This Writer Gone Fishing

Only not really, because if I went fishing I’d catch a ton of ideas.  This is my way of saying that Witchfinder will either appear very late today or early tomorrow, together with tomorrow’s post.

Sorry, but I was finishing a grossly overdue short story.  It took me so long to get it done and so much emotional energy that I had nothing left for the chapters of Witchfinder (probably chapters, as the rotation is getting shorter, which means one chapter would be too short.)  As you probably know this is a bad thing.

This is, of course, the drawback of doing this, as it were, on stage and in front of people.  I suspect porn actors must suffer from performance failures sometimes too (runs.)

Those of you following Witchfinder will get your fix just probably not today or really late today.  Those not following Witchfinder, feel free to continue discussion here of the recent posts.

Some news from this writer’s household.  The young — very young — raccoon trying to court one of the cats we feed at the back door, has now decided he’s a cat, and keeps trying to convince me of this.  I have told EVERYONE we’re no adopting it.  It’s a wild animal and might have rabies (yes, all the cats we can catch have their shots.)  This seems to have no effect on my sons who have now named it Bandit.  It is completely (!) unafraid of us.  I don’t want to know what kind of crazy a raccoon needs to be to think he’s a cat.

And speaking of a kind of crazy, Kris Rush talks about the crazy that is the book business right now.  The thing that struck me most was her note that B & N doesn’t want to sell you books.  When the musketeer mysteries were in full swing, fans ROUTINELY reported fights with B & N trying to get the books on the shelves, or at least special ordered.  Faced with irate fans demanding their fix, the B & N salespersons routinely — and “patiently” — explained they didn’t have room on their shelves for books no one wanted to read.  And of course they knew no one wanted to read the Musketeer mysteries — they told the fans howling for them — because their distributor had passed on them after (presumably) the sales person for the publishers had failed to push them, because they weren’t what was “hot” at the time.  What was hot at the time — or at least what filled every shelf devoted to “mystery” at B & N were chatty books about single women in large cities who solved murders while shopping for bitchin’ shoes.  I think that fad lasted — on shelves — all of a month, but it was what  B & N salespeople had been told would sell and, by gum, they believed.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that dogma and upward-down decisions might be fine for religion, but truly, truly suck for business?  Apparently not to B & N.  So, as they sink, they need a demon and that’s eeeevul Amazon.

I wonder — again, my view is limited, since I don’t have many friends who aren’t writers — how many industries are doing this.  I’ll note at my kid’s college orientation — where he’s going for mechanical and aerospace engineering — we were told that it’s very important to get your BA even if you end up working at Starbucks.   Apparently “studies” have proven that people with a bachelor degree are happier and healthier than those with a high school education.   Look, I understand they must keep their humanities department going (as a humanities graduate I have nothing against the discipline, but I did NOT take courses on commercial jingles or movie appreciation — though even in the eighties I had friends who did) and that not all kids want to study something that will give them a job, but… 

How much happier and healthier are those people with 100k in student debt working at Starbucks, again?  Have studies been done on those specific people?  Or is this the same sort of talk we get from publishers, denying reality and hoping that will make it go away?

I’m sure other companies are doing these.  In the tech boom years I was always amazed how the first thing a company did when it got in trouble was fire their R& D team.  Because success would come from selling the products that were failing, right?

Perhaps just perhaps having someone analyze what is happening in the field you work in then changing your model to suit would be better?  No? 

I know, I know, only someone who knows nothing about business would come up with this boneheaded a suggestion.  Which is fine.  Because reality always win and if publishing, and education, and for that matter tech, continue in the same old ways, something will replace them.  This is not me wishing them ill.  This is not necessarily what I wish will happen.  It is just the way reality works.  And reality, like her sister, life, is pure b*tch.

41 thoughts on “This Writer Gone Fishing

  1. Well, I’ve never tried to get a bookstore to stock a particular book or series, but I have had to order some, and my local B&N has never given me any trouble on that.

    Come to think of it, a lot of the problems I hear about people having in other areas don’t seem very common around here. Heck, usually, even the Post Office does a pretty good job around here.

    1. I have a long relationship with one of the two area B&Ns. The longest meeting group at the B&N is the knitting group The Daughter and I attend. (Book groups come, book groups go.) Thankfully no one there would ever treat us that way. Several of the employees are devoted book lovers, and those who are not understand that pleasing book buyers is their business. (It is possible that the regional management is somewhat better here as well.)

