Category Archives: Shakespeare

Fifty Shades of Grey Ash — Burning Books

I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, so please understand that I’m not promoting it or hating on it in this post. The series by E.L. James is simply a trilogy that lots of people like and lots of people dislike. I belong to a third group of people who just aren’t interested.

Well, okay. I’m a little interested. Any time something gathers that much attention, my pop-culture sensors buzz, and my curiosity creeps up. I’ll admit that I’ve read reviews of the books (some of which are pretty creative and hilarious themselves), and I’ve even picked up one of the paperbacks in a bookstore just to leaf through to see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, what I saw kind of gave me the creeps, but I was reading the middle of the book out of context. And, anyway, to each his own.

Yesterday the Huffington Post posted an article about an anti-domestic violence group in the UK that is planning to hold a good, old-fashioned book burning for the super-sexual saga of Christian and Anastasia. If you want to participate, bring your copies to the Wearside Women in Need office on November 5. There will be a bonfire.

I hope you don’t go.

Let me be clear. I do not support the following things:

  • Violence
  • The concept that women are less than human
  • Bad writing
  • Book burning

While E. L. James’ books may have propelled the author into stardom thanks in part to her use of violence as a turn-on, she has contributed, for better or for worse, to English literature and our current popular culture. She has a right to create these stories, you have a right to read them or not read them, and, yes, you have a right to burn them if you want to.

But, just as Fifty Shades of Grey threatens boundaries that many men and women find uncomfortable, burning books definitely crosses a disturbing line. The Wearside Women in Need staff members aren’t writing fiction about burning books; they’re actually going to do it. What comes next? I rather like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and there’s absolutely some questionable material with regard to bedroom activities in there. When do we get to the point where, say, Othello has to be taken off the shelves and set ablaze because of what he does to Desdemona?  After all, he loved her “not wisely, but too well.” So well, in fact, that he had to kill her.

What do you think? Does burning books set the right example?

Interview!

I’m answering questions over at AF Stewart’s blog! Come stop by to say hello!

🙂  See you there.

Does Amazon’s lending service help or destroy authors?

Amazon Prime members can now borrow a book for free with no due date.

There seem to be mixed feelings among writers about this offer. What does it mean for authors and publishers?

Complaints about this are similar to debates regarding ebook pricing and giveaways. At what point are authors pricing themselves out of business?

Assume that it takes about six weeks for a seasoned author to write a strong first draft of a novel. Depending on the writer’s process, research may come during these six weeks (lengthening this time) or after, when revisions take place. Critique partners read the chapters and make comments. Changes are made. This may take several more weeks, depending on deadlines and other issues.

If the writer already has a publisher waiting, then it’s time to send the work there to be read, marked up, and sent back for final revisions. Tack on some more weeks and hours of work on the author’s part.

If the writer does not have a publisher waiting, then begins the submission process, which can take months or even years to complete successfully. Finding the perfect match in an editor or agent is a notoriously difficult thing to accomplish, and many writers never find that “best fit.”

Count up the hours and weeks/months/years it took the author to write, research, revise, promote, query, revise, submit, revise, and finally realize publication, and then that $0.00 price tag looks a bit low.

But is it a killer for the industry?

Amazon’s new lending service is technically a subscription model, since borrowers must be Amazon Prime members – they must also own a Kindle to participate. This reminds some users of the Netflix structure, where subscribers are able to put some films in their “instant” queues indefinitely. I have over a hundred in mine right now. Some I have watched multiple times.

I also already have an Amazon Prime membership; it gives me deals on shipping and renting films online that I can’t find on Netflix. In addition, I own a Kindle and am constantly purchasing new titles to save for a rainy day. Amazon Prime lending is definitely a service that is intended for a consumer like me.

When I consider the debates surrounding Amazon’s lending subscription, I take the writer’s process very seriously. My YA fantasy finished its contract with its original publisher after a good two-year run, and I decided to indie publish it to keep it out there while I work on other titles.

The opening week cost was a choice I had to make carefully. Should I go for a standard rate of $2-3 for a full-length novel that has been thoroughly edited and vetted by readers and reviewers already? Or should I lower the price to attract new readers who might be willing to take a chance on something when the risk is only $0.99?

For my opening week, I have offered From Light to Dark at under a dollar because I ultimately decided the extra readership is my most important asset. This isn’t the only work of fiction I will want to share with audiences. The larger my audience grows, the better my returns will be – and, consequently, the more I will write.

I wonder whether the Amazon lending service will provide a similar result for authors. It’s worth noting that many of the major publishers have rejected this new borrowing plan and will not offer their books as part of it. Are they making the right decision?

I keep thinking of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which he released for free as part of Creative Commons, and his description of Neil Gaiman’s question to fans:

“Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free ­­because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.”

According to Doctorow, it was the freebies that made life-long fans of writers. These people came across a title by paying no money at all, but after that they bought several copies of each title the author put out, some to share with others, and they attended book signings and generally spread the love.

