Dystopias

THE HUNGER GAMES, written by Suzanne Collins and published by Scholastic in 2008, is a compelling cautionary novel, which grew into a trilogy, about a future dystopia. The culture that includes District Twelve is easy to envision  growing out of our current culture—further ecological degradation, a deepening chasm between the haves and the have-nots, the evil exercise of power, and reality shows carried to a frightening extreme.

I wish I hadn’t started reading it late at night. The book was so disturbing, I had a hard time putting it down and going to sleep. I think this novel is beyond popular. It  qualifies as an important book. You have probably read it yourself or know enough about it that you don’t need my two cents worth—except in using it for comparison.

MATCHED, written by Ally Condie and published by Penguin in 2010, is another novel that grew to be a trilogy as it traveled in the opposite direction on the dystopian path. Evil rules, but not as blatantly. The Society pictures itself as utopia.

The protagonist, Cassia, doesn’t start the series with the hardened edges of a Katniss Everdeen. THE HUNGER GAMES start in the outlying areas where the powerless live. Brutality is unvarnished and out in the open. MATCHED starts in the center where most people seem to accept the basic goodness of the Society.

In the beginning Cassia excitedly waits to find out who her perfect match is—as determined by the Society. All the factors that contribute to a happy marriage are considered. Cancer has been defeated by carefully regulating genetic combinations. What could be wrong with that?

I like the bubble theme.

Teams of experts compiled lists of the hundred best poems, the hundred best songs, the hundred best books. Why clutter minds with anything but the best? Why not forget the rest? What could be wrong with that?

The Society has also determined that 80 years is a good life span. It’s long enough to live a full life in good health and short enough to avoid the psychological pain of feeling useless. A person’s 80th birthday celebration is a goodbye party. Who wouldn’t choose to have their loved ones all be given the opportunity to say a perfect goodbye? What could be wrong with that?

Has there been a mistake with Cassia’s match—a mistake even though Cassia knows her match and already loves him? Her confusion and growing disillusionment helps her define, refine, and strengthen her love for the people in her life.

Life gets less simple, less clear and she realizes, “My father has always broken the rules for those he loves, just as my mother has always kept them for the same reason. . . . I can trust in my parents’ love. And it strikes me that that is a big thing to trust, a big thing to have had, no matter what else happens.”

Katniss’ journey, which is so riveting and action-packed, is also about her relationships. Her big job, well, besides staying alive, is to learn to receive love. Rereading these two novels together makes me wonder if the dystopian novels I read in my youth, ANIMAL FARM, LORD OF THE FLIES, 1984, had so much love at their cores.

Guess I won’t know until I reread them or hear from any of you who have read them recently.

Miscellany

Last post, I promised a response to CURSES, FOILED AGAIN, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro, and published by First Second in 2013. I love Jane Yolen’ writing. I love the structure of her chapters and the layers to this book. Cavallaro’s illustrations are fitting and fine.

But I don’t think I’m the right person to evaluate graphic novels. I like more words too much.

THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS will be going to the printer probably next week, and we are planning a fall launch with a party or two. One of the articles I read about launch parties said to name your food after characters in your book. Well, here’s what I’ve come up with and I’m asking for your help with recipes and more brainstorming.

What do you think of Grizz Fizz and Berry Patch Punch for the names of non-alcoholic drinks? I can think of how to make the punch, but the only idea for the Grizz Fizz so far is to spear a Swedish fish candy on a long pick so it looks like a salmon jumping out of the water.

I think we could also serve Irving’s bear claw pastry and cookies made in one of the bear track designs. Now where can I find a bear track cookie cutter? Or maybe we could pipe the design on a cracker? Any thoughts?

“Those Ladies, My Friends” is by Norma Jones, a San Diego quilt maker who had several works in the recent show

Since books are meant to be shared and I have read and enjoyed MATCHED and CROSSED twice, I was going to offer my copies to whoever wants them first. But I when  I read this post with one of my critique groups (see post of 4/11/13, “Writer, Get Thee to a Critiquery), two fellow writers claimed them first. So third come, third served with the copies (but it may take a few weeks).

Last night was the final Final Night program for PLAA, an arts program I worked in for about 25 years. These are some of the tee shirts. The quilt is titled “Window to the Soul” and is dedicated to the Rev. Ralph Carrskadden, who began the program over thirty years ago.

‘Til next time.

Writer’s DIY or A Few Reasons to Do It Yourself . . . or Not

To self-publish or not to self-publish? That is the question.

Photos not connected to the topic. They’re from out trip to Denver. If you’re like me, you’ve read about cottonwood trees, but I never knew where their name came from. Look at the ground.