      Unfortunately the selling end of B&N’s business is changing, trying to keep up with changes in the overall book market. There is more and more space being devoted to reading notions and such.

      1. Is this an appropriate venue to mention the recent case of the 73-year-old man who was asked to leave a B&N after a woman complained about him lingering in the children’s section? Apparently the idea he would have grandchildren for whom he would buy books was never considered likely.
        [ http://pjmedia.com/drhelen/2012/06/05/the-war-on-men-continues/ ]

        Me, I LIKE the children’s book section — lots of old friends there, like the Princess & Curdy, Peter & Wendy, Frog & Toad, Charlotte & Wilbur, Kim, Dorothy & Ozma, Laura Ingalls, Mowgli, Sterling North, Robin Hood, Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, Will Stanton & Bran Davies, Jane, Michael, John & Barbara Banks,, Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, & the Lamb, Harry Crewe, Charlie Bucket, Matilda, the BFG, Baba Yagga, Taran & Princess Eilonwy, Harry, Ron & Hermione, Br’er Rabbit, Pooh, Peter and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, Doctor John Dolittle, Jim Hawkins and, of course, Alice to name but a few. Sadly, some, such as the brave and clever Sambo, have gone missing.

        There are also some wonderful poetry collections, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me: A Book of Nonsense Verse (GOOD LORD IN THE MORNING!!! I went Amazon to check the title accuracy and they’re selling Wallace Tripp’s book for >$200!!!! in paper!!!!! Over $400 hardbound!!!! You’d think some clever publisher would reprint … but I guess “clever’ and “publisher” go together like “fish” and “bicycle”?) Where else in the store would I look for Edward Lear’s nonsense???

        Then there are the authors mistakenly labeled YA and Children’s, like Diana Wynne Jones, Cornelia Funke, (much of) Neil Gaiman, Patricia Wrede, Lloyd Alexander, Edith Nesbit, Susan Cooper, Robin McKinley, Roger Lancelyn Green, Andrew Lang and the Brothers Grimm. As well, there are excellent collections of the myths of the Greeks & Romans, the Nordic Eddas (so much more entertaining than in the Penguin translations), the Veddas, the tales of Gilgamesh, of Osiris, of Anansi, of Izanagi, of Momotaro, of Coyote and of Jack.

        Excuse me – I think I need to go visit the “Children’s Section.” Ban me from all the rest of the store, but please DO NOT bar me from my oldest friends!

        1. I highly recommend Gordon Korman’s books to you RES, and to anyone who has a child or teen.

          Actually on second thought I recommend them to anyone, they are just as good a read as an adult. A spew warning should be printed at the front of them however, DO NOT eat or drink while reading his books 😉

        2. Trippe is over $200?!? Holy cats. Sounds like I’d better get mine rebound. I loved them a bit much when I was small and the pages all came loose. Ditto H.C. Holling’s “Seabird.”

    2. My local B&N has always been very nice to me, too. I swear, sometimes I wonder if I’m going shopping in an alternate universe, or if it’s just New Hampshire being, well, New Hampshire. >_>

    3. As an author trying to get my books on store shelves, I HAVE experienced this, with BOTH of the B&N superstores in town. At one, one of the guys was trying to put together a SF-themed local-author group booksigning and wanted me in on it. The whole event never got going because he wasn’t able to get permission from corporate.

      The other B&N, almost within walking distance of my subdivision, did have me for a booksigning for my first book – after a ton of miscommunication through the distributor (when my publisher has a distribution agreement DIRECTLY WITH B&N CORPORATE). An entire case of books sold at that store; they sent a whopping 3 back after a year’s time. And never put another book of mine on the shelves. By that time I’d made pretty good friends with the lady in charge of such things, and she told me frankly, “I’d love to put your stuff on the shelves, and some others too. We’ve got some great local authors. But I can’t, because Corporate HQ determines who goes on shelves and who doesn’t, and there’s’ nothing I can do about it.”

      So there you have it. *shrug*

      I DO have some photos of my book (Burnout) on the “New This Month” shelf at that store. 🙂

      1. Your is a story when I think about B&N complaining that they can’t generate enough business, as well as their indie bookstore killing practices in the 90s.

  2. And reality, like her sister, life, is pure b*tch.

    Here’s something I once wrote in another context:

    The universe doesn’t care what you feel or think; the universe is what it is. And you can either adapt to the way the universe really is, or live your life in a state of denial until reality smacks you across the face.

