Art and Livelihood

In the wake of the launch of “Tidal” (a new music streaming service without a free tier and offering lossless audio) there’s been a general buzz around the internet regarding music and art and what artists should get and whether musicians deserve to eat and the like. I thought that I’d just offer up a few basic thoughts since they were running around in my head anyway.

By Phintias (User:Bibi Saint-Pol, own work, 2007-02-10) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First off, I think it is vital to understand that I was raised by artists (specializing in drama and music) and I was raised with art in my life (drama, music, museums, literature, etc.) but I was also raised to think that you should get a sensible job/career in order to feed your family.

This last point I have raised as total bullshit and noted that it wrecked me artistically for a long time, thanks. One way to break a creative kid? Tell them that being creative isn’t viable.

This feeds into the whole Tidal thing, and if musicians (artists) deserve to make their livelihood from their art.

Hell. Fucking. Yes.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting that merely the act of being creative be somehow automagically rewarded with a living. That’s not it at all.

What I am saying is that our world should put a value on creativity which allows room for those with the ability to be fairly compensated for the time and energy they put into their art. I’m saying that someone who works at their music eighty hours a week should be compensated with more than coffee money. I am saying that a poet who dedicates their nights to expounding upon the ephemeral beauty of urban life be given more than applause and free cover.

I live in the real world as much as anyone else. I am aware of the fact that some people do not value art, and that as such we have to contend with their dismissal of the very real need to maintain a connection to culture. I’ve experienced resistance to art in ways which range from simple matters of taste to all out disdain for anything that’s not directly about a physical, tangible, “useful” product.

The reasons people question if artists deserve to make a living doing what they do are manifold.

Should anyone get paid to do what they love? (Well, yes? There are people who legitimately love selling cars. I know people who enjoy fixing computers. The fact that artists like what they do doesn’t make them unique.)

What about how easy it is to create “art”? I mean, after all, it’s such a broad thing that you can call anything “art” so why does something that takes so little effort deserve compensation? While the truth may be that you can take $5 worth of paint and throw it on an $8 canvas using a 2$ brush and call it art, the actual ability to do so isn’t just physical. I absolutely agree 100% that anyone can write a novel. NaNoWriMo is predicated on that theory, and they prove it time and again: anyone can get the words down. But doing a thing and doing a thing well and thus crafting it into actual art are two entirely different things. The relative ease of painting my bedroom myself doesn’t change the art in what a decorator does any more than the ability to write a grocery list makes me a poet.

Should any “product” that doesn’t “do” something be paid for? Given how many crappy products are out there being made and sold by the same people who suggest that art isn’t “doing” anything, this one is pretty hypocritical, no? Art absolutely does things. Music conveys mood. Paintings express emotion. Stories ignite the imagination.

These thing (and more) always crop up around discussions of art, and probably always will. “What good will some sculptures in the park do?” some city councilman might complain. “It will cost us over a thousand dollars to pay the artist for them!” I can give you the answer to that in real life stories. We live in an area where there are a number of sculptures down in the heart of our city. Every single time we drive by our children light up and wave to all of the different sculptures.

Yes, part of that is the fact that we have instilled respect for art in them. But you know what? Part of it is just the fact that art makes things better.

Just like when a song comes on that they like, they spontaneously start to dance—and have since before they were old enough to be told what music was.

Art of all kinds is what many of us we live for, even if we don’t have a hand in creating it. Art is our relaxation. It is our comfort. It is our escape.

I am proud to work (and it is work, and it’s taken me half a lifetime to get even a little bit good enough, so it’s no quick path) on creating the kinds of things we live to experience, and I fully support the idea that everyone who works hard on their art deserves the chance to be compensated fairly. The Tidal launch simply shines another light on how poorly musicians are doing in the world of art, and I think it’s probably worth talking about that.

Don’t you?

Current Project (Non?) News

So as I mentioned last month I’ve got a lot of energy going into just being a stay-at-home parent. That’s something I do my best not to resent, but I’m human, and resentment is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Of course the good news is that kids eventually grow up, and while they may not be out of my hair completely in a few years, they’ll eventually be in school much of the time, and that will afford me the opportunity to get some more concentrated work done than I’ve been able to recently.

