Reality check, Ms. Rowling

Obviously!

Obviously!

Author JK Rowling has confessed a deep secret. It’s rough for Ron fans, so hang tight. The secret: Ron and Hermione’s love story was a mistake. Hermione and Harry should have been together.

To that, JK, we say DUH.

We all had a Hermione in our high school. And she never ended up with our Ron. Her eyes never looked at Ron; they only rolled at his eternal goofiness. Hermione didn’t have time for Ron.

Our Ron would’ve dogged Hermione until he realized she was not kidding about this school stuff. Then he would’ve reunited with Lavender Brown, who’d secretly write “Lavender Weasley” on the inside of her notebook.

Eventually, our Hermione would suspect Harry wasn’t just lucky, but brilliant. She would’ve been amused, then threatened, then unable to resist the attraction. Off to prom they’d go.

In our high school, Harry wouldn’t have remembered Ginny’s name, even after he’d rescued her from Voldemort. (“Who was that girl? The one who talked to diaries?” “That was my sister, Harry. Ginny. My sister.”) Ginny is dull and vapid. She’s ordinary, like Ron, but without humor or mischief.

So Harry and Hermione it is. And it will always be.

Page-turning news

We’ve got literary fireworks in my writing home of south central Minnesota. I’m thrilled to share some of that news:

Nicole Helget’s novel Stillwater just landed on the shelves. It’s already getting stellar reviews and national media coverage. (Late notice, but she’ll be featured today on Kerri Miller’s show on Minnesota Public Radio. It’s at 11 a.m. and streamable.)

Kirstin Cronn-Mills, my critique partner, won the 2014 Stonewall Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. The Stonewall is released in the same sentence as the Newbery, so yes, it’s a helluva deal.

My other critique partner, Rachael Hanel, is nominated for a Minnesota Book Award for her memoir We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down.

And another Minnesota Book Award nominee: Tom Maltman for his novel Little Wolves.

There you have it: book titles for your spring reading.

 

 

 

Drum roll … I have a cover!

Release date is September 2, 2014.

Release date is September 2, 2014.

The process of waiting for your novel’s cover:

  1. Wonder.
  2. Wait.
  3. Check out the artist’s web site. Get goose bumps.
  4. Draft your own versions of what the cover might look like. Note they are all completely literal and suck.
  5. Wonder.
  6. Wait.
  7. Check out the artist’s web site. Get goose bumps.
  8. Receive email from editor with the cover attached. Woot. Holler. Jump. Cartwheel. Hurt back.
  9. Visit chiropractor.
  10. Celebrate.

And now the next wait: publication! Release date is Sept. 2. It’s on Amazon as a pre-order. And it finally feels real.

The Authors Guild

Author Richard Russo makes such a great case for joining the Authors Guild I almost joined twice.

An Open Letter to My Fellow Authors

It’s all changing, right before our eyes. Not just publishing, but the writing life itself, our ability to make a living from authorship. Even in the best of times, which these are not, most writers have to supplement their writing incomes by teaching, or throwing up sheet-rock, or cage fighting. It wasn’t always so, but for the last two decades I’ve lived the life most writers dream of: I write novels and stories, as well as the occasional screenplay, and every now and then I hit the road for a week or two and give talks. In short, I’m one of the blessed, and not just in terms of my occupation. My health is good, my children grown, their educations paid for. I’m sixty-four, which sucks, but it also means that nothing that happens in publishing—for good or ill—is going to affect me nearly as much as it affects younger writers, especially those who haven’t made their names yet. Even if the e-price of my next novel is $1.99, I won’t have to go back to cage fighting.

Still, if it turns out that I’ve enjoyed the best the writing life has to offer, that those who follow, even the most brilliant, will have to settle for less, that won’t make me happy and I suspect it won’t cheer other writers who’ve been as fortunate as I. It’s these writers, in particular, that I’m addressing here. Not everyone believes, as I do, that the writing life is endangered by the downward pressure of e-book pricing, by the relentless, ongoing erosion of copyright protection, by the scorched-earth capitalism of companies like Google and Amazon, by spineless publishers who won’t stand up to them, by the “information wants to be free” crowd who believe that art should be cheap or free and treated as a commodity, by internet search engines who are all too happy to direct people to on-line sites that sell pirated (read “stolen”) books, and even by militant librarians who see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to “lend” our e-books without restriction. But those of us who are alarmed by these trends have a duty, I think, to defend and protect the writing life that’s been good to us, not just on behalf of younger writers who will not have our advantages if we don’t, but also on behalf of readers, whose imaginative lives will be diminished if authorship becomes untenable as a profession.

I know, I know. Some insist that there’s never been a better time to be an author. Self-publishing has democratized the process, they argue, and authors can now earn royalties of up to seventy percent, where once we had to settle for what traditional publishers told us was our share. Anecdotal evidence is marshaled in support of this view (statistical evidence to follow). Those of us who are alarmed, we’re told, are, well, alarmists. Time will tell who’s right, but surely it can’t be a good idea for writers to stand on the sidelines while our collective fate is decided by others. Especially when we consider who those others are. Entities like Google and Apple and Amazon are rich and powerful enough to influence governments, and every day they demonstrate their willingness to wield that enormous power. Books and authors are a tiny but not insignificant part of the larger battle being waged between these companies, a battleground that includes the movie, music, and newspaper industries. I think it’s fair to say that to a greater or lesser degree, those other industries have all gotten their asses kicked, just as we’re getting ours kicked now. And not just in the courts. Somehow, we’re even losing the war for hearts and minds. When we defend copyright, we’re seen as greedy. When we justly sue, we’re seen as litigious. When we attempt to defend the physical book and stores that sell them, we’re seen as Luddites. Our altruism, when we’re able to summon it, is too often seen as self-serving.