    That state of denial comes from the postmodern “truth is relative” nonsense. People who’ve been taught all their lives that “You have your own truth and I have my truth” and who’ve unquestioningly swallowed that load of, shall we say bovine excrement, are supremely ill-equipped to deal with a universe that just plain doesn’t care about their opinions. You can believe that you’re Superman all you want, but if you try to jump off a ten-story building and fly, you will be briefly suprised to learn how wrong you were. Very briefly.

    Or you can believe as strongly as possible that one can run the power grid of an entire country (that happens to be the fourth-largest one in the world) on nothing but wind, solar power, and unicorn farts… but you’ll be very surprised when, the day after switching off all the nuclear and coal plants, you wake up in the dark with an unheated house. Because reality doesn’t care what you think.

    1. I had to quote this poem:
      A Man Said to the Universe
      BY STEPHEN CRANE (1871-1900)
      A man said to the universe:
      “Sir, I exist!”
      “However,” replied the universe,
      “The fact has not created in me
      “A sense of obligation.”

    2. Or you can believe as strongly as possible that one can run the power grid of an entire country (that happens to be the fourth-largest one in the world) on nothing but wind, solar power, and unicorn farts… but you’ll be very surprised when, the day after switching off all the nuclear and coal plants, you wake up in the dark with an unheated house. Because reality doesn’t care what you think.
      Funny you should say that because the 3rd largest economy in the world just announced that it’s going to be turning on some of the nuke plants (and then I guess all but the ones that got inundated) it turned off after the tsunami. It seems like they did the sums and figured out that factories + a/c + transport demand > fossil + green supply…

      1. Some countries have realized that you cannot drive the engines of industry and life without energy.

  3. A man said to the universe:
    “Sir I exist!”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

    –Stephen Crane

    (found via a Keith Laumer novel . . . what, you think I read poetry?)

    1. I didn’t have to type it, I just used Google to find it. Here is another Stephen Crane poem I like:
      In the desert
      I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
      Who, squatting upon the ground,
      Held his heart in his hands,
      And ate of it.
      I said: “Is it good, friend?”
      “It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;
      “But I like it
      Because it is bitter,
      And because it is my heart.”

  4. I probably need to work on my attention span. The catraccoon stuck in my mind and seems to have driven the rest of the post outa my head… Wait. Is that attention span or just Olde Pharete’s Disease? Somehow the catraccoon has become conflated in my mind’s eye with Jimmy, the skunk who decided to adopt us and move right on in the summer I was eleven. Liked using the cat’s litter box (but they didn’t like sharing, so he ended up with his own). My dad took Jimmy in for his shots and got a diet regimen for him. We enjoyed his company for several months, and then he wandered on off again. I imagine a raccoon in the house can’t be as challenging as a skunk in the house, but could still be… interesting.

      1. Coons coming and eating cat food on the porch is very common, but a lot of them want to run the cats off instead of share. I have live trapped and removed quite a few for people that were eating all their cat food. Be aware though that this is actually illegal in most states because coons are rabies carriers, your legal choices are either kill it or live with it. (Because as usual the government in its wisdom has decided it is better for you to have a rabid coon consorting with your cats on the porch, than a rabid coon in BFE were it may or may not meet another animal)

  5. Thomas Sowell has written several books about the “anointed ones.” The publishers, the people pushing BAs for all, and the ones who decided that abstract expressionism was the only worthy form of painting, all know what is best for everyone else, because they have been anointed with this wisdom. They went to school or worked with people who told them this was so, and they have been further anointed by the right people and groups (Harvard Law, Hollywood, the NYT Bestseller list/ NYT Review of Books). Their hearts tell them they are right, and because the Anointed feel so strongly that, oh, say, abstract expressionism really is the purest form of communicating and encapsulating the angst of modern society, therefore it must be so. And those-who-would-be-Anointed parrot the same ideas and arguments because “all the smart people know that . . .”

    The BA is a little different now, because of so many employers using it in lieu of a High School diploma due to the dreadful state of many of the US public school systems. But pushing STEM majors for all because “that’s where the jobs are/ will be/ because we have to compete with [country]” is the work of the Anointed. They seem to miss that without creativity, society will no longer have the ideas that the STEM majors translate into medical breakthroughs, nifty gizmos, FTL communications, cat-fur removers, or cat-raccoon-human translator boxes. That escapes the Anointed about as much as does the idea that people might want to read stories and novels that are, well, novel. And not in the “toss in a mythical creature having some anatomically impossible as long as gravity remains in effect sex” sense of novel.

