Archive for December, 2008


The once and future mid-list

December 29, 2008

Given what bleak news has been coming out of the New York publishing world lately — executive, editorial, and other layoffs, an acquisitions freeze at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, etc. — it would be easy to believe that these are indeed the worst of times for emerging writers. As I’ve long maintained, the smaller, leaner, smartly run indie presses, unstymied by old-think marketing strategies, corporate board agendas, and the need of Hollywood blockbuster-style success for each and every title released in effort to offset the bloated advances paid for whatever latest celebrity train wreck’s memoir or political windsock’s rant gets flogged, has become the more viable choice for authors.

Over at, Jason Boog makes a good case as to why we may in fact be heading toward the best of times for writers.

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The Strange (#3)

December 23, 2008

What’s the score? Truth 40 billion, Fiction 0?

An abstract, from the National Institutes of Health:

A 27-year-old lady presented with persistent cough, sputum and fever for the preceding six months. Inspite of trials with antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis treatment for the preceeding four months, her symptoms did not improve. A subsequent chest radiograph showed non-homogeneous collapse-consolidation of right upper lobe. Videobronchoscopy revealed an inverted bag like structure in right upper lobe bronchus and rigid bronchoscopic removal with biopsy forceps confirmed the presence of a condom. Detailed retrospective history also confirmed accidental inhalation of the condom during fellatio.

Sorry, I thought I was going to get through today without another installment of this series.

Anyway, look, I’ve lost track of things before. And once … well, you probably don’t need to read that story. But, yeah, I’ve lost track of a condom before. Sort of. But not like that.

(Really, I’m so disappointed, though. I was feeling good about the Scott Simon bit in #2. Made it, what, an hour?)



The Strange (#2)

December 23, 2008

Ah, comfort, the rightful domain of the holiday season. At least, so says the cultural myth. But I’m not here to dispute that point. Rather—and even though it only makes me wish I’d managed to finish trimming up another post I wrote a couple weeks ago—there is comfort to be found from, well, someone who’s actually been published.

Of course, that’s nothing special for many of you, but for me, it helps make something of a point.

Scott Simon, author of Windy City, a novel about politics and crime in Chicago, wrote this weekend,

My novel Windy City (Random House: 2008) opens with the mayor of Chicago assassinated by a pizza (deep dish, artichoke, and prosciutto, to signal that this is today’s Chicago, not Al Capone’s old town). Over the course of the story, there are sting operations, sex scandals, bribes and a suicide.

I would have drawn the line at having a governor try to sell a Senate seat, as if he was hawking a stolen widescreen TV from the back of a truck. In these days of email surveillance, wiretaps, and the 24-hour news cycle, who would believe such a thing?

Stranger than fiction, yeah. And, also, a point I haven’t gotten around to making yet.

(Hat tip to Paul Constant.)


WORDsd looking for someone to blame

December 15, 2008

nullOur compatriots over at are looking for a leader in the form of a San Diego-based writer/editor: is looking for a creative, energetic, take-charge, deadline making SD writer to be our Editor-In-Chief!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Add your name to the list of Furiously Famous Editors, alongside Helen Gurly Brown, Clay Felker, Perry White and J. Jonah Jameson!

You will be the one to come up with story ideas (although we’ve got a million already, just waiting for you to change them from ideas, into stories!)

You will be the one to assign stories to writers (keeping the best, most exciting, most glamorous stories for yourself to write!)

You will be the one to recruit and develop the new generation of San Diego’s best writers!

You will be the one to go out and hobnob with your fellow wizards! (That is, to connect WORD to the rest of SD’s vibrant writing organizations and create a critical mass explosion in which no one gets hurt and everyone has…what else?…a BLAST!)

WORD will truly be what YOU make of it!

Tell me more about being The Editor-In-Chief of WORD

They’re also looking for writers and artists to contribute.



Liveblogging a book

December 9, 2008

Now this is interesting. Or maybe not.

Liveblogging is a fad I have yet to submit to. The idea is that you post minute-by-minute reflections on an event taking place. Super Bowls, the World Series, and perhaps even something useful, like a presidential debate. Liveblogging requires special software with a result that looks something like a chat transcript, and when it comes to books, the result can be … uh … remarkable.