I have some experience in receiving a range of rejections from traditional publishers and agents. I also have a little experience in self-publishing. There are some ways I have probably hurt myself by self-publishing. Actually, scratch out the word “probably.”

How did I hurt myself? is the next question—the one I wish I didn’t have to answer.

My book, THE PIG AND THE DRAGON, started as a picture book. Then, like a child, it just grew almost on its own. I played with different titles, but never came up with anything I liked as well so the title stayed.

A closer look at the cottonwood fluff surrounding the seeds.

After finishing the book (probably for the ninth or tenth time), I made my first quilted quilt. I was excited about the story so I appliqued a scene from the book and then decided to use it for the book’s cover. Viola!* I didn’t need to find and pay an artist or worry about how to deal with rights issues.

After the book came out, some middle school kids told me the title and the cover led them to believe younger children were the target audience. Then, after reading the book, they decided it is a book for their age.

Sticking with the theme of cotton, here’s the neighborhood cottontail.

A traditional publisher would not have let my title stand or let me pick the cover artist. Wiser minds would have made sure the title and cover would appeal to the target audience.

Mistake number one as a self-publisher was not realizing my first contacts with readers, the title and the cover, never grew up when the story did.

A second way I have hurt myself is that I now have a track record with a book that hasn’t sold the number of copies guaranteed to wow a publisher. So I may have more trouble selling a different manuscript to a publisher in the future.

It may sound like I’m sorry I’ve gone the self-publishing route and that I’d advise other writers not to do it. And the response is “not really.” I’ve even learned to enjoy some of the marketing part.

One of my favorite places is the Denver Botanic Garden. This is the conservatory.

Enjoy marketing? One of the reasons I decided to go the self-publishing route was hearing, even if a publisher does buy your manuscript, you still have to do the marketing these days. Like many writers, I am not a good sales person. I do take no, for an answer.**

Part of the tree house inside the conservatory.

A fellow author, who was published by a small press, once told me the publisher is also willing to publish her second book after she sells 2000 copies of the first one. She said she received help from the company with publicity releases, but has otherwise done the marketing herself.

A second reason for self-publishing was to make my story exactly what I wanted it to be with no interference from a pesky editor. And that worked. You would have to read the book to decide if that was a good idea or not.

The third reason for self-publishing is the interface of time and impatience. It usually takes a long time to hear anything when you send a manuscript out to agents and publishers. Many won’t accept manuscripts that are unsolicited or not yet represented by a recognized agent. Be thankful for the agents and publishers who will add those manuscripts to their “slush piles,” but be prepared to wait months before it’s read and then the answer may be a form letter rejection.***

“Fractal Echo” by Nancy Lovendahl from the current sculpture exhibit in the park.

Urban horror story designed to frighten authors out of a good night’s sleep or fact?: I heard about an author who sold a book, but before it was published, a change in personnel stranded the manuscript on the shelf. And the author was unable to buy the rights back! Legend or fact? I don’t know.

Overall, I’m happy I’ve self-published. I’ve learned a lot and met really wonderful, helpful people. My first experience taught me enough to realize that the second book, THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS, would need extra help to deal with the additional issues involved with a picture book so we are working with a wonderful book designer.

And, of course, being involved in the self-publishing of THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS has brought up lots more things I didn’t even know I needed to worry about. Every time I think we’ve gotten everything in and settled, we haven’t. So far all the money involved has been going out. This is before we even get to printing or shipping costs.

Refugium by Linda Fleming. The only thing I didn’t like was the sign saying you couldn’t play in it. It is such a great see-through cave.

If you self-publish, you get 100% of the decisions, 100% of any profits along with 100% of the costs of services, printing, marketing, and mistakes, 100% of the headaches and the work.

Should you DIY? Here’s my definitive answer—maybe.****

If you are a younger writer who wants to “make it big,” I think I would caution you to try to be patient and not rush into self-publishing. Learn everything you can about your craft. Send things out to publishers and agents and see what kind of response you get.

If, however, you are an older writer who has started asking the question, “Just how long do

Continus coggygria, if you want to be technical. Otherwise, the smoke tree—just as cool as a cottonwood.

publishers think we live anyway?” investigate—find out what you’re getting into, and you may decide to jump in.

BTW—THE PIG AND THE DRAGON will be coming out with a new title, SECRETS OF THE FLAME, and a beautiful cover by a real artist. We’ll see what happens with the numbers.

*Can you believe Viola! is pronouced Wal-la! I have so much trouble reading that word out loud.

** My goal isn’t to sell as many copies as I can push—it’s to sell my book to people who will be glad they read it.

*** Learning from rejection letters is a whole topic in itself.

**** To be read slowly with a questioning rise in pitch at the end of the word.