    My $.06 (two cents after inflation).

  6. I probably should’t bring this up, but opossums often think they are cats, also. I had one which lived on my back porch for months, shared the out-door cat’s dish of water and food. They seemed to get along, OK … and the opossum seemed to be perfectly OK about me sitting there …

    As regards to Barnes & Noble, I haven’t much to add as a consumer, but as a local author, it was damn-near impossible to get them to stock my books. The local Borders was as supportive as all get-out, even the Hastings was agreeable to ordering them through Ingram, as they have the usual discount and returnability. ( It’s a bummer to have a signing at Hastings, unfortunately, because most of the shoppers there are looking for music and games). Barnes & Noble couldn’t even order my books when I was part of a huge local literary do ( http://celiahayes.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/evening-with-the-authors-after-action/ ) for which they provided the books. Nope, had to supply them myself, on consignment.

    Barnes & Noble brick-and-morter stores are such a hard nut to crack for local authors – even when their books are Ingram-distributed, discounted and returnable – that I think most of is indy local authors have given up in disgust.

  7. Anybody curious about raccoons as pets would do well to read Sterling North’s Rascal … well, anybody looking for a good read would do well to read that book, a wonderful bit of Americana circa 1918.

    As for corporate stupidity, that is surely the cumulative effect of educational twaddle. A recent Glenn Reynolds InstaVision at PJTV interviewed

    Brian Tamanaha, author of “Failing Law Schools,” about the the higher education bubble. Is law school still worth the investment?
    [ http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpid=86&load=7019 ]

    Short answer? The highly competitive legal education industry is selling degrees that will not enable the average recipient to earn a salary sufficient to pay the interest on the student loans. Law normally attracts the top students, so how bright are the ones going elesewhere than Law School?

    1. I will heartily second the recommendation for Rascal, there was also another book written about a pet raccoon that was pretty good, but I’m not positive of the title. (Frosty, maybe?)

      Incidentally, growing up I had a friend that had a pet raccoon that lived in the house like a cat.

  8. Only a few points come to mind.
    First, they are entitled to do what they want, (big chain stores, whatever), but I’ve got work to do and writing to complete, so if they suicide themselves, well, I”ll be sad to see them go, but not that sad.
    Second, Yes, Life and her sister reality are true… umm.. *pg rating*.
    Third, Fishing is dangerous territory. Too little to think about, too much free mind time, not enough to concentrate on, recipe for mental/writing disaster (idea overload, theoretical meltdown, that kind of thing)
    And finally, fourth, Racoons.. umm… yeah they’re cute, but they’re a real problem up here where we live, and getting worse, if you feed/name one, you’re feeding up to a couple dozen inside a week. Good luck.

  9. My husband’s company sent it’s mid- and low- management on a tour of the Toyota truck plant in our town. The tour guide addressed these education design managers and told them – “you keep pushing degrees that are unemployable…we have philosophy majors working the assembly line but what we need are craftsmen and electrical engineers. We have to go out of state to find electrical engineers we can hire.” Makes me think – a few years back – when the education specialists where my DH works geared up for the technology credit – worth 1 credit – required for high school students. Suddenly all the schools were teaching the kids website design (with powerpoint, no less), not something practical, like how to use all the features of the word processor and spreadsheet. My husband video’d a South Texas high school web design class…all new computers in the class room, all websites designed in Powerpoint, and 2 out of 3 computer screens containing misspelled words

    1. This. Just exactly this.

      Steve Jobs, before he died, said that he would love to manufacture Apple products in the U.S., but he can’t find enough people with the needed engineering skills. To make those products, he said, Apple’s manufacturing partners in the Far East employ (citing from memory) over 300,000 engineering technologists with the equivalent of U.S. associate degrees. U.S. colleges are pretty good at turning out fully-qualified engineers, but most of them don’t have two-year programs at all, and there aren’t enough of the four-year grads to go around.

      Next time someone complains about manufacturing jobs being sent overseas, ask yourself how many of those jobs would stay if American kids learned technical skills instead of Special Snowflake Studies and Applied Navel-Gazing.

      1. Correction: It was 300,000 people total, needing 30,000 supervisors and technicians with the equivalent of A.A.s in engineering. Still very, very hard to find such people in that quantity Stateside.

