Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still Too Graphic

So, to update:

I *finally* got my first graphic novel Leather Tales up on Smashwords. To do this, I had to drastically compress the images (not sure yet how this may affect reading quality) and break the story into two parts, to be purchased separately.

The next day, I got an email from Smashwords, telling me that my Word .doc was giving strange results on different e-readers. Apparently, I needed to 'Align with text' for every image in order for them to display correctly. Bit of a learning curve here, but I won't make the same mistake again.

Right now I've got Serina Vol. 1 almost ready to go. I just need to get the cover done, but my illustrator's got a bit of a backlog at the moment. I've tried pressure, threats and flattery, but to no avail. Best I can say, he assures me he'll get to it next week. ;-)

By contrast, I took my .doc, sent it to Amazon as a PDF, and they had it Kindled up in a couple of days, no worries. I have to say, so far in this wild world of epublishing, Amazon makes it easiest.

And, oddly, as of this evening, Leather Tales has now outsold Crossroad Blues by two to one. I really do think Crossroad Blues is the more satisfying read, but apparently the market for lesbian assassins taking on The Mob is a fair bit larger... :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Robicheaux Blues

So I recently watched In the Electric Mist. I gotta say, this movie comes A LOT closer to the heart and soul of James Lee Burke's work than Heaven's Prisoners ever did.

First, big ups on the casting: Tommy Lee Jones is a damn good Dave Robicheaux. (secret confession: when I read the books, I often pictured him in the lead role anyway, so I may be biased here.) One thing confused me about the earlier movie was how not-quite-right Alec Baldwin was. I mean, the guy's got the kind of darkness in his real life that Dave has in his fictional past-- you think he'd be perfect.

But Tommy Lee carries that sadness and regret that is a much, *much* larger part of Dave's life. He carries it in his face, his posture, every delivery of line. Personally, I think this might be because Baldwin embraces his own dark nature (which makes him so brilliant on 30Rock and It's Complicated). At any rate, Jones definitely gives us that battered, regretful hero who struggles with his own inner darkness even as he feels forced to confront the evils that the rest of us do one another on a daily basis. In a word, the casting was brilliant.

Mist's director (Bertrand Tavernier) was a great choice, too. I don't know nearly enough about studio politics to know how this happened, but the guy had an *incredible* feel for the HEART of the Robicheaux novels: where Heaven's Prisoners dwelt on the visuals of Southern Louisiana and the glamorous decay integral to that part of the world, Mist captures Robicheaux's inner torment as an implacable killer destroys the innocent and his every foray into the world of his suspects leaves him feeling like he just stuck his hand into an unflushed toilet.

Two things stuck out for me: the clever use of voiceover to share Robicheaux's thoughts (the technique is unpopular in Hollywood these days, but I think it's important to create the right atmosphere) and the by-the-book delivery of Dave's lines.

As a writer, Burke often ends his scenes by having secondary characters trying to give Robicheaux advice he refuses to hear. They stand frustrated while Dave pushes paper clips around his desk, squeezes his fists or just plain stares out into his own bleak middle distance.

Seen acted out on screen, the effect is unnerving.

My one reservation with this movie was the depiction of violence. These moments are well-choreographed but poorly shown. Tavernier uses middle-shots, showing the action but keeping the viewer at a distance. We lose that horrible sense of loss that Dave feels when he gives rein to his temper, that terrible immediacy of fist crashing into bone and horsetails of blood fanning the walls.

For me, I got the sense that the director was himself uncomfortable with personal violence. His visual language in the rest of the movie was eloquent, but in this one area he fell down. Any of you looking to catch the immediacy and feel I'd be looking for to depict the Burke novels, I recommend Lee Tamahori's Once Were Warriors or Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

But I quibble. Over all, I came away feeling satisfied and happy that somebody had finally done reasonable justice to James Lee Burke's novels...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Too Graphic

Hot on the heels of Crossroad Blues, I was ready for more action. I was ready to get graphic.

Graphic novels, I mean. Of course. :)

Leather Tales was my first graphic novel. Also the first thing I ever wrote and finished. Oddly enough, also my biggest seller by a wide margin. Since it's been out of print for something like eight years, it seemed a natural choice for my first graphic e-book.

Smashwords is pretty clear on their guidelines: they want Word .docs, nothing else. A graphic novel in Word is 132 *individual*, page-sized pictures with not a single word of text between them. My laptop displayed the file fine, but the slightly older desktop at work tended to skip every fourth or fifth page. The pages were still there if I backed up and looked for them again, but not if I was just moving forward normally... I had no idea if I'd be publishing a graphic novel or a train wreck.

Then it turns out that Smashwords won't accept a .doc over 5mb. Leather Tales is six times that size, so that's on hold for the moment. I'll either have to reduce the file size of each page *or* serialize the novel by splitting it into parts. At the moment, I'm not sure which...

Amazon, on the other hand, had no problem with my file size, or with working from a much more sane PDF. They did sit on the project for most of a week while they worked out that I did in fact own the rights to publish my book. (Leather Tales originally appeared in print in 2000, under a two-year license to a company that has long since sunk beneath the waves.) They also put a delivery charge on the book that would have reduced my royalty to something like thirty cents.

So my graphic novel isn't $2.99. I had to charge $4.99 to get my two bucks out of it. But hey, five bucks is the cost of a Starbucks, or a mug of tap beer. And I guarantee Leather Tales will entertain you longer... :)

Check it out!