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Archive for June, 2014

The Players

Hachette Publishing

Hachette Publishing


Amazon

Amazon


The Buying Public

The Buying Public

The Plot

There is an old business that has existed for many decades and has ruled the town. They are the ones who make the product and if you want the product you get what they say you get. They’re in this to make money and they enjoy their seat at the head of the table.

Along comes another fellow who wants to make money, yes, but also wants to find a way to get people what they want at a good price. He puts together a scheme where the customers decide what to pay, where the people can invest their own work and earn a profit from shared production and cooperative exposure.

—-

A lot of words have been written about Hachette Vs. Amazon in the last couple of weeks. Hachette has been brilliant about the spin they’ve put on it. Just like Mr. Potter the Legacy Publishers have sat back and bemoaned the discontented, lazy rabble even as they put out an increasingly substandard, overpriced product. In their well-authored spin they’ve created a story whereby they are a crusader for the little guy (all us poor authors and our royalties! All those poor independent booksellers teetering on the brink of extinction!) and Amazon is the villain threatening to ruin the world with their blasted low prices and vast selection.

It’s a good story. Shame it is about as true as Mr. Potter’s love for the people of Bedford Falls.

So how exactly is Amazon the George Bailey of the story? Well, they aren’t exactly. Amazon is the Bailey Building and Loan. Amazon is the company that realised that authors needed a place to publish their works if only so they didn’t have to go crawling to Potter-er-Legacy Publishers like Hachette. Amazon provided another place for authors to get published. It provided a place where customers could find books they actually wanted instead of getting stuck with the few books the Publishing Conglomerate told them they could read.

And now that they’re finding their way of life in danger the publishers have decided to make George Bailey look like a thief and an embezzler.

Really, the parallels between the two stories are eerie. The Publisher War IS _It’s A Wonderful Life_. Think of all the independent authors–the Mr. Martinis if you will–who have a home for their work thanks to Amazon. Who got a better deal than the falling down “houses” (poor contracts) provided by Mr. Potter.

Who am I? I’m Violet Sharpe. I’m the whore for books. I’m the bad girl. The outsider. I love George Bailey and he helps me when I need a fix. Yes, I admit it. I’m on Amazon’s side in this. Hard not to be when you think about how Mr. Potter has ruined this town.

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I love bees.  I don’t love them as much as spiders (bees don’t do thread art) but I do love them.   Let’s flash back to the summer of 2000 for a moment.

In September of 1999 we moved into our house.  In January of 2000 my husband’s company–a tech startup–hit the skids.   We were hanging on by our teeth.   I went out and got a job and began learning a lot of lessons about how it’s not always getting what you want but keeping what you’ve gotten that drives a person.  The job in a bank was not a good one physically or emotionally and I did what I’ve always done when life’s tempestuous sea is battering against the gunwhale.  I read books.    The first book was The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King.   The idea of Sherlock Holmes keeping bees was a sort of super heaven for me and I sat on the front porch in the spring warmth and disappeared into that world.   When I finished all of King’s series I wanted something else to read.   There was a battered copy of a book in Tim’s home office that was given to us by a friend at the company.   I had at first told Tim I didn’t want it in the house but since the book was someone else’s property I didn’t think I should throw it away.   But it was evil and I didn’t want it around.   I told him to take it back to Steven but Steven was sailing in some flotilla down to Bermuda and the book stayed in its desultory place.  Finally my 30 year old self said “you have enough discernment.  You read it for yourself and see for yourself.  Then you can at least talk about it intelligently.”

That’s how I picked up Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone in the Summer of 2000.   Anyone who knows me knows what happened next, knows how the books became so close to my heart and how in their pages I found not a lurking Satan but a loving Christ.

It wasn’t until many years later that I made the connection and saw that God’s hand is so much in everything that even as it directs events it leaves poetry in the margins.

A main character in the Harry Potter series is Dumbledore.

Dumbledore is an old word for what is now more commonly called ‘bumblebee’

Deborah (my hebrew name and almost my given English name) comes from the same word root as ‘dumbledore’ (dbr) and that root means Word

In John 1 we see that  Jesus is the Living Word.

In the Middle Ages the Bee was used as a symbol of Christ himself.

It all weaves together in the prettiest of tapestries, in God signing “I Am” in the corner of the painting that is my life.

I love bees. And now bees are dying. There are several arguments as to exactly why. The cause is not yet known for certain. But it’s happening and it’s a major concern.

I know it’s trendy to keep chickens, and I can’t fault people for wanting fresh eggs, although I find chickens disgusting. Ideally more folks will start home beekeeping as well. Bees save the planet…kind of like Christ.

