Thursday, 27 February 2014

On rich and poor characters in fiction...

So, do you like the heroes or heroines in the novels you read to be rich or poor? I find poor heroes more appealing, and I suspect most readers agree with me. Though in real life money gives you more options and can indeed make some problems disappear altogether, being rich seems to have a desensitizing effect. Rich people come to believe they deserve their wealth, and that the poor are simply slackers. The knight in the picture looks as if he's being a bit sniffy about the poor man: "Good Lord, man, is this what you call a cloak?"

I'm a fan of Dick Francis's early novels, where the heroes are working hard to achieve their goals but haven't yet made it. As he became a very successful author, understandably his heroes got richer; when the baddies are after them, they hire Mercedes and book into five star hotels. And I find them more difficult to relate to.

Famous poor heroes: Cinderella, Katnis Everdeen, Harry Potter (briefly, till he turned out to have all that gold in Gringotts) Winston Smith, Cassandra in I Capture the Castle, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, David Copperfield, Pip, the March sisters, Sam Spade, Jim Dixon, Han Solo, Rose Tyler, Dave Lister, Madame Bovary, Flora Poste, Gabriel Oak, Becky Sharp, Tess of the d'Urbervilles . . . add your suggestions in the Comments.

Famous rich heroes: Hamlet, Emma, and all those brooding kinky billionaires in that weird new genre, Billionaire Romance, that takes the Jane Eyre meme to ridiculous extremes. Have I missed anyone?

In Disraeli's novel Sybil, published in 1845, a working-class radical, Walter Gerard, describes England as being:

Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws.” 

“You speak of — ”said Egremont, hesitantly. 

“The rich and the poor.

And things haven't changed all that much, providing plenty of material for authors to get their teeth into.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Mailing lists and Mailchimp

If you're an indie author, have you got a mailing list? Only writing is more important. If you haven't yet started one, do it today, and comfort yourself that most of us get round to it later than we should.

I use Mailchimp for my list. You can see my sign-up form here. The link is on my blog, my website, and at the end of my ebooks. I only email readers when I have a new publication out, but some authors use it to send newsletters to their fans. Seeing your list grow is satisfying - it belongs to you, and is a form of insurance in case something unwelcome happens with a platform you sell on. It's another component of self-publishing you have control over.

Mailchimp is free and provides a fantastic service, but its interface is not totally user-friendly. If you get stuck, Desmond X Torres has written a how-to guide on Kboards, which also mentions an alternative option for Wordpress users. Unable to customize your sign-up form? Kay Bratt has the answer here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

URGENT - Hugh Howey's dynamite report

For the real, genuine lowdown on what is happening in publishing, who is earning what and how, read Hugh Howey's report here. Those of us who self-publish and keep up with information on the web have suspected some of this, but to see the figures and charts is just staggering. They are from Amazon US.

You need to read this, now. Here's just one of the fascinating charts:

Don't hang around here! Off you go!

EDIT: And there's more here: What Writers Leave on the Table (when they self-publish).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

JKR, I only hope you're reading this...

This week JK Rowling revealed she has changed her mind about the suitability of Hermione and Ron marrying and having two children called Rose and Hugo. (Too much information, anyway. I agree with Jason Black that tying everything up at the end of a novel is a Bad Idea - read his excellent piece here. You should leave the reader something to mull over.)

Nothing JKR can do about it at this stage, you mutter? There is! I came across this idea of genius on Kboards from Landon Porter, an open letter to JKR:

"I am about to offer you two words that will transform that mountain of money into a money continent. I understand completely how you might have overlooked it, but as a fan of comic books, it was thankfully not lost on me. 

Ready for the two words:

Alternate. Timeline.

Seriously, you've already introduced time travel into your universe with the time turner. It's time to stop worrying and love the paradox.

Imagine if you will, the loved ones of one of the victims of the final battle deciding to stop it before it even starts by using the time turner to go back to the first rumbles of trouble: the Chamber of Secrets scare. There (er... then) they set in motion events that end with Dumbledore explaining exactly what the book was then and setting up the quest to destroy the other clearly-no-a-lich's-phylacterys then and there.

Of course, this will involve sending his crack team of The Chosen One and plucky sidekicks and will put into play a whole new sequence of plots for a whole other series of books where you can rearrange your pairings however you want (and also let Sirius live).

As a bonus, killing Voldy early will allow the next set of movies to have a Big Bad who doesn't look like The Master from Buffy got it on with a seal."

I see no flaw in this plan.