So, readers and writers, what do you think? Are authors pricing and lending ourselves out of business? Or are we taking a loss up front to expand our readership down the road?

From Light to Dark

Anonymous, Shakespeare, Nerdiness… and a book!

I’m guest blogging over at the Madhouse! Come see what I have to say about Shakespeare, the new film Anonymous, and generally being a nerd.

And, speaking of Shakespeare, have you seen the release of my book yet? It has a Romeo and Juliet theme — with magic! What could be better for a fall read?  🙂  Get your copy now and let me know your thoughts.

From Light to Dark

Shakespeare translated… to Klingon

Oh, yes. It’s definitely happening. This Saturday evening at the Washington Shakespeare Company. If anyone goes to this, I want details.  🙂

I Don’t Love You Because You Love That Book

Do you look at people’s bookshelves first thing when you visit their homes?

I think it’s interesting to find out what people read. Somehow I have it in my head that this knowledge will help me understand them better – maybe even clue me in about our chances of becoming good friends. I have no idea whether this method is accurate, but, hey. It’s something I do.

Apparently I’m not the only one. This article describes a dating site that focuses on what people read as a matchmaking tool. Pretty neat idea.

There are lots of books I love to read, mainly in scifi, fantasy, or spec fic in general, but I’m flexible.

And, of course, there are some books I really don’t like to read. I have nothing against the publications or the authors themselves; the stories just aren’t my cup of hot cocoa.

Heart of Darkness is one that doesn’t do it for me. I recognize that it is a classic work of literary art, but I can’t get into it. I imagine that I would not have much in common with someone who absolutely loved Heart of Darkness more than anything in the world.

That seems like a petty reaction, doesn’t it? Surely I could have other things in common with someone who enjoys a book I don’t care for. Joseph Conrad doesn’t manage the universe… does he?

I have a similar reaction to anything by Ayn Rand (who, I should point out, was a great writer with entertaining stories). She rubs me the wrong way, even though I enjoyed Anthem. This may be because I once dated a guy in high school who said I should check out Rand’s much debated essay “About a Woman President” because it might give me a useful perspective on life.

“For a woman to seek or desire the presidency is, in fact, so terrible a prospect of spiritual self-immolation that the woman who would seek it is psychologically unworthy of the job.” – Rand

I’m still not exactly sure what the boy in high school was suggesting when he asked me to read that essay, but ever since then I’ve felt a little hesitant around Ms. Rand’s most die-hard fans. 😉

Now, show me someone who’s a Neil Gaiman reader, a Ray Bradbury enthusiast, or a Shakespeare fanatic, and I’m ready to sit down and chat for hours. Toss in some Harry Potter or Sookie Stackhouse for fun, and we might just be best friends for life.

Are these reliable measurements of compatibility? Is it fair to say, “I don’t love you because you love that book”?  🙂

How often do you do the Bookshelf Check?

Chocolate and Shakespeare

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

I know not everybody likes this holiday. To tell the truth, I’ve never cared much for it myself – except I do like the candy. ☺

This morning, though, my fiancé gave me a card that was addressed “To My Wife.” He’d written “to-be” underneath the word “Wife.” Suddenly I realized I was going to have to get used to that word: wife. It was exciting and sweet and weird all at once.

Then he gave me chocolate, and I started thinking about that instead. ☺ It was a nice way to begin the morning.

Today is also special because it’s the start of the Amway Shakespeare Opportunity’s Twitter of the Shrew – a Twitter-based adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. There are 19 different Twitter accounts to follow (#tots), and each player’s lines are condensed (though still true to the first folio lines) to fit Twitter’s 140-character limits.

For those Shakespeare fans who know Shrew very well, please note that TotS is not including the “play without a play” section that stars Sly & Co. This is the main cast story.

It’s a fascinating adventure, and one that I’m very honored to be a part of. Brian Feldman is the genius behind it all. Last night as we were proofreading his scene one together, complete with emoticons and links to obscure references – even amusing jokes hidden within – I sent a quick IM to tell him, “seriously, Brian, this is genius.”

Those who follow the separate accounts will find distinct personalities in each character – and may even get a better feel for all the fun that Shakespeare’s plays can bring.

There will be one scene tweeted per day over a span of twelve days, so please be sure to check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Well, there you have it. Whether today is Valentine’s Day or Singles’ Awareness Day or OMG I’m Going to Be a Wife Day, there are two special things that are certain to make it a day of epic win:

Chocolate and Shakespeare.

Tweeting Shakespeare, “Txt me, Kate.”

February 12, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact/Interview Requests:
Brian Feldman, AmwayShakes@brianfeldman.com, DM or @AmwayShakes


Who: Amway Shakespeare Opportunity (2009 Inaugural Season) Taking Shakespeare To The Next Level.

