Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Friday, May 13, 2005


And my first post falls on Friday the Thirteenth. Along with my First Amendment take-home exam.

Good thing I'm not superstitious. (Not that much anyway.)

So I picked up the exam this afternoon, opened it to the first page, and my eyes popped out of my head. I'll explain why when the exam period is over.

Among other things I'll do when exams are over, I'm going to re-read the Brown v. Purdue copyright infringement case memos, because that's the most interesting case I've ever seen--and I sure wish it had been better-known when I took Copyright last semester.

I'm also going to make it my mission to hook up with some historical fiction/fantasy-writing bloggers. I spend a lot of my online time poking around the blogs of Lee and Tod Goldberg, Paul Guyot, and David Montgomery, but as much as I like crimefiction (and their blogging styles) I don't write it myself. There have to be some blogger-writers out there who write in my genres!

Book Research Question of the Day: Does anyone know when the olive harvest is in central Italy? As in, what season?


Blogger Tono Rondone said...

Hi J. I have two daughters twenty years old that were born on Friday the 13th of July 1984.

Then my third child, also a daugther, was born in October, on the 13th.

Now I have a fourth daughter, Sophia, born just ten weeks ago.

Yeah, I wrote a historical fiction novel published in 2005, which has been ignored or panned or praised, but not much at all in the public eye.

I live in Las Vegas, one of the least likely places, I suppose, to find a literary master. So forget about it.

I tried the Goldbergs, and you've read what I got. I tried Frank Wilson of the Phildelphia Inquirer, but he was a no show. Although he said in private email great things about the book and how he would review it, though self published, and it would go out over the wire, etc. I mean, he told me he read it and wrote to me: "I can feel an imagination at work. It's as simple as that. The Martyrs reminds one that, before Ranke and Mommsen tried to turn history into a science, it was a literary art."

Frank admitted to me that self published authors are anathema to major metropolitan newspaper book editors; they are prohibited from considering them for review.

The Editor from the Las Vegas Review Journal told me as much: If you're a self published author, forget about it.

Don't tell me about first base. My local library won't buy it. My local Borders won't let me do a book signing.

David Montgomery dissed me but then became an allie. The Goldbergs -- well, again, forget about it. Frank Wilson told me he would help me, but then he got cold feet or his editor crimped his style.

Check out my website, Many fly balls and foul outs.

Also, a short story, historical fiction, on the short story page, and then, there's The Martyrs.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

M'dear Tono, I read how your dealings with the Goldbergs went. I also read your remark suggesting Tod Goldberg of panning The Martyrs because it is a "Christian" book and he is Jewish. That, among other statements you've made, does not lend much credibility to your judgment of literature, art, or anything else.

I too read The Martyrs, and despite my love for historical fiction and religious/mythological fiction, I did not like it.

Perhaps rather than blaming the failure of your "art" on some shortcoming in brains or appreciation in the readers or on some imaginary corporate conspiracy, you could try getting to "first base" by delivering a sellable product.

I found The Martyrs weak in every way. You failed to explain the reason behind the protagonists' conversion to Christianity--which in such a book, would seem to be one of the most important processes of all in developing the characters. You give a little of darn-near-irrelevant information about the history of the world at the time (not that I dislike background info, far from it, but there's a time and a place for it even in a book.)

I may be an amateur, not published at all beyond the internet, but those things I noticed violate the most basic rules of writing--and I don't care how "artistic" you find your work--you cannot be a literary master if your work is incomprehensible or dull.

By "getting to first base," perhaps instead of persuading the reviewers that they are WRONG about your work, you should try the possibility that YOU are wrong and see what you can do to your work to improve it.

Accepting criticism, I believe, is another basic rule of writing.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Tono Rondone said...

Hi Jocelyn:

I find comments like yours very amusing. "I found The Martyrs weak in every way." Of course, you are entitled to your opinion.
In fact, if you indeed found it weak in EVERY way, then I am accomplished at least in my complete failure.

As far as my credibility as a writer is concerned, that I need not bother about -- my work will stand the test of time, which is all I am concerned about.

What I am definitely NOT concerned about is writing salable product. That is precisely what my original beef was with Goldberg. What on earth are we being taught in college these days? This system of commerce which fuels our economy has corrupted every facet of our society it seems, when artists talk about creating salable product.