That said, I have still been trying to find the right kind of project to work on, and so recently I’ve been turning my mind towards the idea of writing an extended story (a series, if you will) in a serial manner. So presently I’m at work sketching out a “multi-season” outline using Gingko. (Which is a sort of outliner I came across during the search for online tools brought on by the fact that I’ve moved to Chromebook for my work and don’t have access to some of the fancy Windows-only software I was using before.)

Part of the reason for this is that doing a discrete chunk (roughly a novella-length work) of a longer story and publishing it (then collecting a number of these chunks and assembling them into a novel-length volume down the line) seems to me like it might work better for my life right now than writing that full-length work outright. The planning will all be there (all the arcs and the actions are intended to be laid out in rough form in advance, and just written in pieces) to make sure what comes together at the end of a season is a discrete story (even if it has a number of stories all tied up within it), and given how much I enjoy television as a story form (much, much more than I enjoy film, actually) I think this will end up being a decent fit.

I have zero information on when there will be a release date for the first volume. I have nothing to share on the subject of what it’s about beyond that it takes place in a dark fantasy world and is likely going to be best for mature readers. (That’s regardless of their physical age—I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think reading maturity is tied to a given birthday because let’s be honest: some folks won’t ever be able to deal with the fact that I swear freely in my writing, or that my titles are violent. No matter how many birthdays they have behind them.)

What I can say is that I anticipate needing time to plan (writing and business—remember, I self-publish so I have to think both sides through) things out, to write the first couple of episodes, to have my Beta folks read them over and give me feedback, and to get things squared away for publication. That means the “boring” stuff like formatting the ebooks, as well as the “awesome” process of working on a cover treatment for the entire series.

We’re likely looking at months. Depending on how things are going with the process I may go ahead and have a brief period (a couple weeks) of pre-orders on the volumes in place, so you may get sales information earlier than I’ve managed in the past. Once I’m rolling on the series I anticipate regularly staggered releases, but what the intervals will be like is a mystery at this point. Twice a month? Monthly? Every two months? We’ll see.

Should be interesting in any case.

Guest: L. Blankenship with an Excerpt from the Disciple Omnibus

Today I’ve got L. Blankenship back with an excerpt from her Disciple series (Disciple I, to be precise) in order to mark the release of Disciple VI and the Disciple Omnibus! If you like what you see here, be sure to grab a free copy of Disciple I from the links at the bottom of the page, or just jump in and buy yourself a copy of the Disciple Omnibus itself!

You couldn’t sleep either?”

At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.

“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”

“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”

The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.

“If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.

I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”

He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.

“It must be you, Kate,” was all he said.

War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.

Disciple Covers


The six-part gritty fantasy romance series is now complete!

Disciple, Part VI on sale at:

Amazon | B&N | More retailers

Disciple, Part I available for free on:

Amazon | B&N | More retailers | Via Email (L. Blankenship)

You can get news about all of L’s work by joining her mailing list.

Net Neutrality and the Writer Again

A long while back I wrote about Net Neutrality, and what it meant to someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a small business owner. I’m writing this followup in light of the fact that the FCC just voted to ensure Net Neutrality yesterday.

The long story made short is this: in America the Internet is a public utility, which means that no company can take actions to give anyone preferential access to it, or attempt to block companies or organizations from accessing the Internet. That’s good news. It means I won’t be forced to “pay to play” on any “premium” lanes the ISPs might think up. It also means good things for municipalities that want to have broadband Internet as a utility for residents to take advantage of.

I honestly feel all too often that the ordinary people in America win almost never right now. The fact that the FCC has taken a stance against the wishes of massive corporations which favors the normal folks who just use the ‘net daily for work and play is a good thing. Victory may be rare, but it’s certainly sweet when it does roll around.

Toddlers Are Evil

There’s not much to add to the subject line of the post. I spend a lot of time chasing two very industrious children currently. That leaves not a lot of time for writing. Some people manage the balance, sure, but I’m apparently not quite that talented a juggler.

I have been kicking around some ideas (a dark fantasy serial is the latest) recently, so we’ll see if I don’t come up with something sooner rather than later.