What: Twitter of the Shrew – adapted for Twitter by @BrianFeldman from the classic comedy attributed to William Shakespeare, with additional material by @irenelpynn, is a Twitter adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew (1590-1594). Spanning 19 Twitter accounts and presented over 12 days (one scene daily), Twitter of the Shrew attempts to live up to Shakespeare’s “Brevity is the soul of wit” proverb, by condensing the play’s iambic pentameter dialogue down to updates of 140 characters or less. “It’s a great idea!,” says Austin Tichenor of The Reduced Shakespeare Company. For those who don’t yet exist in the Twitterverse, Twitter is that crazy-popular, social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets). Twitter of the Shrew is not sanctioned, endorsed or sponsored by Twitter, Inc.

When: 14 – 25 February 2009 (GMT-5): One Scene Daily

Where: http://twitter.com/AmwayShakes and 19 additional Twitter of the Shrew character accounts:
ShrewKate / Katherine Minola / http://twitter.com/ShrewKate
PetruccioV / Petruccio / http://twitter.com/PetruccioV
Grumio / Grumio / http://twitter.com/Grumio
VeronaCurtis / Curtis / http://twitter.com/VeronaCurtis
Hdasher / Haberdasher / http://twitter.com/Hdasher
Tailor4Petruc / Petruccio’s Tailor / http://twitter.com/Tailor4Petruc
BiancaMinola / Bianca Minola / http://twitter.com/BiancaMinola
BaptistaMinola / Baptista Minola / http://twitter.com/BaptistaMinola
Lucenti0 / Lucentio / http://twitter.com/Lucenti0
Cambi0 / Cambio / http://twitter.com/Cambi0
Trani0 / Tranio / http://twitter.com/Trani0
Biondell0 / Biondello / http://twitter.com/Biondell0
MrVincentio / Vincentio / http://twitter.com/MrVincentio
ThePendant / The Pendant / http://twitter.com/ThePendant
Hortensio / Hortensio / http://twitter.com/Hortensio
LitioH / Litio / http://twitter.com/LitioH
PaduaWidow / The Widow of Padua / http://twitter.com/PaduaWidow
OldGremio / Gremio / http://twitter.com/OldGremio
UPadua / University of Padua / http://twitter.com/UPadua

To experience Twitter of the Shrew in real time, be sure to follow each of the character accounts, and set device updates ‘On’ to receive all #tots updates via SMS (only advised for those with unlimited messaging). All dialogue will RT @AmwayShakes.

Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=54668665562

Amway Shakespeare Opportunity (Brian Feldman, Artistic Director) will never do traditional Shakespeare. Upcoming productions include The Shakespeariment (24 Apr 2009) and, you just knew this was coming, The Twitter of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (May 2009). http://twitter.com/AmwayShakes

Reduction Production

Today is a wonderful day. Today, the Reduced Shakespeare Company came out with their first video podcast.

I am not connected with the RSC in any way (I wish), except for the fact that my brother and I once saw them in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) when we visited London. They are hilariously funny and smart, and they are totally down with Billy Shakespeare. Nothing could possibly be cooler in my book.

If you ever wanted to know where all the humor in history has gone, look no further than the Reduced Shakespeare Company. It’s all there.

Inspiration

Hello again! I hope you’ve had a great week.

I’ve been trying to stay creative in this humid summer heat! It’s hard to think straight when the sun is beating down on me and the air feels like swampy water, but that’s the price we pay for Florida living.

People sometimes ask where I get ideas for my stories. That’s a tough question because there are so many answers.

The inspiration for “God Corp.” came after several people expected me to fall over with tears because it was possible Shakespeare hadn’t written any of the plays I loved. It was such a strange thing, that anyone would assume the debate somehow negated the value of his plays. I mulled this problem over for a while, and then, poof. “God Corp.” 🙂

Another story (available in a few months) came to mind when I was reading an article online about brain waves. It’s fascinating what scientists are able to learn about people through technology, and I always enjoy imagining what future inventions might bring to our everyday lives.

Once I was inspired to write an entire fantasy novel while watching a performance of Cirque du Soleil.

Anything can spark an idea if I’m in the mood for it. A strange picture, some unexpected music, or even the odd placement of an object in a room will lead me to my keyboard.

Not everything works out the way I’d like it to. But some do turn out, and those are enough to make me remember interesting conversations, bookmark weird websites, and look for inspiration in everything around me.

Afterward, I’ll never look at reality the same. It’s as though I’ve opened up a new possibility in my mind, and now the world is just a bit stranger… in a good way. 🙂

Remember when you were a kid? Everything was filled with mystery, and you were the super sleuth who was going to solve it all. Magic was real. Flying cars were a likely part of your future — they’d probably even have lasers on the front so you could shoot down enemies in battle.

Everything you saw as a kid had the potential to be bizarre and cool with just a little imagination.

I don’t think that changes when we grow up. I think many of us tuck our dreams safely inside so we don’t attract funny looks as we zoom through the mall, arms outstretched, pretending to be an airplane and half-expecting to really lift off. It’s a matter of acting grown up. Not being grown up.

That’s the fun of fiction.

So, how about you? Have you visited a magical world at night while you slept? Has a penny you picked up brought you luck? Have you noticed a coincidence and wondered whether it was actually a “sign”?

What inspires you?