Archive for May, 2010


Excuses, excuses … what’s yours?

May 26, 2010

If I have, in recent days, been remiss about my duties to this blog, I can only beg the kind indulgence of our readers. These are interesting times, though not so proverbially as to cause concern. Indeed, the news is largely good. As I approach my thirty-seventh birthday, I look forward to moving to a better home in the near future, and, Friday morning, depart for two weeks overseas in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is intended that the journey should be blogged at Skipping Across the Pond, but we’ll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, as far as the important things are concerned … um … let me clear my throat.


Less than a week remains to save $75 on your registration fee for SCWC LA8. Be sure to check the latest updates, including writers, editors, agents, and specialists signed on for the show in Newport Beach, September 24-26, 2010.

I missed you all in February, to my deep regret, but rumors are flying even in my own little corner of the Universe that I might make the September conference, and thus can genuinely say I hope to see you all there. And if fate should keep me trapped up here in the Pacific northwest, fear not, I will live with the wound. Still, I think it fair to say that MSG, Wes, Edwin, and everyone else at SCWC would hope to see you in Newport Beach, as well. Or, perhaps I should correct myself: They expect to see you there. So what are you waiting for? Save yourself some money and sign up today. It’s, like, you know, a 19% discount, if I recall correctly, and June 1 is the deadline.

Don’t be pathetic and make excuses like I do. And don’t go making MSG sad. We anxiously await to hear from you, and I’ll send Decker to your house if we don’t.



Another new agent aboard

May 18, 2010

Just added to the expanding schedule for September’s event in Newport Beach, from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency agent Taylor Martindale will be making her SCWC debut. Beyond commercial, women’s, and multi-cultural fiction, Taylor’s looking for YA — specifically contemporary, paranormal, urban fantasy, and “any …story with a captivating voice.” Details at



Google Editions: The giant looms larger, starting this summer

May 6, 2010

Google LogoDespite some legal questions remaining to shape the final outcome, Google plans to open its own online bookstore over the summer. Details come from CNet’s Tom Krazit:

Google announced plans last year to offer public-domain books for free in the Epub format, and the report did not specify what format it will use for the first-run in-print books it sells through Google Editions.

A Google representative confirmed that the company plans to launch Google Editions in the middle of this year, but declined to be more specific on the timing.

One key difference between Google’s approach to digital-book sales and the approaches used by Amazon and Apple is that Google customers will not be able to download books sold through the store: they’ll be accessible exclusively through a Web browser. That has some advantages for Google, in that it side-steps messy DRM (digital rights management) questions and allows it to offer the service for any device, rather than having to negotiate deals.

However, it means Google will have to create a mobile version of Google Editions that can support offline reading. It might also change the pricing equation, given that customers wouldn’t actually have their own copy of the books they purchase. Google declined to comment on the pricing structure for Google Editions, although Google’s Dan Clancy told The New Yorker in April that it would let publishers set the prices for their books.

The Stranger‘s Paul Constant notes an important question about the Google model:

This is a weird approach. Part of the whole tablet/e-book explosion of the last year has been about making sure that books are available to their purchasers around the clock, and that the devices have the battery power to sustain long periods of reading. Internet access consumes a lot of power in mobile devices, and it’s still not available everywhere. Will people be willing to buy online-only e-books? And how much will they be willing to pay for them?

Meanwhile, Google’s settlement offer with various industry groups may also revive a large number of copyright-protected books that are out of print. Presiding Judge Denny Chin has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is expected to issue a ruling before his departure to a new bench.

Stay tuned. The times, they are a’changing, so there is plenty more drama to come. What will the publishing industry look like this time next year? Or five years on? As e-reader services evolve, will the battery warmth of a pocket reader ever come to properly replace the feel of a worn, comfortable book? Can you make an e-reader smell like an old, comfortable, favorite book? Would it be creepy if someone actually managed to pull that off?


(Paper or electronic, we’ve got agents, editors, and publishers all working to adapt their own lives to the new technology, and that means they should be on the forefront for their writers, too. If you’re ready to dive into the untold adventure of writing and publishing in the twenty-first century, it will help to have some smart and friendly people on your side. And there’s no better time or place to meet them than September 24-26 in Newport Beach, the Eighth Annual Los Angeles gathering of the Southern California Writers’ Conference. And just to prove how smart and friendly we are, we’ll knock $75 off your registration fee if you sign up before June 1, 2010. Hey, it’s better than breaking your kneecaps, right?)


A “Quick Query Critique” video

May 4, 2010

From, author/editor Marla Miller troubleshoots one writer’s agent query letter.



Proofreading in the twenty-first century

May 2, 2010

Holy somethingApparently romance novelist Nora Roberts has entered the hospitality business. Tammy La Gorce reports, for The New York Times:

Until about a year ago the stereotypical Civil War buff — male, middle-aged, History channel addicted — might have had trouble selling his less-than-enthusiastic wife on a weekend getaway to this small town in western Maryland, best known for its proximity to Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in the Civil War, in 1862, with close to 23,000 casualties.

