Tuesday, November 26, 2013


We went to Thor: The Dark World two weeks ago. Weather in Illinois was dreadful so there were very few people in the theater. Consequently a pair of dads with their sons was noticeable. One of the boys was probably eight; the other no more than four. My reaction was instantly negative. What was a four-year old doing at that particular film?

Thor isn't bad as violence goes and it is completely devoid of sex. The bad guys were easy to spot making it possible to cheer on the good guys. The boys have probably been exposed to many battle sequences through their video games. That's not the issue. I just can't help but wonder how much of that movie the four-year old understood.

With so little life experience, will a four-year sympathize with the rage that drove the good guys? Did he get the sacrifices people made for each other? Was death something he could truly appreciate?  Did he see the first film?  Or The Avengers?  Even if he did, did he understand how those plots integrated with this one?  He would have been about two or three when the first Thor film was released. Without that groundwork, how much of Thor 2 made any sense to him? 

The sights and sounds were entertaining enough and the boys were quiet throughout the movie. But I wonder how much of the adult-level relationships were beyond their comprehension. I get that Dad wanted to see the movie and I'm sure those men thought this would be a great sharing time with their boys. But beyond the battle sequences, what did the children understand? The movie had a PG-13 rating and those ratings aren't entirely about violence or sex.

I hope the boys could fathom why Thor, Loki and the others did what they did because their motivations were the whole point. And if you go to movie or read a book or watch a television program or play and you miss the point, what's the point of doing it? If you never understand the entertainment presented to you by your parents, do you eventually think that entertainment is a waste of time? Do you stop reading or watching?

We communicate so much to our children and it goes far beyond our words. It's something to keep in mind when we are tempted to take a four-year old to an adult film.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dead Men Still Telling Tales

Unless you're of a certain age, you have never heard the term "out of print." In the technological dark ages (twenty-five years ago or so), books were printed on paper. When a title stopped selling and reached the end of its shelf life, the publisher stopped printing it. It literally went out of print. At such times, the rights to the work reverted back to the author who was free to do with it as he pleased.  Now, manuscripts are digital so they never go out of print. They are always available, either through print-on-demand or as an ebook. 

This is a huge boon for dead authors. Read more about it here in a CNN article. As the anonymous agent said, dead authors never leave the marketplace. Their backlist is always available. That maintains name recognition and allows new work to be published under an old name. Ian Fleming died in 1964 but James Bond books bearing his name continue to appear. Same with Robert Ludlum who died in 2001. Another writer pens the Bourne novels but who can name him?

As we know, there is precious little opportunity for new writers to get picked up by the publishing establishment unless one is writing soft porn or the latest tell-all book about a celebrity.  In the article, an agent laments that as long as old writers take up shelf space, there is no room for new ones.  In the past, the old guard made way for the new.  That is no longer the case. It makes getting noticed that much harder for newbies.

There is another side to this however. Some books are never printed on paper at all. I recently had to make that decision when the second edition of Dollars and Sense for Writers was released. Most of my sales in 2012 were ebooks. Therefore, did it make sense to publish the book on paper in 2013? 
Ultimately my fans will decide. If they want a print version, they will tell me.  In the meantime, Dollars and Sense is an ebook. 

It is true that there is no room for me on a bookstore shelf. It is also true that there are fewer shelves available to me as bookstores continue to disappear. However, in this digital age, I, and others like me, are on the shelves that count. Our work is available to readers throughout the world. Doesn't that beat being on a local shelf?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Too Many Books?

Are we writing too much? Is the market saturated with books and stories? Just a couple of the questions a writer acquaintance of mine posted to her blog recently. She was on a rant about writers self-publishing too many books. I'll address this specifically over at Dollars and Sense in the next day or two but it got me thinking about communication in general and how it is done in the digital age.

We are bombarded with information, entertainment, and opinion. The ads get sexier, the shows get more violent, and the books more numerous. It's all an attempt to get our attention and hold the audience, maintain the ratings or the subscriptions, and make money.

Those who read my blogs know that I am not opposed to making money. However, I do believe that in our effort to be heard, we are producing greater quantities of material without ensuring that it has quality.  For example, several new dramas for the fall season showed great promise.  Some are already cancelled.  They did not connect with their audience. There was no communication.

Whether it is a television program, an advertisement, an article, or a book, there is a communication give and take. If the audience does not understand or sympathize with the message, it moves on; something it has been willing to do ever since the advent of the remote control.

What my writer friend was trying to say was that she looks for quality in the writing that is currently produced and she isn't finding much. Care is not taken to ensure that the product being sold is worth her time and money. Sadly, that set of circumstances exists for all products. 

We have more and more that is worth less and less.  We exalt low prices but complain when product doesn't hold up. What does that say about the companies and people who produce the goods? And what about us as consumers of those products? If we continue to spend our money on inferior product, we deserve what we get. We communicate best with our wallets.