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I just logged into GoodReads to mark that I’d started reading Mildred Pierce by James N. Cain.   I’d long ago seen the movie version starring Joan Crawford and didn’t care for the people involved.  It never occurred to me that the film may be based on a novel or that the novel may be very good in spite of the essentially grim characters who people it.    But when Laura Lippmann mentioned offhandedly that the book was “quotidian” I downloaded that sucker from the library.    I adore quotidian stories, because I love the stories of everyday people having every day lives and making it through their everyday battles.   I love Maeve Binchy’s stories where the issue is “how do we earn enough for jam for tea?” and “how shall we brighten this dreary shed in the garden?”    Those are the kinds of stories that hide in the skin of all of us and those conflicts are oddly satisfying to see resolved.    Add to that usual fascination with the beauty of the ordinary the fact that lately I’ve tired of the endless parades of stories about What The King Is Doing Tonight.   All of the top books–and even some of my favourites–are about bloodshed and kingships.  All the conflict is intense and bloody and world-changing.   I was in the mood for some “let’s see how a normal person pays her mortgage”.   And so…quotidian book, here I come.

I’m about 40% of the way through the story now, and just thought to log it in GoodReads before I forgot altogether.   When I got there I saw that a GR Friend from a Christian Reading Group had given the book two stars.   No explanation was appended; the two stars were all the friend was going to say.  After three years of seeing this person remark upon books, though, I had a fairly good idea what the issue was.   And while this person didn’t address it directly others did.   They didn’t like the book because the characters drink.  The characters get divorced.   The characters have sex outside of marriage.

IS THE BOOK GOOD?  IS THE STORY WELL-WRITTEN? ARE THE CHARACTERS REALISTIC?  

Those are reasons to dislike a book.  Yes, I have my prejudices.  I know that I  personally have trouble with a book when an animal is in jeopardy.  I can’t get into a book if none of the characters are at all likable.    Those may not be fair prejudices but I own them and I admit them when they affect a review.

I’ve read countless reviews from other Christians where well-written, masterful works of fiction are given a poor grade because the occasional “foul language” shows up or the characters do something that Good People Don’t Do.   I used to just chalk it up to the cost of doing business in a vacuum but now I think I’m truly over it.

I’m over people who can’t appreciate the beauty of a thing, the essential good in the thing simply  because the thing isn’t perfect.  There’s that old saying about perfect being the enemy of the good and it’s never more true than when some Christians evaluate stories.      These folks think that standing ground and frowning upon humans acting human in story is what God would want from them.   The same God who loves them in spite of their flaws…

This book is well-written.  I know it is because I don’t think the characters are especially likable but the story has exacted such a pull upon me that I can’t put it down in spite of the characters’ basic baseness.   This is not a two-star book, quality-wise.   It’s a story of how flawed humans get through life.   It’s the story God has read billions of times since our creation.   Rating books is not an exercise in censorship.

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I know a lot of writers and entertainers make use of the thing where they get a google alert every time their name gets mentioned somewhere online.   I’m pretty sure the talked-about-incessently people like Miley Cyrus don’t use them but I’ve gotten enough blog comments and emails from various authors when I’ve talked about there work here to know that it’s common enough.

So I’m resorting to this cheap, underhanded, probably useless trick.   I’ve tried everything else.  I started simple, hitting minor notification buttons on other websites.   Then I started emailing.

Now I’m using my blog to openly plead.

Marge Piercy, I’m begging you.  I’m pleading with you.  I don’t know what pull you have–if any–with your publisher.   I know they’ve converted many of your wonderful books to e-book already.

But back in the 80s you wrote what may be one of the top three novels about World War II, and is definitely the absolute hands-down best book about how the war was lived by women.   Yes, Marge Piercy, I have read Gone To Soldiers at least a dozen times since I first read it in 1986 or 1987 as a teenager recovering from surgery.    There is a well-worn paperback copy in the shelf next to my bed where I keep the books that mean the most to me.   (Yes, you’re right next to the Bible, funnily enough.)

The problem is that now I’m disabled by RA and can’t hold the giant book anymore.   I have a Kindle because it’s the assistive device that allows me to continue reading wonderful things.   Once a week–every monday–I check Amazon to see if Gone To Soldiers has been added to the Kindle format.   It never is.   Marge Piercy, I have been doing this FOR FOUR YEARS NOW.    Please, Marge Piercy, you’re one of my favourite authors.   You wrote one of my favourite books.   Please put it on ebook so that I can read it again and so that I can brag to people about how this is one of the books they HAVE to read so go buy it right now.

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