I kept myself present, using my escape at night or during nap time as the balm I needed to sooth my aching, over-worked soul. With Soul of Flame (the fourth book from Ethington) tucked neatly to bed last night and the final book of the series still months away from release, I, too, have been let go, at least for the present, soothed and ready to focus.

You want to know the best part though? I never really left. While the relationship of Joclyn and Ilyan still races through my mind, soothing the anxieties created by responsibilities and obligations, allowing my empathetic soul to retreat into another world that engulfed my heart as well, I maintained my sanity and my presence. I still got that confused “I’ve lost you” look from my husband, but I got the feeling that, this time, instead of treading frantically he was lounging on a nearby raft, ready to pull me up when I finally surfaced for air. I love him for that.

I tweeted this earlier this week, but I’ll say it again. Thank you, Rebecca Ethington, from the bottom of my heart, even though a simple thanks cannot even begin to describe what you’ve given me this week.

*This post contains affiliate links, however, my promotion of each product is a personal endorsement and not paid for in anyway other than affiliate earnings.