For instance, Dear Author recently turned its sights on Victoria Janssen’s The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom, and Their Lover.
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‘Tis the season … to be morbid?

December 9, 2008

Let us be morbid, at least in part because it is fun to do so. And, hey, we’ll only pause to reflect on three consecutive two-letter words that contain the letter “o” because, well, I like to be annoying that way. But, to the point at hand ….

Let us begin by wishing a happy birthday to a dead man. December 9, 1608: the birth of John Milton.
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Gleick on publishing

December 9, 2008

Hmm … where to start? I know, how about the beginning? James Gleick tackles the challenges facing the publishing industry and offers some helpful thoughts for writers in these developing and often depressing times:

The gloom that has fallen over the book publishing industry is different from the mood in, say, home building. At least people know we’ll always need houses.

And now comes the news, as book sales plummet amid the onslaught of digital media, that authors, publishers and Google have reached a historic agreement to allow the scanning and digitizing of something very much like All the World’s Books. So here is the long dreamed-of universal library, its contents available (more or less) to every computer screen anywhere. Are you happy now? Maybe not, if your business has been the marketing, distributing or archiving of books.

One could imagine the book, venerable as it is, just vanishing into the ether. It melts into all the other information species searchable through Google’s most democratic of engines: the Web pages, the blogs, the organs of printed and broadcast news, the general chatter. (Thanks for everything, Gutenberg, and now goodbye.)

Ouch. But don’t be discouraged. Gleick notes that he doesn’t see things in the same terms, and even suggests that “we’ve reached a shining moment for this ancient technology”.
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Public demand: Words of the Year—2008

December 9, 2008

And the winner is ….


In truth, I’m not sure what any of this has to do with writing. No, wait, that’s not true. But as Paul Constant notes, “It’s like the abbreviated John McCain story.”

And maybe that’s not fair, or perhaps it’s unduly political for our purposes, but the ten words most sought after this year, in terms of inquiries at Merriam-Webster Online are:

  1. bailout
  2. vet
  3. socialism
  4. maverick
  5. bipartisan
  6. trepidation
  7. precipice
  8. rogue
  9. misogyny
  10. turmoil

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Final guest speakers announced

December 8, 2008

Filling out the special guest speaker slots for San Diego 23, Sunday morning we welcome novelist, nonfictionalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Caitlin Rother to the SCWC. Daily Mail reported of her latest book, Twisted Triangle, “It’s a story more terrifying than her own bestselling thrillers – how novelist Patricia Cornwell’s torrid affair…ended in…astonishing and savage revenge.”
Sunday evening, author and Alluvium Books publisher Marie Etienne will discuss her latest, another true story, Confessions of a Bi-Polar Mardi Gras Queen. Heartbreaking and often hilarious, in it she explores the themes of love versus lust, the legacy of abuse and mental illness, the impact of murder and suicide among her siblings and the redemptive power of faith, forgiveness and courage.

Check out all the other good “muse” at



Not quite random notes

December 8, 2008

Two otherwise-unrelated items that I picked up after checking in on one of my favorite writer’s blogs.

First up, via Quite Interesting:

A historian believes that she has found the tomb of d’Artagnan, the inspiration for the book “The Three Musketeers”.

Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan was killed during the Siege of Maastricht on June 25, 1673. Historian Odile Bordaz claims that she has found the tomb a few kilometres away at Saint Peter and Paul Church in Wolder, and is asking the Dutch authorities and the Catholic Church to approve an archaeological dig of the site ….

…. Born between 1611-1615 in south-western France, d’Artagnan became a member of the King’s musketeers by the age of 20. Amongst his comrades where Athos, Porthos and Aramis, the actual three musketeers referred to in the title of the book. The musketeers were engaged in cloak-and-dagger operations for Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Louis XIV, the Sun King, appointed d’Artagnan leader of the musketeers in 1658. He was eventually killed in a charge lead by the Duke of Monmouth, who was at the head of an English contingent allied to France.

• • •

I picked that link up from Words Words Words, where author Steven Brust reports:

Got started on the next Vlad novel. I’m pretty sure this one will be Tiassa. 13 pages so far.

I’ve been waiting for this one. (I’d explain, but it would come off like the hyperactive blubberings of a giddy schoolgirl. Or something like that.)