      2. Not only that, but our high schools don’t turn out enough people with the requisite knowledge to finish one of those courses if they were offered. I’ve watched the decline of high school education, and it’s sickening. The military has to run a retraining program to get people qualified to take care of much of the more sophisticated equipment in use. The kids have the intelligence, and many of them have the drive, but NONE of them get the education they need or deserve. If we started today, it would take us 30 years to rebuild our secondary education system to what we need as a free republic. Don’t even GET me started on post-secondary education.

    2. And, of course, they’re using the wrong tool in a universe where even the supposed best — Dreamweaver — is the wrong tool, because the best web designers are poets who happen to write in php, css, html, usw, and NEVER EVER use a brute-force tool that cranks out crap code the way MS Office apps do.

      I work in a business where half of our interaction with supposedly “trained” practitioners of our arts have to have knocked out of their skulls the entirety of what the schools have pounded into them — that is wrong. We had an intern one year, for a year, whose exit interview cause her school to completely revamp their program. But, judging by what I keep seeing, that program as as rare as hen’s teeth. Or worse.

      M

      1. the best web designers are poets who happen to write in php, css, html, usw …

        YES! But try getting a beancounter to understand that this self-taught guy with no degree is going to do a better job than that other guy with eighteen certificates* showing that he mastered a Dreamweaver training course, a Powerpoint training course, etc. Go ahead, try. I’ll stand over here and snicker while I watch you lose your sanity.

        * MCSE = Must Consult Someone Experienced

        1. Classic case of “you won’t get fired for going by The Book.” The whole career strategy of middle-managers is to avoid “unnecessary” risk. Hire somebody without experience and tons of talent and he screws the pooch: “WHAT were you doing, hiring that guy?” Hire a putz with degrees and certifications and he screws up: “His resume looked great, I don’t know what happened.”

          There are ways around this, but at essence the hirer has little upside for taking a chance on an uncredentialed hire and great downside; hiring the credentials protects the hirer. CYA All The Way is motto #1 in most companies of any size.

        2. I’ve got a copy of the MCSE textbooks. That has got to be the worst-written technical documentation I’ve ever worked with. It’s all but useless. I did learn something from it, but mainly that Microsoft doesn’t have a clue how to write technical documentation.

          1. Microsoft doesn’t have a clue how to write technical documentation.

            Goodness, are you ever correct about that. I dread Googling for a Windows problem, because the MSDN (MicroSoft Developers’ Network) docs I’ll turn up are almost never helpful. And the users-helping-users sites are filled with questions on the level of “What’s a scrollbar?” or “Where’s the Any key on my keyboard? It says Press Any key to continue, and I don’t see any Any key.” Not all questions are like that and I usually find what I’m looking for eventually, but it takes way too long to find useful information.

            Sadly, the Linux world isn’t all that much better these days. There are still some truly good technical docs out there for Linux, but a lot of the user-oriented documentation I’ve seen has such sins against technical writing as “Section 3. The FIle menu. Section 3.1: File->Open. This menu option opens a file. Section 3.2: File->Save. This menu option saves a file.” Gee, you think maybe you could expand on that a little? This is the equivalent of giving a Powerpoint presentation and then doing nothign but reading the bullet points verbatim to your audience. Gah.

            This has been the Technical Rant Of the Week™. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog.

      2. The problem I find with what Microsoft does is that it’s almost impossible to decode the crap to find an error. Half or more of what Microsoft inserts into an HTML file can be thrown away with no adverse effect to the final document. I taught a basic class on HTML at work, because we were considering putting all our test data online. Someone suggested we just let Microsoft do it. I did one file in basic HTML. Someone else converted the same file using Microsoft. My file was 227Kb. The Microsoft file was 2.6MB. Side by side, you couldn’t tell the difference. My course took one hour every Tuesday for five weeks.

        1. I find that Visual Studio does a better job than MS Office products. I suspect that this is because it lets you choose your HTML objects, then set their properties. It’s still a tiny bit bloated, but it speeds development time by giving a drag/drop interface. And you can download the basic versions free.

    1. I saw, but unfortunately our paper copy has vanished into the vortex known as “Marshall’s room” as PM normally does. We might eventually find them when he moves out…

    2. Quoting from the link:

      Neal Stephenson is putting together an anthology of pro-progress science fiction. And SF writer Sarah A. Hoyt, author of DarkShip Thieves, thinks the balance between utopian and dystopian science fiction is already swinging back toward the positive. As evidence, she points to new works such as Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty, written in the spirit of those old Heinlein novels and trumpeting technical knowledge and self-reliance rather than introspection.

      And, Darkship Thieves is one of the 12 recommended books.

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