But the best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts may have helped make those husbands’ selling job a lot easier. On Valentine’s Day of last year she opened Inn BoonsBoro, a 1790s-era, eight-room boutique hotel meant to cater to women’s romantic sides.

Rooms are named for famous literary couples, including Marguerite and Percy of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and Jane and Rochester from “Jane Eyre.” Each suite has its own signature scent. One of the imaginative package deals, called “Girl Trip,” includes certificates for facials at nearby South Mountain Day Spa. Ms. Roberts spent $3 million renovating the three-story inn.

“When we started, I said, ‘I want every room to be unique and beautiful,'” Ms. Roberts, 59, said. “But I also wanted a woman to come here and be comfortable spending time just hanging around. It should be welcoming — a place where she could put her feet up and not be afraid to touch things.” Despite the inn’s romantic, luxurious ambience, Ms. Roberts said her intent was not to detract from the town’s place in America’s history but to complement it. “What people should do when they come is relax and sample Boonsboro and all its history, especially Antietam,” she said. “You can’t walk through there without it grabbing your heart.”

There may be no better time to do so than in May.

In truth, the Nora Roberts angle is just a boon. (Who doesn’t enjoy promoting bourgeois romantic tourism?) Rather, I was drawn to the article when I noticed a typographical error in my NYT RSS feed. Surely enough, it’s right there, in the caption below the picture:

The state of proofreading in the twenty-first century

I know. It’s petty. But one thing I can honestly say is that my affection toward words actually printed on paper holds steady as electronic publications effectively but falsely assert time and again that the only good proofreader is apparently a computer.

And, yes, I know, it infects printed books, too. But just let me have my petty thrill. Reality suffers when we rely too greatly on electronica. No red line? No green line? Must be okay, then. Right? Right? No need to actually read what you’re proofreading; it’s the twenty-first century for Dog’s sakes!


(Can anyone promise perfection? No, but we’ll certainly try. The Southern California Writers’ Conference includes many fine proofreaders and editors among its talented contributors. Don’t miss the Eighth Annual Los Angeles Conference slated for Newport Beach, September 24-26, 2010. And now is a great time to save $75 on your conference registration by signing up before June 1! So come on out and meet some really great people who are also really good at what they do. They’re merciless, though, and will actually tell you when you’re spelling words wrongly.)


Green reading

May 2, 2010

Jenny Mörtsell, via New York TimesEarlier this month, in the New York Times, Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris asked the important question for readers who can’t settle their minds until they have an answer: Am I being green by saving trees and using an e-reader?

And the answer apparently seems to be, “No.”

So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even?

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.


Illustration by Jenny Mörtsell for The New York Times.

(Also, something goes here about Newport Beach in September, and a $75 discount through June 1.)


Book to the Future?

May 2, 2010

From the New York Times’ Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books:

Ander Monson’s ‘Vanishing Point’: The Future of the Book

The writers participating in The London Review of Books’s panel on Saturday speculated about the future of reading and writing, but they had a slightly harder time trying to imagine how the Book of the Future might change the reading experience. John Lanchester predicted that if a book were to interact with the Web, it would most likely resemble a video game.

But maybe the Book of the Future, as long as the future includes print, will look something like Ander Monson’s book of essays, “Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir” (reviewed for us by David Shields on April 18).

>>read more



Commies, Canucks, Colleen and … er … yeah

May 2, 2010

May DayWell, May Day has passed, and all I did was sit around, drink, and watch the Canucks smack down the Blackhawks. Well, that and stare, frustrated, at the screen; I’m trying to launch a new blog, and I thought the idea was really cool and all, but now that it’s time to go forward, I’m drawing the proverbial blank page. Of course, I was probably high at the time; I had a tooth extracted early last week, and spent the next several days popping generic Vicodin. And, you know, it’s not the 7.5 mg of hydrocodone that worries or puzzles me, but the 750 mg of acetaminophen. Think of it this way: the maximum advisable dose of acetaminophen is four thousand milligrams. Or, to simplify, four grams. But if I took the maximum dose advised on the label, I would be hitting nine grams daily. Even the minimum prescribed regimen suggested three grams a day. Truth told, that’s more than I took in all of 2009, and probably 2008 as well. Combined.

Anyway, yeah. Enough of that. What else is new?

Oh, right. Our friend Michael Thompkins recently invited guest bloggers to his website, one of which is yours truly, covering the recent story about fake interviews. Definitely more interesting than me rehashing a story I’ve posted here is Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist who once remarked, “We’re in the wrong business. The real money is in creating the frauds, not debunking them.

Not only does it make for fascinating reading, you can also harangue Michael for some analysis of fake interviews and the like. It’s always fun to chide him into waxing philosophical about narcissism.


(The passing of May Day also means you have less than one month remaining to get a $75 discount on your conference fees for SCWC LA 8 scheduled for September 24-26 in Newport Beach. Register before June 1 to get your discount!.)