Was Van Goghs' work salable when he painted them? Was Joyce's Dubliners salable when he wrote it? Why did Mark Twain have to self publish "Huckleberry Finn?" And do you have any idea what creating "salable" product does to an artist? I suggest that it either kills his creativity or aborts it before it can come to full term.

Why? Because money and commerce corrupt. I can't tell you how many times other writers have told me, "Well, first you should write what they want you to write and then when you're successful you can write the kind of books you want to write." But that rarely if ever happens. Or big names try writing under a pseudonym and get no where that way because, guess what, they're unknown. That's what Goldberg said, "It's too bad with your talent you don't write salable product."

As far as your critique of The Martyrs is concerned, you have not read the book. The novel is not the kind of book you can simply read the first few pages of and get it. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time and patience to have it bear fruit. To come to such a radical and hasty conclusion as you have does no service to you nor to the book.

I believe that the vast majority of Americans are so propogandized by the media that they wouldn't know granola from corn flakes if they weren't told which is which on TV.

I am not a dilettante no matter what your opinion of The Martyrs is. Besides a degree in Literature and twenty years of professional writing experience, I have subsequently written six books and two screenplays so far -- a total of about thirty years of working at being a writer. So who knows better about this sort of thing, you or I?

In Art, like in choosing a mate, there is no accounting for taste. We may look to the corporate media mavens and ask them with good sense, "What is saleable media product?", but when it comes to art, we artists are going to have to find the answer to that much more difficult questions in our own hearts, far away from the marketplace or the opinions of the majority.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

It's certainly true, many great works of art were not initially "saleable." However, in your blog and in your comments to both Goldbergs, you complained about their critique of your work after YOU went to THEM with it. You gave me a long list of all the outlets who wouldn't buy your work.

Granted, you certainly don't have to listen to my opinion of The Martyrs. I'm no great expert by any means. But the fact that so many people who read that excerpt that YOU have on your website (if that's a bad example of the book, why do you have it there?) may just suggest that your work needs improvement.

Who knows better about this sort of thing? Well, give me another twenty years, and perhaps I'll be able to pull out the resume of stuff I've produced as well.

But no matter how many years pass, I hope I am ALWAYS open to the idea that my work can or should be improved, particularly if I seem to have problems getting anyone other than myself to appreciate it.

THAT is a skill that stands the test of time no matter how many works you have produced.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Tono Rondone said...

Hey Josh:

I wish to address a particular comment about my book, The Martyrs, which you claim to have come to by reading the excerpt on my website.

You say:

"You failed to explain the reason behind the protagonists' conversion to Christianity--which in such a book, would seem to be one of the most important processes of all in developing the characters."

Well, all I can tell you is that there is nothing in those chapters that even closely resembles the main characters converting to anything. It happens later in the book, much later to the male protagonist and a little later for Justina than you could have read from the excerpt. So what, exactly, are you talking about?

This alone illustrates to me that something is awry in your critique of The Martyrs.

This book is not pulp fiction. Treat it as such as you will be mistaken. You cannot simply say things like you have said to an individual that does the kind of work I do. Think twice before denigrating your fellow human being for wanting to be something more than a product.

But I greatly appreciate your comments and am willing and would like to be your friend.

10:12 AM  
Blogger David J. Montgomery said...

Hey Jocelyn, nice to see ya 'round. Have fun with the blogging!

I'm still undecided if it's a good way to prime the writing pump... or just to avoid writing. :)

I wonder why Tono doesn't just put his whole book online, available for everyone to read. If it's not about the market, give it away; then everyone could read it and make up their own minds.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

Hey David,

I'm a bit baffled by my exchanges with Tono, I must admit.

I've found that blogging seems to prime the pump. I tend to flip back and forth between the two on the computer.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

How'd you manage to get Mr. Rondone to post here? How'd he find you? Serious question.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I posted to his blog when he said something to the effect that it was exhausting to always be swinging and never hitting out of the park.

I commnented to him that perhaps he should try hitting for first base before trying to get out of the park.

The above (points) ensued. A very interesting counterpoint to the First Amendment exam I was working on. But once I turned the exam in and returned to try to respond to Tono's last comment, my eyes crossed.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Okay. I had this picture of him stalking everybody who posted to LG's blog. Didn't want him mad at me because I didn't understand his book.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I get the distinct impression that he thinks everyone who doesn't like his book is READING it wrong.

Hence his telling me not to "treat" his book as pulp fiction.

I dunno.

3:51 AM  

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