But here’s the thing. What the Apples and Googles and Amazons and Netflixes of the world all have in common (in addition to their quest for world domination), is that they’re all starved for content, and for that they need us. Which means we have a say in all this. Everything in the digital age may feel new and may seem to operate under new rules, but the conversation about the relationship between art and commerce is age-old, and artists must be part of it. To that end we’d do well to speak with one voice, though it’s here we demonstrate our greatest weakness. Writers are notoriously independent cusses, hard to wrangle. We spend our mostly solitary days filling up blank pieces of paper with words. We must like it that way, or we wouldn’t do it. But while it’s pretty to think that our odd way of life will endure, there’s no guarantee. The writing life is ours to defend. Protecting it also happens to be the mission of the Authors Guild, which I myself did not join until last year, when the light switch in my cave finally got tripped. Are you a member? If not, please consider becoming one. We’re badly outgunned and in need of reinforcements. If the writing life has done well by you, as it has by me, here’s your chance to return the favor. Do it now, because there’s such a thing as being too late.

Richard Russo
December 2013

Ha-ha and tee-hee

My first YA novels – all unpublished – were heavy: a guy in jail, a school shooting, a cancer story.

My high school buddies listened politely to my plot summaries. They even read the guy-in-jail book. Then they said this: We think you’re funny. Why don’t you write something fun? Something funny?

That’s friendship code for these stories aren’t working.

So I took a stab at humor. It’s an intimidating writing style. There’s nothing worse than trying to be amusing and falling on your face – and not a ha-ha slapstick fall. An awkward, ugly fall.

People who’ve read The Graham Cracker Plot say it’s funny. Kids laugh when they read it. And a respected publishing house (Roaring Brook) bought it, so there can’t be too many awkward, ugly falls.

Still.

The release date is eight months away. My fingers are crossed for middle-grade giggles. Parent chuckles would be a bonus.

I’m not confident enough to blog something like, “How to Write Humor for Middle Grade.”

Someday, perhaps. But not today.

And the Rickie goes to …

The midseason Rickies.

The midseason Rickies.

No Walking Dead until February. That means it’s time to announce the midseason Walking Dead awards, the Rickies.

The winners are nominated by Shelley Tougas, voted on by Shelley Tougas, and presented by Shelley Tougas.

Smartest Character

And the Rickie goes to … Carl.

Carl: Why don’t we shoot the governor while he’s not expecting it, while he’s perched on that tank, before he chops off Hershel’s head and destroys the prison?

Daryl: Nah. Let’s just see how it plays out.

Worst Skill Transfer

The Rickie goes to … Daryl.

Daryl can shoot a gnat’s eyelash from 100 yards with a bow and arrow, but he can’t hit the side of a truck with an automatic rifle.

He also can’t drive, which brings us to …

Best Gross Out

The Rickie goes to … Daryl.

Our greasy-haired hero delivers a lesson about distracted driving when he hits a zombie while messing with the radio. Then he drives into a herd of zombies, backs up, and runs over so many walkers that the wheels spin in zombie road jam.

Serve that with some crackers.

Best Zombie Repellent

And the Rickie goes to … the Governor.

The Governor couldn’t be bitten if he put his hand in a zombie’s mouth and forced its teeth into his own flesh. After Woodbury falls, the Governor roams the countryside in a trance, unable or unwilling to fend off zombies, who either don’t notice him or miraculously trip, fall, or stumble around him.

Corniest Line

And the Rickie goes to … Hershel.

“I hereby declare we have spaghetti Tuesdays every Wednesday.”

Maybe Glenn can go on a run and rustle up some Chef Boyardee.

Saddest Death

And the Rickie rests on the grave of … Hershel. RIP.

Dumbest Mother

And the Rickie goes to … Lily.

She’s the Mommy Dearest of the zombie apocalypse. Days after daughter Megan was almost zombie lunch, Lily allows the kiddo to play hundreds of feet away from safety, alone, in a mud pile. When a zombie emerges, Lily’s a second late and a bullet short. And the cradle did fall. RIP Megan.

Best Bad A**

And the Rickie goes to … Carol.

Carol’s banishment is also Rick’s biggest mistake. Turns out they could’ve used her.

Best Singer

And the Rickie goes to … Beth.

She can’t shoot, can’t fight, can’t handle a knife. But man, she can belt a Tom Waits’s tune. And she baby sits, which brings us to …

Worst Babysitter

And the Rickie goes to … Beth.

Never, ever transfer care of a baby to four young kids fleeing an invasion. Chances are they’ll dump the baby carrier in the carnage and run off looking for guns.

Best Defier of Death

And the Rickie goes to … Michonne.

When it’s all over, Michonne will be the last one standing. Nobody takes down Michonne.

Biggest apology

And the Rickie goes to … Bob.

On behalf of cyber fans everywhere, I humbly apologize to Bob for believing he was the prison killer. Turns out he may only be the prison’s zombie baiter, in which case the Ricktator will send him to live with Carol.